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[Dept. Heaven World Guidance] → Super-Long Interview 2 (Ito, Tomita, Iwanaga, Tobe, Kiyudzuki) [Mar. 4th, 2013|10:47 am]


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Here is the second of the two ridiculously long interviews included in Dept. Heaven World Guidance! This part mostly discusses the artistic development of Knights in the Nightmare. The bonus notes at the bottom of the interview pages are included at the end of the text.

This should be the end of any translated materials for a while, since I think I've taken care of everything that's out (that I have access to).

Thank you for waiting, everyone! Now that the three artists behind this game’s visuals, Iwanaga-san, Tobe-san, and Kiyudzuki-san are here, let’s talk a little bit about the secrets behind the production of “Knights”.

First off, please tell us how you started working with Iwanaga-san, who was in charge of the main illustrations.

ITO: Iwanaga-san has been taking good care of us since the WonderSwan version of “Riviera”. Also, he’s done some behind-the-scenes work such as directing the animation for sprites in battles in “Yggdra”.

IWANAGA: I’m not sure anymore what the exact circumstances were that I began working with everyone, but I do think that I was contacted at around the same time as Takatsu-san.

ITO: We were able to create games, but when it comes to animation we were total amateurs. Because of that, even creating preliminary sketches for how we wanted characters to move would take an incredible amount of time… So through mutual connections, we were introduced to Iwanaga-san and Takatsu-san, who had both worked in anime production, and started “Riviera” after that. In the beginning, we had wanted Tobe-san to do the illustration work, but that was impossible due to scheduling issues.

IWANAGA: “Riviera” was the first time I ever worked on a game, so I had a lot of worries at first. Especially in the beginning, when we were using Tobe-san’s illustrations as an imageboard, we couldn’t reproduce the exact taste, so we met with Ito-san a lot to make sure that we didn’t stray too far from the character settings.

ITO: On the other hand, when we were working on remakes and such and requesting designs from Tobe-san and Kiyudzuki-san, we couldn’t find the original illustrations from the WS version of “Riviera”, so we had them work freely.

KIYUDZUKI: When I drew Marietta in “Yggdra”, the references I was given were the pictures of Marietta that Tobe-san had designed for the GBA version of “Riviera”.

TOBE: I was also told “We don’t have the original materials from the WS version”, and drew using the CGs that were actually used in-game. I was shocked when I saw Iwanaga-san’s illustrations in the “Designer’s Works” book that was published as first-print bonus goods for the PSP version.

ITO: Tomita dug those up from the pile of hard disks sleeping in the company. I had no idea that we still had those… I’m really sorry (laughs).

For the GBA version of “Riviera”, Tobe-san was finally able to participate, but how did that come about?

ITO: At right about the same time we decided to develop it for GBA, we got an email from Tobe-san that read something like “I’ve become a freelancer now, let’s work together sometime”, so it was all a matter of good timing, and we sent a request right away.

TOBE: When the WS version didn’t work out, I was told “let’s please try again if there’s another opportunity”, so the same day that I became a freelancer I emailed Sting to tell them. And when I did, I immediately got a reply that said “Then please come sometime this week”, and we started talking about the GBA version right there.

IWANAGA: Come to think of it, the time that I contacted everyone to say “I moved here”, I got told “In that case we’d love to hire you, so please come”.

TOMITA: We at Sting believe that our fast footwork and good timing are one of our weapons!

ALL: (laughs)

How did work on the remake version progress?

ITO: The system and the story were already complete, so first we handed over the game materials and data, and then I had Tobe-san draw all the characters’ expressions. I think Tobe-san and I met face to face about twice. After that, we just conducted everything over email. Everyone works at different times, and everybody works at amazing speed too…

TOBE: Oh, but Ito-san, I think you work the hardest out of everyone (laughs).

ITO: No, not at all.

And then for your second game “Yggdra”, Kiyudzuki-san became a part of the team.

ITO: By coincidence, when I was on lunch break and went to a bookstore near the company, I found a novel that Kiyudzuki-san had drawn the cover for. I thought that it was a perfect kind of visual for “Yggdra”, which we were working on the worldbuilding for at the time, and got in contact with her quickly afterward.

KIYUDZUKI: I had just made my debut in the consumer market, and this was the first time I had ever worked in game development. Given the way that I draw, I had been sure that it would be a cute game, but…

TOMITA: In truth, it was the path of the conqueror…

ALL: (laughs)

Concerning “Knights”, did you ever have a chance to see the full work before development was finished?

