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What Kojima and other devs had to say about game design in 1996

The minds behind games like Dragon Warrior, Metal Gear Solid, and Pokemon discuss their thoughts on game design and the importance of graphics, gameplay, and theme in the process.

“…now that we’re living in an era where powerful hardware is ubiquitous, it’s inevitable that there is an increasing emphasis on graphics and visuals. Games that feature plain character graphics, no matter how strong the gameplay fundamentals are, will probably not do well in this climate. I think that 'is it fun?' and 'does it have strong core gameplay?' are, in fact, two entirely different matters.”

-Dragon Warrior director Kouichi Nakamura details his thoughts on game development in a 1996 interview. 

In 1996, Game Hihyou magazine spoke with game designers Hideo Kojima, Satoshi Tajiri, and Kouichi Nakamura about game design and what differentiates it from other kinds of entertainment media. The interview, translated by the site shmuplations, captures a wide variety in artistic opinion from the early Konami, Game Freak, and Chunsoft designers.

Many of the comments about game development and technology still ring true today despite considerable growth in the industry, making this 20 year old interview an interesting read for modern developers.

The three developers, who would later go on to create game series like Pokemon, Metal Gear, and Dragon Warrior, each have different opinions on game development that shine through in the interview.

Nakamura started developing his game Otogirisou based on the enjoyment gained from reading books, while Tajiri pointed out how the rules of video game design are similar to the ones used in music. Kojima, on the other hand, said that video games most resemble the many different aspects of film. 

“When I talk about ‘games that are like movies’, I don’t mean just having a bunch of FMVs. What I mean is a game that draws on the various elements and techniques of film: direction, script, lighting, etc. However, games differ from movies in that the user controls the advance of time,” said Kojima. 

“Having a lot of interactivity is therefore very important, but while I want each moment to be enjoyable, ultimately my desire is to make a game imbued with a central theme.”

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