Phantom Dusted’s Yukio Futatsugi Interview

By | December 29, 2006

Yukio Futatsugi It has been nearly two years since the release of Phantom Dust in North America and the man behind the game, Yukio Futatsugi, has agreed to take some questions from the folks here at Phantom Dusted! (Translation by Ryan Payton)

PD: Futatsugi-san, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. I know that a lot of work went into making sure Phantom Dust appealed to American gamers and I can tell you that those of us that were lucky enough to discover your game are huge fans. Many of us are still talking about and playing the game nearly two years later. We all agree that it was one of, if not the best Xbox games and that it will always be a game that we remember.

まず、まだ遊んでくれているということを聞いて、大変うれしく思います。PDは、日本のX-boxの状況を変える、とかそういうことではなく、X-boxという新しいハードを購入してくれた、新しい変化を受け入れようとするコアなゲームユーザー向けにつくったタイトルです。ゲームと長く付き合ってくれている人が好んで遊んでもらえるようにつくりました。なので、発売から2年たってもまだ遊ばれているということに対して非常にうれしく思います。

First off, I just want to express how happy I am to hear that you all are still playing Phantom Dust. For me, “Phantom Dust” was never a game that would change Xbox’s condition in Japan. Rather, it was a game designed for hardcore gamers who owned an Xbox. We made it for those who love games. This is part of the reason why I’m so happy to hear that we were successful in a way… You all are still enjoying our creation two years after its release.

PD: We’ve read that you took some inspiration from Japanese manga and anime when creating Phantom Dust; can you elaborate on that a bit more? What was your thought process, how did you come up with the story and the characters?

僕が10歳の頃、いやもっと前から毎日200ページ以上ある漫画雑誌を週に10冊以上読み、アニメを数多く見てきました。そんな中で色々と見てきたもの全体の影響を受けていると思っています。日本の漫画やアニメでは、超能力などの超人的な力を使うものが数多くありますので。能力自体は、そういった漫画やアニメにある基本的な能力はすべてフォローしようと考えました。破壊やオーラの演出は80年代のアニメ、北斗の拳や幻魔大戦などから影響されていると思います。

また、世界が崩壊したあとの世界、というのが非常に好き(以前作成したパンツァードラグーンもそうでした)なので、どうしても世界観のベースにしてしまうという部分はあります。今回は、ゲームシステムを先に考えたので、「超能力のある理由」「その能力がデッキとして編成される理由」「一度に4つの能力しか使えない理由」というのを許容できる世界、というのを考えるうちに全員が記憶を失っている世界、というのを思いつきました。そこが世界観、設定のスタートです。

キャラクターに関しては特にモデルというのは存在しないです。ただ、主人公にしゃべらせるのはあまり好きではないので他に中心となるキャラを置き、その傍観者を主人公にするようにしています。また、プレイヤーはこのゲームの世界について何も知らないわけで、同様に主人公と中心になるキャラクターが何も知らない状態からスタートさせています。

そういった最低限の事だけメモしたノートPCを持ってE3に行き、行き帰りの飛行機の中で最初のシナリオを作成したことを覚えています。

Ever since I was ten-years-old (actually, probably younger than that), I’ve been crazy about manga, reading ten 200-page books a week. I watch a lot of anime, too. From those two media forms, I’ve taken in a lot of influence over the years.

Within Japanese manga and anime, there are often narratives about E.S.P. and characters with psychic abilities. I decided to follow the fundamentals of psychic powers established by Japanese manga. And as far as Destruction and Aura are concerned, those two elements were a product of influence from 80’s anime like Fist of the North Star and Genma Taisen.

And as you probably noticed, I love using post-apocalyptic settings in games. (That setting is prevalent in Panzer Dragoon, another game I worked on.) When making those games, no matter how hard I tried, I made the environment the foundation of the game.

With Phantom Dust, I thought of the game system to begin with. Why do these people have psychic abilities? How come they can edit a psychic “deck?” Why can they only carry four of them at a time? I had to think of reasons to explain all of these phenomenon, which is how I came up with this world full of amnesiacs. From there we started production.

As far as the characters are concerned, we didn’t have a particular model to begin with. But I knew for certain that I didn’t want a hero that would take on the entire mission, which is why we created a number of other characters that the player could choose and play as. And since the player begins the game not knowing anything about the world, we decided to have the lead characters experience the same sense of bewilderment.

So with these ideas in mind, I remember taking my laptop to E3, and on the flight back to Japan I wrote the game’s first scenario.

PD: Looking back on Phantom Dust, is there anything about the game that you wish you could have changed or done differently?

