Monday, April 17, 2017

15th Anniversary Gyakuten Saiban Special Talk Session: Gyakuten Saiban Up Until Now, And In The Future - Takumi Shū X Yamazaki Takeshi X Eshiro Motohide (2017)

Title: 15th Anniversary Gyakuten Saiban Special Talk Session: Gyakuten Saiban Up Until Now, And In The Future - Takumi Shū X Yamazaki Takeshi X Eshiro Motohide / 「逆転裁判15周年記念トーク 「逆転」シリーズのこれまでと、これから。巧舟 X 山崎剛 X 江城元秀
Source: 15th Anniversary Gyakuten Saiban Series Encyclopedia 2001-2016

Summary: The final interview found in 15th Anniversary Gyakuten Saiban Series Encyclopedia 2001-2016 brings the Triforce of Gyakuten Saiban (Ace Attorney) together, as it features the rare match-up of original series creator Takumi, director Yamazaki and current series producer Eshiro. The three look back at fifteen years of Gyakuten Saiban, speaking from their respective roles. Discussion topics include explaining their views on directing and producing styles, what they think makes the Gyakuten series unique, how they first joined Capcom, their favorite episodes and other stuff they liked in particular and their hopes for the future.

About The Roles of Producers and Directors and Their Qualities

Eshiro: The role of a producer is to be responsible for everything there is surrounding a certain work, from the very start until the release. This includes the contents of the work of course, but also coming up with the marketing strategy to make it a success business-wise, and also conveying the larger concept behind the game to the director to get them to create the game. That’s their role. A lot of hardcover fans have been loyal to the Gyakuten (Ace Attorney) series because of its unique nature, so that means the producer needs to keep in mind what those fans want… But it’s not just about given them what they want, it’s also offering something new to them. What I hope I’m doing is working on expanding our user base, while keeping our hardcore fans at the center of things.

Takumi: I joined Capcom in 1994, but back then, we didn’t even have the concept of a director. That function was called the main planner at the time.

Eshiro: That’s right.

Yamazaki: Eh, really? And the producer function situated above the director…

Eshiro: Wasn’t there either. Back in those days.

Takumi: I was a planner under the guidance of Mr. Mikami Shinji and he told us he needed to take on the task as a producer from then on.

Eshiro: And that’s when we got the producers, and the directors beneath them.

Takumi: It was Mr. Mikami who spread the idea within our division that “a director is someone who points out the direction and makes judgement calls”. A director doesn’t come up with ideas, but leads their team according to the concept plan and makes judgement calls. But there were only seven people when we made Gyakuten Saiban (Ace Attorney 1) and I was the only planner, so I also had to direct, so my directing style became one where I had to think about the game mechanics, direct, write the scenario and also think of the presentation. Fifteen years ago, we were with only seven of us, and now it’s become so big….

Eshiro: The teams have about thirty, forty people now.

Takumi: But I myself like to go with this directing style as long as it works.

Yamazaki: Errr, so when I joined the company, I was placed under Mr. Takumi’s supervision for Gyakuten Saiban Yomigaeru Gyakuten (Ace Attorney 1 DS) as a planner. So Mr. Takumi was the director for me. And hearing from the other seniors in the company, I was taught that was important for a director to able to indicate what way to go with the game and make judgement calls, so in my mind, the director should come up with the concept and lead the team. And I was also taught the director should be responsible for everything that is made and will be made. So I think that I’m somewhere in the middle ground between the other directors, and Mr. Takumi who does everything by himself. That’s what I think.

Takumi: As the scope of the games became bigger, I too went with the style of doing everything together with the whole team.

Yamazaki: But in regards to the Gyakuten series I do feel the director should also write the scenario.

Eshiro: I agree.

Yamazaki: It might be feasible to have a separate director and scenario writer, but I’m afraid that things can get ugly if those two have an argument.

Eshiro: The game mechanics and the scenario are linked, so even if the director can’t write the scenario, they should at least be a person who understands the scenario.

Yamazaki: But I think that a director who can’t write, and the scenario writer who does write, will definitely have conflicts.

