The lights are on
Yoshifuru Okamoto describes himself as producer on Devil's Third, but he also serves an important role as Tomonobu Itagaki’s drinking buddy and bodyguard. We spoke to him at E3 about Devil's Third, a casualty of THQ's collapse which is now a Wii U exclusive. It's the first game Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive director Itagaki is releasing with his new studio, Valhalla Games, and we asked how the the violent shooter ended up as a Wii U exclusive.
What’s the story behind Devil’s Third? Is there context for the multiplayer?
The setting for the game is the near future – it could happen even five minutes from now. You may have seen in the single-player trailer, the main character has some interesting Japanese elements to his design. Some of that comes from the fact that we have worked on lots of ninja games and his fighting style mirrors that. I know that since he’s bald and wearing sunglasses he doesn’t look like a ninja outright, but a lot of the fighting you see in the game comes from that original concept.
The events that have started this fighting in the near future begin with the Kessler syndrome. There is the destruction of one satellite in orbit which creates a debris field that sweeps across and destroys the other satellites knocking out communication capabilities.
The destruction of those satellites also detonates some of the nuclear fuel cells within them creating an electro-magnetic pulse that sweeps across the globe knocking out the electrical grid. This means that modern weaponry can’t be used, and the fragile military balance between super powers also crumbles.
Can you explain the watermelons and chickens that appear in the game's multiplayer trailer? Are those related to mini-games? It seems like there is a lot of humor in the game.
What we really wanted to accomplish here was something of a breakthrough in shooters. This is something we talked a lot about with Nintendo, and one of the ways they decided to do this was to distinguish ourselves from other shooters that are out there. Other shooters certainly have their own methods of doing this, but I think one of these for us was introducing some comical material, a bit of humor, to set ourselves apart.
I feel like if we had developed all the multiplayer rule-sets ourselves, we might not have ended up with some of those strange or more humorous ones.
Has Itagaki ever made a game with Nintendo? Did Nintendo set boundaries for such a violent game?
Actually, he did work on a Nintendo game. Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword. I worked with him on that title, and we actually did a media tour in the states.
As far as boundaries go, there was nothing they told us we couldn’t do. I think that we had some interesting differences of opinion, but they were all very much grounded in a mutual respect.
How did the game land exclusively on Wii U?
When we became independent as Valhalla Game Studio, I feel like we were able to pull together a lot of people who really loved games. We were very fortunate in that regard. But after THQ collapsed, we found ourselves needing a partner. We talked to lots of different people, but the ones who understood what we were challenging ourselves to do, who most supported our vision was Nintendo. Really it was about the people involved working together well.
Thankfully, we’ve been able keep a lot of people who were instrumental in building the game from the beginning together, including former members of THQ, like Mr. Danny Bilson. I think what was most important in putting that team together, was that everyone had the same passion and love for the project.
Devil’s Third is a shooter with melee aspects. How do you balance that? And what are some of the other ways you set yourself apart from other shooters, other than the humor?
First, I’d like to address the reason why we decided to make a shooter. After lots of years of experience working on fighting games in the Dead or Alive series, and action games with the Ninja Gaiden series, we wanted to find a new challenge, and we felt like that challenge, for us, was the new category of shooters.
As far as finding that balance, I think that was an interesting question for us because we haven’t really seen a lot of shooters that are attempting to do these kinds of things that you would find in action games like this. So, the general flow that we followed was, at that stage, we started researching all the modern shooters we could get our hands on. And then we created the basic engine of the game and started adding the melee elements to that.
The main engine of the game is as a shooter, but because we have so much know-how in the area of action games, we’re able to find ways to make those elements come in pretty smoothly, as well. But I hope everyone gets a chance to play the game and judge for themselves.
In terms of finding a way to make those work well together, we had to consider the various situations that people would choose to use gun or melee attacks. So, if you have a far away enemy, you do still have a number of options. You don’t necessarily have to shoot someone just because they are far away. You could be sliding toward them closing the gap while shooting the whole time, or just sliding in so you can start to use melee attacks up close. You can also throw a melee weapon and kill from a distance, or just use melee all the way to the far enemy killing other enemies along the way. What’s important to us is that we could achieve that kind of fusion of various approaches.
Does the game need to be a Wii U exclusive? Does it use the GamePad in ways that cannot be emulated elsewhere?
Actually we do have some GamePad usage in multiplayer. As you know, the setting of this game is this fallen state – a chaotic war that has broken out between different factions across North America. Among those different factions, one of the things that is going to lead to victory is the ability to share information, so we use the GamePad as a communication tool. So you will be doing, among other things, calling in air-strikes and sharing information with squad members. It’s something you can imaging the commander on the battlefield holding to give orders.
I noticed the United States feature prominently in the game’s multiplayer trailer. Are you vying for territory across the United States?
As it turns out, we originally imagined those different warring factions after the fallen states coming out along the 50 different U.S. state lines, but then we realized that was going to be a little too confusing for players. In speaking to Danny Bilson, he advised us on other ways we could split up the country along more traditional cultural affinities. Each of these different 13 areas across North America will have different maps that you can have battles on. And those maps can then be further customized.
Speaking of customization, it seems like there is a lot of customization for the characters, bordering on the bizarre. I think I saw a giant cat mask?
As it turns out, when we started designing all the different character customization options, Nintendo was so pleased with it, we just kept going and going, and they loved what we came up with.
Will we see any Nintendo characters or customizations?
I’d love to use something like that, but the game is so violent I’m not sure they’d let us.
They probably don’t want to see someone with a Mario hat being decapitated.
Yeah, that’s probably not so good. Probably a piranha plant would be okay.
Anything else to add about Devil’s Third?
One thing I would want to mention is how much work we put into the multiplayer to make sure it is a complete and satisfying mode. That was very challenging work, but I am very glad with what we were able to create. And a lot of that is due to the work we did with Nintendo. They added a lot to the process, so hopefully everyone looks forward to playing the multiplayer modes.
Originally published June 28, 2014.
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