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Iwata Asks: In Commemoration, Part 11 - Dragon Quest VII

Dragon Quest VII, Part 4 - “I Just Kind of Know, You Know”

by the NWR Staff - September 14, 2016, 6:40 am EDT

Part 4 of Dragon Quest VII.

4. “I Just Kind of Know, You Know”

Iwata - Since Mashima-san has brought up the concept of what exactly is “Dragon Quest”-like, may I ask just what everyone thinks about that? Just what is it that makes “Dragon Quest” what it is? It may not be the easiest thing to have to answer in front of Horii-san, but…

Fujimoto - Not easy at all. (laughs)

Iwata - Horii-san, feel free to chime in and scold anyone as you see fit!

Everyone - (laughs)

Fujimoto - This may not be exactly it, but when watching my daughter I’ve felt that, “This is kind of Dragon Quest-like”.

Iwata - Why is that?

Fujimoto - From the day she was born, literally everyday there’s something new happening, and seeing her have those experiences and continue to grow is just like that feeling of leveling up in “Dragon Quest.”

Iwata - The way that you just fight Slimes in the beginning a bit and suddenly you’re leveling up? (laughs)

Fujimoto - Yes (laughs). Once you hit level 10 or 20 a mid-boss appears, right? When that kind of thing happens in real life around my daughter there’s this feeling of accomplishment like defeating that boss. So it might be kind of an exaggeration, but you could say that “Dragon Quest” equals the way humans live.

Iwata - Speaking from that “Dragon Quest”-like viewpoint, what do you think is the correlation with the experience you’ve had this time?

Fujimoto - In that sense it’s just like the job changing we were discussing earlier. Just like in real life, all of your experiences are reset, so you tend to think long and hard about changing jobs, but the experiences you had up through then weren’t in vain, and you can find a new sense of fun in following the path that you’ve chosen all the way to its logical end.

Iwata - I see. When making that kind of change do you end up making the request to Horii-san that, “I’d like to do this, but would it be all right?”

Fujimoto - Yes. I thought of three different proposals for the job change system and at first they were all rejected…

Everyone - (laughs)

Iwata - But when Horii-san doesn’t feel that we’ve figured out a good way to do something yet, he’ll help figure out a solution with you. Everyone that has worked together with him has said as such.

Fujimoto - Right! There’s a lot of back and forth where he’ll propose, “By doing it this way the players would have a hard time, so what if we changed it like this?”

Iwata - Everyone has seen first hand how he arrives at answers almost as if they’ve come to him from the heavens, so they begin to realize that “this won’t work unless it’s Horii-san coming up with it.”

Fujimoto - Yes, exactly.

Iwata - Is that something that’s easy for you, Horii-san?

Horii - Well… I just kind of know… you know?

Everyone - (explodes in laughter)

Iwata - Even with this - “I just kind of know” - he has this persuasiveness. If that wasn’t the case it would be impossible to continue to have people say, “What he makes will definitely be fun,” about his games - for almost 30 years.

Mashima - Horii-san is of course a kind of genius in some ways, but there’s also a big part of him that makes you think that he's just as much a normal person as you and I. It’s like, even when deciding on something he doesn’t really go too in depth about it like a pro would…

Iwata - Regardless of just how knowledgable he is, he won’t band stand about it, but instead keep the feelings of people who are totally unknowledgeable in mind.

Mashima - He’s a genius with the sensibilities of a normal person (laughs). After making things in this industry for as long as he has, anyone would end up thinking about things using the industry standards, but he does a surprisingly good job of staying “normal.”

Fujimoto - During test plays he’ll ask, “Is that how people play?!” at a surprising frequency.

Iwata - I’m quite sure that most developers end up having difficulty being able to think about things from the viewpoint of someone who’s playing for the first time. I’ve thought several times when speaking with (Shigeru) Miyamoto-san at our company, “How is he able to notice these kinds of things?”

Fujimoto - I’m sure it’s the same.

Iwata - Having worked with Horii-san as long as you have, how do you see him, Sugimura-san?

Sugimura - I think he’s hard on himself. Normal developers will always have something they want to do, or have a certain way they’ll want the players to play, so they might not pay attention to the character standing in the corner of the town, for instance, but to be able to put so much feeling even into those portions that he’ll think, “There will be players that come here, so let’s make sure we pay proper attention to this, too,” makes me think of just how strict with himself he must be.

Iwata - By continuing on with that you can’t ever compromise.

Sugimura - Right. So in some sense, what I consider “Dragon Quest”-like is “paying the ultimate service to players.” I think it’s incredibly tough to continue doing that, but he’s never shown signs of suffering to the players or people around him.

Iwata - He certainly doesn’t give off any kind of aura like, “I’m pushing myself to the edge!”

Sugimura - But I bet that’s because his will to give people enjoyment is so incredibly deep.

Iwata - The words, “I just kind of know, you know,” sound as if they’ve come from someone who has been blessed with a gift, who just magically knows something without any effort - but Sugimura-san, having watched by his side, knows well that it’s not that simple.

Sugimura - Right.

Iwata - I feel like, having heard this, I can put into words one of the things that makes “Dragon Quest” what it is. That “the developers don’t prioritize themselves over the game.”

Fujimoto - Come to think of it, sometimes Horii-san will warn us, “You’re putting development circumstances above the game.”

Iwata - As long as you’re doing something on a computer, developers have different circumstances and limits they have to deal with. Ever since the time he made “Portopia” (※17) he’s experienced the harshness of working within those limits, but I think through “Dragon Quest” he’s always indicated that “those limits are irrelevant to the players.” So I think in some ways, making “Dragon Quest” is a kind of discipline that the developers have to adhere to.

※17 “Portopia”= “The Portopia Serial Murder Case.” An adventure game designed by Yuji Horii. Horii-san programmed, wrote the scenario and made the graphics for the original version and released it for the PC in 1983 by Enix (currently Square-Enix). It was then subsequently ported and released for the Famicom in 1985.

Sugimura - But it’s a wonderful discipline. It’s not something you can just brute force your way through.

Iwata - For “Dragon Quest” the number of players that accept and enjoy the game is a whole order of magnitude larger, so there’s a blissful honor in getting to make it. There’s no replacement for the happiness in having something you make spread so far through the world and make everyone smile. That’s why I think that Horii-san wouldn’t be able to go to these lengths - enough to shorten his own life, and then come back again and again if it weren’t for the voices of the fans.

Fujimoto - Horii-san feels what the players feel.

Horii - Yeah. I think I’m a pretty serious fan myself. I play quite a lot.

Everyone - (laughs)

Iwata - Maybe you know how a normal person would feel because you’ve always stayed a serious fan yourself. That wouldn’t always be a happy thing, but including all of it is what gives you hints that you need for the next one, as well as the energy that’s necessary.



KeyBillySeptember 15, 2016

Thank you!  These are always interesting, and this one has made me a lot more interested in DQ VII.

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