Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Ryan Payton Interview by Shenmue Dojo

In his early career, Ryan worked for Konami in Japan, then later at Microsoft in the US. He currently runs his own games studio, Camouflaj.

Shenmue Dojo has released a special audio interview for their 20th anniversary celebrations with games industry veteran Ryan Payton, someone who was instrumental behind the scenes in helping Shenmue III become a reality by educating and convincing Yu Suzuki about the potential of crowdfunding, as well as freely giving his time to give Yu advice and feedback on the game during its development.

The interview was arranged and conducted by Dojo co-owner Matt Oliver who asked some great questions, and the interview makes for a compelling and insightful listen in a casual chat format.

A few pertinent quotes from Ryan during the interview:

On contacting Yu Suzuki to propose Kickstarter: "I emailed [Yu Suzuki] and I basically said, 'Look, it's been bothering me for longer than you can imagine that you haven't been able to continue this franchise, and I think I have an idea for how you can make Shenmue III' and he writes back and says, 'Wait, who are you?'"
On Yu Suzuki's forklift tweet at E3: "I have to say, that he was right about that tweet. Even though I was nervous about it, I think what it did was that it was a rally cry to the Shenmue community that it needed to pay attention to what's happening at E3. So I think he was right about that."
On recognizing the achievements of Shenmue III: "From a development perspective, this thing is a damn miracle. They did not start with the codebase of Shenmue I and II. He and his team recreated so many complex systems from Shenmue I and II in a new engine they had never used before, on a platform they had never shipped on, and they delivered on a game that had more features and more length than anyone was expecting. And that should be celebrated."
On Shenmue IV: "A reason to be hopeful for the future is that, if there is an opportunity to work on a sequel, to build a Shenmue IV, instead of spending 70% of their time building the foundation and then 30% building the content, they can spend 80% of their time building content for a sequel. And that is the secret ingredient of almost all the best video games of all time."
Ryan also explains the story behind Shenmue III's opening scene of Ryo walking with Shenhua towards the village, and why it may feel a little disjointed!

Listen to the video interview:

Topics outline:

  • Purchasing a Dreamcast console & games on launch day
  • Playing Shenmue for the first time (in Japanese)
  • Shenmue I vs Shenmue II
  • Convincing Yu Suzuki about Kickstarter
  • The extent to which Yu Suzuki already has the Shenmue story details worked out
  • The Kickstarter announcement
  • Yu Suzuki's E3 forklift tweet
  • Ryan's advisory role after the Kickstarter
  • Anecdotes of Yu Suzuki's interaction with his team
  • The story behind the "disjointed" nature of Shenmue III's opening cut scene
  • Giving respectful feedback
  • Ryan's hand in a message from Yu Suzuki at the end of Shenmue III
  • Optimism for building on Shenmue III for a potential Shenmue IV
  • Thoughts on the Shenmue Anime
  • The release of Iron Man VR by Ryan's studio Camouflaj
  • The future of VR
  • A message from Ryan to the Shenmue community
"Discovered at E3": Yu Suzuki's attention-grabbing forklift tweet from E3, sent before the Shenmue III Kickstarter announcement. [original tweet]

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