Interview: SWERY (Access Games) – A Very SWERY Life

こちらの記事は、PC版『D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die -Season One-』の発売直前に開発元のアクセスゲームズを取材した記事「アクセスゲームズSWERY、PC版『D4』発売インタビュー[後編]」の英語版です。日本語版はこちらになります。なお、後編の翻訳はACCESS GAMES様よりご提供していただきました。

 

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A wellspring of films, Japanese novels, and manga

――Next, we’d like to talk a little about you, SWERY. When you were little, what sorts of games, films, or TV shows influenced you?

SWERY:
Recently, one thing that’s been on my mind whenever I go out drinking is how apparently I didn’t watch the same things as other people who are the same age as me. I don’t really know anything about Gundam, Kamen Rider, or Ultraman. I’ve hardly seen any episodes of those series. What was I watching, then? Family Ties, Bewitched, and Knight Rider―American TV shows… Because my mother watched a ton of them. I also recorded them, so I think they were one of my first major influences.

Also, this may sound strange, but when I was in middle school, studying came so easily to me that I only went to school, like, half the time. I got 100% on most of my tests, and was hardly in school. So, what was I doing in my spare time? Watching TV, all day, every day. I started watching TV shows and films on WOWOW, a Japanese cable TV service. I also read Japanese novels and manga, so I think all of those things mixed together to become a sort of wellspring for me. Oh, but after school got out, for some reason I’d still go and play with my friends, even though I wasn’t actually in class.[Laughs]

 
――I heard that your family ran a temple, but it doesn’t sound like they were very strict.

SWERY:
I don’t know about that. I mean, we ate meat just like anyone else. We didn’t celebrate Christmas, though. [Laughs]

――[Laughs]

Twin Peaks and David Lynch

 
――I believe Twin Peaks is one of the works that especially influenced you. Did you watch that on WOWOW when it first came out?

SWERY:
Yes. I watched it and also owned the laserdiscs of the series. But it wasn’t like that series alone had a big influence on me. I had always been a big David Lynch fan, and I’ve seen a lot of his works. At the time, it was a big deal for me to see a film director like him headlining a TV show. I loved both film and TV, so of course I had to watch it. That’s why I initially got into it. By then, I had been watching TV shows for a while. I also watched V and The X-Files when they were being broadcast, so to me, Twin Peaks was just another show to watch.

 
James:
Regarding Twin Peaks, do you have a favorite character or episode?

SWERY:
Excluding Cooper, I think the Log Lady would be my favorite. I mean, she never actually does anything, right. She never does anything, but everyone knows her. I think characters like her are amazing.

My favorite episode is one of the first ones, where they line up milk bottles in the forest and throw stones at them. Remember that scene? That’s my favorite. They find initials in the dead girl’s diary and then write them on a chalkboard in the forest. Then, while saying the names of the townspeople who share the same initials, they throw stones at the milk bottles. Then they check to see if they can see anything suspicious in how the stones hit the bottles. It’s an amazing scene. So cool. That scene is just too cool.

 
James:
How about the new series of Twin Peaks that’s coming out in 2016―are there any characters you want to see again, or something you’re particularly looking forward to more than anything?

SWERY:
Hmm, I don’t know… During Season 2, the show started to move away from the direction that I liked. The film made sense, but I still wasn’t completely satisfied, so personally I’d be happy if they somehow completed that portion. Although I’d also want to see them completely betray all of our expectations.

 
James:
The actor who played BOB passed away over a decade ago… Personally, I’m really curious as to what they’re going to do about that. [Laughs]

SWERY:
[Laughs] Yeah.

 
James:
This may sound like a strange question, but if you ever met David Lynch, is there anything you’d like to ask or tell him?

SWERY:
I don’t think I want to meet him… [Laughs] Hmm… Honestly, you know, I’m doing this interview now, but I actually don’t really like meeting people. Especially really accomplished people. I really don’t want to meet them.

 
James:
So if possible, you’d just rather have people leave you alone?

