Saturday, August 24, 2019

Famitsu Interview with Yu Suzuki at Gamescom 2019 | Translation has published an interview with Yu Suzuki on Shenmue 3 that was carried out at the recent Gamescom 2019 event. This is our translation of the interview.

Note: there is a (minor) story spoiler pertaining to general story content in Shenmue 3 which I have enclosed in a spoiler section.

The translation begins from here.

Currently In Progress: Debugging and Last Adjustments

Q: Is the content of this Gamescom demo the same as the one at E3 2019?

YS:  It has been touched up compared to the previous one. At E3, the gameplay time was set to 15 minutes making it hard to grasp the gameplay loop, so this time we've smoothed out that process and increased the play time to around 45 minutes.

Q: In terms of content, people will be able to experience gameplay at the start of Shenmue 3's story, in Bailu village..?

YS: Yes, you'll be able to play through things like events and the gameplay loop, at Bailu village. However, being a demo version, the content differs a bit from the release version.

I consider Shenmue 3 to be what people call open-world, but it differs from other open-world games so markedly that if you take the same approach as those when playing it, you won't get what makes it special; and I suspect that may lead to a conclusion that "different = bad".

To understand Shenmue, I believe it's best played at a slow pace. So, this time, the play time has been set long, 45 minutes to an hour... but it's not nearly enough [laughs].

Q: Oh?

YS: In fact, it's only when you play through slowly that its charms come through. Therefore, what I'd really like is for people to play for 2 hours... say around 4 hours... so they can realize "Oh, this is what the gameplay's like".

Q: [The duration] is mushrooming!

YS: Providing that much time's not practical though, so I've had it set it at 1 hour [laughs]. After playing for about that long in the full version of the game, Ryo's endurance will have decreased so you'll be wanting to eat a meal, or you might decide to buy something for sale at a shop and so on - I think these kinds of things will help show the fun in Shenmue 3 that lies in not merely advancing the main storyline. I hope that players will take their time and play through at a relaxed pace.

Q: What's the current state of development, as you work towards November's release?

YS: Now we're finishing it up, with the focus being on debugging and fine-tuning.

Q: The development period was extended; has the game reached a level of quality you're happy with?

YS: When it comes to development time, the more you have the better [laughs]. We've put everything into doing the best we can within this period.

Q: Distribution of the trial version was announced recently for the PC. Is there no trial version for PS4?

YS: There are no plans currently for a PS4 trial version. One factor is that the PC trial version is a backer reward*.
*Note from Switch: the Shenmue 3 trial version is one of the Kickstarter backer rewards, and has always been stated to be only for PC.

Q: Shenmue is being exhibited at this event in Germany; how popular is Shenmue in Europe?

YS: Shenmue 3 has somehow received a lot of exposure at events in places like Monaco and other areas of Europe, and there are a lot of extremely devoted and passionate fans who turn out at the events. When I've held autograph sessions, people have brought along Dreamcast consoles - or brought along the control panel from an Out Run cabinet and I've signed that [laughs]. There is even a project going on to construct a brand-new Out Run cabinet.

Q: It's amazing how much fervor there is, even for a game from long ago [laughs]. Speaking of games from long ago, have you seen this video?

YS: Video?

Q: It's a video of a secret feature in Shenmue I that has been discovered by a fan, 20 years on...

Normally, in this event Ryo fights ruffian leader Enoki in the park to protect his childhood friend Nozomi. But if the right secret conditions are fulfilled, and a command sequence is entered, for some reason you can fight together with Nozomi [laughs]. What's more, Nozomi is so strong, she can defeat Enoki alone. She's super-strong.

Do you have any recollection of this?

YS: Development on the first game was a fair while ago, so there's a lot about it I've forgotten...

Q: It was more than 20 years ago after all, wasn't it.

YS: I... didn't know about this [laughs].

Q: You didn't know! [laughs]

YS: I think it's the first time I've seen it. I'm astounded [laughs].

Q: [laughs] Perhaps it was secretly implemented by a developer as an easter egg.

YS: With a software program, if you want to you can make it as complicated as you like, with any number of ways to ensure that it wlll never be discovered when played normally. I'm fond of secrets like these - I've put in all sorts myself.

Q: That sounds like a reflection of your mischievous nature!

YS: For example, in Hang On, there are signs at the side partway through the course reading "HANG ON" and if you deliberately crash into them your time remaining is increased. In Virtua Racing, when time has passed, the cows give birth to calves and their numbers increase [laughs].
Cows at the side of the track in Virtua Racing (Bay Bridge course)
You could even make a program that only springs into action once time has gone by - say half a year later after the cabinet has been shipped.

Q: Meaning there may be secrets out there that have been installed, but haven't actually been discovered yet...

YS: There could well be a good number in the likes of Out Run [laughs].

