As the creative lead for a game, directors are responsible for everything that’s included and purposefully omitted. As such, they often get the bulk of media attention. But the producer serves an equally important role, bringing together talent, and making sure the game arrives on schedule and within budget. Recently, we had a chance to speak with Ryo Mito, who served as a producer for Saint Seiya: Soldiers’ Soul and Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2. Not only did he discuss some of the obstacles he’s helped several Bandai Namco teams overcome, but he also provided some insight into Ray Gigant, a PS Vita title arriving this week.
Tech-Gaming: You have a substantial resume, having helped put together titles like Saint Seiya: Soldiers’ Soul, Knights Contract, Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2, and Little Tail Story. Can you give us a behind-the-scene peek into the production process and describe some of the typical responsibilities for particular title?
Ryo Mito: As a producer, I have taken on a wide range of projects from original IP titles to titles relating to anime characters. My role for these titles often covers tasks like crafting a vision for the project, deciding game development details, budgeting, managing schedules, and strategizing sales promotion.
T-G: What been the most difficult production-related task you have had to tackle?
Mito: Game development usually takes 1 to 2 years, so there are always various issues and problems during that time. Therefore, it is challenging to pinpoint which task in particular has been the most difficult, but what makes me most concerned during the development process is when the game is not on track to achieve the quality towards which we are working.
T-G: Working with licensed-titles might introduce a few new wrinkles into the process. How closely do intellectual property (IP) holders oversee the process?
Mito: How IP holders will be involved in the process varies from title to title. However, they are usually involved in the approval process for the project planning, scenario, 3D model, and illustrations. And, of course, they will check the final game system.
T-G: Do IP holders ever ask for specific changes? Are these requests ever negotiated or are they all ironed out before development starts?
Mito: If the game does not properly represent the IP’s characters or world setting, they will certainly request changes. We discuss together how we will make changes on the said subject on a case-by-case basis. Items requiring changes can arise during the project planning, or they could be found during the development of the game. That said, the timing of change requests is all different and it depends on the circumstances.
T-G: How much pressure is there to adhere to a production schedule? What happens when a game falls behind schedule?
Mito: One of the major pressures comes from following the schedule, especially at the tail end of development since if, by some chance, the development of the game gets delayed after announcing the title, we end up disappointing the fans and customers. However, if there are delays in development tasks in the middle of our schedule, we usually adjust some other parts of development to recoup the lost time and get back on schedule.
T-G: Being on schedule and under budget seem like the sleep-depriving goals of a producer? What’s the secret to achieving these ambitions?
Mito: It is very crucial to know exactly where the project is on our schedule by creating an organized plan-of-action, as well as being flexible and swift in our decision-making to ensure we stay on top of any potential issues.
T-G: How closely does the producer typically work with programming and creative staff? With artists and voice talent?
Mito: As a producer, I work very closely with a director who works closely with the development team to advance the game development. Therefore, I do not have many chances to work directly and closely with every staff member from the programming and creative teams. When I have a meeting about programming and graphics, I usually talk with each team leaders. Regarding the character designer and voice actors/actresses, I meet with them when the projects start.
T-G: With a strong visual novel component, Ray Gigant is as focused on storytelling as it is on labyrinth skulking. Can you provide some background into the game’s plotline?
Mito: While we were having meetings with the developer company, Experience, we decided to create an intense, dramatic story with this new title. The game itself is set in the not-too-distant future.
T-G: The game splits it’s playtime between a trio of protagonists. What was the impetus behind this decision?
Mito: First of all, we wanted to add unique, appealing elements to Ray Gigant. I really enjoyed the idea of having three main characters and three settings, and this ended up inspiring further development.
T-G: Identification with a lead is crucial for most games, but one of the Ray Gigant’s early characters might be a little difficult to emphasize with. What was the reason behind this risky storytelling technique?
Mito: The central focus on this game is actually how different these three characters are with their separate backgrounds and ways of thinking, which creates strong points of interest for the game. I understand that some might feel that way [about the identification with a lead]. However, once you reach the end of the game, I am sure that you will be satisfied.
T-G: The concepts of Yorigami and Kurogami are especially fascinating. Not only does the game delve into relational synergy, but also explores the notion of facsimile, which is rather intriguing amidst a digital age, where perfect copies abound. Could you expand on some of the metaphor found in the game?
Mito: Yorigami is deeply involved with the story, such as assisting with player navigation and being utilized in battles by synchronizing with one of the characters. Only the “Chosen Ones” can cooperate with Yorigami, which makes them very special. However, we wanted to give special powers to other characters (non-main characters) in order to fight against Gigant, so we came up with Kurogami, clone of Yorigami.
T-G: Seemingly, physical range plays a key role in Ray Gigant’s battle system? Can you explain to us how combat works?
Mito: This title’s battle system is within the confines of a three-character party. Each of three characters take strengths in close-combat, middle range, and distance battling, as well as specific skills and traits the player can use to gain the upper hand in combat. These differences add layers of strategy to the game, which culminate in a deep and ultimately satisfying experience with the battle system.
Mito: Ray Gigant was a title where I wanted to try something new. Therefore, I decided to implement a symbol-encounter system for this dungeon RPG title. This, of course, was a new experience for us which gave us room to explore, innovate, and play around with the genre’s formula. It did not go without its challenges, of course.
T-G: The inclusion of a rhythm-based mini-game in Ray Gigant is remarkable. What prompted its addition?
Mito: The inclusion of the rhythm mini-game to the battle system was a conscious effort on my part to offer something fresh to Ray Gigant’s core experience. I thought to myself, “combining the rhythm-based game and the concept of deification in Ray Gigant would be unique.”
T-G: Level design is a crucial component of any dungeon crawl. What design philosophies fed into the creation of Ray Gigant’s stages?
Mito: Ray Gigant’s developer, Experience, has crafted numerous dungeon RPGs so far, and this title is a culmination of know-how gained from all of their previous title experiences. Ray Gigant was created with the intention to take players on a journey, through which they will encounter and overcome great dangers and obstacles until the narrative’s dramatic conclusion. The game’s difficulty was scaled with the expansiveness of the story in mind, and we hope the player will see it through to the end if they are skilled enough!
T-G: Fuji Mogeo served as the game’s character designer and lead illustrator for the visual novel sequences. What direction was given to given in the construction of Ray Gigant’s world?
Mito: I communicated the concept of this game and the world setting to Mr. Fuji. In turn, they would provide rough designs that corresponded to how I expressed my vision. We repeated the process of feedback and revisions several times, which led to us edging closer to the true potential of the characters and designs after each revision. After all, we came to the final graphical designs for characters and world, of which I am very proud and excited to present.
Tech-Gaming would like to thank Mito-san, as well as
Nao Miyazawa-Pellicone and the acttil team for their participation