Catching up with Jun Takeuchi, game director and producer at Capcom, at DICE 2009 was a real pleasure. Brian did a fine job covering Takeuchi-san's DICE session, while I met with him to discuss the racism issue in Resident Evil 5, the Monster Hunter phenomenon, making fun of Epic's Cliffy B, and more.
Takeuchi-san also answered some of your questions. Be sure to read to the end to see if your query made the cut.
G4: Are you worried with the racism controversy that some people in the mainstream press aren’t going to judge Resident Evil 5 on its merits, but focus more on the controversy?
Jun Takeuchi: I have to say I’m not too worried about that. I think the content of the game speaks for itself. I think the people who play the game and see what it’s about realize that there’s no intent, no racial content in there, once you see everything in context. So no, that’s not something I’m worried about.
G4: I wanted to let you know that TheFeed readers are totally supportive of you and your game. You have a lot of backers here.
Takeuchi: [Smiles] Thank you!
G4: Out of all the features that are new in Resident Evil 5, which one is the most exciting for you? Would it be co-op?
Takeuchi: Of course, I have to say it’s the addition of co-op play to the Resident Evil series. It’s the first time we’ve done this in Resident Evil, and I think it definitely adds a new element and is a big new development in the series.
G4: What inspired co-op play? Are there any other games that have influenced your design for co-op?
Takeuchi: The decision to put in co-op was obviously inspired by the fact that we’re moving to new systems, moving onto new technology, and being able to do so many things on these machines. One of the things that the current generation of consoles really allows us to do is -- with their fully fledged online services -- really allow a new element of online play. So the decision to put in co-op itself was definitely influenced just by everything that was happening in the game world in general.
When it comes to particular titles that I’m influenced by, actually probably the one I’m most influenced by is my previous title: Lost Planet. There were a lot of people who said they really wanted to see co-op in Lost Planet, and hearing a lot of those opinions and getting opinions from a lot of the developers of Lost Planet, that was probably the biggest inspiration on the design of this.
G4: While a lot of fantastic gaming have come from Japan and Capcom in particular, online has been very much a Western thing, particularly in the action genre. Do you see any specific online elements from Western games that you wanted to incorporate in Biohazard?
Takeuchi: You know, I personally do play a lot of Western-developed games, and I’m always looking at features that Western games are developing. But I do think that the co-op that is in Resident Evil 5 is pretty unique in the way that it plays. I think that we’ve developed something quite particular to that. I do actually feel that Western developers, in relation to online, have so far been very strong in developing modes in which you fight other players -- you know online multiplayer battle modes -- those types of things. I guess if I had to look at one title that would have had an influence on the way that Resident Evil 5 plays, it would actually have to be our own company’s Monster Hunter. Just looking at the way that people cooperate, team up and work together in that game and enjoy doing that was an influence in how we approached the design of co-op in Resident Evil 5. I do think that Monster Hunter can go on to take that gameplay and be a hit outside of Japan as well.
G4: Speaking of Monster Hunter, it’s one of the biggest gaming phenomenons I’ve ever seen in Japan. Why is it the way it is? Why is it so immensely popular in Japan?
Takeuchi: I think ultimately it comes down to the fact that the PSP, with the ad-hoc gameplay system, is really suited to Japanese people’s way of living. Japanese people enjoy the ad-hoc system because it forces you to play in very close proximity to your friends. You can play wirelessly of course, so it’s not a hassle, but you can play close to your friends -- you can see their faces. Japanese people have a tendency to not like mere play over voice chat-- just being able to hear their voice and not being able to see the person you are talking to -- it's not something that I think a lot of Japanese gamers are comfortable with yet. So I think yeah, certainly it’s the combination of that and the fact that in the game you work together to achieve a mutual goal. That you work together and you cooperate in order to do that is what I think has made that game such a success.
G4: In addition to those factors, how much does the city density and the public transportation in Japan have to do with the success of Monster Hunter?
Takeuchi: Yeah, absolutely. Those two things that you mentioned are huge. They have a huge effect on the success of Monster Hunter. Where Monster Hunter came from or where its huge boom came from originally, was people playing in schools. Of course, when you’ve got so many people in such a small environment, that’s really when Monster Hunter took off. It started to spread to other people, I guess you could say like a virus around the country. [Laughs] Certainly that way of living of the Japanese certainly had a big influence.
G4: Do you think that presents a challenge in America where there is a lot of space between towns and in general, Americans are too selfish and lazy to take public transportation?
Takeuchi: [Laughs] One thing we have to consider in our future plans for the project -- outside of Japan -- is that American gamers have different ways of playing. We definitely need to take that into account when we’re making games. You know, there are some ideas that we could come up with. One thing we could to do is to have installed a PSP on every school bus and you know take it from there. Chris, what do you think of having a PSP on every school bus?
Chris Kramer (Capcom Director of Communications): Having a PSP on every school bus? I think a lot of American schools would probably take issue with that.
