In a very smart move to appeal to Japanese and other non-American gamers, Microsoft Game Studios has recently forged partnerships with some of the most creative minds in Japanese gaming, including Hironobu Sakaguchi (Final Fantasy), Yoshiki Okamoto (Resident Evil, Street Fighter) and Tetsuya Mizuguchi (Rez, Space Channel 5).
Microsoft Game Studios' chosen three are a diverse and interesting lot. Sakaguchi, the man who created Final Fantasy, will surely help bring the Xbox's successor some much-needed RPGs that the discriminating international audiences will actually want to play. And a hitmaker like Okamoto could probably just phone anything in and gamers everywhere will at least want to take a look. But Mizuguchi, he's probably the most interesting choice. He's more of a wild card, revered more for his mind-blowing ideas than his chart-topping hits.
As luck would have it, Mr. Mizuguchi recently stopped by G4 on his way to the Game Developer's Conference, so we grilled the poor jet-lagged man about his deal with Microsoft Game Studios, his two new games for two new handhelds and why he doesn't play video games.
How did your deal with Microsoft Game Studios come about?
They approached me. We discussed it for a long time...at first, I didn't know about the next Xbox, but then I started to understand their plan, ideas and strategy, and finally I had a great sympathy (for) their concept and I decided to join them.
What was it that finally convinced you to take the offer?
Everything...technology, high-definition (HDTV), sound quality of course and even other things like their middleware concept. The way we (Microsoft Game Studios and Mizuguchi) do (game) production is changing a lot--I think about production management, and this is progress, kind of the future of production and I like it. It's very exciting every day and I'm enjoying the game production, collaborating with other studios internationally--this is a new style of production management, using the web, web cameras.
Can you give us any hints on what kind of games you'll be working on with Microsoft Game Studios?
(Laughs. A lot.)
A really small hint?
It's a totally new genre for me. Not a music game. Not a racing game. I don't really want to say but maybe soon....
Do you think your games will help attract Japanese gamers to the Xbox 2?
I hope so!
Your two newest games, Lumines for the PSP and Meteos for the DS, are both puzzle games. Why?
Everyone asks me, "why puzzle games now?". It's a classic...old...game style.
Lumines' inspiration comes from the PSP--wide-screen, good sound--an interactive Walkman. When I first heard about it, I thought, "What kind of games do people want to play on it?" My answer was: no heavy games. Action games, RPG, etc., I want to play those games in the living room. The PSP, handhelds, are more "anytime, anywhere". You play them for 10 or 15 minutes between work or something. Lumines' concept is a music experience puzzle game world. (Laughs).
Meteos' concept was also finalized by inspriation of the Nintendo DS--two screens, touch pad. It's a multitasking action experience. Many blocks falling down at once, kind of like the green characters in The Matrix falling down, so you have to use the stylus to line up the blocks, match the same colors. If you can do that, the blocks launch like a space shuttle. It's a 21st Century Missile Command. The blocks are meteors, and you can choose a planet. Each has its own music and visual scheme, texture. There are many different types of music--rock, pop, country, Space Invaders-style, Bali, Indian, Classical/Opera. If you can shoot the meteors, the music gets cheerful like a fanfare.
Music seems to be very important in many of your games. How would you say your approach to music in games is different from that of other game designers'?
I want to use the power of sound, of music, so, the music, sometimes, makes a big difference to me. It's emotional. I want to use the sounds to represent...a basic instinct, not use the music as decoration. In Rez, the music shooter, I used the process of call and response. This is a music process. Say I (through the game) do some call by claps, voice, something--(and then the game player answers) it's a gut response. I try to put elements in my games to achieve "the chemistry of fun". I think, "Why do people love music? Why do people get excited by the music?" (Mizuguchi sings a bit of clubby music with a heavy beat at the end) You hear that, and everyone screams and puts their hands in the air. Why? It's in the DNA. I want to (tap into) those types of reactions (in my games).
Are you interested in applying your creativity in other media--film, tv?
Yes. My background...I studied story writing at university. I want to spend the future writing, creating. I love music also but maybe my next step is not only music. I have a lot of things I want to do, I want to try. I think about it this way--a game is an interactive art form. Movies are a passive art form. They're like oil and water. I want to chase this idea, "How can we make movies more like games? How can we make games more like movies?"
What do you think video games will be like in 10 or 20 years?
Interactive entertainment--I don't want to say just "games"--must overcome passive entertainment. (Pauses) Definitely, yes. You can cry when you watch a movie. When you play a game, you can't cry. The interactive scheme makes it very difficult to get people to cry. But in the next 10 or 20 years advances in interactive entertainment will make it possible for a game to be more emotional.
Do you play video games?
No. Not much. To be honest, I don't have much time to play or enjoy games. I play my games, 'cause I have to, I'm making them. I don't get inspiration from other games, my inspiration comes from life, people, real experiences, movies, music.
Do you like video games?
(Laughs) Yeah, I like them. I played a lot in childhood, when I was just a user. I'm a professional now, so I don't.
Tetsuya Mizuguchi's Lumines and Meteos will be released this spring. Here's hoping he's right, and we learn more about his and his colleagues' collaborative projects with Microsoft Game Studios very soon. Mr. Mizuguchi has a blog, though you might want to brush up on your Japanese before you try reading it.