STEINS;GATE ELITE Producer On Stringing Together Its Worldlines And A Science Adventure Teaser

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STEINS;GATE ELITE, the revamped version of the visual novel that uses  anime footage, released worldwide recently and Siliconera caught up with producer Tatsuya Matsubara who had plenty to share about stringing together the series’ many worldlines along with a possible teaser for a new Science Adventure game.


Siliconera: MAGES has worked on many games, could you please introduce your company?

Matsubara-san Photo

Tatsuya Matsubara, Producer: We are a company that focuses on developing adventure games and creating original content for transmedia storytelling. 5pb.Games is the game division within MAGES. that oversees planning and developing game software. We have created many original titles, such as, STEINS;GATE and YU-NO: A girl who chants love at the bound of this world. We have also created games based off of popular manga, light novels, and anime, such as, My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong, As I Expected; Re:Zero —Starting Life in Another World—; KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World!; and NEW GAME!


For fans who haven’t heard of it before, could you please give us a summary of what the science adventure series is all about? What are some of its themes?

Tatsuya Matsubara: The science adventure series is based on Chiyomaru Shikura’s concept of “99% science and 1% fantasy.” This allows the player to truly feel the power and evolution of science and the effects it displays on our current society as well as the day-to-day activities of our social environments. This is then combined with urban legends to create a truly unique world that has a “realistic” occult setting. Previous titles can be enjoyed on their own, but those looking for more in-depth enjoyment can find the universe these titles share to be a little more involved than the games present themselves.


What does STEINS;GATE mean to you?

Tatsuya Matsubara: STEINS;GATE was the first title I had the privilege of producing, so I am quite fond of it. Time travel is a common concept of science fiction, but STEINS;GATE uses it in a unique way to tell the story. Inspired by John Titor, a supposed time traveler who was very active on internet forums in the early 2000s, the game starts out by Okarin, our mad scientist protagonist, sending an email to the past. As the story develops, Okarin and his Lab Mems are able to send memories to the past using a makeshift time machine, eventually allowing them to send their physical bodies to the past. The story expands as the characters discover and tinker more with the concepts of time travel. It begins in Akihabara but evolves into something greater, encompassing the entire world. For me, I especially enjoy how Okarin is able to save the one person he loves the most with the help from the other characters as this all unfolds.


SG Elite Screenshot 2018-09-24 16-29-09

STEINS;GATE ELITE was released last week in North America and Europe. Are you as excited as your overseas fans? What part of the game do you want them to focus on/enjoy the most?

Tatsuya Matsubara: I’m very excited! I can’t wait to see the feedback and reactions. For this iteration, I’d like fans to focus on watching the fully animated scenes play out before them.


For those who are not familiar with STEINS;GATE ELITE, what is the difference between the original STEINS;GATE and this?

Tatsuya Matsubara: People will probably think we just put the original TV animation into the game, but there’s far more to it than that. We thoroughly analyzed over 80,000 lines of the original game’s text and over 7,000 cutscenes from the TV animation, sometimes making detailed edits or reconstructing scenes from the ground up. You can also say this is the definitive edition of STEINS;GATE where the players can more easily follow the story. However, since the original game was designed to be played from a subjective perspective, the player can still become Okarin in ELITE, but that would be a little bit more difficult this time around.


SG Elite Screenshot 2018-09-20 12-38-39

Why did you and your team decide to remaster STEINS;GATE now? Why did you choose full animation?

Tatsuya Matsubara: MAGES. primarily focuses on creating visual novel games, but this genre of game making and storytelling is said to have the least amount of innovation within the past ten or so years. Since the gaming world evolves and adapts to new technological advances so often, I wanted to present a game that showcased some of that evolution in its own way. I believed utilizing fully animated cutscenes would be the most effective way to breathe new life not only into STEINS;GATE, but provide an example for other visual novels moving forward into the future that there is innovation to be had. At the time, all the assets for the Steins;Gate anime were in place so I thought my vision would be easy to create. Of course, once I began working on it, that turned out very quickly to not be the case. [laughs]


Combining the scenario from the original STEINS;GATE and animation from Steins;Gate anime sounds like a lot of work. What was the hardest part? Were there any struggles you can comment on?

Tatsuya Matsubara: When STEINS;GATE was being produced as an anime as well as a novel,  arrangements were made to slowly adapt the game to those medium. As you know, if the mediums are mixed together, many discrepancies will occur. For example, when matching scenes, the character might be in a different location in the novel, or some actors will give off a different read in the anime than the lines voiced in the game I could go on and on about the difficulties of adaptation.  Essentially, to make sure the scenes flow smoothly, we would insert a few frames from different cut scenes, separate the materials within those scenes, and erase or move the characters to fit in appropriately. Just this process alone took us six months. While this may sound a bit redundant, I believe those who watch the anime, play the original STEINS;GATE, then play ELITE will find some enjoyment in spotting all those differences.


STEINS;GATE ELITE for Nintendo Switch will have exclusive content in the form of 8-BIT ADV STEINS;GATE, a retro style game that in the fashion of playing games on the Famicom. Where did this idea come from? What was the hardest part about developing this extra content?

