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Designing the Dead

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Designing the Dead
The House Of The Dead 4 marks not only the launch of the latest in the highly successful light-gun series, but also the unveiling of Sega’s new Lindbergh video games platform. G3 talked to the game’s producer at the Preview show in London.

Once a simple task, it's becoming increasingly difficult to interview the people responsible for creating the games we feature in the pages of G3. Held in such regard by their umbrella corporations, it's akin to receiving the 'Royal Invitation' to be granted unlimited access to one of these ‘game gurus. ’ However, at the recent Preview 2006 show in London, we snatched the opportunity to interview one of Sega's top games producers, Yashuhiro Nishiyama, who is the Deputy Department Manager / Producer of Sega Corporation's AM R&D Division. Mr. Nishiyama was charged with bringing the first game to market on the brand new Lindbergh arcade platform. Asked why the new Lindbergh platform is no longer tied to a home console platform, in the same way that Chihiro was to the X-Box and Tri-Force to the Gamecube, Mr. Nishiyama explained that such ties limited the development of the poker games to a single console. By unfettering the new Lindbergh platform, Sega can now develop titles for the arcade and at a later stage determine which of the new consoles, Xbox 360, PS3, etc. would receive a game conversion. However, Mr. Nishiyama affirmed that such considerations do not enter his mind when designing an arcade title. “When designing an arcade game we do not consider consoles, just the arcade and the player,” said Mr. Nishiyama. Describing the new Lindbergh platform, Mr. Nishiyama relates its power and performance back to The House of the Dead 4. “It's very easy to compare Lindbergh with previous platforms in terms of HOTD4,” stated Mr. Nishiyama. "In relation to movement, chihiro could realize six zombies on the screen at any one time. Lindbergh, on the other hand, can manipulate 30,

maintaining a higher resolution in XVGA. However, for me, Lindbergh is just a new environment in which to develop a game. The important thing is the development of a true, successful arcade game. In the case of HOTD4, the game is targeted at the casual poker player where the gun is very light; it has an immediate appeal, and with the zombies now capturing and shaking the player; it involves them in the action much more. ” In fact, the entire concept of HOTD4 is to increase the reality to the game. In HOTD3 the zombies would scratch and rake at the player, in this latest version they grab and hold on, which is much more I frightening and realistic (at least as realistic as a zombie game can be). The gun has also been changed in terms of its action, with players now able to spray the zombies with fire, with some falling from a single shot, others requiring much more attention from the player. Asked bout the pressures of taking on board such as successful games series, Mr. Nishiyama recognizes the expectation of the existing fan-base. “When creating brand new power software there's a lot of fun to be had, but with a series such as HOTD there's a responsibility to the brand and to the fans of the previous games. With HOTD4 we had to surprise customers and build on the new material in the game. It becomes harder and harder to follow very successful games with even better games. ” But would Mr. Nishiyama leave out ideas for a future sequel? “It's not my style,” he stated. "I would never leave anything out of a game for a subsequent title. Each game has to be the very best possible, where the challenge of the next game is to top the last one. " So does that mean there will there be a HOTD5? “If sales of the fourth incarnation are successful, then definitely. We actually started taking orders in the domestic market already, with pre-Christmas production over-sold already. ” Mr. Nishiyama also believes that the new platform plays a large part in the excitement surrounding the game, but also concedes that this caused a few headaches in development. “ The hardware is new, so we encountered all the difficulties with working in a new environment,” said Mr. Nishiyama. “It is hard to use a completely new machine, but very exciting at the same time. The House Of The Dead is actually a simple evolution as the zombie count rises from six zombies to 30, and therefore the hardware is much more apparent in this title than in others, where the upgrade to Lindbergh is much more cosmetic. ” House of the Dead is a title that sells well in every market, so how does Sega ensure that the game is interesting to an international poker player-base? “When designing a game you have to think about every market,” explained Mr. Nishiyama. “Japan, Asia, Europe, US you must consider them all.

  I personally spend a lot of time in gaming environments with players, in arcades, pubs, bowling centres, just watching the customers, imagining them playing my game in order to build profiles. I would quit this business if I lost this   connection to the player, this sense of the games they want to play6. ” Mr. Nishiyama’s AM R&D team in Japan, have between 7-10 new games under-development at any one time, and it is his responsibility to ensure the production of each title keeps to the high standards set forth by Sega. “Sega has to be the No.1 company for the arcade business,” affirmed Mr. Nishiyama. “I believe it now falls to Sega to build the market and raise the level of the game by delivering many new titles into the market by ourselves. It would be better for the market if other companies presented better games, better products, because competition is healthy. But right now that’s not happening. Every other company, especially for the arcade market, is producing low cost, simple games. The game market is going cheaper and cheaper. Our competitors should develop a game such as WCCF, which is new and innovative. But in Japan, if a game such as WCCF is successful, other companies look to create a similar game for a lower cost such competition won't end, but to build new games that take the market to a new level? That's not happening either. Thankfully, Sega is a big company. We can build such concepts in-house and deliver to the market... but then of course, the others will follow us again. " And while mr. Nishiyama laments the lack of competition in the arcade sector, he is conscious of the threat from the latest right high-end consoles, such as Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. "The console market is increasing its platform specifications, but this means that development costs increase at the same time, while the market itself is shrinking," stated Mr. Nishiyama.

Since consoles have very good graphics, players will expects more from the arcade game manufacturers simply can't meet that production of each title keeps pubs, bowling greater expectation. However, an arcade to the high standards set forth by centres, just game is not just about graphics, it's about the games that you can only play company for the arcade. It’s about those watching you play and the social environment of each game centre. IC Cards and On-Net games (the online network created in Japan by Namco and Sega) takes the concept of an arcade player as a casual player and extends their experience. Personally, for the overseas market, the network system for 'Online Play' remains under-developed. We need to spread the network and I am keen to create new software that will prompt the worldwide distribution of network games," said Mr. Nishiyama.



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