Why Sega brought in an interior designer to work on Shenmue

We wanted to know Takimoto’s design process," explained Yu Suzuki in a newly-translated interview from 2000. "We had a lot of questions about the 'rules' of interior design."
"We thought having an architect design the buildings would help us achieve a totally new level of realism...After that we had him stick around in the development room, as a player. We wanted the perspective of someone who’s not in the game industry."

- During an interview in 2000, Shenmue director Yu Suzuki recalls the value of having an architect with interior design chops on the development team.

As part of its ongoing effort to translate Japanese developer interviews into English, Shmuplations this week this week published an intriguing interview with some of the creators of Shenmue that sheds some more light on the development of Sega's landmark open-world game.

The interview, originally published in 2000, covers familiar territory like how the game got its name ("Genpuuki was almost chosen, but at the very end of the develoment we realized it had some problems," noted planner Eigo Kasahara) and why the team wound up using real Sega employees to quickly flesh out the characters filling Shenmue's open world.

Of particular interest to game designers is the thought process behind bringing Manabu Takimoto, a practicing architect and interior designer who's worked on everything from hotels to zoos, in to work on the game's level design.

"We wanted to know Takimoto’s design process," explained Yu Suzuki. "We had a lot of questions about the 'rules' of interior design."

Another designer noted that Takimoto's contributions to the game was much akin to his work drafting concept art and sketches for actual buildings, but Takimoto himself pops in later to explain how his work on Shenmue differed from traditional architectural design.

"Imagine you enter a room and no one is there. But you want to have the player recognize, through the 'traces' left by objects in the room, that someone was here," said Takimoto. "It was sort of like, 'how do we create the scent of a human here?'"

Suzuki went on to highlight the value of having Takimoto's outsider perspective on Shenmue during its development, feelings echoed by game designer Robert Yang earlier this year when he expressed his appreciation for interior design and architecture classes during a level design roundtable

Takimoto himself shared further thoughts on his contributions to Shenmue in a video published to drum up support for the Shenmue 3 Kickstarter, which recently wrapped up with $6.3 million in pledges.

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