Thursday, August 18, 2016

The People of Capcom: Inaba Atsushi (2001)

Title: The People of Capcom: Inaba Atsushi / 「カプコン人間模様   稲葉敦志」
Source: Capcom official site (down)

Summary:While most producers of the Gyakuten Saiban (Ace Attorney) series have actually been very active in the marketing campaigns lately, appearing in interviews and at other related events and have often talked openly about their influence on the development of the games, the very first producer, Inaba Atsushi, has never been as much in the spotlight as the people after him. While he was responsible for Gyakuten Saiban 1 ~ 3 (Ace Attorney 1, Justice for All and Trials and Tribulations), the number of interview with him on the game is fairly small compared to the people after him. In the column The People of Capcom for Capcom's site (and the mail magazine) however, there is a rare interview with Inaba, held just before the very first game was released. While the interview is not about Gyakuten Saiban specifically, he does talk about it and he talks about how he influenced how the game would turn out.

The People of Capcom: Inaba Atsushi

Inaba: You think I’m hard to talk with? You mean how I look? Or my aura? Just tell me.

Mae: …You’re a bit scary-looking.

Daisuke: Yeah, you do look a bit scary.

Inaba: Hmm, yesterday, I was on the train in Tokyo, and I was tired, so I sat down with my legs open, leaning backwards like this.

Mae: Ah.

Inaba: And then some old man I didn’t know tapped me on the shoulder.

Daisuke: He was brave.

Inaba: So I figured, he was going to tell me not to do that. But I don’t like being told what to do.

Daisuke: Ooooooh, this is not going to end well.

All: Ahahaha.

Inaba: And the old man, he said: “You know that’s bad for your back.”

Daisuke: Hahaha, he was worried about your back!?

Inaba: So I was like: “Oh, didn’t know that” and reseated myself. But when I thought about it, I thought: “Did he just manage to fool me?”

All: Hahahaha.

Inaba: So it was the first time somebody told me that, so I told about this to Suwabe in my division… you know her?

Mae: ?

Inaba: The new assistant in my division. So I told her, and she said: “Mr. Inaba, you look like someone who is difficult to talk with, so he must have been quite brave!”

All: Hahahaha.

Inaba: And I asked her, what do you mean.

Daisuke: Hehehe.

Inaba: “You look like a bit like a delinquent.” “Shaddup!”

Daisuke: Hahahaha. But you are a bit like that (laugh).

Mae: Yes.

Inaba:  The two of you are quite rude for interviewers (laugh). I read the questions, but I haven’t thought about the answers.

Daisuke: That’s okay. Random talk is the main theme.

Inaba: Oh, and a honest question, why are you taking photographs even though it’s for the mail magazine?

Mae: It’s for the site.

Inaba: Oh, it’s for that. And I was being all relaxed here.

All: Hahahaha.

Daisuke: We’ll make a digest version for the mail magazine, and a complete version for the site. We’ll go with this, and only remove the really bad stuff.

Inaba: I see. I was thinking about coming here with a shirt with a flower print.

Daisuke: That’d suit you. But Mr. Inaba, you do like to spend money on clothes, right?

Inaba: Not really. I might not have told you, but I don’t spend that much money on it. Does it look like I do?

Mae: You do look good.

Inaba: I don’t mind the brands. I’m going to spend twenty, thirty thousand yen on a pair of pants. I can’t even spend that. I’d just go around the shops and look for something good.

Mae: I see.

Inaba: This is just a shirt they sold in America Mura just like that for 1900 yen. And this one, with a badge was the one Kimura Takuya wore in a commercial in the past. So I’m going for faux-Kimura Takuya.

Daisuke: I know it, I know it.

Inaba: You asked me earlier how much these pants were, right?

Daisuke: Yeah. Your silhouette looks good like that.

Inaba: This was 5800 yen.

Daisuke: It’s good.

Inaba: It was a show model I happened to see in an outlet.

Daisuke: You’d be the hero if you wore that to a club.

Inaba: Really!? But I can hear where you’re aiming for. You’re thinking: “the hero at the club → popular with the ladies in the club.”

Mae: That’s the important thing.

Daisuke: Crucial, crucial.

Inaba: But you meet all kinds of people in a club.

Daisuke: But I’m not looking for someone in a club. I go there for the music, the music.

Inaba: But it’s more fun meeting people (laugh).

Mae: Just like Mr. Okamoto last time.

