Although you’ve fought tough bosses before, few are as durable and daunting as the protagonist of Trillion: God of Destruction, the eponymous villain who has no less than a 1,000,000,000,000 hit points. Just before the PS Vita game’s release, we were able to talk with director Masahiro Yamamoto about the game’s concepts, the icy Gifu air, and the wellspring a creativity that’s evident across the succession of titles he’s worked on.
Tech-Gaming: Before working with Idea Factory, you were a driving force behind a number of Nippon Ichi titles, from Disgaea 2 and 4, Zettai Hero Project, The Guided Fate Paradox, and Soul Nomad & The World Eaters. Which of these works are you most proud of?
Masahiro Yamamoto: I believe half of the game was made from the developers’ love [laughs].
Game development is just like child-rearing in that you give it blood from your own heart, so I suppose, in that sense, any one of these titles can be considered my child. If I were to suggest one as an answer, though, I suppose it might be Disgaea 4. I believe the game’s systems, graphics, DLC, etc., are a culmination of the Disgaea games that I had a hand in developing, which include Disgaea 2 and onward.
Also, I’m told by the staff members involved with development that it was a good project from their perspective as developers. What’s most important for a game is that the users can enjoy it. That said, I feel very proud that even the development staff enjoyed it as well.
T-G: Hearing about what it was like to work in the Gifu-based headquarters is rather rare. Are there any interesting or amusing anecdotes you can provide about the design process for the aforementioned games?
Yamamoto: The Gifu prefecture is a fairly cold place, so there’s an anecdote about that, actually. A little while ago, games were made by burning finished games onto a ROM, and this master ROM had to be delivered to the platform parties. And of course, it just so happened that on days where we intended to send out the master ROMs, we’d often be greeted with heavy snow…
Although Gifu’s known for its cold weather, actual snow only falls a few times a year, if it does at all. But, for some reason, these master ROM submission dates coincided with the biggest snowstorms of the year [laughs]. All of the traffic infrastructure would be paralyzed, and in these cases we’d transport the ROM ourselves in a car. I have vivid memories of travelling in a car through a blizzard, right after working until dawn. Both my body AND my soul were cold!! Truly, only an event that could happen when developing in the snow country of Gifu.
T-G: This month marks the stateside release of Trillion 1,000,000,000,000: God of Destruction. What was the impetus for the game?
Yamamoto: These are both in reference to longer titles, but I believe there are types of games where you build something over a long span of time, while there are also types of games where you play them over and over again in a short span of time. I’ve been involved with the development of many titles where their focus was to build up to something, but I’ve always wanted to make a game where you repeat it over and over. Those feelings are the inspiration for Trillion.
When considering the type of game where you repeat things often, I thought about what reasons one might have to replay a game. Then, I came up with this question: “How about sending out multiple characters you’ve raised within the same cycle to attack an enemy you couldn’t defeat on your own?”
That’s how the concept of this title, ‘training and strategizing based on death’, was born. I like the intense plots of shounen manga, so the [training and strategizing based on death] part started to grow wildly into a runaway emotion [laughs], and it took form as a large part of this game.
T-G: Early in in the game Trillion defeats you, rendering your body lifeless and forcing players to use their spirit to try to defeat this near-insurmountable foe. What was the decision behind enfeebling the protagonist?
Yamamoto: This title’s big concept is training and strategizing based on death.
As part of the process of progressing through the game, the player raises several characters who aren’t strong enough and are thusly defeated. Considering this setting, we wrote the story and opted not to use a protagonist character who would be raised, but rather a protagonist character in the position of guiding and sending off the other characters to be raised. We believed this would fit the theme more appropriately.
We decided on this position of the protagonist where he doesn’t personally take part in the fighting, and to justify this in-game, the first fight puts the character on the verge of death from the get-go. I felt I wanted to express a story of someone sending others out into battle, unlike a story many games have where the perspective is from those who go out into battle.
T-G: Can you explain how the game’s combat system works?
Yamamoto: The battles of Trillion are like a classic Rogue-like game, taking simultaneous turns where the enemy characters move at the same time you do. The battlefield is divided up into tiles, and characters’ movement and special abilities are based off of these tiles.
While summoning several minions (mob monsters), Trillion moves from the very back of the screen to the front defense line. If it breaks through the front defense line, you lose, so the point of the gameplay is to do as much damage as you can while slowing Trillion’s advance, before it breaks this defense line.
Trillion’s attacks have an extremely large area of attack, but all of Trillion’s actions execute after an activation warning, and its Skill Name along with its area of effect will be displayed beforehand. Because of this, determining many attacks you dodge and how close to get is the key to winning the fight.
T-G: What can you tell us about the Trillion ‘simulator’ in the game? How exactly is it used?
Yamamoto: The Mokujin fight is where you can check how much in-game progress a character has made. It’s an easy fight, but the Mokujin does still mimic Trillion’s actions. There are several special techniques and abilities in this game, so the Mokujin fight is a way of simulating the Trillion fight again and again and find the best combination of abilities to win.
In addition, not only is it a test, but you can get more experience by getting good results.There is a large effect on the heroine’s growth from doing well in the Mokujin fight, so please use the Mokujin fight well to create a strong heroine.
