Since join­ing Nin­tendo in 1986, Kat­suya Eguchi has worked his way from course designer to direc­tor and pro­ducer, launch­ing a num­ber of se­ries for the Ky­oto-based pub­lisher. He’s best known for be­ing the fa­ther of An­i­mal Cross­ing, but Star Fox, Wave Race and Wii Sports all grew un­der his guid­ance. Now he’s EAD’s gen­eral manager, lining up Spla­toon for its world­wide re­lease. We ask him what it takes to make a shooter in 2015.

Given that it’s a brand-new IP for Nin­tendo, what are your hopes for

Spla­toon’s fu­ture?

We think the Spla­toon IP has huge po­ten­tial. First off, the whole playstyle where a match is won or lost based on the to­tal area you’ve man­aged to cover with ink of your team’s colour is com­pletely dif­fer­ent to any ex­ist­ing third­per­son shooter. Even when play­ers with dif­fer­ent lev­els of ex­pe­ri­ence play to­gether, ev­ery one of those play­ers has the pos­si­bil­ity to con­trib­ute to the victory of the team.

Con­tribut­ing doesn’t sim­ply mean de­feat­ing the other team’s play­ers; be­ing able to un­der­stand the battle sit­u­a­tion and hav­ing a sud­den flash of in­sight, or even some­thing as me­thod­i­cal as paint­ing empty ar­eas can have a big im­pact. No mat­ter what kinds of peo­ple are play­ing, ev­ery­one can en­joy the game. Spray­ing and smear­ing ink around will make you feel like a kid again, and is some­thing play­ers of all ages can ap­pre­ci­ate.

In ad­di­tion, the char­ac­ters re­ally match the feel of the game and world. The unique char­ac­ters in Spla­toon – be­ings that can trans­form into squid form – came about in our search to find a de­sign that would truly fit with Spla­toon’s game­play. They match per­fectly to the wide range of ac­tions pos­si­ble; spray­ing ink around in hu­man form then hid­ing in it and swim­ming around, climb­ing up ver­ti­cal walls like salmon jump­ing up wa­ter­falls, or even slip­ping through nar­row gaps. We think the unique­ness of the char­ac­ters won’t just stop here with

Spla­toon, but could po­ten­tially de­velop into all kinds of dif­fer­ent games.

Hav­ing said that, though, Spla­toon has only just ar­rived, and the truth is that it’s com­pletely un­known to peo­ple at the mo­ment. Most peo­ple in the world don’t even take that much in­ter­est in games, and I think get­ting them to know about

Spla­toon, let alone even play it, is go­ing to be a hugely dif­fi­cult task.

As HD devel­op­ment causes team sizes to grow, how do you re­tain an en­vi­ron­ment of cre­ativ­ity at Nin­tendo?

As you say, HD devel­op­ment tends to need a lot more peo­ple due to the higher stan­dards re­quired. The ques­tion of how to se­cure the nec­es­sary pro­gram­mers and de­sign­ers is one com­mon to all com­pa­nies in the in­dus­try, and ev­ery­one has to find ways of deal­ing with it. For ex­am­ple, if you in­crease the num­ber of staff, there will be a greater dif­fer­ence in skill lev­els be­tween them, which makes man­ag­ing qual­ity con­trol ex­tremely im­por­tant.

How­ever, what’s re­ally crit­i­cal is mak­ing sure that this in­creased num­ber of staff aren’t do­ing any un­nec­es­sary work. It hurts to imag­ine just how many peo­ple’s work would be wasted if we had to redo some­thing. Be­ing able to judge what needs to be done is the key in mak­ing sure that peo­ple and time are not wasted. This ap­plies not only to de­ci­sions about spe­cific fea­tures af­ter devel­op­ment has started, but also to the start­ing point it­self – what kind of new game to make, for ex­am­ple. That is crit­i­cal, and get­ting it wrong runs the risk of the whole project amount­ing to noth­ing.

It’s nor­mal that, when a com­pany de­cides what to start de­vel­op­ing, the opin­ions of the peo­ple at the top of the or­gan­i­sa­tion are given the most weight. It makes sense be­cause the peo­ple in those roles have had a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence and suc­cess sto­ries. How­ever, Nin­tendo is an en­ter­tain­ment com­pany, and good ideas for en­ter­tain­ment can come from any­where… Young peo­ple are also more sen­si­tive to new trends, de­vel­op­ments and tech­nolo­gies that are ap­pear­ing. We are try­ing to use the opin­ions of this younger gen­er­a­tion even at the start of a project.

Arena mul­ti­player games face a num­ber of chal­lenges to­day, not least longevity. How do you plan to en­sure Spla­toon stays in ac­tive ro­ta­tion for play­ers?

Spla­toon is a unique game. Even just in terms of the graph­i­cal style, the game doesn’t re­ally look like other first- and third­per­son shoot­ers, like those set in a war… You might also say that the game­play is un­prece­dented among team-based mul­ti­player games, too. For one, you play as a char­ac­ter that can trans­form into squid form at will!

We also be­lieve that it is im­por­tant to con­tinue hav­ing things that will draw at­ten­tion to the game even af­ter re­lease. This isn’t just in terms of PR ac­tiv­i­ties, but also in­cludes things peo­ple ac­tu­ally play­ing the game will en­joy.


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