[Laughter all around]
CK: It’s funny because everyone talks about how Monster Hunter’s really popular in Japan -- how it is seemingly ubiquitous. Every morning we took the train from our hotel, where we were staying in Tokyo-- out to TGS -- and every morning Leo Tan would end up trying to play Monster Hunter with Japanese people on the train. It was really funny.
Takeuchi: Although people say it’s going to be difficult for it to take off outside of Japan -- we do hear from a lot of American gamers who do play the title and really enjoy it. So I do think the audience is out there.
G4: Let's take it back to the event we're attending. What is it like for you attending DICE? Are you even aware how many Western developers you’ve influenced and inspired?
Takeuchi: First of all, regarding DICE, I do think that it’s great that this event takes place…to just have this event where it’s just developers getting together with other developers and having so many amazing people here at the event -- I think it’s a great thing. I think it shows the strength of the American development scene right now -- that events like this take place and are successful. Actually, I guess myself and other Japanese developers are probably a little bit jealous that we don’t have something like this for ourselves. I definitely hope that other Japanese developers take part in DICE more and more in the future.
Certainly I don’t feel that my works have been an inspiration to other people here. It’s quite the opposite going around. Being here and seeing the developers of Gears of War or people from Bungie, or the guys who made LittleBigPlanet [pictured left] -- just being here and seeing all these people just walking around and everywhere I look I’m like, “Oh wow it’s that guy! Oh wow it’s that guy!” That’s what I definitely feel the most.
G4: You feel that way? I'm just an idiot with a keyboard and a tape recorder! You've worked on so many great games that have inspired a lot of the developers attending DICE!
Takeuchi: I’m definitely not feeling that I’m an inspiration to other people. There's one thing I don't understand though and maybe you can help me with this. I don’t really understand why Jay Mohr, who was emceeing the Interactive Achievement Awards, kept making fun of Cliffy B?
G4: It’s just a fun thing to do. 40 percent of my success has come from making fun of Cliff.
G4: That’s actually a good transition. Cliff has said numerous times that Gears of War was inspired by Resident Evil 4. How does that compliment make you feel?
Takeuchi: As a representative of Capcom, it’s definitely an honor to hear things like that -- to hear that the work we’re putting out there is resulting in the creation of other great games like that. When Shinji Mikami was creating Resident Evil 4, there was this word-of-mouth internally within the company that they were making this amazing game and it was going to be so great. So that game has been an influence on us at Capcom, as well as on the other developers. It has influenced so many people in Japan, America and everywhere else, so I think that’s certainly one thing that’s true anywhere in the world.
G4: Next, I’m going to ask some questions from our readers. The first question is from SkinnyJR, "Resident Evil 4 obviously set a new standard for the franchise and Resident Evil 5 seems like it will be met with critical acclaim. Can owners of the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 expect to see anything that will bridge the gap between storylines?"
Takeuchi: Actually, the story of Resident Evil 5 is not very strongly linked to the one in Resident Evil 4. In fact, I think if you look at it, Resident Evil 4 itself took a little bit of a step away from the story of the Resident Evil series and went down its own path a little bit. So you obviously see the influence of the events of Resident Evil 4 in Resident Evil 5. You see for example, Leon’s report is mentioned about the events that occurred in that game. I think rather than something linking, or bridging the gap between Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5, I think somewhere in the future you’ll see more of those storylines converge a little bit.
G4: What do you think the best vehicle would be for bridging the storytelling? Do you think that would be an entirely new game or downloadable content?
Takeuchi: [Smiles] That’s for Resident Evil 6.
G4: Fair enough! The next question is from Jak62, “What do you think is the key component that makes Resident Evil’s co-op a better experience than the Outbreak games?”
Takeuchi: Certainly, I think users will see that there’s a much higher level of action in the game compared with Outbreak, as well as a higher level of freedom and the things you can do. Both of those elements have been improved from that game, and there’s much more emphasis on cooperating with your partner and working together with them in Resident Evil 5. I have no doubt that users who’ve played both games will see that. Pretty much everything in RE5 is an improvement.
G4: The last question is from Vesipham. This is a two-part question. First, “Where do you see Resident Evil heading in the future?” The second part is, “Also, do you have a favorite Mega Man game? If so, what is it?”
Takeuchi: To answer the first question, the story in Resident Evil 5 I think, is a big turning point in the series, so far. I think that it really starts to show and starts to guide us to where the story is going in the future, how it’s going to reach its conclusion. I think that’s definitely where the series is going to be headed.
To be honest with you, the Mega Man games, I’m not actually very good at them. I find it very difficult having to keep dying and going through the levels, picking up those energy capsules. Those classic games were pretty tough. I mean, I like them, but I could not beat them. So my favorite Mega Man title actually is actually Mega Man Battle Network 2.
G4: Thank you so much for spending time with TheFeed. It was a real honor.
Takeuchi: Thank you very much. The pleasure was all mine.
Special thanks to James "Oats" Elkin for transcribing this interview.