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Kojima: Japanese Utilize Art, West Relies On Technology

Nobody has been harder on Japanese game development than some of the leading Japanese designers. Even Hideo Kojima went after his compatriots by saying they "lacked motivation and passion."

But his most recent comment supports the Japanese style. Via Twitter and noted at GamerNode, Kojima spoke a bit about the differences between Japanese and Western level design. Essentially, he thinks the primary difference centers on artistry vs. technology:

"The differences between the creators in Japan and the West in this industry... Japanese creators try to express the game's environment through beautiful artwork, but western developers use technology to draw out the environment. The Japanese make the models and textures carefully to create a world. The West use shaders, lighting, shadows, effects, and programming to create their world."

It isn't necessarily an attack and really, it's quite interesting. It's not something one thinks about often but if you sit back and consider, this seems to be a reasonable explanation. It's also clear that Kojima, being an artist himself, places artistry above technological prowess in the world of video games...something not enough designers do, in our eyes. Then again, if we don't have the aforementioned prowess, we lose the luster of some of that artistry.  Perhaps a Catch .22...?

It's a complicated issue, to be sure.

Tags: hideo kojima, western games, japanese games, game industry

10/14/2010 10:47:05 AM Ben Dutka

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Comments (59 posts)

RobiinzZ
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 11:04:14 AM
Reply

I agree totally

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laxpro2001
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 11:49:59 AM

I disagree totally (well not totally but see my comment below and you'll see what I mean)

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Shams
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 3:44:17 PM

I think partly it has do with the difference in economical climates. The Japanese, with a much tighter economy, have greater difficulty investing in new software technology and training.

Also, while slot-machines and gambling maybe a common past-time there, I've heard as a whole they are generally considered a "certainty-based"/"masculine" culture as compared to western ones: meaning they tend to value certainty over risk-taking (which may be mutually-causal to their economical climate). This may mean they are less likely to invest in developing new technologies as they would be in perfecting existing ones.

And, up until quite recently, although they are quite ahead of the pack in many technological industries such robotics and manufacturing, perhaps due to the language bubble, they've always been a tad behind on the sofware side.

Again these are all generalities, so i could be completely wrong.

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big6
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 11:06:59 AM
Reply

I totally agree with Kojima.
There are many examples of this. An example would be MGS4, which he created.
But even some less-stellar, lower-selling games from Japan boast some amazing art and style. Look at games like DMC4, Lost Planet 1 & 2, Resident Evil 5.

On a similar note, I thought the graphics in Bayonetta were pretty average, but the style was clearly Japanese.

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Snaaaake
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 11:15:24 AM
Reply

And you know what?
Apparently, MGS4 is a perfect mixture of both.

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Drake88
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 11:16:53 AM
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he has a point. but if you think about it, well nevermind he has a point...

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Highlander
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 11:24:41 AM
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You know, I think I may have something of a man-crush for Kojima...because, I think he has utterly nailed it. I love that someone in the Japanese gaming industry both get's 'it' and is willing to come out and say it.

He nailed both the difference between western and Japanese games and the reasons for some of the pessimism about the Japanese industry. There is no inherent advantage in following a technical approach or an artistic one, it's just a different approach. The sooner others understand this (yes Capcom, I am looking in your direction) the better.

Last edited by Highlander on 10/14/2010 11:25:44 AM

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Snaaaake
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 11:34:08 AM

Well, to me, he didn't nailed it, more like he is stating the fact, what is actually going on.
Nobody said it and then he just came up and did.

You'll never see either Wada or Inafune simply say "GOMENASAI MINA!!!".

Last edited by Snaaaake on 10/14/2010 11:41:38 AM

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laxpro2001
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 11:48:14 AM
Reply

Sorry Kojima, but I disagree. The most artistic game of this or any generation at that (arguably?) wasn't made by a Japanese developer. It was made by thatgamecompany (flower).

I'm assuming he was only referring to graphical artistry so maybe my argument below doesn't apply as much (granted his quote mentions no specifics). Regardless, to say that technology intensive graphics can't create an aristic environment is just straight ignorant and wrong.

I think either route when utilized properly can create an artistic environment, but even so, combining the capabilities of both would prove the be the most effective way to create such an environment IMO.

