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 Post subject: Yoshinori Satake - Steel Empire, Over Horizon Interview
PostPosted: Thu Jun 21, 2012 3:18 am 


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Here is a little oddball someone requested, a long interview with Yoshinori Satake, the creator of the console games Steel Empire (MD), Over Horizon (FC), and Insector X (FC). These are both from Shooting Gameside 4/5. Some interesting thoughts on shmup development and RPG influence. This interview will probably be most interesting to fans of Steel Empire... I've played it, but not Over Horizon or Insector X.

Next I'm going to do a couple remaining items from Shooting Gameside #5--there were no Thunder Force interviews though despite the feature. :( But there are short interviews for Valhellio, Stella Vanity, G.rev (under defeat HD discussion), Jamestown, and Sine Mora. Requests welcome. Enjoy!


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Yoshinori Satake - Steel Empire, Over Horizon, Insector X Developer Interview
From Shooting Gameside #4 and #5

Yoshinori Satake
Founder of company Idea Point. Involved in making games since he was 18. Has developed the shooting games Insector X, Over Horizon, and Steel Empire.


—How did you come up with the idea of a steampunk world of airships and steam powered machinery for Steel Empire?

Satake: Hot B had originally made the shooting games Insector X and Over Horizon, so we naturally started talking about making another shooting game. I submitted plans for both a horizontal scroller and a vertical scroller, and my boss at the time, who had developed Chuuka Taisen and others, told me he wanted to do a steampunk style game. So I ended up doing the planning for it.

I came up with the title "Koutetsu Teikoku." Now we have things like "Dodonpachi," but at the time 4 character kanji titles weren't that common for shooting games, so I thought it would be a title with a lot of impact. Chuuka Taisen also had a 4 character kanji title, so I didn't think there was anything strange about it, but there was some resistance from my boss, who was a bit puzzled when I showed him the title. But many people liked it within the company, so we decided on Koutetsu Teikoku. I actually wanted the logo to be displayed vertically, with the menu displayed beside it. But in the end it turned out to be too difficult to do that, so we scrapped the idea. Even so, when you look at the game as a whole, its really chock full of things I love, like the flying submarine in stage three, and the moon rocket in the final stage.

—Yes, the world is quite interesting.

Satake: The image I had for the world was one of outrageous and nonsensical science. People in the past didn't understand the limitations of the steam engine at all, and they thought the steam engine could do anything. They wrote many blueprints like this, and my idea for Steel Empire was to bring those designs to life. People back then thought there was an atmosphere in space, and that the Aurora Borealis actually existed in space, too. So I tried to express that in the last stage by having an atmosphere in the background, and I told the designer how people back then drew images of space with mist. Using that as our image, we designed the graphics of the final stage to have a colorful, Aurora-like mist even though its in space. So even in space the propellers on the planes are spinning, and since there's an atmosphere, there's smoke too.

Steel Empire appears to have a serious atmosphere, but we had different ideas for the enemy and stage names from the outset. The stage names come from actual band names. I don't know that much about music, so I had someone else name them. We did that to give a sense of variety and fun to the game. Of course when you're making a game it isn't all fun, but we wanted people to think "this game must have been extremely fun to make!" when they played it.

Going back to the names, the stage 2 name "Tenshi no Uta" [[Angel's Song]] comes from German. The sound of wind blowing inside a cave is called "Angel's Song" in German. It seems to be a kind of religious belief, and its sometimes said that the voice is not only an angel, but a Goddess. Another reason I used angel in the title is I wanted to hint at the fact that many people died there in the steel mine in stage 2. The image is that of an angel there, taking away the souls of the departed. After Steel Empire came out, one review said that the game was "ideological." (laughs). Midway through stage 2 there's an explosion and you can escape, but I wanted people to be thinking about how dangerous the cave was. It was based on the idea that many similar explosion accidents have happened in mining caves. I wanted to create an atmosphere for players where they'd see that the Empire doesn't care much for human rights, that there are many things more important to it than human life, and that people were being made to work in that dangerous mine.

The one scene I had wanted most to put in the game was the high speed stage when you escape after the explosion. For a company with technical knowhow, this probably wouldn't have been that difficult, but it was very tough for us to create. For the explosion and the fast scrolling screen, the graphics memory has to be switched out quickly, and it uses a lot of the chip's processing power, so there was slowdown.

