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  1. A.I Dodonpachi and Dodonpachi Daifukkatsu drawn by Takamura Wamu
  2. Hideki Nomura Translated by blackoak. Central Works: Ketsui Espgaluda series Mushihimesama series Ibara series Muchi Muchi Pork! Deathsmiles II Dodonpachi Daifukkatsu He primarily does character design and the interface/menus. On Ketsui he did part of the maps, and on Espgaluda II and Mushihimesama Futari he did the world/setting. —It looks like you're very busy right now, but how are things going? Nomura: The project I'm working on right now, Akai Katana, is at the final critical stage. Everything has to be completed within one week. Normally I'd have more time, but I have so much other work to get to... Right now, I-san of our subcontracted staff is sitting next to me, and he works very quickly, so I've had to hand the next design drafting work to him. I want to get started on the modeling, but without the design drafts the team is stuck... but they aren't something you can just come up with in an instant, they take time. You have to look at all the materials we've come up with for the game and draw new patterns too, and when you finally think its right you can hand it over. So while I'm waiting for all that, I'm not doing anything at all. Only when I-san returns can I finally get to work. (laughs) So I can't even really get started on my work until the evening. —You also work on the interface and menus. What kind of difficulties arise there? Nomura: The world of the game and the menus are connected, I think. For instance, if its a mecha game, it would be strange to have a Japanese aesthetic in the menus... a mecha game should have mecha styled menus to make the game consistent, so I always work on them myself. The truth is I should probably give that kind of work to someone else, but I always end up doing it. I'd like to give more work to others, but we don't have enough employees. (laughs) And I feel bad giving so much work to the subcontractors, knowing they'll be stuck here all night. So I usually portion a certain amount of time for it and then just do it myself. Once its decided whether the game will be mecha or character style, and the general world and setting of the game are known, then I put the menus together. Because without any kind of motifs or themes I can't do anything. For this game, the katana is the motif, so I try out different backgrounds and search for interesting visual materials until I find something that fits. The truth is I don't have enough time to do it all, with only two weeks to make the character select screen, name entry screen, and ranking screen. I'm barely able to keep on schedule. I always say I'm not going to do anything else while I work on the menus, but in the end something extra always gets put on my plate. —With all that work, how have you not collapsed?! Nomura: While I'm working on a project, its somewhat mysterious, but my body never breaks down. Even now, I can't remember the last time I took a break, and for days and days now I just go home and go straight to bed. Somehow, I just keep going on... because if I collapse now, its all over for the project. (laughs) Though, it has happened that I collapse the moment a project is over. (laughs) Its probably because I'm so tense and keyed up while I'm working. After a project is completed I'll sleep for over 12 hours. Well, actually, the truth is that we're always crunched for time. Location tests, game shows and events, release deadlines... it never lets up. Projects don't always start out busy. Lately the busiest part has been all the initial planning, and once that is over, to a certain degree you can decide your own schedule, and work on the things you want at your own pace. Of course, in the final stretch its always hell. That reminds me, I had my health checkup today, and I've lost a ton of weight. (laughs) Aside from not eating much at night, I haven't changed anything in my diet but I'm still losing weight... it might be from never taking a real break. And yet the doctor said to me, "you've gotten a lot better!" I had mixed feelings about that. (laughs) I moved not long ago, and I'm close enough to walk to the train station, so that's good. —Maintaining your health seems difficult... Nomura: During our last project I had some free time, so I would go running at night. I'd run to the Tama river, but I never lost any weight. No matter how much I ran I didn't lose weight, though I know why that is. After you exercise food becomes a lot tastier... I'd get back and have a beer and such. I figured since I was sweating it was ok. (laughs) When I was running crazy distances in the middle of the night I lost nothing, but now with all the hard work I've been doing at the office, I've lost 5kg. Its a mystery to me. When I was running, before coming back for overtime I'd go have dinner at a place nearby. They didn't have fish there, it was only meat. I was eating a lot of heavy food then, and it probably wasn't good for my health. I'd have an American burger one day, and a Japanese style burger the next... you can't lose weight like that. (laughs) Now that my wife and I live together, I think that's had a very positive effect on my health as well. —You've definitely been working hard for quite awhile. What are some of the more memorable titles you've enjoyed working on? Nomura: Ketsui was very memorable. I joined Cave because I wanted to work on shooting games, but at first, fate seemed to be against me. I wanted to make shooting games, so I brought a bunch of my mecha design drawings with me to the interview, but after the interview they told me, "Ok, well, starting tomorrow, you'll be working on our snowboard game." I was very surprised, "What, snowboards?!" (laughs) Well, I figured it was good that I had even passed the interview. My first project was with the snowboard team, and my next three projects were all snowboard games as well. While making those games I started to think, "Am I only capable of drawing snow...?" At this rate I was thinking of quitting, but then like a godsend a space on the shooting team opened up, and that was for the project Ketsui. I was told to work with Tanaka, who was managing the backgrounds and maps for the game, but when I was all of a sudden asked to draw like him, I couldn't do it right away. So at first, for many days I stayed up all night, and I slept at the office for 9 straight days. Though I did go home to take a bath each day. —Weren't there any sentou (public baths) near the office?! Nomura: I don't like those for some reason... my routine was to go home, take a bath, eat dinner, and come back to the office around 11PM, and work until morning, getting some quick rest before the next day. It was tough when I couldn't go home for my own birthday though. I spent that birthday all alone at the office with a bentou lunch. (laughs) But a nice employee from the mobile content division did bring me a cake. I was happy to make that connection, but the game development team at Cave is full of people who work very quietly and keep to themselves, so I was a little worried at first. Working on the backgrounds for Ketsui, I did the maps for stage 2, the final stage, and the menus. It was very memorable for me, being entrusted with work that was so hard and challenging. If only I could have started doing work like that from the beginning. Espgaluda II was the first project