March 15, 2021 - Masato Kato, MinnMax
Done via a translator live; principally covers Another Eden. Find it here.
Quick and dirty transcript:
Thank you for being here! Really appreciate.
Really looking forward to it as well.
Congratulations on Another Eden. What are you most proud of with this project?
Since I first started working on this project, ti's been 6 years. I've been working with the staff in the graphics, the music, the programming, and the staff is actually very young. So I'm very proud of the fact that we have, kind of, put together all of these young talents into one project, and I am very proud of that and I hope that the users enjoy this game and will also enjoy this as well.
I imagine that a lot of the young staff are fans of your work in the past. Do they ask you questions about your work in the past?
Well, maybe they're scared of me, but they really don't ask too many questions.
Why would they be scared of you?
Well, maybe I'm so focused on my work, maybe there's an aura that I can't be approached when I'm concentrating on my work.
Is it difficult to find the financial support to create an RPG like the ones you're interested in creating these days?
I personally never found it very difficult, and I think it's a matter of skill and what your'e trying to achieve. For example, if you're looking to make something that is Hollywood level, open world, stunning graphics, etc. that does involve a lot of budget, and it involves some risks taken. But for a game like Another Eden, the initial concept was that we wanted to try and bring back that nostalgic feeling of games on the NES, for example, kind of that era of gaming, and we wanted to bring the fun that was in that old style of RPG back. And when I started working on Another Eden, the team was actually only ten people, so it really reminded me of the days when I was developing for games on the NES.
What do you feel that modern games are missing this, that games back on the NES had?
So I hope I don't get in trouble for saying this, but we've made a lot of strides in technology for gaming, visually and also in terms of data processing that games can use -- huge advancements, for music and for graphics, a lot of games are stunning in those aspects. But I do kind of worry that developers may be focusing too much on those aspects, and maybe focusing less on the actual innate fun of the game itself, bringing innovation to the core game, and so I do think that there needs to be more focus brought back to the core game and the fun aspect.
And you feel like that came through with Another Eden? To the finish line, you've maintained that focus on core gameplay?
Hopefully, but I do think it's up to the players to decide that.
So I'm curious -- you said you were brought on when around 10 people were working on the project -- did they pitch you? How did the process work for you teaming up with this team?
So, actually, at that time, I was kind of looking for something new to do, and I wanted to start fresh with people that I hadn't met before in a new environment. so I was actually open to working on something new, and what I actually did was go on the Internet, and posted "Hey, I'm looking for a new project to work on," and luckily WFS reached out to me, and I went and talked to them, and the project kind of started from me meeting people that I had never met before. And this is actually how I've started a lot of my projects in the past. And when I talked to WFS, they actually told me they were working on a time traveling story, and that's what they wanted to work with me on. And for me, I was actually sick of writing about time travel stories, since it's something I'm so familiar with, so we actually had kind of a fight over it, but that's how it started. After I joined WFS, I joined this small team that was actually just starting this project. And in this project, there was the former producer of another game with developing games in the past. And the rest of the staff were all in their 20s and had not made a single game befor. So when I met them, I was like, are you serious? But they were very excited about this concept of making a time travel game. And I was so surprised, and like I said before, I didn't want to work on this project at all, and so we had a lot of clashes and I basically said I didn't want to do it. But the producer and director were very adamant on working on this project, and also because of my background, they definitely wanted me to work on this concept. So in the end, I kind of gave in, and that's how Another Eden started.
So it just came from a place of, you didn't want that clear marketing connection of "It's the spiritual successor to Chrono Trigger!' You wanted something more fresh and new originally?
So of course I didn't just want to create a copy of Chrono Trigger, and do the same thing. As a creative person, I do want to work on new concepts, and since in the end we did decide to work on this time travel story, I did want to take a different approach even with the same thing, and I feel that with Another Eden, I achieved that.
So even if you weren't passionate about time travel to begin with, it seems from my point of view, it definitely seems that you're a writer interested in big themes like fate, and god, and identity -- are those still your main passions, or is it a coincidence that these keep coming up again and again?
So I don't think it necessarily has to do with time travel or me as a creative person. Those things you mentioned about fate, god, and identity -- those have to do with, kind of how we live our lives as humans, and through my experience of reflecting back on my life and reflecting on how I've lived up to this point, I think it's natural that I would come back to these themes.
You're still somebody obsessed with focusing on the big picture issues?