ITO: Let’s see, the game development and illustrations progressed over the same time period, so it was possible to show what kinds of scenes the illustrations would be used in via screenshots, but as to what ends the characters would meet, we were still in the middle of figuring that out ourselves so it would have been difficult to explain (laughs).

TOBE: Ito-san has always been impossibly secretive.

KIYUDZUKI: Back when we did the interview for the PSP version of “Yggdra”, I met Tobe-san for the first time. We had both just entered development work for “Knights”, but neither of us had been told very much, so we wondered together what kind of game it was going to be.

TOBE: When I watched the PV at the official site, characters showed up that I had never seen before, and when I asked Ito-san who they were, I was told “If you do your best to play the game, maybe you’ll see them in it”.

ITO: So that even after we finished making it, it’d still be fun to play… (laughs)

Please tell us how the three illustrators became involved with this project.

ITO: Once we had gotten the basic systems down, I felt that it would probably be impossible for one person to do all the illustration work for this game. At the beginning, I thought that as we came up with all the knights, maybe we should have the men and the women drawn by different people, but I also thought that we wanted the game’s atmosphere to have unity, so we decided to split the illustration work by category. But in order to have multiple artists working for us, then we needed completed base designs. I imagined that design work would also be an incredible load, so with a designer included I thought we’d need to have at least three illustrators. So I decided to ask Iwanaga-san, Tobe-san, and Kiyudzuki-san, whom we had worked with on previous games, and contacted all of them.

How did you decide which roles to give to whom?

ITO: Regarding Kiyudzuki-san, I selfishly believed that since she’s a manga-ka on top of being an illustrator, she would be good at coming up with design settings. And then regarding the huge number of knights, I thought that since Tobe-san has done design for lots of things and not just games, she would be able to make the characters’ faces really different. This was also a really selfish preconception—

TOBE: It’s not as though I’m particularly good at drawing different types of faces, but if the characters look too similar I’d get told to redo them, so I was frantic to somehow, somehow do it… (laughs)

ALL: (laughs)

ITO: Iwanaga-san’s illustrations have a very unique touch, and I thought I would rather use that touch on pictures that we could display at a large size—instead of little cut-ins, the key visual and unit illustrations and monster full-body pictures. So it was easy for me to decide what roles I should give to whom.

For this work Kiyudzuki-san was the designer, so does this mean that she began work before the others?

ITO: Yes. It was decided around the same time that Iwanaga-san and Tobe-san would also participate, but if we didn’t have designs we couldn’t create sprites, so we had Kiyudzuki-san cross the starting line.

KIYUDZUKI: In order to create a good mental image, first I started messing around with clothing design while looking at the plot summary I received from Ito-san. After that, I started working on the unit designs, but right after the Duelist was finished, I realized that this was going to be very time-consuming, and decided to do the monsters first since they would be easiest.

ITO: In order to convey the image we wanted, first I sent the image board of the old castle that the scenery staff had drawn. Also, I sent some samples of the BGMs… Though thinking about it now, saying “Draw while you’re listening to this music” is kind of an overbearing way to request an illustration.

KIYUDZUKI: From my experiences with “Yggdra”, I was able to somehow figure out what kinds of things Ito-san might be looking for. But it was a little frustrating as the designer to draw everything Ito-san wanted to the letter, so I tried throwing a few curveballs along the way. But when I did, it didn’t fool Ito-san at all (laughs). So in the end neither of us held back.

Tobe-san was set to draw all the characters’ bust-ups, but how did that go?

TOBE: For instance, during “Yggdra” when I was drawing the card illustrations, we were pressed for time and so I was told “we won’t ask for many retakes” and it wasn’t that difficult, but there was none of that mercy this time. All of the characters already had detailed design specifications such as their race, hair and eye colors, and personalities and so I tried to match those specifications as best as I could. At first I was supposed to draw every single character, but in the end, the Asgardian characters were drawn by Kiyudzuki-san, and Iwanaga-san did the monsters, and so I did all the additional characters instead. All together, there were somewhere between 200 and 250 of them.

Did Iwanaga-san draw the full-body illustrations after everything else was decided?

ITO: Timing-wise, we started sending out orders for illustrations to these two once Kiyudzuki-san’s designs were coming in. But Iwanaga-san was also working on the animation drafts for sprite movements, so first we asked for most of the illustration materials. And the character sprites were integral to the whole game, so we prioritized them to speed up production in general.

How was the design for Maria, the heroine, decided?

