Thursday, December 8, 2016

Gyakuten Saiban 3 Blog Entry 15: Infinity Born From "Restrictions" (2004)

Title: Infinity Born From “Restrictions” / 「“制限”が生む、無限大」
Source: Gyakuten Saiban 3 official site (down)

Summary: The fifteenth column for Gyakuten Saiban 3 (Ace Attorney 3: Trials & Tribulations) has director Takumi talking about what the limited storage space on a Game Boy Advance cartridge means for the development of these games. While you would think that restrictions would be a bad influence on that, Takumi points out that being forced to come up with ideas is not a bad thing per se, and indeed, many of the elements thought "typical" of this series, were simply results of the team having to cope with storage restrictions.

Infinity Born From “Restrictions” 

If you have a ROM cartridge of the Gyakuten Saiban (Ace Attorney) series near you, please pick it up. …It’s small, isn’t it? As you can see, there are severe restrictions to the amount of data that fits inside that cartridge. For example, let’s compare it to a CD. A CD can hold 80 times more data. And nowadays DVDs are getting popular, and if we compare them, well, they have 600 times the size. …When you have that much space, it’s basically “infinite.” It’s almost like you can get everything inside.

We always have difficult battles to get the story inside these little cartridges. But to be honest, I am not really “jealous” of infinite storage space. As for why, I think there’s a certain kind of fun you can have if you have strict limitations. That “fun” forces every member of the team to “make an effort”.

The storage space on the ROM cartridges of Gyakuten Saiban 1, 2 and 3 is all exactly the same. However, there is quite a difference in the  amount of information actually held. I think it becomes clear if you play them, but 3 is about 2.3 times larger than 1. How is that possible of the amount of data put inside is the same? That’s the result of three years of “effort” and “research”.

Programmer:  How can I make a system to effectively store data?
Graphic artist: How can I shrink the file size of the art?
Music/sound effects: How can I make the best sounds with less data?
Me: How can I make the story more fun?
…One of these people isn’t really helping.

The inconvenience of “restrictions” gives the imagination of us creators, our creativity a strong stimulus. “How can I create the most effect with the least amount of materials?” Each section has to work together to face this destiny and so come up with an answer. This results in a good sense of pressure, and also gives us the power to come up with new ideas.

New ideas…. I think that the opening scenes of five episodes in 3 are a good example of that. Up until the previous game, 2, we made these openings with the idea of presenting the player with nice visuals. But this time, we changed our focus on “movement and presentation.” “Movement” takes up a lot less data compared to “visuals”.  The idea came from the second episode, The Stolen Turnabout. The opening, which featured a lot of animation, was received very well within the team. …Let’s make even better openings for the following episodes…! So we started thinking about all kinds of presentation. That was really entertaining.

“We can for example make an effect like an old film.”
“Ah, I see. It’d be a monochrome image, so the color data would shrink in size.”
“No, no, don’t make fun of films!”
“I guess so. But if we could just make some of those black, vertical noise lines move randomly….”
“No, no, no. Listen, the history of film noir is….”
“Let’s play a bit with the brightness of the screen.”
“Let’s have some dust here. Can you just draw some random spots here.”
“No, no, no, no, no! I won’t allow you to do things randomly, pal!”

At the end of the discussion, we decided we’d try it out. And yes, it looked like an old film! The feeling when you managed to make a worthwhile effort within these harsh restrictions, is similar to that feeling of exhilaration when you cry out “Objection!” to a nervous witness.

“Restrictions” also give me a good stimulus when I’m thinking of the scenarios. In Gyakuten Saiban, we have some characters who appear in multiple episodes. The first time we did that was in the final episode of 1. Actually, that was a desperate measure we had take to reduce the data volume. But it gave that story a new direction to go to.

Aha, so a new appearance by a character can lead to this…. That light shock I felt then, has grown inside of me. Because of that, I came up with the idea to have the “culprit” appear again in this game.

The conclusion of all of this. What I want to say is, “Inconvenience born from “restrictions” is important”… no, that’s not it. What is really important is “keep on thinking”. Imagination is infinite. It’s impossible to set restrictions on that. But I myself am the model for lazy people, so unless I get some pressure from outside, I won’t think at all. That’s all.

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