All: Hahaha.

Daisuke: A dating club.

Mae: Haha.

Inaba: But having fun with a girl should mean you enjoy spending time together. Or else it’s a failure. Don’t show your fangs.


Daisuke: We wrote the games you were involved with in the past, but you can talk about everything.

Inaba:  Really? But I can’t lie?

Daisuke: Keep it to a minimum (laugh).;

Inaba: The ring I’m wearing now is of the 5th Anniversary*.
(* Limited item made for the 5th anniversary of Biohazard (Resident Evil)).

Daisuke: You have a lot of silver.

Inaba: I don’t have that much. My fingers are thick.

Daisuke: Do you sport?

Inaba: No. Nothing at all. Well, maybe you could say the drums. I’m a drummer.

Daisuke: At the arcade?

Inaba: No, I’m really one. But the rings they sell in Japan often don’t fit me. This is a size 23. No way a woman could wear this.

Mae: My fingers are pretty big too.

Daisuke: I could easily go with 16. I’m pretty slender (laugh).

Inaba. Yeah. But I wanted a ring I could wear. So at first, I had them made for me. But they’d say it’d be too big, so I went for 19 while crying. This wasn’t even part of the fan items for The 5th Anniversary. First we talked about the Biohazard 5th Annivesary Plate.. A decorative dinner plate.

Daisuke & Mae: Whaaaat!

Daisuke: Those things they give at weddings.

Inaba. Precisely. And we also had a planner in mind.

Daisuke: Really!? A Bio-Note.

All: Hahaha.

Inaba: So it was a really boring project at first. What were they thinking. But, you know, I wasn’t working on that, so I thought: ‘Not my worry”. But the following meeting for The 5th Anniversary, I was there together with Mr. Mikami and I got quite good off with the creative people behind the project. So I said a ring would be nice. And at the ending, Mr. Mikami touched me on the shoulder and said: “Counting on you.”

All: Hahahaha.

Inaba: Too late…I shouldn’t have said that. I should just have said: “Let’s do the plate.” (laugh).

All: Hahaha.

Daisuke: But our goods were a bit lame actually. But that changed lately. I had never thought: “I want to wear that.” Or “I want that.”

Inaba: Oh, a dangerous opinion.

Daisuke: It’s okay we use the characters, but they shouldn’t be used just like that. I think everyone wants to wear something like that, but just wearing a T-shirt with a gigantic game character on your chest, nobody wants that. You can’t wear that in the town.

Inaba: I guess. The designs could be better. So we thought about making good ones for Gyakuten Saiban, but I think that’s not going through. But at Sudō’s place they are doing good things with One Piece Mansion. The T-shirt there looks great.


Daisuke: Could you use about your career until now.

Inaba: And now you’re acting like an interviewer. Very badly though.

Daisuke: It’s only my second time. I’m still practicing.

Inaba: Where shall I start. From when I joined Capcom? That’s precisely three years ago. But I look and act big, so they say it seems like I’ve been here for decades.

All: Hahaha.

Daisuke: I heard you used to work at the Irem I love so much.

Inaba: Oh yeah. I was first working at Irem. Irem’s good. It’s really a Kansai company. I worked on one of the later R-Types. Helped a bit.

Daisuke: LEO?

Inaba: Yeah. Also the arcade version of Bomberman. It was a lot fun at Irem. And then I went to SNK. It was a bit chaotic there, but I know all about what happened back there.

Daisuke: Really!

Inaba: Crazy stuff happened there, but I can’t tell you the details. I was with SNK for three years. Made two games. And the day after we had completed the master copy of that second game, I went to Capcom.

Daisuke: Eeh, you had no blank period in between?!?

Inaba: No. I hadn’t taken any days off. Things were a bit restless, but I feel like I am bit more settled down now here at Capcom.

Daisuke. I see, I see. That’s a good thing. But wow, no vacation in between.

Inaba: I saw an advertisement in Famitsu for a job at Capcom and applied.

Daisuke: Ah, for BIOHAZARD NEXT PROJECT, right? We had that advertisement. And Mr. Mikami did the interviews…

Inaba: No, actually not. I’m originally a programmer, so they had someone else for my interview. I had not been in contact with Mr. Mikami until I was already hired.

Daisuke: I didn’t know that.

Inaba: So I was involved with some titles in Production Studio 4, but not one of them was ever finished. But I learned about the whole development cycle, and overlooking complete projects then. So I started doing work as a producer.