SWERY:
“Hello, nice to meet you…” That’s about as far as I can go. I really don’t have anything to say other than that.

Ice Climber and Balloon Fight

 
――We just discussed what you watched when you were a kid, but did you play games when you were a kid, too?

SWERY:
Yes. My father loves games, and my mother loves American TV shows. My father’s always had his own PC. A long time ago, there was this game were all it did was read a cassette tape for 30 minutes and then shoot a ball. I’ve been playing games ever since then.

 
――What consoles did you have when you were a kid?

SWERY:
Uh… I had the PC 68 series, the 88 series… What else… Um… the one that had Genpei Tōma Den, the X… the [Sharp] X68000. The first one I ever bought was a Mac, and I had a Famicom, too. Before that I had a Cassette Vision. Do you know what that is?

 
――Yes.

SWERY:
My grandma bought me the Cassette Vision. Then, during a fight with my mother, she threw it and broke it… [Laughs]

 
――[Laughs] That’s the most memorable game you played during your childhood?

SWERY:
Uhh… I guess Ice Climber. Yeah, the VS. mode… Well, it wasn’t really a VS. mode, but you know how you can get left behind? I liked that. I’d play it with my friends, and we’d be talking, and one of us would turn to the other one and say “What?” Then BAM, we’d jump or something. I liked that type of gameplay. It was the same way with Balloon Fight. I like those ones.

 
――So at the time, you played simple action games.

SWERY:
When I was a child, yes. Of course, I played games like Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Nobunaga’s Ambition a lot. Hm… But I didn’t really play adventure games.

 
――That’s a bit of a surprise.

SWERY:
Yeah. I got my fix for that kind of stuff through novels and TV shows.

 

From Osaka University of Arts to the world of game development

ask-swery-about-pc-d4-release-02-04

 
――You entered the game industry in 1996, correct? Had you always wanted to be a game developer?

SWERY:
Originally I studied film at Osaka University of Arts. I made films and video commercials. I got a lot of praise for the script I wrote as my graduation piece, and, I’m not sure if I can say his name here or not, but do you know who the director named Sadao Nakajima is? You know, from Gokudō no Onna-tachi. He was my teacher at the time, and he asked me if I wanted to go and write scripts for his team.

 
――Wow! What a past.

SWERY:
He told me to study and train under him for ten years, but I said: No, I don’t want to. [Laughs] And SNK was near my house, so I decided to apply to SNK. That’s how I got into the game industry.

 
――What happened after that?

SWERY:
I quit SNK and worked at two satellite companies of SCEI: Whoopee Camp and Deep Space. In 2002, after working on Tomba! 2 and Extermination there, I went independent and established Access Games.

 
――Deadly Premonition, which Access Games developed in 2010, greatly differed from your previous works and seems to be the piece that determined your current direction. What led up to that game’s development?

SWERY:
It took six years. A very long time. I created the company in 2002, then immediately put out Spy Fiction in 2003. After that, we made a sequel to Spy Fiction. But we were working on it with Sammy, and when they became Sega Sammy, Spy Fiction 2 was canceled. Then, when I was worrying about what to do, someone who had played Spy Fiction―the producer of Deadly Premonition, Kanazawa, who was working at Marvelous at the time―really liked the game and wanted to know who made it. Eventually, he found his way to me.

At the time, I had some documents prepared about a project I really wanted to do. When I showed them to him, he said, “That’s something I really want to do, too!” He had his own set of documents that greatly resembled mine. It was pure coincidence. So we decided to combine them and create a proper game, which became Rainy Woods. The development started in 2004, and we announced it in 2007 at TGS, but due to the timing and other company-related issues, it got canceled.

When it got canceled, I figured the project was over. But it had such a great atmosphere, and I really wanted to send it out into the world, so in 2008, while I was working on another game, I secretly began my plans to revive it. My company had calmed down a bit, so I kept doing my best to revive it, changing characters, names, and other things here and there. That eventually became Deadly Premonition, a truly hellish project.

 
――That’s certainly one hell of a dramatic birth.

