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The Politics of Trust: Sega’s Nagoshi on Binary Domain

Wednesday, 7 September 2011 07:29 GMT By Alex Donaldson

Sci-fi shooter BInary Domain seems a departure for Yakuza creator Tashihiro Nagoshi, but Alex Donaldson uncovers a similar emphasis on human relationships.

Tashihiro Nagoshi’s Binary Domain

Set in the 2080′s with an emergent rogue AI plot reminiscent of seminal cyberpunk classics Blade Runner and Ghost in the SHell.

From Sega’s newly-formed Rya ga Gotaku studio, named for Nagoshi’s Yakuza series.

Co-directed by Nagoshi and Daisuke Sato, with input from Vanquish producer Jun Yoshino.

Shares some gameplay features, notably the rocket slide, with the notoriously difficult and frantic Vanquish.

Features an unusual, consequential, voice-powered cast interaction system.

With solid sales in Japan and fans in the West so devoted they petitioned to get it released there, Toshihiro Nagoshi could’ve easily stuck with the Yakuza series for a long time to come. He’s not a man who seems to want to stay still, though, which has led him to Binary Domain, the new third person shooter Sega hopes can sell as well as Bayonetta.

We met up with Nagoshi at gamescom 2011 and had a brief demo of the title to find out what it’s all about and how he hopes that this game can buck the trend of Japanese third-person shooters failing to gain any traction with Western gamers.

“Yeah, we’ve always been interested in using more of the senses to create a unique experience,” Nagoshi explains when asked why he ended up on Binary Domain, a genre seemingly miles away from his stomping ground of Yakuza.

“We’re in a world where games are becoming a hybrid media where you can use your aural senses, visual senses – and not just input, you can also output your movements such into controlling the characters on the screen. When it comes to more recent motion controls like Kinect you can actually use your body movement and actions to output things on screen, so that’s really a hybrid of what came before.”

Binary Domain isn’t a Kinect title, though, and instead utilizes another input method – voice. Players can use a headset to issue voice commands and interact with members of their squad, as they battle robots that think they’re humans in a Blade Runner-style world.

“I’ve always really wanted to create a game which uses all the possible combinations of these different senses. This is one way – one answer to that idea,” Nagoshi tells us after the demo.

The Machine Age Has Begun.

“Not only can you talk with your friends in multiplayer, but you can also talk and have interactions with computer controlled AIs. After people see and play this game, our hope is that people will recognize how fun voice control can be and will start to think that having voice recognition and using it wisely can set a new bar for standards in games.”

Some people, of course, are wary about looking like they’re crazy by barking out commands while alone in their living room. Nagoshi thinks in this world, that won’t be an issue.

“It’s true that some people still have problems and are embarrassed by the idea of sitting in their living room talking to a game. But actually, video games can do quite a lot that you wouldn’t normally do in real life. I’m confident that I can create an immersive world that you believe in, and hopefully that will make you forget about the embarrassment!”

Voice control isn’t required to play Binary Domain, but the idea of it is key to the overall vision of the game, and the reason Nagoshi believes it stands a better chance of gaining traction in the West than other Japanese third-person shooter attempts such as Square Enix’s MindJack. Binary Domain comes with a new ‘trust’ mechanic that sees the player tasked with building bonds with and gaining the affection of their party members.

Rather than choices taking place on a Bioware-style dialogue wheel, the player is instead judged on how they act during combat. A player who asks a weaker party member to constantly head into the line of fire will be respected less than one who risks their own backside instead. Similarly, AI allies might ask for help, or ask you to cover them with fire while they move to a new piece of cover.

“We’re kind of making a list – a wish list of things that we would like and things that current games are not doing so far.”

Helping them out will increase trust, while ignoring these requests will lead the AI to trust you less and ask for less help in the future – which also means they’ll be less effective in combat. There’s different ways to respond, too – so being rude or abrasive will lose trust, while nicely refusing a request for aid won’t do as much damage to trust levels as just ignoring it.

It’s a unique take on the morality mechanics that have swept through gaming in the past few years, and Nagoshi is unashamed in admitting he’s learned lessons from other games in the genre, though he doesn’t name any specifics.