—The feeling you get from the slowdown is similar to the excitement of some movie explosion scene, so I think its actually better. (laughs) I really liked the scene in stage 3 with the long range cannon bullets raining down on you, too.

Satake: The idea for that was that your enemy, the Empire, had installed long range cannons along the coast, and in order to let your allies' mothership get near, you needed to fly in at low altitude and destroy them so the invasion could be easier. I don't think many people who were making shooting games back then started their design from some story idea like this. I'm the type who can't build up a game unless I have a scene or story I've thought of behind it. For every stage it was like, "this is happening in the story, so this has to happen." I would then first start by thinking about what emotions that scenario should convey to the player. That's how Steel Empire was made.

—The scene I really like is when you fight with the huge enemy battleship boss in stage 3, and burst a hole in its stomach.

Satake: The image for that huge battleship came from the ship Gigant from the anime "Mirai Shounen Conan." Once we decided to do a machine rivet aesthetic for the game, I knew we had to have a giant battleship like that.

Blasting into the stomach or core of the battleship wasn't originally based on anything specific, but it turned out to be good for the balance between the two player ships. Of the two ships, the fighter plane Etopirika has a smaller hitbox and is easier to use. However, we thought there might be people who can't dodge bullets well to begin with and would find the more hardy airship Zepperon easier to use. So it was our intention to include more scenes where the Zepperon would play a more active role. On the coastline stage, there are many enemies in the ocean, so Etropika, with the shot firing below, is a better choice. So we thought it would be great if there were more scenes where the Zepperon, which could fire upwards, would be more useful. I didn't want to do the typical horizontal shooting stage, where for no good reason there's a wall or ground at the top of the screen and something falls on the player from above, so we thought a large battleship would be ideal.

—As you destroy the large bosses in Steel Empire, there are small explosions as they go down, but there's no huge explosion where everything goes flying.

Satake: We were using almost all the available graphic memory already, so it would have been tough to add in all the shrapnel from an explosion like that. Also, I wanted to stress the weight of everything as a theme in the game. A condition for the bosses was that they would look really heavy and hard. Since its a world of steel, that weight and hardness are important. I wanted to show the players just how massively heavy the thing they had just defeated was.

Also, one other thing, since its a shooting game a certain level of difficulty is required, but we made it so there wouldn't be any big hurdles before reaching the boss. If a player has to game over, we wanted it to be on the boss. Bosses in shooting games are often made so that if you know the way to defeat them its simple, but I think if they're too easy to beat its no good. So I asked various people about the bosses' difficulty, and spent time adjusting it accordingly. Also, enemy ships with propellers don't look that heavy or tough, do they? But since everything in the world of Steel Empire is made with propellers, the bosses might appear weak. "Why am I fighting against this light, flimsy boss?" is something I didn't want players to think, so I made the bosses difficult.

—The way the BGM scrolls with the musical score under the title screen is excellent.

Satake: That came from the idea I had for Steel Empire, that there was first a short story... that then got turned into a movie. So the opening and the attract scenes are both like a movie. In old movies the film had no sound, but that doesn't mean there was no music. An orchestra would play behind the viewers while they watched the screen. In films of that time, the score would sometimes be shown below the film, so I wanted to replicate that for the title screen of Steel Empire. It was kind of an offbeat idea, and when I first saw it I was surprised, but when the packaging and illustration were completed I thought the musical score opening fit the world perfectly. It helped get you steeped in the atmosphere and draw you into the game.

When I sent the beta version to Sega, I think they reviewed it and gave it something like a 'C', but everyone we had showed the beta to until then had given us rather favorable reviews. The world of the game and the dramatic cut-scenes were given high marks. I personally cannot create a convincing atmosphere with text and graphics, so I struggled with how to convey the proper image for the game in the beginning. Once we got the feedback on the beta version and it was decided we would make the game, it gradually started to sink in for me that my instincts were right for the game, and at Hot B too. I was understanding more about how to make this a cinematic game.

