Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward Director On Designing Characters

By Ishaan . October 26, 2012 . 6:30pm

When Aksys released 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors in North America, we spoke with the game’s director, Kotaro Uchikoshi, about the inspirations behind the game and its story.

 

This past week, Aksys released Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward, the game’s recently released successor, and we caught up with Uchikoshi once more to ask about the new game. In this first part of our interview, Uchikoshi gives his thoughts on designing characters and lets in on how he, as a writer, focuses more on plot rather than on characters.

 

This time around, Zero III is a rabbit puppet, and he controls the Ambidex game. Can you say why you decided to go with a rabbit?

 

Kotaro Uchikoshi, Director: It is because one of the themes of Virtue’s Last Reward was the moon. In Japanese folklore, there is a rabbit that lives on the moon. This story has been passed down, and anyone in Japan, young or old, will know this story. It is said that this story started because when there is a full moon the shadows look like a rabbit making mochi.

 

But I heard in the US that shape looks like something totally different. I heard some say it looks like a man’s face, or a woman’s profile, or a crab…

 

On a side note, in Arabia the general consensus states that it looks like a roaring lion. But anyways, that is the reason why I decided to make VLR’s mascot a rabbit.

 

Is there something about them that’s inherently creepy? There’s a popular horror manga series, Doubt, by Tonogai Yoshiki, that also uses the rabbit theme to great effect.

 

I wouldn’t know about that. Actually I feel like it has more of a cute characteristic. But then again, because it’s so cute, [the idea that] it can give off a creepy vibe seems to be universal. For example, isn’t a doll lying in the middle of the street creepier than some sort of horrific monster?

 

Let’s talk about the other characters. Since this is a successor to Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, the characters that appear in this game needed to feel different from those of the previous game. When you were coming up with characters, how did you go about deciding what they’re like? How do you figure out the mix of personality traits and what goes well with what?

 

I’m a writer who prioritizes storyline over character, so I start with getting the basic story down. From there, I figure out which characters are necessary to the story, and that’s how I decide my characters.

 

I’ve heard that some other writers prioritize character, and will come up with the characters first and the write a story around them. And as an FYI, it’s more common to write stories prioritizing characters. There’s a much bigger demand for that. That means it sells. I think this is the reason my titles don’t sell, ha ha ha!

 

Anyway, let’s get back to your question. After I decide on the story and figure out the main character, I look at the balance. Let’s say there were more men or more women overall. Or if I make character “A” a cold person, then I should make “B” more nice. If there’s a grandpa, then I would need a child. Like so, I just make sure if there’s a plus, I put in a minus, or ying and yang, positive and a negative, rational, irrational.

 

I create characters so there is a sense of equilibrium. Once that is determined, I just throw the characters in with some rules,shake them up a few times and it’s finished!

 

Junpei had a set personality in Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and Sigma has a strong personality in Virtue’s Last Reward as well. Do you feel a character with a strong personality is necessary in visual novels?

 

Hmmm. That’s a very challenging question. Honestly, I don’t think Junpei or Sigma has a strong personality. If you compare them to main characters of other anime or manga, wouldn’t you say they are more reserved?

 

I try my best to not give my main characters a strong personality so I won’t get in the way of the player’s empathy. But if you’re going to say Junpei and Sigma’s personalities are still strong, then I guess we can say that my twisted characteristics are showing through, ha ha ha!

 

Do you think that it could also be interesting to do a similar game where the main character isn’t quite as developed and you let the player embody him instead?

 

I think it could be really interesting. Take the extremely popular RPG, Dragon Quest, for instance. The main character only says “Yes” or “No”. That is because there is a strong idea there that the main character or hero is really the player.

 

And don’t you think all the main characters in online games are like that too? The player determines the personality of the main character. I mean, the main character is pretty much a Mini-Me of the player.

 

So if you think of it that way, I feel like it was pretty natural decision that the newest Dragon Quest game [note: referring to DQX] was an online game.

 

We’ll have more on the development of Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward next week, with talk of going from 2D to 3D and the future of visual novels! In the meantime, you can read our playtest of the game here.


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  • Mrgrgr and Unacceptable World

    Rabbit making mocha??? Not mochi?

    • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

      Rabbits these days. No respect for tradition!

      (Fixed)

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001531081700 Vale LN SkreiHolme

        Needs more Kimchee ishaan

        • Budgiecat

          kimchee smells horrible. Sometimes when we order BonChon Korean chicken at our office, it comes with that and it stinks up the whole place if opened. So we can’t even throw it out. So my friend he used to sneak it into the women’s bathrooms and throw it out there like planting a bomb.

    • natchu96

      There’s also a chinese rabbit on the moon, apparently. Japanese and Chinese legends seriously have too much overlap. The legends are pretty awesome sometimes, though, so who cares?

      The chinese rabbit respected tradition by not doing much aside from being there for a whole different legend.

      • Budgiecat

        Japanese people are Chinese/Korean immigrants. The Ainu are the real Japanese people (indigenous). 

  • Cee Guzman

    I really like Junpei’s personality and Sigma’s so far, I haven’t really
    gotten far into the game yet. I really love Sigma’s “tic” though! It’s
    cute, unexpected and purrfect.

