Saidaioujou and Cave STG Collection Interview
with Asada Makoto of Cave
Interview by Famitsu on 2/8/2013
—How is the Saidaioujou port coming along?
Asada: Its about 50-60% done. I just checked on our progress, and it looks like the emulation slowdown is now accurate, so that part should soon be finished. That always takes a lot of time, so its a load off our shoulders.
—Glad to hear its going well. You’ve shared some pictures with us today of the new mode with Saya. It looks like there’s some conversation taking place between her and the operator on the sides of the screen there?
Asada: I think most shooting games have had to put their cutscenes and visually attractive parts on separate screens outside of the main action. In terms of their dramatic presentation, the story in Cave games has always been rather weak because we can only present a little at the beginning and at the end. This time we started with the idea of having the story develop within the game itself, so our scenario staff talked with Ryou Nagi, who designed the characters, and asked him to do artwork matching each stage and scene. Right now there’s only faces talking, but we intend to add more visually complex and elaborate scenes as well.
—Do they talk all throughout the stage? There must be a lot of dialogue then!
Makoto Asada, X360 Producer at Cave.
Asada: They’re talking almost the entire time. In the arcade version, there were only about 130 lines in total. This time there’s 450 for the Saya mode alone. In this mode you’ve got 3 characters: Saya, the operator, and the character called Hina… just between the three of them its a lot of dialogue. We’ve finished all the recording now, and the voice actresses did a great job. I was very impressed myself.
—I noticed their conversations don’t stop the game’s progression or anything?
Asada: Right, we didn’t want to stress players out like that. We wanted above all to avoid having the story interrupt or distract the player. Excluding the stage results screen, it needs to be a seamless experience. So they talk on their own, although we are planning to add several variations to their lines, so each time you play it will be a slightly different experience (without compromising the main story, of course). So in a sense, the new Saya mode is a test run for a new kind of shooting game we’d like to try.
—Right, so this is like a test case for a new model of Cave game.
Asada: That’s right. The idea for making a game like this goes all the way back to Deathsmiles. When I joined Cave and we started our X360 development, the first game I participated in was Deathsmiles. It turned out to be a big success. Our initial target for sales was only 10000, but in the end we ended up selling 40000 domestically (50000 if you add the platinum collection version), and another 200,000 units worldwide.
—Wow, I’m surprised to hear it was so popular overseas!
Asada: The world and setting of the game was really well received. It was especially popular in Europe. However, with our second X360 release Mushihimesama Futari, and ever since then, I feel like we returned our sights to the hardcore STG audience. This has been problematic to me for a long time, and I’ve been thinking up ideas for how to increase the popularity and userbase of STG. Now, finally, with certain personnel and scheduling problems out of the way, we’ve had a chance to realize some of these ideas. Things like the team scoring mode, the shop, and missions.
—I’d like to ask a bit more in detail about each of those last three things you mentioned. Let’s start with the team scoring mode… last time we talked you mentioned this would be a kind of team event?
Asada: That’s right. We’ll be dividing players into groups, and within a set time they’ll compete with other teams for the best cumulative score. Microsoft has helped out on this a lot, and we actually had already begun working on it at our last interview. At first we thought about dividing the teams up based on prefectures, but the populations were too uneven, so instead people will be randomly assigned to a team among 5 to 6 blocks.
—How long will each scoring period last?
Asada: We haven’t fully decided yet, but probably around 1-2 weeks. We want to give special prizes to the teams that win, like limited edition gamer icons… things you can only get through these events.
—Will these events be held at regular intervals?
Asada: Yes, as much as possible. Since its team scoring, anyone can contribute, even in a casual way. STG is a genre where the difference in skill is very apparent, so we wanted to do something to ameloriate that. And we’d also like to make a Cave Team. (laughs) Since our team would be so small, we’d multiply our scores by 10, but those teams which beat our scores would get special presents.
—Sounds exciting. (laughs) Next is the shop feature… what can you buy there?
Asada: In the FPS genre, its a common feature that after you clear the game once, you unlock different modes, like invincibility mode, or infinite ammo mode. For the STG genre, I want to create unlockables options like making the hitbox smaller (or larger), or continuous hyper mode… things that would add more options to how you can play the game. I also want to add an illustration gallery mode, which we haven’t really had in any of our games so far. Of course, you won’t use real money in this shop, only coins which you’re rewarded with in-game.
—I see. And what about the missions?
Asada: The missions are both a way to earn coins, and also a way to train players. You’ll be given certain objectives when you start the game, so it will be a good way to learn the scoring tricks. Right now our superplayers are testing and finetuning the slowdown, but after that we’re going to talk with them about how to best teach scoring techniques during the missions.
