Gravity Rush 10th Anniversary Interview with Keiichiro Toyama!

Note: A Japanese version of the interview can be found here / インタビューの日本語版はこちらからご覧いただけます。

Today marks the 10 year anniversary of the Gravity Rush franchise! That means it’s been ten years since gamers in Japan first took to the skies and discovered Hekseville along with Kat on the PS Vita. To celebrate the occasion, we’re happy to share with you a new interview with the director of the Gravity Rush series, Keiichiro Toyama!

Having moved on from his job at Sony Interactive Entertaiment’s Japan Studio, Keiichiro Toyama is now the CEO of Bokeh Game Studio, where they’re working on the new studio’s very first game, Slitterhead! We’re very grateful he took the time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. A huge thank you as well to Yohei Hart from Bokeh Game Studio for handling communication with us, and translating our questions in Japanese. This allowed us to include both an English and Japanese version of the interview in this article! I’d also like to thank Cpt_Barricade and Clumsy Camelid for their assistance formulating the questions for the interview!

Interview (English)

GRC: It’s been 10 years since the release of the first Gravity Rush on PS Vita. You’re said to be a director who doesn’t micro-manage everything and instead encourages the development team to come up with their own ideas. Can you talk about how different Gravity Rush ended up being as a result of that, compared to your original vision when you first started development?

KT: For Gravity Rush we had core concepts such as “A world in the style of bande dessinée”, “An Action Game that allows you to control gravity” – however there were limitless approaches in how to materialize these ideas. I think it is genuinely rational for the team to interpret the concepts in their own way and suggest ideas so that staff members can demonstrate their own strengths. As a result, compared to the original puzzle-orientated game, we shifted towards a game that allows you to enjoy the world and liberation.

GRC: This creative process also seemed to be something that we see in other Japan Studio games. They often took risks and tried to deliver unique gameplay experiences. Looking back at your time working at Japan Studio, what are some of your best memories working there?

KT: In Japan Studio there was a culture where you could start up a project from bottom-up, and for that I am grateful for having had a highly free and enjoyable time. However, as the hardware evolved and the market grew to a worldwide audience, I think it was unavoidable that restrictions would increase due to the scale of things.

GRC: We know that the world design and architecture of Jirga Para Lhao in Gravity Rush 2 was influenced by the development team’s travels throughout Latin America and Asia. In a similar way, would you say that these also influenced the game’s story and its underlying themes such as social inequality?

KT: The experience of visiting Mexico for promoting Gravity Rush 1 had a great influence on us. The theme of the story of Gravity Rush is an attempt to incorporate the concerns of the world at a certain time into a fictional world as a satire. It’s a huge problem, but everyone has given up somewhere in their hearts. Kat would face that problem with an honest attitude. This is the structure we envisioned. I also wanted to draw the strong, unwavering will of people who do not lose hope in such circumstances.

Jirga Para Lhao in Gravity Rush 2 was influenced by the team’s travels throughout Latin America and Asia.

GRC: David Lynch was a noted influence for you when creating Silent Hill. Could you speak more on that, and if any of those elements of Lynch’s works—any themes or ideas, major or minor—also found themselves in Gravity Rush 1 and 2?

KT: At the time of Silent Hill, there were many creators who had been influenced by Lynch’s works due to the popularity at the time – but I don’t think that there is much influence to be seen in Gravity Rush. The most prominent influences for Gravity Rush are Mœbius and Alejandro Jodorowsky, who collaborated on many works.

GRC: If you’re at liberty to talk about this, we were wondering if Team Gravity was aware of the #DontForgetGravityRush campaign on social media to preserve the online services for Gravity Rush 2? And if you were, what were the team’s thoughts on this fan initiative?

KT: Of course, we were aware of the campaign. Due to my position in the company at that time, I refrained from reacting to it openly, but everyone involved on the project took it with great gratitude. I must tell you how thankful I am.

#DontForgetGravityRush was a fan campaign aimed at convincing Sony to keep GR2’s servers online.

GRC: Gravity Rush 2 could be played entirely in first-person mode. You once mentioned that the fans should make their voice heard if they wanted to see a VR mode included in the game. While this didn’t become a reality, it had me wondering if the development team ever experimented with a VR mode for the game?

KT: We had run tests. The frame rate was low, so it was far from any comfortable experience… Even so, the feeling of entering this other world was touching. Due to the nature of the game being an gravity-controlling action, we had hit a brick wall in terms of sustaining a high frame rate for VR.

GRC: Game development is notoriously difficult and ideas often get removed due to time constraints or available resources. If you had an opportunity to go back in time and add a removed feature in the Gravity Rush games, what would it be?

KT: As for features I feel that we exhausted these in Gravity Rush 2, and for that reason there isn’t anything I’d particularly like to add. Production at that time was quite tight, so I can say that it would have been nice to have more time in fine-tuning certain things.

