So just what did The Killa, Iga, and Suda 51 have to say?
Koji Igarashi, current producer of the Castlevania series, gave a talk development of 2-D games and the benefits of developing 2-D games compared to 3-D games. He lamented that 2-D is becoming niche with 3-D the primary focus of the market, making success harder to achieve, but still enjoys making 2-D games and remains convinced that 2-D games will always be around.
Iga explained that with 2-D games, developers don’t have to worry about a camera, and that control is more direct. Timing, distance, and positioning are more precise in 2-D games, allowing players to know their situation exactly. The lack of a real camera speeds up development time, but also doesn’t allow for some of the more interesting views provided in 3-D.
Iga described the Castlevania series’ use of pixel art, back to the NES when palettes were limited to four colors, up to the Nintendo DS, which can support up to 256 colors. The character sizes tend to remain the same so that the artists can base their work on the same assets. Symphony of the Night serves as the benchmark that they are always trying to exceed.
In regards to asset creation, Iga estimates that pixel art on smaller screens takes half of the time that 3-D models and animation takes. He also thinks that the results tend to turn out better in 2-D work even with a smaller team. Pixel artists work on entire characters rather than having the job split into modelers, texture designers, animators, and effects artists as is the case in 3-D games. However, with HD resolution systems, pixel art requires larger designers and in turn, more fluid animation, which pushes development time well past that of 3-D. In this case, other methods of 2-D design are necessary. While a dying breed, Iga believes that the industry will always have a need for pixel artists because good pixels artists have a total understanding of both art and animation, and thus end up working well with non-pixel assets.
Iga loves the linear style of the original Castlevania. However, he also believes that the newer “Metroidvania" games are enjoyed by a wider audience and wishes to develop games that everyone can enjoy. The reason the series has taken an anime look in recent games is two-fold. First, he believes that the proportions of anime characters work better on a small screen like those found on the Nintendo DS. Furthermore, he finds vampires beautiful rather than scary and wishes to convey this message to players as well as appealing to a younger audience.
During the Q&A session, Iga was asked what he thought of Nintendo’s use of Friend Codes. He said that while this system does put up a barrier for gamers, he also appreciates the reality that many online players are rude and this works as a partial solution. As for the Wii and Nintendo DS Wi-Fi capabilities, his team is currently experimenting with them. With so many 2-D platforms available, including the DS and Virtual Console, he believes that 2-D gaming will never die, a comment that resulted in cheers from the audience.