Shingo 'Seabass' Takatsuka is a living soccer legend. The mastermind behind the exceptional Pro Evolution Soccer series has been creating our favourite game of footy for years now, but 2008 signals a milestone for the long-running soccer series, with PS3 and Wii versions of the game now completing a full next gen line-up.
So it was with great pleasure we sat down with Seabass at the Pro Evo Finals currently being held in Seville to get the lowdown on how the series has evolved in its move onto PS3, his vision for how the online modes of the game will continue to grow, the thorny issue of integrating simulation (or diving) into gameplay and how he plans a complete and radical overhaul for the series in 2009.
Here's what we discovered.
This is the first Pro Evolution Soccer on PS3 - are you pleased with what you've achieved and how do you see the series evolving on PS3?
Seabass: Well I'm satisfied in that in the time frame we had, we were able to finish the code and release it on time, but that's only really within that time frame. When I look at the capacity of what the PS3 can do, I feel very strongly that there's loads of things that I wanted to do, but I couldn't do them in this version.
As to the future, well it's not just about PS3 actually, but it's more about the mentality of the development team and I want to change the mentality of the team to be renewed and changed to focus on all next-gen platforms. We've already started operations on this.
How do you see the online version of the series, how has that changed in 2008 and how do you see it developing in subsequent versions of PES?
Seabass: Well for this year the online mode for all platforms is one versus one and in that aspect you may be a little unsatisfied by this. But when you play the game online you'll have a totally different experience. Up to last year on the PS2 for example, we were up to two versus two but if we proceeded to five versus five or six versus six, I wouldn't have been happy because the experience you would have had would be a totally different experience to the game you play offline.
Therefore what we did is change the system so that in this version you had a much closer playing experience to the offline version provided you have a good internet connection. The 'play feel' you get is almost like you're playing the offline version. It was a little bit different in the 360 version last year, but this is even more different than in this year's PS3 version.
This year's next gen versions still seem very much based on the PS2 version of the game. Will we see a big overhaul in graphics and game engine over the next couple of years in the next gen versions?
Seabass: Well I can already promise you that next year's version of PES will have a lot more new features as you would expect because we're already working on these new things right now. With the release of the PS3 we now have all the basics of the next gen at a starting stage finally. Now I don't have to worry about creating the basic parts of the next gen versions for next year, meaning I have already been able to start working on new features. Now I'm able to promise new things and a complete overhaul in every aspect.
We haven't seen many changes in PES's game modes for a while - are you planning new game modes for next year's version?
Seabass: For the game modes I understand that we haven't added many new game modes which is quite problematic for us, even within the team. But actually all the new modes which we are going to put in the game for next season are already finished. Obviously I'd like to be able to tell you what these are, but you'll understand I can't tell you about the new modes for next season, when we haven't even released PES 2008 yet!
But it's not just the new modes which are important, but changes to the actually gameplay are even more crucial, so I don't want to forget about that aspect as well.