GRC: Sony is currently porting more of their first-party games to PC. How would you feel about the Gravity Rush games being made available on that platform?

KT: I think it would be a good thing to open the game up to more users. It would also be wonderful if Gravity Rush 2 ran on 60fps.

Gravity Rush 2 running at 60fps on PC would make a lot of people happy!

GRC: Having founded Bokeh Game Studio after leaving SIE, can you talk a bit more about the positives and negatives that you have experienced working as head of an independent studio, compared to working at a large videogame company?

KT: There certainly is a fear in having to deal with any kind of problems all by ourselves, however up to this point there hasn’t been an instance like that, and I am enjoying being in a free environment and how we are able to make decisions instantly.

GRC: Your new game Slitterhead marks your return to the horror genre, and looks like it’ll be very different game from Gravity Rush. Even so, are there aspects of the game that you think will be familiar to people who played the Gravity Rush games?

KT: Compared to Silent Hill and Siren there is a greater weight of Action in Slitterhead, so naturally many things we have learnt from Gravity Rush is applied in that sense. I believe that there will be aspects in Slitterhead where you could feel the DNA of either directions.

Slitterhead will be Bokeh Game Studio’s first game.

GRC: Of course, there’s one question we have to ask. You’ve mentioned that you maintain a good relationship with Sony. Given the chance, would you want to work on a new Gravity Rush game?

KT: There are various things to bear in mind as a start-up, but on a personal level I obviously would like to. Even if it wasn’t a new game, if there is any opportunity for me to be involved with anything related, I would be grateful to do so.

GRC: You’ve once mentioned that you aspire to make IPs that fans can enjoy even ten or twenty years after they’re released. It’s fair to say that you’ve achieved that goal with Gravity Rush! Even now we still see people posting screenshots and fan art every day on social media. We’d like to thank you and everyone who worked on the Gravity Rush franchise for bringing these wonderful games to life, and we wish you and everyone at Bokeh Game Studio all the best with the development of your new game. To conclude our interview, is there any message you’d like to share with the Gravity Rush fans around the world?

KT: It’s a somewhat strange game, and I don’t think it can be referred as a major title, but I’m truly happy that people have been attached to it for such a long time.

We are currently working on a project with a different perspective compared to Gravity Rush, but in the meantime I would strongly like to come up with new ideas and work on titles like Gravity Rush again, so I hope you will still keep an eye out for us.

What strange, yet wonderful games they were. Thank you, Team Gravity!

Interview (Japanese)

PS VitaでGravity Rushが発売されてから10年が経ちました。外山さんご自身は監督としてはマイクロマネジメントはせず、開発チームに自発的にアイデアを提案させるようなスタイルだと言われています。ゲーム業界で初めて開発をされた当初のビジョンと比べて、Gravity Rushに於いてこのようなアプローチを取られたことはどういう結果に繋がったか教えていただけないでしょうか?

「バンド・デシネのような世界」「重力をコントロールするアクションゲーム」というコンセプトは確固としてありましたが、その実現に至るアプローチはいくつもあり得ました。

スタッフそれぞれの強みを発揮できるように、チームからコンセプトを解釈して提案する形は合理的だと思います。結果的に、当初はもっとパズル寄りだったゲーム性から、世界観と解放感を楽しむ方向にシフトしました。

上記のようなプロセスはSIEジャパンスタジオの他のタイトルでも見られた傾向だと思います。リスクを取ってでも独特なゲームプレイ体験を作るゲームがよくあったかと。外山さんはご自身のジャパンスタジオでの時期を振り返り、どういった思い出がありますでしょうか?

Jスタジオではボトムアップでプロジェクトを立ち上げる文化があり、本当に自由で楽しく過ごせまして感謝しています。ただ、ハードウェアが複雑化しマーケットもワールドワイドになるにつれて、規模的な問題で制約が増えていく面があるのは仕方のない事でした。

Gravity Rush 2のJirga Para Lhaoの世界観と造形は開発チームによる南米やアジアの取材旅行に影響されているかと思いますが、ゲームのストーリーや社会的不平等などのテーマもそれによる影響はありますでしょうか?

GR1のプロモーションにおいてメキシコを訪問した経験が大きく影響しました。GRのストーリーのテーマに関しては、その当時の世間の関心事を、架空の世界に風刺として取り入れる試みです。大きな問題だけれども、皆どこか諦めてしまっている問題。そこにKatが素朴な疑問を持って向き合う。そういった構図を意識しました。また、逆境の中でも前向きさを失わない、逞しい人々の生き様。そういったところを描きたいと思いました。

Silent Hillの開発に於いてデイビッド・リンチの影響があったことはよく知られています。これについてより詳しく教えていただき、また、大小問わずテーマやアイデアなど、Gravity Rush 1&2に同じようにリンチ氏のインスピレーションがあれば是非知りたいです。