I was the lead on, so in a different sense that was very memorable. I had to think of all the character names, but there aren't too many names that will sound cool if you take them from butterfly names. (laughs) I think Espgaluda was a very complete work, so I struggled with thinking how I would connect a sequel to it. There were many difficulties, and at first I fought with the programmers. (laughs) It was over a development tool I needed. Before Galuda II, when I created the data, I'd have to compress everything by hand so it could fit into memory. But if I was going to do all that for Espgaluda II, it was going to take over 6 months of work, so I asked them to make a tool to automate the compression. They came back and told me they couldn't really do it, to which I replied, "well, I can't do my job either then!" It was a stubborn back and forth like that. (laughs) Finally, the tool did get completed, and without it I don't think the game would have been finished. (laughs) Because of that one fight, everything, including the console port, went smoothly, so I'm glad it happened. The development time for Espgaluda II was only 6 months, which was rather short. So during that time I rented a futon and slept over at the office. I set it up in the corner of the office, but that was near an emergency exit so it was problematic and the security guard made me move. (laughs) I had no choice so I moved to another part of the office, but that was where other, non-game development staff were working. When they'd arrive for work in the morning I'd be forced to wake up, so I couldn't really get any respite anywhere... I'd end up going to sleep at 7 and waking up at 8. That was my life. —Did you also fight with other employees about everyday things? Nomura: No, not at all. You can't really work with people if you have bad relations with them like that. Of course there's been times when I've had to force a smile and hold my tongue. On the project we're working on now, I blew up once. Though when I look back at it now, it was probably for the best, too. (laughs) Basically there haven't been any real conflicts between everyone... just the normal extent of "well, I'm not sure if this is the best way to do it" and so on. I don't think its good to completely criticize another person's ideas. When we have meetings to decide on new titles to develop, Ikeda will come up with some insane idea and I'm left wondering who the hell these people are I'm working with. (laughs) I really like Dodonpachi, and when I'd bring some "normal" ideas inspired by that design I was told "its too normal." To mention some weirder ideas of mine, for Espgaluda II I made a character that only had a head and neck, and everything below was a tank. When we brought that out at the AM show, the players said, "It looks like he's speaking, but I don't see his lips moving..." That's because his face is actually elsewhere. (laughs) After people understood that, in a weird sense he became a popular character. The idea for him was "a man who abandoned his flesh to become powerful", and having spent so much time on this idea, I had a lot of fun and really went all out with designing him. I even designed parts of his body that you can't see onscreen when he transforms. [[ translator note: I haven't played Espgaluda II so I'm not exactly sure who this refers to. Madara's second form? ]] —Speaking of transformations, was anime a big influence on your love for the mecha style? Nomura: For mecha stuff I love Gundam, but the transformations were largely influenced by the Valkyries from Macross. In addition to buying Valkyrie plastic kits, I also did a lot of papercraft and made them be able to transform. I've always like arts and crafts like that. Liking shooting, I also like mecha stuff, but originally I was obsessed with Gundam and wanted to become an animator. But in high school I played a lot of different games and started wanting to work in that field instead. That was around the time I started drawing pixel art. The first company I joined had a pixel art test, and because I passed it I was hired. At first there were tons of things I didn't know, and the closest person to my age was seven years older than me, so I had many difficulties. Even though I learned the fundamentals of pixel art there, before I knew it pixel art was fading away, and 3D rendering became the mainstay. I occasionally still do cute pixel art for nostalgia's sake. —Is there a connection between your interest in pixel art and Gundam? Nomura: Yes, I was wanting to talk about that. (laughs) There are these really small building blocks called "Nano Blocks," and I am beyond obsessed with them. They're about 1/4 the size of legos and they make various different shapes. When they first came out almost no one knew about them and I thought it was rather lonely, but I've been posting my creations on my website and lots of people have come to see them. —And that relates to Gundam...? Nomura: It will be quicker if I just show you. (shows a picture of his Gundam nanoblock creations on his cell phone) You can see stuff like this on my blog, too. I generally spend about three hours working on them before bed. They're very small, so you can only make things you already have a general idea about. I can finish roughing in a piece in about 3 hours, and then I enjoy touching it up here and there. The things on my homepage are often too big to display elsewhere, so I post them there for posterity before breaking them down. —You should sell them at the Cave Matsuri event! Nomura: I've made all kinds of characters, including characters and crafts from Cave's games. But the problem is I can only make one; I can never make the same thing twice. (laughs) So I can't sell them. There's also a lot of difficulties with making them. My hands have gotten all swollen before from it. Tweezers are hard to use and if you can't use your hands, it just doesn't work. Sometimes when I'm working, I'll drop the piece and it will crash to the floor... then I'll be on my hands and knees searching for nano blocks under my desk in the middle of the night. (laughs) —Your talent for pixel art must help you out here. Nomura: Yeah, it might be true that my pixel art experience of long ago allows me to make these now. I used to build with legos too, but they were too expensive for what you could do with them. But when I saw nano blocks I thought, "this is it!" I became so obsessed with them, it was like this was my life's work. For a period I thought I might even try doing it professionally. I actually really want to release some things for Wonder Festival, but I haven't made any building recipes. After you've built something, you can't really deconstruct it and make a recipe after the fact. I would love to see nano blocks get more attention, and become better known. —For Cave's characters then, you must surely favor the mecha ones? Nomura: When it comes to drawing, I actually prefer the creatures in Mushihimesama, like the dragons. I like things that I can draw in one burst of inspiration like that. With mecha, I start to get stressed out trying to make the parts fit together. I love dragons, so in Mushihimesama I thought, well, its not insects, but maybe I'll add some dragons... and really enjoyed drawing those. —Was it drawing pixel art that attracted you to the game industry? Nomura: I started doing pixel art in my third year of junior high. In