Monday, September 16, 2019

[4Gamer] Interview with Yu Suzuki at TGS2019 | Translation

Japanese gaming website 4Gamer interviewed Yu Suzuki about Shenmue III at this year's Tokyo Game Show on 12th September 2019, and their article has been fully translated and made available thanks to blog contributor Daniel Mann.

About Daniel 

Daniel has been studying Japanese for a little over 5 years and since, has been occasionally flexing his new found muscle with various translations and scanlations. 

Daniel is also an avid Shenmue fan and has been following the series since the game first released on the Dreamcast back in the year 2000. A long time lurker of the Shenmue Dojo forums, he finally registered an account in 2018 (under the handle danielmann861).

These days, you can find him posting regularly. Feel free to say “hello.” He won’t bite (hard). We guarantee it!
The translation begins from here.

During the opening day of Tokyo Games Show 2019, a stage event for Shenmue III (PS4/PC) was held at the SEGA booth. Creator and Director of Shenmue, Yu Suzuki, took center stage where he proudly proclaimed: “At long last, we will finally release Shenmue III!”

4Gamer had a chance to sit down and chat with Yu Suzuki after the event…

4Gamer: Thank you for your time today. We had the opportunity to play the trial version of Shenmue III earlier, but found the considerably strict 45 minute time limit to be a little irritating…

Yu Suzuki: Really, was it that short? (Laughs) At this time, it is a trial version and it picks up just a little bit after the opening of the game. Beforehand, there will be a couple of tutorials and spots to help guide players to understand the course of events from Shenmue II, so I think it will be a little easier for players to pick up and play in the final retail version.

4Gamer: The game is just under 2 months away from release. We would imagine it’s a busy time for you with various promotional events and the like, but has the development cycle considerably settled down?

Yu Suzuki: You could say that. Our team is still hard at work continuing to polish the game. We are also further balancing parameters and currently bug fixing. We also have numerous QA testers checking for major game breaking bugs.

4Gamer: It has been four years since the announcement of the Kickstarter at E3 2015. Looking back on the past four years, can you name one moment in particular that stands out the most?

Yu Suzuki: It’s a feeling that I would describe as 4 years of turbulence. (Laughs) As you may know, Kickstarter requires set goals from the outset. The initial budget we asked for with Shenmue III was two million dollars, but if you stretch beyond the initial set goals then the budget grows considerably.

Since then, the budget has increased thanks to the co-operation of our publishers (Deep Silver). Thus the content of the game has been considerably upgraded from where we initially started.

Normally, the projected targeted budget is fixed so the project is planned in accordance, but with Shenmue III the plan changed each time the budget increased resulting in a better product. However, the process has not been without its hurdles.

4Gamer: If the original plan changes then it is only natural to expect both the schedule and structure of the game to re-adjust accordingly, correct?

Yu Suzuki:  Although one might say to make it scalable, there are various limitations to deal with. For a person that is used to making full customs such as me, there have been numerous difficulties along the way. Nevertheless, Shenmue III does have a much larger volume than we originally conceived. At first, I honestly wasn’t sure whether we could make a fully-fledged Shenmue.

4Gamer: Since the release of Shenmue II in 2001, it has been a little more than 10 years since you last led a large-scale project. Has there been any change in the way you work since then?

Yu Suzuki: I can’t say that my concepts, policies or way of thinking have really changed in any way. However, this time around we started with no team in place. So we began by recruiting talent. In the past, I was the type of creator who engineers custom game engines from scratch, but since we are using a pre-existing game engine (Unreal Engine 4), I needed to completely rethink my approach.

As I mentioned earlier, I also struggled with the ever-changing budget affecting our plans. I have been making games for more than a decade, but this time around I gained a lot of new experience in the process.

4Gamer: It seems there were many processes that were not there before.

Yu Suzuki: Since the core fundamentals of Shenmue have been left intact, Shenmue III may have a completely different approach in terms of its backend, but I believe that we have managed to craft a game that still feels very much like the world of Shenmue.

4Gamer: When one brings up the name ‘Yu Suzuki,’ it usually conjures up an image of an individual unwilling to compromise his artistic intent and creative vision. Would this be a fair assessment?

Yu Suzuki: Is that what people really think? (Laughs) I feel like I’m always compromising to some degree or another.

What I usually think about is how best to maintain my vision to be as pure as possible by not mixing it with other sources. What to protect and where to change usually depends on the game in question, but I always do my best to stay true to my conceptual ideals wherever possible.

Still, at the end of the day, this is ultimately a business. There is still a deadline to meet and there is no such thing as inexhaustible funding. So there will always be many components unwillingly changed in the process to adhere to the budget at hand.

4Gamer: Understandable. Speaking of which, can you tell us of one such compromise you had to make?

Yu Suzuki: For Shenmue III we added the ability to eat food in order to replenish Ryo’s stamina. But one of my initial ideas for Shenmue III was to explore and incorporate the relationship between food and martial arts into the game.

To give an example, when practicing a certain technique, it would be preferable to eat lamb instead of pork. Or for another technique, it would be ideal to exercise while practicing the Art of Qigong.

(Translator’s Note: Qigong is a heavy breathing exercise for the cultivation of both mind and spirit.)

In fact, there is a rather deep relationship between food and martial arts, and I initially set out to explore this idea in Shenmue III. But for the time being, we had to settle for “I can’t run when I’m hungry.” I could go on and on with these minute details. (Laughs)

4Gamer: So you were thinking about the really detailed parts of reality. Speaking of which, economics seem to be a key factor within Shenmue III but there were some details left unexplained in the trial version. Could you please elaborate more about the economics of Shenmue III

Yu Suzuki:  Absolutely. Let’s assume you need money to buy things in game to progress. Then there are various ways to obtain money within Shenmue III Some players may devise a way of getting money through utilizing their Kung Fu skills in the many street fights found in the game, while other players may choose a more honest means. Or another player may earn their fortune through gambling.

Even though the objective remains the same, the player will find the process for themselves and choose between each. So I like to reduce the number of tutorials and let the player find their own way, because if you dictate one method then it becomes the only method.

I think it’s a rare feat to let the player discover their own path in modern day games.

4Gamer: We have time for one last question. It’s only a brief one, but do you have any plans for the future post release of Shenmue III Are there any ideas you have in mind or is there a particular genre that you would be keen to explore?

Yu Suzuki: As you may already know, Shenmue III will of course not complete the saga, so if circumstances allow for it then Shenmue IV is considered to be the next step. As long as the fans remain vocal, then I will do my best to finish the rest of the saga for them in return.

Other than that, I’ve had a keen interest in fantasy games for quite some time and given the right opportunity, I think I would like to make one someday.

I’m also very interested in VR, but for people like me that are always demanding greater video quality, the lack of processing power hurts. At any rate, once the hardware inevitably catches up, I would be very keen to create a VR game.

4Gamer: Thank you very much for your time today and we here at 4Gamer look forward to both Shenmue III and your future projects!

Source: (Japanese)

Many thanks to Daniel for the superb translation. We look forward to posting further contributions from him on the blog in the future.

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  1. Good interview. Yu Suzuki is cool!

  2. Well if Shenmue III is a big hit, we might see a triple A Shenmue IV with VR support :) Right now I'm just so excited about the third one.