Metal Gear Solid V designer says Japanese industry has not gotten worse

Jordan Amaro responds to Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune's comments about downtrodden state of development in island nation, believes "discretion, humility, and hard work" should be emphasized.

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Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain designer Jordan Amaro does not agree with Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune's recent assertion that the Japanese development scene has "gotten worse."

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"It's not gotten worse. That kind of comment used to be relevant a couple of years ago but many companies are recovering, and have made tough strategic decisions that will pay off soon," Amaro told GameSpot today.

Amaro previously worked at 2K Czech on an unannounced title, as well as Crytek on Homefront 2. He joined Kojima Productions in March.

Some of the "tough" decisions, Amaro explained, are investments in better technology and development processes.

"No one wants to take forever to ship a game and Japanese companies are no different. They now know how Western devs go about making a game and are updating their own processes by making incremental changes," Amaro said. "Contrary to what many may think, not everything in western productions is good, productive, or even adaptable to a Japanese work environment."

Another investment Japanese game companies are making is in the hiring of talent from outside of the island nation, Amaro said. The impact is "already positive," he argued, referencing Mark Cerny's positions as lead system architect on the PlayStation 4 and game director for Japan Studio's Knack.

"I can assure you that everyone here is aware of how painful the current gen has been to Japan, but I see the Renaissance around the corner," Amaro said.

His advice? "Stop dramatizing and start working on it like we are [at Kojima Productions in Tokyo, Japan]."

"Sure it's not easy, but do you hear us complain to journalists every few months? Discretion, humility, and hard work are the way to go about this," he added.

Amaro said Inafune's comments have only discouraged developers from helping rejuvenate the Japanese gaming scene. "The reality, while not easy (not worse than the West) is altogether different than what filters out of his interviews."

"Discretion, humility, and hard work are the way to go about this."

Inafune last week launched a Kickstarter campaign for a Mega Man-inspired game called Mighty No. 9. The project has been a runaway success, reaching its $900,000 funding target in under two days. Inafune said the Japanese development community is largely in the dark regarding how Kickstarter works, and hopes that his own campaign will help shine a light on crowd-funding as a viable option for game development in Japan.

"I would agree with Inafune-san that Japanese [developers] still ignore how Kickstarter works precisely. But they know, many of them, that it has effectively funded games," Amaro said. "They're not cut from the world. I laud his success and that's going to trigger a wave of Japanese Kickstarters just like Double Fine did in the West. It will be interesting to see how publishers respond to that and to witness the birth of a new indie scene, largely dormant today."

If the Japanese game development community can return to prominence, Amaro said, then gamers worldwide can expect better games from the region released on a more regular basis.

"There's no question we need a Japanese regain in the game market, especially in AAAs. I'm personally suffocating from the lack of creativity and subtlety exhibited during the last few years in Western AAAs," Amaro said.

"A lot of them have become recipes, where a spreadsheet game design is bluntly applied to the environment with little consideration to the actual experience, removing any sense of discovery and magic," he added. "But hey, they sell millions right, so who's to blame?"

Overall, Amaro said the Japanese game design mentality is "largely altogether different" from that of the West. Some games that are considered "great" in the West are "nothing special" in Japan, he said, noting Kojima Productions is addressing that with Metal Gear Solid V.

"I also grew up on Japanese games and it's been painful to watch the slow descent into irrelevancy of Japanese games," Amaro said. "But as with any cycle, it eventually gets better, and we're past that. Japanese companies are tackling ambitious and exciting projects, and I don't know about you, but do I need fresh air!"

For more on Inafune's recent comments, check out GameSpot's interview with the industry veteran and outspoken critic of the Japanese development scene.

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