Game development is a collaborative effort between designers, programmers, and writers, which on big productions can number in the hundreds. It can take years to get a specific mechanic or cutscene right, and even then, it might still fall flat with players. But in the case of Yakuza: Like a Dragon, some of the best ideas can come from a simple Twitter joke.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon, the upcoming eighth installment of the popular Yakuza series, bucks tradition by utilizing a turn-based battle system rather than the brawling fisticuffs seen in previous entries. As such, role-playing-style menus have replaced well-timed combos as the main method of combat, with obvious labels like Attack, Skills, and Guard. Notice something missing? John Ricciardi, co-founder of Tokyo-based localization company 8-4, certainly did.
Back in June, Ricciardi pointed out a huge missed opportunity in the Yakuza: Like a Dragon menus. The game, which is heading to North America in November, had all the pieces for a nod to series creator and publisher Sega, except that the fourth option in the battle menu read More instead of something like Etc. or Extra. Ricciardi’s tweet on the matter garnered a moderate amount of attention, most importantly that of Sega localization producer Scott Strichart, who offered two words in response: “Dammit John.”
Fast forward to last week. Sega published a new behind-the-scenes video with Yakuza: Like a Dragon voice artist Elizabeth Maxwell that, while great in its own right, included some new gameplay footage. A very brief glimpse of the battle menu showed that the “More” option had become “Etc.”, completing the spelling of “SEGA.” A day later, Ricciardi shared a screenshot from the video on Twitter with the message, “Mission complete.”
Intrigued, I reached out to Sega about the situation, and Strichart confirmed through a company rep that, yes, Ricciardi’s suggestion had led to the change.
“I‘m just glad they liked the idea enough to try and work it in!” Ricciardi told Kotaku via direct message. “I know what it’s like to make last-minute requests of dev teams—sometimes it goes well and sometimes it doesn’t, but when you have a [localization] team that genuinely cares about a game and a developer that’s gracious enough to listen (especially so late in the dev cycle), good things are bound to happen. I love Sega and I love the Yakuza series, so on a personal level, I’m just stoked to have been able to leave a tiny mark on the game. Kudos to Scott and his crew for making this happen!”
Being online is a blessing and a curse. Most of us are just screaming into the void, hoping someone likes our jokes enough to give us attention. One person, however, can proudly say that something silly they posted online affected the development of the next Yakuza game.