If everything went smoothly only up through the prototype, then it must not have gone smoothly afterward. What happened, Ebisu-san?
The basic idea of this project was providing players with something enjoyable through a distinctive manner of expression and mechanisms derived from that manner of expression.
You were able to come up with a variety of new mechanisms by using the yarn and cloth motif.
Right. At first we were trying to make a game that would be fun simply having a yarn character walk around and unravel a variety of mechanisms and contrivances. But when we played it as an action game, the enemies wouldn’t entangle you and the difficulty level was extremely low, so we felt something was missing. I think Matsumiya-san also thought it was boring.
Was it boring, Matsumiya-san?
It was. To be honest, it was hard to stay motivated. It didn’t have what every action game needs: tension over enemies, traps, and how you can overcome them. The world of yarn atmosphere was great, but when you actually played the game, not so much so. What’s more, it was easy to play, but when Watanabe-san - who isn’t very good at action games - played it, she wasn’t really enjoying herself.
Watanabe-san, you weren’t having fun?
Well, the atmosphere alone was fun for about the first two stages, but…
The atmosphere was fun, but while you were playing it, it got tedious. So for both video game lovers and people who merely dabble in gaming…
It wouldn’t please either type.
Right. I thought, “This is tough.”
No matter how new and appealing the atmosphere may be, when you try to make something fun simply by lowering the difficulty and using a neat atmosphere, that fun wears off.
Yes, that’s right. We were pretty lost around that time. The difficulty level was really easy, but then it got really difficult. When it was difficult, the levels were full of thorns.
The world of yarn was full of thorns? (laughs)
Yeah. There were thorns everywhere. (laughs) There were thorns up above and thorns down below. You’d think someplace was soft and jump down, but an enemy with thorns would be lying in wait. I really liked the yarn motif, so I thought, “Why am I experiencing something so harsh in this fun-looking world of yarn?” I was saying things like, “This isn’t what I want to do in this cute world of yarn!” I think that was during a period when Sei-san was increasing the difficulty to provide some thrills.
At that time, we couldn’t get a good picture of the game as a whole. We were making a bunch of mechanisms, and I kept thinking an idea was sure to pop up some time or another, but time kept marching on. Then, while we were in that lost condition, Nintendo said, “Why not make it a Kirby game?”
About when was that?
Around the summer of 2009.
What did you think about using Kirby?
When we made our original character, I thought it faintly resembled someone. (laughs)
Faintly, uh-huh… (laughs)
The resemblance was there, but we had thought of it on our own, and as one of the creators I was happy to see it used. So, to be honest, I had mixed feelings when Nintendo suggested using Kirby. But when we tried making Kirby out of yarn, I was surprised by how well it worked.
Was that because Kirby was already a well-recognised character?
I think so. When we made a well-known character out of yarn, it just felt right and had impact. I remember talking with Sei-san about how amazing it was.
I was really surprised by how Kirby turned out. It felt like the game had gained a new appeal by making an already existing character like Kirby out of yarn. He was a perfect match for this project, and I was struck by how cute he looked.
Kono-san, you designed the first character, so you must have been disgruntled.
Hmm, well… When I was making the first character, I wanted to make it with one single piece of yarn. And I wanted to make use of the texture of yarn to create a soft, warm, cute character. That meant I needed a simple design, so I started with a round shape, and it needed legs, so I added legs, and then cute eyes.
That’s starting to sound similar to someone we know. (laughs)
Yeah. (laughs) Kirby was already a complete character, so when I designed our original character, I wondered how we could distinguish it from him. When Nintendo suggested using Kirby, I decided to try making him with the actual dev kit. When I did, I thought, “Oh, this is perfect!” (laughs)
I didn’t think we could compete with Kirby’s simplicity.
As the ones who made the suggestion, we thought that the game would be easier to make if you could borrow the already established world of Kirby, which we thought was compatible with a world made of yarn. We were, however, a little worried about trampling on the feelings of people who had wanted to create an entirely original game. But it sounds like you were more accepting of it than I thought.
I suppose we were. That was a period when the staff was lost and didn’t want to tackle anything new, but when I said, “Make Kirby,” they had fun doing it.
But... You’re not just saying that to smooth things over, are you? Don’t hold back just because people from HAL Laboratory are listening behind us! (laughs)
Well, to be perfectly honest… We’d been lost for so long that we felt like we were teetering on the edge of a cliff and the project might get cancelled at any time. So every time I got a call from Matsumiya-san, I went (holding his stomach), “Unnngh…”
Huh? You were? (laughs)
But when we got the suggestion to use Kirby, I thought, “We just got a new lease of life!”
We thought we could get out of our rut by adapting the game to the world of Kirby.
Did development go smoothly after that?
No. There was another crisis about what to do when a player messes up…
I was the one who made a suggestion about that. It’s supposed to be a gentle world full of yarn, so I wasn’t sure about returning a player back to the beginning when you get hit by an enemy or fall in a pit. But Good-Feel said action games have to have risk and that if they don’t, they lose their excitement, so we wrestled over that a bit.
As a team, we were extremely opposed to the idea of an action game where the game wasn’t over when an enemy got you. We debated that for quite a long time.
But if you think about it, the majority of Good-Feel’s members have mostly worked on fun, light hearted action games rather than real hardcore action games. So we thought it would be fine if we just made a fun game the way we’re good at. We eventually adopted the attitude of making individual mechanisms and contrivances that would be fun for players to overcome.
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