No. 20

Today, on September 30th, “Palette” (,
an information website on Pokemon, is going to be closed.
It’s such a shame because I often visited the site.
It was a great site because they updated information quite often.

It’s not an easy job to manage a website.
Once you start a site, it’s often difficult to decide when to quit.
In the case of Pokemon Crystal, we too found it difficult
to decide how long we should keep on managing the Nintendo server.
I remember having many discussions about it.

Things that are difficult to quit.ツ? Things that are addictive.
It’s fun to look for these things.
A certain part of your favorite song, TV programs, novels,
sports activities, driving a car, climbing mountains.
(put another way, if you create something that’s addictive,
you can expect people to go crazy about it)

Things you can’t quit once you start.
I’m starting to feel that this column is like that too …
It takes courage to stop doing something.

Many thanks to the Palette administrator!

See ya.

No. 19

People’s tastes are intriguing.

You might have a preference for girls
who wear only black or brown-colored clothes,
and when you see someone like that on the street
you can’t help but stare at her, or

You can’t help noticing a girl if she has long hair, or
if she wears a hat, or
if she wears a choker, or
if she wears a long skirt and a pair of boots, or
if she wears special costumes or…

We all have these small preferences and likings that are
purely individual.

But there are times when a bunch of people meet
and they all share a particular liking for something.
They have the same taste even though they grew up differently.

Of course, they are not brothers or sisters,
and they went to different schools.
But they share the sense of what is cool.
Isn’t this strange?

Things and events that many people find attractive.
It seems we tend to notice them more quickly when
they have an appeal to a wider range of people.

See ya.

No. 18

These days I’m searching for a pair of speakers,
but I can’t find one I want.

In the old days I used to make speakers of my own.
I would draw a plan, buy a board and put speakers on it.
I tried many tricks like putting sand into the unit,
wondering if it produces more low-end by making it heavy.
Or change the shape of the cone of the speaker.
Or insert an additional flat board,
or put glue on the cone,
or improve the strength of the magnet …

Not really to make a better sound but to have fun
with the changes they make to the sound.

Be it climbing a mountain, or a marathon,
or putting together a plastic model,
or tuning up a car,
it’s vital to finish something once you start it.
Especially true with game development.

It’s easy to forget because everyone knows it, but
games are not physical things.ツ? They are contents.
You can go on adding, changing and deleting
as long as you want to.
There is nothing to stop you from making changes.
That’s why it’s really difficult to finish it up.

So my advice to those who aspire to be game creators.
Learn how to “finish up” and “complete” a project.

See ya.

No. 17

It’s just a question but
why do they call “priority” seats on the trains?
I understand their concept, but in reality they are
more like “reserved” seats.
Somewhere between “priority” and “reserved.”
The word “priority” doesn’t seem to fit to describe
what they are.

When you’re on a train or waiting for an elevator,
you feel less willing to yield.

But when I’m looking for a spot in a parking lot,
I feel I shouldn’t park in spots with a big “priority”
sign. I don’t really know why.
I don’t know why but I feel I shouldn’t park
in spots like that because
it’s reserved for other people.

When I develop games, too, I notice that we have
different feelings about the same thing
depending on how we look at it.
We become less conscious of certain aspects
when we stop focusing on it.

In game development,
the parts where we want the player to notice,
and the parts where we want the player not to notice,
both are equally important.

No. 16

Not many people know this but I’m fanatic about
analog synthesizers.
The thing I most like about analog synthesizers is
that you can create sounds that do not exist in real world.
It sure turns me on.

I have Roland SH-2, Korg MS-20 and PS3200,
but the one I have most fun with is Roland System 100M,
because it’s patchable.
It’s an easy-to-handle and fun-to-play instrument.

Design-wise, I have such an admiration for Moog IIIc.
That huge machine that Hideki Matsutake
(a support member of Yellow Magic Orchestra) used
from his early days.
The design is super!ツ? Nothing beats it!
Panel design goes without saying,
but the horizontal to vertical ratio of the box,
and the fact is it’s slanted are super cool!
It’s truly a marriage of function and design.
What a beauty.

Let me explain a little about analog synthesizers
for a moment here.
An analog synthesizer is made up with
three basic parts, each of which has a separate function.
The VCO is what produces sound.
The VCF is what shapes the sound.
The VCA is what controls the volume.
In other words, every sound we hear has
only these three basic elements.