一人プレイのシナリオはもっと増やしたかったですね。
地下の街を街ごと移動させるとかいうのも考えていました。(街のショップがある部分が穴を掘る掘削機っぽくなっているのはその名残です。)
エフェクトはもっと派手にしたいとか、スキルの数を増やしたいとかいうのもありましたが、それらはダウンロードコンテンツや追加ディスク、続編などでやればいいか、と考えていました。
正直、あれ以上のことを詰め込んでもユーザーが理解できなかったと思います。
新しいシステムをどう理解させるか、という部分が一番苦労したので。
そういう意味ではチュートリアルの作成にはもっと時間をかけたかったかな。説明を長い台詞ではなくもっと簡潔に伝えたかったと思っています。

If we had more development time, I would have really liked to increase the number of missions in the single-player mode. I also wanted players to be able to move from one underground town to another. (Take a look at the area near the town shop. The driller-like machine is the remnants of this plan.)

Phantom Dust early test

Phantom Dust destructible environment testing

I had wanted the skills to be more gorgeous and flashy, as well as more skills in general, but I just figured we could release them later on through download contents or an append disc. But in truth, I was afraid players just wouldn’t be able to wrap their heads around even more skills; it might be overwhelming. My number one priority became making sure that players actually understand the game system, which is why we ended up spending so much time on the tutorial – an explanation that didn’t just rely on long, boring texts but one that really make the game system easy to understand.

PD: Was there any content (maps, skills, school) that didn’t make it into the final game? If so, can you tell us something about them?

スキルはアイデアだけなら500ぐらいありました。その中から整理して削って、今のスキルになっています。マップは当初はもっとたくさんつくる予定でしたね。アイデアとしてあったのは、
「水族館」

これは、廃墟となった水族館になぜか水が張っていあり、魚だけが泳いでいる。水槽の中だけがライトアップされて、戦闘で壊れると消える。床には水が薄く張ってある、というようなイメージでした。
「駅」
もうひとつは駅です。東京の地下鉄は複雑に入り組んでいて、ひとつの駅が立体的に構成されています。そこに記憶の列車を走らせて、列車にのると他のホームに移動できる。列車の中にカプセルを置く。というような動的なマップを作成したいと考えていました。

まぁ、両方とも実際に作るとなると作業量が膨大であきらめましたが360でならつくれたと思います。

他には、対専用の専用マップも案としたありました。しかし、ノーマルマップを含むレベルデザインの作成には思った以上に時間がかかり、またデザイナーが開発環境に慣れるのにも時間がかかり、あれ以上のマップの作成は難しかったですね。

We had more than 500 skill ideas. From that large batch we organized them, edited them, and cut them down to the present level. At first, we had intended to create a lot more environments, including:

The Aquarium
This would be the ruins of an aquarium, with only water and fish still remaining. Only in the middle of the fish tanks would be lit up, and that light would be destroyed as players fought and destroyed things around them.

We also envisioned the floor to have leaking water on it.

Phantom Dust early design

Early Phantom Dust development image

The Station
The other stage we had in the planning stages was a station. In Tokyo there are a number of different subway lines, and we wanted to isolate one of them and make that into a 3D stage. In that one area there would be a memory train that was still running. Players could ride that train to different platforms. Inside the trains we would place the regenerating capsules. This is one of the very dynamic stages I had wanted to make.

You know, practically speaking it was just too much production work for our time to make these two maps, but I think we could have done it if we were creating the game on Xbox 360…

Lastly, we had also wanted to create maps to be used exclusively for multiplayer, but creating stages took longer than expected. Including normal-mapping took longer than expected, then getting designers to be comfortable with the development took a lot of time, so map creation was quite difficult.

PD: The game had a great portrayal of psychic energy and a metaphysical feel. Did you research the subject of psi-powers yourself?

ゲームを創るときは関連した書籍を読んだりということは必ずやります。今回も色々な勉強をしました。
超能力に関しての本も色々読みましたし、記憶や精神的なものについての本もよく読みました。
敵の名前を全て「恐怖症」の名前にする、というのは自分の中ではお気に入りで、色々調べながら名前を考えるのは楽しかったですね。

When you make a game, I think it’s essential that you read and research topics related to it. For Phantom Dust, I did just that. I read books about E.S.P. as well as many books about memories and spirituality. Naming enemies after phobias is something I thought was a good idea – I like researching topics and then coming up with ideas… It’s fun.

PD: With the large number of combinations possible in the game, was there anything you saw players do that that surprised you or that you and your team didn’t anticipate?

ユーザーがつくったコンボで一番面白かったのは「重力混乱」「引き寄せ」「帰還」のコンボです。重力混乱で全員の移動を難しくさせて、自分は引き寄せで有利にカプセルをとり、帰還で逃げたり、カプセルを取りにいったりする。で、よたよたと歩いているプレイヤーを倒していく、というアーセナルでした。重力混乱をベースにしたコンボ、というのは想定していなかったのでびっくりしましたね。面白かったです。

The coolest user-made combo I came across was “Confused Gravity,” “Return,” and “Call.” He used “Confused Gravity” to make every players’ movements more difficult, and then would draw new capsules from a place of his liking, and would use “Return” to escape or take more capsules. While players ran around drunk-like, he’d pick them off.

I never thought “Confused Gravity” could be used as a base for an arsenal, so I was surprised when I saw it. It was pretty cool.

