The Origins Of Rune Factory Revealed By Series Producer Hashimoto

By Laura . July 5, 2012 . 6:04pm

Yoshifumi Hashimoto of Marvelous AQL, producer of Rune Factory, has brought many of his previous experiences into the creation of what was originally a Harvest Moon spin-off. Not just his experiences with Dragon Quest, as previously reported, but others as well.


His interest in games, like many others, started from humble origins—with Nintendo’s sports arcade game, VS Tennis. As a child, he’d dreamed of making movies, but because he wanted to have more of a personal hand in the creation of the final product, with fewer people to work with, he decided to journey into the game industry, where it’s at least somewhat possible to do independent work.


His first company was SNK, where he worked on several fighting games, then moved onto Marvelous. However, his fighting game experiences never left him.


The most obvious of his contributions to Rune Factory is the introduction of the battle element, which isn’t present in Harvest Moon. This was such a point of contention on the design board—because it might distant current fans who like Harvest Moon’s “peaceful life” feel—that Hashimoto, upon seeing so much resistance, only felt all the more compelled to try it.


Another influence fighting games had on Rune Factory 4 was Hashimoto’s solution to the repetitive actions inherent in farming. He wanted to make each movement satisfying—not just from an achievement standpoint of “Yes! I managed my own farm!” but also simple functions like the swing of a hoe or picking of crops. He cites Pikmin, with Olimar pulling Pikmin out of the ground with a satisfying pop, and Yume Koujou: DokiDoki Panic, also known as one of the Mario 2 redesigns, as inspirations for this idea.


His answer to the problem was include a framerate of 60fps so that each press of the button smoothly elicits an action from the character onscreen, leaving the player with a satisfied feeling.


Despite the enormous incongruity of adding battles to a farming game, Hashimoto stated that he could somehow already see the way the fans would react to the change because of his experiences with fighting games, where every installment to a series would introduce enormous changes. He felt that, eventually, Rune Factory would spin off into its own series rather than one that just piggybacked off of Harvest Moon.


He placed special effort in separating the two series in Rune Factory 2, and starting from Rune Factory 3, Hashimoto received fan-mail stating that people were being introduced to Harvest Moon from the Rune Factory games rather than the other way around. Mission accomplished.


In fact, this adaptation to change is the very core of the creation process with Rune Factory. At the beginning of the creation process, Hashimoto gives himself and all of the staff three months to come up with anything and everything they can—entirely from scratch. The moment the three months are up, all planning has to stop. This may be harsh on the staff (and on a creative mind like Hashimoto himself), but Hashimoto says that he believes it’s very important for his staff to be conscious of a time limit from the very start. The restriction will force them to work to the edge of their limits.


At the end of those three months, all the ideas are put together and the development team reviews them. “What about this idea? Will it make the game fun?” Because of this creation process, some features of previous games may be absent in the next installment. For example, previously there was wireless and Wi-Fi functionality in Rune Factory 3. This will not be present in the fourth game.


This isn’t to say each game is completely directionless. The basis of each game lies with a theme and goal. For Harvest Moon: A New Beginning, the goal was to “create a ranch story greater than ever before, now that we have full 3D capability.” One of the ways they did this was to create a fully customizable farm house (and when the staff heard this idea, they all froze stiff the moment the words left his mouth.)


For Rune Factory 4, the story theme is “a prince (or princess) who falls from the sky,” and its goal is to “experience a new fantasy on a new system.” The 3D abilities of the 3DS were powerful, but Hashimoto felt that they weren’t what Harvest Moon or Rune Factory needed because the games weren’t about impact or impressive 3D graphics. They might even detract from the game.


However, having said this, Hashimoto emphasized that this doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t use 3D (find 3D screenshots here). Rather, not using 3D on the 3DS would just be a failure on the part of a creator. In A New Beginning, Hashimoto tried to create a wondrous world that declared, “Wow, now that Harvest Moon is on the 3DS, it’s gotten so interesting!”


With Rune Factory 4, Hashimoto sought out a company specializing in 3D animation for the 10+ cutscenes—the same one that did a 3-minute animated opening for the very first game on the DS—and included more voices to suck the audience further into the fantasy world.


Granted, Hashimoto was extremely unconfident about the movie when it was first shown during Nintendo Direct, months ago. Ultimately, though, he felt that this was a very helpful action as it was like he was being brought one step closer to the audience. Depending on the audience’s reactions to various parts of the opening, he adjusted the movie accordingly.


Rune Factory 4 will be released in Japan on July 19th.

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  • Jonathan Keycross

    Rune Factory is all what I wanted to see in a HM game, since then I never missed a new entry of the franchise.

  • Tom_Phoenix

    “…but Hashimoto says that he believes it’s very important for his staff to be conscious of a time limit from the very start. The restriction will force them to work to the edge of their limits.”

    I like his mindset. Any successful entertainer will admit (if they’re being honest) that, if it weren’t for deadlines, they wouldn’t get anything done. Having too much freedom makes people complacent and encourages them to be “creative” (i.e. put in whatever random sh*t they want) with their projects, so it’s ok for developers to face at least some limitations. It is when they are forced to work under limitations that people show their true capabilities.

    It takes a great deal of self-discipline to impose limits on oneself, so Hashimoto has my respect in that regard. Ishaan recommended this article to anyone interested in the Rune Factory series. I personally wasn’t, but I’m still glad I read it and I’m probably going to pay more attention to the series from now on.