Making the game manual like a movie pamphlet also came from those ideas. The graphic designer and PR person who made the manual did a great job for me. Also, I had one of my coworkers write text for the instructions. He also did the speech-like text that appears in the middle of the stage when you enter the Empire's capital, which I couldn't get right on my own. He later worked on Samurai Spirits, by the way.

—He sounds like a talented guy!

Satake: I wanted to make the staff roll like movie credits, too, by "Hot B Films." But I wasn't able to secure the time in the development schedule for the ending, so someone had to work overtime and get it done. The person who did that cinematic staff roll was actually someone who didn't like the idea for of movie like scenes in the beginning, but in the end he came to really understand the atmosphere I was aiming for.

—In the final stage when the ship goes underground, the screen shrinks to a 16:9 cinemascope framing.

Satake: In the other stages, the scenes where the player takes off from the mothership are in that style too, but when you lose the mothership in stage 5, I was thinking about where I could use that effect and I came up with that scene. Even though you're used to the effect by that point, you know the mothership is no longer there. I also used it for dramatic impact in the scene where you go into space with the rocket.

But there was one thing that gave me trouble later. Normally after you dock with the mothership, you then go to the ship select screen and if you think a certain ship is bad for that stage, then you can pick the other. We put it in to allow the players a bit of strategy, but once you lose the mothership in the story, there should be no way for you to select a new ship, and I was really worried about this. I thought it would be really bad if you couldn't select the ship you wanted for the final stage. I realized it would break the atmosphere of the game, but we left the ship select screen in there for players who weren't great at shooting games.

With shooting games, if you lower the hurdles and let even unskilled players get used to the game, before long they'll become better players, I think. If a person who can't clear even the first stage in a shooting game and isn't enjoying themselves instead manages to make it to the 3rd stage, I think they'll be better able to understand some of the appeal of these games. I had first wanted to make Steel Empire with infinite continues, but I thought that after clearing it players would end up thinking shooting games are too easy and boring. That's one of the rules, or limitations of these games.

In Steel Empire we employed a level up system which was geared toward unskilled players. Originally, you could power up to level 40. But my boss at the time noted that you didn't need to be level 40 to clear the game, and that even if I programmed in all those levels, very few players would reach them. So I lowered it so that 20 was the max.

—If the level max was 40, how was that supposed to work?

Satake: Skilled players could clear the game in the upper 20s. I had imagined level 30 would be the average, and that unskilled players would need to build up to level 40. With infinite continues, bit by bit you'd raise your destructive power as well as your attack strategy, so that unskilled player scould clear the game by leveling up, and get better at the game in general while doing so.

Its difficult to construct a shooting game in such a way that a player of any level can enjoy it. When I started making shooting games, I was thinking "why doesn't everyone enjoy these games?" and I studied a variety of different popular games with that in mind. For example, in RPGs, one reason people finish the game and don't give up is because there are always a variety of different quests and things to do even if you get stuck or bored, such as going around and talking to people, raising your levels, or searching for stronger weapons. Dragon Quest is very conscious of this, and drew a clear line between itself and more unforgiving Western RPGs. Anyone can play it, its easy, and you can finish it without giving up. It was Yuji Horii who created that style. As he tuned the difficulty level in Dragon Quest he was always thinking about what level you'd need to be to handily defeat the enemies. Those kind of adjustments were a point of reference for me.

I also studied Super Mario Bros., but I realized the methods used in that game aren't very effective for a shooting game, and from there I begin a process of trial and error to come up with something suitable for a shooting game.

Shooting games have forced scrolling, and you can't advance the screen at your own pace like you can in Mario. If you made a shooting game that let the player do that, it would become way too easy and you'd have to totally change the way enemies are placed. On one extreme, if the enemy placement for shooting games is completely pre-decided, then all players need to do is just memorize where they appear and move there beforehand and fire. It would end up being way too easy. In Super Mario, there are pits to fall into when you make jumps. Even though you progress at your own pace, you might still mess up. But in shooting games there are no pits. Moreover, your attacks are long range, and it would be impossible to set the difficulty correctly if you could move at your own pace. Since setting the difficulty already takes so much time, that approach was out. (laughs)

—So that's how you came up with the power up level system, then?