ITO: First off we had Kiyudzuki-san draft a rough design, and then we began determining the details.

KIYUDZUKI: I drew Maria while thinking that Iwanaga-san and Tobe-san would probably bring their own individual touches to her too. But Maria is the heroine, after all, so I really doubted that I’d get her design approved unless I poured time and effort into her, and so I took my time and made her very detailed. Even as I thought that it would probably be hard for Iwanaga-san and Tobe-san to have to draw her too.

TOBE: I was originally supposed to draw Maria’s bust-ups, but in the middle of the rough checks, we decided that it would probably take a long time for my drawings to get the OK, so we might as well just have Kiyudzuki-san draw her. I felt pretty bad about it.

Were there any points you had to be careful of during design work?

KIYUDZUKI: I was the designer, so I’d be doing all the first illustration work, but I mostly just did my job without worrying. Actually, I thought that the others would all brush up on my designs with their individual styles, and I was working arm-in-arm with Iwanaga-san and Tobe-san, so I was looking forward to seeing what they would do with my ideas. When Ito-san approached me for the job, there were things I had wanted to improve on from “Yggdra”, so I decided to do my best from there. This was the first time for me to design character settings like this, but it was a lot of fun.

The three of you were all working on the same title, so how conscious were you of each other?

KIYUDZUKI: While I was working on Marietta and thought, “Now my design is going to go back to Iwanaga-san where it started”, that was a really strange feeling. Iwanaga-san was the first one to draw Marietta for the WS version of “Riviera”, and then she was passed down to Tobe-san, and then I used Tobe-san’s design to draw her for “Yggdra” (laughs).

TOBE: The materials and sample images that the others drew were very cool, and so I was very nervous, thinking “what on earth do I do if I wind up holding them back”. I think that that sense of pressure did help to push me further. We would all be lined up together on the phone cards, so I decided to draw things that I doubted the others would.

IWANAGA: Kiyudzuki-san’s design specifications were very detailed, so I was worried about how well I would be able to express them. All the design needed to share direction, so I got the game’s story from Ito-san bit by bit. Concerning the monsters, I drew them as loyally to the original designs as possible. I love drawing boss-class monsters, so that was fun.

KIYUDZUKI: I love drawing bosses too (laughs). Concerning the bosses, my orders from Ito-san were pretty lean, so I was more or less allowed to do as I pleased with them. The degree of instruction I had on them was pretty much at the level of, Zolgonark has three heads, Jamie’s a wolf.

Were there any times that direction changed while progressing through the illustrations?

TOBE: I had designs of all the main characters from Kiyudzuki-san, but there were a lot of small changes amongst them. This was more like trying different things out in the rough illustration stage than big changes. To give some definite examples, things like Leonel and Sacchito’s expressions, and Vienya’s hairstyle. There were also big changes in some characters’ ages. The references I had on hand were still only settings, and I drew while never knowing just what roles the characters would serve in the scenario, so I had an unnecessary amount of trouble understanding Ito-san’s instructions sometimes.

ITO: I guess so… Well, a number of parts were still under development, so it was impossible to give fully detailed explanations.

TOBE: But even when things were set in stone, you never really told us though! (laughs)

ALL: (laughs)

ITO: There were some changes in settings in the middle of development, but in the list of important characters, there were none who weren’t used or were scrapped. But there were a couple of flags used to represent different forces that Kiyudzuki-san drew us which weren’t used. We had planned to use them on status screens, but the plans for using them changed and so a few of them were sealed away…

KIYUDZUKI: Wait, they didn’t all get used? That’s the first I’ve heard of it. I even colored all of them, too!

TOBE: In order to determine the art style, I drew a bust-up of Yggdra as a sample, but I only heard here and today that there was originally going to be a Yggdra route (laughs). But I had seen the full-body illustration Iwanaga-san did of her, and I believed that she would be appearing in the game as a unit until right before the release date.

ITO: Before we got Kiyudzuki-san’s designs, we decided to use Yggdra to create sample illustration materials. So we do have a full-body illustration of Yggdra drawn by Iwanaga-san also remaining. We had received these illustrations especially, so I thought it would be a waste to only use them for pre-production and nothing more, so thence came the idea to have a hidden Yggdra route through the double slot data, but due to scheduling problems we scrapped it. So because of that, all those illustrations and sprites of Yggdra are sleeping in stasis on my PC…

KIYUDZUKI: Concerning these two drawing Yggdra, I received those illustrations early on as materials, so I was also sure that she was going to appear in the game, but…

ITO: I see, so now we’re talking about how much I didn’t tell you guys during production.

