Thursday, August 29, 2019

[4Gamer] Interview with Yu Suzuki at Gamescom 2019 | Translation

We present a new interview with Yu Suzuki on Shenmue 3 from Gamescom 2019, this time from Japan's 4Gamer.

This is our translation of the interview, which begins from here.

4Gamer: Thank you for your time today. Please tell us first of all about the present status of Shenmue 3.

YS: The current state is that we're making various finishing touches and balance adjustments, and carrying out small bug fixes. Things such as modifying motions, improving the appearance and adjusting collisions. The balance adjustments are not just for the battles; we're also tuning the balance of the economy.

4Gamer: If the balance of the economy is broken, then that might lead the whole game breaking, mightn't it.

YS: Adjusting the balance is really tricky. Even when I build something expecting that 30% of new players will be able to clear it, when they actually test it out, only about 20% might manage to do so.

In any case, in terms of its level of completeness, I'd say "90% or above". If no bugs that stop the game from running (called "Class A" bugs) are found, then what we have currently could be released. That kind of level.

But this time round it's a PC game, so checking takes time. Supporting PCs all over the world means making it playable for various keyboard layouts all over the world, even just for a single command.

4Gamer: That's true. The six letters "QWERTY" are not necessarily always laid out in that order, are they.

YS: But while Shenmue 3 can be played by keyboard, personally I want people to play with a controller.

That's because Shenmue 3 continues the series' tradition of having a game design with a lot of mini-games, and those mini-games have been built with a controller in mind: "at this point you pull a trigger", or "at that point you press a button", and so on.

4Gamer: I see. Meaning that the choice of keyboard vs controller changes how the game feels to the touch when played.

YS: Having said that, controllers can be divided roughly into two types.

4Gamer: The layout of the analog stick and buttons differs between a Xbox-style and a PS4-style controller, doesn't it.

YS: You know, I wish they'd do something about unifying them [laughs].

By the way, did you play the Gamescom demo until the end?

4Gamer: Yes, I played up until defeating the boss-type guy.

YS: How far did you level up?

4Gamer: Let's see... I trained at the horse stance and punch to raise each of my combat stats by 1 or 2 levels, then did some sparring to get familiar with moves, and then beat the boss after several attempts. That was kind of how it went.

Perhaps it would have been easier if I had raised my stats a bit more?

YS: No, it was built such that he can be beaten without problem if you've increased your stats to around that level.

4Gamer: Oh, so that means I was an average player [laughs]. But I think there will be players who are even worse than me at action games, so it's welcome news that it can be dealt with by leveling up.

YS: Yes, or to look at it another way, players who feel confident about their combat skills can advance with a low rank. After the game's release, I'm expecting to see a lot of boasts of "I beat him with my rank this low!" [laughs]

However, compared to something like Virtua Fighter, I've made it a game where you are able to unleash moves and win just by rapid button tapping. Even if you're no good at combat action, you should be able to properly enjoy the fights.

4Gamer: I've heard that in Shenmue 3 you can select an actual difficulty level.

YS: Yes. There are four difficulty settings, and it's possible to switch even during the game.

4Gamer: Please tell us more about the four difficulty levels.

YS: I come from a background of arcade game development at Sega, so to use the terminology from that time, they would be: Easy, Normal, Hard and Hardest. Their actual names in increasing order of difficulty are Story Mode, Recommended, Challenge and "You'd Better Not" [laughs].

I think the difficulty for enjoying Shenmue 3 the most is "Challenge" for those who like combat, or "Recommended" if not.

4Gamer: Does that mean Story Mode is too easy?

YS: "Too easy" isn't really how I'd put it.

Shenmue 3's difficulty level has an effect on the difficulty of the entire game, apart from just the combat. One example is how easy it is to earn money.

Within the overall flow of getting to the end of Shenmue III, there are two core aspects: obtaining Technique Scrolls and training the Technique Scroll moves you've acquired. In order to do so, you'll need various items, including money, and later you'll also need to complete mini-games. While that's the way things are structured, in Story Mode the things that you need can be obtained too easily, resulting in the player not stopping so much to do other things along the way.

4Gamer: So the player progresses towards the ending directly.

YS: Think of Shenmue 3 like a journey taking place in the real world. How you'll spend the journey, and finding ways to overcome the difficulties yourself, is what makes Shenmue 3 enjoyable.

