Hisashi Nogami on Splatoon 2
Interview by James O’Connor
In June, three significant things happened in the world of Splatoon. The Splatoon 2 World Championships took place alongside E3, where Japan’s GG BoyZ dominated the competition; Nintendo announced that Splatoon 2 would continue to be supported with new content drops through to the end of 2018; and the Octo Expansion, a major single-player DLC with a punishingly high diculty level, released. Splatoon 2 has been a major success for Nintendo, both critically and commercially, and the Inklings have become Nintendo’s most significant new mascots in some time.
Hisashi Nogami is a producer on Splatoon 2. He held the same title on the original game – it was his idea originally to make the playable characters squids. We had the opportunity to speak to Mr Nogami about his work on the series, how it has been received by fans, and what the future of Splatoon might look like.
HYPER>>: THE VERY FIRST SPLATOON 2 TRAILER SHOWED TWO PROFESSIONAL TEAMS TRAINING IN PORTABLE MODE. NOW THAT THE GAME HAS BEEN OUT FOR A WHILE, HAVE YOU SEEN THIS HAPPENING IN REAL LIFE?
Mr. Nogami: The players you see in the first Nintendo Switch trailer are not meant to be from professional teams – they are meant to be from strong and popular teams. We designed the trailer hoping that the competitions of Splatoon 2 would become huge, since Nintendo Switch comes with features that make competitive play more approachable. As I have recently mentioned at GDC 2018, there have been various successful events hosted by Nintendo and fan communities across the globe. I have seen players practice in handheld mode and interact with other teams at such events. I am very happy to witness with my own eyes that what we hoped for has come true.
DO YOU GET MUCH OF A CHANCE TO WATCH PROFESSIONAL SPLATOON MATCHES? IF SO, DO YOU SEE ANYTHING THAT SURPRISES YOU, OR TEACHES YOU ABOUT HOW THE GAME IS BEING PLAYED?
Mr. Nogami: I watched the worldwide preliminary competitions for the Splatoon 2 World Championship that were held at E3, including the 2018 AUNZ Splatoon 2 Cup. I watch videos of both professional players and fans from time to time. I watched a friendly match involving players from Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, and I saw discussion online that some American players have asked Japanese players to play a match together. It makes me happy and it’s such a pleasant surprise to see that players are interacting with each other around the globe.
SPLATOON HAS BEEN AN ENORMOUS SUCCESS - DID YOU EXPECT THIS WHEN YOU WERE WORKING ON THE FIRST GAME?
Mr. Nogami: I was hoping to make a game that is enjoyed by people around the world from when I was working on the first game, but I didn’t expect the magnitude of support that we ended up having. I am happy that game fans enjoy the Splatoon series, and it has been a nice surprise that people who had never played network games or competitive games before also enjoy the series.
WHAT IS THE PROCESS INVOLVED IN DESIGNING A NEW WEAPON - DO YOU DECIDE WHAT IT SHOULD LOOK LIKE FIRST, OR WHAT EFFECT IT SHOULD HAVE?
Mr. Nogami: We usually decide the eect of a new weapon first, but there are times when the design comes first. For example, Brellas were designed from childhood memories of playing with friends, splashing water on umbrellas at each other. Eects are important, but it is also important to make weapons look appealing and loveable, so we
make sure that the design and the e ects work well together.
WHEN YOU FIRST DECIDED TO MAKE THE CHARACTERS SQUIDS, HOW LONG DID IT TAKE TO FIGURE OUT HOW THEY SHOULD LOOK?
Mr. Nogami: The process of deciding that the characters will be squids and the designing of the actual characters happened simultaneously to some degree. It is di cult to tell the exact time frame, but it probably took less than two months to finalise the character design after we decided that they were going to be squids. The characters look very di erent in the squid state and human state because what players can do in these two states are completely di erent. The directors asked the development team to make sure that the characters look very distinguished in the two di erent states and design the characters so the human state looks clearly human, and the squid state looks clearly like squid. It didn’t take long to decide on the design because the direction was clear.
THE SPLATOON SERIES HAS BEEN DESCRIBED AS ‘FASHIONABLE’ - EVERYONE DRESSES WELL AND LOOKS COOL. DID THE TEAM CONSULT WITH FASHION EXPERTS ON THESE GAMES?
Mr. Nogami: We have some artists who are into fashion. They seem to enjoy designing based on their tastes (laughs). Of course, it’s not like they can just do whatever they want to. They design di erent items suited for each brand and express the passing of time through the evolving fashion. Their work contributes immensely to making the world of Splatoon 2 seem real and compelling.