Furthermore a games artistic quality cannot just be judged of based on the textures used vs shading effects etc. There are numerous factors like the manner in which the story is told, the style of the game itself (ie. cultural influences etc.), the music. Also kind of an aggregate effect of these factors but also the emotion of the game itself would have a great effect of the artistic environment set forth by the game.

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Highlander
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 12:23:40 PM

The trouble is that flower was artistry over technology (with a healthy does of computing technology to pull it off). It was from an indie developer, not one of the big corporate developers. Flower is an example of a developer following the artistry first and foremost and producing an awesome product...it was also the product of an artistic mind and passion. Which is kind of the point that Kojima was making.

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laxpro2001
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 12:50:31 PM

Well thats the point I was trying to make. Games can be artistic using a technological approach. That's a really good point about the artistic mind and passion, though Kojima didn't really make that point Highlander... you did.

To say the least I think we can all agree Kojima's comment is a little narrow-minded in how he implies technology cannot produce art. As you have pointed out Highlander, with the right passion, creativity, and vision, it is most definitely possible. Yes one can argue developers with those qualities and an artistic focus might be few and far between these days but regardless they are out there and it is possible.

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McClane
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 12:53:25 PM

@laxpro2001:

You have a valid point, Flower is, in my opinion, the most BEAUTIFUL and ARTISTIC game of all time...

The grass' effects were awesome, the music was perfect and it's fair to say, something so simple as a leaf was recreated in such a poetic and artistical way that I was deeply moved by it...

Bite me if you say this is gay...

Last edited by McClane on 10/14/2010 12:55:01 PM

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sobleck
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 1:04:04 PM

To be honest though he's not being narrow minded, he's just stating an observation. He didn't even say a game can't be artistice if based on technology. He jsut simply stated that the main difference he has noticed, is the emphasis in technology for building the environment in western games versus the focus on artistry namely modles and textures in japanese games. The same still goes for flower, it as a marvelous technical feat, but you wouldn't go and say that models and shapes were top notch artistry. Rather you might consider the experience as a whole as being art. In this case, kojima is not wrong. I think you sort of turned what he said into something else.

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laxpro2001
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 1:08:42 PM

@McClane

agreed. btw if you haven't purchased the soundtrack yet you should... I'm listening to it right now and its so beautiful though it really makes me wanna play the game!

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laxpro2001
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 1:08:46 PM

EDIT double post but I can fix it:

@sobleck
Despite re-reading it I can't change my opinion on what point he intends to convey. Its poorly worded and thus too ambiguous for me to agree with you or vice versa.


Last edited by laxpro2001 on 10/14/2010 1:17:28 PM

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McClane
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 1:23:39 PM

@laxpro2001:

Actually, I was thinking about getting the soundtrack, it's so beatiful, it moved me almost the point of tears...

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xXxSeTTriPxXx
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 5:45:41 PM

i completely agree with you.art incompesses many things you can't just say,this is art and this isn't(it like a poet saying panting isn't art because he uses a paint brush instead of words lmfao).technology carfted into art is art no matter how you try to explain it.some games themes and direction calls for a more technical approach.by the very definiton of being artitsic (artistic quality of effect or workmanship)games that take a more technical approach is art.i find his comparision very insulting.it's like his saying,americans don't know what true art is, that we are being fooled to think games like killzone3, gears, crisis, uncharted,heavy rain and gow(just to name a few) are not art, but big globs of technology that is made to imitate art.i know i'm going to get thumbs downed for this rant, because just like you i respect kojima alot.but if i'm not mistaking isn't this the same fight that gaming has with the rest of the art world?....i'm just saying.

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Fane1024
Friday, October 15, 2010 @ 5:01:21 PM

FWIW, the key game designer of Flower, Jenova Chen, is from Shanghai (though he trained in the West) and is likely more influenced by Japanese/Asian design philosophy than most Western designers.

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Alienange
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 12:02:05 PM
Reply

He's put his finger right on the problem of Japanese developers. They're being technologically left behind and consumers are catching on.

Developers lack of desire to get with the technology available might be one of the reasons we see motivation and passion dwindling in Japan.

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laxpro2001
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 12:07:46 PM

Wow Alienage thats a really intelligent way to interpret the quote. I agree with you 100%.

