Interviews// CAVE: Yukihiro Masaki

Posted 6 Dec 2011 14:56 by
CAVE is boldly entering a brave new world. Just a year and a half ago, barely anyone in the West would have known about this pleasant studio, famous in Japan for its intense ‘bullet hell’ shoot’em up games. But in the last twelve months, the company has gained international acclaim for releasing smartphone versions of its most popular games and has seen its Xbox 360 titles published in Europe by Rising Star Games to a positive reception.

For a developer whose roots are firmly entrenched in the arcade business, the last year has been something of an internal revolution. The man in charge of the mobile initiative is Yukihiro Masaki, who is also spearheading the evolution of the CAVE WORLD smartphone portal.

For him, the move to mobile isn’t so surprising, given that the device is entrenched in Japanese culture. The introduction of the iPhone has allowed its games to go global, he explains. “Japan has a longer history in mobile phones. Even elementary school kids here have them - it’s more like an everyday item, and part of our lifestyle.”

The iPhone in particular fascinates Masaki because of the integration of features and media that can be included within such a device. “It’s not just a phone and not just a games device. It’s also a music player, and I think it’s these elements that place the device closer to the things we have in Japan. There is a distinctive Japanese interest in the iPhone or similar smartphone device, but that technology and interest has now become a worldwide factor.”

Such widespread popularity of the iPhone has allowed for plenty of indie mobile game studios to thrive and reach a different kind of audience. “You get people who maybe have more appreciation for simple games, and direct controls and whatnot. So that simplicity is something that might be the best for those particular platforms,” said the developer, adding that this doesn’t mean there isn’t a desire for complex games such as Infinity Blade II to be realised on the platform.

But the beauty of a classic CAVE shooter isn’t in the complexity of its game mechanic or control scheme - rather, in the accessibility of play and the exhilaration that its scenarios provide. For the studio’s back catalogue to remain enjoyable on a touchscreen device, Masaki and his team explored different ways of tweaking the game’s original code for various input methods.

“We knew that we had to do something different from the existing console controls,” he said. “Which meant looking at things like slide controls, and how to make a game specifically for the smartphone platform that would be fun. Once the control ideas were in place it was about making the movement as accurate as possible to the movement of your finger, so that your ship controls exactly as you would expect it to. That’s the sort of thing that you would need on a smartphone device to make the game really fun.”

Espgaluda II was the studio’s first foray into the App Store back in April 2010, and Masaki has one particular company to thank for the implementation of the aforementioned slide controls - Taito. “When we were creating Espgaluda II and beginning our smartphone business, the first reference that made an impact on us was Taito’s Space Invaders: Infinity Gene. That was really big for us.

“Up until that point, we had been thinking about how to create games on the iPhone that were up to CAVE’s standards,” Masaki revealed. “The first control scheme that we had in mind was the use of gyro sensors. Then we got our hands on Infinity Gene, and what they had come up with had a big impact on us.”
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