On first impressions, Masachika Kawata appears to be a stylish young producer. But the spiky hair, gold medallion hanging around his neck, and laid back demeanor disguise the fact that at Capcom, he's a very important person. Along with director Jun Takeuchi, Kawata is responsible for producing Capcom's most important game of 2009: Resident Evil 5.
GamePro had an exclusive opportunity to sit down with Mr. Kawata at the Leipzig Games Convention and have a brief chat about the progress and direction of Resident Evil 5.
How is Resident Evil 5 coming along?
Good...but busy. No one is going home these days. It's been really hard. There was a time when I was younger that everyone would be chained to their desk. These days with greater concern for health and safety, we can't do that. So the working conditions are a little better. But we are very busy.
What's been the most difficult thing about building this game compared to previous games?
I suppose this applies not only to RE5 but to all the games we make. The most challenging thing is that you have to create an interesting game to play with. To create this from nothing is always the most difficult. It's quite easy to create a game up to the point where you can play through it. After that, the difficulty comes when you have to tune and balance the game so that it creates powerful emotional reactions.
Do you see this more of an action game than a horror game?
I'm the producer, and [Jun] Takeuchi is the director who works more on the direction of game, so this more of a question for him. I was originally under the impression that it would be more of an action game, but I can tell you that this is a horror game. And in co-op mode, it's double the horror. The co-operative component works on a motivational level and really increases the level of horror.
Can you tell us any ways the co-operative characters work together that we haven't seen yet?
There are items in the game that you can't obtain without your partner helping you out. As an example, in one scene you play in the darkness, and one player has to carry a torch while the other shoots the enemies. There are lots of different situations like this where you have to work with your partners. We're planning on creating a video montage of gameplay footage where we compile the ways the two partners interact.
This is a very important game - does that create a lot of pressure for you and the team?
It is quite difficult. The team is under the pressure to carry on the fine tradition of Resident Evil. However, we already developed Resident Evil 4 which broke the boundaries of the series in terms of gameplay. So we had an example where we could do something more rather than just carry the old traditions on again and again. The development team strongly believes in itself for RE5.
Is there any interest in moving RE5 to other platforms [such as DS or PSP]?
[Laughter] First we have to sell the game on the Xbox 360 and PS3.
Do you believe we'll ever have zombies in real-life that are created by viruses or otherwise?
I'm a quite squeamish person, so I can't believe in real-life zombies. However, I sometimes think that Takeuchi might be a zombie himself [Laughs]. Actually, having said that, he's so capable that he may be a robot.
The level you showed at E3, what part of the game does that take place?
It takes place early on in the game — these are the first levels.
How different will the game be level to level?
We've included more variety of locations. Timeline-wise, this is a realistic game so we're not going to be jumping to the North Pole in terms of location. In RE4 the location didn't change. In RE5, because the scenes change more and locations change, you will have more incentive to keep playing. We have quite a good story line, and the characters we've tried to develop to be as real as possible. This will be an epic entertainment piece. You'll be scared, you'll cry, and you'll laugh...well, you won't really laugh all that much, actually.
Both you and Jun Takeuchi are heavily involved in the game. How do your roles work?
Takeuchi basically says, "I'm going to do this", and we all follow that [laughs]. Seriously though, Takeuchi is working on another project at the same time as Resident Evil 5, so he's capable of doing two things at once. We have discussions - sometimes arguments about what's in the game, but he won't budge. As a result, RE5 won't release until 2018 [laughs loudly]. Joking aside, Takeuchi is a very capable man, and he commands respect from the team.
Is there anything in RE5 that surprises you in terms of gameplay or story? No, not really because I've been working on the game since the planning stage so I know the whole game. Also, we're pretty much pushing action gameplay in the first half of the game but we haven't forgotten that this is a horror game. So the second half of the game will be scary. The game will be really, really scary towards the end.