Born in Osaka, Japan in 1976, video game developer iToken currently resides in Taiwan, where he is hard at work on the follow-up to his 2013 release, Womb, a sci-fi tale taking place in the lonely solitude of an abandoned space station, as the protagonist toes the thin line between sanity and insanity.
Readers can learn more about iToken and his projects here.
What was your introduction to the world of role-playing games? Perhaps along those same lines, are there any particularly memorable gaming experiences from your childhood that you still fondly recall?
The first RPG game I played was Mother 2. I think in the U.S., it was release as Earthbound. We were the only family at that time that had the NES console in the neighborhood, so many of my friends would come to our house and play with us. They all wanted to play games like Super Mario Bros., Punch Out, etc., taking turns. When my turn comes, I boot up Earthbound and all of them go home, because they don’t dig RPGs at that time and not to mention the long playing time. I was hooked into RPGs because it’s the first time that I played a game that tells a story. Zelda, Pirate Higermaru, Chrono Trigger… those were classics.
What initially made you want to create your own games?
I wanted to work for the gaming industry; for me that will be a dream come true. But without a portfolio, it’s impossible to do so. At first I tried volunteering for gaming projects, from music creation to game mechanics design, but still it was not good enough as experience. So I decided to create a game, doing everything from scratch, and everything done by me alone.
Luckily, I had the time to do everything, because developing a game from scratch as a hobby does not work most of the time, as you see from the gaming forums. 95% of the games under development never see the light of the day, and the reason behind this is that the motive and inspiration you have on day one falters as time goes by. Without having the time to create full-time, it’s hard to find the motivation to do so.
After releasing the game, I got interviews and job offers as a game designer from gaming companies. I guess creating your own game is the best portfolio you can get.
What is your creative background?
As for the creativity side, I think it all comes from my personality. I am a very curious about certain things, like asking “what if” questions all the time, and from there building stories or scenarios based on what and why some things happen and why some things don’t. I was good at imagining things since I was like five years old.
When and how did you first discover RPG Maker?
I discovered RPG Maker when I was shopping for game engines to create my own games. Since my Chinese is as good as my programming skills, I tried RPG Maker because there is zero programming, yet you can create complex RPG games. Not to mention, it has already preset tiles, music, sound effects and characters. The best part of using RPG Maker is its community of helpful people. You may find yourself in trouble time to time, but thanks to the users and developers in the forums, you will get the help all you need.
What do you enjoy most about creating games?
It’s the part when see your game written on paper appear in the monitor screen. For example, the title Womb on a Word document is just a word, but when you apply some background images, sound and menu by using a game program, it becomes alive. Same as the characters you create; when you see them on the monitor for the first time, walking and talking, it’s a great feeling. It feels as if you created a living world of your own.
What was the inspiration behind the story of Womb?
I love sci-fi movies and games, and for every sci-fi there is always this A.I. character. Most of the plot you see is the A.I. character gets crazy, controls everything and kills everyone. I wanted to do something different, instead of machines thinking like humans, its machines having emotions like humans, and act based on their emotions and not on their artificial thinking.
For you, what is the most difficult or challenging aspect of creating a game?
Creating an engaging story, an interesting plot and a climactic ending, and being sure that the emotional part will be felt by the gamers while they are playing the game.
How did the RPG Maker community help you create and/or troubleshoot Womb?
The early feedback from the users really helped. For example, reporting bugs and correcting some tilings. The reviews really helped too. During the games development there were times that I got stuck because of some scripting issues, but thanks to the community I was able to get some help and eventually create the events that I wanted to happen. Without the help of the forum users, I might have not finished the game.
What are your goals with Soul Sleepers? How do you plan to make it bigger and better than Womb?
First is to improve the graphics, this time using bigger and better looking character tiles. Next will be a unique settting, which is in Purgatory. Soul Sleepers will have more RPG elements and quests, also a different kind of gameplay, the player will be able to transport to the persons last five minutes before dying, so he can have an idea of why the soul is in purgatory.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
Hideo Kojima, the creator of Metal Gear. He is an inspiration not only because he was the man responsible for creating the biggest game title of all time, but because his struggles to get into the industry reflect what others are experiencing. He was discouraged by people around him, because in Japan, most people are pressured to get into “normal” jobs to get a high paycheck. He sent story writings and was rejected many times. Luckily, Konami hired him to do some junior work, which then proceeded to be in charge of Metal Gear, and the rest was history.
In your opinion, what is the best RPG ever made, and what makes it so special to you?
Final Fantasy 7. The story, dialogue, music and characters are unforgettable. Its just perfect in every aspect. I still play it to this very day and never get tired of it, I hope they make a HD version for the PS4. I’ll buy a PS4 just for it.
What are your thoughts on this console generation (PS4/Xbox One) so far? Are you impressed? Disappointed? Somewhere in between?
Its too early to tell really, but seeing the demo’s on E3, I think the graphics are awesome, which of course is expected since it’s the newest gaming console. There are games that are just “graphic updates” of former games titles, but there are some promising new ones too. No Man’s Sky was absolutely stunning, and the gameplay separates it from the crowd. Just imagine traveling around the universe, finding planets, landing, and interacting with the aliens living there. I am pretty sure that there will be more interesting games coming next year; as for now, the developers are still on the “experimenting” stage, but once they get the hang of it, blockbuster games will be coming title after title.
What are you working on next?
Right now I am working on Soul Sleepers, plus experimenting on the 3D engine Unity. I am assembling a team for my first 3D game, which will come after the release of Soul Sleepers. 3D game development from scratch is a monumental task. Creating a 3D game is like playing an RPG game actually; you need to explore hundreds of options, master each and execute them to full capacity.