One of the most anticipated Wii RPGs this year, Xenoblade, developed by Monolith Soft and published by Nintendo, is the focus of the latest Iwata Asks. This time, the Nintendo president gathered together the two scenario writers for the game, Tetsuya Takahashi (also one of the directors) and Yuichiro Takeda, to discuss the development of the concepts and themes behind Xenoblade and how they grew.
The idea came to Takahashi one day while he was the train. “Wouldn’t it be interesting if people lived on the bodies of something huge, like gods?” Excited, he immediately dashed to his office and filled an entire page with ideas. Not long after, a georama was made and the idea took flight. Takahashi wanted someone he could talk to, someone he could work together with to work on the scenario. Who better than his 10-year colleague, Yuichiro Takeda?
Takeda was primarily an anime scenario writer, having worked on series such as The King of the Braves GaoGaiGar, Banner of the Stars, Zipang, and SD Gundam Force. With Monolith, he had worked on Xenosaga I-II, a single-cart DS adaptation of the first two games in the series, as well as the drama CDs and anime. This difference in media, anime and games, was one of the many hurdles he had to cross when he wrote. While the overall content is the same, an anime scenario has to take into account the time limit (usually 22 minutes per episode, as well as commercial breaks) to decide what happens when. To keep the viewers watching and the tension going, cliffhangers and such have to be timed perfectly.
In the case of games, though, this isn’t a problem — interactivity is. The player interacts with the characters in an RPG, so there’s a feeling of attachment to the characters that isn’t quite the same as with characters in an anime. In fact, one of Takeda’s original ideas was to have one of the party members that had always been by the protagonist’s side to betray him at the end and become the final boss in the game. Takahashi rejected the idea, saying that it would be too harsh for players to spend all that time raising a character and growing attached to them, only to have him / her betray them at the end of the game.
Despite this difference, the two worked well together, often bouncing ideas off each other. This offered each a different viewpoint on a new idea, and then they would discuss, refine, and then run with it. In fact, they weren’t the only participants; Shingo Kawabata, the producer of Xenoblade and the director of Soma Bringer and Kou Kojima, one of the directors, as well as one of the scenario writers for Baten Kaitos, also participated. Even some of the staff from Nintendo sat in on the meetings.