Takumi: Oh.

Yamazaki:  Just an “oh”? (laugh) Mr. Takumi, didn't you originally want to become a scenario writer?

Takumi: I wanted to work with mystery fiction. I was mainly in charge of the puzzles in Dino Crisis, but they were too puzzly, so I was given a Puzzle Ban for Dino Crisis 2. I think Dino Crisis 2 is fun as a game though.

Eshiro: So you can do action games too.

Takumi: I really did my best back thn. Coming up with some new combo system for defeating dinosaurs (laugh).

Eshiro: Who knows, perhaps the Gyakuten series will also turn into an action game.

Takumi: You never know what the future holds. But anyway, I learned how to direct a game with the two Dino Crisis games under the guidance of Mr. Mikami. I think I was only able to create Gyakuten Saiban thanks to that experience.

Eshiro: Gyakuten Kenji (Ace Attorney Investigations) was also Yamazaki’s sudden debut as a director, as well as my own as a producer. We both had a rough time back then. I was also just trying things out for the first time.

Yamazaki: Yes. With Gyakuten Kenji, I wasn’t even given the time to make the judgement calls as I had my hands full with everything. I think that with Gyakuten Kenji 2, I started to see what the task of director meant.

That What Makes the Gyakuten Series

Eshiro: There are some rules, I think. Like no erotic or grotesque content.

Takumi: Well, that’s just how the developers feel about it.

Eshiro: No references to popular fads.

Takumi: That’s also a matter of feeling….

Eshiro: But that feeling has been inherited.

Yamazaki: I agree.

Takumi: There is the matter of either going for timeliness, or timelessness. Personally, I try to create games that are fun to play in any time and period.

Eshiro: And you’ve been doing that for fifteen yhears.

Takumi: But I am very lucky to have my own views accepted like that.

Eshiro: To give an example, I sometimes hear of parents and children who play the games together.

Yamazaki: There’s that piece you write, right, Mr. Takumi? What Is Gyakuten Saiban.

Takumi: Err? What’s that?

Yamazaki: I think it was something you wrote when they made the film. You wrote it for the staff of the film. I’ve been holding dearly on to it, like it were sacred writings.

Takumi: Ah, yeah, I remember now. I would've kept it all cooped up in myself if I hadn’t written that. What do you think about it?

Eshiro: You both bring your own unique taste. And that becomes the unique identity of each game, so I think that’s a good thing.

Yamazaki I think that the Gyakuten Saiban Mr. Takumi creates will automatically be truly Gyakuten Saiban. In my case, there is of course my own taste, but every single team member also has their own image of what Gyakuten Saiban is, so I need to unify all those ideas and images into one. But speaking for myself, I feel very strongly that it is about creating a mystery game. The characters of course also need to be alluring, and it also needs to be funny too, but…. But what I want most, is to create a mystery game.

Takumi: “Experiencing how it is to solve the mystery yourself” was a crucial element of the original concept. Not just picking an one option out of three answers, but really inputting your own deduction and solving the case yourself.  Because of that, the Gyakuten series is really made to be played, as that great feeling of moving the story forwards through your own thinking lies at the foundation of the games.

Yamazaki: You mean the questioning mechanics, right?

Takumi: Yes. What I wanted to do most was to create a mystery game that rewarded the player for their thinking. I just created what I thought was fun, and it turned out it was a game that had not been done befor yet. But back then, I had a strange sense of self-confidence, thinking I was the one who truly understood the mystery genre the best in the game industry.

Yamazaki: In TV drama, you only experience that moment of fun when the mystery is unravelled at the end, during the denouement. So I think what makes Gyakuten Saiban so great is that the mystery solving is spread throughout the whole game. You have that sense of excitement each time you make it through a questioning, or turn the case around.

Eshiro: To move the topic from TV drama to films, but I quite like mystery films. I went to see films based on works by Agatha Christie and others for example when I was in junior high. I don’t think I ever told you.

Yamazaki: Eh, you did? And you hid that from us? (laugh)

Eshiro: I wasn’t hiding it. Just never had a chance to mention it. I just like the genre, but I can’t talk so detailed about mystery fiction like you two, because I’m not as big as a fan as you.

