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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 4 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 4 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 4 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 4 years ago
  5. Koralestes

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

    #5 4 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 4 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    Hopefully, you pre-ordered the Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain Collector’s Edition in the UK already. If not, you are likely out of luck. According to GAME, the pack which contains the Half Scale Replica of Snake’s Bionic Arm has sold out in the UK. The retailer confirmed the news to Videogamer this morning. […]

  • Far Cry 4 Complete Edition coming June 19 for PC, PS4 to the UK

    A Far Cry 4 Complete Edition has been announced and it includes the full game as well as the Season Pass. This is the sku which popped up on Amazon Germany earlier in the week. The Season Pass provides access to five separate pieces of DLC. Here’s a refresher on the DLC content: The Syringe: […]

  • The Witcher 3: live Q&A stream with CDP, new monster dev diary inside

    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is out in just two weeks, and if you want to know more about Geralt’s latest adventure, CD Projekt is hosting a live Q&A now on Twitch. There’s also a new developer diary below which focuses on monster in the game. The Witcher 3 is out on May 19. Huzzah! […]

  • Forza Horizon 2′s Alpinestars Car Pack has five cars and is ready for download

    The Alpinestars Car Pack for Forza Horizon 2 is out now on Xbox One and its the only way you will ever be able to afford a 1992 Bugatti EB110 Super Sport. Unless, of course, you win the lottery or are left in some rich person’s will. In that case, I’ll take the ’53 Corvette, […]

  • Shadow of Mordor – Game of the Year Edition is now available in North America

    Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor – Game of the Year Edition has been released in North America. It will be made available in the Europe on May 7 and in the UK May 8 for £49.99 on consoles and £34.99 on PC. As previously announced, this edition contains all previously released DLC content as well as […]

  • Two GAME exclusive versions of Halo 5: Guardians now available for pre-order

    GAME has announced two exclusive versions of Halo 5: Guardians, and both are now available for pre-order exclusively through one of the retail chain’s 318 stores or online. The £79.99 Limited Edition Halo 5: Guardians, which delivers new digital content wrapped in a steel book. There’s also the £199.99 Halo 5: Guardians Limited Collector’s Edition […]

  • Deals with Gold: Far Cry 4, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Bioshock Infinite, more

    Microsoft has announced its latest Deals with Gold discounts for Xbox Live Gold members. Franchises on sale include Far Cry, Call of Duty, along with individual titles Assassin’s Creed Unity and Bioshock Infinite. The full list is below. Bioshock Infinite discounts are available for both Xbox Live Gold and Silver members. Xbox One Far Cry […]

  • Wolfenstein: The Old Blood has released, watch the launch trailer here

    Wolfenstein: The Old Blood has launched on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. You can watch the launch trailer for it below. Boxed copies in Europe arrive from May 15, and in Australia/New Zealand on May 14. You can grab digital copies from the following online services: Steam, PlayStation Network, Xbox Store.

  • GOG’s online service GOG Galaxy is now in open beta

    GOG Galaxy, the DRM-free online gaming platform from the folks at GOG, has left Alpha and is now in open beta for all to try. As previously announced, the online service, similar to Steam, is option. Players do not need to play online as all games are stored by the service and can be played […]

  • DayZ-inspired Goat Simulator DLC GoatZ is out this week on Steam

    Goat Simulator players can download DayZ-inspired DLC this week called GoatZ. According to Coffee Stain Studios, GoatZ is “the only survival game on Steam that isn’t in Early Access.” Jokingly of course. The DLC features: Mandatory crafting system because everyone else is doing it. Zombies that bug out. There’s a pun here about actual living […]

  • No, Far Cry 4 is not currently free on PSN

    You may have seen a few Tweets from people saying that the PS4 version of Far Cry 4 is available to download from PSN for free. This is not true. A few readers have tipped us off to what looked like a glitch on PSN that allowed players to download the full version of Far […]

