As you’re probably aware, Matt and I ventured off to PAX Prime in Seattle this past week where we got to experience our very first PAXes. I went to DEV where it was really a great experience to meet people and go to panels. Prime was fantastic, and again I mostly spent most of my time going to panels. The showroom floor isn’t particularly my thing as I tend to get a little uncomfortable trying to maneuver through crowds. There’s lots of great stuff to talk about though, as I’m sure I’ll eventually work into blog posts.
For me, the coolest part about PAX was getting to attend the Inafune (co-designer of Mega Man) Panel that was held. Mega Man is one of the first games I remember playing as a kid. I’ve got great memories associated with that series, and was thrilled to get to see him in person. It was great to get some info about his career at Capcom (I’m posting a transcript of the questions and answers down below). The experience of being present as he launched his kickstarter for Mighty No. 9 was also great.
I of course wasn’t thinking, and should have kept recording long enough to capture the first contributions. The room exploded in applause and within about 10 minutes the campaign was already over $5000. It was little surprise that within the first 24 hours it was over half a million, and currently sits (just three days later) at over a million and a half. I suspect that this will become the most funded campaign yet.
Part of the perk of going to the session, is that everyone in attendance got an individually numbered Mighty No. 9 t-shirt (I’m number 302) which will apparently have some significance on the forum for the game. We also got to attend an autographing session afterward. Can you guess what I got signed?
If you guessed my shirt, you are wrong. Remember those ties I made? Well, I’ve now got a one-of-a-kind Inafune signed Mega Man 2 necktie. Inafune seemed pretty excited to see this thing in front of him as despite his lack of English fluency he proclaimed “WhooA! Nice tie!”
Anyways, if you want to check out the actual video from the panel, you can find it over on Twitch TV, but I’ve transcribed the Q&A portion below to help since it’s a little time consuming watching the english -> japanese -> english translation.
Parish: Alright, hello everyone and welcome to Keiji Inafune: Frome 8-bit to Next-Gen, and Beyond. Thanks for joining us, I know there are a lot of lines you could have chosen to stand in this year at PAX, and you chose to stand in ours, and we appreciate it. My name is Jeremy Parish, the senior editor of USGamer.net, it used to be 1up.com. Also the co-host of retronauts, the podcast. On the far end over here, we have Mr. Ben Judd, the esteemed voice of Phoenix Wright. And in his uh, you know, in his part time, lead agent at DDM. And of course, the man of the hour, Mr. Keiji Inafune: The CEO of Comcept. You may know Mr. Inafune from his appearance in this week’s PSN release, Sweet Views. How is your neice Mr. Inafune?
Inafune: She’s fine, thank you for asking.
Parish: Good to hear it. So I know the title of this panel is “Next-Genand Beyond” but really what we’re going to be doing over the next half-hour, hour, however long they let us go, uh, we’re gonna be looking back at Mr. Inafune’s career for the most part, and talking about some of his, uh, current and, excuse me, new projects… uh… but there will be a lot of focus on the, uh, Mega Man series, because that is what the fans demand.
Inafune: So there’s one thing I just wanna get out right away, first and foremost, there’s maybe [paraphrased as I cannot find video of this part: some rumor that there will be a Mega Man announcement today. But there is not. I am no longer a part of Mega Man, and have nothing new to announce about that franchise]
[I’m not entirely sure how much video is missing from this part of the discussion on Twitch, and so I will have to just pick-up where the video picks up.]
Parish: I know that you’ve said before that you started working at Capcom, in the 80’s, uh, as an artist, and mainly took the job there because it was close to your house.
Inafune: Wow, you really know your Inafune trivia! Actually, I really wanted to join Konami. But distance wise, they were a little bit farish, so I decided to go with Capcom.
Parish: So, I’d like for you to tell us about your first day at Capcom. What was your experience like? Was it what you expected working at a video game company to be?
Inafune: Actually, it went way and above my wildest dreams. When I first joined, there was not enough staff, so I was expecting to do some smaller parts as an artist, but then they just threw this massive job of being like lead artist on a few titles to me. So I was shocked that I was getting such huge responsibility as soon as I joined, right on my first day. Unfortunately that meant I didn’t get to go home, even though it was very close by.
Parish: So, how long were you at Capcom before you were put onto working on the Mega Man series?
Inafune: So first and foremost, I was doing some basic character designs for Street Fighter 1. And then after they had me do a little more practice and studying that would fit the company, I moved onto the Mega Man / Rock Man series, that was about a month and a half / two months into it.
Parish: So that was pretty much at the start.
Inafune: Yeah, when you think about it; probably a majority of my life as a creator at a game company has been related to Mega Man the series. And so its something, its a series that has taught me a lot of what it is to be a creator.
Parish: So what was your first impression of Mega Man? Both the character and the game? Uh… the project?
Inafune: So actually, um, the first impression I had when talking with the team is they wanted to do a blue character. And I was thinking, blue? That’s pretty gross. Why would you have a blue character? Uh, then of course the team told me that on the famicom, on the NES, the color pallette for blue was a larger variety than any other color, and so that allowed us to be more descriptive with the character design. So after hearing that, I accepted it, and of course having a blue robot that was something that was very innovative and new for the time.
Parish: Did your dislike for the color blue have anything to do with the fact that Mega Man changes color all through the games?
Inafune: So, uh, yeah that was actually another unfortunate limitation of the NES, or the the famicom, is that you had such a small color pallette that unless you actually changed the color of the main character to red if he’s fighting Fire Man, then it would look very strange to have this blue character shooting out this red fire. So naturally it was just something that after we were building it out, we decided that based on how the colors would pop in the game, that changing the entire character to that color would make the most sense.
