The following is a translated transcript of the live interview that took place at this years Lucca Comics & Games event in Italy. This translation has kindly been provided to us from friend and community member RyoX. Some additional corrections regarding the Japanese translation have been updated by Switch of PhantomRiverStone.com. Many thanks to both for the wonderful contributions!
Is this your first time in Italy?
I have been 5/6 times in Italy, but this is the first time in Lucca.
How is this Lucca Comics going?
I love so much the ancient style of building, and Lucca is a very fascinating city, very medieval, and the fact that the whole city is used for the convention is very fascinating and fun. Last night I walked around and saw the city walls, a beautiful view!
As a child, what did you play?
When I was a child, there were no video games. I used to play a very simple game, we used to build Dangos out of mud and I would bet with a friend of mine on which one was the easiest to break.
At what age?
This was around my seventh birthday. There was obviously a trick to this trick! We had to find the hardest mud to make our dango, to make it stronger! So we would go to the mountains to find the best mud with my friends! Around the age of 9, I became very fond of Lego!
Are you still passionate about Lego now?
Of course, still now! I really like model kits, but I never build them! I keep everything aside, they accumulate, but I don’t assemble anything! Sometimes I build very fast cars, or bulldozers!
And why don’t you assemble them? For lack of time?
I didn’t like making something that is prescribed. I liked to build what I wanted to make, so I used various parts to build my own creations.
Has having this passion for modelling helped you in becoming a game developer?
There are commonalities, so I would say definitely yes!
Among the games you have created, which is your favourite and why?
Virtua fighter and Shenmue!
During your years as a developer, since the beginning, what kind of changes have you seen?
For example the change from 2D to 3D, when I created the third dimension for Virtua Fighter, it was something that didn’t exist in the world of fighting games. We simulated the human body, which has a lot of joints and calculated everything using inverse kinematics. For example, in VF we have characters with different heights, and in order to make realistic punches, the impact is dynamically calibrated taking into account the different heights to make it more realistic.
What were the biggest difficulties in developing Shenmue?
Before creating Shenmue, I always worked in the arcade field; I went from a world where it was profitable for the business to have games where the average game only lasted 3 minutes, so there was a lot of work condensed into small games. Obviously in console games, there is a different length and use, a very different business purpose. In shenmue there is no limit, I could express so many different things that I couldn’t express in an arcade cabinet.
What are your inspirations outside of video games?
I’m not a big gamer, so most of my inspirations come from outside the world of video games. But not because I don’t like playing games, but I do like other things, like movies and fast cars and motorbikes! In general, game creators play a lot, and while playing they get ideas and look for profitable business ideas from there. I look for my inspirations from everyday life.
Which films have inspired you? What do you like?
When I created Space Harrier, I was inspired for example by Never ending Story! Another inspiration was the movie Cannonball Run, I thought “I would like to drive on this kind of road” and that’s why I created Out Run! So I travelled to America to see where cannonball run was filmed, but I wasn’t satisfied with the location and we decided to go to Europe, and in 1984 I used a rented BMW to travel. I actually wanted a Porsche or a Ferrari, but unfortunately it wouldn’t fit my luggage (laughs)!
Is it because of this passion for cars and motorbikes that they call you the Rockstar of video games?
Maybe a little bit (laughs). When I was travelling for work, a very funny episode happened: when we were in France, we went to a restaurant, and the menu was all in French and I didn’t understand it. In Japan there is also a menu with pictures or drawings, but in France there wasn’t one. So there were 2 of us and we had to order anyway, we started from the first line in the menu without knowing and ordered 4 soups! From that experience I learnt that you don’t have to order from the list, you have to choose from different places on the menu (laughs).
What advice would you give to a young person who wants to become a game developer?
Today is very different from the past. Today even with small teams you can create games thanks to the new game engines. In my era we used to build the game engines, today you have so many free game engines available. Without these restrictions, young developers are freer to be creative and it is easier.
Our time is almost up, but I wanted to say something. I wanted to thank Yu Suzuki because he played Shenmue with me and my sister, who doesn’t play video games, he still played Shenmue with me, so he gave me a memory of me and my sister together that I will carry in my heart forever, thanks to Shenmue!
I’m very honoured by this, it’s very nice to hear and touching. Through the video games, to have these experiences and to know that I was able to give you these emotions, is a great honour for me.
It has been a pleasure to have you here with us, and thank you very much for coming here.
Thank you for this wonderful interview and this opportunity.
Lucca Comics & Games – https://www.luccacomicsandgames.com/it/