Japanese devs struggle with “real-feeling RPGs” – InXile

“Cultural nuances” to blame.

By Edwin Evans-Thirlwell, March 15, 2010


JRPG-real-feeling-news-440


Speaking at a preview event for new action-RPG Hunted: The Demon’s Forge, InXile Entertainment President Matthew Findley has told VGD he feels Japanese role-playing developers find it “very hard” to achieve “real characters, real story, real moral dilemmas” in their games.


Asked whether he thought the notion that Western RPGs are more forward-thinking than Japanese RPGs was accurate, Findley replied: “I think it is, I think it is. I mean, no Japanese company could have made Fallout or Mass Effect. There’s just no way that could happen, it’s so culturally nuanced.”


Findley is perhaps especially qualified to comment on the RPG’s choppy fortunes: InXile’s 2004 remake of The Bard’s Tale lampooned many of the genre’s more stagnant aspects.


“Remember we joked in Bard’s Tale, ‘I am the Chosen One’,” he said. “I mean, come on – a 13-year-old boy that’s the Chosen One, that’s going to save the universe. I mean, really – for me that’s just so old and ridiculous.


“So I think it’s fantastic – boom, here comes BioWare, here comes Bethesda, bang bang. Let’s get real subject matter in here, let’s get real moral dilemmas, let’s get that stuff back from the PC.


“What they did was take the Final Fantasy turn-based metaphor, cause they [Square Enix] really made it work – BioWare took the best elements of that, and said ‘OK, now we’re going to do real characters, real story, real moral dilemmas and bang, now we’re back to a real-feeling RPG’. I think that’s very hard for the Japanese to pull off, much as I couldn’t culturally speaking make one for them.


“How many Western products do well in Japan? Not that many. The cultures start to kick in. I’m not putting them off, it’s just a cultural issue.”


Findley also commented that the genre’s traditional audience had aged, and that certain RPG devices were simply no longer appropriate.


“I think the genres are growing up and becoming more sophisticated. The console business isn’t that old, when you get right down to it. In the mid-90s there was no console business, not like these kind of products.


“So I just think that the generation playing the 13-year-old Chosen One – well now they’re 30 years old or whatever, and are they really going to keep playing that kind of game?”


The full interview with Findley and his colleagues Michael “Maxx” Kaufmann and Brian Fargo will be live soon. You can read our preview of Hunted: The Demon’s Forge here.


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2 Responses to “Japanese devs struggle with “real-feeling RPGs” – InXile”

  1. DR Jam says:

    I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Findley.

    I personally have never been a huge RPG fan because I felt like the stories felt disconnected. Because I am the type of person who likes to ponder about things. But if some factor is distracting enough, I just don’t stick along.

    For instance, Eternal Sonata, is a great game, with a fun and engaing battle system. But the presentation, although beautiful, just makes you wonder why would Chopin have such a dream, and most importantly, why would the characters in it be so goofy.

    I believe that the best sci-fi, and fantasy stories, or at least among my favorite RPGs (Jade Empire, Mass Effect, Fallout 3, and Oblivion–although I think that Oblivion main plot isn’t memorable at all, Oblivion is more about the mythos), are the ones that keep attached to everything: the characters, the plot, the content, the context, and the complexities.

    I find JRPGs to have too goofy of characters, to really keep me going, so it spoils the content, and then it’s harder to think about the context.

    For instance, when I was playing Lost Odyssey, and the little kid, Mack, Kaim’s 11-yr/o grandson, joins the party and fights the same mofos that legit warriors like Seth should really be battling, it through me off. And the fact that I was fighting the occasional pushover, like a cute herbivore, or a plant, was easier to bear than this little kid fighting big game (predators, or more awesome foes). BUT, and his old sister Cooke, showed some strength and he eventually broke down, it was enough to keep me invested in those characters.

    *I realize this is getting too long…* Can’t wai for the full interview.

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