To add on to that, by upgrading to better technology, that doesn't mean they can't still continue to incorporate and "artistic" design as oppose to us western barbarians who only rely on technology.... they can have both

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Alienange
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 2:22:21 PM

Exactly. Not only can they have both, but I'd dare to say that they'd be back to being industry leaders.

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Fane1024
Friday, October 15, 2010 @ 5:12:32 PM

MGS4 is a perfect example of this synthesis.

Ryan Payton brought to Kojima Productions a Western emphasis on up-to-date technology/game mechanics which, combined with Kojima's artistic vision, produced a superior MGS game.

Japanese game companies have, for the most part, been stuck in neutral in terms of technological/gameplay developments for more than a decade. In the last few years, they have recognized this failing and tried to "update" their games. Unfortunately, they have mostly done so by forsaking a lot of what made the games good in the first place.

Had they simply stayed up-to-date all along, instead of re-making the same game again and again (tank controls, anyone?), we wouldn't have the current crisis of identity among Japanese developers.

I love the Japanese emphasis on art style, but IMHO Western games are generally better playing experiences.

Last edited by Fane1024 on 10/15/2010 5:15:59 PM

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Snaaaake
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 12:07:00 PM
Reply

Japanese do have the potential to have better engine, like MGS4 looks better than most games.
Even games like Valkyria Chronicles, FFXIII, SFIV and RE5.
They have the right stuff but they're just doing their stuff wrong.

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Highlander
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 12:27:54 PM

Technology is nothing more than a means to an end. If developers concentrate on the art, character, story, music, etc of a game first and foremost, then the technology will follow. The technology is a tool to implement the artistry. You can't have a game developed based on the hardware capabilities of a system. That kind of brute force approach is the development equivalent of using a sledge hammer to crack a walnut.

With the technology in the boxes now, the developer should not be worried about technology, instead they should focus on the other aspects of their game and then fit the concept and technology together with the art driving the technology to be better rather than the technology restricting the scope of the art.

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laxpro2001
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 1:06:20 PM

I agree with highlander here 100%.

I kinda feel to truly create that immaculate artistic experience you need both artistic vision and technology to implement that. Like highlander said you need that art to be the driving force behind it.

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Fane1024
Friday, October 15, 2010 @ 5:24:58 PM

Technology is not just about how the game looks; it's also about how the game plays.

Plenty of Japanese games have high-quality graphics (especially in the cut scenes, of course).

They just often feature gameplay mechanics that were fresh one or two or even three generations ago. Call it retro-style if it makes you feel better, but it's still out-of-date.

Compare all the things you could do in GTA III to early Japanese PS2 games with static backgrounds and clunky control schemes...and it only got worse from that point.

Advances like rag doll physics and streaming allowed Western games to outpace contemporary games from Japan.

Last edited by Fane1024 on 10/15/2010 5:26:35 PM

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Hezzron
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 12:37:02 PM
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The Japanese video game industry isn't in shambles due to them being too artsy-fartsy. Art isn't a hindrance to success.

Many of their games this gen are plagued by awful controls, bugs, repetitive game play, dull subject matter, terrible voice acting, etc....never mind bringing anything new to the table in the way of innovation. It's like they forgot the basics of what even makes a game competent.

There are some exceptions of course, but it's a shame they can be counted on one hand.

Last edited by Hezzron on 10/14/2010 12:38:40 PM

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laxpro2001
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 1:23:52 PM

lol wow I initially read that second sentence as art is a hindrance to success... haha almost turned into a crazed flamer.

Anyway I agree with you, though I hope Kojima wasn't implying the lack of success of Japanese developers is a result of them being too artsy for consumers to appreciate of something along those lines. After all you need the basics like you said. If flower was extremely cumbersome to control it would have sucked IMO despite all the other things it had going for it. Basic game mechanics need to come above everything else.

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B-RadGfromOV
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 12:37:17 PM
Reply

The technology we use is combined to effectively create the art he is talking about. So in a way, western devs have the best of both worlds. You'd have to agree, that shaders and lighting effects look better in a 3D world than a 2D texture. So, western devs ARE using artistry, only more advanced and effective, to better result.

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Scarecrow
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 12:39:02 PM
Reply

I prefer the Japanese way.
Americans just like to clone:

COD, MOH, Borderlands, SOCOM

How many war games do we need?

