Radiant Silvergun – 1998 Developer Interview
This 1998 interview with Radiant Silvergun developers Hiroshi Iuchi and Masato Maegawa of Treasure was originally featured in the 3/98 issue of Gamest magazine. In addition to explaining their design choices for Radiant Silvergun, both developers also opine about the current arcade scene in Japan. This interview was found at the GSLA, a Japanese site that preserves interviews from print sources.
Treasure’s Arcade Debut
Maegawa: For the last 5 years, ever since we released Gunstar Heroes, Sega has repeatedly been asking us to develop an arcade game. Once we decided this project would be a STG, we determined that releasing an original STG straight to console might be a hard sell, and that if you were going to make a new, original STG, it definitely had to be released in the arcade first.
The development began about six months ago. Personally I thought it might be best to keep the two halves “arcade” and “console” well separated as we moved forward. Iuchi has arcade development experience, but arcade games and console games are completely different. I was thinking things would get very difficult if we didn’t strictly observe that division. The gameplay between arcades and consoles is so different, after all.
Iuchi: Nowadays you’ve got 2D and 3D games. If you decide to go ahead with a 2D game, generally that will be fine for a console release. As for arcades, more and more today their specialty is becoming large-format games.1
It doesn't make as much sense anymore to release a 2D game in the arcades first. It’s probably best to do the console release sooner, and have the arcade be a kind of “test version” for the console. And in that sense, if developers don’t think about the console side during the development, I think 2D STG will soon be culled from the market and die out.
But if you don’t develop arcade games as arcade games, then they’ll come to be recognized as mere extensions of console games, and there’s a chance arcade gaming itself will become obsolete… I think something has to be done about it, but I don’t know what.
The Arcade Scene Today
Iuchi: Basically, the main style of STG coming out today is the Toaplan style “shot + bomb” vertical STG. But there was a time in the past when other makers, like Irem and Konami, each had built their own distinct style of STG. Looked at as a whole, I suppose, you could just lump them all together as “STGs”, but to STG fans there’s a big difference between the styles. And these days Irem, Konami, and other developers haven’t been releasing many STGs to the arcade, and most everything is Toaplan-ish, and hardly any STGs feature terrain. Given those circumstances, my first and foremost desire was to make that kind of a non-Toaplan STG. If other developers weren’t going to do it, then why not do it ourselves?
I used to work at Konami. I joined them because I really loved Gradius and Super Contra. Since then I’ve continued to buy and play many different STGs. I really loved Image Fight.
Up till now we’ve only made action games at Treasure, but if you pull back the curtain just a bit you’d find that Treasure is full of STG fans. Our main programmers are in their late 20s and early 30s, the same generation that played games when STGs were at their flourishing peak, but when they started making games, it was the time of the fighting game boom…
Maegawa: Yeah, the variety of games at arcades has really shrunk recently. Action games too have almost completely disappeared, so although Sega kept asking us to release an action game, it would be quite an undertaking in this environment. On top of that I’m not sure the audience would appreciate the proportion of time put into a good action game.
Iuchi: It feels like arcade developers are short on new ideas nowadays, especially with all the remakes and such we’ve been seeing lately. It’s always hard for new ideas to take hold–that’s just the way of the world, but the bigger the company you work for, the harder it is for new game designs to get through. Take something like Parappa the Rapper for example. I bet that the higher-ups in the company had NO idea whether it would be an interesting game or not just by looking at the design plans. The people who play games are diversifying, so I think games should diversify too, but you still mostly see VS. fighting games in arcades.
Design Considerations for Radiant Silvergun
Iuchi: The reason I didn’t include items in Radiant Silvergun is simply that when I play STGs, items are very frequently the stupid cause of my death. For example in Gradius, when you want to select Option but you accidentally take one power up too many and select Shield, or in Thunder Force, when you want to select Homing but you press the button too many times and end up dying as you try to cycle back to it. That’s why, this time I wanted to confront that problem head-on, and create a game that progresses simply through shooting and dodging.
There’s been many previous games where you swap weapons, so adding a button just for switching weapons seemed too boring, and you always have to be keeping track of where your weapon gauge is. I wanted something where the way you used your hands was managed mentally. If the different weapons were all based on finger combinations, you wouldn’t need to visually confirm weapons, you’d just automatically know what you were using.
We also deliberately made the bullets slow. If you’re going for a gameplay style that involves threading through tiny cracks in bullet curtains, then a slower bullet speed will allow a wider audience to enjoy the pleasure of bullet dodging.
Now that we’ve had the privilege of entering the arcade world, we hope to continue releasing games there. We’ve got to let everyone know the Treasure name, after all–players, distributors, and arcade operators alike. We’re very proud of Radiant Silvergun, and we can safely call it our finest work to date.
If you've enjoyed reading this interview and would like to be able to vote each month on what I translate, please consider supporting me on Patreon! I can't do it without your help!
He’s referring to large arcade cabinets with interactive controls other than a simple joystick+buttons. Prop Cycle or Planet Harriers would be a good example.↩