Interviews// Ridge Racers and Vacations: Masaya Kobayashi

Posted 13 Dec 2011 16:01 by
So confident was Kobayashi in Go Vacation that he once said he wanted to ensure it was the ?definitive Wii title.? I asked him about this quote of his from some months ago, knowing that there?s a number of ?core gamers? with a Wii who might look the other way at a game like this. He clarified, ?Probably, before that quote there was ?in casual games,? or ?in family games.? That?s what I meant.

?Of course, if we chose from all the Wii games, it?s kind of difficult to say that this would be the definitive title on the platform. There are core gamers within the Wii demographic and they will probably want more of a Ridge Racer game. But in the casual and family game field, I wanted Go Vacation to be the king of kings, going in line with Mario and Zelda for instance.?

But if his goal?s been achieved with Go Vacation, what could be the grounds for a new family title? Everywhere and everything?s been covered by now, surely? How about space!? Kobayashi laughs, shakes his head is despair and reveals, ?Yeah, I?m at the stage where I have to think of another title, and all the dev team members are actually telling me to make a game in space!

?I was even at home speaking to my wife one day about the fact that I wasn?t sure what game to make now. Because Go Vacation was quite vast. At first she was just nodding her head, kind of passively listening, ?uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh...? but then the very next morning she said to me, ?You know, you should make a game that goes into outer space!? I think there was some kind of weird space conspiracy going on at the time!?

Although Kobayashi?s not sure about what he wants to do just yet, he?s certain that the Final Frontier won?t be involved. ?I don?t think it?s a good idea to set a game in space, so I?m not going to do it! But seriously, if I made a game just like Go Vacation again, nobody would really be happy about playing the same game with different activities. I really want to make something where the gameplay is different and deep, and I?m thinking of what I can do from there.?

Perhaps Nintendo?s next console, the Wii U, is the key. Kobayashi, while not going into too much detail about the upcoming hardware, predicts that Nintendo will aim to capture the same market as the Wii did, opening up opportunities for future family titles. ?It?s difficult, because I don?t know how much I?m allowed to speak about the Wii U, but as I listened to the Nintendo conference at E3 I imagine that Iwata-san [Nintendo?s president] was saying that it was aiming for a larger audience than it achieved with the Wii.

?Therefore, from what I assume by looking at the hardware itself right now, it doesn?t seem like the Wii U will be appealing to the real hardcore gamers from the beginning, at least. So what Nintendo will probably do is try to get the kids and the families first, like they did for the Wii, and then enlarge it to the more hardcore gamers.?

Of course, the Wii U?s curious new tablet controller opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for control and user experiences. I asked what kind of uses Kobayashi might have as a producer for an input device like this, particularly with multiplayer games. His family-oriented answer made a lot of sense.

?Here?s a quick idea, for example - I imagine if kids are going to be playing on the big TV to play a casual game, the parents might be in the background using the tablet controller. The kids are having fun moving and bouncing around, but sometimes adults don?t really want to move around that much. So the parents can support the kids by clicking icons on the controller, or something.

?Maybe for Go Vacation... if we decide to make another one for Wii U... in the Wii version of the game you could take photographs. You could probably use the tablet controller as a kind of camera device in that manner, or use it as a wheel and race around with the indicator on the touch screen. Those kinds of small ideas come up to me.? Ultimately, it?s the feeling of having different experiences while playing the same game that appeals to him.

Although Kobayashi?s undecided on what kind of game he wants to make next, he tells me that his team has a hankering to get back on the race track. ?A lot of people in the team actually say that they want to make another Ridge Racer. And sometimes I think so too, but unless I can come up with a definite thing that would be really good for the series, I wouldn?t want to make another one.?

Bugbear?s currently working on Ridge Racer: Unbounced in the West, introducing elements such as carnage and user generated content. Is that the sort of thing Kobayashi is looking to? ?Well, I?m not going to make crashing cars or anything like that,? he laughs. ?But I?m thinking... for Ridge Racer, it?s all about the sensation of the drifting. So if there is something - gameplay or otherwise - that would help make the drifting really cool, then maybe I will return to the Ridge Racer series. Not now, though.?

Before I leave, I have to ask him his thoughts on Unbounded. ?I?m not really involved in Unbounded, so I don?t know to which extent I?m supposed to answer the question, but... I know that this kind of approach actually exists in other car racing games. It depends on how the consumers actually react to that, and after seeing that maybe there?s going to be another line of Ridge Racer, but it depends.?

So should Unbounded become a success, it could kick off a bona fide spinoff series? ?I don?t know if there is a proper mainstream or spinoffs definition for Ridge Racer, but if I was to make a new Ridge Racer, I wouldn?t make it that way.?

Would he take the series into outer space, maybe?
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