Interview: Sega talk F-Zero

Posted by - May 16th 2002 18:23

Toshihiro Nagoshi, director for the F-Zero Gamecube/TRIFORCE project at Amusement Vision recently sat down with Arcadia magazine to talk about the games.

Arcadia: Can you explain how Sega became involved with F-Zero?

Nagoshi-san: We helped develop Nintendo's Tri-Force arcade system, and we decided to support it with our software. However, just releasing another game seemed inappropriate, we needed something that would stand out and draw attention to Nintendo's platform. I was asked to develop a driving game, and I agreed with the condition that I could think of a new idea. I suggested working on the next incarnation of Nintendo's F-Zero series, and after weighing the prospects of having us develop it, they agreed. From there the project really gathered speed.

Arcadia: So the Tri-Force hardware was already finished, it was just a matter of what software to develop?

Nagoshi-san: Yes. Until recently, Sega only created hardware specifically for our own games. So, in a sense, this is a whole new experience for us.

Arcadia: Are you in the early stages of development on F-Zero?

Nagoshi-san: Yes, we recently received final approval from Nintendo on our plans. I touched upon this briefly at the press conference last month. Since the hardware is so advanced, we realize the game must be equally advanced. So the first step was to clearly determine the direction of the game. F-Zero is very unique visually, and we wanted to maintain that. We recently completed a series of prototype designs for vehicles, and assuming the finished version looks like them, I'll be very happy. Of course we want the game to be somewhat original as well. Particularly in regard to the arcade version, we have our studio's reputation and my personal pride on the line. We have a responsibility to provide the consumer with quality, and taking everything into account thus far, I think we're going to present an excellent product.

Arcadia: How is development being split between Nintendo and Sega (Amusement Vision)?

Nagoshi-san: We're taking care of the planning and execution. Once things really begin to take shape, we'll turn to Nintendo for supervision.

Arcadia: Have there been any significant differences in opinion thus far between both groups?

Nagoshi-san: To be honest, we have free reign at this point. I was worried about that at first. If Nintendo planned to hold our hands through development, I would have suggested they develop the game themselves. That way we could focus on a project which would reflect our studio's abilities. I figured that would cause a war, but I was told most of the responsibility would be left to us. All I can say is, we're going to give it our best shot. [smiles..]

Arcadia: Was Amusement Vision responsible for the early sketches at the press conference last month, such as the game poster?

Nagoshi-san: Yes, that's an example of one. Although no real vehicle was shown. I feel the character Falcon has a very strong image, and represents a dominant visual aspect for the series. He's the sort of character that Sega doesn't have. When you look at Daytona or Sega Rally, there's no character you can identify with behind the wheel. Nobody you can see, at least. [laughs...]

Arcadia: Interesting point..

Nagoshi-san: That's the case with many Sega games, the player is cast as the hero. There are some people who consider that a mark of inferiority. I personally never minded that sort of freedom. I'm the type of person who makes myself the hero in the storyline. In this instance however, it's totally opposite and I have to ask myself the question - Who is Falcon? That's something I've never had to deal with before, there's a clearly defined main character.

Arcadia: We've seen a mech-robot type design as well, was that an Amusement Vision sketch as well?

Nagoshi-san: Yes, all the sketches have been ours. Unfortunately I can't show you it yet - but the finished character model for Falcon is very impressive. Our illustrators are working with relative freedom to create the best looking designs for the other characters as well. They're attempting to draw upon the essence of the aesthetic feel of the game, and add their own visual style.

Arcadia: F-Zero is being developed for both the Tri-Force arcade system and the GameCube. Will there be any differences between them?

Nagoshi-san: Let me explain our production plans. As I've said, the game will be developed in two versions, 'home' and 'away.' The 'home' version, of course, refers to the GameCube title. The 'away' version is for the arcade. In terms of planning, we've had to consider the game's core audience. Choosing between both versions, we believe the players will get more enjoyment out of the GameCube version. However, we realize we also have to add something special to the arcade incarnation. Exactly what that will be, I can't say yet. [smiles..]