Satake: Yes, it came from experimentation along those lines. I'd like to do more like that in the future, actually, but the fact is the market for shooting games is really shrinking. The experiment I'd like to try in the future is a shooting game that doesn't abandon casual or light players. I want to do something that anyone can play and broaden the fanbase of shooting games, but I don't think it would be well received by the current shooting market which is geared toward hardcore players.

—As the original author, how were you involved in the Game Boy Advance version?

Satake: At first I was asked to oversee the editing, but I couldn't do it because the schedule of the project was too tight--just before the deadline the enemy placement hadn't even been completed. But I was able to comment on the few things I was concerned about in the middle of the development.

Back in the day, Hot B had put forward plans for an arcade version of Steel Empire, but it got suspended in mid-development. The people who worked on that arcade version ended up working on the GBA version. They are all your typical arcade shooting game fan, so the GBA version has those tendencies. But they also loved Steel Empire, so they left the form of the game pretty much intact. I don't think it would look too hard to a beginner. From the beginning, with the hit point system, the game was never that difficult, and I'm glad that was there for the GBA version. Though it was difficult to get everything prepared so the development staff could play the original Megadrive version.

—Yeah, by the time Steel Empire was being ported to the GBA, the megadrive was retro hardware. Outside of the online virtual console ports, it seems like there's few places to play the original hardware now.

Satake: The Steel Empire cart is very hard to find nowadays, and there aren't many people who own a megadrive anymore, either. So I'm grateful that the GBA version is available. It may be rude to say it, but Starfish also isn't that big of a company, and they can't spend a lot of time or money on development. So it wasn't possible to refine every nook and cranny of the game in great detail. The megadrive version of Steel Empire was made under the same circumstances. But I think the things I wanted to do in Steel Empire were different from other shooting games, so it ended up being a unique game.

—Did you update many things for the GBA version?

Satake: I had wanted to make the hitbox smaller, but the programmer told me that doing so would be too much of a strain on the GBA's processor. In order to keep things light for the processor you needed the hitbox to be an 8x8 pixel area, but Steel Empire wasn't originally made with great concern for the processing power like that. So I don't think the GBA version replaces the megadrive version. Its more like it recreates the original experience as accurately as possible on a small screen.

—Part of the bosses are different.

Satake: For the bosses, since the screen size was different, they couldn't do the same things. If we used the same boss attacks on the GBA's small screen, I don't think you'd be able to clear the game at all. The sense of weight and hardness of the bosses comes through the same in both versions. In the stage before the last boss, there were a number of impossible spots where the screen size was too small and the space between your ship and where enemies appear was more narrow than the megadrive version.

I'd like players of the GBA version to know that the GBA version captures how I wanted Steel Empire to feel.

—Do you have any plans to release the megadrive version of Steel Empire on the Wii virtual console, or any other online distribution?

Satake: I think it would be great if it could be downloaded on one of the modern consoles today, but the truth is, I don't have the megadrive source code anymore. For the GBA version we had to reverse compile the source from a ROM image. But because the megadrive version used a number of unique functions, there were a number of parts that didn't work... or to put it another way, the reverse compiled source code compatibility was rather poor and reconstructing the various subroutines was very difficult. For instance, the flying submarine in stage 3 and when the tracks in the latter half of stage 1 start to shake, both used the 16 dot pitch vertical raster capability that was unique the megadrive. If only I could find the original source code...

—Yes, it would be great if you could locate it.

Satake: Occasionally I get the urge to play Steel Empire again, but its a hassle getting my Megadrive out and setting it up. When I look back on the game now, even though I say I made the game for people of any skill level, the last boss really is nasty. I didn't want to make an "easy" game per se, just something that wouldn't turn new players away, but that last boss is a real killer, of a kind rarely seen in my games. (laughs) For a shooting game, Steel Empire is rather long. It takes over an hour to clear. About one third of that time is boss fights. Even if you're familiar with a game, if it takes an hour to clear it is tough. If Steel Empire were a game that ended in 30 minutes, I don't think the last stage would be that difficult. But you can't maintain your focus for a whole hour. It might be best to pause the game and leave it running to refresh yourself. (laughs)

In general, skilled players already have a high level of concentration, while unskilled players can't stay focused for that long. So if you end up making a really lengthy game, even those with a high level of concentration will end up losing their focus. By doing so you shorten the gap between skilled and unskilled players. (laughs) Because even players who can focus well will lose it after around 30 minutes. If Steel Empire were about half as long, with 6 stages, it would be too easy to clear for skilled players.

