Over the weekend Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune caused a minor internet meltdown by launching a Kickstarter campaign for Mighty No. 9, a project with an all-star development team and a strong Mega Man vibe to it. At the time of writing the fundraiser has unsurprisingly gained significant backing, surpassing $800,000 with 29 days still to go; $2.5 million is the magic number for a Wii U version, and on current momentum is looks like a strong possibility.
Naturally, Keiji Inafune has been busy talking about the game in the hours since its unveiling, and in an interview with USGamer he was quizzed about potential legal issues or challenges from Capcom. As was pointed out to him, there have been occasions in the past where similar products from former staff of major companies have been challenged, yet Inafune made clear that the possibility won't stop him continuing and producing the game he wants to deliver.
Honestly, publishers and developers always disagree on lots of issues. And so that conflict and that friction will always be there. The Infinity Ward guys are a perfect example, a publisher and a developer disagreeing over what they each think their value is. If you start worrying about that, you're not going to get anything done. It just comes with the territory.
That being said, Mega Man is Mega Man because it's my style. It's my artistic style that created that character. Beck, in Mighty No. 9, is also a character that I've created. If the idea is that I should try to stop creating characters via my style and try to create a different style that totally doesn't fit with me, that doesn't seem to make a lot of logical sense. Certainly I'm not going to do that just to make Capcom happy. I am who I am. My artistic style is what it is. We're all going to naturally gravitate toward what fits us naturally as an artist or a creator or a designer or whatever. That's all I'm doing in this case as well.
An aspect of the fundraiser that's caught the eye is the focus on community feedback and involvement — via dedicated forums — as the development kicks into gear. This inevitably brings comparisons with the contentious beginnings and failings of the Mega Man Legends 3 project. Inafune made it clear that while that community input will be vital, there will be a structure and set of limitations to ensure that the arrangement delivers the best results for all concerned.
I will say this – working with the fans sounds attractive and cool and great on paper. But in reality, the logistics behind it are quite difficult. If you're going to interact with the fans and make sure you're getting the most clear-cut, concise information you can from them, you need to structure it in a way in which… Do they choose between two or three different choices? Are they able to make certain key selections? You can't just throw out a huge wide net and say, "Give me your best character design," or something like that, because then you're going to come up with 8,000 different ideas and there's no way to manage that sort of information.
The fans, the backers, they're not game creators. They're fans. They're people who love the content. They're going to have great ideas, but they still need to be funneled in a way that the people building the game will be able to use them in the best way possible. Finding that solution set, finding those logistics, is going to be key to making sure that this project provides the most for both the creators and the fans that are so interested in it.
... With the Legends project, obviously, we didn't get to do all that we wanted to do. Had we, I think that there would be additional learnings that we could have gleaned from going all out. That's unfortunate, but what can be said is… Going back to what I said before, if you're going to work with a large number of fans, and you want to streamline their feedback in the most concise way possible, providing them with different choices and options to pick from is a good way. At least providing them with some sort of framework, a box for them to come up with ideas within, is going to be something that will be a more effective way to utilize their cooperation. Rather than just saying, "Hey, what do you want?"
An open-ended question like that, to 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 people, it's just going to give you data points all over the map that you're not going to be able to do much with. You don't want to have… "There will be robots or zombies in this game! There will be dinosaurs in this game!" Narrowing those parameters — creating those guidelines, that box — is something that's going to be key to making sure that information is passed back and forth in the best way.
The target release for this title isn't until April 2015, yet interest in this project is likely to be fierce over that sustained period. What do you think of Inafune's comments, particularly those on ensuring a successful collaboration with the community?