Tatsuya Matsubara: For this title, we all had in the back of our minds, “What if we were the game creators during the golden years of the Famicom in the 80’s”? That was a big push in us creating a game as true to the Famicom experience as possible, from the developmental perspective. We used the 6502CPU program to assemble the assets and used the 2A03 to compose the sound. Using these older tools to program was quite fun for all of us in the development department as it was a rather refreshing change of pace. Our CG, scenario, and sound teams had just as much fun and in the end created too much material for this smaller title. We had a hard time fighting over “memory space” just to fit everything we needed into the Famicom version. [laughs]




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The PlayStation 4 version will also have exclusive content, STEINS;GATE: Linear Bounded Phenogram. It’s neat to see the perspective of other lab members in this game. How did development on this start? Can you tell us about how it was working with the different writers for each story?

Tatsuya Matsubara: At that time, we had plans to create another title derived from the STEINS;GATE universe but with a more serious approach than STEINS;GATE: Darling of Loving Vows. Basically, we wanted to show off each character individually. Thankfully, since STEINS;GATE had already been developed for many multimedia platforms, I was able to approach those who were involved in the STEINS;GATE franchise who also had the best knowledge about the series. The decision of assigning characters was decided on a first-come-first-serve basis, but it was interesting to see that everyone was able to work on the character they liked. The scenario writers were great at highlighting the different quirks of each character, and it was fun seeing each of their different production styles and personalities being infused in the stories, despite the fact that this title doesn’t have your typical style of storytelling. I was especially surprised when Kotaro Uchikoshi’s plot was written on Excel.


I’d like to dive in and ask about the STEINS;GATE storyline and how it all came together. Let’s start with culture, since STEINS;GATE digs right into the heart of Akihabara. How do you feel about otaku culture today compared to when you were developing the game over a decade ago? What’s changed since then and what’s different from what you expected?

Tatsuya Matsubara: You’re right. Compared to ten years ago, I don’t believe the cultural direction of Akihabara has changed, but I do believe it has “deepened” and “sharpened”. I don’t think Akihabara, the place, has changed drastically; I think the ability of each person being able to more easily blog is what’s changed. By having so many people blogging, the change in perception has greatly influenced the otaku culture.


Making a time traveling story where the player’s choices can dramatically change the world is complicated. How did you keep track of so many different worldlines and maintain continuity in the story?

Tatsuya Matsubara: Not to be like Mr. Uchikoshi, but we made a correlation chart of different worldlines that occur in STEINS;GATE on Excel. We thoroughly check the chart whenever a series is added, and it’s become so massive now that even the producers are getting confused. [laughs]


The way STEINS;GATE handles branching choices is more subtle than other games. There are some seemingly minor decisions that lead to alternate routes. Can you tell us about designing the phone trigger system? Were you concerned players might not be able to find the game’s many secrets?

Tatsuya Matsubara: In the original STEINS;GATE, there are many tricks used to connect Okarin and the player’s feelings. The methods vary from the story being told through a subjective point of view, the decisions not appearing on screen, a system that influences the phenomenon of either sending or ignoring an email on the cellphone… I believe everyone has experienced sending a message that changed the structure of the relationship once in their life.

To express Okarin’s struggles of trying to put things back in order after the world drastically changed by sending one trifling message, it was necessary for us to create a game structure that was a little jarring. I was concerned the players might not be able to clear the game, but since it’s so common to trade information on the internet in this day and age, I remember releasing the game relying on that collective intelligence. As a result, I received a report that players were able to clear the game within the first week.


In STEINS;GATE: Darling of Loving Vows, why did you want to make a dating simulation and what happened to make the Delta Attractor Field such a happy place?

Tatsuya Matsubara: At the time, it was expected in Japan to dig a little deeper into the characters after a visual novel game was released in the form of another product. Although STEINS;GATE did follow this, it wasn’t my intention to have the players experience the struggle of witnessing the serious Okarin in the main text. If I did, I felt like that would thin out the main text. That’s why I went with a theme of, “What if there was a peaceful, fun worldline like this?”


We’ve seen many different worldlines like the dark future for Okabe in STEINS;GATE 0 and Okabe working as a waiter in STEINS;GATE: Darling of Loving Vows. Could you tell us about any other worldlines that were considered or discussed that we haven’t seen yet?

Tatsuya Matsubara: I don’t recall an idea of a worldline getting rejected. All of them are necessary, it’s the choice of Steins Gate.


You’ve answered so many fan questions in the past. Which question do you wish people would ask you and what question stumped you?

Tatsuya Matsubara: I like questions that ask about the internal happenings of production and the nostalgic feelings that come with them. I don’t really like getting asked the same question about when everything’s so chaotic in the middle of the production. [laughs]

The hardest question was when an elementary school child asked me during a QA session at an event, “Are you married?” It’s a very simple and straightforward question, but I was taken aback and didn’t know how to answer.


STEINS;GATE has grown from a single game to a franchise with stories across many different entertainment mediums. Where do you want to take the series from here?

Tatsuya Matsubara: Not just STEINS;GATE, but the entire Science Adventure series consists of conjoined stories that share the same world view. We aren’t focusing the camera purely on STEINS:GATE however. We’re currently creating a new title as we speak, which is something I’d like to develop this world view even more with.


Can we have a comment from you to all the STEINS;GATE fans in the world?

Tatsuya Matsubara: We were able to release STEINS;GATE ELITE for North America and Europe on February 19th, 2019. We put all our perspectives and skills into this product so I would very much love for our fans to experience this evolution of the visual novel genre! We are currently making the best Japanese series to date. I think this title will be even more popular on an unprecedented scale! We will do our best to release the English version as well, so please look forward to it!


Steins;Gate Elite is available on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

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