Interview With Kenji Eno

Interview With Kenji Eno

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At E3 in Los Angeles, crack reporters James Mielke and Sam Kennedy tracked down the elusive Kenji Eno, distinguished creator of D, Enemy Zero, Real Sound, and the eagerly awaited D2 for the Sega Dreamcast. Huddling in an extremely cold top-secret Sega office, surrounded by the US Dreamcast packaging, Dreamcast taffies, and some really bright fluorescent lights, Mssrs. Mielke and Kennedy grilled Eno-san on a number of topics, concentrating mostly on Warp's meisterwerk, D2. Surprised by the duo's knowledge of Warp trivia regarding its controversial history and games, Eno-san warmed up quickly and divulged a great number of D2 details - some of which you'll find quite surprising. What follows is an extensive transcript of the conversation that took place.

1) When will D2 be finished?

KE: Of course I have an idea of when D2 will be finished, but I don't want to commit to a specific date because a lot of things have to happen between now and then. Right now there is no exact deadline. If anything would speed up the process it would be budget limitations more than anything. Right now the graphics are good, the story is good, and the sound is good, but we have to decide if these things make a good game. We have to focus on the gameplay. I would like to see this out in Japan sometime this summer or fall, and hopefully in the US before the end of this year.

2) How has fan reaction to the D2 Shock demo been in Japan?

KE: Fans responded favorably to the D2 demo, but since the game has such a high profile, there has been disappointment in the delays the game has received. After all, D2 was originally supposed to be released this past February, but it has obviously not come to pass. The fans have enjoyed the snowmobile demo, and the shooting demo as well. Now I have to make sure the rest of the game doesn't disappoint. There are so many different minigames in D2 that I have to decide how to promote them all. If you'll recall, we had a large unveiling of D2 at a large concert hall in Japan this past March. Around 10,000 people attended this event who signed our guest book, giving their names and addresses. We are considering sending these fans a videotape of various segments of the game with specially composed music for the video later this year.

3) How many people compose the Warp development team?

KE: Twenty-three or so are involved in the making of D2. Originally there were three Warp development teams. One was working on Real Sound 2, another D2, and the last on our RPG. After the completion of D2 we combined all three teams into one and have been concentrating solely on the completion of D2.

4) As one of the first Dreamcast titles in development, D2 was started while Sega had finalized the hardware specs. Does D2 take advantage of the Dreamcast's powers, or could a lot more be done with the game?

KE: When we first heard from Panasonic that they were canceling the M2, I didn't want to let my team down by canning the game. I decided to look for a new platform and originally considered the N64 since the PlayStation and Saturn weren't powerful enough to handle it. In fact, we were, literally, days away from signing a development deal with Nintendo, regarding D2, when Sega came into the picture. At that point Mr. Nakayama and Mr. Irimajiri approached me about Sega's plans for the Dreamcast, which was referred to as the Katana. Once they told me of the Dreamcast, it became clear that I would develop D2, since it easily offered the most power and ease of development. When we first started D2, nobody knew how the final specs would turn out. The Dreamcast you have now is about five times as powerful as the prototype they were developing. As such, D2 does not max out the Dreamcast's abilities by any means.

5) Will the Dreamcast be powerful enough to handle your next game concept? After all, each of your games has been considerably more complex than the last (D, Enemy Zero, D2).

KE: I am completely satisfied with the Dreamcast for D2, and although I am interested in the PlayStation 2, I have developed the middleware for D2, which I can use for our next title. The Dreamcast has plenty of power for the next Warp game, whatever that will be, as we will then be able to make use of its full capabilities and the software libraries I have developed.

6) It's interesting that you mention an interest in the PlayStation 2, considering your public alliance with Sega was made at a Sony press event.

KE: (laughing) That's something I did when I was younger! In reality, my relationship with Sega is excellent. While I am very familiar with Sony and Nintendo, I have a great working relationship with Sega. With Sony and Nintendo, you'd have to sit in on meetings and a lot of corporate functions. While I am very involved with the development, marketing, and promotion of all the Warp games, Sega allows me to concentrate on the development of the game, rather than distract me with corporate responsibilities and endless meetings.

7) D2 has some of the largest environments in a video game yet. Has it been difficult to keep the game engaging rather than ponderous and gratuitous?

KE: Of course it is difficult to maintain a balance in the game. What we are trying to do in D2 is make the game challenging without being too hard. In each level you can almost "see" the next level, as we have segregated them to allow gamers to focus on the matter at hand. For example, in the beginning you are in a lodge trying to solve a puzzle. When you complete this part of the game you will find yourself outside, riding the snowmobile. After you complete your objective there, you will then play some action-style RPG. We try and make the game enticing to the player so he or she will be intrigued to play the next level. If it was too hard, players would not want to continue the game.

8) Have you ever ridden a snowmobile?

KE: Actually I have. The whole Warp development team usually takes one or two vacations together each year. Typically we travel to snowy areas such as Alaska or the mountains in New Zealand. I love snowy locations, and because of this, I was inspired to make the location of D2 similar.

During the course of the conversation, a great many topics were discussed out of the context of the interview proper. Things such as Eno-san's musicianship, amply displayed during Japan's annual Cherry Blossom celebration; his infamous Saturn announcement during a Sony press event for Enemy Zero; and the development of the original "D" using Amiga workstations. Following the hour-long interview, thank-yous were exchanged and pictures were taken. D2 will, hopefully, be released before the end of the year in both Japan and the United States.

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