Interview: Keiji Inafune

Interview: Keiji Inafune

Known to many as the father of Mega Man, the title is one Capcom global head of production, Keiji Inafune claims he doesn’t deserve. But as an executive producer his influence has been seen across many Capcom titles, including the Onimusha series, Lost Planet and most recently working with western developers on Bionic Commando and Dark Void.

His latest project, Dead Rising 2, is currently being developed by the Vancouver-based Blue Castle Games. We caught up with him at E3 to talk about the challenges Capcom have faced working with western developers, struggling with the Japanese ratings board and just why Frank West had to be so ugly.

Global head of production at Capcom, Keiji Inafune

Previous collaborations between Capcom and western developers have led to games that "felt" Western but Dead Rising 2 feels as Japanese as its predecessor. Is that a response to those earlier titles’ failure?
I don’t want to go back and badmouth past projects, but with some of the collaborative projects that weren’t successful the mistake was made at the very beginning as we didn’t know how to manage the approach to development. Were we to adopt the western model, or maintain the traditional Japanese Capcom model? In the initial stages we’d find the developers would tell us "we want to make a western style game, so you have to let us use our own development style and methodology," and Capcom, being still quite new to collaborating with western developers, would agree to step back and only check in from time to time.

This led to games that stopped feeling like Capcom games. Instead they were just more western titles that could have been published by pretty much anyone. So this time with Blue Castle what we’ve really tried to do is bridge the gap and make the game a true collaboration. Unlike any other developers, Blue Castle came to us saying they wanted to make a Capcom game; that they wanted to use our methods. As Capcom wanted to make this game in the west the desire to collaborate was really strong on both sides, and that’s reflected in the finished product which shows a lot of Japanese design elements but partnered with a western studio’s expertise.

Vehicles can turn the tide when beset on all sides by the undead

What has Blue Castle brought to the project?
There are some elements that Blue Castle had a lot of influence over. The shooting mechanic, for one. As a western developer they are really tuned into that aesthetic, so they’ve revamped those mechanics and they feel a lot better than they did before. They did the same thing for the driving mechanics. We had some vehicles in the first Dead Rising but I think they controlled really poorly. Once again they were able to bring a lot of expertise to bear on how the vehicles would control, be it automobiles or motorcycles.

Creatively, they had a lot of importance too. For example: over half of the weapons in the game are based on ideas from Blue Castle. Obviously, they can relate far better to the location and setting being based in North America, so they were able to come up with the kind of ideas that might not strike a Japanese developer. Like a lawnmower. Not a lot of people have a lawn in Japan, so there’s not a lot of lawnmowing; it’s really the kind of thing we could never have come up with alone.