high school I got my motorcycle license and soon started spending all my time at the game center. Around then Ys on the MSX2 came out, and playing that was the thing that made me think I wanted to work with games. I was then employed by my previous company, and when I went to the interview it was in a small, 8-cho apartment. I was surprised, but when I went in and saw game hardware all over the place I finally realized, "Aaa, this is a game company!" I thought there would be a lot of fresh high school graduates like me there, but as soon as I got in they immediately gave me boss characters to draw! I thought of myself as an amateur, but it turned out I was able to do a good job, and I was very happy when I saw a commercial for our game on TV. At Cave, Ketsui was my first shooting game, but shooting games had been my first official work in the game industry, as well. At that time an amusement park had just been built near me, but everyone went to the game center. Even though Disneyland was within walking distance, everyone went to the game center anyway. So its pretty sad to me now, seeing the game centers dying out. I moved recently, but there's no game center near me so I haven't been able to go. Before I moved there was a really hardcore game center near me, though. —It seems like you've been playing all sorts of games for a long time now. Nomura: I really like strategy games for all the customizing you can do. I loved "Front Mission." I spent so much time customizing all the parts and changing the colors of the mechs and stuff, that it seemed like I would never even start the game. For the Super Famicom version of Wizardry, too, you could draw your own characters in game, and I'd spend tons of time on that without ever starting the game. My favorite game though was probably Tactics Ogre. I like that dark kind of atmosphere. I also loved Ys, the story and the music were so well done, and that is the game that inspired me to join the world of making games. —Tanaka was saying he hates strategy games. (laughs) Nomura: I tend to draw whatever I think looks cool, but Tanaka is more like, "There are not ducts here so the ship has no intake." He's taught me various things. (laughs) I was impressed because I had never met a person with so many particularities like him. I was glad to have been put on the Ketsui team, but at that time I had no idea how to draw airplanes and fighters jets with realistic weapons. So I figured I needed to study up, and I bought a bunch of reference books and poured over those. Up till then I had thought drawing a tank just meant sticking a cannon on and you're done. But recently I've been able to incorporate what I've learned into my designs. —Do you ever object to any of Ikeda's ideas? Nomura: We fight a lot... its a love hate relationship. (laughs) I think that's just how it is when you're a director... you can't always be liked by everyone. You can tell he really loves shooting games. There have been many times where I've wondered why this guy is working so hard, and even though he's the director, he's the last person to go home. He's really amazing. I would like him to spend more time training his successor, though. If we were to collapse, there'd be no one who could continue his work now. I understand though, because I'm also the kind of person who wants to do everything by myself. On this project, Akai Katana, Ikeda was one of the staff and gave us various ideas. Everyone added their own personal opinions, and even though we'd spent so much time mulling it all over, some new idea would come and upset everything we'd worked on. Of course, that new idea would have to be integrated into the old, and that's how you get a good game. The team is everything... individually, you can't do it all. —What do you think shooting will be like in 10 years? Nomura: I think the entire game industry, not just shooting, will be very different. More and more games and movies are starting to use 3D technology now, so I think we'll finally see hologram style games we dreamed about in the future. In the old Macross series, there was a scene where the ace pilot is at the game center shooting down the enemy fighters, battling with the Batroids that would appear in front him. I was impressed by that when I saw it. It will be interesting 10 years from now when we have games like that. —Please give your fans a final message. Nomura: If you're trying to get into the game industry, don't get discouraged. I faced such potentially discouraging situations many times, but it somehow all worked out! (laughs)
  3. Shinobu Yagawa (CAVE Arcade Technical Leader) Translated by blackoak. Central Works (He primarily works as the main programmer.): Ibara Pink Sweets Muchi Muchi Pork! Dodonpachi Daifukkatsu Black Label Espgaluda II Black Label (360 version) —What kind of work does a main programmer do? Ikeda (who was sitting beside him): Our work, as the name suggests, is the game programming that ties everything together. Within that, the work is divided into two types, with one group handling requests to "program such and such a section" and another group that actually does the main core programming. Yagawa: My job as main programmer is to create the game. Ikeda: That's a vague response. (laughs) Yagawa: Not it isn't. Its right on. —To your fans you are also known by the initials "YGW." Was this a name you used in response to Ikeda's "IKD"? Yagawa: No, it was nothing like that. (laughs) I also didn't make that name, the players just chose to call me it on their own. Ikeda: In my case, it was also to hide my name, but if you look at the staff roll it all comes out anyway. (laughs) —It seems programming is very important work--the heart of the game. Yagawa: I don't think its the heart of the game. Its merely one part that makes up a game. I definitely think its important, but the graphics and sound are both equally important. However you look at it, the total design and the properly adjusted balance are the most important things when creating a game. That is the thing that decides whether a game is interesting or not. —Is an evolving difficulty system (rank) the hallmark of the "Yagawa style"? Yagawa: People often say that, but I think its an exaggeration. I've also done games without rank, after all. But its certainly the case that my arcade games have that feature. Its not because of some particular insistence on my part, but rather because income at the arcades is equivalent with the amount of time one spends playing. It sounds bad, but it was one of my methods for increasing income for arcade operators. —In doing so, the difference between skilled and poor players really becomes apparent. Yagawa: Well, that's why skilled players spend a lot of money. (laughs) On the other hand, if you practice a game, and despite getting better you don't get to play for very long, I don't think you would want to keep playing. Personally, I've always liked shooting games, and I think being able to play longer and longer as you improve at the game is enjoyable. If you spend all this time improving at a game, only to have it gradually end more and more quickly, then I don't think its very fun and it won't be played. —Does your own level of skill affect how you adjust the difficulty in a game? Yagawa: I'm not really playing shooting games like this anymore, but in the past I think I was pretty good. (laughs) Naturally, when you make a game you test