In-Depth: Tecmo Debuts New Line-Up, No New Team Ninja Titles

Gamasutra is at Tecmo's post-TGS game showcase, with new PS3 shooter Quantum Theory and Western-slanted DS murder mystery Again showcased -- but no new titles from Team Ninja, formerly headed by outspoken producer Tomonubu Itagaki. Full deta
Tecmo showed off its Tokyo Game Show lineup to the Western press and offered up the producers of these titles for behind-closed-doors Q&A sessions to explain the company's direction and these title's providence, in the lead-up to a potential merger with Koei. While no titles from the publisher's famed Team Ninja were on display -- the studio is in the midst of reorganization after the departure of outspoken boss Tomonobu Itagaki, according to Team Ninja producer Hitoshi Hasegawa in an exclusive interview with Gamasutra -- the rest of the company's lineup looks promising. While the company had more games on display at the Tokyo Game Show, Gamasutra has confirmed that titles like DS RPG Nostalgio no Kaze and the DS Suspense series will not be reaching the U.S. or Europe. These three titles comprise the bulk of the company's upcoming lineup. Quantum Theory The company's biggest announcement is Quantum Theory, which is under development for PlayStation 3 by many of the key staff behind the Fatal Frame series. It's a third-person shooter with a dynamically changing environment. While the company only showed a very short trailer, Gamasutra was able to ask Tecmo assistant producer Manabu Nagasaki, of its internal studio Team Tachyon, about the title. For example, are the changing environments dynamic or scripted? Says Nagasaku, "It's a combination of both. There are random changes that are occurring without you knowing, but there are events that will trigger the changes." Given that the company has never developed a shooter before, and this is an ambitious idea, will it be using its own tech? "It's all internal. We can say for sure that this was developed so that we can focus everything -- this is an engine made for shooter games." "It's Tecmo's first shooter game," he went on. "We feel we have done enough research so far to try and make it to this point and trying to examine a lot of the games that are popular overseas. We can name probably every game you can think of, and we feel we have done our homework." "That being the case, the biggest selling point for this title is the changing landscape and how that directly affects the strategic element of the gameplay. And also the sort of action element that's attached to the characters. Tecmo has done games that are more action-oriented, so the movement, and something that you may not expect from a typical shooter game, I think we can bring to this game." When asked if the team is relying purely on research rather than enthusiasm to make a shooter game -- whether it was a top-down order rather than a bottom-up decision, Nagasaki explains, "Bottom up. [Makoto] Shibata-san, the director, he is very much into shooter games right now, and he has been. It actually was a perfect match because the company, we were talking about new IPs and what would be our next big challenge besides our games which already sell overseas, so it just made sense. It came from Shibata-san." Again Producer Koichi Yamaguchi explains that murder mystery Again, for the Nintendo DS, was designed to appeal to a western audience. Developed by Cing, which handled Hotel Dusk for Nintendo, the game places you in the role of an FBI agent investigating a series of murders that parallels an incident that took place 18 years ago -- with the incidents on the left screen reflecting the past and the right screen reflecting the present. The characters in the game take the form of heavily-processed, a live-action overlay, over the game's full-3D backdrops. When asked about the genesis of this technique, Yamaguchi says, "Incorporating this wasn't an idea from the very beginning. The flashback sequences were initially going to be just event cutscenes, so we didn't have this live action idea in mind." "But since we're going to show both screens in 3D, versus Hotel Dusk which has the hotel map in 2D and one screen in 3D, we thought we'd just go all-out with both 3D. So we tried it and it worked way better than we initially planned for, so this is the direction that we tried to take. We will be actually filming the majority of these in the States." When it comes to the 3D graphics, "From the very beginning of the conceptual stage of the game we already had in mind that we were going to have both the current vision and the past vision from the main character's standpoint. That's something that was already there, and it was more about trying to integrate that into the game and how we'd display that in the game. From a technological standpoint, why I say that I don't think that there are any games out there that have displayed both screens in 3D is that we've been told it's difficult and almost impossible to do that, but we have been able to come up with ways to overcome that difficulty." Undead Knights The company's final new game is Undead Knights, a PSP-exclusive title which puts you in charge of a horde of medieval zombie soldiers. While little more was shown than the hordes of roving warriors and the game's demonic main character, the premise is promising. According to producer Kohei Shibata, the game will feature action which pits the demonic main character against obstacles which he must use his zombies to attack -- i.e. throw them at doors -- and which can also be used in a local ad-hoc multiplayer mode. When asked what attracted Tecmo back to the PSP, which often suffers from low software sales, Shibata said, in English "Because I love PSP," before continuing in Japanese: "You're completely right. Some of the games on the charts, we don't see PSP titles hitting the charts these days, but the install base is great and I had wanted to work on a PSP title. Coming up with this concept, I didn't think of another platform. Anytime, anywhere works for me, and I wanted to play an action game on the PSP." As the game is a portable game, Shibata is making sure to simplify the control input while keeping the game challenging, a point on which we asked for more clarification: "We definitely want to make this game challenging enough for a portable experience, on the PSP. But that doesn't mean that the number of buttons and pads that you use on a console versus a PSP, is different, that doesn't automatically equate to bringing everything and trying to implement all the controls." "So as you just said, trying to simplify it but maintain the challenge of trying to complete an action game is something we thought about while trying to make an action game."

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