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WorldEndsWithMe
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 1:55:41 PM

truth.

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Underdog15
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 5:01:56 PM

Exceptions to every rule, to be sure, but on the whole, while many Western games are pretty good, they do tend to lack a degree of originality.

How many western devs are going to make something as unique as Catherine, for example.

I thumbed up both you fellas.

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FlyingKickPunch
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 7:24:06 PM

Because war is all America does.

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Fane1024
Friday, October 15, 2010 @ 5:30:08 PM

King Of Fighters XII (!) begs to differ.

The Japanese clone their games even more than Western devs.

Last edited by Fane1024 on 10/15/2010 5:30:35 PM

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Kiryu
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 12:40:59 PM
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Uncharted Series uses art as well as Technology!

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laxpro2001
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 12:52:12 PM

Thats what I'm saying... if anything don;'t knock the other one, use both. No need to be ignorant about the capabilities of each approach.

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Scarecrow
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 1:22:32 PM

Kojima's talking in general

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Highlander
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 2:05:48 PM

Indeed, but with Uncharted, the art leads the technology, not the other way around. When you see games that are promoted based on what shader version they use or what lighting effects they have, you are seeing games that are technology led, not art.

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Underdog15
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 5:00:15 PM

For example in regards to what Highlander says: "Let's use the Unreal Engine 3!! We'll figure out what it'll look like later. But UE3 is kewl and is easy to program!"

Those games...

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Fane1024
Friday, October 15, 2010 @ 5:33:28 PM

I recall a lot of chatter about the rendering tech in Uncharted.

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BigBoss4ever
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 12:51:13 PM
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I agree with Kojima 100%. This is the fundamental differences between Japanese and Western games, and that is why I usually prefer Japanese games over western games. This is also why after choosing westernizing the Japanese games, JRPGs lost that "artistic" flair. JRPGs are the type of games that reflect "the artistry" the most in the forms of environmental design, CGs, music, characters even stories. When the developers all choose to westernize, JRPGs lost its original self.

p.s. The Last Guardian, to me, is the modern day statement of artistry for video gaming in Japan. Developers should all learn from it. (I mean the artistic quality)

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McClane
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 1:16:36 PM
Reply

I think the whole point is that if developers want to do art, they require technology to do that....

It may be a jab at western developers, but let me say that Flower was art and made by westerners...

Technology is nothing more than a tool, to create art...

Last edited by McClane on 10/14/2010 1:20:28 PM

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Lawless SXE
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 1:41:17 PM
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I think that, in general, he's right. Thinking more about it, I draw the conclusion that this is also possibly where the Japanese devs have gone wrong. They've reduced a lot of that artistic flair and style in favour of pure technology and lost something else important along the way. As an example, sidelining Dante in DMC4 allowed Nero to shine, but it was obvious that they were trying for a more realistic world. A lot of the artistry that was found in Dante's Awakening was shelved.

Valkyria Chronicles got it right though. But then, I'd say that MGS didn't really. Sure, there was still a certain amount of flair, but I didn't feel as though it was particularly artistic. Peace Walker was closer to art than MGS4 was IMO.

I don't think that Western devs are quite as good at making the artistic side of games shine, and as a result go for very heavy, realistic styles. There are exceptions to this, as there are to every rule, but I'd like to see a lot more games simply chill out and go the artsy route. I often prefer that.
Peace.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 1:57:21 PM
Reply

This could explain why westernizing otherwise great Japanese games just ruins them. The artistry is stripped out and you're left with an empty husk.

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FlyingKickPunch
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 7:22:02 PM

+100 (if I could...)

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Jawknee
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 2:24:40 PM
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I think this has been obvious since the start of this generation.

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FM23
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 2:45:12 PM
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Well I will take a technological advanced game over an artsy game any dame. Compare RDR to FFXIII. RDR looks releastic because of the detail, etc. FFXIII looks like a cartoon with no type of detail and has the anime style Japanese love. MGS4 doesn't have that weird Japanese anime style that Japanese games have, but it has the weird corny Japanese vibe found in anime along with is melodrama. You can also feel the unrefinement in the gameplay just like in RE5. The gameplay is where Japanese and Western games differ and the West is dominating. Compare GOW to Bayonetta. Compare Yakuza to Grand Theft Auto. Demons Souls is the only game I have played that I know is Japanese and feels like it was made by a Western developer. But you know what...the Japanese can create better stories than Western Developers. MGS4 is a great example. I didn't grow up playing Japanese games or JRPG's, but I did play the Metal Gear Solid franchise growing up and it has delivered something that alot of games seem to forget...a deep emotional story. Western developer usually create okay stories like the ones in KZ2, Resistance, GOW and then you have the real wack stories in games like CoD and Spiderman.

