Mighty No. 9 designer Keiji Inafune was deeply frank about his latest game's development troubles on a stream meant to celebrate its launch. It's not something you hear very often from typically quiet Japanese game developers. After a lengthy series of frustrating delays (and bizarre marketing), Mighty No. 9 launched today on most of the platforms promised by developer Comcept. Pitched as a spiritual successor to Mega Man from ex-Capcom designer Keiji Inafune, the game was crowdfunded to the tune of nearly $US4 million ($5.3 million) in 2013.
As part of a lengthy stream celebrating the game's launch, Inafune was joined by Ben Judd, who previously worked as a producer at Capcom with Inafune. These days, Judd runs Digital Development Management, a company focused agency, consulting and production services. Judd was translating for Inafune, in addition to providing his own observations and commentary.
(This has resulted in confusion over a line about Inafune reportedly saying Mighty No. 9 is "better than nothing", though it's unclear who actually said it.)
There's plenty of interesting comments from both of them about the pressures of game development, with Inafune trying to take responsibility for any problems people might have with Mighty No. 9. (Reviews haven't been kind.)
Judd's translations are mixed with his own commentary. Keep that in mind, as it can be a little confusing to follow when he's switching between both voices.
On players being upset and wanting to vent at the developers:
Inafune-san said, "You know, I want to word this in a way to explain some of the issues that come with trying to make a game of this size on different platforms." He's like, "I'm kind of loath to say this because it's going to sound like an excuse and I don't want to make any excuses. I own all the problems that came with this game and if you want to hurl insults at me, it's totally my fault. I'm the key creator. I will own that responsibility."
How Kickstarter doesn't actually represent the whole budget:
When you do the Kickstarter campaign, a lot of people don't realise this, they see the big number — we've talked about this before — but they see a number like four million and they expect that's the actual budget. And on every single website and every single user forum, that was the number that people would say... heck, people are having a little fun with us and mentioning it in the chat, as well. The reality is that it's 60 per cent of that.
At the end of the day, at the end of a Kickstarter name, don't look at the final number. Imagine that being 60 per cent. But in order to increase the content in a wide variety of ways — stretch goals are largely going to be based around new platforms, et cetera — you really need to be able to estimate the amount of financial burden that's going to occur on the project. Even for someone like him [Inafune], who's worked on so many different games, it's a really hard thing to estimate. It's something to keep in mind with Kickstarters.
Why making 10 versions of the game at once was a huge mistake:
He said, "In my many years at Capcom, and Capcom was known for their multi-platform strategy. But never did they ever do 10 SKUs all at the same time, 10 different versions all for one title." Traditionally, this is true — I know, we worked with a lot of different porting houses — usually you have the base game and work on the port after the game was done. In this case, it was do the base game and do the port all at the same time. it ended up being a huge amount of work, more than they actually estimated. Definitely, when they looked at the project, they were wrong about a lot of things. They underestimated how much time, work was going to be necessary. All of those things create a huge amount of pressure.
Whether Inafune's attention was devoted enough to Mighty No. 9's quality:
I've [Ben Judd] seen a lot of different comments that suggested Inafune-san was only focused on being a business man and taking the IP and making anime or manga or branching off into a lot of different directions. To your average everyday person, it's going to seem that way. But the reality is, during production, the key creative pieces really happen for the first 70 per cent and then beyond that, it's all about doing porting and bug testing. I promise you Inafune-san's time is best spent focused on taking this IP in new directions. Again, as I said, to be an independent studio and get a chance to own your IP, it just doesn't happen. It does bring in other opportunities, which is great. I guarantee you [that] you want your independent creators and developers to have their IP, you want them to be able to take them in different directions. It gives you more choices as gamers. I 100 per cent stand by this sentiment.
And the value of hearing kind comments from players:
So game development is a huge challenge, it's emotionally trying. [...] It's the kindness, it's the supportive comments that really keep people going. Because at the end of the day, we're just people and we just want to make a good game. It's that sort of kindness he really appreciates. I [Ben Judd] know that when I made a game, as well, and I would go home and cry myself to sleep because it was so mentally... just destroying me. Having those comments were great.
You can watch the stream here. The interesting bits start around 48 minutes in.