play it, and I think there ends up being a relationship between the programmer's skill and the skill required by the game. Though I'm not sure if that's apparent to other people. Actually, among programmers, there are plenty of people who aren't very skilled, and when those people are forced to make a "difficult stage", they unfortunately have to rely on their imaginations to create it. If you don't understand how to make something difficult interesting, it ends up being guesswork. There is such a thing as "interesting difficulty", and when programmers tried to just guess what that was, it never turned out very good. I don't have much fun when I play games that are said to be "for beginners"... even though I'm not that good anymore. (laughs) When I was really into it I would finish simple games very quickly. If there were something after the first loop it would be fine, but if not, it would stop being interesting and I'd stop playing there. If the game doesn't have something past the first loop, or something else about it I can sink my teeth into, then I probably won't play it. —You said you aren't playing games anymore, but does that mean you aren't going to the game center, either? Yagawa: Not too often, but I still go from time to time. I don't go to do market research or for anything related to work... just to play. Though if I had fun playing something I have ended up remembering it for future reference. But I never go to the game center for the purpose of doing research like that. Lately I don't play any games other than shooting there. When I was going to the game center often, I liked versus fighting games as well. —What do you play at the game center now then? Yagawa: Shooting. (laughs) —Do you play Muchi Muchi Pork, your own creation?! Yagawa: No, as you'd expect, I don't play that now. (laughs) I play what we now call "retro" games, I guess. When I happen to see old shooting games there I get nostalgic and end up playing them. Sometimes there are games that I was obsessed with back in the day, but when I play them now... I can't believe how boring they are! I wonder why I loved this so much? Why did I spend so much money on this? ...alone in the game center, I ponder these things. I certainly thought they were interesting at the time. Games themselves are gradually able to do more and more interesting things, but old games must always remain old games, just as they are. I only stop by the game center on occasion, so the lineup is always changing and there's no game I'm really into right now. And I can't tell you what I've actually been playing or it will reveal the identity of the game center I go to. (laughs) If that happens, like it has with Ikeda, it will be difficult for me to go play there. Everyone knows Ikeda's face, so when he goes to the game center he's always approached by a bunch of people. He should try wearing a disguise or something... Ikeda: I don't want to go that badly. (laughs) —Do you feel like the shooting games you made are the best? Yagawa: That's not entirely untrue. (laughs) But if I said Battle Garegga, I'd sound like a weirdo. (laughs) For people who like shooting games or are interested in them and want to have a lighter experience, Armed Police Batrider is preferred, whereas Battle Garegga is more for when you want a disciplined, focused experience. Also, people often say this on the internet, but Gun Frontier... I've pretty much fully exhausted it now, but its the game I played the most. Hmm... I've played so many games.. I can't remember the titles! Ah, its not shooting, but I liked Samurai Spirits. But I didn't play Street Fighter II. By the time I thought I'd play it, I had missed the boat, and just kept getting destroyed. (laughs) —Since you love games so much, you must have a lot of hardware?! Yagawa: I don't own any. There isn't a single console set up at my house. The last ones I purchased were the Sega Saturn and the Playstation. I'm glad I bought the Saturn, but I only own one game for it. (laughs) That game, by the way, is Virtual Fighter. But since then I haven't bought a single game... as for my Playstation, I lent it to someone, I wonder where it went. As you can see from the state of my Saturn, there aren't any recent games I've wanted to play, so I don't own any consoles. Speaking of shooting games only, the Saturn had a lot of arcade perfect ports. But I'd rather go to the game center or buy the pcb. I have about 150 pcbs of shooting games alone. So if something is an original game I'd buy it, but I won't buy ports. —You own that many pcbs?! Yagawa: Yeah, and its definitely inconvenient owning this many. (laughs) I have no place to put them all. Many of them were bought for cheaper than you'd buy a new console game today. I don't have many in my bedroom, I keep them in a separate location... —Why don't you open a game center? Yagawa: Everyone says that. (laughs) Opening a game center now would be a big gamble. I'm can't spend the rest of my life that way! (laughs) —How about this... you could sell cheap candy to little kids and have each credit cost a mere 10 yen! Yagawa: Any way you look at it, it'd be bankruptcy! And I'm bad with kids to begin with! Do you know how much the electricity and the rent alone would cost... if I could make a profit I'd do it, but its clearly an unwinnable fight. (laughs) If you don't have something other than games there, its really tough. —Well, how about having "Yagawa's Shooting 101" classes held there, too? Yagawa: There are many people more skilled and qualified than myself to host such a class. And I'm not even that good in the first place. (laughs) Now if we had some cute girls teaching it, we might get somewhere. Though if it were packed with shooting-loving young men, it might be a little... (laughs) So I'm sorry, but I won't open a game center! —It seems that if you could get more women who play games to come to the game center, then you'd naturally have more men come, too. Yagawa: Yeah, there's always been very few women. To relieve stress, it may be that people prefer music games and fighting games to shooting games. You know, when you play a shooting game, you actually get more stressed out. When you can say you love shooting games, I get the sense you're no longer a normal person. (laughs) And of course I include myself in that. Everyone around me who likes shooting is a weirdo. —That means the people at Cave must also be full of weirdos too, then? Yagawa: If we're talking about the development team... well, I can't deny it. (laughs) There are definite boundaries in our office... there's "over there" (the other departments) and "over here" (development), and the atmosphere is very different between us. Its like "normal people" and "strange people." When an inspector visited our offices, he said something like "The game development division is the most dirty." He said there were monitors strewn across the floor. (laughs) Even I wonder why they're on the floor? Its not like you normally play games with a monitor on the floor, right? In the midst of all that disorganization, my workspace is actually the clean one, I think. (laughs) You can clearly see the top of the desk, and there are no weird figures decorating it either. Even Ikeda has all these weird Tarako figures on his desk. Ikeda: Tarako Kyuupii figures. For some reason everyone gives them to me. (laughs) Yagawa: I don't really have any hobby items that I collect