A Man In The Middle Of The West vs Japan Development Divide

Illustration for article titled A Man In The Middle Of The West vs Japan Development Divide

We hear a lot from Japanese developers (and Western pundits) about how the Japanese development scene is dead, but what about a Western developer who works for a Japanese publisher? What does he think?


Julien Merceron is Global Chief Technology Officer for Square Enix, the company behind the Final Fantasy series, giving him a unique position to comment on one of the industry's more popular topics of late.

"The game industry in Japan right now is going through a bumpy ride", he tells Gamasutra. "[However] I think a lot of things you see on the internet are exaggerated."

"Is it really that bad? Are they finding themselves in a situation that has no solution? I'm actually not sure at all."

Merceron explains that there are big cultural differences between Western and Japanese developers, from programming being "uncool" in Japan to the way Japanese developers approach things like story and characters in a very different way to American, British, Canadian or European developers.

In other words, it's not a case of developer vs developer. More like apples vs oranges. Merceron goes into a lot greater detail over on Gamasutra, so if you want to read more head to the link below.


MIGS 2010: Square Enix CTO On Working With Japan, Game Tech's Future [Gamasutra]



Never had these differences had been as glaringly obvious for me as right now:

Last week I finished the absolutely mindlowing experience that was the extraordinary Castlevania Lords of Shadow. Sure its a Japanese IP but it was entirely developed in Europe, and boy it shows. Lord knows I love me sum japanese games but I was growing increasingly tired with all the lazy Metroidvania rip offs on handhelds that recycle many sprites and the same story over and over again, or even that XBLA game which shall remain unmentioned.

Not only was C:LOS outstanding in its entirety (not without some flaws), but it had *gasp* an actual griping storyline! And, get this, the main protagonist actually looked like a human male! I've had it with games starring emo shonen teenagers. Without spoiling Gabriel Belmont I'll say he was a breath of fresh air for the series. And the ending was absolutely BRILLIANT and never before had I found myself looking for C:LOS forums to discuss an ending in a freaking Castlevania game. It was that good, and a very welcome surprise.

Then a couple of days after C:LOS a friend lent me Nier. Oh my GOD is there a difference. I know one is an action game and the other is a quasi-RPG but, God, is the design way waaay stuck in the past. I swear I felt I was playing a PS2 game. And only because a last minute change was made I am actually playing a grown up father that has a daughter 'cause were I living in Japan I'd be stuck with an emo-tastic pretty boy thats looking for her little "one-sama" (little sister). UGH!

Im only at the beginning and I know it is a good game. Im just saying that 1 hour of Nier after weeks of pure Lords of Shadow awesomeness made it all the more obvious. While western developers continue to push the envelope lately... japanese ones are stuck in the past with their stiff animations, outdated dialogues and stories that many times make little sense (with its obvious exceptions).

I feel bad for C:LOS, I feel it isnt selling as well as it should be and that many of its critizisms were pretty unfair and/or exagerated. And that game needs a sequel and fast.