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