The rerelease of The SIlver Case has once more brought developer Goichi Suda and writer Masahi Ooka together, getting them to re-examine the writing work they did on the game years ago.
Siliconera spoke to the pair of writers about what it felt like to return to their work, how they had initially worked together, and the passion for writing and creation that fuels their work.
As one of your earlier games, The Silver Case is a more subdued game than the explosive, action-packed fare your often make now. How did your development style evolve over the years into the developer you are today?
Goichi Suda, Director of The Silver Case – That is the result of the accumulation of technique, size and history of our team. At the time of The Silver Case, the team size was much smaller, and the writing was what shaped the game play. So, because we didn’t have a staff member who could render blood showers, I was required to write a shower of text.
What drew you to create this game years ago? What made you passionate about it when you chose to develop it?
Turning my own original idea into a game was my biggest passion, and I wanted to make something that I would be able to confidently say that it was an original game.
There existed an emotion that’s close to anger.
What made you feel that you should revisit The Silver Case? Why now?
I think it’s fate, but it started when AGM promised me the best translation possible.
For me, it was the moment my desire came true after 9 years.
As an artist, what was it like to return to one of your earliest pieces and work on it again?
It was like meeting the GOICHI SUDA before I claimed the name SUDA51.
The environment, aesthetic, and emotions at the time came flooding back me.
It was a mysterious sensation, as if I met an old friend of mine.
Given the over-the-top nature of much of your modern work, was it difficult to put yourself in the right mindset to work with The Silver Case again? How so?
I didn’t think much about it. The times may have changed, demand may have changed, the condition I’m in is different, but regardless, what’s inside hasn’t changed.
If there is a need to write a massive amount of text, I’d feel like writing long stories.
Things that are over-the-top is a methodology for players and the staff to make things easier to understand. I do believe that delicately elaborated ideas are harder for people to understand.
Creating an HD remaster can be difficult, as it is a challenge to know whether you should change or preserve aspects of the original work. How do you find that balance between preserving The Silver Case as a piece of gaming history, but also providing modern players with something new to be excited about?
It was a balance made on the judgement of my inner gamer. Of course, I’ve also put input of GhM and AGM staff to ease the unbalance.
You have covered many different genres and styles as a writer, from the horror of Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse to the humor of No More Heroes to the bleak story of The Silver Case. With so many different genres, what central aspects and sensations do you seek out with your writing?
Writing a scenario in the middle of the night is similar to diving into the deep ocean.
Well, I never tried scuba diving before, so I’ve got no idea if it’s the exact same experience, but when you find a theme for the work’s central aspect and let your mind dive into it, then type it down, there’s always a feeling similar to that of an excited child about to pull a prank.
I think I cherish that feeling of passion. However it is true that there are days that I’m not able to write at all.
With your own section of The Silver Case, Placebo, being written from a different perspective, what were you looking to add to the game’s story? How did your angle add onto the narrative you were working on with Suda?
Masahi Ooka, Writer for the Placebo Section of The Silver Case – To answer your first question, I remember it was written in a manner that complements the scenario that was written by Suda. Initially, for the prequel of The Silver Case – Twilight Syndrome – I wrote a strategy guide titled Twilight Syndrome Truth File. It was written from a journalist’s report of the incidents in Twilight Syndrome. In reality, it was more of a made up subtext than a strategy guide. However, Suda read this, seemed to like it, and wanted me to write a similar text for The Silver Case in game.
So, at first, I remember it was explained to me how he wanted it to be something like “the other side of the coin for the main scenario”. However, as we couldn’t dedicate too much memory space, we wanted to focus more towards text, like a diary. The work flow was something like, for every chapter that Suda wrote, I received the text, brainstormed about the story and then brought that back to work on the scenario on my end.
At the beginning, Tokio’s scenario wasn’t intended to contain so many story elements; at best he would respond to emails and write down things in his journal. But as development progressed, the story also started to develop, more characters were added, and Tokio started to talk to those people as well.
