Interview: Square Enix’s New Studio - Thoughts on New RPG Project

Interview: Square Enix’s New Studio - Thoughts on New RPG Project 3

At E3 2015, held in Los Angeles, U.S. between June 16–18, Square Enix Holdings (SQEXHD) announced the establishment of a new studio, Tokyo RPG Factory (TRF). This time, we inquired of Representative Director Yosuke Matsuda, who is involved in the establishment of TRF, and Atsushi Hashimoto, who is responsible for the development of TRF, about the details of TRF’s launch, and the commencement of Project SETSUNA.

Launch of a New Project

―Please share the details of the launch of this new project, as well as the establishment of the new studio, TRF.

Matsuda(M): From around last year I became consciously aware of this issue, but I have begun to feel that we have entered an era in which it is difficult to create new games. What caught my interest the most when thinking about this issue was the genre of indie games. Since two years ago I’ve developed an interest in them, thinking, “By incorporating that movement, could we possibly strive toward discovering the development of new games?”

―So, you wanted to incorporate this new movement?

M: We did experiment with a couple projects. With the Square Enix Collective, which is a curated platform for indie games launched in Europe, North and South America, we had game creators submit their works onto a website to be rated and commented on by fans within the community. We are providing support to these projects―and especially for those with high ratings―through various means, including the extension of their projects onto Kickstarter, so that they can be released to the public. Recently, the horror-adventure game Tokyo Dark has gained immense popularity within the Square Enix Collective, and is collecting funds through Kickstarter to seriously turn their project into a full-scale game.

―Speaking of the launching of new projects, it looks like a new studio is also being established.

M: Over the years, SQEX’s Japanese RPG (JRPG) games have traditionally been highly anticipated by our customers. Thus, desiring to make some sort of brand new RPG game, this time we re-examined the very environment of game creation. SQEX already has its own brand image, and it is probable that new games would also be influenced by this established brand. Therefore, wishing to create new JPRG games independent from and beyond the boundaries of Square Enix, we established TRF.

―So TRF is a completely separate entity.

M: That is correct. This new project was born from the desire to try working under a framework in which creators who agree on a certain idea come together to make it a reality.

―Are these creators all recruited from within SQEX?

M: No, most of them are recruited from outside of SQEX. Even though TRF is under the capital of SQEXHD, because it is being established as an attempt create games as an independent entity, we were careful to reflect that in the make-up of the members as well.

―Did Mr. Hashimoto, who is participating in TRF, receive word from SQEX about it?

Hashimoto(H): In the beginning it felt pretty shady (laughs). Around the end of August last year, I received word through an acquaintance. “I can’t tell you anything. Just come with me,” was what I was told. I wasn’t even told that it was related to SQEX, and was given an overview of the game first. Then I was asked for an immediate response, “Decide (whether you want to do this or not).” It seemed like a really interesting project, so I responded, “I’ll do it.”

―In the interview with NIKKEI TRENDY this March, Mr. Matsuda announced that “there will be a surprise this year.” Is it safe to assume that this move is part of that surprise?

Matsuda: I said that, didn’t I (laughs). Yes, that is correct.

Striving for a Heroic RPG that Everyone Can Enjoy

―Please let us in on the concept and planning of what is currently being created at TRF.

M: The extent of what I personally requested was for the creation of a brand new JRPG. “I want to make a new IP.” “I want the expertise of a bunch of creators to be gathered to create an oudou (Authentic, decent) JRPG.” That’s all, really. After that, I believe that the creation process has been centered around Mr. Hashimoto and the others.

H: Our focus consists of two points: that it is a JRPG, and that it is an oudou (Authentic, decent) game. We have gathered a group of people who played, and were skillful at, the oudou RPGs that SQEX created back in the age of Super Nintendo(Super NES®), and are working with them.

―So the bunch you’ve gathered are people who passionately played JRPGs as kids.

H: That’s right. We are trying to give shape to the memories of those fun times. Of course, we are going to arrange it to suit modern tastes.

―Speaking of which, what is the oudou RPG that the two of you have in mind?

M: I won’t say anything beyond the fact that it is an oudou RPG.

H: That’s not fair, is it? (laughs)

M: If I were to state, “I think that something like this is an oudou RPG,” it would implicitly become an order—“Make something like this.” Therefore my request consisted of only the term “*oudou* RPG. Lately, the world is seeing fewer and fewer oudou RPGs. I want the members of TRF to create something of that sort.

―Mr. Matsuda says that he wants the creators to create an oudou RPG that they themselves come up with. Well then Mr. Hashimoto, what do you think is an oudou RPG?

H: Well… To make me explicate my theory on oudou on the spot, that’s an awful lot of pressure, isn’t it? (laughs) I think that in general, the essential property of an oudou is the universality that makes it fun and acceptable for anyone who plays it. I am the type to end up creating something in the core direction if I don’t watch myself, so in order for that not to happen, I am taking care to prepare content that anyone would feel comfortable with.

The next point is how easy it is to understand. For example, the kind of manga that is published in shonen manga magazines. No matter which shonen manga you read, they are all extremely easy to understand, right? I believe that an oudou is something that is filled with the experiences that everyone has had as kids, and other easy-to-understand elements. While ensuring that those elements are not left out, yet not creating something exactly the same, we’re trying to produce a “new oudou” that captures our essence.

M: If I were to state one more reason we decided to create a “new JRPG,” it is because I wondered if we could make a game that would remain in people’s memories for a long, long time.

―Indeed, the Final Fantasy series, Dragon Quest series, Chrono Trigger, and many other titles that SQEXHD has produced to date are ones that remain in people’s memories.

M: I do bear the hope that the gaming experience that we provide will be memorable for our users. “Make something that will do that” is all I have been saying. If I were to make any additional demands, that would affect the contents of the game, so I don’t say anything beyond that. I am also looking forward to seeing what kind of work will be produced in the end.

―With “oudou” as a theme, I believe that certain aspects will be tailored to fit the era. First instance, whether to make it an online game, thanks to the Internet, or whether to make it an offline game. Whether it is meant for consoles, or for smartphones. At this moment, what kind of ideas or challenges do you have in mind?

H: That’s a difficult question. (laughs) There are a lot of fundamentals to think about, but we are being careful to consider how we will change the game’s presentation from the conventional. It’s not so much the difference between online or offline, but rather, I believe that if we take a different perspective on conventional games, we can provide an entirely different work.

―By “take a different perspective,” do you mean with the game’s scenario, or the environment, or what aspects do you mean?

H: To put it plainly, it might actually mean the way we sell it. I believe that the content and the fundamentals of the game itself are very important. Rather than deliberately trying to go for something unconventional, we want to make something that is genuinely interesting; something that we believe everyone surely desires. In addition, we are considering in what form we can provide this to a vast number of people. We want to change the presentation in order for the game to reach more people. Of course, there are aspects of the game’s content that we are taking challenges with. In terms of the story, we’d like to develop something that anybody can relate to. With regard to the type of game, while holding the fundamental essence of the game with the utmost importance; we’d like create something that would both be nostalgic to those who enjoyed playing JRPGs back in the day, and still be fun to play even with the addition of new elements.

Page 2: About “Project SETSUNA”

© 2015 Tokyo RPG Factory Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

This is a Tokyo Otaku Mode original article.

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