Daisuke: I see.

Inaba:  And my first title was Code: Veronica - Complete Version (Resident Evil Code: Veronica X). But the game itself was already finished, so I mainly overlooked advertisements and all kinds of things related to the marketing campaign. Wesker's Report and The 5th Anniversary and things like that.
Daisuke: You also did the announcement presentations, so you must have been quite busy.

Inaba: Yes. But it was fun, and it was educational, so I have no problems with that as it was satisfying. And after that, I oversaw a lot of titles.

Daisuke: Gyakuten Saiban (Ace Attorney GBA) was one of the recent ones.

Inaba: Yes, yes. A lot of Game Boy Advance titles like Guranbo. But three titles after another on the Game Boy Advance is pretty taxing. The release dates were all pretty close too.

(His mobile phone rings, so Inaba leaves for a while)

Inaba: I’m sorry. In the middle of our interview.

Daisuke: No problem at all. Actually, I don’t even like reserving a room like this to do a formal interview. I’d prefer going “Yay!” with a beer in one hand.

Inaba: That’s Wesker's Report (laugh).

Daisuke: Hahahaha.

Inaba: But that cost a lot of money.

Daisuke: I had guesses. I heard you found  a famous location. Was it that expensive?

Inaba. Yep. About XX hundred thousand yen.

Daisuke & Mae: That much!?

Inaba: Yep. When we first made estimates, we figured XX amount for the location, and for the cocktails we figured that with one or two per person, we’d stay within XX yen. That’s what we thought, everyone was like: “Oh, that’s Hennessee.”

All: Hahaha.

Inaba: And before we knew it, we were at XX yen. I went pale. We can never do that again.


Inaba: Gyakuten Saiban… ask me about that, interviewers.

Daisuke: Hahaha. Sorry. We’re just not good at this yet.

Inaba: Oh yeah, I heard you’re bad at seducing women. Bad at creating the perfect mood. You’re always too straightforward.

Daisuke: Ah, perhaps I am.

Inaba: But everyone has their own strategy.

Daisuke: …So, anyway, about Gyakuten Saiban.

Inaba: Look, you’re forcing it again.

All: Hahahaha.

Daisuke: Anyway. Who first came up with the idea of making a game aobut trials?

Inaba; Director Takumi. But according to him, it’s a “detective game”. Takumi, he was the director of Dino Crisis and Dino Crisis 2, but he had been sitting on this idea for Gyakuten Saiban for six years. All that time. But he was busy with other works so he never had the time to make it.

Daisuke & Mae: Yes.

Inaba: So he had put this idea away in the closet for all that time. So Mr. Mikami was like, let’s give him some time to work on that… maybe that’s not the right way to say that. He said that he did interesting things with Dino Crisis and Dino Crisis 2, but as Takumi had been sitting on that idea for six years now, we should give him some space now.

Mae: Aha.

Inaba: So we asked him to show us his proposal for a detective game. And Mr. Mikami and I went to see him. But when he showed us, we were like: “That’s not a detective game, this is a trial!”  “The protagonist is a defense attorney!”

All: Hahaha.

Daisuke: That’s not what he said it’d be!

Inaba: But when we took a good look, it looked interesting. There had never been a game about the confrontations in a courtroom before, right?

Daisuke: No.

Inaba: So then we started with it, but we had fights about the scenario first. We can work on the trial scenes later to make them better, but how are you going to make a story to make those scenes more interesting. Things like that.

Daisuke & Mae: Yeah.

Inaba: At first the story was really difficult to understand, and there was nothing fun about it as a game. It was okay if you’d read it as a mystery story, but it didn’t work as a game.

Daisuke: So you didn’t think it’d sell.

Inaba: A director’s job is to think of a good idea based on his own feelings, and make a good game. And a producer has to come up with ideas so more people will play the game. So a producer should only comment on the game if it’s for that cause. That’s what Mr. Mikami taught me.

Daisuke: I see. So you had them remake it.

Inaba: So Takumi tried it again and it did become more fun…

Mae: But…?

Inaba: The characters didn’t quite work out. I thought it wouldn’t work.

Daisuke: They were that bad?

Inaba: I felt sorry, but I had them redo the characters from scratch. Have you seen the first original designs?

Daisuke: No.

Inaba: I’ll show you some of them.

(Asks for the original designs by phone).

