Creating a House of Horror: Shinji Mikami on the Road to Ghostwire: Tokyo by Tango Gameworks

Inseparable Tango game are from Shinji Mikami. The Tokyo-based studio employs many developers, but Resident Evil co-creator still recognized as the face of Tango Gameworks, more than a decade after its departure Capcom to set up a studio.

You’d think that directors of games like God Hand, Vanquish, and Dino Crisis would take on the role again at a new studio, especially given about two decades’ worth of directing experience. he. But this is not a simple case. Mikami told VG247: “I started Tango with the vision of creating a studio that would allow young and talented creators a chance.

Mikami explains that Tango’s main goal is – specifically – to create games from the “outstanding talent of young creators”. However, Mikami will eventually direct Tango’s first game with The Evil Within arriving in 2014, a survival horror game that combines the inventory management of classic Resident Evil games with whimsical monsters. clumps and adrenaline-filled boss battles.

Being forced to direct and backtrack on the goal of showing new talent in the first match was a disappointment for Mikami – but it was necessary. A report from Polygon published in 2014 revealed that Tango’s debut project, an open-world sci-fi game inspired by the world of Frank Herbert’s Dune, was scrapped when the studio ran into financial problems. Mikami was fairly casual about Tango’s baptism in fire all these years later, merely admitting that The Evil Within was never planned to be the studio’s debut game in 2014. From then on. , right?

In the early days, the cards were stacked against the fledgling developer – it doesn’t matter if the creator of Resident Evil is the head of your studio if you can’t get the staff. Although his goal was to usher in a new generation of developer talent, Mikami struggled to hire developers for Tango in the early days. The studio director points to the rise of “social gaming” as the main reason Tango was founded in the first place, as many console developers have turned to this new wave of titles that are spinning this money ( especially in Japan). But this makes it difficult to hire developers for more ‘traditional’ projects. 2013 saw the launch of new Angry Birds, Call of Duty, Temple Run, Dota and Clash of Clans games on mobile, so it’s easy to see why Mikami and his new, unproven studio he finds it difficult to entice established console developers from rising up. juggernauts in the mobile space.

Ultimately, what led to The Evil Within was the acquisition of Zenimax, Bethesda’s parent company. “They really appreciate our creativity at Tango,” said veteran producer Masato Kimura of the Zenimax team, who has worked at Tango since its acquisition more than a decade ago in 2010. Kimura liked that instead of Tango looking to their parent company for guidance, it was actually the opposite – Zenimax often consulted the directors at Tango (specifically Mikami) about what the studio wanted to do. “It was never about what [Zenimax] want to do,” added Kimura.

Development studios obviously change staff over time, and Tango Gameworks is no exception. Mikami explained that, at the end of development on The Evil Within, “those who fit well with Tango stay and those who don’t leave.” In the end, what’s left is a “bond of trust” between a tight-knit, well-groomed development team that could launch The Evil Within 2 just three years later in 2017, aiming for a better world. Great open world with the same bloodthirsty battle. Mikami’s trust in his staff (and his steadfastness in highlighting the ideas and talents of young developers) has begun to pay off.

It is clear that Tango Gameworks has found its footing. In the years following The Evil Within 2, the studio expanded. Hiring more staff has helped the studio grow – in Mikami’s eyes at least – although the co-founder says he still feels Tango is ‘sometimes understaffed’. That hasn’t stopped the Tokyo studio from taking on multiple games at the same time in recent years: the influx of new employees allowed Tango Gameworks to explore multiple projects simultaneously and gave Mikami the chance to showcase the new talent he has. He’s been in love with it for a long time. .

Enter Ghostwire: Tokyo. Set in a desolate city of Shibuya, Ghostwire is a more action-oriented project than the Evil Within title and primarily focuses on players battling the Yokai demons surrounding the city as they struggle. to unravel the mystery of why everyone has mysteriously disappeared, leaving only their clothes behind where their bodies once stood.

While it was Mikami who took the stage at Bethesda’s E3 2019 showcase, Ghostwire itself was launched by the charismatic creative director Ikumi Nakamura in a presentation that many consider the ‘top torch passing’ from the famous Mikami to a younger innovator. It may have taken a good seven years, but here – in front of a global audience – Mikami has accomplished the goal he has achieved since founding Tango Gameworks. Nakamura’s heated stage presence immediately drew attention to Ghostwire: Tokyo, a game that was already captivating enough.

