Today I'm talking with Enomoto-san, creator of the "Pro Evolution Soccer" series1 and the man responsible for pulling everything together at Konami2 as executive producer. In light of the upcoming release of the latest title in the "PES" series for the Nintendo 3DS system, "PES 2011 3D - Pro Evolution Soccer"3, I thought I'd like to sit down and talk with you about the game, including things from your perspective as creator. Thank you for taking the time to come by today. 1 "Pro Evolution Soccer" series: A football game series which began with "J. League Winning Eleven" in July of 1995. Known as the "Winning Eleven" series in Japan. Hereafter referred to as "PES". 2 Konami: Konami Digital Entertainment Co., Ltd. 3 “PES 2011 3D – Pro Evolution Soccer”: The latest game in the PES series, slated to be released on the same day in Europe as the Nintendo 3DS system, 25 March 2011.
Thank you for having me.
I heard you were born in 1958, Enomoto-san. I was born in 1959, so we're practically the same age, and I think we probably have many experiences in common. We are the generation that saw the dawn of video games, and for the past 25 years, we've watched them transform.
Back then, there was no established way to make video games, so our generation had no masters from which we could learn game production. We had to learn by thinking everything out for ourselves as we worked, all the time. That was the starting point of our craft, and I'm sure we share common experiences there as well.
You're right. It seems to me that, when video game making know-how was not established yet, how many times we repeated the process of making and destroying prototypes or how persistently we kept at it until things were as we'd wanted them to be, decided whether or not we were able to accomplish what we really wanted to make. It wasn't like now, where all the tools are there waiting and your ideas can immediately be displayed on the screen for your review.
It’s quite the contrary in game creation today. We make games by perfecting the tools we use that can instantly reflect the data we've created on to the developing software. We focus on figuring out how to program the data while cutting down on the need for help from others, so we can focus on how many trials and errors we can make. I think this is a result of our generation's history: we couldn't change the smallest bit of data without help from someone else, so we kept thinking of ways to automate. By the way, Enomoto-san, I heard you were originally in charge of sound?
That's correct. I was responsible for the sound for "PES". Since I was familiar with football, soon after I joined Konami I went on to become head of production for the whole game around 1994, and here I am today. You could say I've come all this way completely immersed in "PES".
One of the topics I'd like to ask you about today is why "PES" became "PES". Just now, you said quite casually that you were 'familiar with football'. To me, it seems as though "PES" has grown into a brand that holds a large place among the football games that are released, and that through its process of growth, football games themselves have changed drastically. I'm interested to know what happened there, what sort of things you overcame, and what led to the establishment of the "PES" series brand that we have today.
According to the producer of "PES", Shingo Takatsuka4, "The offense and defence in football games are like those in fighting games." He says, "In short, the difference is that you steal the ball from each other instead of trading punches." 4 Shingo Takatsuka: The general producer of the "Pro Evolution Soccer" series.
That's really interesting. I've never associated football games with fighting games, but if you look at football as a combat sport, reading the other side's offense and defence really is the same as it would be in a fighting game. 'If my opponent comes at me this way, I'll kick it that way', that sort of thing…
Yes. He was incredibly skilled at striking that balance. Just as with fighting games, I think it's the pattern of offense and defence.
It's true that offense and defence are integrated in both football and combat. Things that can cause great damage to your opponent also tend to create holes in your defence. For that reason, how you read each other and what tactics you use becomes key.
Right. Another point is that, in previous football games, structurally, the ball and the athlete stuck together. In other words, when the ball came near the athlete, it would naturally be drawn to the athlete's feet. Our objective, then, was how to separate the athlete and the ball.
Then you're saying that the first game to separate the athlete and the ball, and to deeply integrate strategy in offense and defence, was "PES"?
Yes, that's how it started.
I see. But I get the impression that "PES" hasn't stopped evolving, even after transformations such as those. Every year, its depth and intricacy keep changing. What's the secret there?
First of all, the production staff watches all sorts of football matches, particularly European matches, over and over. Unless we understand what sort of actions football itself is composed of, we can't render them in the game. Our ultimate destination is to experience through a video game all the things that you'd find in real football, and our ultimate goal is to express in the game everything that happens in the stadium.
In other words, as you're making the game, you're always thinking about how to fit scenes – no matter what type of scenes they are, so long as they occur in real football – into "PES". You really couldn't keep that up unless all of you liked football, could you?
Very true. It's only for a short period, but during the planning stages of production, we watch videos of matches that we'd like to recreate, and we do it exhaustively.
But there are all sorts of things in sports where you don't know how much came from conscious practice on the athlete's part beforehand, and how things miraculously came together from a split-second judgment call. With football in particular, there are dramatic transformations in the game that are triggered by chance. For example, you see lots of cases where one pass changes the whole atmosphere of the match.
Yes. But if that happened every time, it would destroy the balance of the game. I think the balance between offense and defence involves thinking about the point at which such things should occur, and what the probability of them doing so should be. If things happen a lot, the score gets too high, and it becomes a hole in the AI5. 5 AI: An abbreviation of "Artificial Intelligence". In games, it refers to technology that uses a computer program to implement decisions, thoughts and actions that simulate those of a human player.
Unless you're careful to strike that balance, it won't feel like real football. In practice, from a creator's point of view, how many of the things you want to do have been completed in the current "PES"?
Well… I don't think they've been "completed" at all.
I see. In a sense, "PES" is a real life's work for you.
Yes. Even though we've been doing this for 10 years, I don't feel as though we're even close to capturing real football.
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