Translating the whole article won't accomplish much as it's written in a narrative by a third person but here are the tidbits that Murayama lets out and a paraphrase of the article related to the quote.- Suikoden III Rumors -
- The First Project -
None of that is true, he assures. Konami always wanted me to stay. After the success of Suikoden II they listened to me and I could practically ask for anything. To erase me from the credits was simply an issue about following the rules, even if all employees disliked it.
But, even as I started at Konami I set up a goal for myself to not work there for longer than 10 years and then I wanted to go freelance. When that time was up in 2002 I had done three games and I simply wanted to move on. There is no bad blood, I still meet my old Suikoden-team for a beer from time to time.
And if Konami would give me an offer to come back I would seriously consider it.
One morning, after six months of working at Konami, Murayama got a call from his department manager.
He more or less said: 'Okay, drop whatever you're working on right now. Whatever it is we're canceling it. Konami has a new project. We're making our own console, and you have to make games for it.'
A year later the project was cancelled and all three planned titles, an RPG, a racer and a fighter, were canned. This is the project where he first met Junko Kawano.
The RPG he was working on was a story of two countries at war. On either side of the conflict were two childhood friends, featuring a job system with 60 different classes. The storyline was later reused for Suikoden II.- The Next Project -
About a week after the console project had been scrapped my boss called me again. This time he spoke just as enthustiastically about the next big project: 'We're going to start developing games for Sony coming console, Playstation'. I thought to myself: Okay, here we go again.
Murayama, Kawano and ten other employees were gathered in a room and had five unnamed projects to choose from, 'baseball', 'racer', 'rpg', 'rpg' and 'rpg'.
I don't really like either baseball or racing games, so me and Junko chose to do one of the RPGs. But if I had been given the oppertunity to do a shoot'em'up instead I would have done that.
But I quickly found myself in the role as a new RPG director and programmer. And thanks to the fact that Konami didn't really believe that the Playstation would be a success I had almost completely free hands to create whatever I wanted within the budget constraints.
Konami made only one demand of the game, it had to be the first in a series. The plan was to establish their on series on the new market before Square and Enix made their entry.- Between The Lines -
Because of his inexperience with RPGs Murayama played through other developers games for inspiration and even looked at their source codes.
Primarily I discovered something interesting in Dragon Quest V, he recalls. Every time you die and get revived at a priest the speed of his dialouge slows down. Perhaps not by much, but it's clearly there in the source code. As if the healing process was a strain on the priest and therefor he spoke a little slower. Small details like that made me feel like the gameworld was more realistic. It taught me much.
He also drew inspiration from his favourite games, Metal Black and Civilization, liking that they were very complex but easy to get into.
He also got inspiration from one of the few RPGs he had played when he was younger, Black Onyx.
I remembered when I got Black Onyx from my parents, he says. The difficulty of the game made me incredibly frustrated. Some parts took me months to complete. In the last cave the player needs to pass through a series of doors in the exact right order, but without any clues what-so-ever how he should go about it. Personally I wanted to make a relatively easy game that anyone could beat, and that became a driving force during developement. Rather than make a complex game system I wanted to capture people with a dramatic story.
He and Kawano quickly decided not to use the graphical capabilities of the Playstation.
- A Decisive Misunderstanding -
The early polygon tests I saw were not impressive. I think the technology was still too young. The 3D-models didn't feel like people, they were to expressionless. We chose to make a pixel based game instead, because we would better be able to express the characters, give them more soul.
Playing other RPGs he felt like too much emphasis was put on the hero.
I often felt that if the hero was the one that moved the plot forward then his friends were the backbone of the game, the ones I remembered the most.
The ideas for the colorful cast came from mangas like Saint Seiya, Fist of the North Star and Captain Tsubasa (a football manga).
One of my favourite characters was Ryo Ishizaki from Captain Tsubasa. He's actually pretty bad at football. His only strength is his ability to block shots with his face. But with his courage and a wonderful personality you find yourself liking him over Tsubasa in the end.
Before the project could get started the teams reassembled to pitch their ideas. Feeling afraid that his boss would misunderstand his intentions with a game built around secondary characters he reached the conclusion that the 50-year old man had probably never heard of Captain Tsubasa or Fist of the North Star. Instead he chose to use Shui Hu Zhan to illustrate his idea.
'Suikoden!' my boss exclaimed. 'An RPG with 108 characters. I love it. Do it.' At first I considered telling him that wasn't exactly what I had meant, but I didn't. Later I regretted that I didn't try to explain what Captain Tsubasa was anyway.
And thus the game had been named.- Building An Army -
6 months into the developing process the task was starting to prove too much for Murayama and Kawano. She did the graphics and artwork, he programmed and directed.
The other two RPGs were soon cancelled and the staff allocated to Suikoden.
Without any adjustment period I had been promoted to producer with an entire team under me. I had no previous experience with being boss so instead of being strict I was humble. Instead of arguing with my staff I argued with my bosses.
The relaxed atmosphere led to the team getting a close bond, something noticed by the Konami uppers who periodically sent him people that were experts in their areas, but notoriously hard to work with.
They thought that Murayama can probably make them like it here, he laughs
Each morning the team would gather and suggest characters for the game, many ideas sprung.
One sound guy was very persistant. One morning he came in with a drawing of his own character that was a seabird in a sailor suit. I recognized the bird instantly - it was Yokohama Marinos mascot. I tried to nicely dismiss it, but he really couldn't understand the copyright issues we would face. I don't know how many times he brought it before finally giving up.
In order to get people to play with as many of the characters as possible the War Battles were introduced.
Many were also programmed with different learning curves. They were meant to be effective for a time, and then slow down and the hope was that the players would therefor rotate their rosters.
- The Final Stretch -
When one of the main characters dies in the game he has deliberately been programmed to be a bit worse than the others. The hour before the event you are forced to use him and I wanted him to annoy people. But when he sacrifices his life the player would feel remorse, almost shame, and want him back.
The last 6 months of Suikodens 2½ years developement time Murayama practically lived in his office.
- Suikoden -
I remember the very last day when had burned the game to disc and sent it away. Once I got home for the first time in I don't know how long I get a phonecall that tells me they can't start the duplication because of a bug in the master copy. Five of us hurried back to see what was wrong. It turned out to be a minor bug that we fixed in a matter of minutes. But then we had to stay there while the game was burned to disc again, which took hours. Without any joy or excitement we sat there and played Kururin Pa! for Playstation, just waiting for everything to finish. I don't think we said a single word to each other in all that time.
Though Suikoden didn't sell too well at first, word of mouth grew and sales gradually increased. The developement team started getting fan mail from players and Murayama personally responded to every single one.
Content with the final sales Konami went ahead with the original plan and made Suikoden into a series.
But by this time programming for Playstation had matured and 3D-models were more impressive. And by this time it was a fact that Square were working on Final Fantasy VII. Realizing that Squares game would be bigger, better and more beautiful than anything else for the Playstation Murayama had a difficult choice to make.
In the end, it was the fans that decided the fate of the series.
We noticed that players really loved the world and characters we had created. All the letters we got, all the response, were about the story and the world it took place in. People got immersed in our universe and were spellbound by the characters we filled it with. Once we realized that we could only afford to either develop better graphics or develop Suikoden world more the choice was obvious. We chose the world.