Following Yakuza series creator Toshihiro Nagoshi and No More Heroes creator Goichi Suda, popularly known as “Suda51,” Capcom veteran Hiroyuki Kobayashi announced his move to NetEase Games back in August this year. Today, NetEase revealed Kobayashi’s new studio as GPTRACK50, located in Osaka. At Capcom, Kobayashi worked as the producer on the Resident Evil series as well as Devil May Cry.
“I was at Capcom for 27 years. During my time, the company became a lot bigger and a lot of new staff came in,” Kobayashi told IGN in an exclusive interview.
“I worked on a wide array of titles at Capcom, but I wanted a new challenge,” he explained. “Of course, it’s not like Capcom didn’t allow me to try out new things, but now that the company is a lot bigger, things are different from the way they were when I joined the company as a freshman back in 1995. Everything now needs to be approved and things just take more time to get greenlit. I’m the kind of creator that wants to be able to deliver a new experience while it still feels fresh, and I had been thinking of creating my own studio to make that possible.”
Kobayashi had heard that major Chinese publisher and developer NetEase Games gives its studios a lot of creative freedom. After joining the company, he feels relieved to have the liberty to be able to pursue his ideas without having to take too much time to explain himself.
While he said it is too early to go into detail, Kobayashi assured us that GPTRACK50’s first game will be something in line with the action games he has worked on in the past.
“After making action games at Capcom for so many years, it would be a bit weird if I was now making an adventure game or a dating sim, wouldn’t it?” he joked. “That being said, I don’t want to do the exact same thing as I have been doing at Capcom either. Mixing my expertise up with things that my new position at NetEase allows me to do should make for an interesting action game. While NetEase is known for mobile games and online gaming, I do have to say that I want to continue developing for the console and PC market.”
A more global audience
Kobayashi confirmed that the game will be a new IP. He also said that while in Japan he is mostly known as the creator of the Sengoku Basara series, he wants GPTRACK50’s first game to have a more global appeal, so don’t expect anything set in the Sengoku (Warring States) period.
When we mentioned Ghost of Tsushima’s worldwide success and the popularity of games set in feudal Japan since, Kobayashi did acknowledge that there might be a possibility in the future.
“As a game about Japan made by non-Japanese developers, Ghost of Tsushima kind of reminded me how we (at Capcom) as Japanese developers made a horror game set in the United States with Resident Evil back in the day,” he mused. “At the time, it might have been surprising for people that it was made by Japanese developers.
“I think this shows that no matter what country or culture you make your game about, as long as you seriously study the topic and put your heart into it there’s always a chance. In that regard, it’s not like I’ve had enough of games like Sengoku Basara, and the Sengoku period is definitely a good setting, but for our first game we’re going for something that more easily appeals to a worldwide audience,” Kobayashi explained.
While taking a more global approach, however, Kobayashi does intend to aim for a specific audience, rather than reaching out to every single person that plays video games.
“I don’t see the need to reach out to the kind of person who only plays one game per year,” he said. “Of course, there are plenty of games that do go after the more casual player, but for our first project I want to create a new experience for a more core audience that is seriously invested in playing games. Rather than creating something anyone can enjoy, I want to have a clear type of gamer that it will appeal to. Of course, it’s not like I’m trying to eliminate potential players, and anyone willing to give it a try will make me happy, but the more serious type of gamer is definitely our main target audience.”
Besides working on games, Kobayashi also contributed as a producer on movies, anime and even stage performances based on Capcom IP. While GPTRACK50’s first step will be to deliver an exciting new action game, Kobayashi hopes to adapt the studio’s new IP to other forms of entertainment in the future like he has done at Capcom in the past.
On working with Nagoshi and Suda
Regarding the possibility of working together with Nagoshi Studio or Goichi Suda’s Grasshopper Manufacture now that they are all under the NetEase umbrella, Kobayashi said that for the coming years his studio will be too focused on developing its first game, but he doesn’t discount the possibility in the future.
“Something like that could potentially be discussed in the future. At the very least, I think we can learn a lot from each other,” he said. “Quantic Dream also recently became a part of NetEase. Their games are almost like movies, and very different from the way I have come to make games. I am interested in communicating with other NetEase studios in the hope that we can learn from each other.”
Kobayashi’s openness to learn from different developers might have something to do with the past. In 2005, he worked together with Suda on Killer7, a title published by Capcom.
“I think it might be the first time I’ve said this, but if I hadn’t worked on Killer7 with Suda, I might not have incorporated elements uncommon in games at the time into Sengoku Basara, like anime and CG cutscenes. By witnessing how Suda makes his games, I learned to be more free and creative. It kind of opened me up as a creator,” Kobayashi recalled. “Suda is truly a charismatic creator, which is why I persistently yelled out ‘Suda51! Suda51!’ like a magic spell when promoting the game in the West.”
He added, laughing, “One could almost say that we were promoting Suda himself more than the actual game.”
Killer7 was released two years before Suda reached the success of No More Heroes. You might say that Kobayashi’s enthusiastic promotion played a small part in Suda finding popularity in the West.
From Resident Evil to Dragon’s Dogma
Kobayashi himself played a key role in some of Capcom’s most beloved franchises, including Resident Evil, Devil May Cry and Dragon’s Dogma.
“When I joined Capcom in 1995, the PlayStation and Sega Saturn had come out just one year earlier,” said Kobayashi. “The first title I got to work on as a freshman was the original Resident Evil. It was a time of change. The 32-bit consoles were fresh on the market and Sony had only just joined the industry. It was a time in which a lot of experimentation was possible. A lot of strange games were made, some of which I worked on myself. It was a fun period to start my journey as a developer.”
Kobayashi was originally fond of the Super Mario Bros. series, which he had been playing since he was in elementary school. However, he never wanted to work on Mario games himself.
“I was more interested in creating 3D games,” he said. “Of course, Mario became 3D later on, but at the time I had been studying 3DCG at college and I was fascinated by games like Virtua Fighter, Tekken, Ridge Racer and Daytona USA.”
When joining Capcom, Kobayashi made it clear that he wanted to work on 3D games right away, which is why he was assigned to the “horror team”.
“That’s what the Resident Evil team was called before we had a title. I was really lucky to be assigned there,” he said.
While Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami had already worked on titles like Disney’s Aladdin and Goof Troop, Kobayashi hadn’t heard of the now-legendary developer before joining the company.
“Back then, Capcom’s most famous creators were Yoshiki Okamoto and Noritaka Funamizu,” Kobayashi recalled. “In my college years I wasn’t really that conscious about game developers, but those were two names I had heard of before. Other developers I knew and respected were Sega’s Yu Suzuki and Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto.
“Capcom had a very different image back then. Today, Resident Evil might be a flagship franchise, but then it was still the company of Street Fighter and Mega Man. Compared to those, Resident Evil kind of looked like a Western game and felt like a rare type of action-adventure game. Since then, I have worked on many titles for the series on different platforms, ranging from the Dreamcast to PlayStation, GameCube and Xbox 360. I was also involved in games like Devil May Cry and Dragon’s Dogma. From the challenge of developing games for new hardware to the challenge of creating new IP, my 27 years at Capcom are full of memories.”
Today marks a new chapter for Kobayashi’s career as a videogame developer. While it will probably take a few years for GPTRACK50’s first game to reach players’ hands, Kobayashi hopes to be able to announce the project soon.
Thumbnail photo credit: NetEase
Esra Krabbe is an editor at IGN Japan. Follow him on Twitter here.
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Author: Kat Bailey