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I think that you're right. Not that I make games for a living, so people will probably make nasty comments if I say anything, but it seems to me that if you have a framework, it's like that cliché: rules are a framework you can climb around on. They don't cage you in. You just have to change the way you think about things. Obviously, in some cases, if you have a really restrictive license, like a Disney license or something...
BJ: Tom Clancy. Oh, wait a second. That hits too close to home.
Have you found it to be that way?
UA: I worked on Clancy titles too, and it's the same thing there. You get certain rule sets, and you have to keep it within that. It's challenging. Of course, that kind of game doesn't allow for crazy gameplay approaches. You're more gunning for a certain mood or a certain style. But it just has a different focus and a different goal in mind.
Bionic Commando is pure gameplay and experience. We want you to experience something that you haven't experienced in games before, so the whole project is focusing on that. Everything we do -- art, sound -- it's trying to just focus on that goal.
If you make another game, like a Clancy game, it might just be trying to make you feel like you're in a war zone. Every game has a certain set of goals. I like to call them goals instead of rules.
Did you have to send concept art to Japan and get it approved? Did you have to send models?
UA: For finding the right art style in the beginning, we did a lot of back and forth, and also for important characters, like the characters in the story, we did that too.
BJ: I'm just remembering where it started and, now, what it's become. Very different. It went through a lot of different passes.
UA: In the beginning, it was a more boring, western-style [approach], because we thought, "This is what people want." Internally. But after a while, we realized that we had to go for a more "out there" kind of style, so we shot for that.
It used to be a bald space marine?
UA: Bald space marine! (sighs)
BJ: I always envisioned it as kind of a partnership, rather than the publishers telling the developer, "You must do this, do this, and do this." I always envisioned it as, "We're both in this."
There's so much good that would come out if we make a hit title. Obviously GRIN will get a ton of spotlight. They'll sell themselves as a fantastic next-gen developer, and Capcom, as a Japanese publisher, will have taken a huge risk that paid off.
Already you're seeing other Japanese publishers trying to imitate that style. You're going to be seeing more and more tie-ups with western outsource companies, because Capcom tried it out first. There's a lot for us to gain by working together, rather than fixing ourselves in one style or one person's thing.
I think so, and I agree that you'd envision it as a creative collaboration, but that doesn't mean that that's how it would turn out.
BJ: Not to toot my own horn, but it's nice that I am the first foreign producer and able to work with them, because we can speak in English, and I can offer them more trust. Since mostly it was my ultimate call, I can be like, "Let GRIN go with the ideas that they think are working out here," even though the people sometimes on my end weren't necessarily 100 percent signed off on that idea.
We've had Japanese producers try to work with foreign developers before, and it never worked, because they would only know the one Japanese style, and that would not sync the right way. You really have to be able to make compromises, especially in a business model like this.
They're not Japanese. I could throw down many Japanese rules and say, "You must do this, in this style," and in the end, it would take four years, and it would come out really, really weird. By allowing them to have the freedom that they needed to have, they made something great.
Well, it's soon to be seen what the world thinks of it, but it will be a big vindication to you, I'd imagine.
BJ: We'll see. Right now, I'm just focused on getting it out there and getting people excited about it, because I love Bionic Commando, and I think it's a franchise that you can do a lot with. Showing Capcom that it's something that sells has got to be the first key step.
Right. Was this game aimed primarily at the North American territory?
BJ: That's the main SKU, right.
Because in Europe, the NES wasn't any great shakes, in terms of popularity. It was all 8-bit computers, wasn't it?
UA: Well, we had a mix, actually. We were divided up into Atari, Amiga, and NES users, basically. You wouldn't have two of them, but you were divided into these.
I'm an Amiga guy, myself, but all of my friends were NES guys and I got to play it there. For some stupid reason, I always wanted a NES. I'm like, "Ah, NES. My Amiga was so much more powerful." But NES had a lot of good games.