I was lucky enough to find a moment to sit down with Grasshoper Studio’s legendary writer Suda 51, and talk about Indie games, Nintendo and hear Suda’s tips on becoming a games writer.
When creating games, do you always consider the potential of a franchise, or is a singular story the first and foremost priority and then you go about developing from there?
Suda: I don’t necessarily think about making a franchise, I think if it happens that’s great – I’ll be happy, but when I create a game I always think about building a good story and the experience.
Many have compared Killer is Dead to your previous work, Killer 7 and No More Heroes, suggesting it as a form of a spiritual successor, yet you’ve said this is not the case. Can you confirm there are no ties to the games at all, outside of an occasional reference?
Suda: The story itself is completely independent and separate, but at the same time a lot of the staff members are veterans in our team, and a lot of them worked on Killer 7 and No More Heroes and they still have lots of love and passion for those IPs. A lot of the ideas [for Killer Is Dead] sort of come from those titles, and I think they free styled and improvised – the whole team kind of had that vibe and that environment to be free and do what they wanted to do [with the game].
Speaking of Killer 7 and No More Heroes, these are arguably your two most beloved games and were released first on Nintendo platforms. Are you planning on bringing any of your games to Nintendo platforms like Wii U in the future?
Suda: Yeah of Course, it’s a possibility. I guess we haven’t really announced anything yet for Wii U, but for 3DS we had Liberation Maiden.. consoles from Nintendo are always very important to us.
Coming to an end of a generation, the lineup of games leading into Xbox One and PS4 is a very diverse palette. How would you evaluate this generation, in your mind? What did it get right? What could it have done better?
Suda: That’s tough! (laughs) The current consoles are still hot, they’re still alive too, so I don’t know.
I guess what’s more important is the video game itself and not the platform its on, and I think its really important to be able to have the chance to play all kinds of different games – not just mega AAA titles but indie games [too].
You know, Indie games are not necessarily poorly made, I think now a days we are shifting towards the era where you get to play all kinds of different games of different sizes – but they are all equally [as] good.
There’s an increasing demand on people with talented writing abilities to have some form of coding experience or game design background in order to break into the industry. I know things were different for you and so, in your mind, do you feel writing should remain a separate skill from programming? Should developers do more to look for raw talent and vision than expect a jack-of-all-trades? What advice would you impart to aspiring writers wanting to get into the industry?
Suda: Really? It’s the era of coding now for the writer?!
(laughs) I mean that, in order to break into the industry these days you almost have to have these technical skills to get your foot in the door at a development studio.
Suda: I think its nice to have multiple skills. I’ve been in the industry for twenty years, and at the beginning you didn’t really have so many of staff members – the first project [I worked on] maybe only had five people, so one person really did a lot.
If you think about it, a writer .. they don’t really produce or create anything physical so I guess having a skill is good, so you can create something physical. The important thing is to contribute to the project and you know, how much you can contribute to the product. Having different skills are really good, I didn’t necessarily even have to write at the beginning but no one was writing so – I started writing. I also worked on designing some parts and so forth, so being able to contribute to a project with multiple skills is really good.
….But now that you mentioned [it] I was writing scripts a little bit, but it was really really simple [back then] – its probably a lot more complicated now a days!
From humble beginnings to greater things..
Suda: (pats belly) what my stomach?! (laughs)