E3: Yu Suzuki talks with the GIA

[05.19.01] » Sega's senior designer discusses his first games for other consoles, the health of arcades, and confirms that work on a third Shenmue title is underway.

  GIA's Ed McGlothlin talks to Yu Suzuki.
GIA's Ed McGlothlin talks
to Yu Suzuki.
    Since joining Sega in 1983, Yu Suzuki has risen to become one of the most revered game designers in the world and the most widely recognized arcade designer of all time. The release of Shenmue last year marked a new direction for Suzuki, expanding from his roots in such arcade classics and Hang On and Outrun and into a fully formed RPG world.

    Suzuki took a few minutes out of his hectic schedule yesterday at E3 to talk with the GIA about the dramatic changes at Sega over the past few months and the progress of the Shenmue series.

GIA: Shenmue is obviously a very important franchise for both yourself and Sega. What it its future after the Dreamcast?

YS: I am thinking about that now, actually, and doing research into the next games in the series. We plan to continue until the story is complete.

GIA: Are there ideas you couldn't realize in a game like Shenmue with current technology?

YS: There are a lot of those! I have so many ideas in my head that even if there was a console that cost 30 million dollars, it wouldn't be enough.

GIA: What are the most important things that go into good game design?

YS: I think experience is extremely important. That is not experience with making games, but real-life experience, working lots of odd jobs, or getting dumped a lot. (laughs) Working all kinds of jobs, meeting lots of people, you must figure out what other people are thinking. That way, when you make games, you can think about what the user feels.

GIA: Do you see online uses for games such as Shenmue and Virtua Fighter 4?

YS: We are looking into network and online possibilities. And it isn't just Virtua Fighter and Shenmue I am working on; we have a lot of other projects which are using those technologies.

GIA: How much have the changes at Sega over the past few months affected you as a game designer?

YS: Not at all. Every time we make an arcade game, it is on a different platform in a sense. We are used to working with different platforms, so working on different consumer platformers doesn't faze us.

GIA: Can you tell us more about your first online efforts, including the card you showed during the presentation?

YS: The Virtua Fighter 4 card was specially designed for the location testing, but a version will also be made for the production run. If you put this into the arcade machine and play a few games, the data will be uploaded to the internet server and also contained on the card. On the i-mode service in Japan, you can connect to the URL on the back of the card and check your stats anywhere. You can also give yourself nicknames.

GIA: Why did you choose the PlayStation 2 for your first home conversion outside Sega?

YS: The main reason was it's available now. (laughter)

GIA: Have you examined the hardware for the GameCube and Xbox?

YS: Yes, I am gathering information on them. Each one does have specific characteristics that are very different, and can be used in many ways.

GIA: Many people talk about arcades having problems and possibly being on the way out. You've been a historic force in arcade games -- do you see a problem today?

YS: Every time there has been a big step in gaming, like force feedback or 360-degree games like Afterburner, there has been a jump in arcades. When games went from 2D to 3D, there was a big jump in arcades. When there is another step forward like that, it will help arcades come back.

GIA: What could that step be?

YS: This is a difficult question. One way may be in how users interact with the game, new ways of input and output. If flat screens become more easily available, then more flat screens can be used in games and it will change how arcades are layed out.

GIA: Similar to what F355 Challenge did?

YS: Exactly.

GIA: What has impressed you outside of Sega game-wise lately?

YS: I don't play games that much, but I have seen the commercials for Gran Turismo and think it looks pretty good. Now I want to make another driving game!

GIA: Has making an expansive adventure game like Shenmue taught you anything, and will you make more games like this?

YS: Yes! It has taught me many, many things. I have worked with a lot of people in the movie industry to get experience. I've been able to meet a lot of people with good technical knowledge. When doing my next project, I can continue to choose the best people from these fields.

GIA: Have you enjoyed the ability to tell more of a story than possible in a fighting or racing game?

YS: I am really enjoying it, as there are not many people who have written interactive stories before because the storylines branch and such. You really need to have a logical, scientific mind to lay it out and write it. The whole process is a joy!

GIA: How many chapters does Shenmue contain as of now, and how many games will it take to complete them?

YS: 16 chapters total. We may combine some of those into one game, so it is unknown how many games remain.

GIA: Thank you Suzuki-san.

YS: No problem.

Interview by Ed McGlothlin, GIA Heard a hot news tip? Tell the Agency
Special Ops
Check out our other features.
Catch up on older features.