like that. —It seems like collecting pcbs exclusively would qualify? (laughs) Yagawa: But they're too expensive now, so I don't buy them anymore. And its a pain finding a place to store them all, and I don't have free time to play them at home anyway. —Wouldn't playing on your cell phone be convenient then? You could play it anywhere. Yagawa: By the time cell phone games had become popular, I had already mostly lost my interest. (laughs) The screen size is also too small. The controls can't be very complicated for them, and the response is bad... that's the deathblow for me. I've played shooting games on them, and to be honest, it wasn't very interesting. So I'm not interested in the PSP or DS either. Ah, I do own a DS though. I bought it only to play "Gundam Mahjong." (laughs) —Ah hah, you do own a game console! Yagawa: I actually own Mario for it too, but I had my fill by the second level and threw it down, "I'm done, I'm not doing this!" Long ago, Mario was popular on the Famicom and I have fond memories of it so I bought the DS version. I thought it was cool at first, but I couldn't take it after awhile... I personally have no interest in making games for a system with a small screen like the DS or PSP. So when people say, but can't it be fun even with a small screen? For me, no. (laughs) —Yagawa, you should apply your powers to make it interesting! Yagawa: Nothing I or anyone can do will make that screen bigger! You know, its not that I have a particular fixation with arcade hardware and games, but it does seem that if you don't release a shooting game in the arcade first it won't sell well. —Do you have any preferences for platforms to develop on? Yagawa: Not personally, but it is true that if you suddenly release a shooting game for a console system it won't sell well. Outside of that business perspective, I don't have any particular preferences. I do rather like older hardware though. I like the challenge of "doing the impossible" with older hardware, and pushing it as far as it can go. Hardware today is too powerful, and the threshold for someone to make a game has really gone down. With graphics too, even a relative amateur can pump stuff out. In the past you couldn't just start doing pixel art right away, and with programming as well, it used to be that you had to learn assembler first. Now with the PC and other development tools being so powerful, anyone, even untalented people, can just go ahead and make a game. So that's all the more reason for me to want to work with hardware around the same level as Cave's current hardware. —We're in the 3D era now. Yagawa: 2D is the foundation of shooting games, and there are almost no 3D games. Of all that I've tried, I've played very few 3D shooting games that were interesting. Graphically I think they are interesting, but its very difficult to tell whether a bullet will hit you or not. Ikeda: Today the arcade market of the game industry has really shrunk, and the focus is on consoles and the overseas market. Overseas fans know shooting games as 3D FPS games. That type is the focus of the market, but our speciality is 2D shooting... that doesn't mean we aren't targeting the overseas market, but its a fact that its a woefully small market for us. Well, the truth is its always been that way... (laughs) —Do you think shooting game fans themselves are changing? Ikeda: They might not be decreasing, but they aren't really increasing either. Though I think we gained a new class of players with the console version of Deathsmiles. —It seems like more than the games, there are people who became fans because they like the characters. Yagawa: I think its a good thing for characters to become popular, but personally I have no interest in characters, I don't care either way. (laughs) I don't need them! Or rather, I don't care if they're there, but they aren't necessary to make a good game. Though from a business perspective, I'm not sure. (laughs) —Do you think there is a trend in making games easier, not only in the shooting genre? Yagawa: I don't really pay much attention to that... though maybe that's why people say my games are difficult. (laughs) In the past it was normal to play and the memorize parts, or to watch someone else play and memorize what they did. Well, even back then, there was definitely a trend with making games easier, though I didn't want them to. (laughs) I think its natural that players should actively work at things themselves. To say it somewhat negatively, I make games for myself, and if I think its good then its fine, and this goes for difficulty settings as well. So I don't give much concern to what fans will think. It isn't that I don't hear others opinions, but that I listen to and reflect on them, but to what degree I incorporate their ideas is up to me. —Does that mean you often fight with others at Cave? Yagawa: It does! Actually, the only one I've clashed with till now is Cave itself. Its not Ikeda that I've fought with... its a little a hard to explain. (laughs) When I talk with Ikeda, its an exchange of opinions. But... we don't fight, since I too am just an employee. (laughs) I have a friend who likes shooting games and wants to make them, but he says he couldn't handle an office, and not being able to make what he wanted. And that's definitely how things are normally, I think. So those are the people who start their own company. However, I'm not really like that, and I can't do that. (laughs) I can't support so many people like that. Seeing how difficult everyone here is, I think its a real feat to be able to do that. —Is there anything you'd like to put on the record for Cave's 16th anniversary? Yagawa: Give me a raise. (laughs) Also, please give me more vacation time. And put some air conditioning or something in here! I know these are rather plain things, but they're important. With all this hardware on all the time, it gets excruciatingly hot depending on where you sit. People are always fighting over whether to turn the air conditioner on or off! Ikeda: Well, let's change your seat then. Yagawa: Also, please move the office closer to my house! Ikeda: That's not possible. Yagawa: It used to be at Kagurazaka, but now since moving to Shinjuku Gyouen its gotten even farther for me. I want them to build a tunnel from my house to the office. Ikeda: That is also not possible. Yagawa: But even when I'm busy, I never sleep over at the office, since the next day I'm just going to have to come in again. Even if it takes a little time, its better to go home I think. So please move the office closer to my house. Ikeda: Impossible. (laughs) —What kind of shooting games will you make in the future? Yagawa: Well.. I don't think I'll make any more. (laughs) I don't actually know for sure, but I do have my ideal project, which is to make something that I think is interesting. But I'm not sure how well that would be received. Its like what I said above, about how the games I used to play back then aren't interesting to me anymore. There used to be a lot of games that were challenging, but that if you memorized them enough you could make progress. These were fun games in their day. But if you play those games today, they feel more like work, and quickly become dull. 10 years from now, if things continue like this, commercial shooting games will probably disappear, and only doujins made by dedicated fans will remain. Its certain to be difficult, but