Yamazaki: Mr. Takumi apparently only reads mystery fiction even in private (laugh)

Takumi: I tell you, my world is really small. I have a bit of complex there. I can’t put up a fight in a novel, the true home of mystery fiction, but I can in the world of games. So I worked on games, and well, people liked it. I’m really glad about that.

The Merits and Demerits of The Videogame Format

Takumi: If we compare it to novels, the merit is that in a game, we can create the feeling that the player has solved a mystery themselves, and the demerit is that it is difficult to tell a story from a third person perspective. But there aren’t really many demerits when creating a game.

Eshiro: That’s because you want to stretch out the fun parts. Our jobs as game creators is basically to provide a service, and the most important thing is to have our customers enjoy our products. So I want them to enjoy it as much as possible, more than what it costs them. But there is also the issue of release dates and scheduling, so the task of a producer is to fight with the development team about that.

Yamazaki: Mr. Takumi once said that “ With a book you know how many pages there are left, but you don’t know what’s left with a game.” I agree with that.

Eshiro: That keeps things exciting, and the game fun, I think.

Yamazaki: And I also feel that even very difficult and complex tricks can be explained easily, and in an understandable way in the form of a game.

Takumi: Ah, yes.

Yamazaki: So I think a merit is that we are able to reach more people.

Takumi: I agree with that. Also, the level of reality behind a mystery gimmick that people expect is different in a game compared to a novel. So you can do really crazy things there if you build on that. And also, what’s really important, the power of visuals and music is really grand.

Yamazaki: You can all kind of things with the presentation.

Eshiro: Novels and films can provide with such an interactive way of entertainment.

Yamazaki: Mr. Takumi once told me he wrote the scenario while solving the mysteries himself too. The conclusion of each story is already decided upon at the start, but he too would enjoy the flow of the story until the conclusion, precisely like how the player would.

Takumi:  Yes, the player and I need to link up or else it won't work.

Yamazaki: So the flow of the story would often change while writing the scenario.

Takumi: That’s because Naruhodo-kun (Phoenix Wright) and the player are one and the same. The things that come up in my mind, Naruhodo-kun will definitely point out too, and...

Eshiro And you identify with him.

Takumi: Naruhodo-kun needs to notice the things I think he should and would notice.

Yamazaki: I see. That’s the difficult part of it. But once it works, it feels really good.

Who Is The Player?

Yamazaki: Who is the standard player? Or how do you imagine them? Are they people not familiar with mystery fiction at all, or are they…?

Takumi: No. The player is me.

Yamazaki: Aah, so that’s how you go. I too look at it from my own point of view.

Eshiro: And the very first consumer to see what you come up with is the producer. And if I play it and don’t get it at all, it’s back to the drawing table. Telling you I really don’t get it. And then you’ll explain it to me and I’ll go: Sure, I see. And I’ll tell to you convey that explanation you just told me in the game itself too. In that sense, the producer is also working from his own point of view.

Yamazaki: It does go like that, doesn’t it?

Eshiro: Every director thinks what they’re doing is fantastic. If they didn't think that, they wouldn’t be able to do their jobs.

Takumi: Presenting the story in a way so the users understand it too comes first of course. And then comes what I myself think is interesting.

Eshiro: That’s what a director should do. Getting the right balance is the work of the producer.

Takumi: If you ask me where the success of a game I create lies, I’d say a game is only a success if I make a game I truly believe is fun, and the people who play it also think is fun.

Yamazaki: Because it’s important to remember we are not artists. The games we make are not some canvas for our own self-expression.

Eshiro: While it’s creative work, it’s a service at the core. At the base, it’s about coming up with ideas of what you think is fun, in the form of a game.

Stories About Entering Capcom

Takumi: I originally wanted to do work that had to do with mystery fiction, so I wanted to work at a publisher. I wasn’t brave enough to try and become a author myself, so I was thinking about working as an editor. But I got rejected everywhere. A friend then told me that Capcom was holding a second employment round, so I sent a planning proposal and got accepted.

