Merging cultural styles

Merging cultural styles
Craig Chapple

By Craig Chapple

January 18th 2012 at 9:59AM

Develop talks to Rebellion's Neverdead devs on blending Eastern and Western sensibilities

The way Eastern and Western games are developed has diverged apart over the years, as have the interests and tastes of the regions' audiences.

Whilst the Western approach is generally seen as a more collaborative, team based effort, with all the members having an input into the a game’s creation, the Eastern methodology has evolved in the opposite direction.

There development is more focused on one person’s direction, vision and leadership, with the rest of the studio working towards their goal.

Rebellion and Konami have decided to blend these methodologies with their latest title Neverdead.

The game is a triple-A third-person shooter in which the player takes control of an immortal demon hunter who can survive losing limbs as he battles monsters and discovers what is causing the strange events in a peaceful city.

THE SHINTA FACTOR

Konami’s Shinta Nojiri, who was a game designer on Metal Gear Solid 4, was brought in from Japan as creative producer on the Neverdead project.

He led the game’s production through the classic Eastern style of strong leadership and a singular direction of where he wanted to take the game.

“I know I didn’t need many discussions and it was confusing the team,” he says of the game’s development.

“I believe that to make a unique game it requires a strong vision of one person. I tried to share my vision but it took so long time to share it.”

With Shinta’s strong personality and approach perhaps making some devs reticent to a methodology they are not accustomed to, senior producer Aeron Guy was put in place to bring in a more Western sensibility to the title.

“It was my responsibility to ensure that the development team realised the vision for the game Konami defined, whilst ensuring their input is considered and that we produced something that would appeal to both Eastern and Western audiences,” he explains.

“This means being involved in every part of the process from fleshing out the initial concept, prototyping, ensuring the development pipelines are all as efficient as possible, and that the game ultimately delivers on time and on budget.”

Aeron says this was done as the Rebellion team was keen to ensure that the game had something different to offer.

“We think it combines the best of both worlds – Shinta’s unique ideas for the game and our team turning them into reality, but with their own take on them.

"Hopefully with Neverdead we can show East and West can come together to produce something that is actually quite special.”

Past efforts at combing the development cultures have perhaps not been successful as the methodologies continue to diverge and evolve independently.

Aeron cites differences in culture and language barriers as playing a large part in the difference.

“Personally I think these kinds of failures come from mainly miscommunication in translation,” adds Shinta.

“We are about to finish the project, but of course we had many language troubles due to my no good English ability. Personally I hope it was not so serious.”

LIMITING MARKETS

Both developers believe that if the regional approaches continue to evolve independently of one another, both industries could end up limiting their markets.

“As Shinta says, the Western market has boomed and now eclipses the Japanese market,” explains Aeron.

“If we ignore a market, we’re limiting the appeal of our games, and also encouraging these markets to diverge still further.

"Both ways of doing things have their benefits and challenges, so it’s a case of finding the former and overcoming the latter.”

As for the future, Shinta claims as the Japanese market has become smaller, developers need to take on similar approaches such as that on Neverdead if they are to grow again and build worldwide appeal.

“Now the Western market is much bigger than the Japanese market. We cannot ignore this,” he says.

“To sell titles all over the world, we feel that we should not develop a title only by Japanese staff with their sense and taste. Besides, in the Japanese market Western titles are getting popular among hardcore games, which is different from ten years ago.

“In a sense it might be a Japanese side demand. Even if the ‘Western meets Eastern’ game doesn’t become the mainstream, personally I hope it provides different a taste and flavour.”