—It looks like you’ve got a lot of exciting things planned.
Asada: Yeah. If you look at just the number of modes, there’s only the new Saya X360 mode, the high-res graphics mode, and the novice mode that are new. But if you look at all the new stuff we’re adding overall, its really a lot. It might have the most new content of any X360 port we’ve done, actually.
—Is there also going to be an opening anime sequence?
The Saidaioujou anime opening.
Asada: There is. We’ve been told by some of our core users that such a thing is unnecessary for a STG, and it would be better for us to spend our money and effort elsewhere. And maybe its true that its not necessary for a good STG, but we’re hoping that having it there will make it more likely to be displayed at storefronts etc, thereby increasing its exposure. So in that sense an anime intro is important, and I think its part of bringing STGs to that next level of production.
—Yeah, and it will probably be the thing that gets some people into the game itself.
Asada: Actually, our character designer Ryou Nagi had an unofficial booth at Comiket this year. We wrote about it in our blog, and though I say it was unofficial, of course he had permission from us. Many of his fans who didn’t know about Saidaioujou came and visited. The game has been known on its merits purely as a danmaku STG, but thinking of ways to increase its appeal to non-STG fans is something we’re continually exploring.
—In that case, is the Saya mode set at a difficulty appropriate for beginners?
Asada: Yeah, this mode is geared towards beginners and for casual play, and is comparatively easier. However, if you play Saya mode on the more difficult Expert setting, its another matter. That is for hardcore players. (laughs)
—Yeah, Expert was originally made in place of the usual second loop, right? (laughs)
Asada: If your mindset when creating a game is to make everything easy, it will result in the game no longer being a game. So yeah, Expert mode is an entirely different beast.
—I see you’re releasing three different editions of the retail package.
Asada: In addition to the normal edition and the limited edition, there’s also a “super limited” edition which contains the original soundtrack. We already released the SDOJ soundtrack with the “Dodonpachi Saidaioujou / Dodonpachi Maximum” cd, but you could only order it by reserving directly from us, so for people who didn’t know about it at the time or found out later, it turned out they had to buy it at gouged prices on the secondhand market. So we wanted to do something about that, and that’s how the idea for the super limited edition came about. The limited edition comes with the usual arranged cd, but the super limited edition will include that cd, the OST, and an A4 size booklet containing developer interviews and more.
—Let’s talk about the Cave Shooting Collection now. When does it come out?
Asada and the Cave STG boxset.
Asada: At the end of March or the beginning of April, it looks like. It will contain superplay DVDs and OSTs for each game.
—Why did you decide to release all your games in a collection?
Asada: Releasing 10 games in a set is certainly a first for Cave. One month after we announced the SDOJ port, Microsoft approached us and asked if we would release all our games as a compilation. The contents of the compilation have changed 3 or 4 times over the last six months. At first we talked about just packaging all 10 of the previous retail release, as-is, but that seeemed a bit anti-climactic and boring for a commemorative package like this. Then we came up with the idea of re-releasing all the superplay DVDs which had been out-of-print. We also thought it would be convenient to put all the instruction booklets into one large book.
—Will all the DLC be included too?
Asada: Yes, everything will be included. At nearly 40 individual DLC items, It was a big surprise how much there was… “we put out this many?” (laughs)
—I thought it would only be Mushihimesama’s Black Label and other separate game versions, but to get everything at one non-inflated price is quite nice.
Asada: Yes, it covers all content for all of our releases. When you think about it, we really did a lot of stuff for the X360. There’s 4 years of Cave development compressed into one release here.
—By the way, Guwange was an XBOX Live Arcade title… will there be a disc version of that included here?
Asada: We wanted to do that, but due to various circumstances it will only be a download code. All the themes, icons, and all other DLC will be included on a separate DLC install disc.
—It must be nearly complete, then?
Asada: All that’s left is to press the discs and announce the release date. Please reserve a copy in advance if you’re interested. This set contains every game I worked on at Cave, from Deathsmiles to Mushihimesama, so I feel very grateful that we could do this.
—Its kind of like the History of Asada collection.
Asada: I’m very happy its happening. To be honest, with most of our games, I was so exhausted after debugging them that I didn’t really want a copy of the finished product. (laughs) But this, I want to take home.
—Will these two items be the last X360 releases you do?
Asada: Probably so. Even if these two sell well, its hard to say if we’ll continue to release X360 titles.
—Well, as is customary, please give a final message to Cave’s fans.
Asada: I think SDOJ will be the last game that I work together with Ikeda and Ichimura to create. So there’s a lot of pressure on us to finish this port, and its a ton of work… but there’s also something sad about it. Either way, we are working hard to ensure we have no regrets about this release, and I think it will show the joy of STG. Please look forward to it!