Ghost of Tsushima Creative Director Discusses Working with a Japanese Setting as a Western Developer

Sucker Punch's Creative Director discussed how creating Ghost of Tsushima with a Japanese setting has been interesting for the western developer.

Sucker Punch’s Ghost of Tsushima is one of the most intriguing titles in Sony’s upcoming first-party PS4 lineup. While there have been games set in feudal Japan before, it isn’t a setting usually tackled by western developers, especially one most recently known for superhero games set in cities based on New York, New Orleans, and Seattle. That being said, Sucker Punch Creative Director Nate Fox still seems eager to be working with and developing Ghost of Tsushima in such a different setting than Sucker Punch is normally used to.

These sentiments came out during an interview with at VIEW Conference 2018 in Turin. As Sucker Punch and Sony Interactive Entertainment revealed previously, Ghost of Tsushima is set on the titular island between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, with players following one of the few remaining samurai that can fend off the Mongol invasion.

While this premise and story are much different than anything Sucker Punch has worked on before, Nate Fox finds something romantic about feudal Japan and believes it to be a setting underused by western developers:

“We were certainly very excited to make a game set in feudal Japan, because it brings up a lot of romantic images in our mind. Part of the fantasy around feudal Japan is being a samurai – that’s an exciting job to have in feudal Japan. I do think it’s under-utilized. I don’t know why more games aren’t set there, it’s so appealing.”

When it comes to accuracy and authenticity, he also claims that the development team “absolutely tried our damnedest.” Nate Fox reaffirmed the fact that Sucker Punch is working with experts from Japan things like Kenjutsu, and even consulted developers from Sony’s Japanese studios to get a better idea of cultural norms. He also  believes working with the experts kept the development team from “going astray” and also allowed the team to learn a lot of new things and become intimately familiar with the time period and setting:

“We rely on all these people to let us know where we’re going astray. Sucker Punch is good at making gameplay, but we are not cultural experts in Kamakura-era Japan. We recognise this, and we’re grateful to have the help.

It’s been interesting working on this game because in past titles we’ve been able to make it up, frankly. For a superhero game set in Seattle, we knew what we were doing, but in this game we are constantly learning about Japanese culture or the norms of samurai. And it’s exciting because it changes the way you work to learning in the same way that players get to learn about these things, and in fascinating detail.

Things were surprising us all the time. But that’s part of the joy of the discovery of making the game. Hopefully it’s something that will translate into the game as a player, that you will discover a lot of the beauty of feudal Japan.”

The conversation then moved to a wider discussion about how AAA games should be more creative and unique when choosing new settings. While Nate Fox thinks recent Sony first-party releases like Horizon: Zero Dawn and God of War did a good job at bringing players someplace new, he acknowledges the fact that there’s a lot of room for expansion:

“Games are moving around. Feudal Japan just happened to be a place that, as a developer, I know I was eager to spend a lot of time trying to recreate. And as a gamer, I really wanted to play an open-world samurai game. And that’s just one excellent place in history – there are so many more.

So yeah, I do think that there’s a lot more spaces to play in and I wish the industry would get a little bit wider. That said, I think the industry does a pretty good job at going to places that are unexpected.”

It will definitely be interesting to seen how Sucker Punch being a western developer impacts the feeling and atmosphere of Ghost of Tsushima as a whole, but so far what we’ve seen looks great. If you want to get more intimately familiar with the game’s setting, you can also check out DualShockers’ deep dive into the History of Fedual Japan. 

Ghost of Tsushima is currently without a release date, but we do know it’s in development for PS4.

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Tomas Franzese

Tomas Franzese is a News Editor at DualShockers, writing a variety of reviews and shedding light on upcoming games for both PC and consoles. While he has been a gamer most of his life, he began writing for DualShockers in 2016 and has almost never put his computer or a controller down since.

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