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Developer Interview

An American Producer, a Swedish Developer, and Capcom Japan: Making a Title for the World Market

Rediscovering a classic title from the past, and “rearming” it for the 21st century

"PR Staff"
With the Bionic Commando series, you were simultaneously working on the downloadable “Bionic Commando Rearmed” and the next-gen version for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and the PC. What are some of the more salient features of this next-gen version?
"Ben"
The main feature is the swing mechanic in the game. The 2-D version (the graphic style used in the original side-scrolling game) was fun, but playing it in a 3-D field (the solid graphic style that's used in modern games to give a sense of depth) might not feel right at first, but I think the amazing thing about [the new] Bionic Commando is that it takes what's fun about the 2-D version and transfers that to the 3-D version to make for a new and exciting gaming experience. “Bionic Commando” was originally a 2-D game, and there's a lot of nostalgia for that. But the reality is that games nowadays are usually done in 3-D. It was my intention to take that 2-D classic and remake it so that I could not only revive the franchise, but also take the series to the next level with the 3-D graphics.
"PR Staff"
The visual style for the 3-D graphics in this new game seems like an amalgamation of Western and Japanese comic books. What's your assessment of the graphics?
"Ben"
I think they've come out quite well, to be honest. As an American, I think America has some very good things; living in Japan for eight years has also showed me that Japan has some unique things as well. Knowing that, I want to try and take the best of both cultures and bring them together to create something great. Americans are a bit impatient, but they're self-assertive. Japanese people care about others, and they're very patient. If you could take the good points about Japanese people and add them to the good points of Americans, I think you'd have the perfect person. And it is that type of thinking I brought to the planning and development of this game.
"PR Staff"
What are some elements of the overseas markets that differ from Japan?
"Ben"
The keyword for the overseas markets is community. Japanese and overseas markets think of community in different ways. One way is that overseas companies consider to what extent they can involve users in the development process and glean ideas for their games. Overseas you have blogs and podcasts that make use of the game's materials, and they have things like contests as well. In Japan, the dissemination of information is one-sided. Overseas they try to appeal to the user more: “This is Capcom and we're making a game. We want everyone's help and support as we do this.” And people start building web sites concurrent to the game's development, and when new features are added, the company says, “We'd like to get everyone's opinion on this.” In addition to all that is the fact that you almost need to have an online multiplayer mode in games overseas. Companies overseas very rarely put out a AAA title (a major game) without online multiplayer functions. Japanese companies have gradually increased their output of online-compatible games, and I think things will continue to be developed that way.
"PR Staff"
A special feature of “Bionic Commando” that should be mentioned is the swing mechanic. That was a well-received aspect of the original game, so how are you going to employ it in the new version?
"Ben"
In the original game, the bionic arm was mainly for moving the character, but in the new game, he can grab enemies with it, reel them in, and then attack them in multiple ways. Another trend with overseas games is to make the backgrounds interactive. For example, if there's a monorail car, you can grab onto it, pull it, and then drop it on some enemies. This really opens up the possibilities of what you can do in the game. You look at the area around you, see what's in it, and use your head to figure out how you want to approach the game. This is something that was never part of the original.
"PR Staff"
How did the idea come about for making the arm not just a tool for locomotion but also a useful weapon in the game?
"Ben"
In order to make the game 3-D and integrate things that the current game market demands, this evolution of the arm's uses was a bit of a given. But just saying we're going to have interactive backgrounds is much easier said than done. You have to consider to want extent you want the backgrounds to be interactive, and there are some parts that shouldn't be interactive. For example, you wouldn't want the character to be able to destroy everything in the background or else you wouldn't have a game anymore. (Laughs) The planning stage [for deciding what should be interactive] is pretty important.
"PR Staff"
So you and the members of the development team have to decide what works best and to what extent.
"Ben"
Exactly. The team at Grin (the development company that worked on the game) came up with suggestions for things that [the character] could break, but Capcom's designers thought that most of those things would block the path if they were broken. To tell the truth though, I think giving Grin the freedom to make the game as they saw fit made for a better end product.
"PR Staff"
When I saw the trailer for the 3-D “Bionic Commando,” it looked like he was flying through the air when landing [from a jump], and the swing mechanic appeared quite fluid. I don't think I've ever seen something that felt like that in a game before.
"Ben"
We wanted to make that part of the game feel like a movie. In older 3-D games they were limited by the available memory, so while they could make the game expansive enough, they couldn't do much on a vertical scale. With the capabilities of systems like the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, we can create whole new gaming worlds. Since we had the bionic arm, I wanted to make a game experience where the player is free to go anywhere, including as high up as possible.
Back to Developer Interview 2008 Top Page
  1. 07.Yoshinori Ono
  2. 08.Junya Aoki
  3. 05.Midori Yuasa
  4. 06.Toshihiro Tokumaru
  5. 03.Ben Judd
  6. 04.Takeshi Tezuka
  7. 01.Jun Takeuchi
  8. 02.Ryozo Tsujimoto

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