ALL: (laughs)

Do all of you have characters that were especially fun to design?

IWANAGA: I always have fun drawing middle-aged men. On the other hand, I’m terrible at drawing moe stuff—actually I’m bad at drawing girls in general. I’m really happy we had middle-aged men and old guys this time.

TOBE: I loved the king and the prince. Kiyudzuki-san’s designs were very detailed, and I was able to draw them both very smoothly. But then again, I was told by Ito-san, “Please don’t hold back, you can make them even gaudier if you want” (laughs). Also, I was able to draw a lot of the villager NPCs however I liked, which was fun.

KIYUDZUKI: The Duelist took the most work. That was my first design and the one that started everything, so she had the worldbuilding and all my imagination balled-up together as a test when I drew her, so she’s special. I also had a lot of different design ideas for the Priestess, and used her as a springboard for general design propositions.

On the other hand, were there any of Ito-san’s orders that were particularly difficult?

KIYUDZUKI: When I was working on design ideas for clothes and armor, I thought I should look at some existing period clothing, but then Ito nailed my coffin shut by telling me to draw however I wanted to without being bound by things that already existed. Just like with “Yggdra”, Ito-san tends to like adding spiky spiny things to silhouettes whenever we don’t know what to do, so I did worry about how to add those and where (as in the Duelist rough illustrations on this page).

ITO: One of the ways I check design illustrations is by taking rough images and painting them white or black so that you can only see the silhouette. It’s one way of seeing if it’s an outline that will stand out on a gauge or window in a small game screen.

TOBE: I started drawing from the 11th Order of knights, but once I was done and had gathered all those designs together, Ito-san got me in the blind spot by saying “This is fine for these characters because they’re underlings, but all the other knights outrank these characters, so please give the rest of them more decorations and such” and the hurdles all got higher. And then when it came to the Seven Brave Knights, I was told “Please make them at about the same level as Kiyudzuki-san’s Leonel and Aqueline, clearly a rank above the other knights” and it was very difficult. Aside from that, the NPC Southerby got about as many retakes as the main characters for some reason. When I finally saw him in the game, I still felt so resentful that I was a little unsure whether to hand over his Key Item (laughs).

ALL: (laughs)

ITO: Southerby is a gate sentry who for whatever reason won’t join you, so… We decided to give him a strong impact to convey that “unmovable as a mountain” feeling, and I went through a lot of retakes so that his armor would get heavier and heavier.

TOBE: It’s a bit of a helpless feeling that these characters with so many retakes all die just like that.

IWANAGA: I guess my orders about characters’ eyes were the biggest problem. Based on Kiyudzuki-san’s designs, I drew characters with a separate pupil and iris, but Ito-san kept telling me to return them to the simple eyes I usually draw. I worried about this for a while.

ITO: This was my own personal reasoning, but I think that keeping Iwanaga-san’s drawings from getting too manga-ish would reflect on this work better. Maybe it’s a sense of roughness, but whatever that touch is, I wanted to include it as a part of the overall feeling. So if he had drawn characters’ faces really cutely, it might have seemed a little strange.

IWANAGA: That’s what I was told, so when I drew the package illustration I was worried about how to handle Maria. So I made her eyes just a little bit more round than I normally would in a last-ditch effort. It was a really faint resistance though (laughs).

ITO: No, I loved that design! So much that maybe I’ll just ask you to keep drawing her like that from now on (laughs).

Now that you were using three illustrators at once, were there any difficulties Ito-san experienced as the side giving the orders?

ITO: Probably coordinating everyone’s work paces was the toughest. We had pixel artists working so that we could get everything on the game screen as well as the illustrators, so we had sprites being made based on Kiyudzuki-san’s designs, and then handing those designs and sprites to Iwanaga-san and Tobe-san to order all the illustrations—I had to be careful to make everything flow evenly. There were so many characters in this game that if we messed up part of this process, things would have been dangerous as far as time goes.

Then let’s move to the final questions. Iwanaga-san, you have been participating in all the games since the WS version of “Riviera”, so please tell us your feelings now that “Knights” has finished development.

IWANAGA: I only did the background preparatory work for “Yggdra”, but every time, the feeling I get once development is over is something else (laughs).Honestly, I’m very happy that Ito-san keeps coming back to hire me.

Tobe-san, you have also been involved with this series from the start, but now that you have finished drawing 250 characters, what are your thoughts looking back on development?

