Anime Expo 2011 Idea Factory Focus Panel
by Carlo Santos,
Anime Expo's panel for game studio Idea Factory began with a warm welcome for Kenta Sugano and Katsuyuki Hirano, lead designer and and character designer for the game Record of Agarest War. Panel host James Xie of Aksys games then played a brief video clip showcasing the game's dating-sim elements along with more typical strategy RPG elements.
Xie then continued with a few questions for Sugano and Hirano, beginning with the reason why the game was designed as a strategy RPG as opposed to any other type of RPG. Sugano said that this was due to his being a fan of strategy elements in general. Xie also asked why the game mechanics were so over-the-top, to which Sugano replied that he wanted to make that aspect stand out.
The fantasy setting of Agarest War was also brought up, and Sugano explained that he took his inspiration from works like Lord of the Rings. He had also noticed that many recent RPG games like Final Fantasy were trending toward modern settings, and so Sugano chose to return to the fantasy style of older RPGs. Sugano said that the most difficult aspects of creating this fantasy setting involved the initial design of the game's overworld.
The discussion then moved on to character design, with Hirano explaining that for him, characters were developed simultaneously the the overall game world so that they would fit into the scheme.
Xie also asked about speciifc characters in the game such as Ellis, Eugene and Friedelinde, looking into the creators' motivations for creating each of their unique personality traits and storylines.
The discussion then turned to Agarest War's mature aspects—the "ero scenes" and how they were integrated into the game.
"[Ero scenes] are very healthy," said Sugano, which was met with laughter and applause. He continued by explaining that the unique "Soul Breeding" mechanic of Agarest, which results in a multi-generational storyline, is about bringing out the nature of the game's heroines "in their purest form."
More racy humor came up with the game's suggestive "food scenes," and Sugano said that, since eating is a necessary part of life, it is also necessary to the game. Thus, these scenes were intended to bring out each heroine's personality in the way she eats.
At this point the panel was opened up to audience questions.
On a technical note about the game's programming, Sugano said that ActiveAnimation is used for 2D graphics, which enables natural motion and lip-syncing for the game's characters.
On the subject of the game's Soul Breed system, Sugano said that the inspiration for this came from his realization that all other RPGs had only "single generations of characters that don't evolve." Thus, Sugano chose to expand on that and make his game unique, creating a world in which each succeeding generation would alter the roster of main characters.
Sugano was also asked about the battle system, and said that he chose to change it for Record of Agarest War 2 in order to set it apart from previous games in the franchise. Another attendee also asked why the strongest attacks during battle always ended in fireballs "like Dragon Ball Z." Sugano said that while he is a fan of that series, he basically intended the fireballs to be an emphasis point for the highest-powered attack.
Some questions also came up about other gaming platforms. At this time Sugano is interested in the upcoming Playstation Vita system,, and said that "this is up to you guys"—he wants fans to send in their requests if they are interested in an Agarest game for Vita.
Another attendee asked about the possibility of an Agarest game for PC, to which Hirano said that there wasn't much demand for PC games in Japan, with consoles like PS3 and XBox 360 being the dominant market. However, this also implied the question that the PC platform would allow for an R-18 game, and to this Sugano responded that he "would be interested" but wanted to stress the point that Idea Factory makes "healthy games" (which got plenty of laughter again).
Storyline development was another area of interest for fans. The reason for a prequel (Record of Agarest War Zero) being created before the sequel (Record of Agarest War 2) was because Japanese fans wanted to know more about the game world's back-story. Sugano also talked about the overall creative process, saying that the game world was designed first, followed by plot and characters. This process became easier for Zero, since the basic elements were already in place from the first game.
Japan's recent legal crackdown on inappropriate content was also a point of concern given the game's racy elements, and Sugano tried to explain himself as best he could. He said that the underage girls in the game were designed to be "healthy" and "cute," while the mature characters had a "fullness of womanhood" but were "covered up where necessary." As long as one has the intentions of creating "art," however, Sugano felt that this kind of content should be OK.
The last audience question got a lot of laughs: the inexplicable tendency for the game's main heroes to only produce sons. Sugano admitted that he was gearing Record of Agarest War towards a primarily males audience, and felt that a female lead character would alienate the player.
The audience's cheerful mood showed that they enjoyed meeting the creators and getting to know more about the Agarest War franchise.