[Interview] The Masterminds behind the C-Virus outbreak shed some light on Resident Evil 6
While trying to steal a sample of the C-Virus from Capcom's booth at Gamescom, I accidentally ran into a few developers working on Resident Evil 6. Since world domination could surely wait for another hour or so, I decided take the opportunity and sit down to have a talk with the game's executive producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi, producer Yoshiaki Hirabayashi and director Eiichiro Sasaki.
Andrej: Resident Evil 6 is like a best-of compilation of previous Resident Evil titles with different characters from older games, gameplay styles and other elements. Where can the series go from here?
Kobayashi: Well first I have to say that it's not so much like we're trying to bring everything from past Resident Evils and put it into this game. The director, Sasaki-san, was looking to make a game with an ensemble cast. Personally I wanted to see Leon in the game and he wanted to put Chris in the game and then we said "okay, we have this new character Jake" and so it ended up that we started having seven protagonists, so it was really the needs of the story, that's what we wanted to put into the game.
As to where the series goes from here, RE6 is really the culmination of everything that came with Resident Evil 4 and 5 and that's why we have the game as it is now. What we'll have to do is put the game out there, see how players react to it and what they say about it and then that will give us an impetus for where we go next. Right now we haven't really given much thought about the series' new direction.
Andrej: Would you be interested in making another classic oldschool Resident Evil experience if the market would allow for it, with tank controls and everything?
Kobayashi: Well...first of all I have to say that I'm very happy that there would be a lot of people out there that would consider the oldschool Resident Evil games to be such a classic gaming experience, but from my perspective I don't think that current-gen consoles are designed for that oldschool kind of an experience, you would be doing them a disservice to put that kind of an experience on the current generation of consoles. But that doesn't mean it's completely out of the question; if there was really a ground-swell of support for that type of Resident Evil game, then maybe we could look at doing it in a way that doesn't impact the current generation of consoles, find another platform or delivery system for it.
Andrej: The next question is about Resident Evil.Net, which was unveiled yesterday. We were wondering: Is RE.Net a product of the outrage about the whole on-disc DLC situation with Capcom, or was that planned right from the beginning? With RE.net you can unlock new costumes and characters, which would usually be sold as DLC, so does this reflect a change in Capcom's policies?
Sasaki: (laughs) RE.net was basically designed from the beginning to be complementary to the story of RE6, so that was already hit upon at the beginning of production and it wasn't a reaction to any issues related to DLC. And for us, one of the big things about RE.Net is that it's a free service for the fans. I mean there is DLC that will cost money but that's something else, and there's different ways you can get services to players out there, and this is just one of those services, and this I really think expands upon the experience.
Andrej: And following up on that, a question from one of our readers: Ada Wong has recently been revealed as an unlockable character with her own campaign. Will there be another way to unlock her, like via DLC, if you don't want to play through the whole game?
Hirabayashi: I understand that it would come to that, I mean there's a lot of content in RE6, so there are people who WILL clear the game and then unlock Ada's campaign and then there are those who just don't wanna worry about all that and just play with Ada from the beginning. I understand that, so we are thinking of some way in which we can allow people access to Ada, but we haven't made an announcement about that yet.
Andrej: A more personal question: What's your favorite campaign?
Kobayashi: I guess for me it would be Leon. (laughs) But of course with this game you have four storylines that comprise one major storyline, so the fact that all of these come together into one coherent story I think is pretty amazing. So for me to break it up even is kind of weird. I think just the fact that RE6 is complete with all these storylines together is pretty amazing.
Hirabayashi: I'm not trying to go in order of the campaign, but for me it's Chris, and it's not because Chris is in it so much, it's because of the new character, Pierce. I really like Pierce in this game and if you play Chris' campaign and you get to the end I think everyone who plays it is really gonna like Pierce as well. I can't help but like him. Also Chris' campaign itself is just really good, we already showed that stage where you have that invisible snake fighting Chris' team and I think it's just really well done, so for me it's his campaign that's the best.
Sasaki: For me it would be Jake. He's the new character in the game and for the team creating him it was really hard work for them to get Jake just right. Since he's a new character we had to put all this effort into him, from me myself, the writer, the producers, everyone trying to come together and create this character out of nothing, even the motion capture actor as well, trying to finetune Jake's personality and make sure that he's the type of character that can go toe-to-toe with all the classic Resident Evil heroes in this game. You wanted to make sure that he was really gonna be part of this game and be really awesome. I'm really looking forward to see how players react to Jake, because we've put so much effort into him.