“We obviously looked at other competitors that offer multiple choices within gameplay and rather than trying to tick off all the boxes that other games have we tried to look at the things they’re not doing really well.”

“When looking at the currently available games we have to prioritise what is working well and what are the things that should be abundant, and what should be obsolete – what we have to change. So, we’re kind of making a list – a wish list of things that we would like and things that current games are not doing so far. With that, I think we’ve created something quite different from what other games in the market are doing.”

We’re shown two separate demos from the same level with high and low levels of trust. With trust levels high, the AI allies are some of the most active and powerful I’ve seen in a game of this kind. They call out for help, help each other, make suggestions of how to best take down the enemy and when the player is knocked down rush to his aid quickly and deploy one of their own medical kits to bring him back to the fight. There are even a few compliments thrown the player’s way for good shots or well-timed grenades.

Binary Domain: Weapons Trailer.

With a low level of the trust the squad aren’t useless, but are disobedient. They disregard direct orders, fight largely on their own rather than as a team, and don’t help the player when he’s downed – he instead has to crawl behind cover and see to his wounds himself. When the player is downed by enemies, one of the AIs even goes as far as to mock him. ‘You call yourself a man?’ she asks. Harsh.

Having useful allies that can become better or worse based on what they think of you was central to addressing what Nagoshi sees as a major issue for the genre, even in the West.

“A big point of problem and frustration with this kind of game was that non-playable characters, they’re traditionally – what was the technical term – rubbish – and we didn’t want to do that, we wanted to avoid that.

“You can’t really feel related to characters that are useless – so we wanted to make them more usable. We wanted them to act with their own will so that players can easily relate to them and want to interact with them even more.”

The Trust system ties back into voice control, with players able to issue commands with their voice. Better still, voice will offer more options than the basic dialogue options that appear on the four controller face buttons during combat.

The game has been built with a large number of commands available that aren’t on the controller, so congratulating or praising an ally for their hard work will be recognized, as will complaining at them. You can tell the AI to hurry up or hang back and while these aren’t commands that would be possible on the controller, they will work.

While this is an important part of Nagoshi’s vision for Binary Domain, he’s clear that he isn’t losing sight of the core shooting mechanics.

“This is first and foremost a third person shooter game. Because of that, the top priority has to be to provide an exhilarating action shooting experience, so that has come first. Whatever you do as a publisher to make it different from other title – what you call a unique selling point – has to be something that supports that core shooting experience.”

“Whatever you do as a publisher to make it different from other title – what you call a unique selling point – has to be something that supports that core shooting experience.”

“The major shooter titles that were popular in the Western market are not really of much appeal to the Japanese market. For Japanese users it just looks like the only act is shooting – that’s it, there’s no depth. So, we wanted to provide a story element to this game to serve both different kinds of market, which is where the idea for our trust mechanics and other similar things came from.”

Despite admitting the focus on story will help the game’s chances in Japan, it’s clear that this is intended primarily for the West, with detailed attention given to things that the team believe Western gamers want.

“We’ve noticed that even the most successful shooter franchises have some of the technical details not quite right. You can’t tell where the bullets are coming from and where they are going to – so we studied about how to make it clear without interfering with the shooting experience. We studied how many frames a bullet should take to travel and how the bullets fly to make it natural.”

The effort that’s gone into getting the shooting right seems quite clear from the demo we watch. While we can’t go hands on, movement looks tight and the game seems to lack the nasty lag between shots being fired and hitting the enemy which plague some shooters. Best of all, the army of robots you battle have some really cool-looking damage where limbs can be shot off tactically to debilitate or slow their advance.

With a branching story, a set of potential allies that sounds like it’s going to be as large and varied in personalities as your average Japanese RPG cast and solid shooter mechanics, it looks like Nagoshi and his team may have cracked making a game that at least presses the buttons of Western gamers better – even if from the trailers it still looks like your crazy, over-the-top Japanese fare.

Binary Domain: Story Trailer.