Inaba: So we hit a stop at first in both the story and art, but once you crack the shell once, the rest will come out smoothly. Yep. And it’s turned into a fun game. I can definitely recommend it wholeheartedly. But most people will think a game about court trials seems difficult.

Daisuke: Yes. I also had my reservations at first until I played it myself.

Inaba: I think most people are like that. So even our employees who play games are like that. So ‘normal’ people will feel even more strongly like that. That’s why we put a demo on the website.

Daisuke: That was a good idea.

Inaba: We have about ten thousand hits now with that, but the results from the questionnaire are very positive. “It’s easy to play” and “Give us more to try out!””. Most of them were like: “I didn’t get the idea until I played it, but once I tried it, it was fun.”

Daisuke: And there’s the impact of the title. You don’t have many games with four kanji. I can only think of Hanjuku Hero.

(original sketches arrive)

Inaba: Ah, thank you.

Daisuke & Mae: Wow.

Inaba: What do you think? This aura of: “No way people are going to buy this.”

All: Hahaha.

Inaba: The artwork looks Capcom-ish.

Daisuke: But this character looks like Chihiro (Mia Fey).

Inaba: They look alike, but their roles are completely different. She was the enemy.

Mae: Why are the characters so different?

Inaba: Court trials sound like theme for adults, right? So it seems like it’s too difficult for children, but most people who have a Game Boy Advance are children, so we wanted to make it so even children could understand. But it’s not like we had that on our mind constantly. But just like easy-to-understand roles like enemies and mentors. But it didn’t really work, so we just went for the adults, and the game changed a lot because of that.

Daisuke: So it was good you made a tough decision.

Inaba: Yes. Among the reactions we got was also: “There are no games for adults, but I think this looks like fun.” I was happy about that.

Daisuke (As he’s looking at the original designs) But nobody would believe you if you’d say this was a game about trials.

Inaba: And the title was Surviban (Tentative) (laugh). I hated that title. I told Takumi several times: “it’s about time you decide on the real title.” “But it’s Surviban.” “Hmm, no can do.”

All: Hahaha.

Inaba: So he made a list of hundred, two hundred titles. And we ended up with Gyakuten Saiban. We heard a lot of people saying that a title with only kanji looked fresh. And it was not for children anymore, so that worked out good.

Daisuke: And the box was black too.

Inaba: Yes, yes. When the logo had been decided, I was convinced we could go with black.

Daisuke: Black is pretty rare.

Inaba: Precisely. We were going to catch people with the box. That was one of the things I focused on. I want to focus on something specific in every game. I really hate going for routine work. It was the same for The 5th Annivesary. I went all the way to Tokyo to try out the paper and stuff. I also wanted to have a matte finish for the paper in the instruction manual for Code: Veronica - Complete Edition, but it became too bulky and wouldn’t fit the box, so I had to give up. Damn…

All: Hahaha.

Inaba: My own workload for Gyakuten Saiban was pretty light this time. But the first period was tough. I let the development all over to Takumi. But after the game was finished and I told them they did  a good job, my job became hectic. Everything that had to do with sales. It’s hard coming up with something within the allotted marketing budget and time. But we had a good ideas and it was fun. The fold-out flapper was one of them. That was an own idea of a female marketing staff member.

Mae: I played with that for hours.

Daisuke: Go to work! (laugh)

Inaba: Hahaha. I was also playing with that during Gyakuten Saiban meetings. It’s also part of my job to pick up on new ideas like this. It was also my job to apply that idea to the tone of the game. But if you look it from outside, it might seem like I did nothing…

Daisuke: And everyone thinks you look scary, so they don’t dare say anything.

All: Hahahaha.

Inaba: No way. They always say those things to me and tease me.

Inaba: Takumi likes reading, but can’t develop games on his own, so I think he’s really amazing. He’s an amazing storyteller.

Daisuke: There had never been a game about trials before.

Inaba: But I’m better at thinking games than action games, so I do like it. When I’m at home, I like playing games where you can think carefully, like simulation games or RPGs.

Daisuke: Really.


Inaba: All my hobbies are indoors.

Daisuke: Oh.

Mae: Hikikomori.

Inaba. Yes (laugh).
Daisuke: What kind of hobbies?

Inaba: I try to avoid anything digital once I’m away from work. I don’t want to come in contact with the world of ones and zeroes. Even though I’m originally a programmer. I don’t even use internet at home.

