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Interview: Toshihiro Nagoshi

Posted by Matthew Hewson On Tuesday 6 March 2012Comments Off

Binary Domain is the latest shooter from the SEGA team that brought us the cult franchise Yakuza. Toshihiro Nagoshi, the man behind Yakuza and Super Monkey Ball, served as a lead developer on Binary Domain and I was recently given the opportunity to pose some questions to him regarding the game.

Nagoshi-san is conscious of the shrinking market for Japanese games in the West. He sees Binary Domain as a chance to reverse that trend. “I’m surely aware of the recent status where games from the Japanese studios are losing their market share in the West,” he said, “so yes I do have some worries about that. However, my team developed Binary Domain with that in mind, so we did our best to make a game that will be accepted by the Western audiences.”

Of course the challenges for Binary Domain don’t stop there. As a squad based third shooter, it plays like a cross between Gears of War and Ghost Recon, and it will be competing against the aforementioned for time in players’ consoles. When asked about competing with the giants of the genre Nagoshi-san’s reply was simple. “It’s a big challenge for us, but I want to take that challenge with the high quality and originality of Binary Domain’s theme, story, and game systems.”

One of the more touted aspects of Binary Domain is its voice mechanic. The system allows players to interact with AI controlled teammates in a manner that seems more comprehensive than using the controller alone. Nagoshi-san seemed particularly proud of this feature, assuring me it was more than a simple gimmick. “One thing I had in mind is that we should not make the game’s hand-controls any more complicated, so no worries about that. After all, not everyone is a hard-core gamer.” Of course voice control has a bit of a chequered history in Australia, where the local accent seems to cause a few headaches. When asked about this Nagoshi-san stated that “we separately localised the game for American English and British English” and “we tested them in each country and made sure that they work right.” As you’ll soon read in my review, I had a rather different experience with this aspect of the game.

Another heavily promoted feature is the Consequence System. This relates to your actions in the game and how your teammates see and react to you. While this sounded a lot like the karma mechanics featured in Fallout and Mass Effect, Nagoshi-san was quick to distance Binary Domain from these games. “There may be some similarities in the sense that they’re both communication systems,” he said, “however, the Consequence System simulates human-to-human communications a lot more realistically, and allowing that through direct voice input is a fresh experience unique to Binary Domain.” He also promised multiple paths and situations in the game depending on how players are perceived by squad mates. “The event scenes that come up during the game will greatly change depending on how you communicated with your allies. The ending will also change in various ways depending on your overall gameplay.”

When prompted about the possibility of Binary Domain becoming a franchise, it was very much a case of wait-and-see. “I always create a game one by one and make sure that it can stand out on its own.  So, I never make a game with a sequel in mind from the beginning.   Once I complete making one game and see how it’s accepted by the audiences, then I consider having a sequel or not.”

When asked about Binary Domain’s plot and somewhat generic setting, he unfortunately resorted to a typical PR response, stating only that “if you actually play the game, you’ll realise that it’s far different from what you may have in mind.”

It remains to be seen whether Binary Domain will help gain Nagoshi-san’s games the same level of recognition in the West that they currently enjoy in Japan. His clear vision for the game, combined with its strong gameplay and unique Consequence System, certainly won’t hurt its chances.

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