Capcom: Western developers start with the visuals

While Japan focuses on gameplay, says DmC director Hideaki Itsuno

Capcom developers working on the new DmC Devil May Cry title with Ninja Theory have highlighted some of the cultural differences between Japanese and Western development,the biggest being the starting point.

"Given our experience, it seems like with the west and Ninja Theory they focus on the visuals stuff at the beginning and then build the gameplay on top of that," director Hideaki Itsuno told Siliconera.

"Whereas at Capcom Japan, we focus on the game logic and getting the systems down in the beginning then we gradually build the visuals on top of that. I think this speaks to the differences in the core of how western games are developed compared to games in Japan."

Itsuno added that the two development teams have found a "hybrid system" to allow for these cultural differences, but it hadn't been easy.

During the interview producer Motohide Eshiro also praised the UK developer's visual tech, and their environment deforming Malice mechanic, while Itsuno had taken a shine to the management structure which gave different members of the Ninja Theory development team responsiblity for different parts of the game.

"We take the opposite approach. We like to look as if we have given all of these people different responsibility, but in reality we are very, very concerned about the schedule. It actually makes it difficult to get one man or one woman's work tied that closely with the product on the Japan side."

DmC was announced in 2010 and is due for release next January.

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Latest comments (8)

I'd love to hear more about the Japanese approach to understand more.

Does it mean, they use placeholders for the visuals, whilst all the mechanics are worked out via napkin test? And then relentlessly schedule visuals to be built in a workmanlike appraoch?
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 7 years ago
Seriously? So, this leads me to believe that capcom thinks better graphics, mean better games and more sales?
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Richard Westmoreland Senior Game Designer, Codemasters Birmingham7 years ago
I'm not sure I agree, nor would I tar all developers from one country or hemisphere with the same brush. I'm not even sure what kind of software development methodology would allow you to develop visuals first and gameplay second. Unless he is just talking about concept art and target visuals.

I can see why Ninja Theory would focus on the target visuals, story and theme in this particular instance. With DMC you pretty much know what the gameplay will be; it's an established franchise with it's own mechanics and you wouldn't deviate away from that too much. Sure there are refinements and tweaks but you already have enough of an overview to avoid lengthy prototyping. I doubt they were going to go too far out of the box here.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Richard Westmoreland on 10th August 2012 3:18pm

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Show all comments (8)
Martin Grider Programmer 7 years ago
@Richard, but isn't that the problem with the DMC franchise? (Anyway, I would argue it's why I haven't played one of them since the second one... I already played that game.)

I'd definitely argue anytime you start with the visuals it's a fail on some level (unless the visuals are getting created by the game designer). FWIW, I'm a US developer.
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Jack Lee7 years ago
I also get the feeling that they're generalizing a lot based on a very specific circumstance. Ninja Theory may well have started with the visuals (in fact, given the interviews I've read with them, the visuals and tone of the game were the main focus in the early stages), but that is because the game is a stylistic reboot of an established franchise. While they've surely made changes to the mechanics and systems, it's still a third-person action game focused on precision and style. The mandate they had from Capcom was, as I understand, "make it different and make it crazy," but it still had to be a DMC games.

To use this specific instance of a western developer taking over a reboot of a storied series and extrapolating that to how all western developers work is a stretch. I mean, look at something like Bastion. They've released tons of early footage of the game, and it was all placeholder graphics and mockups while they made the core game feel right.

Sidenote: this may contradict my point a little bit, but the exception for Bastion was the music. If you've watched the excellent GDC presentation by the composer/sound designer (you can watch it free on Gamasutra), you'll notice that the music and sound design came super early in the process, helping establish the tone from the get-go. So Maybe they did start with the aesthetics, or at least develop them concurrently.
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Tony Johns7 years ago
Japan and Anime style of art in games are what Otaku gamers like me Strive For!!!!

So this makes sense to me that in Japan, they focus on how a game is played and then build around the looks of the game.

In many western developers (except for a few like RARE when they used to be with Nintendo) they would focus on how the game looks and then develop the gameplay around it.

Kinda is what I felt when I was doing my game design unit at university and wondering why is this all this emphesis on the Unreal Engine when I really wanted to work with a completely different way of designing a game.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 7 years ago
Well, I recall the levels from the first Metal Gear Solid game being laid out with Lego or some other colored kid's blocks, and that game turned out not so bad. Then again, they had Yoji Shinkawa's art as visual inspiration, so Kojima could have used toothpicks and graph paper for that matter...

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Greg Wilcox on 14th August 2012 5:27am

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Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee7 years ago
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