Yuji Naka interview by Gamefan (June 1999)

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This is an interview conducted by the Gamefan with Yuji Naka. The interview concerns Sonic Adventure.

The Interview

Gamefan: Has it been difficult over the years being referred to as "the other Miyamato?" And if so, how do you feel it has affected your ability to produce quality titles?

Yuji Naka: I have always admired his work. His games are very elaborate. However , I do not intend to compete with him, as I have my own style. I focus more on gameplay fluency.

Gamefan: What was your take on the lack of a "true" produced by Sonic Team , Sonic game for the Saturn? Why wasn't there an all-new, Sonic Team-produced Sonic game on Saturn?

Yuji Naka: Although Sonic R and Sonic 3D Blast were developed outside of Sega, the concept was originated by Sonic Team. I beleived it was more important at that time to finalize those titles within the limited time frame we had. I also had hoped to launch a brand new character on Saturn and began to develop Nights right after Sonic and Knuckles was finished on Genesis.

Gamefan: Do you feel that, with the introduction of more sophisticated hardware like DC or the upcoming PSY, developers are spending more time trying to create spectacular visuals, but are sorely lacking in the gameplay department?

Yuji Naka: Yes, I strongly agree. For example I have been toying with idea of possibly developing a game for, say, a VMU type of platform. Games should not be judged by graphics alone; gameplay is much more important. I always try my best not to forget the passion I had when I started creating games.

Gamefan: Do you feel that American gamers will pick up the whole A-Life aspects in Sonic Adventure? If so, is the goal to make A-Life as popular as Nintendo's Pokemon in the states (animated TV, trading cards, plush toys, etc.)?

Yuji Naka: I am not sure if Chao will become popular in the US. However, I feel the concept of A-Life is very interesting and therefore I hope many consumers in the US will enjoy playing the A-Life aspects. I also hope that the A-life aspects of the game will help increase the number of people that are Sonic fans. Chao was incorporated in the game because I hoped to provide the means to enable those who buy the game to continue to enjoy playing it even after they have cleared the main adventure story. If Chao gets popular and the market demand is there, I will be happy to consider merchandising characters such as Chao and other characters in the game.

Gamefan: What were the major technical challenges in creating Sonic Adventure?

Yuji Naka: The biggest challenge was to try to develop the game at the same time as the hardware was being developed. I honestly did everything in my power to insure that Sonic Adventure would adequately harness the DC's power, and I am satisfied with my work. I went as far as to take a part in the Dreamcast hardware development as well as the software library. It was a very good year for me in that sense.

Gamefan: Also, are you planning on re-using the SA engine in any upcoming titles?

Yuji Naka: Since the Dreamcast hardware and libraries are continually evolving, the Sonic Adventure engine will evolve as well and become more powerful. It may be possible that parts of the engine will be used in future products.

Gamefan: Were there any features you would have liked to have included in NiGHTS that you were unable to implement due to the Saturn's hardware limitations?

Yuji Naka: No comment. But if there were, I would surely be implementing them into my next project. (ECM's Note:hmmmmm......).

Gamefan: What type of games, other than your own, do you enjoy playing?

Yuji Naka: I like racing games. Other than those, I like Alone in the Dark, Lemmings and Tomb Raider. But recently I find it difficult to find games that offer new appeal.

Gamefan: Do you see online gaming becoming more popular in Japan?

Yuji Naka: I hope so. I certainly intend to be closely involved in creating online playable games.

Gamefan: In future games, what special online features would you like to see included?

Yuji Naka: I cannot comment on this. Keep an eye out for my future games.

Gamefan: Who and what are your major influences outside of the gaming industry?

Yuji Naka: Entertainment in general inspires me. Theme parks, music, films, amusement centers, etc. My favorite musical group is YMO (Yellow Magic Orchestra a Japanese techno group). I also like Hayao Miyazaki (Japan's very famous animation movie director) and Robert Zemeckis.

Gamefan: Knowing how fast technology is advancing these days, where do you see the industry in 5 years?

Yuji Naka: I truly hope the games will eventually return to their true origin, their true nature --- and that is gameplay.

Gamefan: Which of your creations do you consider your personal favorites?

Yuji Naka: Girls Garden and Phantasy Star. I am also extremely satisfied with the work I have done on Sonic Adventure.

Gamefan: Are there any US game developers that you're keeping an eye on?

Yuji Naka: Westwood, Blizzard, Visual Concepts and Naughty Dog to name a few.

Gamefan: How soon will we see NiGHTS on the Dreamcast?

Yuji Naka: I have no comment. But I am willing to provide what gamers demand. (ECM's Note: double hmmmm....).

Gamefan: Where did you get the idea for the "A-Life" in Sonic Adventure?

Yuji Naka: A book inspired me in the concept of A-Life. (A little side note, Tetsu Katano programmed the original A-life section in NiGHTS. -Tunek)

Gamefan: Are you working on any original titles for Dreamcast?

Yuji Naka: No, not at the moment.

Gamefan: Have you thought about working on arcade titles? Maybe a Sonic arcade on the NAOMI hardware?

Yuji Naka: I have always been interested in developing arcade games.

Gamefan: Would you like to see Sonic on NAOMI?

Yuji Naka: Yes!

Gamefan: As one of Sega's top game producers, do you feel any sort of inter-company competition from renowned in-house development teams such as the various AM factions or Team Andromeda?

Yuji Naka: No, I have never felt such competition within the company. I am fortunate to be able to work within a conflict free environment in that regard.

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