As the head of Team Ninja, game designer Tomonobu Itagaki is responsible for some of Japanese game developer Tecmo's biggest hits. Not only did he create the popular Dead or Alive (DOA) fighting series but he is also responsible for the rebirth of the Ninja Gaiden franchise on modern consoles.
Itagaki attended the final match of the North American Championship Gaming Series tournament on Monday night where received the opportunity to watch expert video game players compete against one another in his creation, Dead or Alive 4. Gaming Target sat down with Itagaki after the event. Wearing his signature sunglasses and a jacket out of an American western film, Itagaki was both humorous and informative on a number of subjects including his creation of the DOA series and his thoughts on the CGS tournament.
David Taylor, Gaming Target: What did you think of tonight's competition?
It was tied up until the Project Gotham Racing 3 match, so it was surprising that Chicago won over Carolina. Not only was it exciting to see Dead or Alive 4 but also all of the other games in the line-up at the competition. Just to see everyone get so excited was amazing.
GT: Did you have any Dead or Alive 4 predictions going into the competition?
For DOA male, my prediction was that OffBeat Ninja (Ryan Ward) was going to be all the way 5-0, but Black Mamba (Jeremy Florence) came back, so that was really surprisingly. I thought it was going to be a tie or close to it, but in the end I saw OffBeat Ninja get him down so my prediction was pretty accurate.
As for the female competition, I am sorry to say this but I am a fan of Kasumi. She is my favorite character, so I was rooting for Kasumi Chan (Marjorie Bartell, who as her nickname suggests, plays as the character Kasumi). But, Mystik (Katherine Gunn) won so that was a little disappointing.
Last night we actually spent a lot of time with the DOA finalists after dinner. I got a chance to play against all twelve players. I couldn't even lay a finger on Kasumi Chan when I played against her. Knowing that she was that strong against me and seeing Mystik beat her tonight, means Mystik is a really good fighter.
GT: How did you first conceive of the idea for the Dead or Alive series?
About that time Virtual Fighter 2 had just hit the stores and everyone was playing it. I was about 28 or 29 at that time and seeing Virtual Fighter 2 was inspiring to me but at the same time I knew I could make something better. That was my original inspiration to create the DOA series.
GT: Are you surprised at all by Dead or Alive's success?
I'm not surprised. I think I have the drive and the determination and I was able to execute that determination. I am not surprised it is a big successful franchise. I knew I could do it. If I put something in writing today and make it a goal I can work toward, I am sure I can meet and exceed my goal.
Take an example today. I know the losing team (Carolina Core) is really disappointed. But now all of the team members probably have this feeling of, ?we're going to come back next year and kick everyone's butt.? It is really important to have that feeling and to continue to pursue your goals and dreams.
GT: What do you think makes Dead or Alive superior to its competition?
GT: How to you plan to expand the series with the next installment?
Obviously that is probably the most challenging question to me and to our team right now. It's almost like we have left planet Earth, reached the moon, and now where do we go from here? Where's our goal? That is a very difficult question.
GT: What is the creative process you go through when you decide to develop a game?
I get some alcohol into my system first and then the creative process begins. I would say half of the DOA series has been created based on us having fun over drinks. It is important that you don't just sit at a table and start writing a game plan or concept. You need to have that mix of fun and seriousness.
GT: Do you plan to develop more for the Xbox 360 or concentrate on other consoles?
The games I am directly overseeing and fully responsible for are more on the Xbox 360, but there are a few titles in development for other systems.
GT: The Nintendo Wii is selling extremely well in both Japan and North America. What do you think of it?
It has a very unique, interesting and fun concept. Nintendo has always been a company with a soul. They know what they are doing. I think that they will in a way win this battle. Maybe not the literal hardware battle but they have something they are doing really good with.
GT: Do you ever consider developing a game exclusively for the Wii?
Perhaps. I am not denying anything. My philosophy is to have a list of tasks or jobs and clear it one at a time. Time will tell.
GT: Do you have any advice for future game designers?
If you come to a point where your game is playable or viewable then show it to your peers, friends or family members. Unlike someone playing a game you don't' know, people who know you will most likely give their honest opinion. To have the courage to have your family members play your game and get advice from them is probably my most important advice. I had my dad play my game and if I my dad is playing it then I know it's good.