Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Grand Trial Inquiring Into The Development Team’s Resolve - Part 1 (2017)

Title: The Grand Trial Inquiring Into The Development Team’s Resolve - Part 1 / 「開発陣の覚悟を尋ねる大法廷(インタビュー) 前編」
Source: Famitsu, August 10 issue, 2017

The August 10, 2017 issue of Famitsu featured the first half of a long interview with director Takumi, art director Nuri and producer Eshiro on the upcoming release Dai Gyakuten Saiban 2 - Naruhodō Ryūnosuke no Kakugo (“The Grand Turnabout Trial -  The Resolve of Naruhodō Ryūnosuke"), which was scheduled for release for the following week (the magazine itself is always released before the date on the magazine). This first half of the deep interview includes topics like how this project first started, what the graphical challenges were, reflections on the first game and how elements like the characters have changed for this game.

How Development Went From Bouken To Dai Gyakuten Saiban 2

Interviewer: The long-awaited Dai Gyakuten Saiban 2 - Naruhodō Ryūnosuke no Kakugo (“The Grand Turnabout Trial -  The Resolve of Naruhodō Ryūnosuke") (Dai Gyakuten 2) will be released soon. Could you first tell us about how this project first started?

 Eshiro: We got a lot of feedback after the release of the previous game, Dai Gyakuten Saiban - Naruhodō Ryūnosuke no Bouken (“The Grand Turnabout Trial - The Adventures of Naruhodō Ryūnosuke”) (Bouken). There were of course people who said the game was fun, but we also got feedback that it left a bad aftertaste. So we needed to follow up with a sequel. I took the role of producer over from Kojima (Kojima Shintarō), but we also had problems concerning the assignment of staff inside Capcom, as well as other complex problems. But anyway, it was decided we’d at least make a prototype. I also had Takumi do a good work on the scenario to address the feedback.

Takumi: We of the development team were all eager to work on a sequel ever since we worked on the first game. But it took some time for the project to start. I think we were told in the summer holiday?

Interviewer: So this project got started like that. Why did you choose the London World’s Fair as one of the settings?

Takumi: To tell you the truth, it was Nuri who came up with the motif of the World’s Fair. We had a lot of cases with rather dull settings, so he wanted a location with a bit more flair.

Nuri: Mr. Takumi asked me if I had any ideas for a setting. Crimes scenes are often set in closed-off  spaces, like inside a room, and I was afraid it might become difficult to differentiate between them visually, but as we had the setting of Victorian England, so I proposed we might choose something symbolic to that period. It allowed us to use steampunk elements in a natural manner, and I guess it’s also the World’s Fair that allowed us to show off “a blue sky” in the foggy city of London.

Takumi: I tend to think of locations that are only convenient to me when I’m working on locations all by myself. I did thought it might be difficult to come up with a story that made use of the World’s Fair, but I decide to challenge myself with that. But the World’s Fair in the game is a fictional one, set a few years apart from the actual London World’s Fair.

Nuri: When it was decided we’d use the World’s Fair, the first thing I thought of was to ask Mr. Thomas Romain. To design some inventions that had character. Mr. Romain’s designs of mechanical devices have a unique feel to them, so I was convinced his designs would fit perfectly with the futuristic atmosphere of the World’s Fair. He came up with designs that ingeniously balance the realistic with the fantastical.

Interviewer: Perfectly fit for the world of Dai Gyakuten Saiban. Like in the previous game, we also see a lot of London’s streets. Were those backgrounds made using photo’s or other reference materials?

Eshiro: Nuri and Romain had deep discussions about the backgrounds and were then brushed up.

Takumi: As you can tell from his name, Mr. Romain was born abroad, and foreign backgrounds just seem more real when drawn by a real foreigner (laugh).

Nuri: That is so true. He’d add in little details that carry so much convincing power right from the start. Mr. Romain knows all the “local rules” that set Western building styles apart, which to someone with a Japanese background will all look the same. All that information is reflected in a natural way in his backgrounds, and feel solid. Mr. Takumi would write down what he’d need for the tricks of his mystery plots, and I’d have deep talks with Mr. Romain about how we’d incorporate that in the backgrounds.

