Developer's Voice

As has been known since I first started posting here, I really like to follow the weekly or daily updates from developers in magazines and websites and indeed, I think you could say there is a demand for this information from Japanese gamers, who are little obsessed with who are developing their games.

Sometimes I think there’s some really great stuff these developers write that I’d like to share in English. So I thought I’d create this thread and update it when I found something new that I found interesting.

Now it may be quite boring for you, but in that case, you can just click back on your browser and throw a silent curse my way. (It will be deflected, because I have a +13 resistance to curse button shirt on.)

The first is by Atlus’s Kazuya Niino, who is currently the creative guidance behind Yggsdrasil Labyrinth, which will be called Etrian Odyssey in the US when it gets translated by the same company. He was previously responsible for Trauma Centre. Mr. Niino, like many of Atlus’s employees, is not a fan of Final Fantasy-style lighter battles and loves to challenge players and make them think.

His original idea for Etrian Odyssey contained more perhaps bizarre dungeon designs full of original gimmicks to solve than will be in the finished, but the man is getting enough of his creative juices out just by making a dungeon hack that is based in a huge tree instead of an actual dungeon and getting to include some of those ideas. Right now, he’s quite obsessed in designing the skills for the game and coming out under the shadow of the famous MegaTen skills at his company. In an interview with Famitsu, he gave an example of one class (he predicts nine classes in all for the final version) and its ability to use sealing attacks that block attacks generated from the head (chanting, singing, roaring, mind attacks), the arms (weapon or claws) or the feet (agility-based attacks) by attacking those parts. If an enemy’s entire body is sealed than the class gains a kind of exhilaration, thrill bonus for the success of doing so. He’s full of these little ideas to make the game tricky. (Well, I thought it was neat.)

Etrian Odyssey is also going to be based around two styles: one in which the designers wish you to be a little more focused and concentrated, like in Trauma Centre, where you draw the map and annotate so its displayed to help you explore on the top screen; the other to get your mundane goals and plans out of the way as you play lightly on the bus or fall asleep with the DS in your hands.

The game is turn-based, and currently seems to support a party of five. On to the translation of his third column:

Certainly, perhaps, not an opinion that’s often shared among some other RPG developers in the West, but I thought it an interesting way of stating an element that runs along one of my basic beliefs about the appeal of RPGs.


Thanks for taking the time to post this and (presumably) translate. I particularly enjoyed your use of “Certainly, perhaps,” at the end there.

Whats if I want to sheath my sword and kiss the ogre on the lips? What tile then?

darkness -> magic_missile, 1d4

Certainly, perhaps, Pen and Paper RPGs aren’t played in the East? Ergo does RPG always refer to the videogame variant?

FYI, pen and paper RPGs are called Table Talk RPGs in Japan and are played. Record of Lodoss Wars is based on one.

For my second update to this thread, wouldn’t you believe it? I found yet another rather interesting piece put forth by Mr. Niinou. Again, it revolves around Yggdrasil Labyrinth (Etrian Odyssey), which is being released in about two days. I think I’ll get it.

In any case, here it is:

Sometimes I’ve seen people mention that this kind of thinking must be in short supply in Japan, but it really isn’t. It’s certainly not something new, as this type of thinking has been around way before games even. However, I thought Niinou’s explanation and description was particularly evocative.

As for myself, I don’t care at all to have a game that makes me feel as if I’m part of it or is aimed at immersing me as if I were really there. Nonetheless, I do like to pretend all sorts of things for made up characters. I think it might be especially true for people like me who spend a lot time drawing stories.

Though a lot of mine are purposely dumb. (In Twilight Princess recently, I pretended I was one of those guys who passes out advertisement tissues in Hyrule Castle Town.)


Qute by Kitsune:

As for myself, I don’t care at all to have a game that makes me feel as if I’m part of it or is aimed at immersing me as if I were really there.

I’m not understanding your train of thought here. Could you elaborate? To me the one central aspect of RPGs is immersion and trying to feel as if you are part of the world. This is why I’ve always preferred RPGs that allow you to rename characters, or play from a first-person perspective.

Are you saying that you prefer to be a detached puppetmaster, twisting the strings of the characters in whichever direction you choose?

Puppetmaster is a little harsh for me, I wouldn’t like feeling like some cruel political entity. I generally hate politics.

Please don’t think I’m saying games are art, I’m not at all, but it’s like when you go to a museum to appreciate the work the painters have done. I hate it quoting myself, but I had a similar conversation with Angie about two and a half years ago concerning immersion vs. gamery-ness in Half-Life 2 and FPSes and I feel like that best explains it, so sorry about this:

In any case, whenever I play an FPS (which isn’t very often) its actually a pretty novel experience so I’m willing to accept whatever the game wants to do with me. But even Unreal, which I thought was the most “experience”-like of the FPSes I’ve played, I simply liked the feeling of being trapped on an alien planet. I didn’t feel like I was there. It wasn’t important to me that it feel believable. I didn’t want to feel like I was in the shoes of the player. But remaining detached didn’t lessen some of the feel of the scripting. I guess responded more to the emotions it was trying to make me react to than the sense of setting and place. It was also just a really tense game with great pacing I thought. I liked the bouts of exploration that seemed time-limited, yet they weren’t and then the eruption into violence.

