Yu Suzuki was interviewed in the latest Famitsu issue, isn’t it great having more and more Yu Suzuki content? This time around he talks about why Shenmue cost so much. Basically his team was an arcade team and they tried to do a game that wasn’t thought about before, on a console that they haven’t really worked on much.
“The main difference between open-world games and other types of games is the overwhelming size of them. Making all the endless objects that build up the world one by one, and portraying how the weather and time of day affects it all, requires massive amounts of time and manpower. “For example, if you enter a building, the room on the other side of the door doesn’t exist until the game generates it in the sliver of time when the player pulls the knob. We didn’t make every tree in town individually, either. There are a bunch of graphic resources for tree branches and leaves, and trees are generated mathematically based off of them. The NPCs in town are also independent — instead of giving unique motions to every single one, they all function independently based on road data and behavior pattern programming.” – Yu Suzuki, producer and director for Shenmue
Not to mention all the details that Shenmue had, which most had to be done by hand!
“Even with the details, we did everything we could to streamline the process. We unitized all the parts needed to construct buildings so you could make the inside of a house in about two hours. For the characters, my quest was to be able to make 30 NPCs per hour, because otherwise we wouldn’t be able to fill up the Shenmue world well enough. We made a tool to mass-produce all the extras, the non-main characters. We didn’t want any identical characters, so they were put together with eye, nose, mouth, and hair parts in much the same way players make characters in games today.” – Yu Suzuki
So why isn’t the ‘open-world’ genre more popular in Japan? I know most people would consider Yakuza an open-world game, it sort of is. But here in the west there are so many open-world games produced a year. Japan, not so many. Why?
“I think Japanese people are more talented than anyone else in the world when it comes to precision handiwork. If efficiency and time weren’t an issue, I think the Japanese are the best in the world at making things. As a result of that, though, I think that when it comes time to take that creation process and automate it a little bit, there’s a fair amount of resistance to that. Making an open-world game is a constant battle with your budget — even if you’re automating the process, you can still compete with other games depending on what your core concept is.” – Yu Suzuki
Yu believes that Japan can be number one in terms of creating video game content again.
“It’s not that we’re losing out to other nations in terms of ideas. One of the main keywords going into the future is the AI and technology that goes into auto-generating content. If we can do that well, then Japan can certainly become number one again.” – Yu Suzuki