Interview: God Eater's Yusuke Tomizawa

by Gabriella Ekens,

A long-time employee at Bandai Namco Entertainment, Yosuke Tomizawa is best known as the producer for the God Eater franchise. The God Eater games feature co-op multiplayer monster hunting within a story-focused experience. He is currently working on a new game, Code:Vein, which applies a similar aesthetic to a different genre, a Dark Souls-style coupling of environmental exploration and challenging real-time combat. Tomizawa recently sat down with us to discuss his work on God Eater and Code Vein.

Compared to jobs such as director and writer, most people don't have a concrete idea of what a producer's job entails. In light of this, could you tell us a little bit about your role on God Eater?

TOMIZAWA: God Eater turns seven this year, and I've been producer for all that time, but now I am the general producer. For the next God Eater project, I'm working overview for the game overall, and my team is responsible for putting it together, as a producer. However, I'm not only doing this overview for the game's content like a producer, but as general producer I'm also handling the smartphone games, event promotion, and merchandising overall for the franchise.

Can you tell us a little bit about your role in developing these games? Were you involved from the beginning or did you come in at a later point?

I joined this project after it had been live for about one and a half years. At that time, they didn't have a title or visual concepts. After I joined, we decided on a title and designed characters, wardrobe, settings, and put together animations and other stuff for promotion, including a manga. So the game as such became what it is now after I joined. It's not that I was part of the team from the beginning, but I joined before it was completed and released as it is now.

So now you're head of a new project, Code Vein. Who came up with that concept and how was it developed?

I was part of this project from the beginning. Me and the director Yoshimura have been working together for seven years on the God Eater project and we wanted to make something new, so that resulted in Code Vein. As for Code Vein, I'm not the producer like in God Eater. I have a higher position, so you can call it like Supervisor or Chief Producer, one level up. We've not yet decided on a title for my job.

Oh, okay. Super producer.

(in English) Nice. (laughs)

What sort of experience do you want players to get out of Code Vein?

This is completely different from God Eater, we wanted to present an action RPG. So it will be hard to survive, and it's a very challenging game. Your protagonist will have a buddy, and you can choose together how to explore the world of Code Vein, where you will share the joy and the pain in everything you explore there.

The buddy system seems very interesting. It seems like you're intended to form a very close connection with your buddy. How are you going to go about helping the player form that connection?

So we cannot give all the details now, but the buddy helps you to survive in this dungeon. When you play with an NPC, each character has their own story and by knowing all their story, you can develop their personality and acquire a closer connection to your buddy. And then the player can feel what your buddy is feeling.

So are you putting a lot of emphasis into detailed, unique animations for each buddy? Things to make them seem very distinct and lifelike?

Every character really is unique and we try to express that in unique ways. But unfortunately, we cannot tell any details yet.

Will the game have multiplayer, whether competitive or co-op, if you can tell us?

There will be some kind of multiplayer.

Can you tell us a little bit about what type of story you want to tell with Code Vein?

We have this creature called a “revenant,” it's a kind of vampire. They lost their memories from when they were still human. They would like to gain those memories back. There's a theme of gaining the humanity in oneself back, where they are entrapped in this vein world and they want to realize what it means to be human again and why they are in this vein world. So on the one hand, we are developing the characters, and on the other, we are developing the main story about this vein world, those two extremes of internal and external story developed together. And there are the enemies called “losts.” They used to be revenants, and before that they were humans, obviously. So you have to fight against your former colleagues, and this fight is difficult.

The world design of vein seems very interesting, especially how you're passing through a lot of tube-like areas. Will this be a common thing in the game? Trying to recreate the imagery of veins in the aesthetic?

It's very interesting that you made this kind of association, it's interesting to know where you got that exactly from which parts of the trailers you saw. Actually, we have many locations in the game, we have old cities with thrones and post-apocalyptic landscapes. Why this world is called vein is something that you have to discover in the game. So here you will see a cave setting, but there is a snowy environment too. Everything sticks together in different ways to form a multi-layered world.

God Eater received an anime adaptation. Are you interested in doing something similar with Code Vein?

As producer, absolutely, it would be great. We have put so much effort into the story and the characters, so it would be great for an anime. I think it's not possible before we launch the game, but if we find a partner who wants to do that, sure. We showed this image to one animator and he said, “I don't want to draw those details, never.”

The initial trailer was very interesting and beautiful.

That trailer was before we had all the concepts finished, and we just wanted to show what kind of world we're going to offer. The one you saw was actually cut together by the American production team. This partnership with the US promotion team was also very exciting for us. God Eater was mainly created for Japan, but we're looking to go worldwide with Code Vein. So we're looking forward to more collaboration.

You mentioned that you're planning to give Code Vein a worldwide simultaneous release. What are the difficulties and benefits of doing that?