One central way players feel the difficulty in a game is when their concentration gets interrupted. Games are typically designed to allow players to have breaks. But shooting games require the player to stay focused for a long time, and if you lose your concentration somewhere, you die. Dying and continuing is one way to refresh your focus. But around stage 4 or 5, when you lose your ability to analyze and think through the challenges, you also lose the ability to stay focused. All this is another key to shortening the gap between skilled and unskiled players. It was mostly all planned.

—In Steel Empire, hoarding bombs for score and getting the no miss clear bonus are both really difficult challenges.

Satake: I didn't want to make a game that overly emphasized scoring. For skilled players, such a game is just fine, but unskilled players would get hung up on the fact that they aren't scoring very well. I didn't want to have a system that conveyed such a negative impression to new players and caused them to lose spirit.

—I think there are many fans waiting for a sequel to Steel Empire.

Satake: To make a proper sequel I'd probably need more development funds than we had for the GBA version. But I want to do it. I have an idea for a sequel titled "Koutetsu Moyu" [[something like "Burning Steel", though its a bit of a play on words, since the 'yu' can also be read in this compound as "oil" or "fuel"]]. Steel Empire was a sepia-colored steampunk world, but this would be a dark, grey steampunk. I have an image for it like the old war movies "Nihyakusan Kouchi", "Senkan Yamato", and "Zerosen Moyu". I'd like to take the dark grey atmosphere of those movies and make a steampunk world out of it, using color, but with a monochrome feel from the desaturated colors and such. I think that would be an original steampunk world, and I've been drawing up plans for it to submit to Starfish.

—I want to play that!

Satake: In the past there used to be companies that specialized in making shooting games. But in today's world, shooting games don't sell at all, and only Cave and Grev are really carrying on. All that's left are hard games for a niche audience. But if thats all there is, then shooting games will not develop. Shooting games need something like Mario or Dragon Quest which expands their audience and appeal. Putting aside whether "Burning Steel" would be the game to do this or not, if there are people out there who agree with the gist of what I'm saying and would like to help me make Burning Steel, whether you're an individual or a company, please let me know.

The main people who made Steel Empire were myself and the designer. Also, the programmers who joined later. I think it would be fun to work with the same group again. Though we're all a bit old now. (laughs)

—Please tell us about Insector X, the first shooting game you worked on.

Satake: At the time, Hot B had finished making Chuka Taisen for Taito, and the sales were very good. So we drew up plans for a game called "Konchuu Taisen" [["Insect War"]]. We had worked it up as an insect version of Taito's Darius games, and the insects would be drawn in a realistic fashion. However, in the middle of development Taito talked to us about making the game with cute, childish characters. We changed the title to "Insector X" then, too. By the way, the Megadrive version of "Insector X" was designed to be a realistic insect game from the beginning, so the atmosphere is totally different. When I joined Hot B, I started out doing the debugging for the arcade version of Insector X, but when we decided to make a Famicom port, I ended up overseeing that.

—There are two characters in the Famicom version, and they differ in strength quite clearly.

Satake: I used a choice of different characters in place of the usual "easy" and "normal" difficulty settings. It was something I had wanted to do from the beginning. In games with difficulty settings, most players who choose the lowest difficulty and clear the game feel it was too easy. And few players deliberately choose the hardest difficulty setting. So in Insector X when you choose the boy or girl, the strength of the character clearly changes. I didn't want players who cleared it with the girl to feel like they had cleared the game, but to keep going. Actually I had thought I would make a character selection screen that said [in Japanese] "for girls" or "for boys", but I figured that would be too obvious, so I wrote it in English instead.

[[tr note: If the string of logic in the above paragraph about difficulty settings doesn't make much sense to you, well, it doesn't make much sense in Japanese either. He's kind of rambling or just not explaining himself very clearly. Also, the last idea is puzzling, because the english used in that character select screen is very simple: just "For boys" and "For girls", so it seems like even a younger student of English would understand it.]]

—The girl character starts out with a 3-way shot and autofire. In constrast, the boy only fires straight and has no autofire, either.

