Sunday, January 20, 2019

Interview with Yu Suzuki on Shenmue 3 [Gamersky]: Full Transcript - Part Two

Interview with Yu Suzuki on Shenmue 3 [Gamersky]: Full Transcript - Part Two

This is Part Two of a full interview transcript with Yu Suzuki held in China, carried out by and translated by yuc02 (contact him at the Shenmue Dojo).

The interview continues below. Go here for Part One.

Shenmue 3 Director Yu Suzuki Interview - Fighting System’s Complete Revamp [Part 2]

Original text from

YS = Yu Suzuki

Q: You announced that Shenmue 3 would be released in China via WeGame for the PC and Oasis Games for PS4. How did you assess and decide on these two partners?

YS: Shenmue had not yet been officially released in the Chinese market prior to this, so it was important for us to find a reliable partner to expand the series. WeGame is the biggest PC gaming platform in China, with a large player base, so we along with Deep Silver believe that WeGame will be very influential to us in reaching out to new players and markets. In addition we believe as a platform WeGame provides very good marketing and localization services for the developers, which would be very helpful for a new IP like ours. As for the console version, Shenmue used to be a console-only game, and many console players have a lot of affection towards the Shenmue franchise. Sony gave us a lot of help during the Kickstarter process, and as Oasis Games is an important Chinese partner to the PlayStation business, we therefore have a lot of faith in them.

Q: What will your team and WeGame work on to localize the game [for China]?

YS: In the localization front, WeGame have a lot of experienced translators that also love console games, and we will work with them to make the Simplified Chinese version of the game, which we guarantee will be an accurate translation for Chinese players. This should remove all language
barriers, and allow all Chinese fans to enjoy the game, which after all is one set in the backdrop of China.

Q: Will there be any design changes between the PS4 and PC versions of Shenmue 3, to take into account of the different hardware?

YS: There won’t be much difference between the PS4 and PC versions of the game.

Q: Suzuki-san, you have achieved much in the arcade gaming industry, so why did you decide to produce Shenmue, which is a console RPG game with a great level of freedom? Can you tell us the story behind it?

YS: At the beginning of my career I actually hadn’t thought about creating an open-world game like Shenmue. I started by creating arcade games, and the rules in Japan were 1 game for 100 yen, and each machine could be played for around 200 times each day. At the time there was a strict time limit for each play of around 3 minutes, which includes changing between machines. The developer must express his/her creative content within this time limit, and this was not suitable for some of my ideas and content. At the time the performance of home consoles was far below arcade machines, but they did not have a time constraint, so I thought about creating a game for a home console, to convey a deeper game to the players. At the time RPG games were popular for home console gamers, but at the time I couldn’t find the kind of RPG that I wanted to make.

At university I got to know a game called Mystery House 2, which left me with a lasting impression despite its simple graphics, and through it I felt the sense of frustration the developer had due to wanting to convey his/her thinking but being restricted by the hardware limitations. This made me strive to realize the things that couldn’t be achieved without a technological breakthrough, and I suppose that’s the legacy that gets passed between game developers from one generation to the next. 

Takeuchi shows a screen from the 1980's game Mystery House 2
Takeuchi shows a screen from the 1980's game Mystery House 2
If you imagine game development as going down a long road, I believe that all developers should do whatever they can to keep moving forward, keep exploring new things, and new developers should keep trying things that the previous generation couldn’t do. The games that experiment with new things may not sell well, but one needs them to inject life into the industry, and ensure it can keep innovating.

Q: Shenmue was perhaps one of the first open-world games, but nowadays there are many titles of such a genre, with many trying new things. Do you think open-world games now are much different to how you envisaged them to be? Some players of the Shenmue 1&2 re-release have said that some of the everyday life details of the game are cumbersome and affect the fluency of the game, almost making some forget what needs to be done to progress the story. So what do you feel the balance of content should be for an open-world game?

YS: For a game developer, I believe it’s important to try new things, and one shouldn’t be discouraged by the thought that some players might not like something and not try. Otherwise the game industry will never progress.

I produced many “simulation” games in the past, but actually it’s not fun to just copy things from real-life as they are. One needs reality as basis to make something that surpasses reality, reconstructs and refines it so that the maximum enjoyment can be had from it – like any form of entertainment. 

Due to the technical restrictions of the past, it was impossible to make many things as realistic as one wanted, however now the technology is very mature, such that simply copying reality won’t wow people. In the past one can make the game very attractive by making something very realistic; now that’s far from enough. What games need now is to use technology to show something that’s better than reality, and in that sense I don’t believe the focus should be on technology, but rather on playability.

Q: In recent years, more and more Chinese developers have learned about your background, and have interpreted your ideas in their games. For those who want to borrow ideas from the Shenmue series, such as the realistic attention to detail, do you have any words of wisdom for them?

YS: The technical barriers to game development are now very low. For developers, everyone’s experience and career will be different, which means people's unique styles will be reflected in their work. Although I encourage people to learn from others, one should keep their own style intact. In an era where there isn’t much technical challenge, it’s the different styles that will make each game stand out from another.

For those who like to challenge themselves, I hope the industry and gamers will be more accepting of them, and encourage them to experiment. If there is no one willing to take risks, no one who will innovate, then the gaming industry will stagnate and be unable to progress.

After the interview, we were fortunate to be invited for dinner with Suzuki-san and Takeuchi-san. Suzuki-san is a very friendly person, and was even more relaxed after a few glasses of Chinese rice wine, and told us many interesting stories, during which we were shown glimpses of his passion and knowledge for the Chinese culture. This is a man who’s courageous, dedicated and pioneering, who brought us the first full-body gaming experience and who reinvigorated the arcade gaming scene, and still to this day his impact in the industry can be felt. He created the revolutionary Shenmue despite dissenting voices around him, and invented the open-world genre. Although there are now countless AAA open-world titles, his contributions cannot be replaced. He introduced 3D technology to the industry, breaking the long-standing 2D domination. Perhaps as Suzuki-san said, we shouldn’t base the value of a game purely on its sales figures, but be more accommodating of explorers like him, allowing them to experiment by trial-and-error, and giving them understanding and encouragement to maintain their unique styles. 

Translation by yuc02.
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