Interview: Zack and Wiki Producer Says Don't Blame The Game
For our latest contribution to the Buy Zack & Wiki Campaign, Game|Life presents this interview with the game's producer Hironobu Takeshita. He's got some strong opinions about the game -- here's my favorite.
There are puzzles where, if you don't look properly at the hints in the start, you're going to be in trouble. All the answers that you need to solve the puzzles are there on the screen. There are some people who say they don't understand the puzzles, but really, they're not paying enough attention.
We also talk about We Love Golf a little, and figure out what Capcom's communications director and I were doing wrong. It's all below!
Wired News: I would really like to know about your history with Capcom, the first games you've worked on.
Hironobu Takeshita: The first game I produced was in 1995, Breath of Fire III. After that, I did BoF4, Dragon Quarter. I produced the Capcom-made Disney titles like Magical Mirror on GameCube and the Nightmare Before Christmas game on PS2 and Xbox. After that I worked on a game called Beat Down, and then Ultimate Ghosts N Goblins. This year I'm working on Zack and Wiki and Wii Love Golf.
WN: Where did the inspiration for Zack and Wiki come from? It seems very similar to older PC games that I used to play about 10 years ago, although I really don't see people making games like that anymore...
HT: That's exactly it. The director of Zack and Wiki is a really big fan of PC point-and-click titles. He played those for many years. After he joined Capcom, he was always saying that he wanted to make one of those adventure games himself. So when we decided to make this adventure game, we were able to combine some of the elements of PC point-and-click games and also use the Wii remote control motion system and put them together into a sort of action/adventure/puzzle game, which really allows us to create a new experience for players.
WN: What's the name of the director? What else has he done at Capcom?
HT: Eiichiro Sasaki. He did Resident Evil Outbreak, and before that, Power Stone.
WN: Did he ever mention specific PC games that were an inspiration?
HT: [Extended sigh in which is conveyed the meaning "this is going to be a really difficult question"]
HT: Princess Tomato In The Salad Kingdom, and Dezeniland. Also Spelunker, which is that game where you die really quickly.
WN: Speaking of which, Zack and Wiki really seems opposed to the usual ideas about how games have to hold your hand, you're not going to die, and it's going to be easy for you, by just killing you really quickly. Sometimes you'll start a level and just die because of the first thing you touch. Has it been difficult to push this by the powers that be, to make a game that's really cute but also very difficult as well?
HT: It was initially pretty difficult to get people to believe in us and believe in this game. Capcom had decided rather quickly to make a new type of game on the Wii, so that itself wasn't difficult. But even though the development team knew it was going to be a very interesting game, it was a little bit more difficult to explain to the sales and marketing divisions. After all, it is a more minor genre, and Capcom is known for publishing a lot of Mature-style games. So to create this kind of game that was designed for everyone, it was a little difficult. But getting to play it at events like here or at E3, the reputation of the game really improved and a lot of people started looking forward to it. And that gave us a lot of confidence in the product that we had.
WN: How does the final design of Zack and Wiki diverge from those classic old PC games? What did you decide was bad about those games that you could do better with Zack and Wiki?
HT: In terms of the PC point-and-click adventure games, I feel that those are quite a simple genre, they are complete as a genre, there aren't many problems within that genre. They are games that anybody can pick up and understand how to operate them rather quickly. So I didn't think there were many things that needed to be changed. But one of the major things that we changed was, when we first started making this game, the rules of the game that were when you died, you had to start over from the beginning of the puzzle again. But after focus testing the game in the US, there were many people who complained about this rule, and who wanted to be able to start again from the point where they died. So one of the major things that we have changed, that is different about this game, is that there's a system where you can buy your way back to life after you die.
WN: But what's interesting is that sometimes that can add a little bit more difficulty to it, because you can get to the point in a level where you cannot complete it, die, and bring yourself back to life, but you've already arranged it so you can't complete the level, so you're wasting a token.
HT: There are many different puzzles that we want users to enjoy in this game, and one large part of that are "chain puzzles," where you need to solve things in a certain order, and if you mess up the order, you are no longer able to solve it. So in that case, if you mix up the order and you fail or you die, the god who comes down and brings you back to life, he will come down and tell you that you have failed and that you have to do it from the start again. But needing to understand that you have to redo the puzzle from the start, that in itself is a part of the puzzle as well.
WN: Another puzzle I found really interesting is that there are puzzles like where you have to keep track of a bunch of colored soda bottles, and if you don't keep track of them mentally, the game's not going to help you...
HT: There are puzzles where, if you don't look properly at the hints in the start, you're going to be in trouble. But one of the main ways to play this game is to look at the screen. You have to look at the screen -- all the answers that you need to solve the puzzles are there on the screen. There are some people who say they don't understand the puzzles, but really, they're not paying enough attention. All the answers to the puzzles are right there if you're able to solve them.
But if you are really unable to solve the puzzle or if you're stuck, you can press the 1 button on the controller and the god who gives hints will come down to help you.
WN: On to We Love Golf. How did this project come about? Obviously Camelot is great at making golf games, but how did they get hooked up with Capcom?
HT: For a long time, we'd always wanted to make something together with Camelot. We'd been talking about this for seven years. Finally the right timing came up at the start of this year, that we were able to work on a project together. When we decided to make something together, the obvious answer was a golf game. Camelot is very famous for golf games, having made the Hot Shots Golf and Mario Golf series. They're very well-respected for those games, and that was the initial start for this game.
Also, for Capcom, we'd never properly made any sports games. So this was our chance to challenge ourselves to expand into that market.
WN: Can you tell me how you play it? We played the first two holes over and over again. We got the backswing part of it, but I think we were stopping at the wrong time. The club head would always stop before the final cursor, and the shot would slice to the right...
HT: You have to match the timing of the gauge to your swing. So there's a blue marker at the bottom of the screen. You need to hit the swing as the gauge is coming back down. You have to hold it up initially and then bring it down. But if you swing it up fast, the gauge will be faster coming down. You have to match that speed. In real-life golf, this is really important. If you're going to get really good, your speed going up and coming back has to be similar.
WN: As I thought, this actually really feels more like real-life golf than Wii Sports or Super Swing Golf. I actually hate golf, but I like this game, so you're clearly doing well.