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Mikami: 'Deciding What To Show The Player' Key To Pacing

Resident Evil and now Vanquish creator Shinji Mikami explains his approach to the fine art of "deciding what to show the player and what doesn't need to be shown," and how nailing structure and flow early on is crucial.
The third-person action genre owes quite a great deal to Resident Evil series creator Shinji Mikami, and with latest title, Sega's Vanquish, he's hoping to try new territory once again. With the shooter genre taking on new importance this console generation, distinctive strategies will help developers of action titles. As a battlesuit-toting shooter set in San Francisco Vanquish represents something of a departure from Mikami's customary tone, but his approach to pacing players remains distinct. For example, in properties like Devil May Cry, to which Mikami was also a contributor, the visual language of expansive areas not only helps the player understand the environment, but through tactics like showing destinations in the distance that draw the eye and grow larger as the player approaches them, provides clear goals and guidance. "Deciding what to show the player and what doesn't need to be shown is part of the total structure of the game, after all," Mikami explains, speaking to Gamasutra in our latest feature. "Some things are best when they're shown off right at the forefront, but other things would spoil the game too early. Figuring out which of those categories each game element fits into is one of the difficult parts of game design." But determining the optimal player experience depends on deciding what to reveal and when to reveal it, and Mikami suggests it's important to start this process at an early level of development to think through the game's flow. "We decide upon the general structure," he says of the first steps. "We ignore all the little setting details at that point; we take the larger elements of the game and figure out whether to put them in the first or second half, or to have this or that scene serve as the halfway point for the story. That's the basic way we think about it." "Once you build up enough experience over time and learn what works and what doesn't in development, you start to naturally know when it needs to happen," he adds. "It's really no unique skill on my end." The full feature interview with Mikami is now available on Gamasutra.

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