I don't think shooting fans will ever disappear, as shooting games are easier than others to create on your own. Also, with PC development now, the things needed to start creating a game are more available, and in that regard shooting will not disappear, I think. I also want to do more events like the Cave Matsuri to promote shooting games. Ikeda: I really want to have more interaction with our players at those kinds of events, to strengthen the bond between the players and the creators. Right now it just feels like a place where we sell things, but I think it would be good to do other things. —Please give a final message to Cave fans! Yagawa: I am very grateful. But... I wish you had spent more money on our games. (laughs) Also, regarding pirated copies that people have been talking about lately... if you don't buy the game, there will be fewer and fewer people making them. Arcades are also fading away, you know. Speaking of that, if Cave opens their own arcade, I’ll lend them my PCBs. Ikeda: But, those aren’t Cave games! (laughs) Yagawa: Well, I have V-V, so it should be alright. Ikeda: Please don’t touch that one…
  4. Manabu Namiki Translated by blackoak. Central Works (He either did all or part of the soundtracks for these titles.): Dodonpachi Daioujou Ketsui Espgaluda II Mushihimesama Futari Deathsmiles Dodonpachi Daifukkatsu + Black Label Deathsmiles II —Please share your feelings about Cave as they welcome their 16th anniversary. Namiki: Shooting games have been around since the dawning of the game centers. I think its amazing the way Cave has shaped and pursued the evolution of the gameplay of "dodging and firing bullets." I also love these kinds of games, so I'm very happy that I've been able to support Cave through my music. I was employed by Cave before working with Basiscape, so our relationship goes back a long way. —Starting with your older titles, please tell us how you got involved with game production and writing music. Namiki: My first plunge into the game industry was a part-time job designing pixel art graphics. But I didn't have any artistic talent and never studied art. I just knew how to get the computer to display certain images and worked like that. It was the first time I learned color theory and such, from an art school professional who taught me while I worked. I was 19 then, and it was 1990. Listening to music had always been a hobby for me. When it comes making music, I had never studied, I didn't know piano, and I never went to music school. About all I had done was help a friend out a bit who had a band when I was a student. But I was a young kid who earnestly loved games, so I had all these personal ideas about how game music should be, or how the music should match the graphics of a game. I wrote music just with my imagination. Through my part time job, I painfully realized that I had no talent with drawing. (laughs) So I thought, if I'm no good at drawing, how about music? So with a synthesizer that I had at hand I started making chiptune style game music, and I'd keep diligently working at it until I'd finally have something worth hearing, and then I'd show it to a friend. While I was doing all that, I sent a demo tape to a company, and they hired me. That was my professional start, in April of 1992. After I joined the company as a "pro," while I made music there I also studied music, so that order was all wrong. (laughs) So, if anyone reading this has something love to do, I want them to challenge themselves and remember that you can pick up the technical stuff later. I think if you really love something, even the difficult parts won't seem painful. —Having worked on so many games, there must be some where the setting and world were very difficult for you to write music to. Namiki: When it comes to writing music that fits a shooting game, its different from normal music. I have to always keep in mind that it has to be a certain kind of music to work for a shooting game. I think this is a fundamental thing to remember, in a sense even coming ahead of the graphics and the setting. For example, to compare it with cooking, in cooking the ingredients are already decided, and the setting of the game is like the spice or flavor. In Dodonpachi Daioujou, when I heard the world was a retro-future sci-fi setting, I thought I'd give the music the same color and style, but a fundamental premise that I have to remember is that this is music for a shooting game. Another example, Mushihimesama, takes place in a fantasy world, and the feeling of nature flows through it, so musically I wanted to include folk music rhythms, and use flutes and drums as instruments. For each game I add all sorts of things to diversify the game world. All these different "spices" have to be added while I hold fast to the premise of it as a shooting game... to say it another way, how do I work it out with such limitations. In that sense, its a difficulty I have to face for every game I work on. —When you're creating the music for a game, what kind of things do you pay special attention to? Namiki: I've always really loved games. I've been playing what we would now call "retro" games since I was in elementary school. When I'd listen to the sound effects and music of those games, I'd think about how it could be made more enjoyable, or how it could better excite the listener as he played. I continue to research those things now, with my work, and its something I keep close to me everytime I'm writing. I'm making "music for video games" so I really focus on how to make the music synergize with the game and make it more exciting. —It must be difficult to achieve that effect in the noisy environment of a game center! Namiki: Like many kids, when I was young, I'd often ride my bike to the game center, and when I stopped my bike in front, and the automatic doors opened, and I heard all the music flow out... I was like, "Alright, let's play!" and it would really get me excited. I'd like it if I could recreate that excitement in my music. In game centers, there aren't only video games... there's also medal games, crane games, photo sticker booths, tv displays... its a place where all these sounds and more are jumbled together. I've been involved in making music for games in game centers for almost 18 years now, and I still find it hard to hear a game's music in the flood of all that sound. Its something you just can't get away from. But when I write music, I think if I can at least match the mood of the music to the game's progression, even if you can't hear it properly with headphones, the basic parts of the rhythm and melody won't get lost as you play, even in that noise-saturated environment. When I play my favorite games, too, if I get overwhelmed by the other sounds in the game I get disinterested and will soon end up dying. (laughs) And its further disappointing then, not even being able to hear my own explosion! So that sense of excitement and tension from the music is important. When you've cleared a stage and hear music that feels good, you get pumped up and think, "Alright, what's next!" When you can't hear it, though, its like there's no response from the game and its lonely. I feel like even now I'm still fighting against the flood of sound in the game center to avoid that. (laughs) —Its true that your music really gets people excited to play, starting with the character select screens. Namiki: Players who aren't