Interviews

Toshihiro Nagoshi: 'I'm committed to Sony hardware... we grew up together'

Sega designer on Binary Domain, Yakuza and console loyalty...

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Japanese developer Toshihiro Nagoshi is best known as the creator of Sega's Monkey Ball and Yakuza titles, and even then his celebrity exists only amongst a small group of devout Japanese game enthusiasts.

Compared to his previous games Binary Domain, a third-person shooter, looks like a far more pedestrian affair - at least on the surface. But much like the The Hollow Children living secretly in Binary Domain's future Tokyo, there's more to it than first meets the eye.

In an exclusive interview with the industry legend, PSM3 discussed the future of the world, having fun with the Yakuza series, and why he's proud to be a Japanese developer. Here's what he had to say.

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Binary Domain seems to tap into the zeitgeist in your country, Mr Nagoshi - your future Japan has become isolated from the rest of the world, just as Japan today is losing interest in foreign culture. What sort of themes did you want to explore?

Well, it's set in the very near future, just 70 years from now, so it's like the world of our children's children, our adult grandchildren. It's very close. The society is very similar to our society today, and just like today's society there are a lot of problems that have built up over time - some of which can be solved and some of which cannot.

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There are environmental problems, for example, and developments in technology as mankind tries to make life more convenient. It's not like a really unfathomable science-fiction; it's the sort of sci-fi that's quite tangible and close, which makes it easier to relate to. That's really important to me.

We're at a stage in history where many things are about to change - in terms of the world's economy as well - and we have a chance to make things better. But there's also a possibility that in trying to fix things we could make them worse.

For example, when there's a war nowadays, it's not always clear whether it's been a success or not. There are a lot of problems for which we can't find a solution, and these will grow in number: global warming, the destruction of nature... these things will come back to bite us if we continue to ignore them as we do now. So this game is set after all of that has come to pass. I hope it will open people's eyes to the problems we face today and make them think about how we can put things right.

Do you foresee a world in which Binary Domain could become reality?

Yes, I think there's a very high chance. There's already a hotel overseas that uses robot 'workers' for some tasks, and some armies are preparing robots that can think and move like humans. It seems there's a very real possibility we could soon make robots that are just like humans, if cost were no object - that era is now upon us. This is sci-fi drama, but it's halfway between sci-fi and reality.

Voice control was once sci-fi and now it's in your game. Has it been difficult to implement?

Oh, it was unbelievably difficult! If we were going to give you predetermined phrases and nothing else, you might as well use buttons on the controller. So it had to be flexible. Everyone uses different words, and we wanted the system to be flexible enough that you could try saying different things and see how the game responds. It adds a layer of discovery. Communication is all about discovery. That's what makes it so satisfying.

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