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Hidetaka "SWERY" Suehiro is the director of Deadly Premonition, a big-surprise cult hit that came out in the U.S. earlier this year for the Xbox 360 via publisher Ignition. The game is a free-form murder mystery with more than a passing resemblance to the David Lynch TV series Twin Peaks; much like that show, it's become an underground phenomenon, as has its creator.
The developer of the game, Osaka's Access Games, isn't very well known; their PS2 stealth game Spy Fiction was heavily promoted but released to only middling reviews. Deadly Premonition, on the other hand, is a love-it or hate-it experience; IGN gave it a 2, while Destructoid gave it a 10, praising its idiosyncrasies and championing it as a rare example of "it's so bad it's good" in games.
SWERY, who started up an English Twitter account to interface with the enthusiastic fans the game has created, answered Gamasutra's questions via email -- hopefully providing a peek into the fraught and inspired creative process that lead to Deadly Premonition.
Was the game originally an Xbox 360 title? How long has it been in development?
SWERY: When we started this project, the original plan was to release the game on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 2.
At that time, we still didn't know what the PS3 would look like, but once things got clearer, we naturally decided to move to a PS3 and 360 multiplatform game. We managed to release the game on both platforms in Japan but only on 360 in the U.S.
As to the development time... I would say that it was way too long! I couldn't help thinking about new features or trying new stuff, that's why it took so long, I think. Sorry for the really long wait.
What was your inspiration for the design of the game? It seems to be a hybrid of a number of genres.
SWERY: Regarding the game design, it was actually something that I had in mind for a long time and wanted to make it happen.
Something I'd wanted to try was a crime investigation story set in real time in an open-world setting. I kind of had everything in place in my mind but I have to admit that at that time, our technical skills, staff, connections, and even my own skills weren't enough to deal with this project.
Now, in the 21st century it is almost possible to create games just as they exist in our own vision, so I was sure that we were capable of creating that game I'd conceived of only in my mind.
Looking back, I hadn't imagined all the troubles we would have along the way, and how much time it would take to overcome them.
How close is the final game to your original vision?
SWERY: When we started to work on this game, I was aiming for a cynical, urban game based around forensic science, but after many discussions with the producer, we changed it to something more mysterious and occult.
However, the main messages or ideas I wanted to communicate didn't change between the original concept and the final game.
Everyone I've talked to feels that the "real" game takes place during the exploration/mystery sequences, and that the shooting areas are bits you have to simply get through to get back to the fun part of the game (though the profiling aspect is enjoyable). How do you feel about that statement?
SWERY: Actually, I feel exactly the same.
It's a little bit embarrassing, but the shooting areas were the last things that we started to work on and I have to reckon that I should have paid more attention to this part.
Actually, this part wasn't even in the original concept and after checking with my staff and many people, I eventually realized that it was necessary.
What inspired the direct homage to Twin Peaks? Can you speak at all about the content changes you had to make to the game after the first trailer was released?
SWERY: As I said previously, I wanted to create a game with an urban setting based around forensic sciences. But it eventually ended up being something more occult with forensic sciences having trouble to make the transition in a small countryside town.
To be honest, I don't consider this game as an homage to any particular contents even though I don't have the confidence to say that I wasn't inspired by anything, especially with all the contents we have accessed to nowadays.
About the trailer, it was actually something created by the publisher [Marvelous Interactive] so you should check with them, I think, for more details.