Resident Evil VII: Biohazard was one of the big surprises of E3 2016, and we were fortunate to chat with producer Masachika Kawata a veteran of Resident Evilgames going back to 1999’s Resident Evil 3: Nemesis at Capcom’s booth during the show.
Since this is a translated interview, we’re providing a direct transcript of what was said, to minimize the potential for intended meanings to be lost in translation.
Q: It looks like this is more of a return to the traditional survival horror thanResident Evil started with, and I was hoping you could speak to that.
It was our intention to create survival horror games all along, but with this iteration you are correct in that one of the main goals was to emphasize the horror aspect. In other words, to [evolve] or take the core element of the game to the next level.
Q: Yes, Resident Evil has always been survival horror, absolutely. But 4, 5, and 6 definitely pivoted. You could finish the game as a survival horror game and then return and play through again with new weapons, infinite ammo. Turn it into an action game.
Personally I always appreciated that because of the replay value. Are those elements going to be returning? How is replay value baked in with this lean back toward the roots of the series?
In the demo that we released, [I’ve] noticed that on the internet a lot of people are digging deep into [the PSN demo]. They’re getting a lot of replayability out of the adventure aspect. The exploratory aspect of it. So when you take that kind of pure survival horror game structure, that’s one of the elements exploration that facilitates replayability.
In the final game, there are many gimmicks or design choices that play on the player’s desire to try to collect everything. Perhaps there’s a carrot that’s just out of reach, like an item that there is a way to get but maybe they don’t get it the first time.
There’s also story elements, narrative elements, where they constantly keep the player guessing about what’s happening. And perhaps if you play it a certain way you might not find the answer the first time. [I] feel that these also facilitate replayability.
Q: The switch to first person took us all by surprise. What inspired that choice? It’s such a new approach to presentation in Resident Evil.
The drive to create a very strong horror experience, part of that evolution was the change to a first-person perspective. Specifically, the thought process that we had was if you have a third-person perspective there’s always the character between you and the events or items that take place in the game. So it acts as kind of a buffer.
But in a first-person game, if there’s some kind of terrible creature or some kind of interaction right there in front of you then there’s nothing between you [and it], which we feel adds a lot to the horror element.
Q: Speaking of that horror element, I feel like the tone of the series has evolved over time. But it’s moved in a very blockbuster direction. Big spectacle. This one seems more intimate, and it also seems to channel some of the more modern horror tone. Would you say that’s accurate?
We’re aiming to be not a blockbuster, AAA movie but the best B-rank horror movie you could be.
That’s very correct, the impression you have that it’s a more intimate experience. There’s a person who works at Capcom named Jun Takeuchi who is in charge of some previousResident Eviltitles, and is actually [my] superior.
He’s spearheading this project [and is] very deeply involved in it. The initial goal that he fed down to the team is that we’re aiming to be not a blockbuster, AAA movie but the best B-rank horror movie you could be.
Rather than trying to go big and bombastic, he wanted everyone to dive deeper into horror. Keep focused on the horror aspect and make it as compelling as can be.
Part of this initiative was we took a look and stripped away those elements that would not service horror. So for example: they didn’t make an open-world game. There’s no online element to the game. We didn’t feel that these things would serve the horror aspect.
Q: Can you speak to the series tropes that carry on through to RE7. I’m thinking in terms of maybe puzzles, some of the returning monsters/zombies. That sort of thing.
There are actually many of those connections as you said, series tropes that are in the game. We can’t really speak about them at this time. The only one that the director has said it’s okay to speak about is there are herbs in the game.
The initial impression that a lot of people have from [the demo] is it’s quite different [from past]Resident Evil games. But [I] feel that once you play through the entire experience you will feel that this is indeed a Resident Evil game.
Q: One thing I noticed in the reveal at Sony’s press conference. The game is referred to as Resident Evil VII: Biohazard. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think the series has ever been formally referred to in the United States.
As you probably know, the title has always been different in the West as compared to Japan. There’s a bunch of reasons that this happened long ago. But as a team, we’ve always wanted them to be the same. To combine it. So that’s actually just the driving reason behind [the title]: to globalize the brand. So we added it as a subtitle.
Going back to the substance of the title: in this game, as with any other Resident Evil or Biohazard, there is an evil entity within the game and there’s also creatures that you can expect to encounter. So we put the title together in a global fashion and we kept those tried-and-true aspects that have always supported the series.
Q: We can play in virtual reality now. I was watching the presentation at Sony and we were all in our Slack chat talking about it. Everyone was reacting with, “Nope. Nope. Can’t do it!” What inspired that choice to go to VR and what will the game do differently, if anything, in VR?
To answer the first part of your question, why VR? The move to create this game in a first-person perspective came first. After that the VR technology started to be incorporated into the gaming atmosphere at a pretty rapid pace. Inside of Capcom R&D they were researching not just PlayStation VR but many different VR platforms.
Those two things kind of came together. We’re using a first-person perspective so if we applied this to VR, how would it work? The testbed for this was Kitchen, the tech demo that we released last year.
The idea was that first-person perspective, VR and horror, these things go together well.
The idea was that first-person perspective, VR and horror, these things go together well. It should scare people and it did scare people. That gave us the confidence to assess and say, ‘Okay, we had that good a reaction to the elements that we already had on hand, so can we support the full game in VR.’
We decided to assess that situation in earnest and go and make a mode that you can play through the entire game in VR.
There are a lot of minute points that we could get into, but speaking of the big picture: the standard television version may have some advantages in terms of overall fidelity. Image quality and things like that. However, the sense of immersion you get in VR is so overwhelming, in a sense, that in that respect it kind of has the upper hand to [me].
It’s not in the demonstration we have here today, but there are parts of the game where a character will come very close to you. It almost feels like they’re breathing on you, they’re so in your space.
Q: I was also hoping you could speak to some of the influences you’ve looked to, inside and outside of video games, as you’ve brought this new chapter in Resident Evil together.
There are influences through. There’s a particular work that influenced the game, but if I tell you what it is it will spoil the story. So I’d like you to imagine that.
The key art is a big hint.(Author’s note: Pictured at the top of this post.)Also, people who play the demo get a t-shirt that has a kind of ink blot type of design on it, and that contains many clues about that.
Reading into that, you might be able to make some assumptions or guesses about where some of the influences came from.
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