With the ridiculous Bayonetta having sold over a million copies, SEGA clearly thinks the very Japanese story shouldn’t hurt this one either, as SEGA West CEO Mike Hayes said, telling VG247 the title is in “the Bayonetta A++ position in terms of potential.” Crazy Japanese story blends here with Western choice and shooting gameplay principles – and it makes for an interesting looking package.

“It’s not that we were trying to specifically target both markets from the start. First and foremost this is targeted at the Western market – we created a high quality shooting experience that will hopefully satisfy the tastes of Western gamers.

“At the same time, we try to tell a deep story in a compelling way which is something that we know the Japanese gamers really like and enjoy playing,” Nagoshi told us at the end of our time with him.

“My hope is that the game can be widely supported in both Japan and the West alike.”

Binary Domain is set to launch on February 14 in the US and February 17 in Europe, for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

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6 Comments

  1. Koralestes

    Great, Nagoshi one of the best designers/producers in Japan. With the right marketing (Vanquish didn’t have any) and metascore of 80+ this game can be successful even in Europe and USA.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. Ireland Michael

    Nice idea, but damn… why the hell do so many Japanese developers have to be such pretentious intellectuals? They could probably intellectualise a carrot if they tried.

    This is not going to be some deep, emotionally bonding, character driven experience. It’s going to be a bunch of generic stereotypes that I’m going to be forced to empathise with, despite no attempts to flesh them out as truly three dimensional characters… just like Yakuza.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. TheBlackHole

    Can’t wait for this. The first trailer went from cheese-fest to awesome with one well-placed twist at the end.

    Gameplay looks sharp and the devs have pedigree.

    Count me in.

    #3 3 years ago
  4. Dark

    I lost all respect for Nagoshi.

    “My hope is that the game can be widely supported in both Japan and the West alike.”

    That will never happen.

    #4 3 years ago
  5. Koralestes

    At4 – main Final Fantasy games? Resident Evil series? Metal Gear Solid series? I can continue…

    #5 3 years ago
  6. TheBlackHole

    @4

    Why lose respect for someone who wishes to appeal to a wider range of gamers?

    I’m sick of excess credit being given to people who make games for a niche group, regardless of the overall quality of the product. There is NOTHING wrong with wanting to produce a popular game.

    #6 3 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    LEGO Jurassic World and LEGO Marvel’s Avengers have been announced by Warner Bros., the former was outed by Toys R Us and then teased at the end of LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, if you recall. LEGO Jurassic World encompasses all four Jurassic Park films and will be made available in June for 3DS, PC, […]

  • Pokemon, Super Smash Bros. top Nintendo’s million units sales list for Q3

    Nintendo has posted a list of titles which have sold millions of units as part of its quarter three earnings release. Global unit sales of 3DS titles for the nine months ending December 31, 2014: Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire: 9.35 million (life-to-date, same) Super Smash Bros.: 6.19 million (life-to-date, same) Tomodachi Life: 2.11 […]

  • How to take a screenshot on Xbox One: a lesson in frustration

    Trying to do just one simple thing seems to have 360 steps with Microsoft – why is the Xbox One’s functionality such a car crash? “The Xbox One’s definition of usability is in fact the exact opposite – this is a console designed to make life inconvenient for its players unless they sign up for […]

  • Game of Thrones’ Westeros is being made in Minecraft by 125 people

    WesterosCraft, the project dedicated to creating the entirety of Game of Thrones’ Westros has resurfaced. There are more than a few ambitious Minecraft projects, but hardly any as impressive as WesterosCraft. We first came across it all the way back in January 2013, but it looks much better now. “I would say the world is […]

  • Dying Light exploit gives you unlimited money and items

    Dying Light has been out for just over a day and an infinite money and item exploit is already out there. A simple exploit has been discovered in Dying Light that lets you duplicate weapons, all of which you can sell for profit. Win/ win. YouTuber PowerPyx lays out the steps in the handy video […]

  • Sunset Overdrive concept art is as jovial as the game itself

    Sunset Overdrive is a colourful game which is partly due to its concept art. The concept art featured below is created by Vaughan Ling, one of the concept artsists who worked on Sunset Overdrive. Anyone who’s played the game will immediately recognise the locations, weapons, character designs and general atmosphere of the game through these. […]

  • Get an extended look at the PS4 version of Project CARS

    The PlayStation 4 version of Project CARS has been shown in 1080p 60fps. The video below is captured by racing game enthusiasts Team VVV from a preview build. You can see different racing disciplines being demonstrated here, on different circuits. The game’s impressive visuals get even better when the weather gets worse.

