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Toshihiro Nagoshi Unveils Binary Domain

Original multiplatform title from Yakuza team places emphasis on drama, robot AI and online play.

 
Toshihiro Nagoshi (shown here making a cameo appearance in the Yakuza Black Panther television show).

In Famitsu this week, Yakuza series producer Toshihiro Nagoshi provided first details about his new Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 project, Binary Domain. The magazine's entire coverage of the futuristic sci-fi themed game came in the form of an interview with just a few conceptual images, but there were some indications that we'll be getting a closer look shortly.

Nagoshi says that he had the basic ideas for Binary Domain in his mind back when making Yakuza 3. He felt that the Yakuza series had been accepted to some extent by game fans, and so was wondering what he and his team should take up next. They felt that it was important to continue evolving the Yakuza series, but the creative forces within them wanted to try out a title with a different approach.

For Binary Domain, that "different approach" may come in the game's target audience: the worldwide market. "We definitely have our sights set on the world," said Nagoshi.

The major concept for Binary Domain, he explained, is to make a game that will be accepted throughout the world due to its high levels of drama and action and its technology. However, he assured Famitsu's readers that the game's content will not be something that ignores Japanese users.

Japanese gamers and fans of the Yakuza series will enjoy themselves, Nagoshi assured. In fact, the game is actually set in Japan. This choice of setting, either inside Japan or outside Japan, was initially an area of contention with Sega's overseas staff members, some of whom felt strongly that a game that targets the world market should be set outside of Japan.

The reason Nagoshi decided to stick with Japan is because of the game's goal of delivering a rich, human drama. He believes that as a person born and raised in Japan, it's easier to make drama if the game is set in Japan. Also, he feels that having a Japanese staff would be meaningless if, due to the game targeting the world market, you end up making all the world settings and cinematic ares of the game oriented to overseas players.

Strangely, despite taking place in Japan, Nagoshi said that the game's primary cast will consist of overseas voice actors. However, the event scenes are being created by Japanese staff members. Nagoshi feels that this will give the game a mix of Japanese and foreign tastes, resulting in some interesting content.

As to what that content is, Nagoshi wouldn't get too specific, only describing a basic framework for the story and sharing a few key gameplay concepts.

Binary Domain is set in 2080's Tokyo. Future Tokyo is split into two parts, one for the rich and one for the poor. The poor part of the city doesn't look too different from the current Tokyo, but much of it is rundown.

The central element to the story is a battle between humans and robots. Nagoshi would not give a reason for the fight, but did say that at this point in history the world's basic industry is driven by robots. Robots have permeated human life deeply.

Asked what kind of story we can expect for the game, Nagoshi said the fundamental theme will be a reexamination of "life." The game will ask the question, what exactly is life? Nagoshi feels that "life," while a concept that's known by everyone, is still difficult to understand.

Image from Yakuza Of the End. This zombie-themed entry in the Yakuza series adds third person shooter elements to the franchise. Concept images of Binary Domain shared in Famitsu show the main character blasting away at enemy robots, but it's unclear if the game will be a third person shooter.

Nagoshi's discussion of game systems was even less revealing. He would only say that the staff is putting effort in the AI for the robots who serve as the player's enemy, and into the pursuit of enjoyable online play.

Regarding the AI component, he said the staff is conducting continuous research with the hope of delivering world class results. They're aiming for AI algorithms that reach the top levels of what can be done on current hardware. This will result in a markedly different feel when comparing Binary Domain's movement routines to similar routines based of conventional AI. He believes that as a result of the AI work, the game will have some interesting gameplay.

Regarding online play, he said that compared to conventional online play, the game will make you better feel a connection with other players. He wants to deliver a game that gives players a lot of variation in their online actions, as he believes that giving players freedom of movement will change the quality of the experience.

Closing off the interview, Nagoshi emphasized that the game's top priority is to deliver a heated drama that shows rich ties between characters. The various game systems that are being put to use in the game are simply a method for showing that rich drama.

The terminology used by Nagoshi in his comments on drama isn't too far removed from when he speaks at a high level about the Yakuza series. Although Yakuza and Binary Domain have different settings and approaches, the basic desire to deliver a heated message to users is shared between the two games, explained Nagoshi.

Famitsu's look at Binary Domain was accompanied by a few concept images, all taken from the poor side of 2080 Tokyo. While the poor side of the city does, as Nagoshi said, resemble current Tokyo, there seems to be some sort of infrastructure rising above buildings.

One character, a muscular, heavily armed "bald space marine" type (although he does have a bit of hair) is shown facing off against robots. The robots in the screens are all humanoid, but the article also has artwork showing a massive spider-like robot.

We'll presumably get a closer look at the Binary Domain's basic setting and concepts later today as Sega is scheduled to share first video footage (at around 17:00 Japan time). The footage will be released throughout the world, Famitsu reports, suggesting that Sega's international divisions will also be making formal announcement of the game.

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