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When we talked at GDC, Ben, you said you were having a really hard time getting a lot of the Japanese management to understand the western development style of the game not looking as polished in the early stages. As it's come together, or just through the process, were you able to make management understand this a little bit better?
UA: I think everybody sees the quality of the product, but I'd say still there's an idea of how you should construct a game that's different on both sides. I think therefore, you also see different kinds of games from western and Japanese.
Japanese development is more about planning everything out beforehand -- which I love to do too. But it's very, very hard when you're doing dynamic-type gameplay things, because you need to playtest a lot and figure things out as you go. Then if you've made this great big plan, you're going to have to make it again and again and again, and you lose a lot of time.
So with this game, with the goal we had to make this game the way it is, I think it would be very hard with a completely Japanese staff. Although, we've actually changed. In this product, we've been changing our style to fit the Japanese style more, so I think it's a mixed martial arts fight, basically. (laughter)
What kinds of things are you changing, in terms of your production style?
UA: Well, how you report stuff, and how you deliver your builds, and what to focus on. We usually focus a bit more on function rather than form. It feels like with the Japanese, the aesthetic plays a very big part early on in the product. We're not used to that kind of thing.
Yeah, the game looks a little rough usually, early on. Is there anything about the Japanese management style that your studio has found to be good?
UA: There's a lot of good stuff, absolutely. I'd say the straight chain of command is something that I appreciate. There are pretty few people that have complete control over what happens at the company.
Whereas with western publishers, there are so many people, and there are very few people in the business who actually want to take responsibility. So they'll be bouncing your stuff around for weeks and weeks without getting anywhere. But in this case, either you'll get told, "No!" or "Yes!" It's very simple. I appreciate that. It's hard to get a "no," but I'd rather have a "no" than an "enhhh."
Capcom/GRIN's Bionic Commando
How about from your side, Ben?
BJ: From my side, honestly, if you look at what Capcom's done in the past, they had Dead Rising, Lost Planet -- huge success. That started us down this path of, "Let's focus more on the west," [Capcom R&D head Keiji] Inafune-san's vision. This is the next step in that.
BCR has done very well, but I don't know if that's been conveyed internally to the level that I wanted it to. So I think that even if BC does very, very well, I think it will not be as big of a step as it needs to be.
Go take a look at Assassin's Creed, Call of Duty, and BioShock, and look at how any of those games have done in Japan. It's always been a fraction of what they've done in the west. It's going to be an uphill battle, and it's going to take a lot of time, I think, in order to have them 100 percent sign off on this.
UA: At the same time, you should look at Monster Hunter for the Japanese part, and vice-versa. There is...
BJ: There's some that don't go the other way, either.
It's interesting, because mostly they don't go both ways. It's hard to point out many franchises that do go truly global.
UA: Metal Gear Solid.
BJ: But there are more Japanese-created franchises that have been popular in the west than vice-versa.
MGS, and Nintendo's stuff, Final Fantasy, Resident Evil...
BJ: Shadow of the Colossus...
UA: Yeah, but Shadow didn't really sell huge amounts. Good game, though.
BJ: In the end, it sold well in the U.S. But again, there's probably about 10 or so... maybe Crash Bandicoot, several years ago in Japan, because of the huge marketing campaign. But that's the only major runaway hit. I guess Grand Theft Auto, but again...
It's still like 500,000 copies.
BJ: A fraction -- maybe one-tenth of what they've got in the U.S.