Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain released last week and we’ve been having fun building teams with its classes and more. Siliconera got a chance to chat with producer Nobuyuki Okajima about some serious bug blasting business at PAX East 2019.
How have the fans been reacting to the game (at Pax East)?
Nobuyuki Okajima, Earth Defense Force series Producer: It’s very nice to say that it’s been very good. I was so surprised that I saw so many fans. I’m very happy about it. It’s very fortunate.
You’ve been working on the EDF games for quite a long time. What is it you love about the series?
Nobuyuki Okajima: I’ve been working on EDF for fifteen years, and there are so many things I like. If I had to pick only one, I would say I like the way the humans go up against huge, varied monsters and beating them up. That dynamism. That feeling is what I like the most.
What do you feel is important to do with each mission to capture that excitement?
Nobuyuki Okajima: That first time you go into a mission, you don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s always very unexpected. So, the first time, it’s important that you have the weapons you need to adjust for any situation. You have to try to handle the unexpected. You have to fail and learn.
You have so many different monsters and so many different combat options. What thoughts go into designing so much stuff for so many different situations?
Nobuyuki Okajima: It’s very easy, actually. The only thing I have to tell the creators is “You can do whatever you want.” If it looks fun, they just do it. There are very few occasions when I say they shouldn’t do something.
How do you keep the game fresh for players after all these years?
Nobuyuki Okajima: The creators and I are always studying user behavior and what they want. We are always trying to exceed their expectations just a little bit. We want to surprise them.
A kind of humor and silliness seems important to the series as well. What do you feel that silliness adds to the games?
Nobuyuki Okajima: It’s a big misunderstanding, actually. Me and Sandlot, we are very serious. We’re never trying to be funny, but somehow, it’s interpreted to be funny. The more we try to be serious, the more people think that it’s silly. It just happens.
That’s interesting. I always found moments, like how you could sing with your fellow soldiers, added a kind of lightheartedness to the game.
Nobuyuki Okajima: That singing? We’re not trying to be funny. You are in a life-or-death situation, and have to keep your spirits up. You have to do something to keep yourself sane. So, we came up with the idea to keep singing to keep your mind intact. It just seems to be how the user views it.
This does seem to be the nature of games as a conversation, where the creator puts certain elements in, but the player reacts to those elements in their own way. It’s a give and take.
Nobuyuki Okajima: Yes, it is interesting.
What new things were you looking to do with Iron Rain?
Nobuyuki Okajima: As you know, the EDF series is very popular in Japan. Now, we wanted to have a major break with the Western market. We wanted those Western users who’ve never been exposed to EDF to try it, which is why we created Iron Rain. I think we tried everything that would be seen as user friendly to the Western users who usually play FPS or third-person shooter titles.
First, we changed the location. The battlefield used to be in Japan and Tokyo, but in Iron Rain, the battlefield is in San Francisco, LA, and Arizona. We wanted places that Western users could relate to.
The second thing we changed was the graphics. I love the graphics of EDF, but we know that Western users like more realistic graphics, which is why we changed Iron Rain’s style.
Another thing was that we made the game system very close to a third person shooter/FPS from the Western market.
We also added character customization. We know that Western users like more freedom, so we made it so they can make their soldier a part of them by creating a look that they like.
In Iron Rain, there are various soldier types. In the numbered games, the classes are kind of limited in the weapons they can use. In the West, users like more freedom, so in this game, you can choose any weapon no matter what kind of soldier you are.
We also have online multiplayer. In Iron Rain, we introduced PVP. Western users love PVP.
Can you tell me a bit about how PVP works in the world of Iron Rain?
Nobuyuki Okajima:So, the enemy (ants, other creatures) is always the aggressor. You and the other team are fighting for the energy gems, which you collect from fallen enemies.
You have an extensive history working in games.
Nobuyuki Okajima: Yes. I’ve produced more than two hundred titles. My involvement is more in some and less in others.
How does that kind of wide, varied experience affect how you work on games?
Nobuyuki Okajima: Well, here’s my personal story. I started as a computer graphics designer. At that time, I was making a game at work, and when I got home, I’d be playing games. When I switched over to being a producer making thirty to forty titles yearly, it was so much work that I didn’t want to play at home any more.
Still, I learned some tricks. I’ve been making so many titles, like the Simple 2000 series. You just gain more experience.
Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain is available on the PlayStation 4.