    (Unrelated, but I can’t log in through FB oh no ;;)

  • komiko12

    Junpei’s fun personality is shown when examining items and during conversations but it was not that showcased because the “narrator” of the game was quite detached in terms of story telling.I really liked it when Junpei’s exact thoughts was expressed near the end rather than the formal way the “narrator” told the story.

  • psycho_bandaid

    “I’m a writer who prioritizes storyline over character, so I start with getting the basic story down. From there, I figure out which characters are necessary to the story, and that’s how I decide my characters.”

    I knew there was a reason I like this guy so much.

  • http://www.facebook.com/TheJobist Guilherme Matheus Silva

    Anyone who bought that game: be careful! there’s a bug in the 3DS version. DO NOT SAVE YOUR GAME in a puzzle room called “Pressure Exchange”! Do it and the game will freeze and you’ll have to delete your save!

    • AuraGuyChris

      Since there’s apparently an Aksys representative somewhere in this site, he/she/it(?) should alert the company.

      • http://fb.me/atmb82 ATMB

        Right. The eshop allows patching retail games, like Mario Kart 7.

    • Ty Arnold

      Technically, you can save there. Just don’t load a save from there.

      Practically, it’s the same thing, but don’t start despairing if you accidentally save your game in that room. Just go somewhere else before saving and quitting.

  • Brandonmkii

    The hurricane coming up the east coast might delay my shipment of this, and my pre-order of Ragnarok odyssey. Curse you, nature! ;_;

    • natchu96

      I’m sure curses can only work on definable individual entities, but I guess maybe nature counts, too? It won’t notice the curse, though :D

      Sorry to hear that. Both of the games you mentioned are awesome. And people say Vita sucks O_0

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/5UFEVTPDTXD33NSMUFMX4TEAMQ Mike

        I like the vita, it’s a great handheld that I’m glad I got(partly because my PSP got ran over but thats a story for another day)

        and I see some great games in its future(like God eater 2)

        thats just my opinion though.

        • natchu96

          I love mine too. I’ll probably love it more once I actually have a second game on it, though. :D

  • LazuliteLiamz

    When does this game released (the localized ver.)?
    I have been waiting for this game, but I haven’t seen it in game stores at my place :(

    Btw, I read somewhere that this is somewhat a sequel. Is it okay if I play this before the previous one? Will I miss something? Or should (must) I play the previous one first?

    • http://s932.photobucket.com/ usagi_san

      From the UK, it say online that it is coming out in November.

      • http://Gematsu.com/ Bruno Silva

         And I already pre-ordered my copy of the game :3

        • http://s932.photobucket.com/ usagi_san

          Awesome, dude! Hope you enjoy it. 

    • Julien_N

      It is not mandatory to play the first game, but you will get spoilers for it if you immeditaley begin with VLR. 
      And as 999 is really great, I advise you to not miss out on it. Aksys recently reprinted the game (with a much worse boxart but that’s just my opinion) so you may find it quite easily online.

  • Budgiecat

    “I’ve heard that some other writers prioritize character, and will come up with the characters first and the write a story around them. And as an FYI, it’s more common to write stories prioritizing characters. There’s a much bigger demand for that. That means it sells. I think this is the reason my titles don’t sell, ha ha ha!”

    O_o ???

    • Julien_N

      It basically means that plenty of games’ plots are focused on the characters and it feels like the story was created to cater to their personnalities and behaviors. Crises are created only to trigger character development.
      Here, we already have a solid story and then we put some characters in it, so that the main source of inspiration is the story itself and not the character design. It becomes intersting to see how these different mindsets will behave when faced by the plot events.

      And as this writing method doesn’t create characters that are “walking ads” for the game, it attracts less people. (even if the story is awesome)

      At least, that is how I understand it.

      • natchu96

        The upside being that you can’t be forced into what might be a subpar story because you can’t make it work any better with the characters that have been established. You can just write the best story premise you possibly can, then throw characters in until it works.

  • Demeanor

    Never heard of this game since it was born on a Nintendo platform, but if a US Vita version is already out then I think I’m gonna get it (to the nine hells with Eu’s crappy release dates, I use a US account as main anyway – except for PDf), it sounds really interesting (trying not to read too much on it to avoid spoilers…).
    My Vita needs this :D 

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/5UFEVTPDTXD33NSMUFMX4TEAMQ Mike

      make sure you play 999 on the DS first or you’ll miss some stuff.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/537R5ZUSKWQZUBYFJS6T6V327A Heather

    >w< I got it on release day and I can't seem to put it down. I happened to be the only one who pre ordered it at GameStop though o.o; It'd be cool if this series could get more praise and attention for how amazing it is. ^^

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/537R5ZUSKWQZUBYFJS6T6V327A Heather

    I got this on release day and I can’t seem to put it down. I happened to be the only one who pre ordered it at my local GameStop too. >.>; It’d be cool if his series could get more praise and attention for how amazing it is. ^^

  • Ace.Of Hearts♥

    He made Zero a rabbit cos rabbits are cute<3 hmms~ there should be a plushie..I woudl get it…awww now I really really want to play it even more… but….I'm broke right now T_T

  • Demeanor

    Got the game yesterday and it’s been awesome til now (even though I’m still in the first room… but with a Gold File in my hands ^ ^). 
    I was totally in another world during my train trip to work this morning :D

    • natchu96

      If you’re still there, try the codes in some other places . . . 

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