As we found out during our hands-on preview, the team behind the latest Resident Evil couldn't wipe the smiles of their faces during our visit to their offices last month.
The reason? It's because they believe this latest addition to the long-running series is also the best. Big words. So we sat down with key members of the development studio - director Eiichiro Sasaki, sound director Wataru Hachisako, as well as art director Mitsuhiko Takano, in-game director Masato Miyazaki, and lead character modeller Makoto Fukui - to find out just what's went into the newest title.
Director Eiichiro Sasaki
Can you tell me more about Agent Hunt Mode?
Agent Hunt is part of the single player experience that introduces players as monsters in other players' campaigns. However, that's not all of Agent Hunt: it'll be a separate game mode, too. As a full blown multiplayer mode, the balance is no longer in favor of the lone hero, like it is during the campaign play. In addition, all the moves and mutations are available to the monster players from the get go - and there's several types of monsters to choose from.
A project of this size needs tight focus to keep its vision intact. How did you manage?
Constant communication. That is the single most essential thing in keeping focus. All the departments kept each other in the loop, so that everyone was on the same page at all times. We even took manly trips together to the bath houses to talk about the features of the game [laughs].
Every project ends with something on the cutting floor, due to production costs or for the benefit of the flow of the game. What do you regret cutting the most?
Well, initially we had a lot more content planned for Jake. As he's a new character, we wanted to immediately explore his complex background [Jake is the son of archvillain Albert Wesker], and the various enemies he faces, but because we wanted to keep the focus of the game as tight as we could, we had to cut a lot of it. That doesn't mean that the ideas were bad, mind you - we just couldn't put them in this game. We'll just have to use them later on...
Cutting something out is always a bitter thing. Can you share with us a completely opposite experience, a thing that brought out a lot of joy to get it right.
It was the moment when we got the green light to start developing the game, three years ago. I had prepared very raw demo episodes for each of the main characters and what I wanted to do with their stories, and when I showed them to my superiors and they said that this looks mighty good indeed, I just knew that we were on the right track and would nail it.
Sound Director Wataru Hachisako
Silence can be as nerve-wracking as any scream, and thus plays a crucial part in establishing horror. How do you use silence?
Oh, I agree, silence is an important part of any soundscape. I use it to heighten the effect of sudden surprises, of course, but also to give more room to important noises that often get lost in the noise, e.g. the incessant drumming of rain or the creaking of squeaky floorboards.
What sound effect has given you the biggest headache to get just right?
A lot of the characters have their own futuristic gadgets with unique sound effects, which were truly difficult to get to sound the way I wanted them to. And, of course, none of the monsters are real, so trying to make their moans and groans sound realistic and believable was quite difficult a task.
Every artist draws inspiration from somewhere. What sources are closest to your heart?
The Japanese band Yellow Magic Orchestra is a great influence to me, as is the music of Ryuichi Sakamoto.
How much have you used variations of old themes from previous Resident Evil games?
Actually, we didn't use any of the old material for Resident Evil 6. Everything from the music to the sound effects is completely new stuff. Something we're really proud of.
Visual Effects Team: Art director Mitsuhiko Takano, in-game director Masato Miyazaki, and lead character modeller Makoto Fukui
Has any effect or scene you have created caused genuine disgust to yourselves?
Takano: Ha! Yeah, a lot of them! Especially the zombies - now we are technically able to create things we couldn't do before, like the detail of rotting and dissolving.
Miyazaki: Oh, yeah! All we've practically been able to see is tortured bodies, weapons shoved into putrid flesh, all this right in our faces to the last detail on our monitors, and it's really disgusting! And all the time we're thinking "Oh, man,... Wait until the ratings board sees this!". We were very afraid of our own work all the time.
Have you ever encountered a moral border where you had to doubt if what you were doing was really crossing the line?
Takano: There were a lot of instances where we had to tone down what we'd come up with initially. Take the zombies, for example - the effects we had originally designed for the faces and heads was a little too much in the end.
The Resident Evil series and its graphic violence has often considered to be one of the grossest game series there is. Where did you draw inspiration for the exceedingly graphic horrors displayed in Resident Evil 6?
Takano: Well, we obviously draw inspiration from manga and horror movies, which we consume in copious quantities. But, what we do in Resident Evil 6 isn't simply aiming to be as gross or disgusting as possible. All effects have to fit into the established game series history and support it.
It is easier to create the in-your-face effects, but the subtle effects and features play a big part in creating a horror atmosphere. What was the hardest part to get just right?
Takano: Yeah, we agree. Subtle things are extremely important, even though the player never notices them.
Perhaps the best example of the importance of these little things can be found in the lighting of the game. It pains me to say this, but we didn't go for photorealism with the lighting, as it wouldn't achieve the vision we set out for. Instead we went for a so-called point light effect that follows the camera around throughout the game.
Its purpose is to help the player gauge the distances, see zombie silhouettes and so on, but the point light also called the "ghost light" because it casts the light from below, from the floor level up, making all the faces, already horrible zombies included, look even more scary. If you don't know about this effect you probably won't ever notice it, but these kind of details are very important to the mood we set out to create.
Every project ends with you leaving something you hold dear on the cutting floor, due to production costs or for the benefit of the flow of the game. What do you regret cutting the most?
Miyazaki: Well, there was this one zombie episode that we so wanted to make happen. But, ultimately we had to cut it off, and for a good reason - nailing that episode, no matter how cool it would've been, would have extended the production schedule for at least a year, haha!
Fukui: For me, the biggest was enemies. We have a lot of monsters in the game as it is, but we had plenty more in store. Some of them were huge, they consumed the console memory so completely the console would crash every time. There was just no way these mega monsters could've been left in the game. Still, would've been so cool to see those in action!
Takano: I still feel bad that, when we designed the enemies, nothing got locked down right away. Everything got iterated on - no matter how awesome things people drew and came up with, the first version would always get trashed. Many of them were really awesome, but we still trashed them to make something better. Still, there was so much wonderful art that went to the shredder... It had to be done, but still, I feel really bad about it.
"No Hope Left" could be the motto for Resident Evil fans predicting the armageddon of the series, rather than the advertising campaign for Resident Evil 6 teasing the in-game global apocalypse to come.