Kobayashi: You have those other characters who have appeared previously in the games and now this is the director's kind of "seal of design" on the game itself, by creating this new character.
Andrej: Resident Evil 6 is a really huge game with lots of elements and storylines. What was the general philosophy behind the game? Did you want to try to incorporate many different gameplay elements or were the gameplay elements necessary because of the story, or did they just want to bring back a lot of characters from the past like Sherry Birkin? Basically what came first, the gameplay or the story and characters?
Sasaki: Well for me what I wanted to do is create this really dramatic story set in the RE universe. I've told that story before, but that scene with Chris and Leon, pointing their guns at each other; I had a concept art for that and I showed it to Kobayashi-san and said "This is what RE6 is about." And that's kind of where it started. From there, we wanted to see how we could make a dramatic story for RE6 and so the story and gameplay were kinda developed in tandem with each other because they needed to play off each other. And as was said earlier I wanted to make sure I had this ensemble cast and all these characters would have their different storylines that would merge together and would really ramp up the dramatic elements in the game. So basically our scriptwriters and our designers, we had them sit down together and go back and forth to make sure that the storylines were playing off each other, like for example you wouldn't want characters going off on their own, right? So we had to make sure that's part of the story, and part of the level design as well. And I think we've accomplished that by making this a really dramatic experience.
Andrej: Were there any influences to the game like from movies, or childhood experiences?
Sasaki: There are a lot. (laughs) For example let's take Chris' campaign. When you start with his campaign you start from a position of comfort and relative safety, because you're in this big group and you're working together to take on this biohazard incident. And because you have so many people on your team you feel relatively safe but the way that we were able to bring out the horror element in Chris' campaign is the fact that through the course of his campaign his men are getting picked off one by one, each of them is being killed. And what I told the designers of the game to keep in mind was the Alien movies, because that fear of not knowing who's gonna die next and when they're gonna die, that's something I wanted to recreate in this game. So that was a touchstone for the development.
Hirabayashi: One of the good things about using a cultural reference point like the Alien movies is this: We have a large staff creating this game, about 150 people internally and with external members over 600 people are involved in the production of this game. So when the director says he's going for a feel like Alien, that's shorthand for a certain experience that everyone's able to immediately latch onto and then they can all go forth and try to realize the director's vision because you've given them that shorthand. So using cultural touchstones like that is really an easy way of solidifying communication between the various members.
Andrej: Last question, about the Agent Hunt mode. Were there any problems or obstacles to overcome, like getting the monster controls down or issues with the balance?
Sasaki: The thing with Agent Hunt is, we weren't trying to make a versus multiplayer experience. What it is, we're taking the campaign and you're allowed to go into the campaign as one of the enemy creatures and attack the players. And so we have lots of crossover elements in this game as you know, so this allows you to see the players going through some tough experiences from the enemy's point of view, and that's what we thought would be interesting. So because you're going into the main game as one of the enemies, we didn't make it so you could have these instant kills as the enemy. The player who's playing as the heroes in the game, they're still in a better position, they're still stronger obviously as in normal gameplay. So what you have to do is you can't just attack head-on when you're trying to take down one of the people playing as the heroes in the game. If you play with, say, 2 people you can work together, so if one of the hero-players is busy with one of the AI-controlled enemies, you and your friend can sneak behind and get in an attack, so there's an element of strategy involved when using these characters. So that's where the balancing issues come in. We understand the appeal of playing as an enemy and killing other players, so we're working on another mode where you can play in such a fashion and the controls for that mode will be different from what they are in Agent Hunt, they will be more like those of a typical multiplayer game.
Andrej: I guess we can't get any details about that right now?
Sasaki: (laughs) We don't have much time left until the game comes out so we have to have a few secrets until then. As you probably know from our announcements up until now, we have a lot of features in RE6 including what we announced here at Gamescom, RE.Net. So we want to make sure that every time we have an event like this we're bringing new information so it's not a rehash like "oh, I already heard that at the last show" or whatever. So like I said, our release date's coming up on us so we'll try to get as much new information as we can before the release of the game.
After the interview I also got the chance to take the game out for a spin and see what all the fuss is about. You can check out my hands-on report here.
Special thanks to Miguel Corti for translating like a boss, Ben Le Rougetel for taking notes and of course to Kobayashi-san, Sasaki-san and Hirabayashi-san for taking the time!
Oh, and on a completely unrelated note: You should probably all stick to bottled water for a while.