Nintendo Accion 199
"We talk with the creators of Pokemon"
Junichi Masuda, Ken Sugimori
Translation - Saternoir
Proofreading - Lewtwo
NINTENDO ACCION: What was the idea behind the development of Pokemon Platinum?
Masuda - When we finished Diamond and Pearl's development, I still had some ideas I couldn't add to the game. Diamond and Pearl's themes were about time and space. With Platinum, Giratina added something else, the opposite of time and space. I thought this had potential to develop a new world, and we got to it.
Since it has Diamond and Pearl as a base, can we say it was an easy-to-do development?
Kawachimaru - If you take into account the project planning, Pokemon design, programming code, sounds... Yeah, it can be said it wasn't that complex to develop. However, we didn't want to let down the people that had fun with Diamond and Pearl. We tried to avoid making the game look the same as its predecessors. So, we invested the time to come up with new ideas in order to make a game as fun as possible. In the end, Platinum took just as much time to develop as Diamond and Pearl.
[translator's note: according to Masuda, Platinum actually took two years to develop, as opposed to DP's three.]
How much time and manpower do you need to develop a game like Pokemon Diamond and Pearl?
Masuda - DP took 3 years, and believe us that we didn't waste our time sleeping. In terms of manpower, in the end there were 50 people working on DP, 15 of them working in the graphics department. You need a great number of graphic designers that keep in mind not only the Pokemon themselves, but how the world can get influenced by your acts and by the script. To be honest, DP came right when we had big changes happening. We had to face lots of decision-making before DP could release. How could we use the Wi-Fi? What were we going to do on the two screens? How would the game work when we interact with the touchscreen? It took an endless amount of time to solve these questions.
Pokemon is a worldwide phenomenon. When it comes to developing the games, do you keep in mind the differences between countries?
Masuda - We made a little booklet with points to keep in mind about the culture, religion of each country... But, to be honest, one of the key things we take care of when we begin to make a new game is deciding the three starter Pokemon to start off the new adventure. You need to design creatures that are easily recognisable in every country. There's a small bit of research to do before introducing a particular character to assess its cultural or religious implications, and this takes time.
You've used colours, elements, gemstones and metals... Are you running out of names for the franchise's games?
Masuda - This is going to give me an ulcer! What's important is to use names that are easy to understand for everyone. We think we can keep going for some time in this aspect.
What's the secret to maintain the success of the Pokemon themselves?
Masuda - I don't like it when designers have preconceived ideas about what each Pokemon should look like. I also avoid Pokemon created from the association of other Pokemon. I want fresh and natural Pokemon. I prefer to work with people that spend their free time at the zoo to get inspiration from the animals. I think this adds diversity to the franchise, to the richness and charisma of the creatures.
Platinum is the latest game in a long series - is it becoming difficult to find inspiration to design new creatures?
Masuda - Let's be honest. With DP, we felt that we reached a level of finality, but then you realize that there's still a long way to go. You start thinking that there's no limit to creativity. There's no second-rate Pokemon, is what I mean. Every one of these creatures are of great quality and have a splendid design. This gives me confidence about what we can achieve as new ideas emerge to make each Pokemon game a fun gaming experience.
Are you looking for a more adult audience with Platinum? Maybe you want veteran players to enjoy an "improved" Pokemon game compared to what was seen in Game Boy...
Masuda - We don't really think about a specific age audience when we develop the games. The games are made for everyone, their gender or age doesn't matter as long as they have fun, the more the better. One of the main aspects is still trading Pokemon. This is more popular with children, so that explains why they make up the majority of the Pokemon fanbase - but we're happy even when elderly people are attracted to Pokemon. When we released Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen we wanted to expand the audience and attract those of older ages. We even promoted the games on websites addressed to 60 year old people! I heard from a grandmother who not only had fun with the game, but was happy to find a common bond with her grandchildren.
Do you think American, European and Japanese players have the same habits when they play? Also, do you know how the release went in the USA and Europe, after the huge success in Japan?
Kawachimaru - It's still early to say since it's not too long since the game was released in the USA, and it's coming to Europe on May 22nd. But we've included a feature with a specific idea behind it: the Battle Videos. Players from all around the world can upload their Battle Videos to a server. I've added this feature because I was interested in knowing how Pokemon is played in every part of the world. Every morning I connect to the server and watch these videos.
To finish up, can you tell us what was the most difficult thing in Platinum's development?
Kawachimaru - I think that procedures change between companies, or even between teams and people. I'm not curious about how other people work, so I'm not sure if the way I work is the best or not. For me, when I start I already have a clear image in my mind of how I want the game to be, so it's just a matter of work to make it real. Of course, it requires a lot of effort, but as long as I have a clear image of the game, I'm happy enough to continue and nothing can stop me. Nevertheless, the mental process to get a clear image of the game is for me the most challenging aspect of my work.