SHの当時はツイン・ピークスのブームもあって、リンチに大きな影響を受けたクリエイターは数多く居ますが、GRではさほどリンチ作品の影響は現れていないと思います。GRへの大いなる影響はメビウスと、彼との共作を数多く手がけているアレハンドロ・ホドロフスキー。彼らが挙げられます。

こちらの質問はお答えできる範囲で大丈夫ですが、グラビティチームはSNSの#DontForgetGravityRushというキャンペーンによる、Gravity Rush 2のオンラインサービスの持続希望の活動は認知されていましたでしょうか?その場合、このファン活動に対してチームの反応はどういったものだったのでしょうか。

活動についてはもちろん認識しておりました。会社に所属する立場上、表立ってリアクションする事は控えておりましたが、関係者一同大変な感謝を持って受け止めていました。本当にありがとうございました。

Gravity Rush 2のゲームは全てファーストパーソンモードでプレイ可能でした。以前、外山さんはもし本ゲームにVRモードの機能を追加する要望があればファンは声を大にして発信すべきだと仰っていたと思います。当然こちらは叶わなかったのですが、実際にVR機能の検証などをされたか気になりました。

テストとして動かした事はあります。フレームレートが低く、快適なものとはお世辞にも言えませんでしたが……。それでも異世界に実際に入ってしまったような感覚は、感動的なものがありました。「重力操作アクション」という性格上、VR酔い対策が非常に大きな難問になりましたね。

ゲーム開発は非常に難しいことで有名で、時間の制約やリソースの問題でアイデアが入りきらないことが多いかと思います。もし時を戻してGravity Rushのゲームに除かれた機能を追加できるとしたら、何でしょうか?

機能としては2においてやり尽くした思いがあるので特に追加したいものはありません。当時の開発体制はかなりタイトなものだったので、もっと調整に時間と手間をかけたかった、という思いはあります。

ソニーは今ファーストパーティのゲームを多くPCにポートしています。Gravity RushのゲームがPCでプレイ可能になった場合、どう思いますか?

ユーザーの皆様が触れる機会が増えるという事で、とても良い事だと思います。フレームレートについて、GR2が60fpsになればどんなに良いだろうかとも思いますし。

SIEをご退職されてボーカゲームスタジオを設立して、大きなゲーム会社と比べて独立スタジオのトップとして働く良い点・悪い点をご経験から教えていただけないでしょうか。

もし何か問題が起こった場合に全て自分達で解決しなければいけない、という事への恐れはありますが、今のところそういった事は特にありませんし、意思決定の早さや自由さなど、基本的には良かった事がほとんどです。

新しいゲームのSlitterheadは外山さんのホラージャンルへの回帰であり、Gravity Rushとはかけ離れたゲームになる様に見えます。それでも新作の中で、Gravity Rushをプレイしてきた方が似たような要素を発見することはあると思いますか?

SHやSIRENに比べるとアクションの比重が大きな作品で、GRで得たノウハウも数多く投入されています。恐らくSlitterheadでは、どちらの方向性の遺伝子も感じられる部分があると思います。

我々としてはこれをお聞きするのは使命です。現在でもソニーとは良好な関係を保たれていると以前仰っていたかと。もしチャンスがあれば、新しいGravity Rushを作りたいと思いますか?

新しい会社として様々な事情はありますが、個人的にはもちろんそう思います。新しい作品とまではいかなくても、何かしら関連する事でお声掛けがあるようなら、是非関わらせていただきたいと思っています。

以前、ファンが10年、20年経っても楽しめるようなIPを作りたいと仰っていました。Gravity Rushでもそれは十分に達成できていると思います!今でもSNS上でスクショやファンアートなどをよく見ます。我々の方から外山さんとGravity Rushに関わった全ての方に、このゲームを現実化させたこと、改めて感謝を伝えたいです。ボーカゲームスタジオでの新しいゲーム開発も応援しています。インタビューの締め括りとして、世界中のGravity Rushファンに何かメッセージをお願いします。

一風変わった、さほどメジャーとは言えないゲームですが、長らく愛着を持って接していただけていることを本当に嬉しく思っています。

現在はまた違う切り口の作品に取り掛かっていますが、その間にも新しいアイデアを蓄えて、まだGRのような作品を手掛けてみたいとも強く願っておりますので、末永く見守っていただけると幸いです。

3 Replies to “Gravity Rush 10th Anniversary Interview with Keiichiro Toyama!

  1. Man this is such a nice gift to the GR community, having an interview with the man himself is priceless. I didn’t know he still has a good relationship with sony and that with liking the game to be ported to PC, is something that gives me hope to see someday Gravity Rush on the steam deck (obviously is really unlikely to happen sadly), that would be a dream come true. Thanks for the interview GRC

  2. This is a great interview and it makes me really happy to see the man himself talking about GR! Even after all these years there’s still people talking about it and that is great to see.

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