Considering it that way, rather than a journey where any troubles you encounter can be resolved with money, one that you make on a shoestring will provide all sorts of experiences and be more enjoyable, don't you think?

4Gamer: "You wouldn't believe the troubles I had on my trip!" is mandatory for a good retelling of a trip.

YS: Of course, that doesn't mean you have to take the shoestring-budget trip. You can also play by resolving everything with money [laughs].

4Gamer: I'm pleased about that, just in itself.

By the way, you said just now that "finding ways to overcome the difficulties yourself is what makes Shenmue 3 enjoyable." These days, as well as there being a wealth of Strategy Wikis out there, spoilers can pop up unexpectedly on social media. I get the feeling that finding ways to overcome your problems by yourself without wavering will be a tall order. If you get stuck, you won't be able to resist a look at a walk-through video...

YS: Actually, I think consulting a Strategy Wiki or strategy video should be considered a valid option. After all, behind the thought "I'll check a Strategy Wiki," followed by looking it up, lies the player's own intention, doesn't it.

4Gamer: I see what you mean!

YS: So, I don't think that learning from others in order to progress is something that should be renounced.

However, I've made Shenmue 3 so that it can't easily be boiled down to a fail-safe walk-through. For example, to take the price of a single item, it will change depending on things like the state of the game's internal global economy and the financial discount rate. Therefore you can't say "this option will always be best". Even if you were to analyze the system, I'd have to think that it would be impossible to do so manually.

4Gamer: Your words certainly inspire confidence, but with that said, roughly how many hours will it take to complete Shenmue when playing normally?

YS: Well, if you were to make your way through hitting the odd snag from time to time, I think you'd finish in under 50 hours for the Challenge difficulty, 35 to 40 hours on Recommended and 30 hours for Story Mode.

4Gamer: Even Story Mode will have a fair amount of content, won't it.

YS: That's true, but here too, it wouldn't quite be accurate to say that the fun of Shenmue III lies in going through and completing the story that's offered from start to finish. Taking it to extremes, I'd go so far as to say that you'll only enjoy about 20% of Shenmue III's fun that way.

4Gamer: Meaning perhaps that it's important to "stop along the way"?

YS: Yes. Shenmue 3 is a game about enjoying the stops along the way.

Some may consider it tiresome, but it's in doing so that you experience new things. As your experiences accumulate and they become a part of you, you'll feel as if you're actually making a solo trip. The player's experience of Shenmue 3's world will stay with them. I think this is important.

Also, once you get used to them, several of the mini-games are ones where you can think about what to do next in the game, as you play. They have a style of play that lets you spend time playing while you think about a strategy for your current problem.

4Gamer: That's an approach that's a bit different from recent games, isn't it.

YS: Yes, recent games place great emphasis on plenty of tutorials, explaining in the utmost detail how and what you should do.

But I've made Shenmue 3 to be a game that offers "the enjoyment of finding yourself". Therefore if they take their time and play through slowly, each player will be able to experience their own Shenmue.

4Gamer: Yes, I have the feeling that even within the bounds of the Gamescom demo, that each of the people who played have had a differing experience of what kind of game it was.

In my case, I focused my play on fighting to win, so I hardly went near any of the gambling-type diversions. So for me, my experience of this demo was "leveling up my character, training the moves, learning the basics of combat, and lastly defeating my opponent".

But for someone else, their experience of this demo might well be something like "a game where collecting a complete set of capsule toys was really difficult".

For my final question, is the release date for November 19th definite?

YS: Yes. It will be released as scheduled.

I feel that Shenmue 3 has turned out to be a game unlike any other. Unusually for a game these days, you don't kill people. I will be delighted if people decide "I'll pick one up" as a game that lets you have a unique experience.

4Gamer: Thank you very much.

Source: 4Gamer (Japanese)

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  1. Thank you so much as always Switch! In no time we'll be playing this masterpiece.

    1. Thanks! Every new thing we learn about the game and its design highlights that it will be a true Shenmue experience.

  2. My favourite quote from this interview:

    "I've made Shenmue 3 to be a game that offers "the enjoyment of finding yourself". Therefore if they take their time and play through slowly, each player will be able to experience their own Shenmue."

    As always, thanks for the translation Switch.

    1. It's a great line, isn't it. It's so reassuring to know that Shenmue 3 is still all about the experience. Thanks JC!

  3. "you don't kill people in my game, unusual these days"