  • Battle Pod is the Star Wars arcade game you’ve waited your whole life for

    Star Wars: Battle Pod is an arcade game that lets you replay the battles of the original trilogy, and features an incredible cockpit. If you’ve never played a game at an arcade before, Star Wars: Battle Pod will definitely be the one to change your mind. It’s an arcade cabinet out of a classic Star […]

  • CoD Exo Zombies: how to unlock the Ride of the Valkyries Easter egg

    To no one’s surprise, Exo Zombies mode in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare has some Easter eggs. The first Exo Zombies Easter egg, of surely many more to come, has been discovered. It’s a musical one that involves Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. How you unlock it is not as convoluted as you might […]

  • Dying Light is sub-1080p on Xbox One, full 1080p on PS4 – report

    Early analysis of Dying Light on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One has revealed a few technical details about both ports. Digital Foundry has produced some analysis of both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One ports of Dying Light based on some early testing. Both versions manage a solid 30 frames-per-second, only dipping below that in […]

  • Battlefield 4 Second Assault DLC free to all EA Access members

    EA is offering Battlefield 4′s Second Assault expansion free to anyone with an active EA Access subscription. Anyone with an active subscription to EA Access can download the Second Assault expansion pack for Battlefield 4 starting January 29 and through February 28, free of charge. All you need to do is find it on the […]

  • The Witcher 3 is getting optimised, but no visual downgrade

    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is in the final stages of development and developer CD Projekt RED is making sure optimisation work doesn’t impact the game’s visuals. The Witcher 3 art producer, Michal Stec, spoke to Eternity in an interview and was asked whether the team will downgrade the visuals to get better performance. “No. […]

  • Can’t download Dying Light on PS4? Here’s a fix

    If you’ve bought Dying Light on PS4 and you’re having trouble downloading it, you’re not alone. Here’s how to beat the bug. Techland’s Dying Light is stumbling out of the blocks a little this week, with many PS4 users experiencing problems with their full-game downloads. A bug’s to blame. Your console thinks you’ve already installed […]

  • What The Witcher 3 owes to Skyrim – and how it surpasses it

    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt owes more than a nod to Bethesda’s Skyrim. I went to see The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and had a great time. I went in a fan of the books but not very experienced with the first two games. I came out with The Witcher 3 top of my gaming […]

  • Dragon’s Dogma Online has great monsters

    Dragon’s Dogma Online looks pretty rad – an undesirable quality in a game unlikely to come west, from our perspective. The first Dragon’s Dogma trailer was released this afternoon; admire its beauty below. The free to play online RPG was announced for PC, PlayStation 3 and PS4 overnight, but Capcom doesn’t intend to bring it […]

  • Xenoblade Chronicles X map about five times the size of last game’s

    Xenoblade Chronicles X is not a small game. This week’s Famitsu has a feature on Xenoblade Chronicles X giving some details on Monolith Soft’s next RPG and first Wii U game. According to Siliconera‘s translation of reports on the feature, the game’s map is about five times the size of that in Xenoblade Chronicles. The […]

  • Take on Mars expected to hit beta in April

    Take on Mars, the space sim from Bohemia Interactive will soon be reader for wider consumption. According to a new Take on Mars development roadmap, the sim will go into beta at the start of April, with full release expected in June. The project is currently available via Steam early Access, but between now and […]

  • Can you guess the next Mortal Kombat X character reveal from this fatality audio clip?