Parish: Can you tell us about some of the other games you were working around at the time?
Inafune: One of the games I worked on right after being attached to Rock Man / Mega Man… I don’t think it got released in America, but a rough translation would probably be “The Major League Baseball Mystery Game”. Where someone apparently gets killed in the major league baseball team and you as the detective have to figure out who did it. Uh, and, it was one of those things where ultimately there was not enough artists on the project so I came in and actually in the rare case was actually doing some background art, not character design like I normally do. And so I didn’t really enjoy it that much.
Parish: And was there anything about the Mega Man character, or the game that kind of drew you back and made you… you know… was there anything special about it compared to those other games?
Yeah, actually I felt a lot of pride towards the Mega Man character, and that was… back in the day a lot of what Capcom used to do was they would take arcade games and then port them to the NES / Famicom. This was actually their first character driven, character based original nes/ famicom title that did not come from the arcade. So, we knew as a team that we were doing something special, and original, and innovative, and then of course, after we saw the end result, it was really great to have worked on a title like that… to do something new and original in the gaming industry.
Parish: At what point did you realize Mega Man would be a hit… would be, you know, something that would have some real impact? Was it during the first game? Was it some time later?
Inafune: So actually, uh, this is a little known fact, but Mega Man 1 did not do that well in Japan or in America. And, after we had finished that and I got transfered over to the Major League murder mystery/suspense game, uh, we still, the team, felt that that was a very special franchise, and that there was still a lot of potential in it. So ultimately, I went and I argued with the sales team, and I said no… this can be bigger, this can be better… uh to the point where I said that ultimately I’m willing to continue to do my hard work on the major league murder/suspense game, while also doing Mega Man 2, if you’ll allow us to try and make Mega Man 2. And what you had is actually, it was the perfect blend of creators that truely believed in what they were doing even to the point they were able to sacrifice what little extra time that they had. And any time you have that sort of formula that’s working, then your odds of success in creating something that really is a big hit increase.
Parish: So you started out as an artist with the series but, you know, you eventually kind of took over the series. Can you talk about how your role with the Mega Man games evoloved over time?
Inafune: Yeah, so ultimately, the teams were so small back in the NES and the famicom days, the original Mega Man was done with a staff of (if you include the sound guy) was probably about six people. Uh, and so you had a lot of people doing double duty on a team. And so around the time that Mega Man 2 was being planned, I was allowed to do one of the bosses… for one if the Wily stages, I was allowed to design it as a planner. And so it just naturally, organically occured that I was doing… I was being an artist, I was being a planner, and eventually I was also a producer, and that just eventually rolled into me producing the series, but no matter how long I produced any of the Mega Man games, I was always attached as an artist. So that was always one of my key strengths for the games.
Parish: Yeah, as the artist, promotions for Rock Man in Japan always used your art work. But of course when they came over seas, there were some pretty interesting interpretations…. not just the infamous box art, but also, you know, cartoons and other adaptations of Mega Man. Were you aware of how other people were treating your art? And what did you think at the time?
Inafune: So actually, I didn’t know about it at first. Then later when I learned about it, I kind of went to our US office and… I wouldn’t necessarily say I was complaining, but I was more inquisitive… and I said “Why does Mega Man look like this in America?” Uh… to which the US office said, “Well, actually, Japanese art style… it just does not pop over here in the west. Nobody gets it. It’s just weird. This is what we get.” And of course, at the time I said “Well… OK I guess that’s what they get.” But I have to admit, at the time I thought, “Wow. Americans, westerners really don’t get art.”
Parish: Alright. Well… so when you left behind the 8-bit famicom, you moved to the 16-bit era and uh, kind of gave Mega Man a facelift with Mega Man X. I’ve heard that that game actually started out as something else entirely and that you had a different role in mind for the character Zero. Can you talk about, kind of what you were thinking when you started developing that game and sort of what your original vision was?
Inafune: So with Mega Man X actually I, it was the first time I really got to be in charge of everything; the design, and the story, the art. And um, so I really wanted to sort of surprise people by having the main character be Zero, but still calling it a Mega Man game. Because people would be like, “what’s going on? Where’s Mega Man?” Uh, however internally, people said “ … This does not look like Mega Man.” Fair enough, so ultimately uh, what I was able to do after that was I of course designed Mega Man into the game, making him the main character, but I took all of the coolest parts, and I left them for Zero. Which is why Zero’s such a badass.
Parish: So uh, they’re kind of cutting us a little short on time, so uh, I wanted to ask you uh, you know, one of the big, I think, kind of trademarks of the older Mega Man games was uh, the way you let uh players and fans help design the bosses; and that’s something you carried forward, you know, with your plan for Mega Man Legends 3 and Mega Man Universe. Um, I was wondering if you could talk about, you know, sort of the thinking behind, uh, you know, that… that sort of community involvement: something that really didn’t happen back in the uh 80’s and 90’s.
Inafune: So one of the things that, um, that I’ve always loved about the Mega Man series, is that we have actively allowed the fans to be part of the design in a wide variety of ways. Of course, that was the main intention of Mega Man Legends 3… because the Mega Man fans… they’re really some of the best fans in the video game industry to be quite honest. And they’ve got some great ideas. And they’ve always been really supportive. So bearing that in mind… and so actually I have a small present for all the fans that have been so supportive. And who I’ve loved to be able to work with in the past; we would like to say, again, this is not a Mega Man trailer, so do not get excited… we cannot emphasize that enough, but it’s still something that I think you will all be very happy with.
This is pretty much where the Q&A ends. For more info about Inafune’s project head on over to here.