Q&A: Elebits producer Shingo Mukaitouge

The man behind Konami's upcoming Wii title talks about working with the controller and how it served as inspiration for the game.



First impressions can be deceiving. In an ITmedia +D Games interview with Elebits producer Shingo Mukaitouge, the developer thought the technology would pigeonhole the types of games created for the system. "My first thought was that it was geared toward sports and sword-fighting games, using large controller movements. But the pointing device allows fine-grained control, too, making it a flexible, and above all, new controller--I really fell in love with it."

Mukaitouge said he was "stunned" by that first experience with the controller. So much so that it served as the inspiration for his game.

"We hammered out the game around the controller," Mukaitouge said. "With traditional controllers, there has never been the [ability] to twist or pull...As we discussed this, we developed the idea of freely touching or moving objects in a room, such as twisting faucets or doorknobs and pulling open drawers."

The idea of poking around rooms evidently led the team back to some childhood memories for the developers. "In discussing how we should build a game out of manipulating objects in rooms, we remembered hide-and-seek. This is, after all, a game where you actually move things around and investigate things." The resulting concept was a unique variant of hide-and-seek, where players track down little sprites, the Elebits, who are the source of power in the game world. Capturing enough Elebit power will let players perform incredible feats, such as lifting cars and houses. "Our goal is to allow the player to grab onto any object in the level."

Returning to the Wii, Mukaitouge had mixed remarks about its developer-friendliness. "Producing images didn't take much time," he said. "Nintendo's support is good, too." On the other hand, fine tuning the gameplay for the new controller posed new challenges. "Adjusting the motion for how much [an object] should move when a given amount of motion is applied is difficult. For instance, when turning a water faucet, everyone will twist the handle a different amount."

The specifics of the game, such as the number of stages it will contain and exactly how many types of Elebits there will be, are still under wraps. However, it doesn't seem like there was any dearth of ideas from the development team.

"We put 50 designers in competition with each other, and they came up with over 100 characters," Mukaitouge said. The resulting selections are being refined in-house by Konami, which wants the characters to have mass appeal. "We chose characters whose cuteness would appeal to young gamers, high school and college students, and female gamers, too. However, we didn't want them to be cute in an ordinary sense, so we made a point of choosing designs that were a bit twisted."

Mukaitouge did say that each type of Elebits has different personalities. "Blue Elebits are the standard type. The red ones are shy and very fast runners, so it's important to catch them quickly. The Elebits' artificial intelligence is elaborate, giving them many behaviors, such as quickly hiding or singing. If you leave them alone, they engage in activities unrelated to the game, such as communicating with other Elebits, crying, etc...They have feelings just like humans."

He stressed that Konami is taking pains to make the game accessible to a wide range of gamers, from beginners to experts. In gameplay terms, Mukaitouge wants to make beating the clock as much of a factor as possible. He indicated that there will also be some sort of collection element to appeal to hardcore gamers and probably some incentive to play the game even after it's beaten the first time.

Mukaitouge maintains that Konami will make efforts to assure the game is ready by or around the time of the Wii's launch. However, he stressed the game still has a ways to go: "Later, we can hopefully show off a more developed form of the game. What we've shown so far is only an implementation of the basic play mechanics." He also hinted at more playable demos in the future, saying, "We hope to create an opportunity for people to try out the game around autumn."

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