    Mortal Kombat X will have at least one very liquid-sounding fatality. NetherRealm is revealing Mortal Kombat X’s cats one character at a time, and has promised a new reveal during a community Twitch stream tomorrow. It also provided the following teaser video – it’s audio only, and apparently taken from a fatality sequence. What’s your […]

  • Nintendo Creators Program now recruiting YouTubers – PewDiePie, others weigh-in

    Nintendo has opened a Creators Program designed to ensure creators get a slice of ad revenue from videos featuring Nintendo assets, and some prominent YouTubers aren’t pleased with the company. Update “What Nintendo are missing out on completely is the free exposure and publicity that they get from YouTube,” wrote Felix Kjellberg (PewDiePie) on his […]

  • Xbox Live issues under investigation

    Can’t sign into Xbox Live? Microsoft is on the case. Xbox 360 and Xbox One users report being unable to sign in to Xbox Live. Microsoft is already aware of and working on the problem. “Our team is hard at work right now trying to get this resolved. Thank you for staying patient while we […]

  • Make money from your non-Valve mods with Steam Workshop

    Valve has opened the money-making side of Steam Workshop to third-party titles, giving enterprising modders more ways to make money. Steam now hosts curated Workshops for Dungeon Defenders: Eternity and Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, the first non-Valve games to support the scheme. What that means is that community members can create, vote on and eventually even […]

  • Check out DmC: Devil May Cry’s new manual lock-on

    DmC: Devil may Cry developer Ninja Theory has released a video showing off the new, controversial lock-on mode. The new manual lock-on is causing quite a stir, although its reception is probably better than the white-wigged Dante who makes fans even more upset than the original makeover. “The primary purpose of this video is to […]

  • Dragon Quest Heroes looks pretty fun

    Dragon Quest Heroes is yet another Omega Force take on an existing property – like Hyrule Warriors or the One Piece games. And it looks pretty sweet. We haven’t heard much from Dragon Quest Heroes here in the west because it hasn’t been confirmed for release outside Japan. This isn’t terribly surprising as we still […]

  • Square Enix to reveal new PS4 game this weekend

    Square Enix is doing something pretty mysterious right now. The Final Fantasy publisher is teasing something called Project Code Z. The project, which Square Enix is tweeting about in Japanese, English and German, is due for reveal at Tokaigi 2015 on Saturday. It’s a PS4 game, but that’s all we know. There’s a website you […]

  • Tetris has crowned its first known western Grand Master

    Tetris fans have a new western champion. Tetris is one of those gaming obsessions that goes much deeper than you might expect. For example, did you know that some versions of the game assess your performance and over you the chance to become a “grand master”? Turns out that’s a thing, and according to Polygon […]

  • Ken Levine’s next game teased as “sci-fi-ish” small, open-world RPG

    A series of tweets from BioShock creator Ken Levine has shed a sliver of light upon his next project. According to Levine he and his team are considering something a bit sci-fi and contemplating first-person mode. The team is developing the game for PC with a large in scope, expandable, systems-based narrative where more can […]

  • Become a lynx in new Shelter 2 trailer

    Shelter 2 casts players in the role of a lynx, which makes for quite a different experience to the badger of the first game. The first Shelter game had you evading predators, but in the second, you becomes one yourself. That doesn’t mean there are no dangers to face, of course. Judging by the trailer […]

  • Why King of Fighters 13 isn’t coming back to Evo

    Evo, the premiere western fighting game tournament, has dropped support for a few previously favoured titles. King of Fighters 13 had a loyal following, but isn’t featured in the Evo 2015 line-up. “Many things go into what games makes it to Evo, but the most obvious one is, ‘Is the community playing this game?’” Evo […]

  • An average Evolve match takes less than ten minutes

    Evolve players are pretty quick at hunting each other down. Evolve developer Turtle Rock has released an infographic brimming with statistics garnered from its recent beta test. One of the key takeaways is that all three monsters, and all four classes, are working as intended – their performance in game matches Turtle Rock’s designs. If […]

  • Super Mario Amiibo can be pre-ordered on Nintendo UK, Mario and Peach sold out

    The latest set of Amiibo in the Super Mario series is now available for pre-purchase through the Nintendo UK Store. Each of the following sports a red base and will run you £10.99: Bowser, Luigi, Mario, Peach, Toad and Yoshi. It looks like Peach and Mario are both sold out, though. All six can be […]