THE OCTO EXPANSION ADDS MORE SINGLE PLAYER CONTENT. HOW DIFFERENT WILL IT BE FROM THE ORIGINAL CAMPAIGN? WILL WE LEARN MORE ABOUT THE WORLD OF SPLATOON AND THE DIFFERENT SPECIES THAT INHABIT IT? (NOTE: THIS QUESTION WAS ASKED PRIOR TO EXPANSION’S RELEASE DATE BEING UNVEILED, BUT WE’VE DECIDED TO LEAVE MR NOGAMI’S RESPONSE IN ANYWAY)
Mr. Nogami: I envisioned the original single player content to be mainly about the continued rivalry between Inklings and Octarians two years after the first Splatoon, with the Squid Sisters being main characters. The Octo Expansion expands the world of Splatoon by illustrating a di erent side to this world. You will also see a di erent side to familiar characters such as Pearl and Marina from O the Hook and Cap’n Cuttlefish. The new storyline will be happening at the same time as the original single player content; however, the world of Splatoon changes with Octo Expansion, and Inklings and Octolings get to coexist together.
PARTS OF THE SPLATOON WORLD - CHARACTERS, SPECIES, THINGS LIKE THAT - THAT YOU HAVE PLANNED OUT BUT NOT
PUT INTO YOUR GAMES?
DO YOU THINK THE WORLD OF SPLATOON COULD APPEAR IN A DIFFERENT GAME, OF A DIFFERENT GENRE, IN THE FUTURE?
Mr. Nogami: My mind is all about the Octo Expansion, and I fi nd it di cult to think beyond it for now. However, the world of
WE HAVE SOME ARTISTS WHO ARE INTO FASHION. THEY SEEM TO ENJOY DESIGNING BASED ON THEIR TASTES
Splatoon could further expand in the future, and there is always a possibility that new creatures will be introduced then.
WHICH WEAPONS ARE YOUR PERSONAL FAVOURITES?
Mr. Nogami: It is di cult to choose just one particular weapon since I use various weapons for dierent stages and modes. I like having a wide view when I play, so I often use longer range weapons that are good for logistic support. Sometimes I like to use shorter range weapons on the front line too. In terms of appearance, I like the Hydra Splatling.
SPLATOON HAS A MANGA TIE-IN NOW. ARE YOU INVOLVED IT IN AT ALL, OR DO YOU READ IT?
Mr. Nogami: I am involved in making the manga series in CoroCoro Comic (a Japanese comic magazine). The creator strives to understand even the fine details of the Splatoon world in order to create the illustrations and the story. I look forward to seeing the draft each time. Of course, I read the finalised comic story too.
HAVE YOU BEEN INVOLVED IN BRINGING THE INKLINGS TO THE NEXT SMASH BROS?
Mr. Nogami: Yes. I am very proud to be involved in bringing the Inklings to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. I was also very happy to be able to announce Octo Expansion at the same time as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was first revealed.
YOUR VERY FIRST CREDIT IS ON YOSHI’S ISLAND. OBVIOUSLY A LOT HAS CHANGED, BUT ARE THERE LESSONS YOU LEARNED AT NINTENDO BACK WHEN YOU STARTED THAT ARE STILL USEFUL TO YOU TODAY?
Mr. Nogami: I was a part of making Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island as an artist, drawing graphical elements such as characters and backgrounds. I have always been focused on creating graphics that match their roles and eects in the game. That is something that I still consider important for good games today.
YOU’VE ALSO WORKED ON THE ANIMAL CROSSING SERIES, WHICH IS A VERY DIFFERENT SORT OF GAME TO SPLATOON. WAS IT INTIMIDATING TO TAKE ON A ‘SHOOTER’ GAME AFTER DIRECTING SUCH A LAID-BACK EXPERIENCE?
Mr. Nogami: I have been involved in the development of the Animal Crossing series for over ten years. As a game player, I like action games and competitive multiplayer games, so I had no hesitation in creating Splatoon.
However, developing new games is never easy. There were lots of challenges in creating both the Animal Crossing and Splatoon series.
WHICH PART OF SPLATOON 2 ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF, WOULD YOU SAY?
Mr. Nogami: I usually don’t like to praise games that I was involved in the creation for, but one of the good things about Splatoon 2 is that you don’t need to play the game yourself to understand it. You can be standing behind someone playing the game, and you’ll understand what kind of game it is, and what you’re supposed to do. You can be competitive and serious, and you can also be casual about playing the game with friends. I would be delighted if parents might feel interested after watching their kids play the game. Perhaps they could pick up the controllers themselves and give it a go when the kids are not around?
Hisashi Nogami - Splatoon 2 producer and squid fan.