‘By breaking down a thing into its parts and synthesizing them,
recreate the thing you started with.”
This is also true with the vocoder.
This method seems like the fundamental idea of Dr. Moog,
who invented the synthesizer.

When I am developing a video game, there are times
I think in a similar way.
To break a thing down into parts and then to reassemble them are
especially important in seeing how it is supposed to be, I think.

See ya.

No. 15

Well, Kyushu (the southernmost of Japan’s four major islands)
is a great place.

My father and mother both are from Kurate county
in Fukuoka (a prefecture in Kyushu),
so I have many relatives living in Kyushu.

When I was a kid, my family went back to Kyushu during
summer vacation.
We would dive into the sea and catch fish
with spears, collect shellfish and crabs,
go fishing with rods, or with a net,
go to the river to catch crabs and shrimps,
catch sleeping fish in the river with hands at night,
and go hunting for beetles.

Now I realize all that we did was to catching something.
I had a great memory of all this.

Kyushu has a lot of mountains and also
the sea and the rivers are very clean.
So you can find lots of wildlife there.
And most importantly people are very friendly.
There is no place like Kyushu.

The Hoenn region in Pokemon Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald is
modeled after Kyushu because I wanted to recatch
my memories of summer in Kyushu.

The concept of the Hoenn region is a place where
Pokemon and humans get along well, and also where
people can meet friends and develop relationships
with other people.
We designed the region with the importance of human
relationships and the warm heart of the Kyushu people
in mind.
(Ho in “Hoenn”「豊緑」means ‘rich’ and Enn means
‘green’ in Japanese kanji.)

The reason why the island is rotated 90 degrees counterclockwise
is because we thought it brings a better playability that way.

OK, Kyushu.ツ? I’ll visit there again.
Of course, on the way I will play Pokemon Emerald.


No. 14

Maps in Pokemon games look somewhat peculiar, don’t they?

The thing was, in order to include many graphics
of Pokemon and to save the ROM capacity,
our programmers had to sacrifice something.
To cope with the problem, we came up with the idea of
using roads.

Oftentimes limitations like this can make a game
more entertaining.

For example, the maximum number of letters
you can use for Pokemon names and moves are fixed.
Also, the player can carry only 6 Pokemon
and 4 moves at hand.
This kinds of limitations I think contribute greatly
to the playability of the game.

When we were developing Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire,
we went back to where we started
and discussed changing the number of Pokemon
you can carry, or the number of moves Pokemon can learn,
but in the end we came to the conclusion that
the original numbers were the best, and that
not one more or less would make the game more fun.

Limitations force us to think harder and
they can bring many difficulties, of course,
but I try to think that they are what “forces us to
think of ways to polish up our products so that
they are of the highest quality.”
So, limitations are important to us.


No. 13

Today I’ll write about some geeky stories of old days.

When we started developing for Pokemon Red and Blue,
we at Game Freak took a plunge and bought a UNIX machine
called SUN SPARCstation 1.

Even now I think it was such a bold step because
it was very very expensive.

We also installed LAN boards from Allied Telesis
in our PC9801Xa and Epson computers in order to set up a LAN environment.
Four or five of us logged into the network from different
computers so that we could work together, but it was so slow.

When I was in technical school I studied CG and C language
using a medium-sized computer by DEC, and before I knew it
I was really into UNIX.

For someone like me, therefore, SUN was such an easy-to-use

But it sometimes crashed.ツ? “What on earth is going on?”
Then there were times it never rebooted… “Oh my goodness!”

Whenever this happened I used to yell at the computer
“Start up!!! Please!”ツ? It was almost like a prayer.

These days we used streamer tapes that were as large
as VHS cassettes for backups.
But they took so long that we didn’t back up as
often as we should have.
So when computers crashed there was a possibility that
more than a month’s worth of all of our contributions
might go down the drain.
We tried every possible means to rescue the computers.

We read manuals in English and impossibly thick books on computers.
We also asked for help on Nifty Serve’s bulletin board.

When a machine didn’t start up for a continuos period
(like reboots during startup),
I was so completely preoccupied with the problem
that I even had a dream of my machine starting up!

Looking back it was a very good learning experience.

From Masuda, a vi mania.