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How Zero Escape Games Are Developed, Through The Eyes Of The Director


When we interviewed him, we asked Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward director, Kotaro Uchikoshi, to give us an overview of the process involved in developing his visual novel-esque games. Uchikoshi’s reply to this request was more amusing than informative, which is why we didn’t include it in the main interview, but it does give one some insight into the process nevertheless, so here it is:


Kotaro Uchikoshi, director:


Prepare a detailed plan for the project→Higher up says no→Revise the project→They say no again→Touch it up some more→Project is approved→Come up with a budget→They say no→Chisel away at the budget→They say no again→Cut more money out→Get the OK!


・Come up with a plot→They say no→Rewrite the plot→They say no again→You re-write the plot  yet again→get the OK!→Write the main scenario →Contemplate what you’ve done→Suffer from writer’s block→You want to die→Drink some alcohol→You get over your slump→OK!


~The following will be happening at the same time as the above scenario~


・The project team will hash out the design →Programmer will create the main engine


・Come up with character profiles→Character designer will sketch out a design→ I say no→Modify the design → I say no again→Designer gets pissed off→Apologies all around→I soothe their anger→Give the OK!→Create 3D character models→ I say no→Create more 3D character models→ I say no again→Create more 3D character models→OK!


・Come up with the puzzle and flow design for the escape sections with everyone →Think with all your might→Think until you feel like your brain will explode→Get into the occasional fight with team members→Make up→Friendships form→The basic specifications are set→Background designer starts drawing backgrounds → I say no→Re-design the backgrounds→ I say no again →Background designer hates me →I say sorry→OK!→Create 3D backgrounds → I say no →Create more 3D backgrounds → I say no yet again →Create even more 3D backgrounds →OK!


・Escape team’s scripter writes the script (subprogram: blocks of program control coding) →I say no→Another script is written→ I say no again→Yet another script→Since there’s no end to it I start writing the script on my own→Write the escape messages →OK!


・Novel group’s script writer starts writing the subprograms→I say no→Another script is written→Yet another no→Yet another script→The script writer is cute so OK!


・Sound chief orders BGM/SE (background music and sound effects)→BGM/SE arrives→I say no→Another round of BGM/SE→I say no again →Even more BGM/SE comes in→The music is so beautiful you cry like a baby →OK!


・Turn scenario into a script →Go into voice recording→Get to meet famous voice actors and get giddy →scripter implements the voices.


~After all that is basically done~


・Debug→fix→debug→fix→debug→fix→debug→fix→debug →fix →…..(Days of hell continue and continue)…→OK!


Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.