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Fumito Ueda: Going Indie, Competition & Three Humans

We interviewed the Japanese creator right before he was handed the Vanguard Award at Fun & Serious 2018.

Earlier this month developer Fumito Ueda was in Bilbao, Spain, to receive the Fun & Serious Game Festival 2018 Vanguard Award, recognising the Japanese creator's contribution to the game industry with intimate, minimalistic, and arty adventures such as Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, and The Last Guardian.

Gamereactor once again had the chance to talk to Ueda-san the day before he got the award and a year and a half after he was also recognised in Gamelab in Barcelona.

Fun and Serious Game Festival

First of all congratulations on your award.

Thank you very much!

When we met last time you were still building up your new team. How did the studio evolve since then, what can you tell us about the structure of the studio, the team size and how are you working at GenDesign right now?

The truth is since the last time we saw each other there's not been a great change so to speak in our studio. At that time we didn't give a presentation of what our company was about, but structure-wise, we can say we have a team of about 10 people approximately and we continue to develop the same work. We have people who dedicate themselves to artistic creation and also to the creation of prototypes.

I know you cannot share much about the new project you're working on, but almost a year ago, in January 2018, you shared what fans understood as a couple of hints about the direction the game might take. Can you disclose a bit more on your new vision for that game?

At present, I can really not clearly explain or provide details of the new piece of work that we're creating. However, vis-à-vis its artistic style it's going to be something similar to what we've been doing until now, although there will be unique elements in it. And in terms of the genre of the game, or the world which appears in the video game, we hope that it'll be something that will surprise gamers and fans of our video games. We're currently working with enthusiasm to arrive to this moment.

Has there been any change in how you approach game design in the last few years? Do you approach that and storytelling differently for this new project or are you going to follow the same [design by subtraction] design philosophy you've been following all these years?

Up until now every time we've created a new video game - in the case of The Last Guardian for example - we've always tried to create a new video game but during the process and with the end result there's been common elements that have reminded us of some other video games.

Are you finding any personal inspiration here in Bilbao?

I've found elements of nature in this land which may be an inspiration, and after this festival, I'm going to have some time to do a bit of tourism to see whether I find any type of inspiration.

Last year when we met you had really nice words about Rime, and now on the show floor there's this little indie game about a Fox and her cubs which is a side-scrolling adventure called Endling, and the devs told us that you stopped by to play and gave them some cool feedback. What can you tell us about the talent you're seeing here? Is there any project from these young devs you would like to highlight?

I'm sure whoever hears my words may be surprised, but the truth is the vision they [indie devs] have of creating a video game, more than me seeing the video game and giving an opinion about that video game, the work that they're doing and the work I do to some extent is quite similar, that is to say, the work of a video game creator is trial and error, cause and effect. So, therefore, more than anything I see them as possible rivals at the same time.

Indeed, that's actually surprising and interesting. What do you think about the Japanese industry right now? Why do you think many creators that have been working for big publishers and big studios now want to do their own, more personal thing? We've seen that with Final Fantasy XV's director and with many others. Do you think they want to go back to their roots?

The truth is, it's not that I personally understand what the current situation is, or the current trend of the world of Japanese video games. I don't think about that when I work in video games. I don't look at the trends but I'm aware there are many great creators that have created big titles and are trying to create more personal titles. If I we had to highlight any specific reason of why this movement is taking place, the world of video game creation was just for a reduced amount of people who worked in a very privileged or reduced environment, but in the last few years, with the appearance of new publishers and engines for the creation of video games, any person can launch themselves into creating video games, and that's why the reason why these people, who had an enormous experience in the video game world, now want to take full advantage of these tools to try to create much more personal titles.

Fun and Serious Game Festival

Do you personally play in VR? Are VR or AR something you would like to experiment with?

Yes, when we talk about VR, I've got the possibility of experimenting and making titles with VR, but always from the point of view of a video game player. This genre has a lot of possibilities, enormous possibilities, especially from the point of view of the gamer, but as a creator it's still a bit more complicated, or I still do not see, so to speak, it too clear to try and to convey my ideas to turn it into a video game through VR. I've not addressed that challenge of using the VR genre to convey those ideas to my team in order to create a game via VR.

Where did you see gaming heading in the future when you started in video games, and where do you see them in 20 years from now?

The truth is I myself don't even have an answer to this because 20 years ago, when I started in the world of creating video games, when I started to create a game like Ico, from the artistic side of things, or programming, or movement [of the character], all of those aspects, it was not too difficult to exceed or surpass the competition in these fields, but nowadays this has changed enormously, and in all of those aspects it's much more difficult to be better than the competition in these fields.

That's to say nowadays to be successful you've got to have good ideas and invest a lot of time in order to make something that's truly good. This is the debate of whether we should confront the competition directly head-on, or try to find out other ideas or other paths in order to confront this competition. And I myself don't have an answer to that dichotomy that exists at the present moment. So, therefore, depending on which path you choose, your video game will change in the next 10 years.

It's really interesting how you talk about competition. 2018 is almost over; if you had to choose one personal favourite game you've played and perhaps a favourite TV show or movie you've watched this year, which ones would they be?

When this has been asked on several occasions, I always say Game of Thrones is the most entertaining series, the one that I like the most. [In terms of games] Human: Fall Flat is one of the games I've mentioned, Detroit: Become Human and... this one [hands his smartphone to us showing Human Resource Machine title screen].

Alright, thank you so much for your time - if you love Game of Thrones, I think you're going to love the lands in Bilbao and Basque Country. Arigato gozaimasu, gracias.

Gracias.

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