Jumping Flash! 2 - 1996 Developer Interview
This short interview with the three Jumping Flash! 2 teams of MuuMuu, Exact, and Sony was originally featured in The Playstation magazine. In what appears to have been a very congenial development, the teams here discuss character design and their motivation in making JF!2. Overall it's a bit light on info, but consider this an appetizer to the longer JF interview we'll be publishing with Yukihito Morikawa in the near future!
Tetsuji Yamamoto - Producer
Koji Tada - Director
Toshimitsu Odaira - Planner
Shuji Nomaguchi - Story/Scenario
Kazuya Sakamoto - World/Management
Kazuma Shirasaki - Stages/Characters
Hiroshi Yamamoto - 3D Systems
Takashi Katano - Main Programmer
Kazuki Toyota - Enemies
Yukihito Morikawa - MuuMuu CEO
—The first Jumping Flash went on sale last April. After that you went to work on the overseas version, and then you started planning for the sequel. Were there things leftover from the first game that you still wanted to do?
Toyota: There were, yeah. There were things we couldn't accomplish, leftover ideas and such. We got together and had a discussion about those possibilities, and that was where JF!2 began.
Sakamoto: One example would be the underwater areas. I'm super stoked that you'll get to see the MuuMuus' world.
Tada: Probably the thing I put the most care into was the triple jump gauge. The reason why, is that last year during Golden Week we had an event, and some people weren't jumping at all, they were just firing their gun. If players just run around they'll never understand how fun the jumping is, and the gauge helps clue them in.
Katano: For the programming, making everything movable was a big goal this time. The clouds, pillars, etc.
Nomaguchi: It's wonderful.
H. Yamamoto: We had a lot of maps in the last game too, but overall the backgrounds were static. This time we wanted to animate as much as possible, while at the same time making sure it didn't get in the way of the gameplay.
—Why couldn't you do that in the last game? Was it just a matter of running out of time?
Toyota: That was part of it, and, well the programmers should probably be the ones talking about this, but being our first Playstation game there was a lot we weren't used to.
Katano: In producing the last game, we spent a long time just getting our processes, back-end stuff, in order. But now for the sequel we can build on that base, and add new things and new gameplay elements.
H. Yamamoto: Developing the overseas version taught us a lot too.
Odaira: Yeah, the base for JF!2 was actually the overseas version of JF!1, which is actually more like a Jumping Flash 1.5.
Katano: It plays differently, yeah. The jump timing is totally different.
Odaira: When we were in the middle of making JF!2, I went back and played the first game and yeah, it was harsh. (laughs)
—What were some of the challenges you faced in making JF!2, and what are some of the things you really want players to see?
T. Yamamoto: It was probably the programmers who struggled the most.
H. Yamamoto: The graphics are a huge level up compared with the first game. It took a lot of work to make that happen. As for what I want players to see, I would say the overall improved graphics processing in general.
Katano: There's events that are unique to the second loop, so I hope players persevere to the end.
Toyota: There were a lot of challenges with the details of the gameplay systems, things players wouldn't really be aware of, but those are hard to explain.
H. Yamamoto: JF!2 takes up twice as much data as the first game, and we kept running out of memory. Also, for me personally, making the water animation look natural was very challenging.
Odaira: If I start listing what was hard, we'll be here all day. (laughs) The maps were created by a team of three people. After the first JF was finished, we hired some new people, and JF!2 was their first development. I had to teach them about the world and gameplay of Jumping Flash, but not with words—they had to grasp it more intuitively. Basically, it was my first time having people working under me, so it's not related to the game per se, but managing them was my biggest challenge. (laughs)
Other than that, since JF!2 has a second loop, it meant double the maps. We're mainly using the same assets and engine as before, but as developers, it's not satisfying to just add more quantity, so we're trying to spice them up.
H. Yamamoto: With the first game released, players now know what kind of game this is, so we can focus on adding new stuff, surprises, intrigues. The thing we're most afraid of hearing is "I played the first game, and the sequel is just more of the same." So our big question is, how can we make the people who played JF!1 want to play the sequel? We've had a lot of conversations during the development, between Exact, MuuMuu, and Sony along these lines, and I think it's come together quite well.
Toyota: My challenge was the volume of enemies—there's twice as many as the first game. The basic character design is done by MuuMuu, and then our staff does their best to replicate that in game form.
What I want players to see are the bosses. Our planner Odaira just kept coming at us with all these detailed ideas for the bosses. This attack should be like this, oh no, here it should be like that, no no this part should be this way… but as a result, we've managed to achieve an uncompromising level of quality.
