Let It Die is an over-the-top, silly, and violent game, constantly adding more and more elements and blood and gore to surprise its audience.
We spoke with the free-to-play PS4 game’s director, Hideyuki Shin, about how the team chooses what elements to add to the game to keep the player on their toes, what things they’ve added to let players make life difficult for other people online, and the development team members’ constant attempts to one-up each other for violence and humor that fuel the game’s unique vision.
You’ve worked on many different styles of games in different capacities. What brought you to work on Let It Die? What has you most interested in working on this game?
The biggest thing for Let It Die, before it even was Let It Die, was that it was slated to be a free-to-play game. I haven’t made a free-to-play game before, so that was a huge challenge and it seemed really attractive in that sense.
There’s a lot of challenges to free-to-play, especially with free-to-play on console and what can be done with free-to-play. The challenge was more attractive in that sense.
Now that you’re almost done the game, what sorts of things were those challenges?
One of the biggest challenges is the PVP elements that were put in. The multiplayer side is a base raid, and later on you find it’s called Tokyo Death Metro where you’re able to go in and attack other players’ bases. But people can also come in and attack your base and steal your resources. You can go “Yeah, I’m gonna go in and take their stuff!” but they can do the same thing to you. So when you get attacked, you’re like “Oh crap! That sucked!”.
But the biggest challenge on top of that was that you are training a lot of fighters. You can expand your fighter capacity to also stand guard as defense in your base. Some of your fighters can be kidnapped and held hostage, in a sense. You lose a fighter. And you’re like “Well crap, I spent a lot of time raising this fighter. I’m gonna go get him back! I’m gonna get him back and I’m gonna get one of theirs!”
The passion of being competitive, getting screwed over and then screwing someone else over – to make that feeling between players and still be fun – is probably the biggest challenge and I think we’ve done a pretty good job there.
Does it tell you who took your character?
Yeah, you know who they are and you can seek revenge. You can actually go out get them back if you want. There’s a revenge list.
We’ve heard that you’re putting 100 different bands in the game. How did you choose from so many different styles and artists?
The sound director, if you’re familiar with Akira Yamaoka…It was him that entered the indie music scene in Japan and hit up most of these bands saying “Hey, are you interested in being a part of this?”.
He went and pretty much hand-picked a bunch. I don’t know how many people decided not to be a part of it, but about a hundred or so said they did. He’s the one who pretty much called them all up or went to their live events – scoped them out and talked to them. That’s all his doing.
Will there be some sort of soundtrack people will be able to pick up? It seems like it will be a pretty wild game, musically, judging from his selections.
There’s no official plans at the moment for an original soundtrack, but if there’s a lot of people saying they want one, we’ll see what we can do. Have you gone to your arcade and checked out the radio?
No, I hadn’t had a chance to yet.
There’s a radio inside the arcade. The further you progress through the game, the more songs are unlocked. You can move the tuner and select what song you want to listen to and play in your home base.
There’s another really cool function. There’s a best hits station based on what everyone else is playing in the world. It will play people’s selections in order through the radio in your base as well. Maybe if you’re not listening to a certain track, you’ll hear it on the greatest hits and learn more about the band.
I really hope that you do enjoy it, and that everyone enjoys it. We’ll be really happy if everyone is having a great time.
Let It Die juggles humor and violence. How important do you think it is to connect those two things – to have hyper violence with a sense of humor?
In regards to the game system, made and created with a lot of detail, lots of things calculated to be really awesome and pushing action, the flow, and everything – that is completely unrelated the humor part. The violence, the action – that’s all its own monster, in a sense.
The humor part – we didn’t really look at the game’s system and think “Let’s put the funny things in here.”. Based off of what’s going on, we thought “Wouldn’t be funny if we did that?” or “Wouldn’t it be awesome if we did that?” or “This would be kinda cool if we did that.”. We just mixed in what we thought would be interesting or funny or thought “Maybe someone will find it funny if we did it this way.” in various places.
It was a different kind of balance. It wasn’t like “Oh, it’s very violent here, so we’re going to add something funny.” It was more like “I think it’d be funny if you put something there, or I think it would be awesome if we did that.” People would just add things on from the creative side. I think that’s how it happens for a lot of Grasshopper games (laughs).
We’ve tried to make a really violent, over-the-top – so much blood comes out from the goretastic finishers it’s ridiculous, right? When you have someone that’s getting ripped in half and you have Uncle Death come in like “Yeah!”, it kind of makes you laugh. We thought that would be awesome. It doesn’t seem like it’s too horrible or terrible. It just resets the mood to “This is really awesome! That’s ridiculous!” That’s something we really paid attention to.
In thinking like that, how did you pick the elements to put in the game? What felt like the right amount of ridiculous/awesome? How did you choose an idea as feeling right for the game?
One big part was, Suda51 is really in charge of making the world’s setting and characters post apocalyptic and somewhat zany. There’s also the rest of the creative team that goes along with the scenario and takes his ideas and polish them and bring them to life. Then, they think “Well, based off of what he’s trying to do, we think it would be interesting if it goes this way, this way would be funny.” .
Even in asset creation. Say you’ve found the Mingo Head that helps you level up. It’s like “We have something that helps you level up the characters. What kind of design do you want to use?”. The design team goes in and thinks “I think it would be funny if you did it this way.” Or it would be awesome and look cool if you did it that way.
Everyone has their own creative side and puts in their ideas and tries to shift things. They work together and think “You know, I think that IS pretty awesome.” They created something weird looking that fits the world, and yet is something that could be hilarious or over-the-top. It’s a lot of people on the creative side that put their ideas in together.
What’s it like to work with a team that shares such a similar mindset for creative thought? With a shared desire to make things as wild as possible?
Here’s an example. Survival elements are something very important that I brought into the game, saying “If you’re going to survive, you’re going to have to eat anything, right?” I thought it would be pretty coo if you ate frogs and other animals. I brought it to the creative team and they said “Yeah, that is a a good idea!”
But there are also people on the creative team who were trying to one-up each other. They ask “What if you do this? Do that?”. There’s this really fun creative process – this strange rivalry where they’re trying to put in the craziest, funniest, or strangest idea to one-up someone else. It just keeps on going and you get these really zany ideas, and I think that’s a fun and interesting process.
It’s not “Do this.” and everyone does it. It’s more “What if we did this?”, and it keeps on going. It’s a really great thing that I’m able to work with.
What thought process goes into creating some of the game’s bizarre monster designs? Is it similar to the ways in which all other elements get put into the game?
It starts off with the thought that we want to have different enemies for the players to fight. You have the human types, but the other ones start from the design process of basic attacks. This one is going to do these kinds of attacks. This is going to be a floating enemy.
From there, we move on to the world setting. The creative guys think “All right, in this world, these guys are bio-mechanical. They’re failed experiments. They’re made out of human body parts.” But they still have their basic attack patterns.
Then, the creative guys work with the concept art team, tell them “We’re thinking of this.” and then they really keep in mind that they’re failed biomechanical beings that are set with these attacks types and should look like this and are made of human parts. Then, as long as it works together within the game’s system, it keeps going that way and you get these interesting monsters you can find.
You’ve worked on Chulip. You’ve worked on Silent Hill 4. You’ve worked on Pro Evolution Soccer. What’s it like to bring your varied development experiences to this game?
It’s really been an interesting experience working on various titles and genres. From each of my past experiences, I’ve taken what I’ve learned to bring it to this title.
I’ve worked on a soccer game, and I didn’t think I’d actually use knowledge and experience from a soccer game, but you know, movement and response time to buttons were important, and I’m actually using these elements in Let It Die. A lot of these other experiences really paid off for me.