There are quite a lot of difficulties, starting with localization. We have like erotic scenes or violence which are handled differently in different countries. So the interesting part is considering those differences during the creative process. For example, we didn't have the masks the revenants are wearing at the beginning. But regarding the worldwide market, I think it was the French team who suggested that everybody have a mask to make some things more clear.

So the teams from other countries are having direct input into what goes into the games? What is that like?

When we discuss things with other countries' teams, we get some perspectives we don't get from our Japanese team. Of course, it's not possible to include every opinion, because we want Code Vein to remain a game with uniquely Japanese art and origins. But for what we can mix together, we would surely like to respect the communications we have with other countries. This process is so exciting and the results are very impressive.

Is it particularly difficult to think about foreign language voiceover and scripting possibilities before the game has even come out for a Japanese audience? That seems like it's pretty daunting to me, I've only seen it achieved by like Nintendo and things like that for Pokemon.

We've been wanting to do this worldwide producing for a few years. It definitely requires a lot of preparation. Before, you would sell it in Japan, and after that you would think about “how do I make it a worldwide success?” But now we're thinking from the beginning about how to make it succeed in the world outside of Japan. Regarding God Eater, the first one was published in the US last year, and that was a gap of a couple years. But we're happy that the players accepted that and they loved the game. We wanted to spread it worldwide at that time. It was one big issue we wanted to solve with Code Vein, otherwise we would just feel frustrated.

How many languages will this be released in? You mentioned French and I presume English. Are there any others for this world-wide release?

For voiceover, we only have Japanese and English. But for text localization, we have nine languages so far: English, French, Italian, German, European Spanish, Latin American Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, and Korean. That's just for now though.

Wow. Can you also tell us more about Code Vein's unique genre of Dramatic Exploring Action RPG?

So you have the “dramatic” at the head of that title, but exploration-based action RPGs are a hot topic nowadays. There are so many titles that do this famously. We thought that a core audience of players like this kind of genre, so we wanted to add the dramatical aspect to it. A focus on interaction with characters and creating drama would put new features into the exploration action RPG genre. One of the big factors to this is giving a buddy to the player, so you can develop drama and experiences with another character. That's a great difference from the action RPGs already out there.

It reminds me a little of Dark Souls, but with more of a direct story base and characters. Everyone in Dark Souls is a little more anonymous. Here, you can become friends and get to know the person you're fighting with deeply.

Exactly, the non-anonymous part is important. For your protagonist, you can make the character your own. So it's more like an anime—you can create a cool character of different kinds, so the protagonist is not just a macho musclehead like some default strong characters. It's more like Japanese manga or anime, starting with a simple cool guy you can mold from the beginning. That's what we adapted from God Eater. The protagonist can be like you, and you're just a normal person. That's one feature that contributes to the “dramatic” part. In the game, we have many scenes where you can clearly see your own face. So you can feel that it's really you playing this. We have lots of real-time cut-scenes.

So on your part, what type of games did you play growing up?

My parents didn't buy me an NES, so I had the family computer, and a friend gave me three games that I repeatedly played. Only three games. But after that I was into Sega. I love lots of Sega games. I love the Shining series, and really far too many. Most of Sega's games. Assault Suit Leynos, which is kind of sci-fi action. And oh, I love Sonic. I had only Sega, and everyone else was enjoying Mario and Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. But a Sega fan cannot play those games. So my hero was Sonic, and even now he is my hero.

Do you feel the games you work on are inspired by Sonic the Hedgehog?

I'm not sure, but well, after the Dreamcast, Sonic became 3D, and at that time I had quit games, I was not playing games. But when I saw the Dreamcast, I instantly came back to playing. So Sonic left a big impression on me, especially in terms of animation. If you've heard of the Sega CD, that was a concept to put the Mega CD-ROM on your Sega. Using those CD-ROMs, the games became more animated, like in the Tales Of games today, you have a lot of animation, but many Sega CD games were even moreso. One of those games is Yumimi Mix, there was a lot of animation in that game. You have more storytelling games nowadays, and it was like the pioneer of that. I also like movies and anime, so I like to tell stories in ways that others will enjoy through the characters they control. Only using cutscenes is not the way to do this. I prefer to tell the story through the gaming.

Have there been any games you played recently that you liked?

Life is Strange. There are a lot I've played recently that I still remember, and I'm looking forward for the new sequel to Life is Strange. It's exactly the kind of dramatic storytelling part I explained wanting to do before. It's very cool. The makers of that game, Don't Nod, have made a new game called Vampyr, and I'm looking forward to that too.

You mentioned there's a new God Eater game planned. Is there anything that you're really excited for people to see about that game, when you can release more details?

Unfortunately, we can say much less about the new God Eater game than we can talk about Code Vein. God Eater had been a series of developing the content step by step with each game. But in the new one, we will start from zero and make everything new. So it's taking a lot of time, but the player will be very satisfied by the result. The series started as a PSP game, which is quite outdated by today's standards. So we wanted to make something completely new this time.

Thanks to Anime Expo for this opportunity.

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