Shu Takumi, the creator of the Ace Attorney series, is known for making lively characters. Sissel, the protagonist of Ghost Trick, is a bit different since he starts the game dead. As a spirit, Sissel has the power to possess objects. He uses this ability to turn the clock and save others from following his fate. But, that isn’t the main reason why Takumi wanted to use a ghost as a lead character.
How did you come up with the concept and setting, a recently deceased character who can possess objects?
Shu Takumi, Director: The concept for having a dead man came from the fact that there were a variety of things we couldn’t do with the Ace Attorney series. In the Ace Attorney series you had episodic content. It was case after case. We couldn’t delve into the personal lives of any particular characters.
With Ghost Trick, I wanted to create a continuous story throughout the game opposed to the episodic case system. Also, I wanted to create something where the focus is on the characters. Ghost Trick has a variety of characters, over 30 that appear in the story. In order to interact with so many characters and interact with them and to be an influence in their lives it turns out the best way is to have a ghost.
If you have a character who is alive it is very hard to have that one character be connected to all 30 of these characters. We choose this character to because we wanted to create a story driven narrative.
That’s interesting. Why do you feel that way? I think some fans would say the Phoenix Wright characters are pretty well connected especially when they reach the end of the third game. In other words, what makes it easier to connect characters with a ghost?
Sissel, our main character, has forgotten everything about himself. He doesn’t know who he is, who killed him or anything like that. He goes around on these telephone wires and is able to peer into the lives of all of these different characters.
If you had a normal living character it would be difficult to get them into a person’s house. The appeal of having a ghost is because he’s from the ghost world he can view the lives of these characters – mysteries, lives, puzzles, and challenges, one step removed from the situation. He’s interacting with them, but he is also an observer. By observing the world around him and all of these different characters he is maybe able to piece together maybe what happened to himself. At the same time, some information may come by that is not related to him, but he is able to help out these people. Having a ghost as a main character opens up the ways we can explore different characters and their backgrounds.
The Ace Attorney team is known for making quirky characters. Can you tell us how you made characters for Ghost Trick?
As you mentioned we have a lot of weird and quirky in Ace Attorney and this time in Ghost Trick we also have weird and quirky characters. I like writing them because I’m curious. As I’m writing I’m thinking ‘I wonder what kind of character this guy is going to be like’ or ‘I wonder what kind of personality this girl is going to have.’ As I’m writing them, the characters pop into my mind.
To show how quirky these characters are we put a lot of effort into the animation. We spent time in making full body character models. What’s interesting is we made them in 3D first. Usually, people would use motion capture, but we didn’t want them to be super realistic so we didn’t go through the whole motion capture process. We made each of the 3D models by hand and hand animated to them. This gave them an element of quirkiness, weirdness, that bit of individual style. Once we had them in 3D we rendered them into the 2D sprites you’ve seen.
It may seem like a really serious game, but as you progress through the game you’ll meet weirder and weirder characters so we hope you’ll make it to the end to see what kind of characters pop up.
Ghost Trick feels like it has platformer elements or timing moves like where you have to wait to posses objects at the right time and with the Santa mobile jumping. How did you come up with these and create multiple solutions for each puzzle?
The idea to incorporate timing elements came from the fact that the gameplay is so simplistic. We only have two commands in this game possess and manipulate, the “ghost” and the “trick”. We wanted to make this game as accessible to as many people as possible so that’s why we chose to only have those two commands. However, we didn’t want the game to be too easy and so easy people would think, ‘whatever I’ll just possess everything’.
So, we had to introduce a couple elements in the game that require timing and knowing when to move to certain places. That’s how we came up with the idea to have things like the spinning Santa and knowing when to move from one object to the next.