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 Platinum Games writer: 'The problem with Japanese games is most aren't exceptional'

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PostSubject: Platinum Games writer: 'The problem with Japanese games is most aren't exceptional'   Fri Jun 29, 2012 6:10 am

Jean Pierre Kellams, writer at Bayonetta and Vanquish studio Platinum Games, has weighed in on the debate surrounding the shortcomings of Japanese games.

In a number of lengthy Twitter posts (via Siliconera) Kellams admitted that most games, whether developed in Japan or elsewhere, "aren't very good games" which is "why exceptional means exceptional".

He went on to say competing with these so called exceptional games requires a commitment of resources that Japanese publishers aren't in a position to make.

"Most Japanese publishers/developers can't invest money/manpower enough to compete with exceptional Western productions. Risk is too high. It costs money and sweat to make things stand out, but it also raises the risk. Then marketing is crazy expensive after that."

According to the Platinum Games writer the biggest issue Japanese games present is what he calls "friction", which often mars the gameplay experience for the more capable players in favour of accomodating a broader range of skill levels.

"Friction means you need to look at a character and identify with what that character is supposed to represent. Friction means never underestimating the intelligence of your audience," he explained. "Culturally, Japanese design is about being inclusive. They don't want anyone left behind, so they will add friction to an experience. Except then you move at the pace of the slowest one in a group. It bogs the experience down for people who already get it.

"Just imagine if you had to order McDonald's like a Japanese game's option menu. It would be horrific if you had ever been to a McD's before. Can I take your order. Hamburger. Hamburger is a piece of meat, two buns, ketchup and mustard. Are you sure you want a hamburger? Yes. That is friction. Western games stop when the user says hamburger. They assume that user intent is initially correct. JPN games should too."

Kellams's comprehensive assesement of Japanese game design extended to characters and narrative deficiencies too, which he said also suffer from the effects of friction.

"Culturally, I think our touch stones for classic character designs introduces a lot of friction into a narrative. It takes time for a Westerner to parse the boy hero archetype from Japanese design versus the young adult Superhero in Western design. Too often, Japanese design assumes you will "get it" regarding characters and doesn't establish them. But the touchstones are different.

"We can pull off that boy hero successfully, but we have to execute perfectly on the premise behind the character and communicate it. Another place where Japanese games tend to introduce friction is in narrative exposition. So many "bad story" complaints come from this."

He finished on a more positive note, pointing out that Nintendo's games bucked by being frictionless.

"By the way - Nintendo games are so awesome and so successful because they are some of the most friction free games in the world."

Platinum Games is currently working on Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Project P-100 and Anarchy Reigns, which was unexpectedly delayed to Q1 2013 earlier this month.
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Platinum Games writer: 'The problem with Japanese games is most aren't exceptional'
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