Welcome to the first part of our Little King's Story developer feature. We start of with famed director Yashiro Kimura, creator of Japanese classics such as Chu♥lip and World Neverland.
1. How did you first become involved with Marvelous and where did the idea for Little King's Story come from?
It's all because of my relationship with Yasuhiro Wada. It's because of him that I'm here at Marvelous.
That relationship goes back to when I was working with this small team making games for Love-de-Lic. I first met him over dinner to discuss "Chu♥lip". Then I met him again about three or four years later when I was down on my luck and he offered me two difficult seeming projects.
Those were No More Heroes and Little King's Story.
Before I knew it I'd been a long time working at Marvelous.
Although I am a bit of a wanderer, and I doubt anyone will believe me, but I so have a bond with this company. I love Marvelous. It's true.
2. What did the working title of Project O mean?
Well, the Japanese word for King is "Oh", so it was mostly just a pun. It can also mean zero, which in this case meant starting a game from scratch and going back to basics. That's why we called it "Project O".
3. How did you recruit the rest of the "Samurai Six"? Why did you pick them and did you have any difficulty convincing them to join the team?
Well, that's complicated.
I was introduced by Wada-san to a company called CING where Yasunaga-san was working. We spoke about playing the games we each made back in the PS1 days, and I really felt like he was a man of my generation.
Then, I called Minaba-san out to a bar one night with the intention of signing him up for the project. As I was a little tipsy I found myself feeling a little bashful, which made it difficult for me to ask him to join our team. (Lol)
Then we asked Kurashima-san to come out to drink and I remember getting excited and saying, "Lets make a game to rival Animal March! But lets make it about a castle made of vegetables!" That's about as much as I remember though because I was arse-over-tits by that time. Kurashima-san's been my drinking buddy for a long time.
How ever you look at it, this is just a group of friends, really.
Oh yeah, now I remember... we were going to have a vegetable castle, with Princess Tomato and Prince Cabbage, and Baron Potato and Sir Turnip! Everyone was going to have veggies for heads! How about that?
4. What exactly did Yasuhiro Wada request for the game design and why did you decide to make an RTS?
Wada-san said a lot of things to me, but eventually I had this strong feeling that he was just saying, "Kimura-san, please just do it, full stop." I was impressed with his ability to get people to do things. Left alone, I'd have had to think for myself... I like his way better. The project was suffused with the expectation that I'd gather everyone, plan it all out, and manage everything. Anyway, after listening to his requests, I was basically given control to take the project in any direction I wanted.
Later, he was telling me things like, "If something comes up, I want you to deal with it." What that meant to me, was that he really trusted me. I doubt he remembers saying it though.
Thinking back, I kind of wonder if I had actually considered that I'd be staying on-site way out in Fukuoka.
Well, I'm still single, and like I said earlier, I'm a wanderer, so I was used to riding on airplanes. Wada-san might have even been thinking that he he'd just get me to commute between Tokyo and Fukuoka.
Oh by the way, this game isn't an RTS. I've tried explaining this in the past, but ... I want to say that it's like RPG meets Human Cannonball. You fire your men at the enemy. So it's a shooting game.
5. How much influence did Nintendo's Pikmin have on the design of Little King's Story?
To be honest, the concept came from a totally unrelated place. Does it really look that similar? Really?
If you play it you'll understand that it really is a totally different game.
Having it compared to Pikmin really makes me happy though, because that's an excellent game.
Also, even though I've never met him in person, I have a lot of respect for Shigeru Miyamoto. I'd like to meet him and pick his brain.
6. Your previous game, Chulip, had a very interesting concept but never achieved widespread appeal. What did you learn from this experience?
I can say with great confidence that you won't find another game like it in the world. I did with it what only I could do. I really don't think anyone else could have come up with the same world view. On my own account I think it was full of originality.
On the other hand the game lacked polish. I would have liked to make it easier to play, and improve the quality of the game system.
Once I have a proven effective methodology in place I'd like to do a re-make of "Chu♥lip", but set it in old New York or something.
7. Development duties are split between Cing and Town Factory. Please can you explain exactly what each studio is doing? And could you give some background on Town Factory? They're not very well known here.
Town Factory is handling the programming and CG aspects, while CING is handling the planning and data work.
However, that division of labour gradually changed, and now we are all working as a one development team in a one room in a building at CING.
And it's not just those two companies who are working on this. Shirogumi is doing the movies, and we've got Delphi Sound and Vanpool working on the sound. There's a lot of experimentation happening, and I want to think everyone for their work in overcoming many obstacles.
8. Can you tell us why Kawaguchi-san left the project and if you made any changes once you took over as director?
I'm sorry but I don't want to comment this.
9. What can you tell us about the overall feel of the game? What experience do you want LKS players to have and is there a message to the story?
You really feel like The King when you play. Everyone in the game calls you king and gives you their respect... well, I guess they have to since they are in your service. They will happily work overtime to please you. As the leader you'll send those same people into battle and experience both the happiness and the sorrow that comes with leading.
I want everyone to get a taste of what it's like to be a king.
The theme of the game is "Love and Peace". While making this game I was thinking seriously about the silliest things and I came to the realisation that I am a peaceful and loving person.
At a glance it looks like a children's game, but I'd like adults to try it out as well. It's chock-full of love, peace, fantasy, and irony. My favourite characters are the "Carefree Adults". What's so wrong about living without a care?!
10. How difficult has it been to direct the game, considering that it is being developed by two teams in separate parts of Japan?
The parts that were difficult were setting up our development environment and communicating what we wanted to do. That was extremely difficult, but it was only the beginning of our challenges.
My dream is to collaborate with game makers from around the world, so I couldn't allow myself to give up just going from Tokyo to Fukuoka. I'd like to put all the lessons I've learned to use on future projects.
11. Considering that there are many high-profile creators involved in the development, does Little King's Story reflect the personalities of all those people or is there one consistent vision? If so, how do you maintain that singular vision?
Yes, of course. Nobody starts working until they've understood what we want accomplish. First, we had to establish a direction, so I talked a lot with everyone about my vision of a cute, but dark game.
By the way, good creators push their own ideas even when they are working in a group. Sometimes they have great ideas that can take a project in a new direction. I think everyone who worked on this project left their mark on it.