Eshiro: I really loved arcade games back then, spending my weekends at the arcades. A junior of mine joined a game company, and he told me his job was fantastic. That it was like a dream world, where he could play games that weren’t released yet. I wanted to do something like that too, so I applied, but I was rejected as I had no specialist knowledge. So I found a technical school and followed a course for half a year. During my training, I come across a Capcom ad in some magazine with recruitment ads. It had the cover of Sweet Home, saying "Programmers Wanted!" Back in those days, there was a rumor that to become a Capcom programmer, you needed Skill Level 2 of the Information-Technology Engineers Examination, so I studied it on my own and passed the examination. Then I passed the recruitment test and interview, and was called about when I could start working. But after I entered Capcom, I learned I didn’t need Level 2 at all (laugh).

What Feels Good

Takumi: If I have to pick out an episode I like in particular, I’ll go with Turnabout Circus (Turnabout Big Top) here. It has an atmosphere unique to a game. Including the fact that that could only get stuck on that thing so nicely in a game (laugh).

Yamazaki: I love things like that!

Takumi: It’s the idealized world of mystery fiction. I also like the trik with the boat in the fourth episode of Gyakuten Saiban. It’s like a locked room mystery under observation.

Yamazaki: I like Episode 2 of Gyakuten Saiban 3 (Ace Attorney 3 - Trials and Tribulations). How the first half of the episode is given a different meaning in the second half. I love situations like that. If I have to name one of my own, I’d say the final episode of Gyakuten Kenji 2 (“Turnabout Prosecutor 2”). In the sense that I feel I succeeded in keeping the identity of the final a surprise.

Takumi: If we move away from the mystery gimmicks, I’d say the name of Tonosaman (The Steel Samurai) I the very first proposal. Metal Mask (laugh).

Eshiro: There’s nothing particularly funny about the name Metal Mask.

Takumi: I actually first came up with the name Tonosaman, but I thought it was too silly (TN: Tonosaman is a portmanteau of tonosama, "feudal lord", and the English man). But when I asked the team members, they all said Tonosaman was better. It was really early in the project, when we hadn’t even decided on the atmosphere yet. But perhaps it was because of this decision we managed to come up with Naruhodo-kun, Tonosaman and the whole world of Gyakuten Saiban. I also like Mayoi-chan (Maya Fey)’s name.

Eshiro: I like the kanji characters in Mayoi’s name. Mayoi. Ayasato Mayoi looks really nice.

Takumi: I wasn’t sure about her name at first actually, as it didn’t match her character, but they are not all puns. The sharp prosecutor (Miles Edgeworth) became Mitsurugi (TN: Mitsurugi means “Sword”) and from the image of a “clever samurai” came the name Reiji (TN: Rei-ji comes from  reiri, "clever" and ji, an alternative reading to samurai).

Yamazaki: I also have been giving the characters names in the games I worked on while keeping Mr. Takumi’s style in mind. Like the balance between obvious puns and other types… and also, “symmetrical heroines”.

Eshiro: Symmetrical?

Takumi: It’s not really a rule, more like coincidence.

Yamazaki: The names of the heroines are symmetrically identical. For example Mayoi (真宵), Harumi (Pearl Fey; 春美), Akane (Ema Skye, 茜)….

Takumi: Mei (Franziska von Karma, 冥) too.

Eshiro: Ah, you’re right.

Yamazaki: So that’s like a tradition now. But it’s really troublesome too (laugh).

Takumi: Having the kanji characters look nice is important. I also use the names of people I know whenever I have trouble coming up with names. Suzuki Mako (Maggey Byrde) and Kamiya Kirio (Adrian Andrews) for example were taken from two of my fellow planners who joined the same year. Susato is an rearrangement of the family name of a junior of mine at university. And to be honest, these people are all men…..

Yamazaki: Eeeeeeeeeeeh!! I always thought Susato came from the verb satosu (TN: satosu: to reason; to advise, to enlighten).

Takumi: Ah… It does sound like that (laugh). But I think it’s good people have fun with that. For example, I read somewhere that said the name Ōtaki Kyūta (Cody Hackins) comes from otaku, and I too thought that made sense.