PD: How did the soundtrack come together? Did you guide the team at Manual of Errors to use familiar music fragments to give the impression of resurfacing memories or did they come up with that approach?

サウンドについては、当時マイクロソフトにいたスタッフで、ファントムのサウンドを統括していた荒木さん(Araki)という女性によるものです。彼女からの提案で、記憶をくすぐるような音を素材にして曲をつくっていこう、ということになりました。

In regards to the game’s sound, that was managed by Ms. Araki. She worked with the concept that the game’s tunes should draw up memories and used appropriate sounds in those songs.

PD: Some of the changes in the skill updates puzzled some players, specifically Jump (from infinite use to 5 use) and True Muramasa (from a penalty of 1 heath to 3 health). Can you tell us what your reasoning was behind the changes to these skills?

「浮遊(念動)」と「跳躍術(気功)」の差をつけよう、と思ったからです。また、真ムラマサは威力がありすぎたので、これを乱発する人が目立っていたので、自爆ダメージを増やしました。それでも回復スキルをうまく使えば、有効なスキルだと思います。チームの中には5ダメにするべきだ、と主張する人もいたぐらいです。

To answer your question about “Jump,” we wanted to differentiate it from “Lift Up.” (I believe the English translation of “Lift Up” is incorrect in the game. -Ryan) For “True Muramasa,” there were too many players that exploited it, just using the skill over and over to look cool and show off. We decided to increase the self-inflicted damage on it. But even after the skill update, if you use healing skills effectively, “True Murasama” is still a very valuable skill.

PD: We’ve read that you had a hand in Ninety Nine Nights and that you are currently assisting with Blue Dragon. Can you tell us what your role has been in these games?

ファントムダスト以降は一時現場を退いて、管理職をやっています。マイクロソフトジャパンのパブリッシングするタイトルの「ゲームデザインセクション」の統括をやるのが現在のポジションです。なので、両タイトルともパブリッシュにともなって発生する作業を行っています。とはいっても、現場が危機的状況になれば出来る限りの手助けを行っているので、N3では台詞の作成や技の名前をつける、などのテキスト関連を手伝ったり、BDではバランス調整のヘルプを行ったりもしています。

After Phantom Dust, I’ve moved into a management position. My current position is to help unify the Game Design Section that’s in charge of the games that Microsoft Japan publishes, including both N3 and Blue Dragon. But even still, I find myself back into the development side of things when trouble comes up. With N3, I helped attach skill names and worked on the script and in-game text, and with Blue Dragon, I helped with the game balance and “help” system.

PD: Of course the questions we are all really dying to know…Do you foresee making another game with similar mechanics to Phantom Dust anytime soon? Do you think you’ll ever revsit the Phantom Dust story or its characters?

作りたいですね!
世界観、というよりはシステムを発展させた続編をつくりたいとは思っています。どこの会社で、どのハードに向けてつくるかはわからないので、またチャンスがきたら是非挑戦したいです。その時は、キャラと世界観も意外な形でリンクさせると思います。

I really want to make a sequel to Phantom Dust!

More so than the game’s fictional world, I want to develop and grow the gameplay. (But of course I would also create a surprising new world and cast of characters for the sequel.) Even though I’m not sure what company I’ll do it at or for what hardware, I want to fight to bring a sequel out.

PD: Many PD fans have said the only reason they still have their Xbox, after getting a Xbox 360, is because Phantom Dust is not backward compatible on the 360. Would you happen to know why Phantom Dust has not made it on to that list? Do you think it will ever be possible to play Phantom Dust on our Xbox 360s?

ファントムでは、X-boxの機能をフルに使ったピクセルシェーダーを作成し、それで描画を行っています。360はX-boxとはビデオカードもCPUも違うまったく別コンセプトのマシンです。そのため、X-boxに特化したファントムのようなゲームは互換をとるためにエミュレーターを専用にチューニングする必要があります。今、売れている順にエミュレーターのチューニングが行われているので、いずれはファントムも遊べるようになるでしょうが、それはずいぶん先の話になってしまうかもしれません。
シアトルの本社でそれらのプロジェクト行われているので、私も、ファントムが360で動く日を待っているところです。

上記の説明を答えて頂いたら、我々は本当に喜びます!

以上です。ありがとうございました!
これからもファントムダストをお願いします。
いつの日か、また続編で会いましょう。

Phantom Dust is a game that uses the full capabilities of the Xbox hardware. We created a pixel shader to animate the game. And because the Xbox 360 and original Xbox video card and CPU are completely different, it will take special tuning to make the game backwards compatible. For a price, there is some tuning that can be done on the emulator side, so it seems like it would be possible to get the game running on Xbox 360, but the again, I know they’d run into problems as I just described above.

Ultimately, getting Phantom Dust to run on Xbox 360 is a project that Microsoft in Redmond controls. I’m also waiting for the day that the game can run on Xbox 360!

So that’s it. I hope you all keep playing Phantom Dust! I’ll see you all again, whenever I get the chance to make the sequel.

Yukio Futatsugi