  • Elemiel

    Well gosh, I feel myself liking him more than ever. I like the way he thinks. And I do indeed get that satisfaction from hearing a tool strike the ground or hit an enemy.

  • MrKappa

    I’ve always liked this series and every game that is localized I buy. The one thing I never really liked though are the graphics, they just look so terrible. I know graphics aren’t what matter but it would be so much nicer if they improved or used a new style.

  • I’m liking this man more and more….

  • Göran Isacson

    It was interesting hearing about his “three months of brain-storming and that’s IT” philosophy, because I don’t think there are that many other companies out there that works like that. At least, none that I’ve heard of. However… Hashimoto-san, really, no, it’s okay if a 3DS game completely ignores the 3D, really. Don’t blame yourself if you can’t come up with a decent use of Nintendo’s gimmick, I’m beggin’ ya here, you’re an upstanding guy and you shouldn’t have to feel burdened by that.

    • Any major retail 3DS game that ignores the 3D is instantly going to be looked down upon, so I really don’t think it’s “okay if a 3DS game completely ignores the 3D”. Also, you may not like the 3D, but a lot of people do, and the option to turn it off exists for a reason.

      • Göran Isacson

        I have to admit, this response is the first time I’ve come across that attitude. In almost every review I read and message board I frequent, people are always complaining about shoe-horned 3D and any game that ignores it in favor of focusing on its core gameplay never receives any complaints due to this. Most everywhere I go, people lambast the 3D as an unnecessary gimmick, and quite frankly I can’t find it in me to disagree with them. But the mainstream majority actually likes it?

        • I would say that’s just another sign that message boards are full of people that have nothing better to do than complain about things they don’t understand. :P

          Making a game 3D on the 3DS isn’t nearly as difficult as people make it sound. Does it require some optimization to make sure that the game runs smoothly? Yes, it does. But that goes for all games on all platforms. Also, I don’t think the 3D is a “selling point,” but I do think that people appreciate it once they see it.

          I’ve also never seen a game that shoe-horns 3D at the cost of its play quality. Like all games on any platform, 3DS games are good if the developer puts in the effort and bad if they don’t. 3D has nothing to do with it in the slightest.

          I’m curious, what games are you talking about when you mention 3DS games that ignore the 3D in favour of good gameplay? To my knowledge, most 3DS games without 3D are also just bad games, plain and simple (despite not having 3D).

          • Göran Isacson

            So far, I have played that new Super Mario Land game, the Ocarina of Time remake and Kid Icarus. Now, while these 3D-effect don’t make me queasy or anything they really did nothing for the game. It made no difference to me whether the 3D was turned on or off, whether it was aiming at an enemy, judging the distance of a jump or running around the world. Any 3D-puzzles I encountered felt  like they didn’t even bother to mix it with the core gameplay, but just did 3D-effects for 3D-effects sake. I would turn it on and off at regular intervals, and never felt like the 3D gave me anything.

            Then again, I have a friend who can’t see ANY kind of 3D-effects without getting head-aches, so the fact that I don’t even know anyone in real life who likes the effect may have an effect on my attitude towards the technology. I will however stand by my opinion that 3D really does nothing for any of the games I’ve played so far, and that I still don’t see anyone claiming to love it so much that they can’t imagine playing a game without the 3D turned off.

          • Right. 3D is just that–a visual upgrade, just like HD. In some cases, it can have an impact on how a game plays, and an impact on making certain things clearer to see. I actually like this aspect of it very much. How effective it is at separating different objects so that the screen never looks overly cluttered. 

            But it isn’t some sort of catalyst that will change the way we play games forever. It was never meant to be, and blaming it for that is like blaming a PS3 controller for having so many buttons on it, even though not every game uses all of them. It’s an option that enhances some games and makes no difference to others. I don’t see that as a reason to hate it.

          • Göran Isacson

            Perhaps not to hate it, but certainly to criticize it. The 3D was touted by Nintendo in the old Iwata Asks as this big breakthrough for the console, when it really is just, as you say, a visual upgrade and nothing more, one that some people can’t even look at without experiencing head-aches and pain. Compared to the DS two screens and touch-screen the 3D just doesn’t DO anything for the way the games are played, and I can’t help but to wonder at this point why Nintendo even bothered pouring all that money into 3D-screens in the first place. If a PS3-controller could tell us what the time was whenever we asked it I would certainly think it was neat, but also kind of useless since it changes nothing about the games one plays. It’s just such an inconsequential feature that I feel could have been left out completely. Yes, that means that Nintendo wouldn’t have had a selling point beyond “it’s a more powerful Nintendo DS with internet”, but truth be told is that any different than what they have right now? “It’s a more powerful Nintendo DS with internet… AND THREEEE-DEEEE that you will most likely turn off anyway.

  • Mrgrgr and Unacceptable World

    I really love how he feels that time constraint is not really a limit here but using them as a support to increase the working efficiency there.^^ And i hope that many other developer will be able to take note of this,

    Without a time limit, the worker in the game will not have the sense where they will need to do this game asap and often leads them into delaying the work and causing development hell.T_T

  • Iris Miracle

    The Developers and workers had to work their ass off on these games for us. Better be appreciate their hard work and no cheat then haha. I had played RF2,RF3,RFF and now I’m going to play the other two. 

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