SWERY:
It was. At the time, there weren’t any open world games with a story like that, let alone such a bizarre one. We first started planning it right around the time that Grand Theft Auto III came out, so there were hardly any people at our company who knew about open world games. “The game focuses on the story, yet we have to make maps that have nothing to do with that?” They all just tore into me. “Huh? You want to know why we need it? Well, can you tell me why we don’t need it?!” Eventually we just started fighting like that, and adjusting that part of the game became a grave ordeal.

Creating the world first

 
――Looking over your past interviews, you seem to take the stance that useless things are important.

SWERY:
That’s right. Lots of people compliment me on my stories, but the only reason I make stories is because you need one. I think that you should always create the world first. Games need to be worlds, and in order to create worlds you need lots of useless things. Those are the elements that everyone should really love. For example, recently I went on a vacation to Hawaii. The bathroom signs in the Hawaii airport depicted a man wearing an aloha shirt and a woman wearing a muumuu. That’s so pointless, isn’t it? But it really makes you feel like you’re really in Hawaii, and it’s like, heartwarming. Those are the things that I think make a world. When I see games that slack off in that area, I want to yell at them: “And you call this entertainment?! The hell do you think you’re doing?!” I really feel strongly about this.

 
――Speaking of experiencing game worlds with your body, different VR headsets are scheduled to be released by various companies next year. Are you interested in VR?

SWERY:
Yeah. I bought my own Gear VR, and the new one, then switched over to the portable Edge model with my Galaxy. I’ve gone through a lot of VR experiences, and we’ve been studying it at Access Games as well, of course. But with the way hardware is so all over the place right now, it’s hard to know what to make for which platform, and it seems like we’re still a bit far from turning something like that into a marketable game. But I’m sure everyone’s itching to make some kind of VR experience, and Access Games is right there with them. I’d really like to talk to a lot of different people and try to make something.

 
――I think indie games have gotten a lot of attention lately in terms of games that really let you experience worlds, for example, with Journey.

SWERY:
And Sword & Sworcery.

 
――Yeah. It feels like we’re seeing a lot more games like that. Does that make you happy?

SWERY:
I guess it does, because those are really the only kind of game that I end up playing. I think that if creators all around the world are turning their eyes toward really creating worlds that express what they want to express, then that’s a great thing. I think it’s even happening with triple-A titles. Everyone’s working hard. Skyrim is amazing, and so is GTA. I think things will get even more exciting if everyone starts looking in that direction.

 

Games are at the top, but VR and novels also show possibility

 
――Now we’d like to ask you about your future. We know you may try your hand at new scripts, novels, and film scripts, but do you plan to continue developing games as well?

SWERY:
I really have a strong passion for games, and of course I’d like to award games the top spot in my own hierarchy, in terms of content that allows me to speak directly to the users, and content that only becomes truly complete when there are users to engage with it. I mean, I started a company just to make them. But that’s not all I’m interested in, in terms of entertainment. I’ve been really interested in VR lately, as well as novels, like I spoke about earlier. I actually wrote a novel for fun.

 
――Oh snap.

SWERY:
I felt so free. I didn’t have to do any manpower management, staff adjustment, none of that. All I had to do was write what came to me, and that was it. I just thought it was so wonderful, and that our ancestors were really amazing. But in terms of marketability, I’m not really sure. I’ve been trying my hand at a lot of different things, though.

 
James (Editor-in-Chief of AUTOMATON Global):
If it’s cool with you, we could publish your novel on AUTOMATON…

SWERY:
[Laughs] Really?

 
――We could translate it into English for a non-Japanese audience. [Laughs]

James:
We’ll translate it into, like, Spanish even, whatever language you want! [Laughs]

SWERY:
Wow, okay. Um… It’s just a hobby of mine, so I’ll think about it. I just wrote it for fun, so it’s crazy, and there are some sexually explicit scenes.

 
――What kind of a novel is it?

James:
Is it like a Vonnegut novel or something?