For the second question, I couldn’t answer for sure how the scenario has affected the game overall. It’s because I’m not able to see the whole piece objectively. However, one of the ideas that I like is the idea that Tokio was a defect shelter child that was born and raised as a failed copy, however born with a special power. I think the Placebo segment is in a similar state. It’s like the Transmitter segment, but it’s not. It’s an incomplete report – it feels off, but it serves as a different purpose. It’s kind of like that. I wish it’s something like that.
What sorts of themes do you enjoy exploring with your writing? Was The Silver Case familiar territory, or were you trying out something new with it?
My favourite genres would be mystery, horror, hardboiled, and science fiction. I also read pure literature and light-novels. I’ll enjoy it if it’s enjoyable. The things I wrote for The Silver Case are almost identical to the strategy guide that I mentioned earlier. If you would ask for the writing style however, I would say that is influenced by Ryū Murakami.
At first I was writing as if I was asking myself “What would a hardboiled story look like if Ryū Murakami was writing it?” But in reality, what I wrote was probably far off from what I intended it to be. Also, I write short stories outside of writing scenarios for work, but none of those come close to the writing I did for The Silver Case, so you can say it was a new challenge for me. If you ask me if it’s a style that I’m an expert of, l wouldn’t be able to answer that. (laughs)
Are there any unique challenges or downsides to writing a story with another writer?
It’s a bit of both. Writing in a way that I respond to Suda’s scenario felt easy on my part. This is because I’m not starting from a blank slate. On the other hand, there were times that I thought that it could have been easier if I could control and have a say in the whole story. Yet again, if I wanted to write a story out of free will, I could have done that at any time. So writing as a team was a very interesting experience.
What is it like to collaborate with Suda?
When Suda writes his segment, I would read it, interview Suda, and then write the scenario. This process was similar to what I usually do with interview work so it was very familiar. Suda would answer everything that I asked and even if he didn’t know an answer, he would think it up on the spot, which helped.
I believe that the scenarios that Suda writes have a sensation of speed and cutting quality in its dialogue. I wouldn’t imagine knowing what’s in his head to be able to write something like that. There’s definitely a sort of talent in him. So, when I try to write something based on such talent, it’s hard to recreate such writing.
I do remember trying to take a different approach to the writing. It was very stimulating; also there is a big difference in writing from a source gained from interviews and documents, as opposed to writing a script for a story. The latter, I was stuck for a good three hours for each chapter, meditating about the plot without music or documentations, just trying to squeeze out an idea. And once I did come up with a plot, I would finally start writing the script.
With your short non-fiction writing, you have explored how people love the work they do, or learn to love it. Did your game development/writing thoughts inspire this in any way? How does that love enhance the work you do? The writing you did for The Silver Case?
Personally, if a person is surrounded by only the work they like, I think that the person will experience a feeling of entrapment. There’s a Japanese phrase “turning into an octopus trap”, which is a figure of speech that describes a tight community environment that doesn’t have any connections to the outside of said community. It’s a story that I’ve heard about when I was little, but when an octopus gets caught in an octopus trap, it will start to devour its own legs, which isn’t good.
To me, game development was an out of profession area that I had a deep interest in. It was also my first time making a game scenario, too. I have the interest, but it was something that I’ve never touched before. If you experience something that you have an interest in but never tried, or try something out outside your comfort zone, work will be a lot more stimulating and could open a window of develop-ability.
As for The Silver Case, it’s a world that I like, so if I was to take involvement in the project again, I would probably make something that would break the mould. There is a sequel titled The 25th Ward, but in this story I think that Tokio would be a little bit different.
Having predicted Twitter in the Placebo section to some extent (a site where people share short thoughts), what first gave you this idea? Do you have any other predictions for the future of tech?
For Twitter, I was amazed that someone tweeted about the scene and brought up the topic. I, personally, didn’t realise that I predicted the future (laughs). Although, I do have an interest in the internet culture and I also like the science fiction genre. So, I do have times I think about technology and culture. Like, in The 25th Ward, there is a segment of the story where a CGI girl, who talks through AI and is an idol to the men, shows up.