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Suda 51: Indie scene allows devs the freedom of music artists

Cult developer says he's "jealous" of the opportunities afforded to today's aspiring designers

Goichi Suda – aka Suda 51 – has told GamesIndustry.biz that he is jealous of the opportunities that have opened up to aspiring games designers with the rise in popularity of mobile gaming and the launch of services such as WiiWare.

"I would have loved to have started making small games," said Suda. "When I was younger I was thinking, how come the team has to be so big to make one game? So it's really good to have a small team and people can put forward their own ideas into the game.

"It's like for a music artist, they can just put out their single right away, not wait to do the full album. It's like that, so it's a really helpful industry. I'm jealous actually."

Suda, CEO of Grasshopper Manufacture and the creative force behind games such as Killer 7, No More Heroes and Flower, Sun and Rain, was speaking ahead of the release of No More Heroes 2.

The game came out in the US in January to critical acclaim - its current Metacritic score stands at 87 - and is set to be published in the UK by Rising Star Games at the end of April.

"I didn't expect I would be able to get that kind of score – I am really happy," said Suda.

Despite his envy of the booming indie development scene however, Suda is equally pleased with the freedom the current generation of hardware allows him. When he started out as a games designer, he said, 80-90 per cent of the ideas he had couldn't be developed due to the limitations of the hardware. These days, the same percentage of his ideas are possible.

His route into the industry is the key behind those ideas, he adds. Suda detoured on his path into game design, working as an undertaker and arranging flowers for funerals prior to landing his first industry job with Human as a scenario writer on the game Super Fire Pro Wrestling 3: Final Bout – but he insists that a pure focus on game creation in those early days might have resulted in him coming up with fewer ideas for games further down the line.

To be in a good game designer position you have to have more than one idea, he says. "If you have one idea and want to make this happen there are a lot of times you cannot make it. So you have to have more ideas to make this happen."

"I had a different type of job before I went into the industry so I had a lot of different experiences. That kind of experience helps to give ideas. If I'd studied just focusing on game creation when I was in college and gone straight into the industry, maybe I wouldn't be able to survive in the industry and come up with enough ideas. So I think that experience before the industry was helpful to get into my position."

In the wake of mature games like House of the Dead and Dead Space failing to perform well on Wii at retail, Suda doesn't appear to back the theory that there isn't a market for those types of games on the console.

When he started to make No More Heroes he chose the Wii because of how well the control system worked with its action, and didn't set out to make a violent or mature game, he says.

"I just focused on what would be the best way for the audience. I think that the way I did it turned out really well. It's not the market, it's the game that worked well with the Wii."

Sales of No More Heroes were obviously good enough to justify a sequel – the game reportedly sold 40,000 copies in Japan in its first couple of months on sale, and shipped 200,000 to the US, while it entered the Wii chart at number four when released in the UK.

Suda also said he was impressed by upcoming technologies such as Natal and 3D, and enthused by the possibilities that such hardware will open up to games designers.

"That's the very end of the industry when the technology gets to the maximum - people can do anything," he said.

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