Interviewer: Were there other aspects about the visual design that required special attention?

Nuri: If you work on a background just like that, they tend to become to vivid, and become too much like an “illustration” in a bad sense. So we made it a point to have backgrounds where the atmosphere of the time period was the most important  aspect, where you could tell from one look that it was set in the past. On the other hand, in more lively places like the World’s Fair, we used stronger colors, giving the game as a whole variation. Mr. Takumi already said for the last game that London is a dark place, so we gave a lot of thought to the use of contrast, while making sure the backgrounds wouldn’t be too sober to look at.

The Hurdles For The Visual Development That Also Influence The Game Mechanics.

Interviewer: So you mean you wanted to make the backgrounds look bright, while bringing out the darkness of London?

Nuri: If you’d make a realistic illustration of a cloudy sky, you’d just get a picture with a lot of grey. So we tried to create nice illustrations, that still make you feel the darkness and the atmosphere of the fog. It is challenging to make those backgrounds look catchy, for example by playing with the lighting. And this holds for the whole of the Gyakuten Saiban (Ace Attorney) series, but we also get difficult orders like “You absolutely need to add this” or “Make this stand out, but not too obviously”.

Eshiro: Because the game won’t proceed until the player investigates those spots. So they need to stand out, but still blend in with the background.

Nuri: And that’s also connected to the difficulty of the game.

Eshiro: I also test-played the game, and gave feedback like that this spot was difficult to get. The development and the quality assurance teams also test-play the game too, of course. It’s about finding a balance, of not just lowering the difficulty level, but of either leaving it as is, or changing it. I think that went especially well for this game. We also made very detailed adjustments to the timing of the various camera angles of the Joint Deduction mechanic. Takumi on the other hand worked on the hints in the text.

Takumi: For Sōseki’s case, I wanted to have a case that happened in a normal day in London, so it might come across as a bit boring, perhaps.

Eshiro: I was actually impressed by it. Making use of the circumstances of London back then. I didn’t know much about it, so I asked whether this was true, and it was.

Takumi: Actually, you’d be surprised how much I wrote is based on actual history. As I had the unique setting of nineteenth century London, I wanted to create cases that could only occur there. The previous game had the omnibus for example. Gyakuten Saiban was set in the present, but with Dai Gyakuten Saiban we went faraway, to a different country and time, and I knew this would be a great place for the story.

Nuri: Japan in the Meiji period is also very alluring, so I’m glad we also included the Japan from that time period.

Interviewer: Now you’ve mentioned the first game: I played Dai Gyakuten 2, and I wonder wether you already had the finale of this game in mind when you first worked on Bouken?

Takumi: I had a rough idea of the complete structure. Due to circumstances, Bouken turned out like that. Ryūnosuke and Holmes did solve all the cases that happened in that game, but I really had trouble addressing all the mysteries that encompassed all those cases. I guess that I wrote a story of a scale I had never done before. But I did really cause a lot of trouble because of that, and made the users worry. Bouken turned out in a game with a lot of conflicting ideas.

Eshiro: Takumi occasionally says that as the developer of the very first Gyakuten Saiban, he should work to surpass that game. It’s basically a fight with himself, and he was already enthusiastic even before development started.

Takumi: I was really enthusiastic, and I felt a lot of pressure too. And because of that, the story just wouldn’t end no matter how much I kept on writing and writing…..

Nuri: It’s because you keep on writing and writing that it never ended (laugh). You’d be finished with one part, and just when you think you’re ready, he’d pop up with a scenario with even more text.

Takumi: I really wanted to finish the scenario before we started, but in the end I had everyone work on their parts simultaneously with me.

Eshiro: And you also needed to come up with new game mechanics, like the Joint Deduction system and the Jury System. It’s hard to predict how much text you’ll end up with if you have nothing to base it on.

