Sakaguchi Speaks

Microsoft puts now-partner Hironobu Sakaguchi in the limelight; interview sheds light (albeit canned) on why the design great went with Xbox Next.

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TOKYO--With game great Sakaguchi-san now in its corner, it's hard to begrudge any attempt by Microsoft to promote the relationship. As reported yesterday, Sakaguchi's studio, Mistwalker, is developing two role-playing games for the next iteration of the Xbox. This interview, posted on the Microsoft Xbox site in Japan, brings out the reclusive yet noted game designer. It is a rare window into the mind of one of the game industry's most accomplished individuals.

Microsoft: You've broken a long period of silence, recently announcing you're back creating games. After the hiatus from the industry, what was it that brought you back?

Sakaguchi: For the past two and a half years, up until last spring, I was living my daily life without being involved in any way with game development. I spent all my time watching movies and reading books. But after living that kind of life for two and a half years, I started to get the urge to create something.

Microsoft: Why did you establish your own company, Mistwalker?

Sakaguchi: Nowadays, both the number of employees and the money required to develop games has climbed...to extreme levels. And that's creating a trend where [companies] are making games just so that they can pay their employees. I thought that it would be meaningless to make games unless we got out of that loop and did something new. I established Mistwalker because I wanted to foster a development method where we didn't start development until we were completely satisfied with our goals.

Microsoft: Is it because of the specs of the next-generation Xbox that you decided to team up with Microsoft Game Studios?

Sakaguchi: In a broad sense, yes. But to be accurate, I wanted to work, to do everything that I've imagined, in a world without any limits. I believe that the next-generation video game consoles will reach the boundaries to make that possible. While I was looking into making games for the next-generation consoles, I was contacted by Mr. Maruyama [Yoshihiro Maruyama, head of Xbox Japan), whom I worked with once before. I also used to make games with Kawai-san [Hiroshi Kawai, Microsoft Game Studios R and D chief in Japan], who's working at Microsoft Game Studios, still. We know each other's abilities, so I felt that it would be convenient [to make games with Microsoft]. So it's more like my personal connections led me to the next-generation Xbox rather than the hardware.

Microsoft: What kind of a position will you take in the development of the two new games? And what kind of games will they be?

Sakaguchi: My position is basically that of a producer...and also as a scenario writer that looks after the game's [gameplay] systems. One of the games will be realistic. It will feature stylish graphics, and it will let you enjoy a sensation like walking through a spectacular movie, which is what I've always been aiming for. The story isn't about [the main character] growing up, as with many RPGs. The main character is more the type [of individual] that knows everything. I want to express [in the game] how even that kind of a philosophical person would laugh at something simple in life or would cry from an everyday occurrence.

The other game will feature cute characters, and I hope it'll be an RPG that will raise people's spirits. It will feature a main character that keeps on going forward, without ever giving up, no matter what kind of hardship presents itself. The two games will have very different atmospheres.

Microsoft: People often refer to you a storyteller. What personal standards or visions do you follow when making games?

Sakaguchi: Well, those kinds of feelings and standards change depending on the age when the game was created. Right now, I feel that we've already accomplished (in the game world) creating the kind of sensation similar to walking through an incredible movie...as though it's the real world. But even if it's a beautiful movie, it's really all just a fancy decoration, unless you can interact with it.

I'm aiming to make a world where you can touch things seamlessly. And as I've mentioned before, I'm planning to step away from the standard RPG storyline and create a tale that features laughter and crying--scenes that haven't ever been seen before. I want to make games with in-depth interactivity that will leave [gamers] with a sense of exhilaration after they've played them.

Microsoft: Last of all, is there anything you would like to say to those gamers who are looking forward to your games?

Sakaguchi: I'm happy and thankful to my fans, because they accept my outlook and my idea of fun. So when I'm making my games, I never forget about trying to satisfy those gamers who spend their own money just to play them. I will deliver the kind of fun I believe in, so, please, I hope you will enjoy my games.

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