Satake: That was the result of adjusting the character difficulty system. Also, at the time the majority of kids playing games were boys, and there weren't many girls, so in a sense I wanted to expand the appeal of these games. But now there are many skilled female shooting players, so I think I'd have to do something different today.

—Does the content of the game change depending on which character is chosen?

[b]Satake:
The ending is different. Its a small thing, but if you're playing as the girl and you kill the final boss but his last bullets also kill you simultaneously, you will still clear the game, whereas the boy would not. I don't remember how far the bosses health has to be down for this to happen, but the reason I did it is that beginners tend to die a lot on the last boss, so I wanted to help them out a little. I think since Insector X is a comical game, this is forgiveable, but if you suggested this for a serious, realistic shooting game it wouldn't go over so well. (laughs)

—Next you made "Over Horizon" for the Famicom.

Satake: Hot B was in talks with a company that had made an RPG with edit capabilities similar toRPG Maker, and they proposed using their engine to make a shooting game. As a result of those talks they started working on Over Horizon. However, there were talks from them about changing the design, and it ended up becoming just a normal shooting game. The stages they had made were about half completed, and the graphics were very weak, and we decided at Hot B that we needed to fix it up. So we took the project over from them and I oversaw the design from there. After that we added stages where you shoot forward and back, and we changed the parameters of the player shot. We also enhanced the graphics. To explain the simple parts, for example the first stage was a plant stage, but it was all done with one color of green. It didn't look like nature at all. So we added trees and such to make it look more natural. Also, the sand stage was at first nothing but sand, so we added rocks and dunes to give it more visual appeal. When the graphics just looked too horrible, we had to totally redo them, including enemies and map graphics, and it was quite a bit of makeup work.

—I like how Over Horizon has a variety of gimmicks in it.

Satake: Yeah, stage 2 in particular is loaded with them. Though that wasn't done because I have a particular love for such gimmicks; rather, we thought we'd make the most of what was already there, so we tried to efficiently re-use what the prior development team had done. We designed the stages so as to give their gimmicks as much life as possible.

[[tr note: They are using the English word "gimmick" here, but they mean little features in the stages, like walls that close, or switches you need to hit, etc. The company that worked on the first draft of Over Horizon isn't named anywhere, but its likely that their "RPG Maker" type program allowed them to program such "gimmicks" into the stage design more easily.]]

—There are a lot of gimmicks in the presentation as well. Like when the shutter suddenly closes and enemies fly out behind you, then they hit that closed shutter and explode.

Satake: There were a real pain to program. Especially as this was the Famicom. It might surprise you, but to be honest Hot B's programming skills were not that great. But with Over Horizon, since the previous guys had gone to the trouble of adding those gimmicks in the first place, we thought we'd use them as much as we could.

—Were those gimmicks in the original design plan?

Satake: I think so. At first they weren't really well-implemented, so we made a lot of adjustments. I think the flavor of the previous development team remains, but I think in the end we were able to turn it into a really good shooting game. But it was a struggle. In the final part of the development I hardly slept at all, and I stayed up all night for 5 consecutive days, a record for me. (laughs)

—In the game, after you die but before you continue, you're able change the placement of your options and your shot.

Satake: Games like the Famicom Gradius II, and the arcade and PC Engine version of R-Type were quite popular, but I felt like they really pushed players away with their difficulty. To be honest, at the time I didn't really like shooting games that much because of this. I think there are definitely people whose motivation naturally increases when they're face with such a challenge, but those games couldn't sustain my motivation. I think that is one reason the audience for shooting games hasn't expanded. Of course, just making shooting games easier isn't enough to broaden their appeal. In Insector X my goal was to make something that wouldn't have huge walls, but also wouldn't be easy.

Going back to Over Horizon, I thought that if I left players room to experiment and change their shot, it would decrease the reasons a player has to give up on a game. For example in Dragon Quest, when you die in battle you keep your experience points, so you don't easily lose your motivation. But in Gradius II, if you die once you've got to figure out a recovery pattern. Doing that is probably impossible for the average player. I couldn't figure them all out myself, either, and had to use the recovery patterns others had made as a reference. And if its a shooting game that doesn't have any strategy information available for it, I think it would be impossible for the beginner. So I was thinking how I could avoid making the player think "this is impossible for me." Changing the shot after death came out of that. I wanted to forestall the player quitting, letting him experiment with laser on this stage, or switching to all homing shots for this stage... and while he tries all that, perhaps he'll become better at dodging bullets in the meantime. (laughs)

—I like how the ship can shoot forwards and backwards, too.

