Famously, Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 4 – arguably the greatest games in the series – had false starts and were re-started mid-way through development. Why do that?
Ichii: Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 4 incidents ultimately stem from Capcom’s stoic perfectionism. The team pursued a level, however highly set, and were determined to reach it. At the time of reviewing the products as a company we felt that the games just did not have the quality we wanted. We then had the choice of just releasing them or virtually remaking them. We chose the latter. It did have a devastating effect to the company then but I feel the current Resident Evil franchise and Capcom’s reputation of uncompromised quality only came with that hardship we went through.
Turner: This is pretty standard of the way game development is done at Capcom. Early prototype versions are created then tested and then discarded if they do not stand up to the high standards that we set.
We probably have around five requests a week for us to release these prototype versions or 1.5 and 3.5 as they’re often called, the Resident Evil5 leaderboards were even hacked with the message “give us version 3.5”. Some fans genuinely think we’re some evil Umbrella style organisation and have two totally finished games sat in a vault somewhere.
Kawata: We especially re-developed Resident Evil over and over, we almost believed the day it got released would never come. However, the know-how we gained through the struggle has now been passed on to make Devil May Cry and other Resident Evil titles.
Kobayashi: Compromise simply is not an option. It is controversial but if it hasn’t got what it takes to awe, then the title is dead to us. For Resident Evil 2 and 4 we basically felt that the quality wasn’t at the level we believed they could be.
Resident Evil has often dipped its toes into alternative genres, with Gun Survivor, Outbreak, The Chronicles games and of course the upcoming Operation Racoon City. Why do this? And why do you feel these spin-offs concepts, by and large, have never lasted past two or three games?
Kawata: We believe that challenging alternative genres has made Resident Evil an interesting title that can reach a range of audience. In the production process though, we have to respect the Resident Evil universe. So I wouldn’t simply compare the number of sales.
Kobayashi: We are constantly seeking for something new for the franchise. The main franchise is of course the ultimate but at the same time it has some expectations to fulfil and it can’t risk too much when it comes to extreme innovation – though Capcom is known to do just that, it’s a matter of comparison. Our games in the wider Resident Evil universe give us a little more flexibility and let us work on our cool ideas in vivo.
Turner: The Resident Evil universe is so complex and so rich that we are able to dip in and out of other genres trying new things and exploring new avenues for the series without ever losing sight of what makes Resident Evil, well, Resident Evil.
It’s true we haven’t replicated the success of the ‘numbered series’ as yet, but we’re confident that Operation Raccoon City will appeal to a new audience entirely and bring even more people in to experience what makes the Resident Evil universe so popular.
Ichii: Well, you know the concept of trial and error. To be honest, with the sort of quality we pursue, the Resident Evil main franchise is not something that we can mass produce but can only release it every few years. However, most people finish the game in the time given but they hunger for more. Our idea is then to provide titles outside the main franchise to perhaps talk about unmentioned or unfinished plots, while seeking for innovative ideas that could then go back to the main franchise. In other words, the main franchise gets to be what it is, as an amalgamated result of research and innovation of other Resident Evil titles.
Resident Evil had a reputation for platform hopping. From the original PS0ne adventures, to the Code: Veronica Dreamcast exclusive, to the Gamecube titles and now 3DS. What was the thinking behind switching platforms on Resident Evil and what did you learn?
Kawata: Creating games for a variety of hardware is not always the most efficient way to produce games. However, as a third party, it is necessary for Capcom to be able to develop games for different hardware. Als o Resident Evil is so well-known because we have been created the games for different platforms.
Ichii: Capcom, like most major publishers, now do this under a clear strategy of multi-platform development, which for us is signified b y our cutting edge MT framework. However, back then we were more or less fixated to a platform and there was a general tendency that once a game is out for a platform it stayed exclusive. We always went for the best platform both in terms of ca pabilities and popularity as we want to be making the titles with latest technologies, as well as reaching as many gamers as possible.
Resident Evi l has succeeded outside of just the games though. You’ve sold millions of toys, books and other items. What makes Resident Evil such a great franchise for merchandise?
Turner: The characte r and world design is as iconic as it is unique. Its closer to something like Harry Potter than a video game in that the whole Resident Evil universe can be explored in amazing depth and detail. That’s great curr ency for people to explore further.
Kobayashi: One thing we do well is to create distinct, memorable scenarios and characters including the baddies. In fact we probably spend too much time and resources for this but I guess it pays off when the depth of the Resident Evil universe is tested in the way you describe.