Goichi Suda on Shadows of the Damned

Suda 51 talks shop

Secluded in a backroom of today's EA showcase in London with a lot of people milling around him is a leather-jacketed Suda51 aka Goichi Suda, the acclaimed developer of the No More Heroes series and cult classic Killer7. Of course, as hidden as he is at what is a very busy event, everyone present is more than aware of his being here. Even with Battlefield developers showing off their shiny new wares, today's talking point is the eccentric Japanese developer and his latest project, Shadows of the Damned, which boasts something akin to a dream team of Japanese games development. We'll have a preview of the game up shortly, but first we ask Suda-san about working with the likes of Resident evil creator Shinji Mikami and Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka. We also discover how Shadows of the Damned is bizarrely, but in typical Suda51 style, similar to a popular British sitcom...

What was it like working with Shinji Mikami? It's really fun. He's a joke machine. I'm sure you might know already but...

How much input has his sense of humour had on Shadows of the Damned?

It's there in the combat especially. He paid a lot of attention to it. You can see his influence there.

You and Mikami-san have very different creative visions of games development. How much of Shadow of the Damned is a compromise between those visions and how much of it is just saying, 'You know what, they can work together'?

I don't think that we had anything that we needed to compromise with each other. I mean, when we see the good ideas we're like, "Okay, good, that's good!" We knew, right. We don't really like to compromise so whenever we had good ideas we joined forces together, talked to EA, explained why this was a good idea. We also had different roles, me as a director and him as a producer. I always came up with different ideas but Mikami-san was really good with listening and thinking about whether or not it would work in the market, if it was too revolutionary or innovative. He's really good at evaluating if an idea will work. That helped a lot so we really worked well together.

Mikami-san has a strong background in horror games. You have a more diverse background with things like Killer 7 and No More Heroes. What made you go with a comedy horror title this time?

'Horror comedy'? Ha ha! I think it's just a mix of both of us taking good parts from each other. And of course director Massmio [Guarini] helped out a lot. He's a big fan of Mikami-san and Yamaoka-san and myself and he really brought a good essence to the game. And Mikami-san actually loves to create comedy. It never really happened with his other projects but I think he's really happy to have comedy in this one.

We just played the game earlier and there was a lot of comedy there. But there were also some lines where I'm thinking, "What game are you talking about there?" Will we see the same kind of commentary that was in No More Heroes in Shadows of the Damned?

Yes! Definitely (laughs), and I'm glad you picked up that same sense of No More Heroes and Killer 7 in the game. I'm always thinking about little side things that I can offer as commentary.

There's a very strong dynamic between Garcia and his weapon, the Johnson character. Could you tell us about your ideas with these two characters and the way they interact with each other?

Garcia is a cool, muscular guy, as opposed to Johnson who's really chatty. You know, Johnson's the kind of guy who sometimes gets on your nerve because he's chatting so much, but I think we have a good balance between them. I have the image of The I.T. Crowd for them.

Ha ha, I see that! So, you've got quite a lot of titles in the works - I think it's five in production at the moment - how do you find the time to put all that creative energy to so many games?

I think coming up with creative ideas comes naturally to me because I've been doing it for such a long time. Having said that, you're right, I have less time now to be directly involved in each project, and to handle all the projects as a director or a producer - I have to pull a little bit away. But in the sense that the grasshoppers really needs to grow, I think this balance is good.

Speaking of Grasshopper getting bigger, you've obviously assembled a very impressive team now in this game with people of experience. How important is that to the creative vision of Grasshopper moving forward?

It's really important. Tagging with Mikami-san for this project is one thing but having Yamaoka-san to compose for every project is another. We're very excited about that. I want this company to grow bigger and offer a lot of opportunities for young creators.

Minami-san, from Platinum Games, was talking about the low state of the Japanese games industry at the moment and a lack of creativity within. He said that Platinum was trying to be a flagbearer for Japanese development. Where do you see Grasshopper's place in restoring the Japanese industry to previous glory?

I think it's really important to create opportunities for young creators to achieve their ideas. It's important to not just create a game for the worldwide audience, but after the earthquake of 11th March our goal is to really create something for the people affected by the earthquake. I think that kind of mentality, that challenge, lends itself to giving younger creators opportunities.

Prior to the earthquake, Hideo Kojima accused younger developers of being lazy. How do you motivate the younger members of your team to be creative?

I think the important thing is to offer a lot of challenges and opportunities for them so they can experience success and indeed failure. In a big project you don't necessarily experience success and failure that often, or you don't see the result that often, but in a smaller project you see that a lot, you know. In the past, you could just release a game once a year, but nowadays you have social media, apps on iPhones, these smaller projects, and they offer really good opportunities for younger developers to get that experience.

Thank you very much for your time, Suda-san.

Thank you.

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