SWERY:
No, no, it’s not like I’m writing short mystery stories or anything. I’m just sort of writing simple, everyday things. Writing prose is completely different from scenarios or scripts. I’m learning how to do it right now. Kind of like practicing. For example, with novels, the locations of quotation marks and parentheses all differ depending on the writer. I’ve just been imitating what I’ve been reading.

 
――I hope you’ll let us read it someday.

 
James:
If you let us post it on the site, we could just change your name a bit, call you “PWERY” or something, and say it’s by a totally different dude.

SWERY:
Like, JERRY?

 
All:
[Laughs]

SWERY:
That might be a possibility. Someone may release it after I die.

 
――To close, could you provide a quick message for all of our AUTOMATON readers, as well as all the other people who’ve gotten interested in D4 thanks to the PC release?

SWERY:
Like I said earlier, D4 looks hardcore, and I think people worry that “hardcore” and “high-quality” games are difficult and hard to complete. But anyone can make it to the end of D4, 100 times out of 100. I’m sure you’ll all be able to make it to the ending, so don’t be afraid, and just give it a try. It’s got a casual style to it―it’s high end, but has a casual style―so I hope people will spread the word about that as well.

 
――Thank you very much.

 

Who is Sharapova?

 
――Can we take one last picture of you before we close?

SWERY:
One last picture… It kind of feels like I’m preparing to take the picture they’ll hang over my coffin. [Laughs]

 
All:
[Laughs]

 
――By the way, where is Sharapova today?

SWERY:
I was wondering that myself as we were doing the interview.

 
――She isn’t around today?

SWERY:
No, she is. That guy just always forgets her. [Points at the PR guy] He brought me water earlier when I thought he was bringing me Sharapova. “Oh, he’s finally going to get her,” I thought, and what does he come back with? Water.

 
――How do you usually take care of Sharapova?

SWERY:
Usually she’s sleeping in a hammock by my desk. But we’ve been taking a lot of pictures of her recently, so that guy or his assistant transports her around. And they never bring her back.

 
All:
[Laughs]

SWERY:
Please bring her back. Please bring her back to her hammock.

 
――This is a really personal question, but, regarding Sharapova’s profile…

SWERY:
I haven’t released her profile.

 
――You haven’t?

SWERY:
Some PAX maniacs made one up for her on their own during PAX. They wrote that she likes bubble baths and hates talking about tennis.

 
――So you haven’t released her actual profile, then?

SWERY:
Nope.

 
――No…

SWERY:
I haven’t. When people ask me about her, I just say: “She’s Sharapova.”

 
――[Laughs]

SWERY:
She’s so popular. I walk around with her when I go overseas, and people always say they want to take a picture with the monkey. I’m like, what about me?!

 
――[Laughs] Only with Sharapova?

SWERY:
Right. There are a lot of people who are only interested in her. Especially women. They don’t care about me.

 
All:
[Laughs]

SWERY:
Recently, she got kidnapped during an event at Grand Front Osaka.

 
――What?

SWERY:
He [PR guy] took her to Grand Front Osaka, stood up on the stage and acted like he was me, and then never gave her back.

PR Guy:
I brought her back…

 
――How did you and Sharapova meet?

SWERY:
I haven’t released that information, nor anything else. I’m still thinking about how to handle it story-wise. In the end, how will we part?

 
――You’re going to part?

SWERY:
I’m not exactly sure yet.

 
――You aren’t sure?

SWERY:
She really did get kidnapped once when I went to Hawaii. I left her on the hood of the car and went to take a picture of a volcano. Then, I turned my back for a moment, and she was gone. “Oh no!” I thought. “She’s been kidnapped!” Some kid took her… I really panicked. It was a real kidnapping.

 
James:
Do you have any plans to make a game starring Sharapova?

SWERY:
I want to. But she may appear in some DLC for the PC version of D4.

 
――Awesome. Can’t wait!

 

 

[Interviewer: Shuji Ishimoto / James R. Mountain]

[Photographer: Mon Gonzalez]

 

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