What Guillaume was just talking about is a classic example of an idea being something which solves multiple issues at once 29. This is something that Shigeru Miyamoto always says. I feel that you had several problems in the beginning, but with one idea managed to ultimately solve them and move the project in the right direction.29 These words came up in a discussion titled “The Definition of Idea” between Shigesato Itoi of Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun and Satoru Iwata.
That’s very true.
Gabrielle, you were working close to Guillaume during this time. What’s your take on this?
What amazed me was that the more we optimized the Wii U GamePad for survival horror, new features seemed to come out organically. For example, even though you are usually very much alone when you play survival horror, we decided to include the Prepper30 who speaks to you like through a walkie talkie, using the Wii U GamePad directly. 30 The Prepper: An unseen character in ZombiU who guides players by giving advice on survival and self-sufficiency techniques. Named after individuals who subscribe to the concept of Survivalism, actively preparing for real-world emergencies such as natural disasters or the general collapse of society.
You never see him, but he gives you support with lots of things, right?
The Prepper speaks to you in a mysterious voice directly from the Wii U GamePad. There’s a lot of interest in the fact that Wii U has two screens, but actually people may not be aware that you have another set of speakers on the Wii U GamePad too. The presence of these speakers is something that’s just as ground-breaking as having two screens, and it’s something that allows for a level of immersion that you didn’t have before.
Having a voice guide you means you don’t have to read pieces of text each time, so there is merit to using it in the story.
I think that having to read text from the TV is an aspect of games that actually a lot of people hate, both developers and players. Having not just sound come from the Wii U GamePad but also being able to read text on it is actually surprisingly important. The UI31 actually includes a very elegant animation for the page turning, it’s just like reading an e-book. 31 UI: Short for ‘user interface’. The display, windows and menus a user interacts with when using a computer.
The Wii U GamePad can do a lot of things. Playing around with it to find out exactly how you can make use of it in the context of a survival horror theme has helped you to clearly demonstrate its value, making it into something that feels immediate and dynamic.
Experiencing part of the game right in your lap certainly makes things more immediate. It’s something that’s wonderful to behold and also allows our artists to express their skills in a completely new way.
In what ways can they express themselves?
The artists always want to do an interface-free screen. But until now, this is something that hasn’t been a realistic option. But with ZombiU, apart from a few specific moments, there’s no game-related display on the television screen – you just have the in-game world. This is because you have all the information you need on the Wii U GamePad.
Ah, I see. It gives rise to many different benefits.
That’s right. It’s something that the artists are very grateful for.
Yves, when you announced Killer Freaks at E3 2011, I took part in a developer’s round table discussion with you and the Ubisoft team and we shook hands on it. What did you think when you heard from your team that they wanted to change it to a zombie game after having announced it like that?
(Laughs) I was actually fond of the idea of changing the whole concept. We talked just now about how zombies move towards you slowly. In the end, making use of that concept allowed us to respond to all kinds of issues and questions in development, and was really the best solution in terms of getting the most out of the Wii U hardware.
I remember Yves coming into a meeting one day and saying “What about zombies?”
What? So you mean it was all your idea to completely upturn the tea table, Yves? (Laughs)
He was responsible for the darkness. (Laughs)
So it wasn’t that the team changed the concept Yves had announced, but rather that Yves himself changed the concept?
Well, as none of these guys objected to it, you could call it a collective decision. They couldn’t say no!
All the pieces fell into place in the right way in the end, but actually we had already begun to look into developing a new world design and characters for the original concept of Killer Freaks. Maybe it would have been some new kind of enemy, or maybe it wouldn’t have been set in London…
That’s something else I wanted to ask you. Why is a game created by French people set not in Paris, but in London?
With the Olympics being in London and the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations this year, London was in the centre of the world’s attention and a city that everyone felt a connection with. That was one of the reasons for setting the game in London. But a more fundamental reason was that London is a city with a history of horrific things, like Jack the Ripper32. We figured it was a suitable setting for the dark world of this game. 32 Jack The Ripper: Name given to the perpetrator of a series of unsolved murders in London in 1888.
Come to think of it, London has that kind of atmosphere too…
London has both modern and medieval settings, and it’s a place that a lot of people want to visit. It’s also near France, meaning we could actually go there too!
Right. It’s not so far from us. Some journalists might say that the game allows us to beat on the English! (Laughs) Seriously though, it seems that the zombie genre started in US culture and then sort of infected the world.
It’s certainly true when you think that the US is the birthplace of people’s favourite movies in the genre.
Having said that though, since you don't find medieval and modern locations co-habiting in the US, London seems like a much more original setting for that. Instead of seeing the typical baseball bat, we could switch it out for the famous cricket bat, and also change the characters so that you would be encountering the beefeaters in their traditional costumes and the royal guards. The country itself is also known for great social conflict, so all these contrasts made London a really interesting setting for us to explore.