Binary Domain Q&A - Robot Armageddon

We chat with Sega executive officer Toshihiro Nagoshi about his upcoming squad-based shooter.

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If you were ever a fan of Daytona USA, Super Monkey Ball, or the Yakuza series, then you're familiar with the work of Sega executive officer Toshihiro Nagoshi. Late last year, Sega and Nagoshi announced an original squad-based shooter called Binary Domain, but details on the game have been sparse. We know that it takes place in 2080 and revolves around a violent conflict between man and machine. For additional details, we tracked down Nagoshi to learn more about this upcoming release.

The machines might have the upper hand in this fight.
The machines might have the upper hand in this fight.

GameSpot: We haven't heard much about Binary Domain since the game was announced in December alongside a CG trailer. How accurately does that trailer reflect the current direction of the game?

Toshihiro Nagoshi: Basically, that was a trailer that roughly outlined the game concepts. Through that trailer, we wanted you to grasp the feel of the enemies and one of the stages, along with the fact that this game is based on a shooter system with procedural damage and squad-based gameplay.

GS: What factors influenced your decision to make a squad-based shooter? How are you hoping to make it stand out from competition in the popular shooter genre?

TN: I can't reveal the mechanics in details yet, but I did not want to make this a simple game which only requires you to shoot at everything with ally NPCs following you around.

The game has a system that automatically detects the situation based on points like "What is the impact on the squad, or does it have an impact at all?" The player is free to make decisions that may work best for him or best for his squad, so you can be a selfish player or a good team player. The situation could differ greatly based on that selection, but simply covering your squad all the time will not lead you to victory. In other words, the key to this game is to make decisions based on all the factors such as the player, allies, missions, and battles in real time.

The game also has a unique and original method of communicating with the allies. Though controlled by CPU, the enemies and allies will act as if they have a life of their own. With such a high level of CPU controls, we wanted to create real-time game scenes with unlimited drama.

GS: You've mentioned that moving AI technology forward is a huge focus for this game. Can you describe the technology behind the game's AI system and how it affects the action on the screen?

Robots are infamous for their deadly efficiency, but still have a lot to learn about teamwork.
Robots are infamous for their deadly efficiency, but still have a lot to learn about teamwork.

TN: First of all, many of the existing titles (regardless of their sales success) had many elements that seemed as if the developers gave up. For example, there are unavailable movements due to technological limits or strange AI reactions that make you wonder, "Why is it moving like that?" or "Why is it not making decisions that could work better for him?" Those actions were just so unnatural and frustrating. I had always been thinking such problems should be completely resolved, so with Binary Domain, we addressed these issues as much as possible. You should be able to notice that once you get to see the game.

Furthermore, that was not our goal but the base of our development for this game. By having the game based on such a foundation, we were able to create satisfactory game scenes with both the enemies and allies acting naturally based on the number of forces, formation, and stage elements. The game scenes are not mere shoot-'em-ups but evolved into exciting and dramatic battles full of tension.

GS: Everyone has a preference for the way a shooter moves and controls. Can you talk about the creative process behind designing how you want players to move around the environment and the way the weapons feel?

TN: This is one of the areas that we're adjusting right now. I agree that preferences vary greatly among the players. For example, Binary Domain is set in the near future, so it would be unnatural to have a weapon with unbelievable power. But at the same time, we want to make weapons with blasting excitement. We've been struggling to work out the balance, but in the end we'll be sure to adjust everything so you can enjoy the gameplay without having the plot ruined.

GS: Man versus robot is a conflict we've seen in a lot of sci-fi stories. Has the story in Binary Domain been designed to evoke more of an emotional response than traditional sci-fi work?

TN: That's what I intend to do with Binary Domain. This is another point where the preferences may vary, but my intention is to create a fresh story based on well-known themes. Once you get to see the complete game, I'm sure you'll understand what I aimed for. I have no interest in making a game with a shallow plot. Of course, you can expect the gameplay to be just as good as the intricate story.

GS: How has your staff's experience with the Yakuza series influenced the development of Binary Domain?

TN: When it comes to drama, the team has the knowledge and skills to create scenes of extremely high quality in great volume. The team is also experienced with the high-end machines, and Binary Domain uses a lot of technology like shaders and motion capture that we did not use for other titles. We did not use them for the Yakuza titles either, but for a good reason. A technology that worked brilliantly with one game does not always work for another game. This time with Binary Domain, the game is filled with a lot of variety, so we are able to use all our skills to the maximum level.

GS: One of GameSpot's best-reviewed shooters of 2010 was Vanquish, a game developed in Japan by Platinum Games. Do you see Japan as a growing contender in the shooter market these days?

Where's John Connor!?
Where's John Connor!?

TN: I'm not sure about that yet, but I think Binary Domain will give us an answer. I bet there will be some gaps between the regions and their preferences, but I am confident that a good piece of work made with full devotion (and well-balanced marketing) will be accepted regardless of such differences.

GS: Thank you for your time.

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