On Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball
Creating now with quantity but with a first-class objective
First of all, what was the reason for producing this sports game? The most demanding requests obtained from past "Dead or Alive" (DOA) series questionnaires were to develop a supplementary game. However, producer, Tomonobu Itagaki is not the type of man who would sell a game by fawning in such a manner, so it was a tall order.
"If you go to a steak house, you don't want to eat sashimi (Japanese raw fish)—even if it's on the house. If I would do it, I would make the sashimi bar serve me the very best kind that they had available. Similarly, I planned the project this way," Itagaki said laughing, but with a completely serious look. Itagaki asserts that he has been producing videos by establishing what he wants to express as a game. He handles everything from programming to direction, and he is the kind of person who indulges in object creation.
In fact, he planned the sports game out of the field in a certain sense, but on the other hand, it helped to clear up something he had been wondering about. "In regular sports games, every character is uniform in size and motion. To make up for that, the characters are subliminally and differently embedded in the user's memory by bringing each of their faces close up. Since we are Team NINJA and have confidence in interactive CG, we wanted to overhaul the project," Itagaki remarked.
True significance of choosing beach volleyball
Then, what does the title have to do with beach volleyball? "It's because [as of August 2002] there has been no interesting beach volleyball game," Itagaki explained. But apart from that, various thoughts were involved. For example, if one sees this change as relatively easy, one thinks the title is characterized as a girly stimulation game that features the female CG characters' sex appeal, like breasts shaking and sexy swimsuits. When in fact, the swimsuits are hidden while swimming, but can be seen from various angles when they are playing beach volleyball. However, thinking of this title as a product does not only involve those elements. In a volleyball game, one needs to control six characters for one team, but for beach volleyball, one can only control two.
This does not imply that the easy course was taken. Itagaki said that ultimately he desired to make maximum use of the hardware by mobilizing the characters without diminishing the expression of the women's charms as the interactive CG.
"I've been saying for a long time that software technology has been progressing more rapidly than hardware," Itagaki explained. "Hardware technology is supposed to be parallel with it but its performance has not improved. Xbox finally came out and helped us to express the female charm as an interactive CG. We couldn't have done with project with the other consoles."
It is not as though he was flattering Microsoft. Perhaps his real intention as a creator is to be oppressed by the slow pace of hardware evolution while he pursues the quality he desires.
Female charm represented as interactive CG
Why does Itagaki strive to express female charms as an interactive CG? "Part of the reason is because I like it," he explained, "but I also think that the expression of attractive female characters is necessary for entertainment, such as movies, novels, comics and everything else. This is common sense. However, the real question is why video games do not respond to that. It's because people are afraid to end up with a farce when the product is not accomplished by both technology and quality." [Laughs]
The main focus of this game is beach volleyball, as stated in the title. However, the purpose of the game is to enjoy two weeks of vacation, whether one plays beach volleyball or not is up to the user. That signifies in a certain sense that one is expected to experience the charm of one's favorite character by hanging out with her.
Naturally, careful attention was paid to expressing women's charms during a beach volleyball game. For example, before performing a program, the team figured out what kind of picture would look appealing in a certain situation, such as brilliantly shining sun or a sunset, and which angles to use to make this possible. Therefore, the time spent creating character motion and detail patterns was able to be increased dramatically. As a result, the proportion of character and data, which was two to one in "DOA3," was reversed to one to two in this title. As for the characters' movements, they were developed by trying different methods, including motion capture, until a satisfactory level was reached.
Producing a simple system with creative picture and sound
In conclusion, Itagaki was asked what he thought of the game system. "A simple system is the best," he responded. "People jump to say the word 'profound,' but is there any existing video game in this world that goes beyond the 'profundity' of old games like backgammon, chess and mahjong? What is needed now is impartial profundity and easiness that everyone can play with. Therefore, a picture and sound representation can be considered as creative work, but a game system is just intellectual work that can be carried out by anyone who has a certain intellectual capability." He also stated that this is the necessary condition for developing a project that can be accepted by people of different cultural backgrounds.
Moreover, there are some swimsuits that were designed by a user, but that is not what public participation on a large scale was invited for. Designs were adopted and sent to Tecmo as candidates. This professes Itagaki's belief of game production—it is a form of passion that drives him to actualize what he wants to create without profit and loss calculations.
Taken from Japanese Game Graphics: Behind the Scenes of Your Favorite Games