Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on June 2014
Goichi Suda, the CEO, founder and creative force behind Grasshopper Manufacture has, over the course of 16 years, become synonymous with artistic and original video games the world over. Known for such titles as Killer 7, No More Heroes, Lollipop Chainsaw and Killer Is Dead, Grasshopper Manufacture is recognized for its offbeat story lines, unique visuals and genre-breaking themes. Suda sat down with Metropolis to discuss what it takes to stay innovative in this ever-changing, multibillion-dollar industry.
Could you give our readers a little background on your company?
I made Grasshopper Manufacture in 1998 to make original titles. We kept our independence for about 15 years, and in the 16th, we joined the GungHo group to work with their capital. In 2005, we released Killer 7—not just for Japan but for a worldwide audience, and ever since then it’s been our mission to keep making titles for the international market.
What got you started in video games?
My generation saw the beginning of the gaming industry. In Japan, we didn’t have Atari games, but we had Nintendo Famicom, and before that, the arcades. Over time, we all witnessed the convergence of the industry. It was kind of like Harry Potter learning to use magic for the first time: Developers quickly became addicted to the tools of game-making and just took off with it.
What are the main visual influences for Grasshopper’s unique style of games?
Every time I think of a game, I always think about the scenario and concept. I always want to use the art style as proof that this is a Grasshopper game. I hope everyone will be able to see one screenshot from the game and say, “Oh yes, this is a Grasshopper title!” Even if they don’t do that, we at least want to draw them in and make them curious. We think of games as an art form, so that’s why we think very carefully what style to use.
Are there any developers out there that you personally admire and would consider working with?
There aren’t any particular developers I would like to collaborate with. We’ve collaborated with some already, but as far as developers I admire, I really appreciate Criterion Games—they make some good games, especially the Burnout series.
Do you have your own personal mantra or set of requirements when developing a new intellectual property, or do things evolve over time?
Well, now that you mention it, I was just thinking about three new ideas, and now I’m sitting here wondering, “Where did they come from?” Well, I always think of ideas that would be fresh to many people, and also anything that could be surprising, or intriguing. I always try to come up with something that would really pull the audience deep into the world, so that’s something I always try to come up with.
What does a game need to stand out in today’s highly competitive market?
I think what’s really important is what is at the core. Whether you’re creating something interesting or fun or new, you need to build a good foundation. It’s being made by people, so what’s really important is the amount of energy you put into what you create.
Would you consider Grasshopper a company that caters to an open, free-flowing indie scene?
We’ve always had the freedom to create something new, and I think each publisher we’ve worked with has wanted us to do that. We will definitely maintain and grow that spirit in the future.
Have you considered a Morpheus-enabled Grasshopper title?
The Oculus Rift or even PlayStation 4’s Morpheus [two virtual reality headsets] are really amazing, and I think those will really bring the industry to the next phase. So I think they’re really intriguing. But when I think of what I’ve experienced being in that complete virtual world, I felt a kind of fear of not being able to come out of it. So maybe if I can somehow channel that fear into a game, that would be really good. I’m really interested in those peripherals, so it would be interesting to create something [for them].
Is there a Grasshopper title that particularly stands out for you?
As we always have limited time or budget, everything we’ve done so far is the best we could possibly do. I would have to say… I spent a lot of time on Silver Case and Killer 7. I really pushed a lot of boundaries for different aspects for those titles. Silver Case was a debut title, so I had a lot of creative freedom. With Killer 7, Shinji Mikami [creator and designer for the Resident Evil/Biohazard franchise] really protected us, so we could do whatever we liked.
Are there any existing franchises that you would like to be involved with?
I think existent intellectual property held by another company is always difficult to use, but I definitely would be very happy to use IP from Marvel or DC Comics. That would be interesting! Or Gundam. Japan has this huge industry that revolves around that franchise. If I could get that IP somehow, it would be pretty amazing.
In a recent interview with 4Gamer you talked about new ideas and “breaking” certain traits of Grasshopper Manufacture…
Up until now, we’ve always had to work with publishers. Merging with GungHo, we now have a little more leeway. I think from now on, we want to create games that can’t really be categorized into one genre, so that’s where we’re starting.
Many Grasshopper titles have had multilanguage support. Is this a conscious attempt to make titles widely localized before launch?
Definitely! It depends on which publisher we work with, but as my philosophy goes, I would like to have as many languages as possible in my games so we can have everyone around the world enjoy them.
Which is more important: a strong, cohesive storyline or something that’s speculative and open to interpretation?
Personally speaking, the second is really my preference—to just have everything open to interpretation. But when you are making a product, a mixture of option one and two is somewhat required. As far as the number one option, having everything spelled out is something I’m so not interested in!