Yoshifumi Hashimoto of Marvelous AQL, producer of Rune Factory, has brought many of his previous experiences into the creation of what was originally a Harvest Moon spin-off. Not just his experiences with Dragon Quest, as previously reported, but others as well.
His interest in games, like many others, started from humble origins—with Nintendo’s sports arcade game, VS Tennis. As a child, he’d dreamed of making movies, but because he wanted to have more of a personal hand in the creation of the final product, with fewer people to work with, he decided to journey into the game industry, where it’s at least somewhat possible to do independent work.
His first company was SNK, where he worked on several fighting games, then moved onto Marvelous. However, his fighting game experiences never left him.
The most obvious of his contributions to Rune Factory is the introduction of the battle element, which isn’t present in Harvest Moon. This was such a point of contention on the design board—because it might distant current fans who like Harvest Moon’s “peaceful life” feel—that Hashimoto, upon seeing so much resistance, only felt all the more compelled to try it.
Another influence fighting games had on Rune Factory 4 was Hashimoto’s solution to the repetitive actions inherent in farming. He wanted to make each movement satisfying—not just from an achievement standpoint of “Yes! I managed my own farm!” but also simple functions like the swing of a hoe or picking of crops. He cites Pikmin, with Olimar pulling Pikmin out of the ground with a satisfying pop, and Yume Koujou: DokiDoki Panic, also known as one of the Mario 2 redesigns, as inspirations for this idea.
His answer to the problem was include a framerate of 60fps so that each press of the button smoothly elicits an action from the character onscreen, leaving the player with a satisfied feeling.
Despite the enormous incongruity of adding battles to a farming game, Hashimoto stated that he could somehow already see the way the fans would react to the change because of his experiences with fighting games, where every installment to a series would introduce enormous changes. He felt that, eventually, Rune Factory would spin off into its own series rather than one that just piggybacked off of Harvest Moon.
He placed special effort in separating the two series in Rune Factory 2, and starting from Rune Factory 3, Hashimoto received fan-mail stating that people were being introduced to Harvest Moon from the Rune Factory games rather than the other way around. Mission accomplished.
In fact, this adaptation to change is the very core of the creation process with Rune Factory. At the beginning of the creation process, Hashimoto gives himself and all of the staff three months to come up with anything and everything they can—entirely from scratch. The moment the three months are up, all planning has to stop. This may be harsh on the staff (and on a creative mind like Hashimoto himself), but Hashimoto says that he believes it’s very important for his staff to be conscious of a time limit from the very start. The restriction will force them to work to the edge of their limits.
At the end of those three months, all the ideas are put together and the development team reviews them. “What about this idea? Will it make the game fun?” Because of this creation process, some features of previous games may be absent in the next installment. For example, previously there was wireless and Wi-Fi functionality in Rune Factory 3. This will not be present in the fourth game.
This isn’t to say each game is completely directionless. The basis of each game lies with a theme and goal. For Harvest Moon: A New Beginning, the goal was to “create a ranch story greater than ever before, now that we have full 3D capability.” One of the ways they did this was to create a fully customizable farm house (and when the staff heard this idea, they all froze stiff the moment the words left his mouth.)
For Rune Factory 4, the story theme is “a prince (or princess) who falls from the sky,” and its goal is to “experience a new fantasy on a new system.” The 3D abilities of the 3DS were powerful, but Hashimoto felt that they weren’t what Harvest Moon or Rune Factory needed because the games weren’t about impact or impressive 3D graphics. They might even detract from the game.
However, having said this, Hashimoto emphasized that this doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t use 3D (find 3D screenshots here). Rather, not using 3D on the 3DS would just be a failure on the part of a creator. In A New Beginning, Hashimoto tried to create a wondrous world that declared, “Wow, now that Harvest Moon is on the 3DS, it’s gotten so interesting!”
With Rune Factory 4, Hashimoto sought out a company specializing in 3D animation for the 10+ cutscenes—the same one that did a 3-minute animated opening for the very first game on the DS—and included more voices to suck the audience further into the fantasy world.
Granted, Hashimoto was extremely unconfident about the movie when it was first shown during Nintendo Direct, months ago. Ultimately, though, he felt that this was a very helpful action as it was like he was being brought one step closer to the audience. Depending on the audience’s reactions to various parts of the opening, he adjusted the movie accordingly.
Rune Factory 4 will be released in Japan on July 19th.