When do you think up your game projects?
Do not believe everything an old man says

     Just to make sure this is understood: This page looks like a normal article. However it is actually (as you all understand from looking at the title) a promotion page for Hero Must Die., released next year by Nippon Ichi software. It means the game will be presented as really fun in this article, but you must not believe everything an old man says (laugh).

     However, although this IS a promotion page, if it just tries really hard to promote Hero Must Die. readers will just get repulsed. Instead I will set the subject to a standard of game design. Hero Must Die. will JUST be mentioned as a concrete example thereby promoting it without seeming to too much. That should be good enough, right?

     When I can’t think of a subject to treat, I’ll just report on the recording with the voice talents, or fill up the space with the illustrations from Tetsu Kurosawa to reduce the text I need to write. By the way, as I am currently writing this, it is June the 26th. Yesterday I completed the script to be sent to the voice talents. At the same time as this article is being published on the web, the voice recording is starting in a small studio somewhere in Tokyo. 

When do you think up your game projects?
The Theme: how to best live out your last few days
At the end: a funeral, where life’s results are announced.

     The subject of this first article will be about when I think up a game project. Actually, for most of them I have a hard time telling when I first thought about it. That is because they usually come up from various ideas interacting and slowly giving them form. However there are cases where I can tell. And by a stroke of fortune (ahem) Hero Must Die. is such a case.

     On January 16th, 1995, the day before the Kobe earthquake, I was at a hospital in Ashiya. For people who do not know where Ashiya is, try remembering the pictures of the Kobe earthquake where the speedway broke and fell. Ashiya is near there. I was at the hospital because I was attending the operation of my father for cirrhosis. I had signed the discharge papers after being told the operation success probabilities, the probability of survival after 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years.

     On that day, after seeing the successful operation, I was on my way home in the bullet train when I wrote the memo that would be the first draft of the Hero Must Die. project. 

     The operation was a success, and my father avoided the terror of the earthquake due to being under from anesthesia. Although he still had to be hospitalized a number of times, he lived for 10 years after his operation.

     I noticed how he changed during those 10 years. As his stamina waned, his hobby changed from golf to making chigiri-e (art made from torn pieces of paper), and he would mention being grateful a lot more. It looked like he was afraid of the time he had left, or it looked like it he was cherishing the time he had left. If you can’t get my emotional impression, just try to remember any movie or TV series where the lover or parent is found to have an incurable disease, and told he has only a few days to live, recounting how these person will face their remaining days. This is quite similar.

     What I’d like you to notice here is, this subject “How to live out your last few days” is quite a classic theme for a number of movies or TV series, but had never made it into gaming. Which means that while there is obviously a market, no product has been made for it yet. In other words, one could say the first one there could take it all with no competition. This is why there is a chance of success for a game with the theme on “How to live out your last few days." This is what I guessed. 

"I forgot my spells... my sword and armor are too heavy..."

     Let’s talk about my father’s funeral, 10 years after the operation. Being the eldest son, I was the organizer and was welcoming the mourning friends and acquaintances. But having spent the last 20 years away from home, I had no real idea who his friends were, and most of the mourners were people I was meeting for the first time.

     What I found profoundly interesting was the memories of my father that these friends were recounting. These were aspects of my father that I did not know about.

     I learned this for instance. When he was young and working hard, he had a gastric ulcer. He was told it could be healed by going to the hospital regularly for a few months, to receive medication. However he chose an operation that would heal him in a week.

     Now why did he choose to forfeit medication, and went for a hasty operation instead?

     Most likely this is because I was born. Even for someone as lazy as me, when my first son was born I thought “I have to earn” “I have to work”. For someone as serious as my father, the time lost in going to the hospital for a few months must have felt a waste. But the blood transfusion he received during this operation is the source of the hepatitis which developed into cirrhosis. This resulted in a much shorter life than average expectancy.

     Of course this is not my fault. But I can’t help imagining that, if I had not been born, my father’s life might have been different, and the memories told by mourners at his funeral could have been different. The funeral is the result of many choices, the result screen of a life. This is what I thought. After the end of the 7 days funeral period, going back in the bullet train I wrote: Hero Must Die ends in a funeral. Mourners and their speech change depending on play. 

"Oh, my Hero... I loved you..."

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."