Japanese Artist Baiyon Plans To Better Understand Love By Making A Videogame

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Kyoto-based Baiyon (Tomohisa Kuramitsu) was a multimedia artist before he stepped into the world of videogames. He’s performed live paintings, released albums of original electronic music, and been involved in a protest against controversial nuclear reprocessing plant back in 2007 in te Stop Rokkasho Project.


What you may know him from (if not any of those), however, is his more recent work on PixelJunk Eden, for which he served as art and sound director at Q-Games. But Baiyon has since moved on from even that role and taken it to the next step – his first solo videogame.


It’s called MUSE: Together Is the New Alone, and brings together not only some of his more recent thoughts and feelings, but his various talents in water color art and music. Siliconera speaks to Baiyon to find out why he decided to take this venture into his first solo game and what he hopes to explore with it.


Why did you decide to start working on a solo project after having worked on the PixelJunk series?


Baiyon, designer: I was always working as a freelance artist. I directed art and sound for PixelJunk Eden and 4am with Q-games. Also I involved to many other games such as LittleBigPlanet 2, FOTONICA and so on. I still love to collaborating but at the same time I was always thinking that I’d like to go on a next step – make the game as a game director. I’m really happy to be able to announce MUSE which I’m doing game/art/sound direction.


Where did the idea for a "love adventure" come from? And why did you want to make a game about "unrequited love"?


When I became 30 years old, I started vaguely to feel that I want to make a game about Love. Even at my age, I don’t really understand what affection or love should mean. I’ll be unable to say "THIS is Love" to specific something. I have some indescribable feeling about it, and that’s what I am trying to express in this game. I think this is a "love-letter I should write now", because I’ll probably be unable to write it again in five years.


MUSE‘s theme is "Unrequited love". But I think it doesn’t only mean "love to someone". I think every person unrequitedly loves something. Someone would say that this is their whole life, or they can not give up on it, or expect something maybe better than now… Everyone is worried about something everyday. I’m considering all of it as "Unrequited love".


Then, what I’m thinking about the meaning of "Love Adventure"… You want to buy a souvenir to your beloved girlfriend or wife when you go on a journey. You want to take a picture and show it her later. You want to show beautiful scenery to your girlfriend in realtime on FaceTime. You want to see her happy face. I think it means to go on a journey with this kind of feeling. I’d like to share this kind of feeling we usually have.

You say that MUSE is inspired by ’90s adventure games. Could you pick out some in particular and explain what you have taken from them?


Hmm… There are so many games… Please follow @baiyon, I have a big collection of games and I’m tweeting about them! :)


It seems you’re trying to blend different art style together in MUSE – pixels and water color paints, for example. Is that right? Why not stick to just one style?


I think these two elements are nicely mixed. it could be considered as one style. Nostalgic pixel-art and vivid watercolor paintings drawn by hand. THIS is the visual style I wanted to make, and to see in a game now. Pixel art is an element illustrating my respect for games, and also a nostalgic expression.


The watercolor painting elements are made from scanning paintings I have actually drawn. You can see the paint smears just as it is on MUSE. It’s because my main theme is “to project the incompleteness of humanity and beauty of fluctuation within the digital logic of a video game.” And that shapes sound and visual creation and story telling. Watercolor painting is the best material to express it. I think it hasn’t been considered "cool" to leave human work’s traces on games so far. But I’d like to present it in a slightly different form.


You’ve said that you’re going to use melancholic, electronic music for MUSE? Why is that? And are there any other soundtracks or songs that you would compare it to?


Because I always compose this kind of music. It will be probably more organic and melancholic than usual for this time. I always have the feeling to making music album when I’m making video games. You can listen one song on the official home page. Please check it if you want.


Are you aiming for MUSE to be a big game with lots of different worlds and creatures to meet, or are you keeping in small and focused? What types of places can we expect to see?


MUSE is the first game I’m working on as game director so I don’t want to make it big. Keep it simple, because I want focus on what I want express properly. I can’t tell you concretely about other places than the ones revealed in published pictures right now, but there will be a lot of bizarre places!


What types of puzzles can we expect to encounter in MUSE? Will these be challenging or are you looking to make sure they don’t interrupt the game’s flow?


Good question! I’m not planning to make hard puzzles. I’d like to make the progression through the game as intuitive as possible. It’s ok to just enjoy the story but Love wouldn’t be exciting without obstacles, right?


Why have you decided to bring MUSE to PS4 and PS Vita rather than other platforms?


There is many cool games on PS4, and it’s becoming exciting! Also Pygmy Studio, an Osaka-based studio with which I’m collaborating this time has good relations with SCE, that’s another reason too. This time, I’m really happy to announce MUSE, the first game I’m directing, after a long waiting period! Also, the development will take a lot of time, but please look forward to it!

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Chris Priestman
Former Siliconera staff writer and fan of both games made in Japan and indie games.