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Q&A: Capcom's Takeuchi On Finishing Resident Evil 5

Chief producer Jun Takeuchi has made his biggest mark with Resident Evil 5, and Gamasutra spoke to him about why "there's a lot of life left" in the title, even post-release.
Resident Evil 5 is likely to be one of the biggest games of 2009 -- in a year that has barely even begun, particularly by top-heavy game industry standards. Gamasutra recently had a chance, at the game's San Franicsco launch party, to quiz chief producer Jun Takeuchi and co-producer Masachika Kawata about the creative process behind the game. While its popularity is assured, it's been taking some dings, following in the wake of the radical reimagining of the series that was Resident Evil 4. With that and more in mind, Takeuchi discusses Capcom's technology, philosophy, and challenges. How does it feel to be done with the project? You've been working on it a long time. Jun Takeuchi: It feels like we've been on a very, very long journey and finally arrived home. Did you reach the goal that you were originally aiming for when you started this project? Masachika Kawata: We feel like we've achieved pretty much all of the goals we set out on when we started this project. Moreover, partway through development, we added new goals such as the co-op mode, and we feel like we've come up with a good, good game. There's a lot of lively debate from fans on some of the directions you've taken the game. How do you feel about that? JT: We're actually very pleased that people are finding it exciting and worth talking about. With Resident Evil 4 we had pretty much the same experience when it came out. There were a lot of elements that were very different to other Resident Evil games up till then. It started a big discussion, which turned into really enjoying and appreciating the game, and we're expecting to see a similar pattern with Resident Evil 5. There's been a lot of discussion of what can happen. People were really surprised by the changes made for Resident Evil 4. When you set out, as developers, to make a plan to follow up a game that fundamentally changed what the series stands for, that must have been immensely challenging to embark on. How do you feel about that in the end? JT: With Resident Evil 4, yes, there were a lot of differences that were made. But if you change too much in one go, it's too much for people to take on. So with Resident Evil 5, what we did really was continue the evolution from Resident Evil 4 -- in some cases, laterally. With Resident Evil 5 we still have space to evolve and change the game, so there's a lot of life left in it yet. This comes out of something that [Capcom R&D Head] Inafune said recently, that by supporting the Xbox 360 Capcom was able to get a leap on a lot of developers in Japan. I think we've seen that. How do you feel at where you guys are in terms of the current generation and what you can accomplish on this generation of consoles? JT: If we compare ourselves on the global scale, to overseas developers as well, we see there are lots of developers that are making leaps and bounds in this generation of consoles. We weren't the only company to go into the console early -- there were other companies as well. So we don't feel like we're particularly ahead of the pack. I know you gave a talk at DICE recently where you talked about trying too hard to be Japanese doesn't work. Can you talk about what you retain as the core of your inspiration for these games, and are able to still work on this global scale? JT: The main thing is really that the people who play our games have to have fun and feel satisfied when they play them. So we don't focus upon getting high review scores or anything like that -- we focus on how our games make people feel. With Resident Evil 5 we feel like we've made a game that people can enjoy and feel satisfied about, and we're happy with the quality we've come up with. It's kind of an interesting point. I heard something similar when I spoke to Hideaki Itsuno, the director of Devil May Cry 4. He had said that with DMC3 they tried to make a game that would appeal to Americans without really understanding what that was. With DMC4 they made a game that the team thought was interesting and fun, and that's what they could understand and do. It seems to be a similar philosophy to what you're espousing. Is that Capcom's philosophy, or is it your own philosophy as well? JT: It's really not an individual thing at all -- it's a Capcom thing. All of our teams who are making the games, be it Resident Evil, be it Umbrella Chronicles, Darkside Chronicles, Monster Hunter, Devil May Cry -- everybody has the same thought in mind. It's really about delivering fun. I think that's something I've been talking a lot about with Japanese game creators over the years; you can only do what you're capable of doing. If you try and think too hard about the things you don't quite get, or get advice that doesn't make sense to you, you won't be able to work that way. JT: Well yes, what you say is absolutely right. But conversely, just seeking to build upon your strengths alone is a very limited way of thinking. So at Capcom, we seek to take on new challenges. For example, with Lost Planet, we took on third person shooting. With Umbrella Chronicles and the Darkside series, we're taking a crack at rail shooting. We try and go beyond what our strengths are and do new things. In terms of that, you made the decision to go co-op with this game, and I think you made the right decision because people were very excited for it. But there is a drawback, and it's not just with RE5, that you have to have the AI character, and AI is really tough to deal with. Are you satisfied with how that went and did that present the kind of new challenge you're talking about? JT: Yes, you're absolutely right. We really need, as developers, to continue to work on our AI technology and deliver better AI, so it's an ongoing topic for us. Through the whole industry that's the case. It's a big issue and it's hard to get funding. I've talked to AI programmers, and it's hard to get authorization or funding to get AI work -- because it's not easy to communicate in a marketing sense. JT: I think AI as a concept has kind of become a bit entrenched in the reactions that it gets, but it's difficult to come up with AI to come up with AI that doesn't have any kind of boundaries or limitations. But within the rule set of a game, or the environment of a game, we definitely have room for improvement there.

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