TOBE: When it comes to my feelings, I’m with the rest of the staff in feeling overwhelmed. Iwanaga-san has also said this, but I’m happy that I’ve been able to be involved all the time. And every single time, the materials and touch that are asked of me are different, so it feels fresh and is always a learning experience. “Knights” was the first time I’ve drawn so many old men, and even though it was frustrating at times it was interesting.

Kiyudzuki-san, this time you faced the new challenge of designer, so what do you think of development?

KIYUDZUKI: I produced about three times the rough artwork I did for “Yggdra”, and my honest opinion is that it was very hard work. At first, when Ito-san said that he wanted me to do the designs, I was a little lost for how to answer, but since it was a kind of work that I had never done before, I lost to curiosity—or maybe that should be temptation—and decided to take the job.

Then, please give one last message for all the users who played “Knights”.

ITO: The theme of this game’s development was basically “when it comes to a whole new play system, how far can I go?”. Honestly, I do think maybe I went a little too far… but I am so happy and grateful that so many people have purchased the game, and are trying out this new and unknown system so voraciously. If I get another chance, I would very much love to make hot new games that are a little bit “twisted” in order to represent Sting’s brand name. Please continue to support us in the future!

Thank you all for participating in this very long interview today. We look forward to your next work!

ITO: “Yggdra” and “Knights” have been awfully dark and serious, so I guess I’ll try to head in a brighter and cheerier direction next.

IWANAGA: Maybe I’ll wind up trying my hand at moe art.

ALL: (laughs)

Interview Notes
This interview was conducted on October 10, 2008. It was a press day for the people of Tokyo Game Show 2008, so once Ito and Tomita were finished with their promotional work at the game show, they walked down to the interview room. Ito, brimming with curiosity, apparently wandered over to other companies’ booths every chance he got to play their games. Especially after viewing the Wii games he was so impressed with, he imagined himself gripping the Wiimote, coming up with game ideas. However, because there was a chance that he might be stopped by the staff, he decided to put off his specialty, “air gaming”, for a later date.

For Tomita, who had been working tirelessly on media promotion, this is the busiest time of his year. Because “Knights” has a very complicated system, he has working on gameplay videos and the test build, but unexpected trouble visited during the game show. Because the controls were so difficult, his companion at the Sting Booth was very confused. In the end, he spent most of the day lecturing his booth companion on the basic controls of the game. Thanks to everyone at the Sting Booth for their hard work.

Mini-Questionnaires for the Illustrators
1. Please give us your thoughts on the reactions of the users now that the game has been released.
2. This is the first time that all three of you have been in the same place, so what did you think upon meeting each other?
3. What kind of person is “Ito-san” to you?
4. If all three of you wind up working on another game again, what role would you like to play?
5. Please leave a message for the users.

Iwanaga Yoshinori
1. I’m grateful that people seem to be having fun with the game.
2. Whoa! These two are so beautiful!! I’m nervous!
3. Umm, I guess he’s always just “Ito-san”. No matter how sad or how happy, over the phone or in person, he’s just “Ito-san”. It’s mysterious.
4. No, as long as we’re all together, I’m happy with anything… (laughs)
5. I think this has turned out as a very interesting game, so please have fun. Please regard us kindly.

Tobe Sunaho
1. I’m happy that the individual units are getting so much more love than I expected they would.
2. The two of them were very peaceful, and also tireless workers. I have to lower my head to them.
3. Ito is a demon when it comes to quality, but even so he’s a good person.
4. I’m happy with any kind of role, but it’d be nice if I get to see all the things that my coworkers draw.
5. All of the games in this series are very challenging in different ways and I think they’re all interesting. If there are games in the series that you haven’t played yet, I would be very happy if you became interested in them.

Kiyudzuki Satoko
1. I’m happy that all the characters, from the merciless enemies to the hardest-to-raise party members, are so beloved by the players.
2. Technically I have met Tobe-san before, and this was the first time I met Iwanaga-san. The two of them are both like my mental image, or rather like the way that they draw, in that they are both very warm and kind and very skilled professionals.
3. I think he’s a very pure person when it comes to “making games”. I think that passion is why I always want to work with him again, no matter how difficult and frustrating the work may be.
4. If we’re going to work with the same members, I suppose I’d want to have the same position as now… (as long as I’m not holding anyone else back). Personally, making little tools is the most calming.
5. Because I was involved with so many different parts in so many different ways, this work has a lot of feeling poured into it. I’ll be happy if there are parts of it you like, including all the ways it’s unique as a game.