Sakamoto: Each time we got some new part of the game back from Exact, I would be extremely impressed with the quality. That includes the improvements they made from the first game. It spurred us on at MuuMuu to do our best, too. Shirasaki did the movie storyboarding and direction, and I played a utility role and helped keep everything moving forward.
—Tell us about the new movies for Jumping Flash! 2.
Shirasaki: We subcontracted certain things out for the movies and we were pretty demanding of them. Last time the movies were edited on video tape and compressed for digital playback, but the quality was less than satisfying. For JF!2, we made a point in our initial planning that the movie data would be capable of direct playback. I think the movies are on par with the rest of the game, and I hope players enjoy seeing all the crazy characters come to life.
Shirasaki: It's weird characters all down the line. Captain Kabuki is humongous. (laughs)
—Where did the idea for Captain Kabuki come from? Was it modeled after someone...?
Shirasaki: No one in particular… what do you guys think?
Nomaguchi: A model? It's Shirasaki. (laughs)
Shirasaki: No no, he's lying. The model, well, you probably know. The Garamo aliens, that whole look was a big inspiration probably. Unconsciously though.1 The very first picture of Captain had a different shaped mouth. It was scarier. (laughs) Aloha is just a regular human, and very early on Nomaguchi and I agreed that we should have something on the polar opposite of that for Captain.
Nomaguchi: The modeling, on the other hand, we spent quite a bit of time on. (laughs)
Shirasaki: His heels, toenails, we obsessed over dumb details like that. (laughs) Also, as Odaira said a moment ago, we didn't want players saying "Jumping Flash 2 is just more of the same." The movies look spectacular and promise a lot of excitement, but that would all be meaningless if the game itself didn't deliver.
So we needed to have things that would encourage players to jump. That's why we had the team add stuff like the whale in World 1-2, and the ambience of the underwater areas… it was extremely fun. The moment I realized how much we could do, it really spurred me on creatively with my drawing.
Nomaguchi: My job was coming up with Captain Kabuki's party jokes. (laughs) Given his appearance it was a real adventure. It was a tightrope: mess up just a little, I thought, and he would become a god-awful character, so I had to think rather seriously about how to make him stupid. While coming up with cheezy party jokes. (laughs)
Also, I personally love the voice for the Support AI navigator Risukichi-kun that you can select in the second loop. I almost feel guilty saying this but it was an extremely fun development for me, with a ton of personality, and everyone on the team was graciously receptive to my ideas.
T. Yamamoto: Being a sequel, from the start I thought, "if I just let them do all the stuff they couldn't do in the first game, it should turn out fine", so my job as a producer was pretty easy. I thought this last game too, but their excellent teamwork impressed me again—all the more so since the teams were in different locations. Along with Tada, our job was to smooth everything out between the teams, and it was easy. Well, maybe it was good that we were separated, hah! I'm joking of course.
—Did anything else eventful happen during the development?
Tada: Everyone worked really hard in the final phase of the development just before the deadline, but Toyota didn't sleep for 48 hours. (laughs)
Toyota: Just a little more, I thought, just a little more… but when I was working there late at night, a fire broke out in the building next door. I had to go help put it out.
Odaira: I remember that. In addition to your crazy workload your duties included firefighting, and helping out with the new PC storefront. (laughs)
—Were there any troubles or complaints between MuuMuu and Exact?
Odaira: I hope we can keep working together in the future. (laughs)
Nomaguchi: Whatever there was, it's all turned to love by this point.
Morikawa: Our company MuuMuu is known by select enthusiasts, but we're still a small company with no name value. So doing work that Exact and Sony can respect is paramount to us.
Toyota: The programming experience, the character settings… our two teams complement each other well, each having something that the other doesn't. It was really a harmonious, positive development. And we built a strong sense of trust between us.
Tada: What gave me the confidence that Jumping Flash! 2 would be a hit, was seeing the response at the Playstation EXPO held in Aomi about a month before the release. Not only were there lots of people there, but they were specifically asking about JF!2.
—What are your future plans?
T. Yamamoto: Actually, you know, Exact is working on another game right now.
Toyota: Yeah, I don't know if I can talk about it though… it's a Masamune Shirow project, and it builds on Jumping Flash's gameplay. I can't be more specific about the title or other details now. It's looking great so far though. Masamune Shirow brought the project idea to us himself, actually.
Yamamoto: OK, you've said enough…! Save the rest for another time!
—Thank you for all the positive vibes today. We look forward to seeing what you make next!
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Shirasaki says "ガラモ星人", which brings up no hits in google. It's likely that he meant garamon, which is a character from Ultraman with a somewhat reminiscent face/expression.↩