Fragile News Blast
Sorry I saw this news this morning, got distracted and forgot about it until now.
Producer : Kentarou Kawashima (Seven, Venus and Braves)
Art Director : Keiko Harada (Seven, Venus and Braves)
Main Programmer : Munehito Yasui (Baten Kaitos – Tri Crescendo)
• After much investigations, they found out that the average Japanese and European home game user identifies primarily three things in the games he plays, in this order : 1) Story and Characters, 2) World presentation, 3) Game system.
For example, he (the producer) thought at the time (of “Seven”’s development) that rendering the gameplay mechanics more and more complex could alone make for an enjoyable game, when he found out that in fact, stressing the game system too much only lead to a dead-end.
Another example he brought up was about…the ramen restaurants : why is it that some ramen shop are radically more popular than some other despite serving basically the same thing – noodles in a soup : it’s because customers are paying, not only for the good diner, but also for the “experience” provided by the restaurant.
Which is why, he concludes, as for the game system and mechanics, so the means used to entertain the user wouldn’t be overdone, the question asked must be : “Which experience do you customer feel like getting ?”, and the answer from the customer could be : “If I play this game, what kind of experience should I expect ?”
• Comparison brought up by Kawashima : “Resident Evil” = “frightening” ; “Fragile” = “oppressive”
• Kawashima thinks that it’s essential than the creator reflects in his games the feelings he experienced himself, which is why they personally went out to take shots of existing locations (such as the Kawaji Dam, or the Tokyo Metropolitan Underground Discharge Channel), while observing the atmosphere, and listening to the environmental sounds. All of this seemed to have given a fairly high quality atmosphere to the game.
• The game should last around 30 hours. And because Kawashiwa considers that these 30 hours are most precious to the user, he wanted to make them the most meaningful possible.
• Kawashima’s cherished theory is that, if the consumer demands to personally experience something interesting, then the game creator should create interesting games from these individual experiences “First is to provides varied experiences, the technology comes afterwards.”
• Here is another thought from Kawashima : do the typical game user has a better response to the story of the superhuman which literaly makes the world revolve around him, or to the story of the average person which is confronted to occurrences he cannot control ? Well Kawashima himself, in addition to preferring the latter type, thinks that games haven’t explored this type of plot enough. He calls this line of thought “From action games to reaction games”.
• Fragile has actually been in development for around 2 years and became a fairly big project over time. “RPGs need a lot of money”, he says. As expected, they intend to recoup these development costs with the game sales, and derived products. But the distribution and advertising won’t be cheap either.
• At the start of the Fragile project, the game was supposed to be set in Winter (as opposed to the current game, which is set in Summer), and the main character was supposed to be a Treasure Hunter that looked like this :
• A few elements survived the transition from the early project, such as the bonfires, the messages written on the walls, or the pointer/flashlight mechanics.
• The main programmer (Yasui) wasn’t too hot on the battles as they were in the first prototype. He even proposed that the game would only consist of ruins exploration.
• Yasui worked hard with one other programmer to get the prototype version (the playable version which must allow the company to decide the fate of the project) up and running from the specification documents. So much that it was completed in about 4 months (he explains that his work on Baten Kaitos helped, as the Wii hardware is pretty close to the Gamecube), and the project could finally be greenlit.
• Seems like they had to change their art director at some point early, so Keiko Harada had the difficult task of inheriting her predecessor’s work.
• A big work has been done on the sound flow, and the co-existence between the BGM and the environmental sounds.
• The project has been on schedule the whole time, so at the final development stage, they could actually afford to up the quality of the game significantly.