Arcadia: So the arcade version will show off the game's capabilities, but the GameCube version will offer more expanded gameplay?

Nagoshi-san: That's the logical progression, yes. Since the essence of the series has its origins in the console market, many elements belong in the home version.

Arcadia: How are you working with the memory card capabilities of the hardware?

Nagoshi-san: We're dealing with the GameCube memory card (59), and we were initially concerned that the amount of data would be too large for saving. Actually, our original development plans called for three versions of F-Zero; one for Tri-Force, one for GameCube, and one for the GameBoy Advance. But the problem was, we have no real experience programming on the GameBoy Advance. Even though I believe we could have done it, we agreed to scrap the idea of a handheld version because it was too much of a challenge. As a joke, I considered announcing the GameBoy Advance version, and saying it would include a 32 character save code system. Just a joke, of course. [laughs..]

Arcadia: Are there any special plans to incorporate the GameCube memory card, like how Sega used the VMU in their arcade games?

Nagoshi-san: Yes, Mr. Miyamoto and I have discussed that actually. I suggested we release a 'holder' so players can carry around their memory cards. Just cause the memory card is small and light doesn't mean players will want to carry it on them. I feel as if we should release a keyholder type device, and at some point, Mr. Miyamoto and I will discuss that further.

Arcadia: Did that idea come from Sega's VMU strap?

Nagoshi-san: Yes, I want something unique for the GameCube memory card. Perhaps we can have it snap into a hat or something. I guess if it rains you'd have a problem though. [laughs..] Perhaps a wristwatch with a detachable face, something like that.

Arcadia: Now that you mention it, in the sketch of Falcon you've released it looks like he's wearing a special watch-like device. Right?

Nagoshi-san: Right. Very similar. Players might want to have accessories modeled after characters in the game, I may borrow that idea from you. [smiles..]

Arcadia: The crossover of everyday life and gaming really seems to appeal to you?

Nagoshi-san: Yes, absolutely. Personally, I think such a crossover would be ideal. For example, I have envisioned a commercial where an office worker, after a long day of working, comes home and pops open the heel of his shoe. Locked inside is his memory card which he removes and then heads off to the arcade. Then the camera switches to the arcade and you see everybody's just like him. I would love to see that, that's what I daydream about. In cultivating this business, we've had to find new ways to deliver our products. I think Sega has been great at that, but inside the company there's been a sense of “Things must be done this way, this is our product.” Like a stubborn old chef. Having to compromise some of your ideas for shareholders, and the people who patronize your business.

Arcadia: That sort of inflexibility can be bothersome?

Nagoshi-san: Yes, exactly. The company needs to realize that in order to survive they need to be flexible. They don't necessarily have to change the dedication to our products, just more flexibility would improve Sega's business model. That sort of evolution has proven essential for companies today.

Arcadia: Getting back to F-Zero, what will the arcade cabinet look like?

Nagoshi-san: Our supervisor is interested in designing something special for the game, so we're eager to see what he comes up with as well.

Arcadia: So many racing games focus on four-wheeled vehicles. Is there a sense of anticipation that the arcade cabinet may capture the essence of the free-floating movement in F-Zero?

Nagoshi-san: Like the cabinet for Afterburner?

Arcadia: Right, something like that perhaps?

Nagoshi-san: That would be pretty neat, wouldn't it? [smiles..] If I was asked for ideas, I'd have many suggestions. I plan to offer my ideas for the cabinet, and I'm excited to see how the finished version comes out. Not every game you work on requires the cabinet to conjure up the same powerful spirit of the game. That's what's so unique about F-Zero, and I hope we're able to create something that illustrates the game and our studio's vision. We're very proud to be working on F-Zero.

Source: Xengamers

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Last updated on:
Nov 25th 2003