Rather than me pushing my idea of my life onto players, I always think that I would like the players to play the game to think for themselves and also ask themselves these questions, and it's easy for me to kind of say, hey, this is my experience; this is what I think about life, but I think it's important for players to kind of reflect on themselves, and I would also like to hear their ideas. So I hope that my story kind of asks each person individually, "What do you think about these themes? And here's what I think, but I also want to hear from you."
It makes me think of, in Chrono Trigger, there's this ongoing mystery of the Entity, or some large mysterious force or spirit, that's controlling the events of the game, and the game itself is like a way for the Entity to understand itself. Do you want to talk about some of the inspiration for these ideas in the past, and what intrigued you about that idea?
I think what you're referring to, I took inspiration from the stars as something that symbolizes the collection of life on earth.
So the stars is what he saw as the larger Entity on earth?
Sorry, that was a mistranslation. The planet that they are on. Kind of like Mother Earth. They are not necessarily on "earth", of course.
So it's a way for the characters in Chrono Trigger to be a viewpoint for the earth to understand itself and its own nature?
I think there are moments in our lives when we kind of acknowledge that there is a higher power that humans can't necessarily understand, whether it's nature or time; something that doesn't change, and there are moments when the characters kind of fall upon those entities, and whether or not we as humans can fully understand it is a separate question, but I do think there are times that we acknowledge the existence of these powers. I think that some people might interpret this as spiritual or religious, but I don't necessarily think that's the case; I think it's something all humans can experience. Life has been on this planet for a very long time -- not just humans, but also plants and animals -- and they are born into this world, and then they die, and as one person, you're only part of this existence, and I think there is a moment in which anyone can feel that they are part of this bigger picture.
In your own life, what got you interested in these topics? Are there certain books, or pieces of media that attracted you to thinking about these things?
So, I don't think it's any event or thing in particular that led me to think about this, but kind of thinking through myself, I think it came from a hope I have that everyone does want to be kind of one with the planet they live on, and also friends with the planet, and there are a lot of people living on this earth and people who have been here in the past or who will be here in the future, and i want to hope that people want to feel connected to the people who came before them and the people who will come after.
How do you try to reconnect with the planet when you feel disconnected; where do you go, or what do you do?
I hope we're not getting too sidetracked. What I usually enjoy is kind of going to the mountains, and kind of sitting by myself, deep in thought, and maybe going to the beach, and watching the waves. But these days I feel that I don't necessarily have to go out of my way to go to those places; being connected and living your normal life, you can still stay connected to the world.
It all sounds a lot like the concept of the lifestream from Final Fantasy 7. Was that a contribution of yours to that project, or what did you focus on when working on Final Fantasy 7?
The lifestream in particular was written by Nojimasa, who wrote the story of FF7; he came up with the concept, and I was kind of helping the team out. But I think that for many game players who are in the RPG fantasy space, who have given some thought to kind of looking at the world perspective, a lot of us tend to be kind of romantic in that way, in that we tend to think about similar concepts, and we have these fantasies. It's not like that I've had that particular discussion Nojimasa or other creators; I think that we if we do actually sit down and talk about it, it could actually get quite deep.
Are you still dealing with these themes with Another Eden, in your writing?
So in Another Eden, there's no similar focus to the planet itself that the characters are on, but of course there are these different eras in the game, and there is an entire world in the game. And as the story progresses, I think we've gotten closer to a kind of Entity that guards over the flow of time, and controls it.
What were the new areas you were exploring with Another Eden?
For new concepts in Another Eden, as I discussed before, since we were taking on the theme of time travel again, I wanted to take a different approach, and in Chrono Trigger, this story was that characters would change history for a better future, and in Chrono Cross, it was kind of flipped, where the future that was lost comes back to kind of haunt you in a way. And when I was thinking of a new way to approach the time travel theme in Another Eden, we thought of a different concept, where the characters would work to save the future that was lost; our lost future.
Are you excited for a whole new audience on Steam to check out Another Eden?
I couldn't wait for the Steam version to come out. I was very excited to release on Steam. Initially when I first launched the game, we heard from peopel who wanted to experience this story and RPG on home on their big screens, and I am aware that there are a lot of people like that. So for me, I can't wait for people to get their hands on it, and get it into the hands of RPG fans who prefer to play in their own home on the big screen. And I'm excited, and I think the team is very excited is well.
Where do you look for feedback on the game? Do you google your own name a lot, read fan theories and all that?
I actually never search for my own name. I am afraid I would get hurt, so I am afraid to do that.
