El Shaddai – Sawaki Takeyasu Interview
We’re very impressed with the visual style of the game. What do you feel it brings to the game and what were your inspirations?
I’ve been working in the videogame industry for a long time. I’ve worked on Okami and other big Capcom names and titles, so I had a very clear vision of the type of game I wanted to make if I ever got the opportunity to make my own videogame. I knew what I wanted to express visually. It’s a very special and different kind of aesthetic. I had a hard time finding the technology and engine to actually create these kinds of visuals.
Was it always going to be a minimalist style? Did you have that in mind from the beginning?
70 per cent of the visuals have been the same from the start, but 30 per cent has changed as time has gone on. I also implemented a lot of ideas coming from other teammates.
How have your experiences on past games, such as Devil May Cry and Okami, help shape El Shaddai?
Obviously the Devil May Cry titles are very traditional, classic 3D action games. With Okami we tried to make newer types of visual images for a videogame. So I actually picked up these two systems – the new types of visual imagery in Okami and the system of 3D action in Devil May Cry and I brought them together for El Shaddai.
As you are an artist, I was wondering what effect this has had on development of the game, as opposed to being made by a programmer?
It’s a good thing that I can draw and decide the visual images as well as the game system as a director, because I don’t have to ask other people and go through other channels. I think being an artist and a director are two completely different kinds of work. As a director I have to tell the teammates what to do, and tell them what image works where and so on. As an artist I am making what the director needs as a material, so as an artist I’m working out what that material is. So I’m basically doing two completely different kinds of things at the same time.
What makes this different than other games that are similar to it? Devil May Cry for example?
There are two things. One is the visual image style. There’s a huge impact with that when you see it for the first time. The other is the very catchy colour images, so that the first time you see the game screen it gets your attention. Maybe some people will like El Shaddai’s visual image, and some people won’t like it, the first time they see it, but I didn’t want to make visual images that everyone dislikes the first time they see it. So for example, I didn’t want to use any violent expressions or sexual content or whatever.
Regarding the story, it’s related to the Book of Enoch. Could you tell us a little about that?
The story, and the idea of using The Book Of Enoch, was originally brought from Ingition Entertainment UK. The guy who was in Ignition UK came to talk to me about it and it inspired me to make a game based on the book. But I didn’t just use the original story; I made an original story based on the Book Of Enoch.
You have previously said that El Shaddai does away with complexity and lets you know what to do next. Could you elaborate a bit about that?
It’s very compelling. It hooks you and drags you in without having to learn a whole new load of stuff. I didn’t want to implement any overly tricky actions that will just see you dying and leave you not wanting to play. Everything you see is right there. There are no hidden controls or actions or anything like that. This is the kind of game that you don’t need to check the internet to find out what to do. It’s very simple.
How does this impact the control scheme?
I simplified the game so for the actions you only use two buttons for jump and attack. Another button is R1, and if you press it your guard. When users play the game they will easily find out what does what, and they’ll see what they can do: jump, attack and guard. You don’t need an instruction manual to remember difficult combinations and such.
It doesn’t make the game too simple though, because the length of the time you push the button will result in a different kind of attack, like a longer press will result in a stronger attack. You can press jump and attack, or manoeuvre and attack – there are all kinds of different combinations of the buttons that result in a lot of variety in actions.
Will this alienate hardcore gamers?
El Shaddai was meant for all gamers, from the light users to the heavy users. For the light users they can play easily because the three-button system is very simple. But this doesn’t mean that hardcore gamers can’t enjoy it, because of the timed combos. There are a lot of different ways of getting variety in actions. It’s almost like a rhythm game, finding the timing of pressing the buttons. So it’s not really ‘easy’ for the heavy users.
There are other elements to the combat system we’ll be revealing at a later date. It’s like the Street Fighter series. There are six buttons and you know exactly what they do, just punch and kick, but there’s a lot of depth there. The visual style reflects the simplicity of the control scheme, and I did that intentionally. I want players to remember old retro games like Mega Man and those kind of old style retro games.
Check out the stunning two-part El Shaddai trailer here: