starting this project, SangYoun Lee and I agreed on two things," said
Tetsuya Mizuguchi, chief creative officer and producer at Q
Entertainment. "First, we should improve the quality of the action game
to make it suitable for the next generation of consoles. And second,we
should pursue a new kind of drama in a game by letting the player
experience both sides of justice, not just one side. We decided to
combine action on the battlefield with drama. If these two big things
have chemical reaction on Xbox 360, we can create a completely new
The panel, entitled " All About Ninety-Nine Nights :
Next-Gen Character Design," was held on Wednesday night of the 2006
Game Developers Conference. Q Entertainment's Mizuguchi, whose
previously designed games include Rez , Space Channel 5 , Meteos and Lumines , was joined by Phantagram director SangYoun Lee. Ninety-Nine Nights ,
an upcoming release for the Xbox 360 and the game being discussed in
this panel, was co-designed by both studios, in Japan and Korea,
Killing Lots and Lots of Guys
can be described, briefly, as an action game featuring a single player
taking on massive hoards of enemies in combat, with a dramatic war-torn
backstory. Lee, who appeared to be responsible mainly for the game play
elements of the title, explained the basics:
in your usual traditional games one would be fighting against one
hundred opponents in combat, five hundred at most," said Lee. "So
that's what you have in your traditional combat scenes. But what we
wanted to focus on was one vs. ten thousand in combat. So that
was our basic concept for our combat scenes. And with that combat, we
wanted to create many different combat styles and methods."
Lee showed a long video montage of Ninety-Nine Nights '
different characters, around seven in total, each exhibiting unique
combat styles and weaponry, all taking on overwhelming armies.
Additionally, each character had a unique "orb spark" attack, which
wipes out a large amount of enemies around an enemy, an experience Lee
describes as being cathartic for a player.
Not Just a Pretty Face
War-torn and beautiful Inphyy
designing the main characters of the game, Lee explained that they had
two main goals in mind: to design characters attractive to both Western
and Eastern gamers, and to find a fine balance between realistic
rendering and "deformation," which Lee says is somewhere in-between
realistic and animated.
had never done so many different reiterations of designs and changes,"
said Lee. "And also we had to pay attention to the characters'
personalities, and looks and attire as well. And also it has to be
appealing to gamers, somebody who is really good looking, so the gamers
like the characters while playing the game."
still on screen displayed a close-up facial model of Inphyy, one of the
game's female protagonists. Mild reflection in her eyes softly suggest
tears. Her eyelids, through soft and gentle, can do nothing to hide her
weariness. Her lips glow, slightly. Inphyy is a deep character, and Lee
wants us to know that.
we pay a lot of attention to such detail," said Lee. "So characters are
finalized that way, and based on these we put together many other
characters as well. So it took all together about eight months [to
develop the game's main characters]. We lost a lot of sleep, but at the
end our hard work was worth it."
Mizuguchi then took over to talk about the other major half of Ninety-Nine Nights .
"Those of you attending here are game developers, so I think you
understand how difficult it is to bring together games and drama," said
Mizuguchi. "If you don't do it right the game is ruined, it will end up
uninteresting and boring. We decided that we would let the user play
the game assuming roles of different characters."
is the first war-themed game Mizuguchi has ever been involved in, and
he felt it was important to show war from more than one perspective.
"There are always more than two conflicting parties in a war, which
both have justice and cause," he said. "However, in a war between
nations or tribes, individual feelings are hidden. People tend to be
echoes, love between parents and children and mental conflict," he
continued. "There is drama there. We decided to show the subtle
difference from each character's point of view in a large scale war
action game. We decided to create a story of justice for each
character. The player can experience all of them, and the player will
assume a different point of view."
was demonstrated by showing how a particular story point cut-scene
plays out from two different character perspectives, those of siblings
Aspharr and Inphyy. In the scenario, brother Aspharr and sister Inphyy
arrive at a crossroads on the way to their destination, the goblin
base. A dying messenger limps toward them, explaining that their castle
is under attack and they need help. The characters are left with a
choice: do the honorable thing and help out fellow soldiers in need, or
continue in pursuit of the goblin base.
the player is assuming the role of Inphyy, she will disregard the
soldier's request, despite her brother's empathy, and insist that they
remain on course toward the goblin base.
then showed the same clip from the player perspective of Aspharr.
Though the same scenario plays out, subtle cinematic changes are
immediately noticeable. Through clever camerawork, Inphyy becomes cold,
distant, and – at times – larger than life. As in the previous movie, a
soldier collapses into Aspharr's arms, begging for help. Inphyy
refuses, saying that they must continue on to the goblin base. This
time, however, the player is given a choice.
Aspharr agrees with Inphyy, he reluctantly lays the dying soldier down,
despite his begging and crying out ("I have come so far! You must send
help!") and, head lowered but loyal to the end, follows his sister.
the player instead chooses to help defend Varrvasarr Castle , Aspharr
takes a stand. "A knight can not forsake those in need," he says, and
demands that they go help.
has to make an important decision," said Mizuguchi. "What he will make
as a human, as a knight, and as Inphyy's brother will be thrown onto
the player. The player chooses him or herself the course, and the
outcome of the game greatly changes."
then quickly showed another cinematic, this one occurring at the goblin
base itself, assuming the player's path lead them there. Inphyy and
Aspharr arrive after seeing a goblin mother and child killed needlessly
by a human soldier. In the Inphyy-controlled scenario, she very coldly
passes off the incident as part of war, and moves on. Aspharr is left
"Here we see Aspharr's gentle nature, his weakness and wavering, which is striking," said Mizuguchi.
A cinematic still from Ninety-Nine Nights
then see the same scene from the player perspective of Aspharr. As the
leader, he is in control of the situation, and rather than bowing to
his sister's viewpoint, Aspharr shows her his point of view by slapping
her in the face.
"Uh oh," said Mizuguchi. "You really shouldn't hit your sister. He's become more violent after living through war, it seems."
then showed a video from the other perspective: from a young goblin,
who watches his brother die at the hands of Inphyy, and vows revenge on
when this idea came to me, I was so worried because when we change the
position between enemy and friends, it's interesting," said Mizuguchi.
"And when I play as his role, my sense of justice is reversed. Whenever
I see this movie, I think, 'human beings are bad.' When I was Inphyy, I
liked her, she's cute and has a nice body. She has good cleavage, I
threw that in for the player's sake.
and Inphyy are attractive and lovable, they show a lot of stories. But
all of a sudden when you see this movie, you have empathy with the
goblins. My sense of empathy is reversed, and I fight against human
soldiers. Even though I played as them before, I'm killing them now.
And it's a strange feeling, but it's enjoyable!"
Rashamon and Tragedy
source of my inspiration was media reports after 9/11," admitted
Mizuguchi, comfortable admitting this only among his game developer
peers. "After the attack, I saw a lot of different news reports from
different countries. I was in Tokyo at the time, and learned about this
attack through TV. It was really shocking. 'What will happen to the
world? What is going on?' I was so worried. And at the same time I
thought, why do people fight and wage a war? I was seriously thinking
these questions while glued to the TV."
the war started. The coverage varied depending on the country. There
are countries for and against the war, different points of view."
started thinking about how to subtly make these conflicts in the game.
Movies have limits, they only reward good deeds and punish bad. But
using games I can go beyond that, because you can experience it. You
can experience different points of view, both sides of justice."
"Movies can not do this kind of thing, but videogames can."
had another inspiration: Japanese director Akira Kurosawa's 1950 film
Rashômon. "It has an excellent structure," he said. "The content was
shocking though, the couple traveled, the wife was raped by a certain
guy and her husband was killed. That was a shocking incident, and the
movie is a collection of testimonies from different people. Each
witness said a different thing, and the final judgment is up to you.
It's a black and white movie, 55 years old. When you have time please
take a look at this movie. It's a great movie."