Interview: Goichi Suda

Interview: Goichi Suda

Grasshopper Manufacture’s logo says in big bold letters that ‘Punk’s Not Dead.’ That might strike some as a little try hard. But you can’t say the studio doesn’t try hard: think of GHM and you think of neon collages, sharp edges, and lots of gratuitous swearing. Its latest project, Shadows Of The Damned, is a collaboration with Shinji Mikami and Electronic Arts – and surprisingly GHM’s first attempt at HD visuals. We sat down with studio head Goichi Suda, aka Suda-51, to discuss the game, the partners, and find out what he means by ‘Psychological Action Thriller.’

Where did this project start?
When I was making Killer 7 I had plenty of ideas, and some of them came to shape this game. I told Mikami-san at the time about them and he expressed his interest in making it in the future with me. After a while, I was able to announce the collaboration with EA two years ago. Then the conditions were right for Mikami-san and myself to work together.

You revealed a project, ‘Kurayami’, a while ago in Edge – is this game now Shadows Of The Damned?
I believe some of that project’s essence is indeed present in Shadows Of The Damned. But they’re two different titles.

The trailer channeled some famous actors and movies. Are these your main inspirations when coming up with a game concept?
I don’t especially try to mimic or get my inspiration like that. But I guess my personal hobbies and points of interest took me over when designing the game’s world. I wanted the hero to have some Spanish or South American kind of charisma. Maybe Benicio Del Toro is the incarnation of that idea. I wanted to deliver a kind of cool hero that’s never been seen in a game yet: in the end, this is the character I wanted.

The world is the representation of the nightmare inside my head. Yep, inside my head: it’s just like that! It all began with one nightmare, I spread it to my staff, and now it’s theirs!

This is your first experience with the Unreal Engine. How was the learning curve?
This is indeed our first experience with Unreal, and it’s also our first HD project. It took us a lot of time and energy to understand that engine. It took us roughly two years to achieve the visuals we have today.

With a thirdperson action game, you’re entering a pretty crowded market
We wanted to make an action game but, having said that, we had to decide what kind of action game we were about to develop. Yeah, there are tonnes of them already on the market. The challenge was to create an experience that’s refreshing, original enough to stand out in a very crowded genre. We knew it had to be some kind of punk style, as that’s become the signature of our studio, and EA provided lots of advice to help us shape our project. Their input was invaluable.

In what area?
We’re aiming at a large western market with this game and we need a clear understanding of it. We learned a lot listening from EA’s experience. It’s hard to put it in words, but there are various feelings and styles they helped us with so that what we mean by ‘cool’ would also mean something to western users. It taught us the difference between our creative work and theirs. We were able to fill any gaps we had in our knowledge, any misconceptions we may have had. I believe this is going to be big for our future.