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Two decades later, Mikami recounts the origin story of Resident Evil

Resident Evil is now a transmedia franchise, but in a chat with GameSpot series creator Shinji Mikami and lead programmer Yasuhiro Ampo remember when it was just a horror game in a haunted house.

Alex Wawro, Contributor

March 23, 2016

2 Min Read

"During the time when we were making it, my personal feeling was that Resident Evil was not a game that should be made into a series."

- Shinji Mikami, speaking to GameSpot.

This month marks the 20th anniversary of Resident Evil (or Biohazard in Japan), the game that drove Capcom to coin the term "survival horror" and spawned two decades' worth of sequels, spinoffs and remakes.

These days Resident Evil is a transmedia franchise, but in a conversation with GameSpot series creator Shinji Mikami and Resident Evil lead programmer Yasuhiro Ampo remember when it was just a horror game in a haunted house.

 "We were in Capcom's Osaka development studio and my current boss, Tokuro Fujiwara, called me in to talk to him. He said that he wanted us to make a horror game using systems from Sweet Home, which was a horror game for the Famicom that he had directed," Mikami said. "I was a little worried about how well a horror game would really sell."

Ampo and Mikami go on to paint the original Resident Evil's development as a low priority at Capcom in the early '90s, noting that a meaningful portion of the game's development was handled by new hires or by staffers assigned to other tasks who would help out in their free time.

Ampo also remembers the game's development team topped out at around 80 people and took roughly 3 years to produce, during which time it shifted (due to technical constraints) from a full 3D game to a mishmash of 3D characters and pre-rendered backgrounds with static camera angles.

"At first, we were developing RE as a fully 3D game. But the graphics level that we were going for didn't get along so well with the original PlayStation's specs," said Mikami. "That was when we took a look at Alone in the Dark. The environments were pre-rendered, and the characters and such were in real-time 3D. It seemed like that approach would allow us to create the game that we wanted, but there were control issues, and the changed perspective had an effect on immersion, making the player feel a bit more detached."

Mikami went on to note that while he appreciates the game's success, he sometimes wonders what other creative work he might have done at Capcom if he hadn't been tied to the Resident Evil franchise for so long. You can read those comments and more in the full GameSpot feature.

Incidentally, you can read about the development process of the last big Resident Evil game Mikami directed in our Resident Evil 4 postmortem.

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