Remember Hironobu Sakaguchi?
Sakaguchi is the guy that was responsible for the Final Fantasy series through X-2. That makes him kinda a big deal in some circles. Well, Sakaguchi released a new game called The Last Story on the Wii. I hear the game is really good, but it looks like only you Europeans are going to be enjoying the English dub. Grr!
Anyway, a friend over at Machinima pointed me to a 2010 interview of this gaming legend. In the interview, Sakaguchi discusses The Last Story and his approach to graphics within this Wii-based game. The transcript turned out to be a real interesting read, and I ended up reading through it twice.
One thing Sakaguchi said really struck a cord with me. He pointed out that while improving on-screen graphics has been a near obsession for the gaming industry, the joy of playing a video game has not seemed to have increased at all. He then delves a bit further. He suggests that these huge leaps in game graphics are a detriment to the play experience.
By communicated too much information to the player.
Check it out...
Sakaguchi: We started with the story and the worldview. I’ve been creating games for twenty-five years, and I’ve always attached great importance to the story. It was no different with this title.You can read the rest here.
Iwata: I think the way in which you’ve always made games is to see to what degree that story and worldview can be realised.
Sakaguchi: Yes, that’s right.
Iwata: And the environments have evolved to offer you the chance to realise a variety of different ways to express them as time went by…
Sakaguchi: Well, when I started, it was during the time of the Famicom when the graphics and sound meant that you were limited in what you could do.
Iwata: All that we could show on the screen were something like rough representations.
Sakaguchi: That’s right. We had to consider how we should convey the story to the players under such restrictions. Now that high-quality graphics rule supreme, you can reproduce what you want to communicate visually, but at the same time, I don’t know how to put this, but there’s an element that’s slightly excessive about it all…
Iwata: The player ends up being able to see things you’d have preferred not to show them.
Sakaguchi: You end up communicating too much to the player. This is why I now feel that we’re at a turning point. With this title, I pressed reset and returned to the basics of what a game is. I started by spending a lot of time considering just what it means to tell a story in a game. But it went beyond simply considering the story side of things – I looked again at the fundamentals on the system side too.
Iwata: You spent a long period of time looking into those fundamental issues, didn’t you?
Sakaguchi: We did. That’s why we repeatedly experimented with the system side at the prototype stages of the game’s development. We knew that we wanted something that differed from the way things had been done before. We wanted to express the gameworld and story in a whole new style, and I feel that we gave it absolutely everything we had.
Iwata: I wonder if this sense of giving it everything you had is reflected in the name ‘The Last Story’.
Sakaguchi: Yes. Just as we’d done with Final Fantasy, we gave it everything we had, as if this was going to be the last game we ever made. But I must say that this feeling was particularly strong with this title.
Iwata: So you poured everything into it so there’d be no regrets if this was the last game you ever made.
Sakaguchi: Precisely. I mean, if I messed it up, I’d be forced to retire… (laughs)
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Each genre has it's idiosyncrasies. In speculative fiction, you also have to delineate how things are divergent from our own world, and in some of the more ambitious SFF out there, you need to create entirely new ethereal planes...
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And that's what a lot of new writers (myself included) struggle with. You see, generating the descriptions are never the problem. We already have plenty of images to draw on in our head. The challenge is knowing when and where to sneak those tidbits in. They need to be chewable but still crispy. They need to be a bit spicy but still palatable. The editor can help you with this aspect of the writing process, but eventually each author needs to develop their own sense for which what is right.
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Truly talented authors can take it a step further. They know just how much space to leave between brushstrokes. They know just how far they can stretch it. And before you even know it, your own life's knowledge is filling in the gaps. You become part of the work, and thus you experience it more intensely.
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What do you think?
Are high-resolution graphics becoming a drag?
Is Sakaguchi just making excuses for the Wii's truly cruddy GPU?
Has gibbing's aesthetic potential been maxed-out?