Less than an hour after releasing a two-and-a-half-minute teaser for No More Heroes 3 last month, Grasshopper Manufacture CEO Goichi Suda graciously agreed to sit down with me for one hour and answer no questions whatsoever. We filmed the whole thing. I condensed the experience into 24 minutes, because if you watched the whole hour, you’d die.
“Let’s see how many juicy scoops you can get out of me,” Goichi Suda said before the cameras started rolling. “You’re gonna get nothing.”
The most I ended up getting out of Suda was that a boss from one of the first two No More Heroes games might make an appearance in No More Heroes 3. Also, Travis Touchdown likes Jamba Juice.
Joining us for the sit-down was Robin Atkin Downes, voice of Travis Touchdown. Of course, I asked him if he and Travis ever hung out with Robert Downey Jr.
Please enjoy this 24-minute video presentation in which three fully grown adults discuss the toilet habits of a digital character and recommend tour bus destinations in the greater Tokyo metropolitan area for aspiring day-trippers.
Full disclosure: I worked for Suda for many years, in Tokyo. My job title was “level designer”. What did I do at Grasshopper Manufacture? To be honest, I did a lot — depending on how you define “a lot”.
My day-to-day doings involved opening Unreal Engine 3 and bending it to my will. When I could get the editor to do what I wanted, I made levels of such complexity they’d have been impossible to polish. Let’s call them “thought experiments”.
My job title should have been “thought-experimenter”.
When I couldn’t get the editor to do what I wanted, I scoured Epic’s notoriously incomplete online help website. Sometimes programmers at Grasshopper needed help extracting information from a wall of English text on that site. So they sent me a page and stood over my shoulder while I live-translated it to them.
Eventually, the expectation that I’d eventually have to communicate an Unreal FAQ page to a Japanese speaker ignited a sidequest fire deep inside me: Every time I personally looked at a help page, I translated it lightning-fast and submitted it to Epic using their translation submissions form.
This was in the Gears of War 1 era. If you were a Japanese game developer working with Unreal in 2006 or 2007, chances are you read at least one help page I translated into Japanese from English. You’re welcome, and also I’m sorry for my graphomaniacal kindergarten grammar. Technical writing was not my speciality.
My speciality was, of course, yelling incredible jokes.
I made incredible jokes in meetings. Once, I suggested that the project codenamed “Lollipop Chainsaw”, which was being pitched as “No More Heroes Starring A Cheerleader”, should be released as “No More Cheeroes”. No one blinked — except Suda, who then stared into my eyes for five full seconds before saying, “OK.”
Several years later I figuratively woke up with a bloody nose. All those years ago, Suda had absolutely owned me with that insincere “OK”: The game had been released as Lollipop Chainsaw after all. Future Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, brought on to write the game after I had departed Grasshopper, must have hated the cereal Cheerios.
For years at Grasshopper I basked in the opportunity to hang out daily a few short metres from Gochi Suda, an artist whose work I enjoyed as a liker of dumb stuff and respected as an aspiring craftsperson.
In attending meetings with him, brainstorming stupid game ideas with him, and talking about movies and music with him, I learned both how to speak Japanese like a sort of a tough guy and how to believe that I myself might have a shot at running a game development business someday.
So in 2010 I founded Action Button Entertainment. I attempted to follow the same trajectory Suda had blazed: I started small, with just four founders, like a rock band. Eventually, I even had a sit-down with the CEO of GungHo Online Entertainment — at midnight, on his birthday, in his office, no less!
GungHo bought Suda’s company; they didn’t buy mine. It could be Suda had a richer portfolio than I did, though late at night sometimes I tell myself it’s luck.
Goichi Suda inspired me and continues to. Almost none of that comes across in this interview, in which I make liberal use of the phrase “take a dump” and question Travis Touchdown’s fibre intake. Someone in this video hugs someone else. I won’t say who, because that’d be a spoiler.
In conclusion, Goichi Suda literally owes me money. I did something for him on a contract basis a couple years back before I joined Kotaku and I think might have neglected to send an invoice. It isn’t a huge sum of money. Though it’s the sort of money I’d immediately spend on a pair of shoes if I had it.
So what I’m saying is, I don’t owe Goichi Suda this interview, this video, this content, or this coverage. To be honest, it was the joy of pitch-shifting myself saying “take a dump” that kept me going through this project.
And with that, my E3 2019 coverage is finally over. Actually, let me check my notes. Oh: Please be on the lookout for one more E3 2019 video from me. It’ll be the last one. I’m serious this time.