Even More Extravagant Presentation. Towards “A Modern-Day Traditional Story”

Interviewer: As a fan, I have to say I was really excited to learn I’d be able to play more when I arrived at the finale of the first game.

Takumi: Thank you very much. When I first worked on the plans for that game, I felt I needed to differentiate it from the first three Gyakuten Saiban games, so I changed the time and place, and I think that’s an important factor to why it became a story of such a large scale.

Eshiro: But there are also fans of the series who haven’t played Dai Gyakuten Saiban yet, so we also prepared a Dai Gyakuten Saiban 1&2 set.

Interviewer: There were a few moments when playing Dai Gyakuten Saiban that reminded me of the Gyakuten Saiban series. Was that on purpose?

Takumi: I guess you could say I did that on purpose, or not. I always just want to do what is the most interesting for a certain moment and I am not picky about what I use.

Eshiro: I think that fans of the Gyakuten Saiban series will especially enjoy this game.

Interviewer: What do you focus on while working on the Gyakuten Saiban series?

Takumi: Surprise is an important factor to mystery fiction, but what I also think is important for the Gyakuten Saiban series is a simple familiar and conventional story set-up. So it’s important to find the balance between surprise, and familiar tropes.

Interviewer: There are moments like that in this game, but also many segments meant to mislead the player, so I played it while wondering where this story would end up, and where I’d be taken to.

Nuri: Mr. Takumi has a way of simply ignoring what you’d expect would happen. He once said that if this had been the main series, he might’ve unconsciously avoided doing that. He might have a lot of worries too when writing.

Takumi: I like to think I did everything I could. When people from the development team come up with ideas, I feel like I shouldn’t lose. It’s a fight, in a way. And that’s how new ideas for the presentation and story are born.

Eshiro: The scripts have to be changed too to include those ideas for the presentation. And that would again allow for new things, and as they worked more and more on that, time flew by (laugh).

Nuri: I think the development team really went crazy with the Joint Deduction system, with new ideas popping up for each new segment.

Interviewer: What’s it like on the development floor? I heard it goes beyond imagination…..

Takumi: The work of a director is in a sense, to reject what people made for you. So you need to have resolve whenever you speak up. If something needs to be corrected, it needs to become better than it was before. That’s how trust is born. Creating the trust, the believe that if you listen to me, that it’ll become better, all that trust is the capital possessed by a director.

Nuri: I’ve been working with Mr. Takumi for a long time now, and while there are times I was utterly convinced and went along with him, I also often feel the need to chime in with my own ideas (laugh).

Eshiro: There are some things you just want to do as a designer, right?

Interviewer: By the way, in an interview held during the development of the first game, Mr. Takumi said the characters will start to act on their own from now on. How are they now?

Takumi: The longer you know a character, the more they start to do things on their own. I feel like the relationship between Ryūnosuke and Susato has also changed in a natural manner.

Interviewer: If we look at the development period of Bouken, this will become the first new Dai Gyakuten Saiban in four years. Looking back, what do you feel?

Takumi: All of the characters are still alive and living inside the London within my mind. That’s how it always goes with me. How about Nuri?

Nuri: I’ve spent a long time with these characters, from the previous game until now, so I feel my image of them has deepened a lot.

Takumi: Is this going to become one of your stories about that guy with the hachimaki headband (Asōgi)?

Nuri: Not at all. I have fond memories of all the characters (laugh).

Takumi: I was surprised at how popular Asōgi became. Did you expect that?

Nuri: No, he became a lot more popular than I could’ve guessed.

Takumi: I’m really glad.

Nuri: But this time all the characters are given their time in the spotlight, so I feel it’s all nicely wrapped up.

Takumi: It was fun to address all the feedback we got after Bouken. The users will get to see a new side to the characters in Dai Gyakuten 2.

Eshiro: So you digged deeper in the characters.

Takumi: Though perhaps that Great Detective hasn’t changed a bit since the last game (laugh).

Nuri: He was already finished in the last game (laugh).

