Be­yond in­fin­ity

Af­ter a re­mark­able 2016, what’s next for Rez cre­ator Tet­suya Mizuguchi?

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Af­ter a re­mark­able year, what’s next for Tet­suya Mizuguchi?

Tet­suya Mizuguchi had a busy time of it in 2016. In its first full cal­en­dar year in busi­ness, his stu­dio En­hance Games re­leased Lu­mines: Puz­zle & Music, a touch­screen-pow­ered spin on his PSP puz­zler. And in Oc­to­ber, En­hance de­liv­ered the defin­ing game of the PlayS­ta­tion VR launch. Rez In­fi­nite – and in par­tic­u­lar Area X, an all-new level that aban­doned Rez’s on-rails ac­tion in favour of free move­ment – was, like the orig­i­nal game, an in­stant clas­sic.

Af­ter all that, you’d for­give Mizuguchi and team for putting their feet up a bit. But work has al­ready be­gun on En­hance’s next project – in­evitably, he’s giv­ing lit­tle away about that – while the man him­self has con­tin­ued to travel ex­ten­sively. Yet while last year Mizuguchi and En­hance toured Rez In­fi­nite around the videogame con­ven­tion cir­cuit, this year the re­mit has been broader: it says much about the power of Rez In­fi­nite in VR that the game has now been show­cased at events such as SXSW and Sun­dance Film Festival.

A big part of that is the Sy­naes­the­sia Suit, the lu­di­crous, full-body cos­tume with 26 points of vi­bra­tion that was de­signed by Mizuguchi and a team of his former stu­dents at Keio Uni­ver­sity. Get­ting it and the game in front of peo­ple with no par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in videogames has, Mizuguchi tells us, been in­spir­ing.

“It was re­ally well re­ceived – ev­ery­one seems to en­joy the en­tire ex­pe­ri­ence,” he says. “I had many in­ter­est­ing con­ver­sa­tions with peo­ple who were cu­ri­ous about the suit, and events like these give me a chance to think about its po­ten­tial fu­ture form. I’m very thank­ful for ev­ery­one’s in­ter­est; it started out as an ex­per­i­men­tal re­search project, so be­ing in­vited to Sun­dance and SXSW is a great hon­our.”

That’s all very well, but there’s only one thing we re­ally want to know. What’s the lat­est on those ten­ta­tive plans for a com­mer­cial ver­sion of the suit? When we first wore it, at Rez In­fi­nite’s un­veil­ing at PlayS­ta­tion Ex­pe­ri­ence 2015, we were told that, if there were enough in­ter­est, En­hance would look into a way of get­ting the suit – in cut-down form, most likely – onto store shelves. Well, af­ter more than a year on the con­ven­tion cir­cuit, dur­ing which just about ev­ery­one who has worn the full thing has come away rav­ing about it, surely bring­ing it to mar­ket is a no-brainer? “I can’t tell you,” Mizuguchi says. “But you and me both, we know we want one, right?”

Yet it is Mizugichi’s re­cent ex­pe­ri­ences of mak­ing games, not pe­riph­er­als, that’s brought him to a tricky fork in the road. Last year he made a game for mo­bile – the big­gest gam­ing mar­ket on the planet, cer­tainly, but an in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult one in which to suc­ceed. VR is al­most the op­po­site: it’s a smaller mar­ket, so it’s eas­ier to stand out, but the mar­gins of suc­cess are in­her­ently lower. Per­haps un­sur­pris­ingly – he’s a cre­ative first, a busi­ness­man sec­ond – Mizuguchi sees his fu­ture in the lat­ter cat­e­gory.

“The mo­bile mar­ket is large, but ma­ture and over­whelm­ing. Not nec­es­sar­ily in a bad way – it’s all about speed in so many ways, with no signs of slow­ing down. The de­vices are pow­er­ful, you can de­liver rich con­tent, and it’s only go­ing to get bet­ter. But the VR mar­ket has only just be­gun. The de­vices are high-end prod­ucts, but are def­i­nitely a path to the fu­ture. There’s [go­ing to be] so much growth in the com­ing years, and that ex­cites me. It gives me hope that I can re­alise the ideas I have in my head.” Those ideas, it tran­spires, have ex­panded be­yond VR, to the emerg­ing hori­zons of aug­mented and mixed re­al­ity. While each in­volves dif­fer­ent tech­nol­ogy – and, you’d think, dif­fer­ent de­sign ap­proaches – Mizuguchi sees them all as parts of a greater whole. “I don’t see, or haven’t set, any bor­der­lines be­tween them,” he says. “I just put them to­gether in one gi­ant bucket. VR tends to be more of a closed, or iso­lated, ex­pe­ri­ence, whereas AR and MR open it up by in­te­grat­ing the real world. I’m sure pair­ing them with new tech­nolo­gies – whether the In­ter­net Of Things, blockchain, or some­thing else – will take things to a whole new level. Just think­ing about how they will in­flu­ence or af­fect our daily lives makes me ex­tremely ex­cited.”

For the time be­ing, how­ever, we wait. Af­ter one of the broad­est launch line-ups of any piece of gam­ing hard­ware in his­tory, it’s all gone a bit quiet for PSVR; soft­ware con­tin­ues to drib­ble out for Rift and Vive, but those ex­pect­ing the sec­ond wave of VR gam­ing to kick off in earnest in 2017 may be, so far at least, a lit­tle dis­ap­pointed by sparse re­lease sched­ules. All Mizuguchi will say about how he sees VR’s sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion games is that he hopes they “take the fun­da­men­tals of VR to a higher level and demon­strate the great­ness of VR. That’s what gamers want, and it’s what I want to cre­ate as well.” To be hon­est with you, we’d be happy enough with an­other Rez. Mizuguchi, how­ever, ap­pears to have grander plans.

“VR tends to be more of a closed, or iso­lated, ex­pe­ri­ence, whereas AR and MR open it up”

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