Reading about how this game came out to being made makes me realize how much the Japanese game industry was gliding and surfing at high speeds in the last years of the 90s.
But despite taking an induction course in development and being deployed on a few prototyping projects as an artist, he struggled to summon an interest in flagship Namco franchises such as Tekken, Ace Combat and Ridge Racer. He found those games formulaic and uninspired, and floundered for two years before realizing that what was missing from Namco’s lineup was a flowerpot goat.
You get hired to create assets for successful franchises and you say fuck that for two years, I want to make my own game?
I mean, who has that kind of power because in studios I’ve been in you would have been hired for three-six months and bye Keita the Weirdo.
The Japanese creative freedom inside mega corporations (At that time in 99, Namco was HUGE) is to this day still unbelievable.
Keita pitched the game to his bosses and they were like “alright, here’s $800,000.” I mean we live in a world where developers are literally begging for budgets. Imagine being unhappy in a big structure and they allow you to be creative director of your own game:
Also, it never happens. On the soundtrack:
At the time, Shibuya-kei – a genre of pastiche-pop born in Tokyo that was typified by artists such as Cornelius and Pizzicato Five – was just about passing, but it left in its wake a post-ironic fusion of leftfield electronica, bossa nova and jazz that meshed perfectly with Katamari Damacy’s anything-goes humour. Unusually for a game, most of the music had vocal melodies.
“I thought it would be fun to sing along while playing the game, which is why we decided to use vocal music,” Takahashi says. “But we didn’t have much money, so we looked for artists who weren’t on a major label, more like B-grade musicians, to make the music.”
B-grade musicians!!?? Who shops for not the best ever?? As a composer I have seen so often studios aiming to get the best musicians they can for their soundtrack, not realizing that good music can be made by millions of people. No, really.
There’s this elitism going on in game culture, it comes probably from the needed coding excellence and game inherent competition aspect but still, when we produce we are like other productions we have to make it work and go for the “good enough” that actually might be much better than what you thought.
Especially with music and audio, the biggest bang for the buck in game development. One last quote:
As he speaks, he denounces the industry, both the majors and the burgeoning indie scene that is so reminiscent of the PS2’s golden era of weird Japanese games, while developments that you might expect him to embrace, such as Nintendo’s GamePad and Kinect, do not interest him at all. “Gaming hasn’t been around very long, so devices like that are unnecessary,” he says. “They’re nothing but a diversion, created for business reasons.
The problem to me is that it’s adding complexity more than anything else. It’s this fallacy that is all over the tech world: more tech will solve our tech problems! No. People are working super hard to get VR controllers right but as Jesse Schell wrote, people like VR experience with mouse –it sounds bad right?- because they know how to manipulate a mouse by now. It’s hard-coded in their brains. Gamepads with 16 buttons are not. Moving in front of a camera is not and new input schemes are being made.
I’ll talk about input in games in another post.