Exclusive Interview: Mindjack, with Takeshiro Kaminagayoshi
The release of Mindjack is just a few days away, and we wanted to find out what's in store for those who pick up Square Enix's next foray into the action / shooter genre. Luckily, we had the chance to interview Takeshiro Kaminagayoshi, Director of Feel Plus and the mastermind behind this game.
GD: Feelplus has contributed on a number of very compelling video game titles (No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise, Blue Dragon Plus, Infinite Undiscovery, Star Ocean: The Last Hope, etc.) across multiple consoles, including Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, and DS. How have the experiences from previous projects influenced the development of Mindjack? Where did the inspiration for Mindjack come from?
TK: On those example titles, most of what we were responsible for was upgrading features for porting the title onto a different console, or create some parts of games. While limited, those experiences were beneficial for us since we made connections to many other companies and 1st parties. Before that, we were giving our 100% on just making Lost Odyssey!
As you know, Lost Odyssey is an RPG with a massive volume. Many people worked on the title, and there were many challenges as well. We needed a lot of time and budget to make the title, but we felt very satisfied with what we’ve created as a new RPG from Japan. After Lost Odyssey, I thought about my next project, and I wanted to move away from RPG, and to make a new shooter game which I love as much as I love RPG. That was the starting point of Mindjack.
Video games have been evolving by integrating storytelling and playing, and this is what has led to the current campaign mode gameplay we all enjoy today. At the same time, we’ve seen improvements in network environments, which has created the new trend of enjoying co-op play and competition with other players.
Right after we entered the 21st century, however, I started feeling that I was not completely satisfied with the trends. To share a story with another player, I needed to become the sidekick character that was pre-implemented into the game, and to play co-op and match play, I needed to wait for other players to join and battle in the designated map that was nothing special – this situation gave me the idea to start the concept of Mindjack.
A few years later, I met a producer from Square Enix, Mr. Yamagishi, and I was given the opportunity to make the concept into a real project. I wanted to integrate those two major trends into Mindjack. To integrate matching play and co-op play freely in the game story accordingly. This is a new evolution in video games. I knew it would be a tough challenge from the beginning, but I am so happy that I could make this concept into a real video game with the support of Square Enix.
GD: Mindjack was announced by Square Enix back in June, but how long had you actually been working on the project prior to the announcement? Also, has the game’s concept changed a lot over its development cycle?
TK: We were developing Mindjack for the last one and a half years. The concept of integrating campaign mode and multiplayer mode hasn’t changed since the beginning of the development cycle. However, we brushed up the game system multiple times based on feedback that we received from Square Enix and from focus group testing.
GD: The studio is known for crafting visually-striking games. Can we expect a lot of out-of-engine cutscenes? Will in-engine action be very cinematic?
TK: We purposely limited the number of the cutscenes in Mindjack, because we wanted to focus on keeping tempo of the game as quick as possible and to have the freedom of other players jumping in and out anytime they want to. However, we prepared some pre-rendered cutscenes to highlight some of the important scenes, though.
In addition to the cutscenes that were created by us, there are some that Square Enix’s Visual Works created. It was such an exciting experience for us to collaborate with SQEX pre-render team.
As for the real-time cutscenes, we’ve put a lot of effort into making it as cinematic as possible. We hired a consultant specializing in Krav Maga who was able to offer his expertise for our mo-cap sessions and how to handle weapons.
This consultant had instructed not only LAPD, FBI, and US special task forces, but also many police, army, government, and civilian security firms.
GD: Mindjack is set in the near future (2031) where corporations are supplanting the authority of federal governments worldwide. What kinds of conflicts will we experience that are directly attributed to these mega-corps?
TK: The player assumes the role as a government intelligence agent and pursues the truth behind a terrorist attack. The attack was tied to a global corporation who is masterminding a plot to make profit. They will do anything -- even summoning an army -- to stop the protagonist who is trying to expose the conspiracy. This story sounds like one of those cliché conspiracy game plots, but in Mindjack, this is just the story that appears on surface. There will be more to be revealed behind the mystery that is hiding deep inside the conflict.
GD: Mindjack will let players take control of enemies, vehicles, and even civilians through Mind Wave technology. How will this play out on the in-game battlefields as well as out-of-combat segments?
TK: In the battlefield, when you run out of strength, you can ‘hack out' and transform into a wanderer. The wanderer phase allows you to travel freely across the battlefield in a digital cloud form to search for your next character to hack into. Once you locate a target you’d like to mindhack, you can hack into their body and play as that character. When the newly hacked entity is damaged and fails, you will be forced to hack-out to find another host.
In the game, players from all over the world will be able to hack into another players’ single-player game to make it a multiplayer or co-op game with other players.
GD: The game is an action-shooter, so it is probably safe to assume that fast and furious combat will rule. Still, what kinds of strategic elements will present themselves? Will cover mechanics be implemented?
TK: Some of the strategic elements include selecting which character to hack into. All of the soldiers, civilians, creatures, and mechs have different strengths and it is up to the player to decide which character would be the best to achieve the objective. The location of the hacked character also plays an important part in strategizing the player’s battle tactics. For example, some characters can be located above the main battle giving the player a vantage point.
Mindslaving is a variation of Mind Hacking. When an enemy is defeated, the host can mind slave the enemy to convert him to an A.I.-controlled combatant. Slaved characters continue to fight until they are too damaged or if the host achieves the objective in the area.
There are cover mechanics that are implemented into the game, as well as melee combat that includes Krav Maga style attack combinations.
GD: The single-player story mode with incorporated online cooperative play sounds really interesting, but it’s perhaps a bit confusing. What exactly can players expect from this innovative feature?
TK: Players can expect to be able to jump into another players’ single-player campaign at anytime to make it an instant multiplayer. They will no longer need to wait for other players to join in order for the game to start since the game will already be in progress. Even though the host is in a single-player campaign, other players can jump in and choose to play as a co-op player or as the enemy. Players can hack in and hack out of multiple characters during the battle. This makes the campaign experience different every time you play. The same A.I. character can attack you in different ways depending on which player is controlling it. Players can also gain special abilities by leveling up, so their playability will increase more and more as you play the game.
GD: Are there any other tidbits of info you’d like to share with our readers?
The characters that you can control through mind hacking are not limited to just humans or mechs. You will be able to mind hack a gigantic monster-size character which is hidden somewhere in map.
Cutting his gaming teeth at Aladdin's Castle and on the Commodore 64, JC entered into video game journalism in 2008. Helping run GameDynamo as its director is both a dream and a rewarding challenge.
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