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Mr Bitey
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 4:36:58 PM
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As much as I hate to admit it, I think the West really has been doing a better job over all.

Sure MGS4, Valkyria Chonciles, Demon's Souls were great, but the western games (see above) really do out weight the Eastern by a hefty margin.

Also Western RPGs have really been a lot better over all. FallOut 3, Oblivion, Dragon Age, etc were all fantastic.

While FF 13 was only decent, and Star Ocean was just flat out painful.

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BikerSaint
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 4:56:56 PM
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I can't see why Japan can't use utilize little bit's of Western tech to enhance their own Eastern artistic flair, instead of just going all out balls-out "gung-ho" Western style only.

Nahhh, I guess with the exceptions of Kojima & a "chosen few" of others, we're asking too much.

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Fane1024
Friday, October 15, 2010 @ 5:39:46 PM

No doubt. The Japanese have certainly misinterpreted what they should be doing to Westernize their games, losing what made them interesting without really improving the gameplay in the process.

We don't want more thick-necked space marines. We just want fresh experiences.

Keep the quirky art style, even if means all the characters are androgynous. ;)

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Clamedeus
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 5:07:28 PM
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You can use both, i don't see any harm in it as long as you are dedicated to bring the best of both art and technology and bring them together.

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RebelJD
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 6:27:31 PM
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I'd like it if Japanese developers raised the bar and woke up the Western developers to try harder.

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tes37
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 7:56:54 PM
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Kojima is a smart man, but I disagree somewhat with him. You should never defend yourself at the expense of someone else. There are some very talented developers around the world that do a fine job on par with any Japanese developers.

Here lately the west has been putting the hurts on the Japanese industry. They need to start producing and save the talk. Kojima can only speak for himself and he does live up to his words. Too bad other Japanese developers aren't listening to him.

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Kiryu
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 9:12:11 PM

Haven't u heard of the Ryu Ga Gotoku(Like a Dragon) Series or Yakuza series they are awesome developers.If you see Yakuza 1,2,3,4 and kenzan! they are games with art and technology of the ps3 combined.Toshihiro nagoshi has made fantastic games.

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Fane1024
Friday, October 15, 2010 @ 5:43:20 PM

I can't agree, though I'm by no means an expert on Yakuza. The Yakuza 3 demo felt very dated to me.

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ryu
Friday, October 15, 2010 @ 12:06:40 AM
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kojima is like don cherry, if he talks you STUF and listen

to my knowledge he's only game dev to cross culture on mainstream successfully, w/ metal gear of course,

him and the whole blizzard entertainment i guess, but even for the them the original team were disolved into flagship studio

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___________
Friday, October 15, 2010 @ 2:24:29 AM
Reply

hes definitely right about the art thing, asian games certainly have more of emphasis on art than western games which makes them unique and, well, better!
but that does not mean asian developers dont use tech, i mean look at MGS4 still looks freaking amazing, or rising with its really cool accurate slicing system.
cant wait till rising comes out, that and move support were a match made in gaming heaven!!!!!!

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Teddie9
Friday, October 15, 2010 @ 3:02:13 PM
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*shrugs* Kojima can say whatever he pleases at this point in his career

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Stan2e3
Monday, October 18, 2010 @ 2:29:09 PM
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"lacked motivation and passion."

Certainly developers must have these qualities or they will not be doing it long. I will not argue against his opinion but I will state my own. All games strike a balance between art and technology. Some favor one over another but one without the other would make for a horrible game experience. Even in video games humble beginnings creativity was king when technology was lacking. That is not a fact that has been forgotten.

Developers have become much more dependent on technology today in general because they have it. It is not fair in my opinion to make a generalized statement about Japan or "the west". In this industry of entertainment and artistic expression the only statement that should be made is: I can't wait to see whats next!

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