  • Metal Gear Solid: The 1984 Collection confirmed to be a clothing line

    Konami is teasing a Metal Gear Solid thing called “The 1984 Collection.” The Metal Gear Solid Facebook page posted this image about an hour ago: The caption reads, “Step back into the 80′s with our new MGS collection coming very soon! Stay tuned!” This is supposedly in reference to the clothing line that was announced […]

  • Portal, The Simpsons, Jurassic World & Scooby Doo packs listed for Lego Dimensions

    Lego Dimensions is likely getting a few unannounced content packs. One of which is themed around Valve’s Portal. A set of unannounced content packs for the upcoming Lego Dimensions have been revealed by US retailer Walmart. The listings include packs for The Simpsons, Scooby Doo and Jurassic World, and most interestingly, Portal. The listings have […]

  • This is the most authentic recreation of GTA 2 in real life ever

    Affordable drones have many uses. Most of them are not nearly as exciting as recreating GTA 2 in real life. I am surprised it took us this long, but someone has finally captured footage using a drone that resembles the protagonist’s experience in the classic GTA 2. These aren’t just shots of cars from a […]

  • PlayStation 4 sales reach 2m in the UK

    Sony has sold 2 million PlayStation 4 consoles in the UK, faster than it did with the PlayStation 2 – the company’s best-selling machine in the country. MCVUK is reporting that as of last weekend, 2 million PlayStation 4s have been sold in the UK. The data is based on GfK Chart-Track estimates. This makes […]

  • H1Z1 gets female characters, skin colour options planned

    In an effort to improve diversity in the game, H1Z1 developer has added female characters. Female survivors can now be found throughout the world of H1Z1. Developer Daybreak added the new feature in a patch released last Friday. You will be able to choose a female avatar in the main game and in Battle Royale. […]

  • Possible teaser site for Castlevania creator Koji “IGA” Igarashi’s new game opens

    Either Castlevania creator Koji “IGA” Igarashi is working on a soon-to-be-launched Kickstarter for his new game, or someone is pulling an elaborate prank. At PAX Prime last year, during Keiji Inafune’s Mighty No. 9 panel, a flyer was handed out to attendees that showed what appeared to be a 2D game of some sort with […]

  • Destiny weekly reset for May 5: Heroic and Nightfall strikes detailed

    Tuesday is here and Destiny’s weekly reset is also here. Bungie announced that your weekly Destiny grind has now begun. The Nightfall and Heroic strikes are now live too. This week’s strike is Winter’s Run. Rainbow burn is back for the Nightfall, which means you do more damage with all elemental weapons, but also receive […]

  • PC version of Project Cars delayed in Australia due to severe weather

    Recent weather conditions in Sydney, Australia are responsible for a slight delay of the PC version of Project Cars in the country. Sydney recently suffered from storms that caused flooding in some areas. One of those is the place where publisher Namco Bandai was storing PC copies of Project Cars. The stock was “severely damaged,” […]

  • Twitch’s new process makes it easier for streamers to appeal flagged content

    Twitch has updated its appeals process concerning videos that have been flagged by the audio ID system. Towards the end of last year, Twitch introduced a new audio recognition system that scans archived streams and automatically mutes the audio whenever copyright music is identified. The system has been in-use ever since and Twitch has today […]

  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has a day one patch, but it’s not a major one

    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will indeed have a day one patch, to make the first-time experience as smooth as possible. Like many modern games, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will have its day one patch. According to the developer however, it wasn’t born out of necessity. Miles Tost, level designer at developer CD Projekt […]

  • CoD: Advanced Warfare owners get free pistol today

    Advanced Warfare developer Sledgehammer Games is adding a new pistol to the game, free to all players. The M1 Irons is a new pistol that comes to Advanced Warfare starting today. The weapon is offered as a thank you gift from the developer. Sledgehammer says the Irons is good at range and packs a punch. […]

  • Fall down the Skullgirls Big Band music video rabbit hole with me

    Skullgirls is a pretty amazing fighting game, but did you know it’s also a passable music creation suite? Earlier today I was idly perusing an episode of PlayStation Underground showing off Skullgirls 2nd Encore, a re-release of the indie fighter packing in loads of new features and coming to PS4 – with full cross-play! – […]

