Find parts to render the themes and game system

     I wrote the first column with the theme, “When do you think up your game projects?”, using ‘Hero Must Die.’ that will be released in February next year as an example. The two main points were:
     1. After a major operation, my father became aware of his short life expectancy and had changed his attitude. From that observation, I focused on the theme of "how to best live out your last few days."
     2. At the funeral of my father, I met some of his friends  for the first time, and came up with the game system that is, “Game ends in a funeral. Mourners and their speech change depending on gameplay”. In a sense, it's not very good karma. The theme for this second column is "Find parts that render the themes and game system."

Worldview, characters, and scenarios are just tools

     Before discussing the theme itself, I would like to make sure you know what I mean by using the keywords “themes” and “game system.” Themes and game system are what I want to convey to users, or to have users enjoy the most. In other words, I want users to feel A, or I want users to enjoy A. These are my reasons and motivations to make a game. This is the core of game planning.

     In extreme terms, even the music of Itoken (Kenji Ito), the girls of Kurosawa Tetsu, the voice of Rieshon (Rie Murakawa), and my scenario are just tools I use to fit my image of the "themes and game system". This is how important I feel these two elements are... Just saying it like this might be misunderstood, so let me complete. Of course I do not mean that I can neglect any elements because they are tools. I try to choose the ones that are as cost-effective and reliable as possible, and the tools should always be sharpened.

     In summary, I think that the worldviews, characters, and scenarios, which many are particular about, are just tools to make the best of “themes and game system.” 

Copy parts from existing contents

     The theme of “how to best live out your last few days” is rarely dealt with in games, but in other entertainment, such as novels, comics, TV series and movies, it is a widely known theme, probably used somewhere every week, even in Japan alone. Although commonplace, it can be said to be universal because a blockbuster work appears once every few years.
If it is mass-produced that much, various patterns have already been tried. There is a better chance to make something more interesting if I bring in and assemble parts with proven performance from existing work than if I think from the ground up.

     The most common pattern is this; It draws the picture of the happy everyday life of young lovers or happily wed couples at the start. In the middle, there is a slight change in physical condition in either partner. In the case of a one-season TV series with rapid plot  development, they are told their remaining short life expectancy in the last minute of the first episode. Another pattern would be: every time the protagonist dies, he/she relives a bit earlier and repeats the same time span over and over. Another common one is for a wealthy old man recognizing his life expectancy to pass on his dreams, along with all his assets such as honor, property, status, and technology to a poor young person. In each case, the character dies and goes to heaven at the end..

     If you don't know the third pattern, “A wealthy old man gives the wealthy to a poor young,” remember Oscar Wilde's fairy tale, ‘The Happy Prince.’ In that story, it's not the dead prince turned into a golden statue that lives on, but the swallow that gives up traveling south and cannot survive the winter, who has only a few days to live. The story is very unique and wonderful how the role of the wealthy old man is divided between a prince who can see the problem but cannot move, and a swallow who works devotedly to solve the problem.

Which elements will be combined into a game?

     Well, from these classic patterns, the ones I borrowed for Hero must die. are those three: "1. Be told about having only a few days to live shortly after starting."
"2. Exchange your property for the happiness of others during your lifetime."
"3. Repeat the same time span over and over."

     The reasons for borrowing those are as follows; "Life Expectancy in Opening" is a great way to show users the theme of "how to best live out your last few days." “Asset transfer from a rich old man to a poor young man” can be translated  into a game system where the user can select resource A to be converted to B. Furthermore, the game genre should be RPG, which frequently converts between different types of resources, such as recovering physical strength by consuming MPs, paying for weapons (attack power), et cetera. “Repetition of the same span” is the strongest about computers where the same system and data can be used over and over. In other words, these are the elements that are easy to make into a game. Items 2 and 3 are also ideal as parts that renders the final game element: "The ending is a funeral. The mourners and condolences change, depending on the content of gameplay."

     Even in a project that looks quite novel such as Hero must die. most parts can be covered simply by peeling it off from existing content and assembling it. Surprisingly easy, isn’t it?

This column is reproduced from its appearance in Famitsu for the original release of Hero Must Die, as part of an article series every other week titled "Shoji Masuda Must Die."