Not piloting a mecha

MightyNoX

Contributor
CRank: 10Score: 77180

The Little Engine That Could

Folks, something glorious is happening right now and it's very hard to describe without coming across as a raving lunatic but here goes -

Are you ready for this?

The Japanese gaming scene is on the resurgence.

I know, it's crazy, right? But there it is, right in front of our eyes we're seeing rapid announcements of Japanese IPs (both old and new) being revealed right before our eyes. But who do we have to thank for this fortuitous occasion? Is it Sony for extending a helping hand in gaming development? Possibly. Is it the successes of Japanese games such as Dark Souls, Bravely Default and Persona? Certainly wouldn't have hurt - but no, the reason for this can be summed up in one word - EPIC
What? No, I don't mean an Epic reason. I meant Epic itself, the actual Epic. Gears of War Epic or more accurately, Epic's Unreal Engine 4.

I'm just as surprised as you are. After all, Unreal Engine 3 is synonymous with browny shooters and bald space marines. That's not even touching on the ugly screen tearing and the poor performances across platforms. Yet, quicker than a Phil Spencer flip-flop about something he said one afternoon, UE3's successor is giving us games with vibrant colors,
Don't believe me? Look at this:

- Shenmue 3
- Dragon Quest 11
- Scalebound
- Guilty Gear Xrd
- Street Fighter V
- Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
- Tekken 7
- Kingdom Hearts 3

Notice a pattern? Aside from the wonderful and varied art style, these are all Japanese developed games. Xrd looks like anime given form, Street Fighter V's brush effects are GORGEOUS and Dragon Quest 11's overworld looked almost as good as Zelda Wii U's reveal.

Before I continue, let’s do a bit of background. During the unfortunate reign of the HD twins, the portfolio of Japanese games had taken a massive hit which resulted in less diversity, lesser output and even the shutting down of a few studios. Genres were shuffled, forgotten and buried. Talents were let go and forced to seek employment elsewhere and worse still, Western audience were slowly marginalizing Japan.
Many have speculated the reasons for this calamitous turn of events - Some blamed Microsoft for reasons ranging from moneyhats that damaged IPs in the long run (Tales of Series, Ace Combat series) to mistreating Developers and costing them a fortune (Level-5). Others have pointed at the rise of mobile as the sole reason, citing Japanese developers rushing after the next Candy Crush Saga and leaving dedicated gaming scene behind.

But no, the reason is quite simply...Development. Specifically speaking, we're talking about the Tools of Development. Japanese Developers were simply unable to step up to the increasing demands of this era of HD-gaming. They didn't have the toolset and those who did, spent an ungodly amount of cash into the R&D of their own propriety engine. Square Enix created Crystal Tools, an engine that took them ages to perfect before they finally managed to push FF13 out of the gate. Capcom made MT Framework, the much adored 60fps engine that ported well to the PC and Konami was quietly working in the corner on a little something called FoxEngine (we'll get to that in a bit). Unfortunately, by the time they got their Engine off the ground, this Gen was already waning and the era of 1080p was now on the horizon.

So the cycle started anew...

Capcom followed suit with Panta Rhey, the successor to the MT Framework, while Square-Enix debuted Luminous Engine, which they have been using for...making trailers for something that will never come out apparently....and finally, Konami had finished with the FoxEngine but it cost them so much that they promptly fired Kojima, if the MGS Composer's recent confession is to be believed.

There are definite advantages to making your own Engine but it is costly and most importantly -TIME CONSUMING-. One simply cannot focus on doing two things at once, as Epic themselves have eschewed making games and focused on perfecting their craft. By the time you're done building the tools, you're left with a small window to push a game out of the door and recoup those costs. You're spending two thirds of a console generation to make an engine that could help you push out one, maybe two, games when you can simply use a third party engine and churn out games on a 1.5-2 year cycle.

This is where Unreal Engine 4 comes in. Not only is it more robust than its predecessor, it comes with a slew of shaders, documentation and lighting effects that you can bend to suit your particular art style, it comes with an unprecedented amount of support from Epic games.

Tim Sweeney and Mark Rein's role in this cannot be emphasized enough. That they have chosen to create offices in Japan that provides not only the necessary documentation but actual on-site support is nothing short of jaw dropping. To make things even more incredible, the Japanese Epic offices actually hold seminars, helping to grow the talent.

And that's it basically. There are a lot of minor issues at work here, for one that Developers in Japan finally learned to swallow their pride and accept that you can't do everything in-house, as well as a few road-bumps down the line but I will not waste any more of your time. Instead, I will end this on a brighter note - the future looks beautiful and wondrous. We have developers who have been humbled by their failures and shocked by their successes. We have a market leader that is actively helping out Indie developers, aiding and investing in healthy partnerships and knows the value of a diverse portfolio.

Japanese Developers were lost in the desert, so dumbstruck by the HD era that they simply chose to stand still whilst others have chased the mirage of Western audience and foolishly chose not to play to their strengths. A figure has emerged to lead them out of it and while some of us have hoped it would be either Sony or Nintendo (or someone else who wears awful gaming t-shirts) - it turned out to be the father of the dudest of dudebro shooters.

WizzroSupreme3283d ago

I'd reckon that it has yet to surpass the Western game market share, but Kickstarter alone's given it an artistic rebirth, of sorts. Bloodstained and Mighty Number 9 are only part of that charge. I commend them for bucking the blockbuster bug either sides of the Pacific subscribe to. Nice read.

MightyNoX3283d ago

Good call on the KS. It probably helps that Epic has implemented a very fair pricing model (either six figures or you get UE4 and pay them a percentage of your sales)

Roccetarius3281d ago

Add GRIP to the list of UE4 games as well. It's a game inspired by Rollcage, which was a fun racer with weapons, high speed and the possibility of racing upside down.

And it's refreshing to see something in the blogs section, that's not trying to sell you a game.

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