T-G: The game’s storyline branches according to player decision. Can you tell us more about how these decisions work and the how they will influence God of Destruction’s endings?
Yamamoto: The structure of this game allows for several possible endings depending on which Overlord defeats Trillion. In that regard, deciding which Overlord to choose, the order of raising them, and how exactly to do so makes these extremely important decisions for the user.
The next important thing is to have various exchanges with the heroines and raise their affection points. There are many ways to raise feelings, but the best is by sending them presents. Each character has her own item that she likes. This is just like the real world, worrying about whether a girl will like your gift or not [laughs]. Special episodes will activate by raising a heroine’s feelings higher.
Special episodes activate in various different situations, and depending on how many of these episodes activate, the ending can become a special ending. Incidentally, during the Trillion fight, affection points are used in exchange for HP and MP. It’s a system where the strength of feelings is tied to actual physical strength. I hope you all can watch the special ending of your favorite characters.
T-G: It sounds like the game cycles between fits of unrelenting adversity and moments of gratification as you ebb away at the big enemy. How did you go about finding the balance between these two contradictory sentiments?
Yamamoto: Upon thinking up the project plan, we felt that this idea had considerable potential. This title’s system and story are extremely closely connected, and this particular aspect was a large crux since the beginning of development. In some of my previous titles, most of my responsibilities were to create the game system, and I left the story, character design, and setting all completely up to others [laughs].
However, this time, I was greatly involved in the world setting and story. The result was a huge cohesive effort between creating the game and making balance adjustments. Those in charge of writing scenes worked extremely hard under a storm of revisions, and as a result the script has an extensive amount of text, and we had the translators work quite hard as well. Thanks to all of them, as we implemented the story and characters in, the game had a much greater element of empathy than we originally expected. I suppose it could be said that by challenging ourselves to something new, we were able to get a result beyond our expectations.
T-G: Is it possible to beat Trillion without losing any of the Demon Lord characters?
Yamamoto: This title has a function of replaying the game in cycles. It’s possible to carry over experience points earned from previous play-throughs. In that sense, it is possible to defeat Trillion without making any sacrifices. To clear the game with your first character on your first play-through… would be difficult…
T-G: Between the antagonist’s massive supply of HP and the death of core characters, it seems Trillion is trying to instill a sense of hopelessness in players. Was that deliberate?
Yamamoto: Yes, this is deliberate. One appealing aspect for this game is facing an enemy you can’t possibly imagine defeating, and we thought of implementing harder trials in order to give a greater sense of achievement on top of this achievement being inherently difficult. However, to be honest, I wanted to make Trillion, much, much stronger… [laughs].
T-G: Each of the game’s demon lord represents one of the moral sins, does this factor into aspects of the game?
Yamamoto: The effect it has on the game’s system is small. However, I believe it had a large impact on the construction of the story and characters. It’s indeed easier to add some color to the characters with a motif. Among them, I feel the effect on Ashmedia was the greatest. Bearing the crest of lust, just looking at her, you can tell she’s a seductive character, but with such uniqueness it’s easier to think up another face to these characters.
T-G: Can we safely assume that the final sin, wrath, is personified by Trillion himself?
Yamamoto: I believe it is best for each player to interpret this for themselves. However, there is a route that touches on Trillion’s existence, so I hope players try to discover this episode.
T-G: I’ve spoken to other developers who revealed the difficulty of working with the half gigabyte of main memory and the 128MB of VRAM. Did you encounter any struggles when creating Trillion?
Yamamoto: There is a part with the animations for the Death Skills with which we had trouble. The “Death Skill” is a skill of great effect that can only be used upon an Overlord’s death. It can seal parts of Trillion and transform the current Overlord into a guardian spirit to fight alongside the next Overlord. We wanted to make some crazy extravagant animations for these sequences, properly befitting of the effect they have.
If we were to create these delusions as they were originally pitched on the spot, the types and number of special effects used would have been huge, and we’d have problems with exceeding the VRAM’s processing speed [laughs]. While preserving the visuals as much as we could, we considered how to express them in ways that were kind to the used memory and processing speed.
T-G: What kind of experience would you like players to have with Trillion?
Yamamoto: The Japanese tagline we have is, “An RPG where you entrust your feelings to another upon death,” and we’ve put a bit of effort in the “death” part of this. Death is usually an element you want to avoid no matter what. Trillion is a title where we sought to make the player think about the process of overcoming the element of getting a “Game Over,” which is what happens normally in other games.
The conflict within a character you’ve so carefully raised of not accepting, yet not being able to deny their inevitable defeat by Trillion, and getting over that conflict and dying, leaving their feelings for the next Overlord, raises the user’s own feelings to their highest potential that it’s painful. Of course, in order to avoid the death of characters so preciously raised, we’ve increased the freedom available in the raising and battle systems.In order to get your happy ending with the Overlord you like best, I hope you go through trial and error again and again!
T-G: Any parting message to readers?
Yamamoto: I believe this title has a lot of originality to it, with unique experiences packed into it that can only be experienced with this game. I’d like you all to please give it a try and play it. Thank you.
Tech-Gaming would like to thank Yamamoto-san, as well as Idea Factory International’s
Nao Miyazawa-Pellicone, Arianne Advincula, and David Alonzo for their participation.