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Feature: Japan Can Satisfy Western Tastes Through Western Dev Processes

Instead of blindly trying to decipher what kind of game Western gamers want, Japanese developers should instead adopt Western development processes, developer Matthew
As game Japanese developers continue to struggle to find out how to make their games more commercially viable for Western audiences, developer Matthew Burns suggests in a new Gamasutra feature that some Japanese developers are taking the wrong approach. Burns, who has worked on mainstream titles such as Halo and Call of Duty as well as indie projects, said that Japanese game developers should "avoid approaching the cultural divide problem as the question of 'what is the sort of game that Westerners like?' and to think more along the lines of, 'what is the development process used by Western developers to create these games?'" He took the example of Tecmo's Japanese-developed third-person shooter Quantum Theory, a game that takes clear cues from Epic Games' well-regarded Gears of War series. But while Quantum Theory attempted to ape the look and feel of Epic's successful franchise, it ultimately failed critically and commercially. "I disagree with the notion that the first- or third-person shooter is a kind of game that by definition eludes the Japanese game developer," argued Burns. "The secret behind the high quality of Gears of War is not an innate difference between the brains of people who live in different parts of the world, but a difference in development methodologies." "Consider that in addition to an obvious disparity in available budgets for each game, Gears of War is built upon Epic's own Unreal Engine, the result of more than a decade's worth of continuous development, with well-understood asset pipelines and editing tools that have been in use for many years by dozens of studios," Burns added. "Quantum Theory, in contrast, was programmed entirely from scratch by its team. No matter how technically brilliant that team might be, it simply isn't possible to easily reproduce the many years of shooter development experience that lives on in the team at Epic or in the design of a system such as the Unreal Engine." Burns continued, "The attempt to reproduce the outward appearance of Gears of War without considering the system by which Gears of War came into being is what leads to a game like Quantum Theory." In the informative new Gamasutra feature, Burns goes further in his analysis, examining common Japanese development methods and comparing them to Western styles, specifically team structure, playtesting and quality of life.

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