Interviewer: By the way, about this Holmes, is this how he comes across to you when you read the original stories?

Takumi: Of course not (laugh). There are various “ideas” of Holmes in this world, and the one of the game is how I imagine him to be. Nuri designed him, and he looks cool, but there’s something more behind that, and Nuri found the perfect balance between that. And the steampunk elements also work perfectly.

Nuri: At first, he thought he’d have more of a characteristic look. But once we decided we’d have a gap between his looks and what he thinks inside, it worked out great.

Takumi: Whenever I explain a character, I always emphasize the parts that make them interesting.  So that is perhaps why you thought he’d look differently.

Nuri: Whenever I design a main character, I try to ask as much as possible about the major story plot points and what can be reflected in the design, but I get rather anxious whenever I don’t see any interesting elements in the scenario (laugh).

Interviewer: Speaking of Holmes, are there other Holmes-media you enjoy?

Takumi: Yes. For example Robert L. Fish’s Schlock Homes series.

Eshiro: How does it differ from Conan Doyle’s series?

Takumi: It’s, how should I put it, so nonsensical. The Homes in this series is not serious at all, and makes wrong deductions.

Interviewer: And what is your favorite story from the original stories?

Takumi: I like all of them, but I’d recommend the first short story collection, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It’s a real masterpiece.

Eshiro: By the way, have you ever visited London?

Takumi: No. I did make a request so we could go with the team for research.

Eshiro: What?! And Nuri?

Nuri: I visited London when I was a student.

Takumi: And surely you must’ve visited Baker Street?

Nuri: Sorry (laugh). Didn’t go there~  I did go to the Tower and Big Ben.

Eshiro: DmC Devil may Cry was developed by a company in Cambridge, so I went there four or five times. I passed by Baker Street with a cab.

Takumi: Uurrrghh… this kinda upsets me (laugh). I wanted to go there for research.

Eshiro: If you had gone there, the story would’ve become enormous! (laugh).

Interviewer: (laugh) I felt that the episodes in this game were even more humorous than in the previous game.

Takumi: Oh, really? Perhaps because there are all kinds of characters gathered in this game. As the writer, I have to say I find writing serious characters more difficult than joke characters. It’s hard to make them say funny things. And there’s of course the speech patterns of the nineteenth century to keep in mind. If you stray too much from them, the whole worldview collapses. Having characters say funny things with all that in mind has been one of the challenges of Dai Gyakuten Saiban.

Nuri: The base story isn’t a gag story, so it’s difficult finding that balance. But with too many serious scenes in succession, the game might become boring.

Takumi: Precisely. So even serious characters need to have something funny about them.

Eshiro: That might be what fans of the Gyakuten Saiban series find so alluring. The characters are, how should I put it, very human. Not perfect.

Nuri: And like when you have a joke character who turns out to have a serious side.

Takumi: That is true. But there are also characters that go beyond that, like Sōseki (laugh).

Interviewer: Now you mention Sōseki, an audio CD book of Natsume Sōseki’s Rondontō (“The Tower of London”) is included with the e-Capcom limited edition of the game.

Eshiro: Takumi directed the reading. It was difficult to get the right readings.

Takumi: Yes. We had talks about the intonation of words we don’t use anymore before we started recording.

Interviewer: That’s a must-hear. I also look forward to the limited bonus Play! Grand Turnabout Tales, where we’ll see other sides to the characters.

Takumi: The Play! Grand Turnabout Tales are stories that “may have happened”, but they are surprisingly close to the main story, so they are stories that’ll also allow you to enjoy the main game even more.

Eshiro: The Grand Japanese Empire Chapter in particular will be a treat for Asōgi fans.

Takumi: I hope all Asōgi fans will have fun with it.

Nuri: I have felt since long ago that Mr. Takumi is extra nice to Asōgi (laugh). I think the character is even more pronounced inside his mind.

Takumi: I hope fans of the Death God Van Zieks will play The Grand British Empire Chapter. You’ll be able to see a cute side to him you won’t find in the main story.

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