With Takashi Iizuka, Director of Sega Studio USA (english version)
Could you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us your position at SEGA? What's your job in the development of NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams?
I am the Director of Sega’s internal studio here in San Francisco that is building the sequel. As part of Sega Studio USA, I wear many hats including Producer, Team Director and Lead Game Designer.
Why did you decide to finally make a sequel for this game after ten years, and do it exclusively for Wii?
Well actually, I’ve always wanted to create the sequel to NiGHTS but during the past 10 years I’ve been primarily focused on continuing the legacy of the Sonic franchise by creating games like Sonic Adventure, Sonic Battle and Sonic Heroes. Now that the franchise is running strong, I’ve been granted the chance to create JoD and I thought the Wii being a family-oriented platform was a perfect match for NiGHTS.
We know that many people who haven't played NiGHTS on the Saturn don't understand the game and think it's boring. We know it's difficult, but could you point out for us what it is that so many gamers like about NiGHTS?
NiGHTS is very different from any action platform game out there. Unlike an action-platformer where the players are forced to clear each stage to go to the next, NiGHTS was created from a completely different premise. I didn’t want the player’s progress to be hinder in anyway either by obstacles or “stages” to clear. I wanted the player to experience the freedom to fly through each stage and make it fun. NiGHTS is similar to a race game where once the player acquires the skills to maneuver through the stage, which translates into this “fun-to-fly” experience, ultimately making your times better. I guess that’s what makes NiGHTS so different and I hope the players will find it so.
Do you plan to include the first NiGHTS as a bonus for those who haven't played it yet?
Unfortunately, we have no plans to include the original NiGHTS as a bonus in JoD.
What was more important in the early stages of JoD's development: Did you focus on creating something new rather than staying close to the original, or vice versa?
As a Game Designer, it was really important to me to keep the game reminiscent of the original for those NiGHTS fans that have been waiting 11 years for its return. But as a Producer, I wanted to include new features while keeping the playability accessible for all those who would be playing for the first time. I want everyone, those who have played as well as those who haven’t to enjoy NiGHTS as much as I do.
Can you tell us something about the controls? Did you try to utilize the Wii's features, or take a more traditional approach?
When I first thought about the controls for the game, what first came to mind was how exciting the variety of control configuration the Wii platform offers its players. With this in mind, I wanted to create a game that could be picked up and played no matter what controller utilized. I wanted the player to choose what he/she felt most comfortable with (remote, remote+nunchuck, traditional) and just jump right into the game. I didn’t want the players to forced to use one controller over another to play JoD.
One of the biggest strength of NiGHTS Into Dreams was the Saturn's 3D Pad's analogue stick that allowed for complete freedom in controlling your character. Have you ever felt like the Nunchuk's stick, especially its octagonal movement area, hinders the gameplay experience in any way?
Personally, after testing all the configurations, I think the closest controller that mimics the Saturn 3D analog pad is the GameCube controller. With its circular thumbsticks, the feel especially in flight feels very natural. However, I’ve found that using the remote with the Nunchuck stick plugged in is the easily configuration for a beginner. But, once a player gets acclimated, I suggest they try the remote only configuration using the “mind sight” for a completely different playing experience.
How long will it take to finish NiGHTS for the first time? Are there any extras that keep the game interesting after the first playthrough?
Compared to the original Saturn version, JoD has many more missions so I have to say it will take longer to complete than the first NiGHTS. However, what’s similar to the original is the “built-in” re-playability of each level as each is time-based and I think that the player will find it a challenge to beat their own best times. But unlike action games like Sonic, it will take the player a shorter time to complete the ending of the game. Even when you clear both Helen and Will stories, there is so much more to the game. For example, there is what we call “My Dream” where you create you own living habitat to share with your friend as well as world rankings available online.
A few months ago, there were rumors that NiGHTS would use the weather channel to recreate the actual weather in the game. Is this true?
Yes, it is true. Without Nintendo’s cooperation and support, this wouldn’t have been possible. That was the reason I couldn’t talk about it earlier. Nintendo has helped us tremendously getting this feature implemented with “My Dream” and it’s awesome. I think it’s a great way to keep you tied to the game, even if you’re not playing. For instance, say it’s freezing cold or blazing hot outside in your part of the world, you may log in to check out how the creatures in your habitat are reacting to the climate. I think you’re going to find it a good fun!
We already know that the Wii version will feature the prequels A-Life system. Will it have any direct effect on the gameplay this time?
As in the original NiGHTS, the A-life creatures are living organisms that are not controlled by the player. Neither is the gameplay or game’s outcome affected by these creatures, however, every time the player revisits each stage, they will do things randomly that make the environment feel alive. This is a mechanism that motivates the player to come back to the levels to see what these creatures are up to. Additionally, through NiGHTS paralooping ability, these creatures are transported into a virtual habitat where the player has the ability to create through own “My Dream” space to share with their friends online. This is a completely new system we’ve created for JoD.
We also know that NiGHTS' competitive multiplayer mode can be played online. Are there any other online features?
With the sequel, I’ve tried to incorporate online features such the competitive multiplayer mode you’ve mentioned. Also, JoD will have its own World Ranking system where you can post your best times to see how you measure up on a global level. What was important for us was to create simple one-button online mechanism that let you allow you to instantly post your score. We wanted to keep the online interface and connectivity very user-friendly and easy so that anyone could use it. Also, as I just mentioned, we have created a brand new feature called “My Dream” where the player has the ability to create their own virtual habitat and populate it with captured A-Life creatures from the game. I wanted this feature to expand the playability beyond just friends so that you could share your part of JoD with anyone in the world.
Do you think that NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams will satisfy long-time fans of the Saturn version? And how will new gamers receive the game, in your opinion?
Of course! This is the main reason I’ve created this game. Our whole team are avid NiGHTS fans and we’re creating this game that will hopefully be loved by the new NiGHTS players as well as all those loyal fans who have dreamt of the sequel like I have.
Do you have any idea when the game will be released in Europe?
As far as I know, it’s slated to be released in early 2008. My hope is that since we’ve been able to take advantage of the online capabilities, that JoD would be globally released so that the players could connect with each and share their experiences.
Thank you for the interview. Is there anything else you want to address to our readers?
I wanted to thank all of those NiGHTS fans that have been so loyal and patience for waiting so long for its return. I know you will love this game as much as I do!
Das Interview führte Gesamte Redaktion