Last Monday I got a chance to step inside Capcom's E3 booth for an early look at "Resident Evil 5" and a chat with the game's producer Jun Takeuchi. With the help of a translator, we talked about the game, its controls, whether he owns a chainsaw, exploding barrels and race. Why'd I bring that last topic up? Because Multiplayer blog has played a big role in the discussions about "RE5" and race. I wanted to bring things full circle. Takeuchi was certainly up for it.
Read on for the full interview.
Multiplayer: The "Resident Evil" series has evolved. It used to be all about going through mansions, creeping through darkness, and now it looks more like an action game. So in what ways is "Resident Evil 5" still a scary game?
Jun Takeuchi, Producer, "Resident Evil 5": We have shown a lot of bright areas in "Resident Evil 5" so far. We do hope to have a lot more darker indoor areas. And those are the areas that will create more fear and the tension in the game. And moving to one of those areas from the safety of being in the light and into the dark and not being able to see is something that will spawn some of the tension and fear in the game.
Multiplayer: Do you find that games like "Resident Evil 4" and "5" are harder to make scary because there is more action in them?
Takeuchi: We don't really find that having more action makes it any less scary. We find that the more action we have in it the more we are able to create a sense of panic in the player. It's a little bit different type of fear, but it's still creating tension in the player.
Multiplayer: Do you personally like horror movies or scary things? Are you scared of a lot of things in real life? I'm curious where your interests lie in terms of horror and the things you find interesting in the horror genre.
Takeuchi: I am a big fan of horror movies. I do like watching lots of different zombies. In real life the thing I'm the most afraid of would actually be deadlines.
Multiplayer: Do you own a chainsaw?
No I don't own a chainsaw.
Takeuchi: No I don't own a chainsaw. In real life they're pretty scary. Just having them in the game is enough.
Multiplayer: I played the game about a month ago. Capcom had an event in Los Angeles. I had forgotten how "Resident Evil" had controlled. And I was surprised that when I had the knife out I couldn't move. When I'm shooting, I have to stand still. That's how it worked in "Resident Evil 4." I'm curious if you've found that that control scheme still works as well as you'd like it to. Or if you're still looking into adapting it in other directions? I did hear feedback from other people about: "Hey, why can't I move around when I'm shooting?"
The last thing we want to do is to make the player feel frustrated by having to battle with the control system.
Takeuchi: Of course the last thing we want to do is to make the player feel frustrated by having to battle with the control system as they're playing the game and battling with the enemies. Certainly in "Resident Evil 4" it was a time when FPSes and, more importantly, TPSes (third-person shooters) were still planting the seeds of the genre. Of course, as we go through the development of "Resident Evil 5," we're looking for more ways to improve the control scheme and make it a little more intuitive for players. We're still working on it. And you might see something more from us.
Multiplayer: Do you like the standing-still-using-the-knife [aspect of the controls]? I'm sorry to stay on that one thing, but it just stands out in my memory that it didn't feel natural. But maybe you feel it's beneficial because maybe it's scarier?
Takeuchi: The knife itself is not something I would recommend for you to use in the game all that often. It is the same as "Resident Evil 4." It is meant to be a very weak weapon and something of last resort. And if you end up using the knife you're pretty much done for anyway - even more so in "Resident Evil 5." Getting the balance right would mean creating the sense of frustration in the player -- the right amount of frustration in the player -- and then the fun of not having to use the knife and being able to use some of the better weapons. That's something we're going to work the balance of as we go through [development.]
Multiplayer: Let's talk about co-op, since you guys made a point in the Microsoft briefing to show that "Resident Evil 5" is the first game in the series to feature online co-op. When did you get the idea to do co-op? How did you get the idea? And how did you decide on the two characters we get to play in co-op?
It's really a load off my mind, because I've had to keep the secret for so long.
Takeuchi: We've always had the plan to make the game co-op-enabled right from the start. Here at E3 today we've finally been able to announce it. And it's really a load off my mind, because I've had to keep the secret for so long. I'm glad we can finally share it.