very good at shooting games will still always hear certain music: the stage/ship/character select screen, and the music you hear before you start playing and take-off. Before I start composing I always get some hints from the graphics and rules of the game, in order to understand what I should be emphasizing. Each time I work hard at this aspect of the composition. I consciously try to write the stage select screen so that it gets players excited, and to make it feel like an inviting door into the world of the game. Of course the more stage select screens I make, the more I exhaust my tricks. (laughs) I haven't counted exactly yet, but I think its been... 9 games? If you add in arrange versions and console ports its probably well over 10. For Daioujou, Ketsui, and Deathsmiles I did all the music myself, but for the other games, in order to keep on schedule, I've asked for help from other Basiscape staff for several songs. Of course I'd like to do everything myself, but its just too difficult. —The CD soundtracks for those titles were also very popular. Namiki: Before I started working at Cave I worked for another company making shooting game music, but almost all that music has never been put out on cd. When the soundtracks for the Cave games came out on CD, I got inquiries about putting out my older work on CD, too. My response was, please ask Cave about that. (laughs) But after that things became more open, and I participated in the Cave Matsuri events, too. The truth is, people then were saying the outlook for shooting games doesn't look good, and that fewer and fewer game centers are carrying shooting games. There was a feeling of danger that, at this rate, shooting games would disappear. I made my music then with the feeling that, if I write good music, the people who love it will carry the torch forward. That was all around the time of Daioujou and Ketsui. —You must have a lot of attachment to the music from those games, then? Namiki: I feel that way for all the music I've written, but those early days were particularly memorable because they were full of trial and error. Back then the music couldn't be realized with the same level of quality as a CD, and the waveforms for the different instruments all had to fit on the space of a floppy disk. Now that I think of it, I remember that the music score had to all fit on the same floppy, too. Its not exact, but I believe we had about 1.2MB of space. When the music got recorded for the CD soundtrack, that was the first time we even heard them in stereo. Even now, pcbs with stereo capability aren't common. That's another difference between normal music and music you hear in a game center, you know. Lately there's been an increase in stereo capable arcade games, but the influence of that older time is still strong. After all, its already been 8 or 9 years since Ketsui and Daioujou were released. I believe it was December of 2001 at my first meeting with Cave that I was told about the space and sound limitations, and I was shocked. It was a real struggle but somehow we managed to release Daioujou in April. I remember staying up late all night sometime in February and delivering the finished product to the office. —Daioujou also has a lot of tracks, and you were on such a tight schedule! Namiki: More than the number of tracks, the development environment and the technical specs were special and difficult to deal with, and it was really frantic. But for Ketsui and Daioujou, I felt I had really grasped the essence and feel of "Cave shooting," and that it was very clear to me how a shooting game should be, so my vigor came back. Since then, the hardware has been improved for games like Mushihimesama, Espgaluda II, Mushihimesama Futari, Daifukkatsu, and Deathsmiles...and each game has brought its own new challenges, but it was my experience with Daioujou that formed the firm base for me. Everything since then has been about how can I build off that base, and it has never once failed me, except once. That was for Daifukkatsu Black Label. Well, I shouldn't say it failed, but rather that I wanted a different taste there. Everyone who plays shooters seems to have really good ears, so its very difficult meeting their expectations each time. (laughs) I think the graphics and design teams, and everyone involved in our games, has to face that same dilemma anew with each game. In particular, I have a strong impression from Junya Inoue saying during Deathsmiles, "I want to make something that isn't 'Cave style'." The way the difficulty and stages can be selected, and how players can choose their favorite stages, the way it scrolls horizontally and you don't die when you run into something... Deathsmiles, looked at objectively, really is different from Cave's normal style. At the first meeting for it, I heard from Inoue himself that the world was a "gothic horror, gothic lolita." That news came at just the right time because I too had been wanting to change the style I'd become set in. Inoue and I were kindred spirits in the sense that we both saw a lot of new ideas in that setting. So Ketsui, Daioujou, and Deathsmiles were all turning points to me, and I have a very special attachment to them. —In Deathsmiles, the "Halloweentown" song is very impressive. Namiki: That song came out very easily. It was very different from the music I'd written up till then, a sort of gothic style with classical airs, so of course I studied up on those things in order to incorporate them. I'd never written for that kind of a world, and to be honest, I felt I wasn't very good at it. The music of old Europe like Bach, pipe organ music and such... its famous, but I feel like the respect people pay it is sometimes not entirely genuine. I get the sense people are forced to listen to it for their musical training, and it often gets used in a hackneyed, cliche way whenever anyone wants to evoke churches or old Europe. But if I wanted to give players an image of a horror game, that was the way to go, and even if I didn't reference Bach, if I wanted something with that kind of feeling I was going to have to make my own "gothic horror shooting" style music in this way. It became easier when I realized I could put my own twist on it. After I wrote the Halloweentown song, like a picture scroll, the music for the other stages came out smoothly and easily. From the experience I felt how important a game's world was. For a SF, mecha shooting like Dodonpachi, where the world is already firmly set in stone, its become very difficult to add variety through the music. Using just a synthesizer and figuring out how to keep things interesting for each new game... I've finally hit a stalemate. When I hear other mecha style shooting games, it always cliched rock and techno, and it doesn't enhance or enlarge the world of the game. Since I've been given the distinction of writing music for Cave, after all, I've never wanted to cop out with some generic rock and techno cliche. I've always wanted to write music that really reflects the true core of the game's world, filtered through my own sensibilities. And I here I am today. (laughs) —Is there anything you've been wanting to do in the future? Namiki: By now I've made so many songs for boss fights that I'm really worried how I will make future ones interesting. Such worries are the fate of the creator, but I want new challenges without narrowing my ambitions and releasing something