Yuji Naka interview by Sega Saturn Magazine (October 8, 1998)

From Sonic Retro

This is an interview conducted by Sega Saturn magazine with Yuji Naka. The subject matter is Sonic Adventure.

The Interview

Sega Saturn Magazine: Did you have any input into the creation of Dreamcast?

Yuji Naka: I've been involved with the Dreamcast project itself pretty deeply Since the completion of NiGHTS I got involved with the Dreamcast hardware project and put my thoughts across. There are many things reflected from my input in the final hardware design.

Sega Saturn Magazine: What do you think are the Dreamcast's strongest assets?

Yuji Naka: The high resolution display of the Dreamcast is not available on any other console. Also RAM size is very important. We have 24mb of RAM - 16mb working RAM and 8MB for textures. Saturn only has 4MB and the PlayStation has 2MB. The strong SH4 CPU power allows me to implement anything I want to do in the program. This combination of high-resolution, huge RAM size and strong CPU is extremely attractive for programmers and artists.

Sega Saturn Magazine: The Dreamcast was launched at the New Challenge Conference. What new challenges has Dreamcast given you as a designer?

Yuji Naka: The most challenging aspects of Dreamcast are the communications areas with the modem and the VMS. With Sonic I'm not really pursuing communications, but in the future I look forward to exploring it.

Sega Saturn Magazine: Would you like to see a Sonic coin-op since the Dreamcast hardware is going to be used in the arcades?

Yuji Naka: Sonic Team is not working on any arcade games at the moment. I do have a strong interest in the arcade division, but I have to concentrate on the consumer division. It's a conflict in my mind because when I joined Sega I wanted to create coin-op games, but I was assigned to consumer R&D. At the beginning of my career I was weeping every day saying "I want to create coin-op games!". However, I am enjoying the current situation and we're focusing on Sonic.

Sega Saturn Magazine: As one of Sega's most celebrated designers, do you have input into any other projects at Sega of Japan?

Yuji Naka: Well, I'm a Dreamcast project member, so I attend several meetings regarding internal projects. However, I am pretty busy right now concentrating on Sonic Adventure.

Sega Saturn Magazine: The Sonic Team hasn't actually produced an original Sonic game for the Saturn. Why is now the time to bring him back for Dreamcast?

'Yuji Naka: After I created the four Sonic Mega Drive games I wanted the create different worlds. That's why I created NiGHTS and, just at the end of NiGHTS development, I heard about Dreamcast. I believed that Dreamcast would help the Sonic Team to produce the best quality Sonic games.

Sega Saturn Magazine: Sonic Team's games effectively sold the Mega Drive in the West. Does this effect how you are targeting the game?

Yuji Naka: I am targeting a global market with this product. When I create any game I never fail to incorporate global market concerns in portions of the game.

Sega Saturn Magazine: The first Sonic games was coded in Japan and you moved to the US to produce the next three - were you tempted to take the Sonic Team abroad for this game?

Yuji Naka: I did have an intereest in developing the game outside of Japan because I've been affected by many experiences abroad. I toured around the United States and South America amongst other places and you will see some scenes in the new Sonic game where I want to reflect in the game what I experienced in my travels.

Sega Saturn Magazine: Sonic Adventure seems to be an incredibly complex game. Where did the inspiration come form?

Yuji Naka: I thought of the concept itself right at the end of the development of the NiGHTS project - around August 1996. Actual development on Dreamcast started last July (July 1997).

Sega Saturn Magazine: How big is the team?

Yuji Naka: I started this project with around 20 people - seven programmers, ten artists and three games designers. With these 20 people I developed the title for 10 months. As we approach the end of the project, we've got more than 60 people working on Sonic Adventure.

Sega Saturn Magazine: Were there any difficulties conceptualising Sonic as a 3D game?

Yuji Naka: Because Sonic's very fast, you have to create a huge scale simulation. I've put huge efforts into creating a big map. Of course, I have to focus on details of the 3D world, but I have to create a vast scale map as well. This is the most difficult aspect of Sonic Adventure. If it were Mario or a slower character, I wouldn't have had to create maps quite as large as this. I created a huge world first for Sonic, but then I thought "Why not utilise these maps for other characters?" Maybe I could add some variety to the game - not just running quickly through this huge world. That's one of the key concepts in the game.