I'm scared to let you know this, but there are a lot of people online who are a big fan of yours. There are a lot of good things out there.
Thank you very much.
If I may ask one fan question -- one dorky question -- there are a lot of people online who are trying to figure out the connections between Chrono Trigger's Lavos, and FF7's JENOVA, both being these monsters who came from the stars. Are there connections in your mind between these that have come up?
See, that's never come up for me. Nojimasa was the brains behind the FF7 project, and I was helping out some of the script with the lifestream, but he was behind thew hole concept.
So you're both just scared of some monster from beyond the stars?
I'm not sure; you'll have to ask Nojimasa.
Do you feel chained down by your past? By nerds like me who keep asking this stuff?
It's a rare opportunity that I get to speak with the fans, so it's not really a burden.
Off the top of your head, how many Chrono Cross characters do you think you could name right now?
I can list as many as I can. Do you want me to?
Do you think you could get all of them?
Maybe not all of them.
Okay, in the 30 range.
I've never tried. I think I can. (Tries a few, but the translator doesn't know.)
In the future, I'm curious, if you had infinite money, what type of game would you like to make?
A few concepts I've been thinking of -- a horror game that doesn't depend on any visuals.
An audio-only horror game.
Something that doesn't depend on grotesque visuals, or shocking visuals; something that appeals more to the emotions. And another concept I've been thinking of -- I don't have the specifics yet -- but a game that's focused on music.
Like creating music?
And also maybe, the player can enjoy music with other players; something like that.
Do you think Mitsuda would be interested in working with you on that one?
I'd love to work with Mitsuda-san on that, and his studio, Procyon Studio. And actually before COVID, we had Another Eden live event, with a full band playing music, and it was a lot of fun for me, and I would love to collaborate with them again on other projects as well.
So are you interested in pitching new video games around? What is the pitch process like for you?
Right now, I think I'm busy with Another Eden. We're approaching the 4th anniversary in Japan, and we're finishing up Part II of the story. And we're already thinking of Part III, and how I want to go about it. And for the rest of the staff, they focus on putting out fun content every month, whether it's quests, or new games within the game. And we did a cross-over with other titels, like Persona 5, and the fans really loved the crossovers; it was kind of a fresh take, and so I would love to work on new content that is very fun for fans.
How does that crossover content come about? Is it because people at these studios are big fans of your work, and they immediately pick up the call?
Our talented young staff, they speak to other studios and if it's the right fit for Another Eden, and if we think that it'll be fun content for our players to enjoy, we would start speaking with them and creating these new stories.
Do you feel like the legendary game designer that you are? Do you feel liek that papreciation is hitting home at times?
I've never really thought of myself in that way. Actually, I didn't know the word legend in English, until I joined the Another Eden team, and people referred to me in that way. But I think that as game creators, everyone is equal, no matter your experience, or your age, or your gender. I think that our team is a great team in the way that people don't really set boundaries or are too shy to say things to other staff. For example, for me, when I was writing the script and I wrote a line by Fienne, Aldo's little sister in the game, the other staff would actually reject it and say "Hey, Fienne wouldn't say something like this!" And they would correct me. We're all equal in that sense, as creative people; we kind of have equal footing on the team.
What's been the most meaningful feedback that you've received about Another Eden so far?
I think that feedback about Fienne's line was surprising to me; shocking; you know, this was a character that I created, so I'm not sure why other people -- in that moment I was upset that other people were critiquing me (laughs)
A character like Cyrus -- did that come from the team before you got there as well, or did you want to bring back a Frog hero?
For Another Eden, a concept for the story all started when I joined the team, so I wrote the story from scratch, and the characters as well, including Cyrus. When I was making the characters, I thought "obviously, we need a frog," so that's how Cyrus came about.
So you were sick of time travel, but you weren't sick of frogs.
I personally love frogs. SO I felt that we have to have a frog in the game. And I felt that Cyrus is an innocuous game to give him.
Just perfect. Well hey, I have one quick question for you, before we bow out of here.
I'm curious, with your connections, fi you played the Final Fantasy 7 remake, and what you thought of it.
I actually haven't played it yet.
That's fine! Get Another Eden out on Steam, and then relax, and enjoy that game.
I'm looking forward to it!
Thank you so much for your time today, and for all your hard work throughout your entire career. Youv'e had a huge impact on a lot of people out there.
Thank you, and I hope you enjoy Another Eden.