mediocre. I want Cave to make a shooting games with no boss music. (laughs) A boss-less shooting game... could it be the next big thing!? (laughs) —Are you saying a shooting game without stages?! Namiki: Yeah, the accomplishment from clearing stages would be lost... (laughs) Well, in place of bosses, just put some kind of boss-like obstruction in the way! —That's what a "boss" is. (laughs) Namiki: Ok then, let's have Ikeda make a new shooting game with no bosses at all. I only ask the world that they please stop making boss rush games. These games where its just one boss fight after the other from the get-go just end up giving you ulcers, anyway. So instead, please make a "journey shooting" game with no bosses. (laughs) Because that's what I've been saying about not getting trapped by mediocrity. I want Cave, and myself, to challenge ourselves by making games that aren't just rehashes of preexisting ideas. In shooting games there's a certain basic set of promises that games fulfill: zako come out, then a midboss appears, then you defeat the boss and clear the stage. I want to overturn such "common sense"... with a no-boss shooting game! (laughs) Or maybe we could do a single, really well-hidden boss. —If you do that, then the boss will have to have 5 phases or so, and with each phase the music will also have to change... Namiki: Why are you torturing me!! (laughs) Well, I know that's a joke, but it would be a new challenge, something different from everything we'd done so far, like Deathsmiles was. Shooting has this reputation as a hardcore genre, and I know Ikeda too has wanted to sweep that image away. Its difficult, you know, to make something that different people can all enjoy. That challenge will be an eternal theme for shooting developers. —Do you still go to game centers to relax or get ideas? Namiki: I go a lot. But I like older games, when there were more diverse genres. The number of new arcade games has really decreased, and there's almost no new large arcade machines at all. So if I want to play something like that it always ends up being something older. [[ translator note: the terms Namiki uses are kogata games and taikan games. A kogata game just refers to a normal sized arcade game, like a standard candy cab size. Taikan games are large arcade machines with enclosures designed to give greater sensory immersion, things like F-ZERO AX, Darius Burst, many racing games, etc ]] By the way, I have two children, and my son is a big fan of Cave's shooting games. He's in his third year of elementary school now, but he can clear their games. He 1cc'd Deathsmiles Mega Black Label at the game center. (laughs) It began with him listening to the roms I'd bring home from work, and him asking "Can I hear Dad's music on this?" but lately, rather than hear Dad's music, he's awoken to the intrigue of Cave's games. I thought there's no way he'll spend enough time to clear these, and that he'd just give up after awhile, but I was shocked when I saw him weaving through these danmaku patterns! He cleared Deathsmiles II with about 60 million points! Someone saw his score ranked on the Xbox Live leaderboards around 100th place and said to me, "Maniki, your score is amazing!" and I replied, "That's not me, that's my son!" (laughs) —Your son shows great promise as a future shooter. (laughs) Namiki: If there are more kids like him, then I think a way will open up for the next generation of shooting. I also want to hear what shooting music sounds like in 10 years. I wonder if I'll still be writing shooting game music then? I'd like to still be writing and be included in the 25th Anniversary Cave shooting book. (laughs) I'm excited for however it will turn out, but please let everything be in stereo by then. Maybe we'll even have "live orchestra" shooting music. I know it would be exciting to have a live orchestra playing shooting music at some future event! I hope there are more events and such in the future. I'd like to involve kids more, like with a caravan shooting competition. If you do that you'll get kids named "Naniwa Casper" gathering in Shinjuku Gyoen. [[ translator note: where Cave's offices are located ]] You know, the original shooting game generation is now in their 30s and 40s. Soon we'll be Grandfathers! When our eyesight starts to go bad, there's no way we're going to see these danmaku patterns... it'll be "Oohh, where's my ship?!" and the arcade cabs may start needing reading glasses or handrails attached to them. (laughs) "Barrier Free Shooting" won't be referring to a shooting game with no barrier! And since our hands will be shaking all the time, they'll have to add "shake correction" to the games to keep the ships from moving about... ok, I'll stop thinking of all these ways our bodies will degenerate. (laughs) So please, show your children ages 10 and below the wonder of shooting games. [[ translator note: I cracked up at this. "Barrier Free" in Japan is a term that means handicap accessible. Otherwise, in Japanese shooting games, the term barrier means the same thing as in English, a shield/barrier. Nice one, Namiki. ]] —And the music too should appeal to the younger generation as well. Namiki: Maybe we'll start seeing bouncy punk music by 10 year old girls be added to shooting games. (laughs) Let's sign some of these girl bands for production! You'll hear them screaming out while you struggle with the boss! I was saying I wanted boss music to have an impact, so I've got to try some strange things, you know. (laughs) —Looks like we've finally come back to the subject of bosses... you really do hate them. (laughs) Namiki: When I first started writing boss music it was fun. But gradually I started running out of new things to do. (laughs) Now that its come to this I just have to keep trying new things. But when the tempo gets over 200 BPM, it becomes difficult to construct music that way. And at 300 or 400 things everything juts sounds like a drill. I'm really at an impasse here. When I'm trying to write boss music at my PC I'm just grinding my teeth with frustration, and its raising my blood pressure! If you don't get the right tension to make it feel imposing like "I'm the BOSS!" , then the song ends up being more appropriate for a mid-boss or something. If I can just convey to the readers of this book the terribleness of bosses, I will be saved. (laughs) Its terrible making their music, its terrible for players struggling to defeat them, its terrible for Cave from start to finish creating them... everything about bosses is terrible. Who benefits from this madness?! (laughs) So please, think about a shooting game without bosses! —Please give all your fans a final message. Namiki: As everyone knows, shooting is a very interesting genre. While you can naturally enjoy it on your own, please also share it with your friends. Or if you have children, please don't think it will be bad influence on them, add playing together as one of his/her activities. And as a composer it would make me happy to see parents and children playing together and getting excited. Also, if you've understood how terrible the work involving bosses is, despite all this, please crush them. (laughs) Shooting games will surely be decreasing, and there will be less chances to play them, but I think Cave will continue to put out high quality shooting games, so please keep watching us.
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