  • The Music of League of Legends Vol. 1 free to download now

    League of Legends has excellent music, and now you can have it too. The Music of League of Legends Vol. 1 collects 15 tracks from the MOBA’s history, and is available for free. You can grab the music from iTunes, Google Play or via direct download. Tere’s an example track below to get you in […]

  • Super Bowl 49 update arrives on Madden NFL Mobile

    With Super Bowl 49 occurring this coming Sunday, February 1, EA Sports has updated Madden NFL Mobile with new feature enhancements and Super Bowl-themed Live Events. Updates include: League vs League Tournaments Obstacle Course Super Bowl Bonus Players Tom Brady and Richard Sherman Super Bowl Legends Super Bowl Moments Upgraded Auction House The Super Bowl […]

  • See Super Smash Bros.’ unused custom moves

    Super Smash Bros. was originally intended to have 16 custom moves per character. The final version of Super Smash Bros. only features 12 custom moves per fighter, but Nintendo left animations for some of the cut moves in place. A Youtuber called RED has dug these cut mvoes out of the brawler’s code, and displayed […]

  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt contains 16 hours of sex scene mo-cap data

    Sex is nothing new to the The Witcher games, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is no exception. In fact, it contains 16 hours of sex scene motion capture data. Giggity. There’s a reason for the bedroom dalliances though, as Geralt is a flesh and blood human, or a modified human at any rate, with […]

  • Here’s the launch trailer for Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Remastered

    A launch trailer for Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Remastered has been released after an Amazon listing was revealed for it over the weekend. Key upgrades include: High-definition Graphics — All of the in-game textures have been meticulously recreated in HD for mobile and desktop. Widescreen Support – A true widescreen (not cropped) view strengthens the game’s […]

  • The open beta for Battlefield Hardline will be dated tomorrow

    The exact dates as well as more information on the Battlefield Hardline open beta will be shared tomorrow. This is according to the latest blog post from developer Visceral Games. “We’ll share the exact dates and info on the Battlefield Hardline open beta tomorrow,” wrote Visceral boss Steve Papoutsis. “Stay tuned, thanks again, and keep […]

  • Upcoming Hearthstone patch to apply balance change to Undertaker

    An upcoming Hearthstone patch will apply a balance change to the Undertaker card, Blizzard has announced. After the release of Goblins vs Gnomes, Blizzard said it kept an “eye on the state of game balance” as more matches were played using the additional cards. Released with The Curse of Naxxramas, Undertaker is considered an overly […]

  • February Games with Gold offers up Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

    The free games on offer in February via Xbox Live Games with Gold have been announced. Xbox Live Gold members on Xbox One can download #IDARB during February. Xbox 360 users can grab Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons from February 1-15, when it will be replaced by Sniper Elite V2 from February 16 -28. […]

  • Kinguin blames unidentified Russian for deactivated Far Cry 4 keys

    Third-party game key seller Kinguin is issuing refunds to those who found their games deactivated through Ubisoft’s Uplay service. Customers which purchased keys for Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Far Cry 4, The Crew and Watch Dogs are affected. Kinguin said 4,600 customer tickets were submitted over the last 72 hours and 35 out of 3,400 of […]

  • Video Unlimited to be re-branded as PlayStation Video starting in February

    Like Music Unlimited, Sony’s Video Unlimited service is being replaced and re-branded PlayStation Video. PlayStation Video will become part of PlayStation Network to streamline digital services for the over 64 million PSN users. PlayStation Video and PlayStation Music will be added to PSN which is already a destination point for the PlayStation Store, PlayStation Plus, […]

  • Spotify arrives on PlayStation Music this spring, Music Unlimited closing

    Spotify will launch on PlayStation Network this spring as part of a new music destination called PlayStation Music. PlayStation Music is a replacement for Music Unlimited, and those with a PSN account can link to Spotify which can be used just for music, or when playing games on PlayStation 4. Existing playlists from current Spotify […]