Suda 51 and the Punk Spirit
Killer 7 director Suda 51’s definition of “punk” in games isn’t all about sticking it to the man, rather a careful balance between artistry and commercialism—but in the end, the art aspect will always win with such a game punk.
Grasshopper Manufacture president Goichi Suda, or Suda 51, said that there are two types of directors: business-oriented and artist-types. The business-oriented directors “like to be lucrative” and create games at the request of a publisher, while artist-types create a game without thinking about the time frame or budget, he told an intent GDC audience.
But in the modern packaged-product, global videogame market, it’s tough to satisfy your publisher while trying to be a Johnny Rotten director. He explained that being happy with the end result requires a bit of both personalities. “I think basically, all game developers have to be business oriented, because the request from clients is the most important thing,” said Suda.
However, when it comes down to it, artistry wins out over any commercial pursuits in Grasshopper’s case, and that’s what he calls the “punk spirit.”
“There are so many big games and big titles, but most of them are copycat… these games are important, but it’s really hard to find a [different kind of] game” Suda said. “…I really hate doing things that other people do.”
Suda hopes that his next title, No More Heroes, reflects this desire to do something different.
True “punk” is often equated an anti-authority mentality. As a game director, however, Suda said that faith in Killer 7 producer Shinji Mikami (who incidentally created Resident Evil) helped him make a game that he considers “punk.”
For instance, before Killer 7 was finished, Mikami told Suda to visit E3 and see what the US audience likes playing. Suda found that free-roaming style games were popular. However, Killer 7 was envisioned on rails; a set track that the player is forced to follow. He knew then that Killer 7 wouldn’t be popular in the US.
He asked himself and Mikami, “Should we change Killer 7 to a free-running game or should we keep it as a rail game?” Suda knew the answer: “I felt that rather than selling a lot, I went with the idea that I came up with originally.” Mikami told him to go ahead with his original idea, even though they both knew that the gameplay probably wouldn’t fly with US audiences.
“Our job is to create the game to reflect the belief of producers,” Suda said. “…Producers, if they are good, they will be promoted and they will be the head of the publishers. So we’ll be benefiting from their promotion as well. [As we] believe in producers, we are [supporting out games],” he said.
Suda said that a truly punk game will strike a chord with gamers the same way the Sex Pistols, Joy Division or Nirvana impacted his view of music. “We need to create that kind of game… I’d like to ask publishers to help us and support us [to make more punk games],” he said.