Sega Saturn Magazine: What were the beginnings of taking Sonic into a 3D world?

Yuji Naka: The first starting point were experiments in which I tried to see how the Sonic system would work in 3D...

Sega Saturn Magazine: Was the 3D section of Sonic World, seen in the Sonic Jam compilation, a part of thse experiments?

Yuji Naka: You got the point - that was actually part of the experiments I carried out to see how Sonic would work in 3D.

Sega Saturn Magazine: We half expected Sonic World as a full-on Saturn game...

Yuji Naka: At the time I created that 3D section of Sonic Jam, I obviously knew about Dreamcast, and just couldn't resist putting Sonic Adventure on the new hardware.

Sega Saturn Magazine: Forgetting graphics and technical aspects... what's new about Sonic?

Yuji Naka: The core part of the game is a very standard action game, but this is a key, fundamental part of any action game. This time I've added many background stories and I want to give the game a huge sense of scale.

Sega Saturn Magazine: Will Sonic Adventure be a multi-player game or are you just concentrating on the single-player experience?

Yuji Naka: It has a one-player mode only. If time allows then I want to add a challenge mode.

Sega Saturn Magazine: Are you planning any special modes in the game? How will you make players come back once the game is complete?

Yuji Naka: There are six mini-games in the main game and you can play these repeatedly. I also want the game to have a lot of replay value, so you don't just clear the final objective. I've got some nice ideas to make users play the game over and over, but right at the moment I can't make any comments about this.

Sega Saturn Magazine: All six characters have six acts to complete - so the acts tie in with the other story lines you experience as you play as other characters?

Yuji Naka: The story's not going to change, but you'll see the characters from a different point of view and you'll see the action from their perspective. For example, Sonic is attacked by Knuckles at one point, but when you play as Knuckles you'll realise why you have to attack him.

Sega Saturn Magazine: What are the main aspects of past Sonic games that we can expect to see in the new title?

Yuji Naka: The feel of the speed of past Sonic games and the variety in the game. Having these varieties will attract not only the traditional action game fans, but also many other consumers who have not played a Sonic game before.

Sega Saturn Magazine: How does it feel to redefine such a popular character?

Yuji Naka: This is a very difficult project, but it's my pet project and I really love working on it.

Sega Saturn Magazine: How far will the final game push the Dreamcast technology?

Yuji Naka: I believe that I am doing my best efforts to get the best perfomance from the hardware, but with any hardware platform there's a learning curve in game development. In the near future you'll see greater performance, but at the moment I think we're getting the best performance we can.

Sega Saturn Magazine: How did you find the Yamaha sound chip to work with?

Yuji Naka: I'm quite comfortable with the sound chip. We can do nice 3D sound and components wise, the capacity is more than double of the Saturn's.

Sega Saturn Magazine: Do you have any special plans for the game's soundtrack?

Yuji Naka: Rather than using electronic or techno, I prefer live music. So this time Sonic is very "rock 'n' roll". Each character has their own main theme, along with the title track. All six songs were recorded in Los Angeles and New York.

Sega Saturn Magazine: Will you be taking special advantage of the VMS?

Yuji Naka: I have a specific idea about using the VMS and this game is sure to have VMS functions. I can give you one clue and it's related to A-life [a concept from NiGHTS], but right now I can't make any other comments! [laughs]

Sega Saturn Magazine: Could Sonic Adventure be converted to PC?

Yuji Naka: It can't be done, only on Dreamcast! I think it's still very difficult to run this game even on a high-end PC. The Voodoo2 3D graphics card is still a long way off the performance of the Dreamcast.

Sega Saturn Magazine: Did you look at any other games during the development of Sonic Adventure? Has anything really impressed you?

Yuji Naka: I feel that I'm ahead of other games, so when I look at PlayStation and Saturn games I don't see too many impressive things. There are a couple of good PC games, but these days I'm too busy to play them!

Sega Saturn Magazine: What do you believe is the most remarkable aspect of Sonic Adventure - what do you think you will be creating that has not been seen before?

Yuji Naka: This is the fastest 3D action game combined with the biggest game world ever made in video-games!

Sega Saturn Magazine: Mr Naka - thank you very much.

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