Garrett Romaine recently caught up with Jun Takeuchi (and his interpreter) of Japanese gaming company Capcom to discuss his start in gaming and his thoughts on the industry’s future.
By Garret Romain
Jun Takeuchi has gained a prominent voice in the gaming industry in the last few years, urging Japanese game designers to catch up with North American producers, adding co-op gaming to a refresh of Resident Evil, and pushing Capcom to embrace global gaming. Capcom uses the MT Framework engine to bring games to multiple platforms, and the company works hard to build support for threading and multicore hardware.
I recently caught up with Mr. Takeuchi (and his interpreter) to discuss his start in gaming and his thoughts on the industry’s future.
Garret Romaine: How old were you when you decided on a career in gaming? Did you specifically study for a career in games?
Jun Takeuchi: It’s very interesting. I originally studied as a designer. I wanted to be a designer for baby play toys. I didn’t think I would be a game designer. However, when I looked for jobs, there were not many opportunities for me to get in as a baby toy designer. So I figured a gaming company is most related to toys, and I decided to work for a gaming company.
G.R.: Talk about your early years at Capcom. What was your first project?
J.T.: I entered Capcom as a designer. My first project was Street Fighter II for Super Nintendo.
G.R.: You’ve seen the gaming industry grow substantially in your career. What still inspires you as you come to work each day?
J.T.: Capcom thinks that the user experience for the gamer is the most important thing to provide. So I am inspired in my daily work to make the original titles great and provide that as a new gaming experience. I am also thinking that communication with the end user is very important to make that new user experience positive.
G.R.: You and others have made headlines recently for challenging Japanese game developers to catch up with North American producers. Can you tell us about that debate?
J.T.: That story is a very deep fallout to understand the gaming world. The user experience is really different on high-end-performing games and mainstream games. So what I think is most important is that we need to try for a more emotional experience, like fun, and control, and feelings.
Do you remember the Charlie Chaplin movie Limelight? [It’s the story of a down-and-out actor who rescues a young actress, nurtures her career, and dies just when she is at her most triumphant peak.] That movie contained a lot of emotion. Sometimes we laughed, sometimes we cried. That kind of courage and emotional experience which is provided by the movie is needed in PC gaming. And that could be not only for mainstream games but also high-end. Games need to be more emotional.
G.R.: One big story in PC games has been the ability to thread different components and better utilize the processing power. How has Capcom embraced multithreading?
J.T.: Capcom is using the MT Framework as their game design engine. At first, the engine didn’t support multicore and multithreading. In the beginning, people did not think multicore would work well for gaming. However, Capcom redesigned the MT Framework and tuned it up with hyper-threading and multicore support.
G.R.: To be successful in the future, a PC game might have to play online and across a lot of desktops, such as netbooks, laptops and regular towers. How is the gaming industry addressing this?
I think that gaming companies need to change their minds on how to sell their games. In the past, most sales channels for PC gaming sold boxes at the retailer. Now there are many kinds of gaming systems that are not only boxed but also online, and there are many platform systems, like Windows, Windows Phone, iPhone and iPad, and other consoles as well.
We are trying to make the game experience fun, and that is the most important thing. When the user is demanding very high performance, we need to provide high performance. However, if the gaming experience does not depend on performance, the game must still be fun to play. We want people to communicate with each other, which widens and broadens the gaming experience among the users. We are customizing the MT Framework for the next generation to do that. I am trying to change the mind of the gaming world not just for the home, but for all platforms.
G.R.: Your “Top 10 List of Development Commandments” talks about investing in new intellectual property on a consistent basis. Where are you placing your bets to keep investing in IP?
J.T.: The most important thing at this time is changing the development environment. Every spring, new people will join the company and the environment around gaming will keep changing. We need to change … but we also need to keep the heart of Capcom. What is fundamental is making the new games fun, always. Also, creating an environment for the developer so they can design and develop more freely, so they can make what they want to make. That is a fundamental commandment, to refresh the mind and adapt to the new environment.
G.R.: Capcom has produced some great games over the years. What can you tell us about your future projects?
J.T.: Capcom is a Japanese company, so we are providing global titles and Japanese titles at the same time. However, the emotion is very different between a global title and a Japanese title. For example, global gaming is more focused on the big story, the nice graphics and more high-end gaming. In Japan, there is a different kind of gaming emotion.
Capcom is going to focus on the global reality, however, they design Japanese game titles and that is an important market. Recently, Japanese games looked different from the global standard. So we are asking ourselves: How do we minimize these gaps? How do we change not only Capcom, but the whole Japanese gaming industry to minimize those gaps? I do not have the answers now, but I believe it may be necessary for the next step in Japanese gaming.
Garret Romaine has been a game tester, reviewer and journalist for 15 years. He is a Fellow in the Society for Technical Communication and teaches technical writing at Portland State University. Prior roles include senior editor at Computer Bits Magazine, reviewer at ESCMag.com, and senior writer for Visual Adrenaline.