If there is a game designer that fits the rock star tag, it’s definitely Japanese game designer, Goichi Suda.
Suda, or Suda51 is he is more well known to gamers, is the CEO of Grasshopper Manufacture and the brain behind the No More Heroes series and killer7.
He was in Australia last week to promote his latest game, Shadows of the Damned, a game he jointly made with another famed Japanese game designer, Shinji Mikami.
Shadows of the Damned takes place in the realms of Hell, with the game’s hero Garcia Hotspur having to save his girlfriend, Paula, after she was kidnapped by the game’s villain, Fleming, and taken to Hell.
Thanks to EA, I was able to spend 15 minutes chatting to Suda over the phone last Thursday afternoon. He was a delight to talk to.
Here’s the interview:
GC: Suda, it’s a great pleasure to talk to you. I guess firstly, could you tell me how Shadows of the Damned differs from the earlier works you’ve done.
Suda: A: Thank you for having us for the interview. Well, there are a lot of differences. We developed games for the Wii for a very long time and this is really the first HD title that we’ve done using Unreal (engine) so we definitely had to change the development environment, and also this was the first collaboration with EA, which was to create a game for a worldwide audience. This game was definitely difficult and challenging for us, but at the same time, in a creative sense, we had marvellous support from EA and we remained the same throughout the course (of development).
Q: How did EA react when you first pitched Shadows of the Damned? What was its reaction?
A: It was really surprising. We had a representative meeting with EA’s top members and their immediate reaction was that it (the game) was really different and new and something that EA didn’t have. They wanted to start development very quickly so I was really surprised at how quickly they could actually decide on something and move.
Q: Suda, so do you like to be revolutionary in your games? Do you like to push the video game medium as far as you can?
A: Definitely. I think that it is our job as a game designer to offer something new, always, so I definitely keep that in mind, being revolutionary
Q: How does your design process work? How do you come up with the ideas for your games?
A: OK, first of all, normally my style is to go to the bathroom, get rid of things, and come up with new ideas – that was my style. For Shadows of the Damned I thought my style would change, but actually it didn’t, so … bathroom (everyone laughs)
Q: I’ve heard Shadows of The Damned described as a punk rock take on grindhouse. Is that how you would describe it?
A: Yep, I think that is very accurate.
Q: With Shadows of the Damned it looks like it has lot of light and dark and parallels with good and evil. Would that be a good description?
A: Actually this game focuses on Hell and you basically kill enemies throughout the world but when you venture through this world you actually encounter this darkness and also the enemies are wearing this darkness around them. In that state, Hotspur (the hero) cannot kill them so you need to use the forces of light to get rid of the darkness – and that’s the logic behind the game.
Q: Has this been the most challenging game you’ve worked on so far?
A: Actually, this wasn’t exactly the hardest game to develop. Of course, yes, it’s taken a long time and it was challenging, but the length of the development and the product testing doesn’t necessarily equate to how hard it is to develop. I think the challenge is always to come up with something new and revolutionary. It’s really hard to say but I wouldn’t say this was really the hardest one.
Q: Suda, is it hard to constantly come up with revolutionary ideas for your games?
A: Ah, I’m OK. I’m doing OK. I still have like 40 other ideas that I want to do but I think the challenge is to really achieve what is in my head as an idea.
<EA’s PR person cuts in telling me I have two questions left>
Q: Suda, you collaborated with Shinji Mikami on this game. How was that process for you?
A: We got along really, really well and in fact some people think that we could be gay, but of course this really was the second time we had worked together and so we know exactly what’s expected from each other and so we understood each other completely, so it really was a perfect match.
Q: Last question, Suda, your games seem really popular in the west but what do you think it is about them appeals to western gamers?
A: Well I’m really glad that they are popular in the western market, actually more than in the Japanese market, but I’m not really sure. I guess when I was young I really liked a lot of different things and I tried out things and saw and listened to different things. Of course, I like a lot of things from the western world.
Q: Suda, thank you for your time.
I’ll get the American McGee interview done tomorrow night. I promise.