I don’t quite know how to express in English that I like to taste what it’s like without it actually feeling like it’s me. And I think most of the taste comes from the aesthetics that are brought across from gameplay. For instance, in a romantic adventure RPG that aesthetic of visiting a well-conceived item shop is that of going on a vacation and buying souvenirs to remind you of the places you’ve been.

On that level, even though I played it over a year ago, I can still remember that guy who is freaking out over what he should buy in the shop by the fountain in the big town in Grandia III. (Ah, attack of the prepositions!) And I liked that guy who pretended he could tell the future by the fish market or the weird people who sat near the lighthouse and looked longingly out to sea, thinking of their lovers.

But I can remember and like it, not because I thought I was Yuki, but it was fun to experience and appreciate the work as somebody who directly moves Yuki and activates these experiences.

Likewise, that one really cool ability that makes Ul split into shadows during battle.

To use another recently talked about game, when I first played Rogue Galaxy year before last and got to the jungle planet, I didn’t think, “Ooh, I feel like I’m traveling with companions on a jungle planet! Nummy!” (The following is not a spoiler, it’s basically a description of one corner of a dungeon.) I enjoyed the feeling of throwing shurikens at enemies really quickly with Zegram; the total ludricrousness of trying to hop on those plant enemies so they’ll open up and you can hurt them; I got pumped up watching the quick animations for when Zegram or Jaster power up their swords with a special ability; I’d get nervous to see if I could guarantee the health for my party and guard or avoid those damn dangerous rolling apes that take health so quickly and are deadly when trapping you in corners. I liked the feeling of isolation and discovery when I went to the right and found a path into the foliage that lead to a broken treetrunk which crossed into a grove with a mysterious sign that read, “Before the wicked devil tree in this area” and then when I went on I saw nothing but a curious waterfall with two treasure chests on each side. I enjoyed the exultation that came after my clever victory against a surprise that could sap half of my HP in one hit AND stun me at the same time. Then when it was all over I wondered what the sign meant, because that’s not what it warned against.

It’s like coming home without the lights, being cold and bumping into things, getting frightened by something brushing your leg, then turning on the light and seeing it’s your cat, and experiencing the relief and affection you feel for it. (Then maybe you give it a nice good kick!) I like being able to compare it to such real world activities, but not actually feel like it’s really happening.

I liked this experience, it engaged my senses and I felt some varied emotions, but it was not necessary, in fact it would be rather revolting, to feel any kind immersion. So, I get the same level of engagement out of the original Dragon Quest as I do a much more realistic game like Rogue Galaxy.

So I guess I could say I look to appreciate the emotions provoked by the gameplay mechanics in tandem with the aesthetic delivery, but I prefer to take that in the way one would appreciate a painting in a museum, that is to say, not the passive aspect of it, but of judging from without. I don’t have to feel I’m in the painting to get the picture. :P

Does that make any sense?


I grok ya, Kitsune; I don’t wanna be the dude having the adventures; I wanna be the dude organizing the narrative and making the decisions that impact the “story”. I don’t wanna directly participate in the world and the adventures; rather, I wanna indirectly mold and shape the narrative with specific decisions and tactical choices.


The Etrian Odyssey game mentioned by Kitsune is apparently coming out in the US within the next two weeks. I hadn’t heard about this game before, but I just stumbled upon this video on youtube, and it looks HOT. Anyone played the japan version yet? Is it any good?

I looked at the game’s site last night, it looks pretty interesting. Does anyone know how the map drawing works, do you just create the entire floor and then take your team thru it?

I’d like to be the first to say: tl;dr x2

Should be in the YouTube video. You enter a floor and you don’t get a map; just your party-represented-as-arrow wandering around on an empty grid, with hotspots (altars, sinks … oh wait that’s Nethack) highlighted, but no map drawn. You fill in the rooms and corridors.

It’s pretty much an insta-buy for me. I can’t imagine anything more awesome … well except running Nethack emulated, but that seems like a bit of a hassle.

Took you eight months to think of that, eh?

Tile-based adventure games are RPGs now? I thought those were called Rogue-likes?

roguelikes are crpgs in spirit.

He finally finished Kitsune’s post.

and here I thought Kitsune was back from the dead…alas it was not so.

I see this thread gets a lot of new traffic by the crowd who read BillD’s “Kitsune is dead and buried” thread.*
Another example to show that any publicity is good. :)

  • Me being one of the people who read that thread.

tl; dr.