Satake: One thing that really sucks in shooting games is when the screen is scrolling forward and an enemy suddenly appears behind you and kills you. That's a very common thing for beginners to experience. For it to be natural, you need to always think about placing enemies so that they can be dodged. I think there are also players who get frustrated when enemies appear from behind before they're used to it. So I thought that if your ship could start off firing from behind, then I thought players would think "If my ship can fire from behind, there must be enemies that come from behind..." (laughs) Those were the main reasons I made the ship fire front and back. Aside from that, in shooting games where you can't fire front and back, if an enemy circles around behind your ship there's nothing you can do. Until you can get your ship behind the enemy again you can't do anything. I thought this would also anger players, so I tried to avoid that when making Over Horizon. The ability to fire front and back takes care of that problem, too.

—In the ending there's the line "I'll be back", like the message in Terminator. Was that your idea?

Satake: Yeah. Over Horizon came out before Terminator, but Terminator was a lot more popular (laughs). I am really horrible at English. By my second year of Junior High, I couldn't even read the english alphabet. On English tests I would usually receive an average of 10/100. So I asked someone very skilled in English to translate the "Ore wa kanarazu modotte kuru" line. At the time we had been talking at Hot B about a sequel, so I wanted to leave some hint in there, and I made the character just before the ending there say that line. I wanted it to be a startling scene. People who saw it later probably thought we took it from Terminator, but the truth is it was added by someone who doesn't understand English at all. (laughs)

—We'll be waiting for your games to come out on virtual consoles, and for a sequel!
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 Post subject: Re: Yoshinori Satake - Steel Empire, Over Horizon Interview
PostPosted: Thu Jun 21, 2012 6:08 am 


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Great work as always. Over Horizon is a fun little game and I always through it's graphics were pretty neat, surprised to hear that they're the overhauled versions.

And sad to hear that Steel Empire is one of those games where the source code has been lost.
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 Post subject: Re: Yoshinori Satake - Steel Empire, Over Horizon Interview
PostPosted: Thu Jun 21, 2012 12:57 pm 


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Location: BRA
Excellent interview, thanks!

And Burning Steel FTW, come on!
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 Post subject: Re: Yoshinori Satake - Steel Empire, Over Horizon Interview
PostPosted: Thu Jun 21, 2012 1:11 pm 


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Am I the only one to think that the GBA version improved in a lot of ways the game? Also, if the rom size is of any indication, this is a huge cart by GBA standards, so I don't think Starfish went exactly the "cheap route" here.

edit: boy, I seem to repeat myself endlessly on the same subjects:

viewtopic.php?p=197938#p197938
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 Post subject: Re: Yoshinori Satake - Steel Empire, Over Horizon Interview
PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2012 8:09 am 


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Location: Donburi Island
The image for that huge battleship came from the ship Gigant from the anime "Mirai Shounen Conan."

Ahh, were would Japan be today without Miyazaki. And that goes for shooters too, indeed.

We had worked it up as an insect version of Taito's Darius games, and the insects would be drawn in a realistic fashion. However, in the middle of development Taito talked to us about making the game with cute, childish characters.

By the way, the Megadrive version of "Insector X" was designed to be a realistic insect game from the beginning, so the atmosphere is totally different.

Interesting twist of events - the megadrive port, which has been seen so far as a "bastardized" version of the original, is in fact closer to the original idea!

About Over Horizon, it's too bad that the interviewer didn't ask him more specifically about the "hilarious samurai with horses-pods and kana" gimmick, I really wanted to know where that idea came from!
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 Post subject: Re: Yoshinori Satake - Steel Empire, Over Horizon Interview
PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2012 6:25 pm 


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Nice job blackoak. "no matter what, I'll come back" sounds better that "I'll be back" hehe.
Those Thunder Force interviews seems interesting, I'll be looking forward to your next translation.
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