Weekly Publication Issue 11 (17th of January, 2006)
Rule of Rose – Part 1
(Punchline) Shuji Ishikawa – Director, CG Director
(Shirogumi Inc.) Makoto Hanafusa – Art Director
‘Rule of Rose’ explores the unusual activities of a group of children in a grim 1930s English orphanage. Today we will be speaking with two of the minds behind the creation of this world, and the psychological horrors within; Director and CG Director Shuji Ishikawa, and Art Director Makoto Hanafusa.
-Firstly, tell us about yourselves. Why did you decide to work on video games and cinematics?
Hanafusa: I used to love rides like ‘Star Tours’, which were especially popular back when I was a student. You’d sit down and see a CG film playing on a huge screen in front of you. It had a distinctive presence which set it apart from regular films, and I thought it would be fun to make them myself. They have a degree of immersion that makes them quite similar to video games.
Ishikawa: When I studied architecture, I made use of Computer-Aided Design programs. I’m actually a registered second-class architect.
Hanafusa: Ah, so that’s why you’re so fussy about building design (laughs). When we work on CG for buildings, there’s a lot of details to look over.
Ishikawa: (Laughs). Because I was using CAD, I became interested in CG and games too, and from there I was drawn towards the game industry. I was also into science, and enjoyed talking to programmers about their work. I ultimately ended up in a job that combined both computer imagery and programming.
-How did you become involved in creating Rule of Rose?
Ishikawa: Shirogumi and Sony Entertainment were working together on an interesting project. The company I was working for (Punchline) became involved in planning and development.
Hanafusa: Yes, that’s right. Shirogumi wasn’t just brought in to work on cinematics, but was closely involved with the whole game. We felt like having a go at game design ourselves for once.
-So it seems like there wasn’t a strict divide between designing the cinematics and the game itself? How did you work out the game’s direction?
Ishikawa: At first, we had no clear story for the game, just some key words. ‘Airship’, ‘Children’, ‘Restriction’. Things we hadn’t seen other works focus on.
Hanafusa: As you could guess, ‘Children’ was the principal topic. There were barely any horror games out there that touched on the subject. We wanted to explore childhood fears, like being up in the middle of the night, or being attacked by a stranger. From there we looked at the idea of a ‘fairy tale’ about young girls. A particularly important focus here was the uncomfortable and sinister nature of a group of girls together.
-Where did the idea to have the game take place in the 1930s come from?
Hanafusa: Since we wanted the story to involve an airship, we made sure to have the game take place at a time when airships were actually being used.
Ishikawa: We had to do a lot of research. There isn’t that much documentation easily available from the 1930s.
Hanafusa: Things weren’t too old-fashioned back then however. Since not much has changed, a lot of things we have today already existed. Like packaging tape (laughs). Background research was still awfully hard. Every time we needed to design something new we would have to check over its history.
-How did the rest of the game proceed from there?
Ishikawa: Visual design is often the first step. Hanafusa-san would ask ‘What do you think about this for the girl’s design?’ and throw down several ideas.
Hanafusa: Taking charge of the design process was tough, but it showed that Shirogumi was fundamentally involved in the game.
Ishikawa: I had the team draw art based around our keywords. There was a lot to consider about the concepts put forward. If they were interesting enough, they would be developed upon and incorporated into the game itself. It wasn’t ‘art direction’ as you normally imagine, instead having a much deeper connection to the game’s creation. As a result, it differed from normal game design, since both game and visual direction were closely interlinked.
-Were there clearer divisions between roles when it came to the actual work?
Ishikawa: Absolutely, programming and other fundamentals were handled by Punchline, while Shirogumi took care of cinematics and graphics. Having one team discussing ideas for development while the other worked on characters was an advantage for us. If needed, a high-polygon FMV character model could be dropped into a low-polygon game environment for testing, or a low-polygon game model could be used for FMV motion capture data. By having both the game and visuals being worked on simultaneously, it was possible to exchange more information during the development process. It made a significant difference to the usual setup.
-The light and dark visuals are quite unique. The lighting is often very gloomy, as though they’re coming out from a lamp.
Hanafusa: I based the initial visuals around movie-style lighting. First, I created the basic visuals, using a red light from the front and a green light at the back, creating a nice contrast of complementary colours.
Ishikawa: Hanafusa’s detailed work on shades and contrast gave the visuals an altogether blue-ish look, so I made sure the game screen would complement this colour scheme too. However, lighting and shadows are very difficult to display well on-screen. Due to processing speed limits, we could only have three sources of light on-screen at a time. We couldn’t just place light sources wherever we wanted. Instead we applied colours to the game models and painted light and shadow effects onto the textures in order to create the illusion of realistic lighting.
Hanafusa: It certainly made it harder to convey that gloomy atmosphere (laughs).
-The cutscenes look very realistic, don’t they? What was your focus when designing these cinematics?
Hanafusa: In terms of CG, making skin and cloth look realistic has always been a major focus. However, this time, the most challenging thing for us was showing specific things making contact with one another. Past CG has rarely shown objects making close contact with skin. For example, when a girl clenches her fist, or applies lipstick, or when a mouse is pushed against her face. At the same time, with this game we were pursuing the theme of people coming into contact with each other in unpleasant ways. People don’t tend to touch one another these days, even if they’re close friends, do they?
Ishikawa: Oh? Really?
Hanafusa: There’s definitely some resistance to it. In the story there is a fat girl called Amanda, who gets uncomfortably close to the main character at times. It made me feel rather unpleasant.
-So it seems like depicting touch in CG is very difficult, how did you go about such a strenuous creation process?
Hanafusa: Willpower (laughs). The scene where Amanda puts on lipstick was incredibly challenging for just one animator.
Ishikawa: On the programming side, we had to calculate the physics required to have the characters’ skirts move realistically . However, even the ‘realistic’ physics looked very game-like in motion, so I chose to reanimate the skirt movement by hand. It was a very low-tech process in the end.
-In your opinions, what do you see the role of cinematics in gaming as?
Hanafusa: I think an important part of games is empathising with its world. Cinematics help greatly with this. They build up the player’s anticipation of taking control of the main character and beginning the gameplay.
Ishikawa: I think cinematics allow for a greater expression of feelings. Tears, sweat, and other emotional indicators for example. While there are things that could be expressed in the game alone, it would not be done as well. It could not convey said emotions and feelings to the player as easily or effectively. The player can become immersed in the game’s world and tone much more smoothly with the use of cinematics.
Creators form a whole new world from their imagination. Being able to experience and interact with these worlds is one of the joys of gaming. Next time, we speak once again with the Rule of Rose creators about how this particularly unusual world came to be.