The first game you made for the Famicom was Best Play Pro Baseball11, wasn’t it?
That’s right. That began with the PC title, Best Nine Pro Baseball12, and then we worked on a Famicom version.11. Best Play Pro Baseball: a baseball simulation game released in July 1988 in Japan by ASCII Corporation. Titles in the same series were released for Game Boy Advance and personal computers.12. Best Nine Pro Baseball: A baseball simulation game released for personal computers in 1984 in Japan by ASCII Corporation.
Why did you decide to make a baseball game?
Well, as we touched upon earlier, making baseball games was a dream I’d had ever since I was a child. I mean, I used to make those games and play them myself.
So in a sense, it was inevitable that you’d make one.
Yes, I would say so.
So how long did it take you to make Best Nine Pro Baseball for PC, the first baseball game you made?
I started work on it right after joining ASCII Corporation13, and it took a year or two to get it into its final shape.13. ASCII Corporation: A Japanese publishing company founded in 1977 that released specialist computer magazines and software. Now known as ASCII Media Works, a subsidiary of Kadokawa Corporation.
Did you do it all yourself?
Yes, I did. I worked on everything from the original design to the programming, and even wrote the manual and offered user support. I did it all on my own.
So the person who created the software was actually there, responding to users’ queries? (laughs)
That’s right! (laughs)
So working on the game by yourself, I take it the development process went precisely as you would have wanted.
No, that’s not the case at all. In fact, I wasn’t allowed to even work on it.
Huh? What do you mean by that?
Well, ASCII Corporation didn’t have a software development department.
Ah, okay. It was a publishing company, wasn’t it?
Right, and I was an editor. The department I belonged to was one that published games, so the idea was that we would get part-time employees to program software that we would then release. But I really wanted to make games myself, so when I started programming at work, my boss got angry at me and told me to stop messing around!
I guess it looked like you were playing a game! (laughs)
Right! (laughs) So that meant I had no choice but to take it home and work on it there. I was juggling two different jobs: I was working as an editor at the office, and then I was going home in order to carry on working...
Working as a part-time programmer! (laughs)
Yes, yes! That’s exactly what it was like! (laughs)
So you were doing the work of two people. But at least those two people got on, I suppose! (laughs)
But as you can imagine, I wasn’t getting my editing work done at the office, so I was always getting into trouble.
So when you finally finished this baseball game that took you two years to make, what did your colleagues make of it?
Well, I can’t say I remember it all that well. I mean, back then we didn’t really have a system in place for evaluating software. We didn’t even have a real debugging process. There wasn’t a fixed schedule for the software’s development, so this meant that I didn’t have any deadlines to work to...
Well, you were the one who had commissioned the work, and you were also the programmer working on it at home, so I suppose you could have just kept working on it indefinitely... (laughs)
Exactly! But I knew that I’d have to finish it at some point, so I decided to master what I had made and then presented it to my boss, saying “I’ve done it!” He just responded with a simple “Ah, okay.” And it was released pretty much right away.
“Ah, okay”! (laughs) I remember the days when there was that rather laid back approach to things, so I know exactly what you mean.
I have absolutely no recollection of how well it sold, but it was released for the FM-7...
I suppose the small number of those computers would have limited sales...
Precisely. So when we were thinking about our next step, I was told to put it out on the Famicom. I was pretty much ordered to do it, but I wasn’t given any tools to develop the software on.
So you were simply told: “Do what you have to do to put this game out on the Famicom!” (laughs)
That’s it. Now, the only computer I had was my own FM-7, so I had no choice but to use the OASYS14 word processor that I shared with everyone else at the company because I could input Japanese characters with the machine.14. OASYS: A Japanese-language word processor first released by Fujitsu in 1980.
Japanese word processors must allow for Japanese input. (laugh) But I get your point. With FM-7, you could not input complete Japanese character sets. So, I take it you used the OASYS to come up with a specification document.
That’s right. I came up with a specification document on the OASYS which showed how each screen would follow on from the one before, and so on. Then after some time, I was finally given a PC-9815.15. PC-98: A series of home computers released in Japan by NEC. The 16-bit PC-9801 was released in 1982.
So you finally had a computer you could input the Japanese language with! (laughs)
That’s right. But the next problem was that, although I knew BASIC, I didn’t know much about MS-DOS16, which was the PC-98’s operating system. To make matters worse, there was no operations manual for the computer, so I had no choice but to rely on other people’s knowledge to teach myself how it all worked.16. MS-DOS: Short for Microsoft Disk Operating System, MS-DOS was the main home computer operating system before the advent of Microsoft Windows.
Did you have colleagues who could help you?
Yes, I did. Well, there was one, at least. So I had no choice but to ask him all sorts of questions about how to use the computer. At that point, I didn’t really have the first clue what I was doing, but I just went ahead and typed in the ‘magic spell’...
Ah, I see. You’re talking about the sort of incomprehensible character string you use to reset hardware to its default settings. Unless you typed that ‘magic spell’, the right screen wouldn’t pop up. But was the Famicom version of Best Play Pro Baseball really made like this, with you just feeling your way through?
Yes, it was.
How long did it take you to finish work on the Famicom version?
Well, it took a fair while. But if you’re asking me precisely how long it took, well...
The Famicom was released in Japan in 1983, and it was a long time before your game came out.
Yes, that’s true. It wasn’t released until 1988, so I’d say that it took me about three years to put together.
Three years, you say? Well, you did more or less do the whole thing by yourself. But one of the impressions I get of your work is that you’ll spend however long you have available polishing and perfecting your games before releasing them.
Well, that’s because making the games is the most fun part!
So if you had no deadline, I imagine you would just keep on working forever! (laughs)
Yes, I would. I really enjoy tinkering with things and improving them little by little.
You enjoy that more than actually playing the games?
Of course I do! (laughs)
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