Earlier today, Aksys announced 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors is scheduled for November 16. Want to hear more about the grisly Nintendo DS visual novel? Good.
Story and characters are the heart of most visual novels. When I spoke with Kotaro Uchikoshi, Director of 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors, he outlined his thought process for both elements and then detailed the life of a game developer like never before.
What inspired the story of 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors?
Kotaro Uchikoshi, Director: I think that’s a great question! Reason being, my inspiration came from exactly that, the question:
“Where do mankind’s inspirations come from?” That question alone was the root inspiration to this title. It all started from there and I started to read up on all sorts of documents. That’s when I came across an English biochemist named Rupert Sheldrake and I found out about his theory on the “Morphogenetic Field”.
“Why did glycerin start crystallizing all of a sudden?”, “When you make rats clear a maze, why is that with each new generation, the clear time gets shorter?”, “Why is it that as more people know an answer to a specific question, the chance of people knowing the answer goes up?” “Why is it when you were talking about a friend, you happen to get a phone call from that exact friend?”, “Why is it that if you’re at a café talking about Paris Hilton, the person next to you happened to be talking about her as well?”… Rupert Sheldrake’s theory gives us hints in order to answer these phenomena and this theme became the main theme behind 999.
Eh!? You know Ever17? I’m really surprised that you know of that title and at the same time very honored. Thank you so much!
Now, back to your question. I believe the setting “you’re trapped somewhere and trying to escape” embodies mankind’s principal, primitive, and instinctive desires. It is said that mankind has the tendency to unconsciously desire to return to their mother’s womb and shut oneself away. A place where it’s safe and no one will come in to invade their privacy. On the other hand, mankind also has the desire to break out of their current condition, to overcome, and to escape whatever it is that they are in.
Both Ever17 and 999 are a straightforward depiction of these 2 traits that mankind is born with. Just like the RPG depicts the inner fantasy of people wanting to become a hero and defeat evil, and SHMUPs, which it fulfills your dreams of becoming an elite pilot and fighting enemy ships, being trapped in a location that has been locked out from the world, and the desire of wanting to escape that situation gave birth to the escape game. If you found some interest in this title or the characters in this game, maybe we tickled your instincts of wanting to escape.
Compelling characters are key to driving a story based game like 999. How did you design this group and were there any characters or character types that didn’t make the cut?
Since the number “9” played a vital role in this storyline, I set my characters using the concept of “Enneagrams” as a base to come up with my characters. According to the Enneagram of Personalities, mankind can be classified into the following 9 groups:
If we accept this classification, then that means society consists of these 9 types of people and the characters from 999 represents these groups. Then we can say that the interweaving relationships these characters have with one another can be a depiction of today’s society. And here, I ask you, which type do you classify in? According to the test I took, I seem to be classified strongly into 4 and 5 which makes me an Individualistic Investigator? Makes me seem like a dick, huh?
Actually, let’s back up. Chunsoft and 999’s scenario writer are visual novel veterans. What elements do you need to make a compelling visual novel?
A comfortable work place, an environment where you can spend the night, skilled development staff, a nice project manager, a reasonable production budget, a reasonable development time frame, a place where you can smoke cigarettes, earplugs, a PC that won’t break on you, and a calm wife that is always smiling… As long as you have these, you can make a compelling visual novel.
However for me, the last point I mentioned is the only thing that hasn’t come true yet.
In the middle of the night, my daughter who wasn’t even a year old at that time, woke me up, so I gave her milk, changed her diaper, put her to sleep, and after sleeping for a couple hours, I gave her some more milk, and changed her diaper again. Then I made breakfast for my wife and myself, washed those dishes, cleaned the bathroom, took out the trash, and said “I’m off to work” to my wife, who lay sprawled on the sofa watching TV. After which I went to work, then turned on my PC, and I came up with puzzles as I scratched my head while using puzzle-related sites as references.
Which puzzle are you most proud of creating?
I personally really like the puzzles in the Cargo room. Especially the operation of the “Pushmaster 5000”. Originally we were going to make the “Pushmaster 5000” with stricter limitations. It had to be the fewest steps possible to clear the puzzle… However, everyone was telling me it was too hard, so we settled on the current specs. I believe the lowest way was to clear it in “43 moves”. If you’re good with those kind of puzzles, see what your fastest method of clearing that puzzle is.
Were there any puzzles that you felt were too difficult or easy and had to be adjusted?
Of course there were. The specs for 999’s escape game are a little different than other games because you have to cooperate with the other characters to find the way out. Therefore, we adjusted the difficulty level by determining how much the other characters dropped hints.
Can you tell us about the creation of the escape system? Why did you make these puzzles based on items?
It’s similar to what I said earlier, but the fact that you find something, combine it with another item, then using it for something else is linked to mankind’s instinctive desires. That’s why it’s just simply fun…
I have a daughter that’s almost 2 years old and whenever I ask her, “Can you go get me the Little Red Riding Hood book?” she wobbles over to the bookshelf and searches through all the books until she finds that one book. Once she finds it, she screams “Found it! I found riding hood!” with the biggest smile. She hasn’t mastered the “combine and use” factor, but the fact that she has “discovered” something gives her great happiness.
Just like that, the 999 escape system was made to provide you that innate, instinctive pleasure of “I found it!”. I wish for the users to experience that “I found it!” pleasure by playing 999.
It is very true. This genre has gained much popularity in Japan. However, since Japanese manga/animation is widely accepted in the U.S. we can also hope that the scenario/characters will be accepted in the U.S. as well.
Since the release of the iPhone/iPad, the culture of reading has been spreading. These devices can break down the barriers and we believe that there is room for the visual genre to spread throughout the world.
How did the relationship between Chunsoft and Aksys begin?
When we were looking for a U.S. publisher, Spike, which is a group company of ours, introduced Aksys to us. When localizing this game we knew that there were many expressions that can be lost in translation (for example, character names, key words for escapes, etc). We’re pretty sure that we’ve caused many headaches for the localization team, but they completely understood what we wanted to portray and we believe that the localization turned out pretty solid.
999 is coming overseas, but we haven’t heard anything about Shiren 4 or 428. Is Chunsoft and perhaps Aksys discussing those titles?
We currently haven’t talked about any of those titles.
Does Chunsoft have any plans with the Nintendo 3DS? Perhaps, a sequel to 999?
We’d like to say “no comment” for now, but we’re thinking if we see that enough players in the U.S. enjoyed our title, there’s plenty of room to consider sequels.