Mikami’s plan to put new faces first and center worked well – perhaps too well. Just a few months later, Nakamura will step down from Tango to become a freelance artist and creative director alone. As Mikami explains, although Nakamura may be gone, her creativity still lives on in Ghostwire more than two years later: the choice of first-person camera angle to add immersion was the initiative. her, as well as a color palette heavily inspired by the iconic anime Ghost in the Cover.

Stepping in to fill the void left by Nakamura’s departure are Kenji Kimura, the current creative director of Ghostwire, and another young developer under Mikami’s guidance, who is currently working hard to complete and operate the game to release for PS5 on March 25.

“This is my first time working as a director, and also my first time working with Mikami,” Kimura said. Kimura has been in the game industry for a relatively long time, jumping into a career right after graduating from college, but he is still growing as a creator and is willing to admit that there are many There’s something to learn from Mikami, and there have been moments where he “feels a bit off” after taking on such a large – and important – project.

Bringing in a new generation of ads that are making a noticeable difference in the game; Ghostwire has other departures from The Evil Within aside from the instantly noticeable camera change. Both Evil Within games feature regular guns, but Ghostwire doesn’t use guns because “Japan isn’t an easy country to use guns,” said producer Masato Kimura. The surprising thing that replaces guns is bows and arrows. This is partly due to “Japanese rituals using arrows for cleansing purposes,” adds Kenji Kimura.

More emphasis in combat is placed on “casting hand-action magic”, as Mikami voiced it. This system, where ethereal power emanates from the player character’s hands, is based on Jiu Jitsu, which Kenji Kimura claims became popular through the popular anime/manga JuJutsu Kaisen. These attacks, which utilize psychic powers through the protagonist rapidly shifting their hands into various patterns, are primarily used to dispel the “evil enemies” that haunt Ghostwire, have invaded Shibuya City since the population suddenly disappeared.

“In English terms, we call them ‘Travellers’ because they are visiting us in this world,” Kimura said of the ghostly enemies. For example, these enemies are not your archetypal gang demons you may be familiar with in The Evil Within, but can take the form of regular humans. “You could be walking along the sidewalk in Shibuya and see what kind of person you think you are,” Kimura said, “but when you get close to them, you can tell they don’t even have heads.”

These enemies are actually based on Yokai. No, not the glowing horned demonic entities you might have seen in Nioh, but more like “urban lore,” according to Kimura. The creative director said, “In Japan, Yokai often appear in bedtime stories read to young children, carrying messages about how to be a better person or citizen. Yokai presents a more ‘spooky’ atmosphere to Ghostwire,” said Kimura, breaking away from the pure survival horror of The Evil Within games, but still firmly rooted in a disturbing atmosphere. .

During the development of Ghostwire, Tango’s parent company Zenimax was acquired by Microsoft. In a shockwave in the gaming industry, all Bethesda-owned developers became Xbox properties, including Tango Gameworks. Unexpectedly, however, Ghostwire remains a PlayStation 5 exclusive, with Xbox committing to upholding all agreements made prior to the acquisition. However, Mikami thinks they’re “most likely going to have something for Xbox,” regarding Ghostwire in the future.

Despite this change in ownership, for the development staff, very little has changed. “Working with Xbox was really smooth,” Kimura said, “although that part was mostly handled by Mikami,” adds the director. “Having Mikami at the head of Tango to make the sometimes difficult decisions just makes things really smooth,” explains Kimura, adding that Tango often gets “a lot of help and support.” from Xbox and Microsoft.

With Ghostwire in development, Tango is prepared for the immediate future. Mikami himself announced late last year that a new project under director John Johanas in The Evil Within 2 was in the works and neither he nor Kimura would say whether it would stray from the genre. survival horror that Tango was known for through The Evil Within or not.

One thing’s for sure, though: Mikami explains that survival horror is “not at the height of its popularity,” with more excitement geared toward a pure horror experience. “The tide is low, no big waves behind,” he explains, choosing the surf metaphor for some reason. . Maybe it’s best to just wait for the bigger wave, until there’s a big enough survival horror game that’s more accepted. ”

What we do know about this next game is that, similar to Ghostwire: Tokyo, it won’t be directed by Mikami himself. But that doesn’t mean he’s done. At the age of 56, Mikami has been developing video games for more than three decades at this point and reminds us that his plan is still to direct one last game before retiring. “We don’t want him to say this is his last fight,” added Masato Kimura reluctantly from across the room. Mikami may have founded Tango Gameworks on the idea of ​​creating opportunities for young creators, but he’s still planning another trip to the director’s chair. Creating a House of Horror: Shinji Mikami on the Road to Ghostwire: Tokyo by Tango Gameworks

Fry Electronics Team

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