Q&A : KATSUYA EGUCHI
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
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.
“SPRAYING AND SMEARING INK AROUND WILL MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE A KID AGAIN”