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Ray Nakazato is unusually outspoken for a Japanese developer, but he's well-placed to be that way. The president of the AQI-owned feelplus, the studio that developed Lost Odyssey for Microsoft, he's a veteran of the ups and downs of the Japanese gaming industry.
Now that the game has been completed and released to success in the North American market, Nakazato spoke with Gamasutra about the developer's history and future, including the surprising news that while the team has plans to try and work with Final Fantasy and Lost Odyssey creator Hironobu Sakaguchi once again, the Lost Odyssey team has moved on to other projects, calling into question the potential for a direct sequel.
In the interview, Nakazato also discusses Microsoft's 360 business in Japan from a knowledgeable perspective - you can read more about Nakazato's experiences developing Lost Odyssey in an earlier Gamasutra article.
How do you feel about the development of Lost Odyssey? Are you satisfied with how it went?
Ray Nakazato: Yeah. In terms of how the project went, it came out OK. I mean, it was a difficult project [around] three years ago, yeah, but we have overcome a lot of our problems and issues. And we didn't slip the release date, so...
Was the integration of Unreal Engine 3 smoother since we last spoke? How did that go?
RN: Integration of the Unreal 3 Engine was very difficult. Especially, it's not really because it's the Unreal 3 Engine, but I guess a lot of my guys are used to making Japanese RPGs, and they have their own philosophy in designing the games. And, you know, we didn't really follow the Unreal Engine philosophy to begin with, so it was more difficult.
And also, you know, we didn't have many English-speaking engineers, and that made it even more difficult, because at the time, Unreal Engine was evolving, so we needed to really be watching out what's happening with the Unreal Engine on the updates and the newsgroups and everything. But they are pretty much in English. You know, they had some Japanese support, but it was difficult in that sense.
Now that you've completed one Unreal Engine game, do you think it's going to get easier in the future if you use it again?
RN: Yeah, I think so. Yeah. It doesn't necessarily mean we will use it for our next project, but it will be much easier next time, if we use it again.
Is it easier than building your own engine, or do you think you would, in the future, build your own?
RN: Well, we have pretty much decided to go with our own internal engine at this time, so we made that choice -- you know, basically we just weighed pros and cons, and we thought it was better that we create our own.
And also, it's different; back then when we started Lost Odyssey, we didn't even have an Xbox 360 platform. And Epic Games was one of the more advanced technology companies back then, so I think it was the right decision back then. But now that we are under AQI Group, and we have three studios, and we've got a lot of internal technologies, it's better to utilize those rather than borrowing somebody else's engine.