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Inside the Jade Cocoon

Now that Crave and Genki will bring Jade Cocoon to US shores, we wanted to know more. Here's what two of the game's creators told James Mielke.


Now that Crave and Genki will bring Jade Cocoon to US shores, we wanted to know more. So, we caught up with the game's makers to gain a rare view behind the scenes. reporter James Mielke tracked down two of the gentlemen responsible for the production of Crave/Genki's upcoming PlayStation RPG Jade Cocoon: The Story of Tamamayu. He spoke with the game's director Gaku Tamura and assistant scriptwriter Shinya Kozaki. For those of you interested in some of the inner workings of Genki's gorgeous RPG, read on and see what makes this game tick. Jade Cocoon: The Story of Tamamayu is scheduled for release this July.

James Mielke: How did you begin discussions with Studio Ghibli / Katsuyah Kondoh to develop Tamamayu? Did the company approach you or was it your original idea?Gaku Tamura and Shinya Kozaki: First and foremost, we really wanted to make a fantasy game with a pronounced Asian taste, so we decided to approach Mr. Kondoh to oversee our design. Mr. Kondoh is most famous for his art direction on anime like Kiki's Delivery Service. He also participated in wonderful projects like the anime Like the Clouds, Like the Winds, which was staged in an ancient Chinese-looking universe. By the way, Studio Ghibli was not involved with our game.

JM: What were your goals when creating this game? Were you trying to develop something closer to Monster Farm (Rancher) or were you trying to create a new type of RPG?GT & SK: We had two goals. One was to create an immersive story world, and the other was to provide compelling monster-raising gameplay. In this way, the game would be both stylistically and technically unlike anything else on the market. You could almost say we have created a new genre.

As far as we know, in many games, especially in RPGs, the player's primary goal is either to solve needless puzzles or to achieve meaningless level increases. The characters you play in those games are merely symbols you must navigate to accomplish those trivial tasks. You never feel as if the main character actually is a real human being living in the game world - it's always so much more superficial. On the other hand, for Jade Cocoon, we strove not to just make the story part of the background of the game, but to actually make the player's interpretation of the game world one of the primary objectives. In fact, I believe that a "game system" where the player merely makes pointless nonlinear story choices is really the antithesis to a good game.

The monster-merging aspect is also an important feature in our game. You can catch monsters, summon them into battle, and then build up their strength. By combining them you can also merge their characteristics together. But what really makes this interesting is the ability to dynamically change the polygon models of the creatures as they are combined together. This means that the user can customize their own original monsters. Just this last weekend at the Tokyo Game Show, we had a contest where users brought in their own monsters to do a public arena battle. I saw a massive variety of different monster shapes. The Jade Cocoon development team was quite surprised at the very interesting results the end-users had attained. From this experience, I think I can say that to some extent, we have indeed achieved our objective of establishing a new style of RPG gameplay.

JM: How many people worked on Jade Cocoon?GT & SK: Internally we had five programmers, 17 artists, and five designers for a total of 27 people. Or course, we had Mr. Kondoh doing art, and Mr. Matsumae doing sound, as well other external movies and data transfer production operations occurring externally, so if you add in all of those them, the total would be at least 50 people.

JM: Do you have a sequel in mind? If so, are you thinking of keeping it on the PlayStation or would other consoles - in other words, Dreamcast - be ripe for a follow-up?GT & SK: Jade Cocoon was our first attempt at developing a fantasy RPG. There are still many parts of the game, which we would like to add or improve. I don't know if the next story will follow up on the Tamamayu world, but we would definitely want to do another title. At this point in time, which platform we will develop for is still undecided. But honestly, since there are recently announced game systems such as the Dreamcast and the PlayStation 2, which exceed the expressional abilities of the PlayStation, I think I would definitely like to try to make a game for one of them.

JM: Are you surprised this game is being translated for the US market despite the heavy manga/anime feel?GT & SK: Actually, I'm even more surprised that you asked this question. Anime movies like Ghost in the Shell did well in America, and I expect Princess Mononoke to do well too. And I've heard that anime has established itself in the US as a real film genre. However, I do understand that many American games strive for a more realistic style. But I can't imagine that our style would be a problem for the American market. I think we were successful in effectively using an anime style, and I would like to think that this game will have mass appeal regardless of which side of the Pacific it is played on. However, on the other hand, the story does have a strong Asian influence in is portrayal of man's attitude toward nature, and in its perspectives on marital relations. If anything, I think these story themes are elements that might find resistance in the American market.

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