Q: What?! [laughs] If there may be some in Out Run, which went into operation in 1986, that makes it even more likely for the Shenmue series; there's a good chance there are plenty of secrets yet to be discovered in it, isn't there.

YS: I wonder... [grinning]

35 to 40 Hour Play Time. A Showdown with Lan Di...?

Q: We seem to have gone off the track a little there, so let's get back to Shenmue 3. Previously in an interview you mentioned a total play time of around 50 hours. Has there been any change to that?

YS: Actually, there have been some adjustments made which has changed it. Specifically, I've lowered the overall level of difficulty so there's less stress. I'd say currently it's around 35 to 40 hours. However, selecting Challenge* mode will make it harder so about 50 hours; on the other hand, with Easy mode you should be able to make faster progress.
*Note from Switch: the third-hardest of the four difficulty settings, translated as "Mastery" mode at the Reboot Develop conference.
Of course, you might take detours along the way, so it will depend on each player's style of play, but I think that's about how long it will come to if you keep to the main story.

Q: You have also said that Shenmue 3 will not conclude the story. How about that aspect?

YS: That's right, it won't conclude it.

Q: So how far through the total story structure will Shenmue 3's tale go?

YS: Hmm.... that's quite tricky to answer, or rather it's hard to express. By that I mean that Shenmue's entire story has a kind of novel that underpins it, but it's not a case of Shenmue 3 being "from Chapter X to Chapter Y". To make the game experience more enjoyable, I might work in earlier something that was originally to have come slightly later, or the reverse: I might cut something that was supposed to happen at a certain point, and recombine and reconstruct it. In order for the series to continue, it has to be something that is fun to play.

Q: You say it's not possible to make a sweeping statement on what percent of the story has been assimilated through to Shenmue III. But at the point where Shenmue II ends, there are many hints remaining of things to come, aren't there. For a start, one big objective is getting revenge on Lan Di for killing your father; then closely connected to that is the Phoenix mirror; and also the Sword of Seven Stars. There's also the question of what your father Iwao was doing in China in the past...

YS: [laughs]  Sorry if I seem to be evading the question, but the story is of course part of Shenmue's attraction, and for me, I believe its very world is what makes it special.

While it's possible to play by just advancing the story, if you merely chase after the story I think you'll end up getting a taste of only... I don't know, 30%, of what we've made. I think you'll miss out on a lot if your style of play is to chase the story exclusively.

Its world is something I've put a lot of care and thought into building, and so I really hope people will immerse themselves in it, and play through slowly. As if you're going on a journey.

It's the same with an actual journey, right? One in which you have money is a different experience to one where you don't. If you don't have money, you have to think about what to do about somewhere to stay, and what to eat. I think of Shenmue as a kind of journey.

And so you immerse yourself in its world, for 30 to 40 hours. On doing so - how to put it - the world of the game permeates your body.

I think that, rather than being a game with a good story, it's one that gives an interesting experience. The accumulation of small experiences is what gives that Shenmue feeling.

While the story is in common, the experience will be different depending on the player, so each person's "Shenmue" may be something that is theirs alone.

I want to produce a play experience that is like a solo trip. At the end of a solo trip, what stays with you? At the end of play, what stays with you? That, is Shenmue.
  • Related post: Yu also brought up a similar theme when he was talking about the electro-mechanical arcade games to be found in Shenmue III at the Reboot Develop conference: while each is rather simple, they each add a new memory to the total experience that will stay with you after completing the game.
Q: So. deep emotions are born from the very fact that the player feels as if playing Shenmue is something they are experiencing themselves.

YS: For example, even if you take the situation of traveling from Tokyo to Hokkaido [the northernmost prefecture of Japan], those people who have money go by plane, and those who don't might hitchhike or some might walk. They have the same objective, but their methods differ.

Trying out different approaches and finding ways to do things while heading towards an objective - that's what Shenmue is about, and I think this kind of game is rare.

For that reason, I suppose, there aren't any titles to compare it against, so it's hard to get across or explain its attraction in words. It's a game that doesn't fit into comparative evaluations.

Q: That's exactly right. I can see how difficult it is to try to get it across to someone without their actually experiencing it.

YS: That's why I'd really like to make the play time at this event 4 hours [laughs].

It's packed full of the kind of fun that's only to be found in Shenmue, which can't be experienced at all in other games, and so I really want people to experience the world of Shenmue. A Shenmue in every home might be a good idea! [laughs]

Q: [laughs] Finally, could you give a message to the fans in Japan who are looking forward to the November release?

YS: This is a game made by Japanese, so I'd love people in Japan to play it. I'm thinking of doing something for the Tokyo Game Show 2019 if possible, although the details haven't yet been decided. Don't miss it!


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1 comment:

  1. "The accumulation of small experiences is what gives that Shenmue feeling." --- Yu Suzuki