Japanese developers speak out

Gamespot has some reports on TIGRAF, the Tokyo International Computer Graphics Festival, held in Tokyo last week.

Here you can read what some top Japanese developers have to say about computer graphics and game development. As the Japanese development scene remains pretty opaque for Western developers, this makes for interesting reading. They talk about how higher budgets influence the game development process, and reduce the willingness to take risks. Not a new topic in the industry.

The other developers seemed to agree that budgets are becoming a real hurdle. Former United Game Artists president Mizuguchi followed up on Sugiura’s comments, saying that larger companies also have issues when giving the green light on projects because even though expenditures might be high, the companies just don’t know if a game will succeed until it is released.

Mizuguchi contrasted the current game development scene to what regularly takes place in the U.S.-based movie industry, which can green light films with huge development budgets due to numerous ways of testing the movie prior to release (and prior to commencing production). However, the gaming industry, he said, is still lacking these methods as the game industry doesn’t have scripts or storyboards to consult.

There was also some discussion on borrowing management methods and structures from Hollywood:

Minami’s focus on the bottom line set him apart from the other speakers. He pointed out that game development in Japan is not always organized, and does not always follow a logical path. Development time and budgets tend to swell beyond original projections, and this can threaten a company’s future, as a company that sinks all its funds into projects that run behind schedule will have difficulty funding its next round of development. Minami suggested that the project management techniques used in Hollywood studios might have a place in the game industry as well.

Space Channel 5 and Rez creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi had his own presentation, where he talked about his evolution as a game developer, going from Sega Rally Championship to Space Channel 5 and Rez.

Mizuguchi’s first project was Space Channel 5, which he says didn’t turn out the way he wanted–at first. Showing a clip of the game’s prototype, Mizuguchi commented that the main character Ulala’s fighting style was too cool and stylish. What he wanted was a game that was fun to watch, and played a bit like a musical. The developers on his team responded that the game just wasn’t going in that direction.

In order to have his developers understand what kind of game he wanted Space Channel 5 to be, Mizuguchi created a six-month comedy workshop at the Sega offices and had everyone on his team attend it. The workshop consisted of a number of clasees and excercises. In one session, he had the team hop around the floor in a group while looking and pointing a finger in different directions. In another, he had the team pretending to break through a glass wall and then say something funny.

One of the main objectives, according to Mizuguchi, was for his staff to acquire some understanding of the psychology behind making people laugh. He said he believes there are systematic ways to get people to feel different kinds of emotions.

(From Slashdot Games.)

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