Daisuke: That’s surprising.

Inaba: But I do have a TV-set and a stereo.

Daisuke: You do.

Inaba: Nowadays, you can pretty much get everything in life, right? If you want to drink juice, you can just got to a vending machine, and you can talk with everyone everywhere with a mobile phone.

Daisuke: Yes.

Inaba: But I like it when it doesn’t go like I want. Like pottery. It’s a bit analog and for old people though.

Mae:  You mean like turning a pottery wheel?

Inaba: I turn, I turn.

Mae: Wow!

Inaba: The pathos when things don’t go as planned.

Daisuke: Pottery is a bit hard to say. It’s indoor, but outdoor (laugh). I’d like to try. Make a plate.

Inaba: I like the countryside, and nature, but not sports.

Daisuke: So you’re all digital at work, and all analog at home.

Inaba: Perhaps it’s like recoil.

Daisuke: You can’t be using a rice pot at home, right?

Inaba: No, no. But I’d like one.

Mae: Hahaha.

Inaba: They sell them at Tokyu Hands, right? For at home. They go for about two hundred thousand yen though. But I want one.

Daisuke & Mae: You really want one? (laugh)

Inaba: Pottery is fun. I won’t tell you to go, but the locations where you can bake them are also part of the fun. There’s a place where you can do that in Umeda, but you can’t get in the mood of pottery  in Umeda. You really need to go to the mountains or where are a lot of potteries are.

Daisuke: I’d like to try.

Inaba: I read this recently, but someone in our industry I admire wrote their hobby was looking at bonfires.  They said it was soothing to just stare at the fire whenever they are tired, but I think it’s something like that (laugh). You don’t make much money with pottery. And it don’t get a lot of profit from it. But, I think it’s a form of entertainment.  I think entertainment at  the core is “something that is not needed at all.” And things without play might be clean and simple. But they are boring. Like the steering wheel on a F1 machine, with no fun, all tough. That might be important, but a life like that is boring. But for example, how bubbles rise up from the bottom of glass, that’s fun. It’s more fun if you think like that.

Daisuke: Yes.

Inaba: I want to offer all of our users the essence of entertainment. Games are media you can interact with. You can eat or be on the phone while watching television. But with games, you have fun when you interact with it, and you use your own precious time for that. So I think we need to make something that has value for the users.

Daisuke & Mae: Yes.

Inaba:  And we don’t just take their time, but also their money. So this can be a very sinful job. It gives you a really good feeling knowing you make something that has taken so many people captive. So I think our industry is really about selling the core essence of us humans.

Daisuke & Mae: Yes.

Inaba: Ever thought like that.

Daisuke; No. Not even once.

All: Hahahaha.

Daisuke: Games are indeed not part of the basic necessities, like clothes, food and shelter. It’d be nice if they were though.

Inaba: And it’s not a desire. The sex trade, that’s obviously an industry based on sexual desire. But games. What are games about? So that’s why it’s so sinful. But there’s nothing wrong about it.

Daisuke:  But pottery as a hobby is really rare. People of Production Studio 4, they seem like they’ll always watching films (laugh).

Inaba. I like films and often watch them. I also have favorite directors, but I don’t really call it a hobby. People who consider it their hobby, they go to art houses and places like that, right? I don’t go there.

Mae: And music.

Inaba: The same. I love music, and listen to it, but it’s not my hobby. I like playing. I was a drummer.
But I like doing it all on my own, not with a whole group going wild.

Daisuke: But aren’t most people like that? With films and games? Where you just want to concentrate on that one thing for a while?

Inaba: Not when I’m together with a girl.

All: Hahaha.

Inaba: But I’m happiest when I’m reading a book while listening to music.

Mae: You read a lot?

Inaba: Yes. Really a lot. Most of my credit card bills is books.

Daisuke: You buy them with a credit card?

Inaba: Yes. I often buy hardcovers. They can be quite expensive, actually. It often happens that I’ve taken them to the register and I find out I don’t have enough money with me.

Daisuke: Finally, could we ask you for a message for those who are thinking: “Gyakuten Saiban looks interesting, but is it fun?”

Mae: Hahaha. Explain concretely.

Inaba: The game is slightly aimed at an adult audience, but the contents are really fun. You can try out the demo on the website, so please do if you have the time. I have the upmost confidence in both the volume and the contents of this game, so please look forward to it.

Daisuke & Mae: Thank you very much.

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