Interviews: Red Steel 2's Jason VandenBerghe
Posted by James Newton
In the great man's words, "f***ing A!"
After my extremely enjoyable but all-too short time spent playing the game I was bursting with questions, and luckily I got to sit down with just the man to answer them - Red Steel 2's Creative Director, Jason VandenBerghe.
Nintendo Life: It seems almost compulsory for every Wii game these days to include minigames. We've already seen the safe-cracking "minigame", but what's your take on the genre as a whole?
Jason VandenBerghe: To me, the safe is an example of a f***ing cool minigame! It was an idea totally out of the blue that one of our programmers came up with and coded in a day. When we played with it, it seemed to fit with our world and our approach to the game as a whole, which was to keep the world consistent with what we'd envisioned.
NL: What would you say were the main inspirations for the game's design?
JV: All our creative ideas came out of the gameplay - they all came from the sword and the gun. We felt the first game had the Japanese theme down - the katana and the Yakuza and so on, but it didn't get the guns right: it felt like you had an archetype in one hand and a generic gun in the other. So when we sat down to think of a new approach for this game we soon came up with the gunslinger idea, and from that came up with the setting. Placing the game in the Wild West seemed natural, but when we started to mix the whole thing up with the Japanese and modern-day influences it began to feel really new and right, like this was our world.
NL: Are there any connections in story between the first game and the sequel?
JV: Hmm... no comment! The connection between the two games is really the gun and the sword. We built the world for the gameplay; it all stemmed from there, and it made sense to do something different.
NL: With all the focus on the swordplay, were you ever tempted to drop the gun altogether?
JV: Not really. The team all wanted to make a really great sword and gun game; that was our aim with this one. Just making a first-person sword game isn't Red Steel - it has to be about both weapons. I mean, I'm not averse to the idea of a side-franchise that's just swordplay, "Red Steel Tactics" or something, but for this one we had to focus on both weapons and getting that mix right.
NL: The Motion+ implementation is great, but did you or do you have any concerns over the attachment?
JV: Obviously the big concern is that we're selling to a reduced userbase, and it all depends on how well the attachment is taken up by the console owners. We looked at doing a version without MotionPlus, and the lag from when you attack was something like half a second, which doesn't sound like a lot but ends up with a game totally different from what you played today. There's a reason there haven't been many games like the original Red Steel since its launch, which is that it just isn't possible to get the right level of accuracy without MotionPlus.
NL: With that in mind, did Nintendo give you a lot of support to get to grips with MotionPlus?
JV: Oh yeah, they were great. We got our first MotionPlus a few weeks before it was officially announced, and we were like "now we can do it!". Nintendo were great though, they gave us loads of early libraries for MotionPlus and really gave us a lot of support.
NL: You can tell the Metroid influence right away, when you have to shoot the red hinges off the doors to advance to the next area...
JV: Yeah, it's almost like we took that because we knew it would work!
NL: Do you guys have any online features planned?
JV: No, not this time: no split-screen and no online features. We could have put something in there quickly but it wouldn't have been right, and we really wanted to focus on the most exciting feature. It's kind of hard because there's no cookie-cutter template with the online stuff for us - we're really hacking through the wilderness with this one!
NL: Despite everyone's initial excitement about the Wii's controls being perfect for first-person shooters, we're still without a flagship FPS like Halo 3 or Killzone 2. Do you see Red Steel 2 as the game to end that drought?
JV: Not really... I mean, we recognise that frustration. We really do. But then, we have one thing which no other FPS has - the sword in your hand. For us, this is more about MotionPlus than console vs. console - we want this to be the gamer's flagship for the MotionPlus, to really show what it can do. It makes sense for us to sell the attachment on the back of the game, because of what we can do with the MotionPlus.
NL: A lot of our readers are really excited about this one. What one thing would you say to them to get them even more excited?
JV: This game will let you smash things up with your sword!
With that, Jason got up for maybe his twentieth cup of coffee and later departed to catch his flight to LA, where he delivered Ubisoft's presentation of Red Steel 2. His enthusiasm and passion for the game is highly infectious - helped no doubt by all the caffeine! - and it's clear there's a lot of him in the game. Thanks to Jason for his time, and stay tuned for our second interview with Lead Game Designer Roman Campos Oriola, who reveals even more tasty morsels of information about the game.