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Filed under: Industry People

Fumito Ueda Interview with Entertainment Station (Part 1)

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I really didn’t want to work at any ordinary game company. I was hoping for Warp or Sega AM2.


 

—I’d love to see it. Moving forward from then, it seems like you became focused on computers?

Ueda: Yes, that’s right. Around exactly the same time, I bought the Amiga we talked about before and started learning CG on it by myself. Though, it was solely because I wanted to use it for artistic purposes. Pioneering something like video art, or should I say, if I could use it for artistic expression, I thought maybe that could open the door to new possibilities. So I did get the Amiga for art, but sometimes I used it for animations or the games that I’d always liked, and steadily I got completely absorbed in doing that kind of stuff.

—Hahahaha. What made you decide to start looking for a job?

Ueda: During that period I won a prize from the Sony competition mentioned earlier, but I was still living in Osaka, and the prize didn’t change my income at all. That’s why I decided to go for a proper, full-time job. When I thought about what would be a good choice, I figured if I went with the video game industry, then the things I wanted to do… I wouldn’t have to restrain myself that much, and maybe I’d be able to enjoy working.

—When you say video games, they need programming and graphics for project plans to come together, so did you think about going with graphics from the beginning?

Ueda: Yes, at the time I had absolutely no ideas about doing my own game designs or anything like that, I just thought I could probably do some CG animation or 3D graphics. That being said, I had been doing art, so in my heart I felt something like… I really didn’t want to work at any ordinary game company. And so, regardless of the fact that I didn’t have any previous full-time experience, I thought, I’d like to go somewhere like Warp[10], who were getting a lot of recognition at the time, or Sega AM2[11].

[10] Game development company founded in 1994 by Kenji Eno. Most famous for works like D, Enemy Zero, and Real Sound: Kaze no Regret.

[11] Short for “Software Research and Development Department 2”, this is the Sega development division that made a large number of popular titles, such as After Burner, Space Harrier, and Virtua Fighter.

—Oh, that’s what you had in mind? (laughs)

Ueda: I had some faint hope, yes.

—Did you not apply for Sega?

Ueda: No, I didn’t. I think Sega was recruiting for mid-career positions at the time.

—They might have been, though if I had to guess, I’d say the number of new graduates was much larger.

Ueda: Right. I don’t remember seeing any job postings from them.

 

For me to talk about Warp is a little presumptuous, I think…


 

—Is it true you applied to Warp after seeing an advertisement in Famitsu?

Ueda: It’s true. They put an ad in Famitsu, yeah.

—How exactly did you apply for the job? Did you send in a portfolio, or something like that?

Ueda: Yes, I did. At the time I was learning CG on my own, but I wanted to increase the amount of time I could spend working on CG, so I also took a part-time job at a small CG production company in Nipponbashi, in Osaka. CG production was something of a hobby to the company’s president. So using the equipment they had there, I steadily created my own work. Then, when I had put it together to a certain extent, I saw Warp’s job offer in Famitsu. It was perfect timing. I took a video of what I’d made, sent it to them, and that’s how things got started.

—I heard that they replied to you immediately.

Ueda: Yes, that’s correct. I went and had an interview with them, and they said please join right away. They even arranged a place for me to stay in Tokyo. At the time, Warp’s office was located in front of Ebisu station, and my room was about a 5 minute walk from there.

—It was that close?

Ueda: Yes. In those days we were working like crazy, so I think the idea was that I could go home quickly to sleep, then immediately come right back.

—What was Warp like back then?

Ueda: When I joined, the company only had 16 employees, who were all men.

—I get the impression that before now, you haven’t really spoken much about your time at Warp.

Ueda: That’s not really it, but… part of the reason I haven’t talked about Warp very much is, looking back on things, I actually didn’t spend a very long time there.

—It was about a year and a half, right?

 

Ueda: Right. Some of my coworkers were there for much longer than me, so for me to talk about Warp is a little presumptuous, I think. But, it was a fun time. It was my first time in Tokyo, and I was getting paid to do creative work, to make things, which was also a first. Among the companies in the game industry at that time, I think Warp had especially striking visuals, so I also enjoyed that. The vibe there was like being at a cultural festival.

—It sounds like the company’s tastes were similar to the things you liked and the games you’d played up until then. They had games like D[12], and Enemy Zero[13] which you helped make.

[12] An interactive cinema adventure game where you escape from a mysterious old castle, released in 1995 for the 3DO. It won popularity for its movie-like presentation, featuring full 3D imagery and cutscenes, which was rare at the time.

[13] A horror action game set in space, released in 1996 for the Sega Saturn. Garnered attention for its unique system where enemies aren’t visible, so the player has to rely on sound to detect their location.

 

Ueda: I think those games were influenced by Myst, as they’ve got very little background music, strong puzzle elements, and a similar style of presentation. Part of me probably felt that influence as well, since the titles I’ve made since then have also used a lot of puzzle elements, and things are often presented with just environmental sound. I’ve had realizations like, “Ah, so this kind of presentation is possible as well,” and, “There really are a lot of players out there who like these kinds of visuals,” and I think the reason these thoughts occurred to me is because of the time I’d spent at Warp.

[14] A puzzle adventure game that challenges the player to solve the riddles of a mysterious island called Myst. Its pseudo-3D world and beautiful photorealistic visuals were extremely original for its time, and the game heavily influenced many that came after it.

 

—Mr. Kenji Eno, he stirred up excitement on several occasions, so what was it like working with him? Did he influence you at all?

[15] Game creator who directed titles like D and Enemy Zero. He continually came up with extremely original and unorthodox works, and appeared frequently in the media, becoming a favorite subject of theirs during that era. Passed away in February of 2013.

 

Ueda: I originally saw him appear in the media a lot, and from my point of view living in Osaka, it seemed like he existed in a far-off place, working on the front lines out in Tokyo. But, when I actually met him, how should I put this… It’s hard to put into words, but the things he was thinking, the tools he was using, they really weren’t that different, and in a way, that gave me courage. That might have been what made me first think, “I should make a game too.”

 

 




 

That’s the end of Part 1! If you enjoyed it and you’d like to see the other parts translated, please let me know! Also, if you’re interested in the development of The Last Guardian, here are translated slides from a genDESIGN tech talk about creating Trico!

3 comments
  1. Thank you for translation!

    wowovv on January 28 |
  2. I would so love it if you translated the rest.

    Dem on February 9 |
    • It might be a while, but it’s in the pipeline!

      brando on February 10 |