Multiplayer: And how did you decide on the two characters we get to play in co-op?
Takeuchi: Well, once we decided on Africa as the setting for the game -- which we decided off of previous games in the series which mentioned that Africa was a very important part in the [series-wide] story -- we knew we wanted to have Chris as the main character, right from the very start. And then, once we decided on Africa, we knew we wanted to have someone who would know the area, could act as a guide, maybe a local to act as a guide for Chris in the game. From there the scenario writer came up for the idea of Sheva and that's how those two characters came about.
Multiplayer: When you play the game single-player, am I correct that you can only play as Chris? And, if so, why can't you play as Sheva or swap back and forth?
Takeuchi: In the single-player you can only play as Chris. But you will be teaming up with Sheva, and Sheva will be working as an AI-controlled character for you when you're not playing with somebody else. The reason that we did want the player to control Chris all the time, is because really the story is focused on Chris all the time. It's really Chris' story.
Multiplayer: Are you in Africa the whole game? Or, as in "Metal Gear Solid 4," is that only the opening act location and then we move around the world?
Takeuchi: I can't really say. I can't answer that question at this time. I can say that we'll be going to a lot of different locations and you will also be seeing some locations we have not shown so far. But as to where exactly those are, I can't talk about it.
Multiplayer: I know you talked about this at [Capcom's Las Vegas promotional event] Captivate, but I have to ask you: the way people talked about the game and some of the reactions of: "Oh, is this a racist game?"… A lot of that has died off. But we on the MTV gaming blog actually published one of these interviews that got a lot of the reaction. We interviewed a gaming journalist who talked about his feelings when he saw the trailer. And he talked about: "I don't feel like anybody black worked on this game." That was his gut reaction. And I'm curious if you had anticipated that kind of response, if you had foreseen that people were going to react that way -- and how that reaction affected you?
To answer the question that was posted on your blog, there are black members in the development team.
Takeuchi: No, we certainly didn't anticipate the reaction. We were quite surprised by the reaction that came out. I think everyone understands that we never set out to with the intention to make anything that was racist -- that was never our intention. We think it was a bit of a misunderstanding when we published the first images of the game back in the day. And we think that as we move along and allow people to see more the game and more of what's going on and more of the story, people will get a better idea of the game. I think you can see that that reaction has started to die down a little bit. To answer the question that was posted on your blog, there are black members in the development team. We do have staff working on the game, who are aware of the historical background and we are constantly checking these kinds of things with them.
Multiplayer: Just one other question on that. You didn't anticipate that kind of reaction. Has this experience taught you anything? A lot of people talk about how race is very much something that is discussed in America in a different way than it would be in Japan or even Europe. What has this experience taught you about how racial matters are viewed?
Takeuchi: Certainly the most important thing we have learned is that different countries do see the same things in different ways. I think it's very important as we go along and start other projects to learn from other countries and learn from other companies who are working in the video game and entertainment sectors, learn from their experiences, and not have the same problems again. You know, we have had the reverse problem with some games in Japan as well. But we're in the business of making entertainment. We're not out to make anything to deliberately shock anyone, so I think we can take a couple of lessons away from this experience.
Multiplayer: "Resident Evil 5"… is it the end of anything? Are you describing it at all as the end of Chris' story or of "Resident Evil"? Or is this another capture in what we're going to continue to see move beyond "Resident Evil 5"?
Takeuchi: Certainly we can say that it is the end of one story in the "Resident Evil" franchise.
Multiplayer: OK. My last question, and it's kind of ridiculous -- why are there so many explosive barrels in that town [in the game]?
Takeuchi: [laughs] I guess that there was probably a lot of things they wanted to blow up in that town, so they left them there on purpose. Maybe it was Capcom's staff members that they wanted to blow up.
Multiplayer: Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about "Resident Evil 5"?
Takeuchi: There is just one more thing we'd like to tell you about and that is to confirm that the release date is going to be on Friday the 13th of March 2009. It seems like a long way away right now, but I'm sure time will pass like the blink of an eye. So to all the "Resident Evil" fans out there, just hold on a little bit longer.