Yamazaki: Nayuta (Nahyuta) is the name of my junior at university and I had only used it as a filler name. So then came the time I wanted to change it, but then Mr. Eshiro said Nayuta sounded good and the name stuck (laugh).

Eshiro: Nayuta sounds really good. Has a nice ring to it.

What Do You Want To Do As A Creator In The Future

Eshiro: If I get a chance to direct and not produce, I’d like to do an action-adventure.

Yamazaki: Let’s do it!

Eshiro: They won’t let me! (laugh) Once you become a producer, you have a responsibility.

Yamazaki: I think that the game mechanics of Gyakuten Saiban will remain in game history as an unique invention, so my dream is to come up with a unique new game experience on my own. Also, I have been working on the Gyakuten series all this time, so I kinda feel like looking outside that world. Perhaps make an action-adventure, or a role playing game, or something like that.

Takumi: I’ve been at this for fifteen years now… Ghost Trick was the game where I managed to do everything I wanted to do. I guess I can’t say here that I’d want to approach the mystery game genre again from a different angle (laugh).

Eshiro: Directors are like that. They have all kinds of ideas.

A Message For the Fans Now In March 2017

Yamazaki: Who would’ve thought that with the series’ fifteen anniversary, my time of being directly involved with the creation of the games is now even longer than the time I was simply a fan of the series. I feel really blessed that this Gyakuten series, a monument of mystery games, has given me so much enjoyment as both a fan, as well as a creator. It’s really thanks to the support of the users who enjoy the games, and I feel really grateful to them. I truly believe that the game mechanics of Gyakuten Saiban are epoch-making and a genre on their own, so I hope that new Gyakuten games will be continue to be created in the future too. I look forward to what will come.

Takumi: As the person who came up with the game, I am really surprised at how large it has grown. I am grateful for that. On the other hand, a certain distance has now grown between the games and myself, and I look at it differently now compared to fifteen years ago. The original trilogy was really a miracle that happened to me, and I really appreciate how I have an occasion now to look back at that time. I hope the series will grow even more.

Eshiro: Why are you talking like you have nothing to do with it? (laugh)

Takumi: No, that’s not what I meant (laugh). Each project consists of chance meetings and at the moment, I am working with everything I have on Dai Gyakuten Saiban 2 Naruhodō Ryūnosuke no Kakugo (“The Grand Turnabout Trial 2 - The Resolution of Naruhodō Ryūnosuke”). Anyway, I feel grateful to everyone who worked on the series. Of course, this was only possible to everyone who has played the games.

Eshiro: As for me, like I just mentioned when we talked about creators and artists, I always need to keep in mind this job is about creating content that people can enjoy. And I want to create content we believe is fun to offer to our users. And have it succeed businesswise too. First we have a great game coming up, Dai Gyakuten Saiban 2 Naruhodō Ryūnosuke no Kakugo. As for what comes afterwards, we’ll contemplate on that while keeping in mind the opinions and wishes of the users. Perhaps the day Yamazaki will direct an action-adventure game will come (laugh).

Yamazaki: Perhaps!! (laugh) I’m horrible at playing action games though (laugh).

Eshiro: Perhaps we’ll have one more director here with us with the twentieth anniversary. Hahaha.

Takumi: It’s important to have the torch passed on. I created Gyakuten Saiban when I was thirty. I think it’s important to start young if you want to create something new.

Yamazaki: There’s the passion, energy, stamina, and that foolishness so typical of youth (laugh(.

Takumi:  Precisely. Now I think about it, I created Ghost Trick when I was forty, so perhaps I come up with something every ten years (laugh).

Yamazaki: So I still have to work hard for another three years (laugh). I have to draw a line and start on my own!

Eshiro: Anyway, it’s from the depths of my heart that I thank everyone who has supported us. You made it possible Gyakuten Saiban is now celebrating its fifteenth anniversary. Thank you all very much. I hope to develop the series even further as we move towards to the twentieth anniversary, please keep supporting us in the future too.

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