  • The many uses of Wolfenstein: The Old Blood’s pipe weapon

    Wolfenstein: The Old Blood adds a sick new weapon to BJ’s arsenal: a pipe. In Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, a pipe is not just a pipe. Not only can you bash nazis with it, you can use it to climb walls, reach hatches, and even break through some walls. Plus? You can dual wield it. […]

  • Mortal Kombat X teaser gives first look at Predator

    Mortal Kombat X’s next celebrity guest was teased during the latest Kast. Today’s Mortal Kombat X Kast was mostly about all about Jason, but also included a very brief nod to Predator. You can watch the full livestream to see the tease in situ if you’re really keen, but IGN shared this convenient edit: There’s […]

  • Rock Band 4 has count-ins, drum fills and vocal harmonies

    Rock Band 4 will more closely emulate the feeling of being a real musician with some neat personalisation touches. For Rock Band 4, Harmonix elected to double down on player ownership of their experience rather than technical precision. To this end, it has implemented a number of cool new features. I am wildly envious of […]

  • Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, Lost Planet 3 developer shuttered

    Spark Unlimited has gone down with all hands. The Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z and Lost Planet 3 developer has been shuttered and all staff laid off. Chief technical officer John Butrovich confirmed the news in a statement issued to IGN. “Spark Unlimited is closing as a video game developer. The ongoing opportunities for smaller mobile […]

  • PS Now subscription available on PlayStation 3 this month, Vita coming soon

    PlayStation Now’s all you can eat service has finally been dated for PS3. Subscriptions to PS Now, Sony’s cloud-based gaming service, will be available on PS3 from May 12 in the US. The all you can eat package will also be made available on select Bravia TVs and Sony Blu-ray players on the same date. […]

  • GTA 5 is even better with a gravity gun

    GTA 5 modders have made a dream come true, adding a gravity gun to your arsenal of mayhem-causing weaponry. GTA 5 isn’t ready for this. It looks like a heck of a lot of fun, but the poor old Los Santos po po can’t deal with the resulting carnage at all. If Rockstar were ever […]

  • “Mod makers should be able to make money from their creations,” says DOOM creator

    DOOM co-creator John Romero has weighed in on the paid mods debate. Paid mods are a hot issue right now. For years, Valve has been enabling content creators to make money from their work on Counter-strike: Global offensive, Dota 2 and Team Fortress 2, but when it partnered with Bethesda to offer the same for […]

  • Watch WRC driver Kevin Abbring smash through a DIRT Rally challenge

    WRC driver Kevin Abbring has been participating in Dirt Rally’s daily events – and kicking ass. Dirt Rally seems to have ticked one of the most difficult to attain boxes of racing development – creating something professional drivers like to play, and which rewards their years of experience. Codemasters published the video below showing Hyundai […]

  • Mortal Kombat X patch to bring PC version up to console standard

    Mortal Kombat X PC will be fixed tomorrow, NetherRealm has promised. The PC version of Mortal Kombat X has come under fire for poor performance, including stuttering frame rate and bugs as plenty. About 45 minutes into a recent Twitch stream, NetherRealm boss Ed Boon said an update will drop tomorrow to address many of […]

  • Destiny House of Wolves: all new Crucible maps detailed

    Destiny’s House of Wolves DLC will add four new maps to the Crucible, the game’s competitive multiplayer mode. Let’s take a look at all of them. Alex brings you new footage showing all of the four maps that will drop with House of Wolves. He goes over the layout, landmarks, gameplay styles, and other important […]

  • Custom Xbox One Star Wars controllers look very tempting

    Microsoft is celebrating May 4 by showing off concept designs for Star Wars-themed Xbox One controllers. May 4 is of course Star Wars Day and the controller concepts you’re about to see are just that, concepts. Or at least that’s what they said they are. There are four designs and they don’t look very practical. […]

  • Project Cars launch trailer is an anthology of race cars, set to the beats of Deadmau5

    Project Cars comes out this week and there’s just enough time for one last trailer. Project Cars, Slightly Mad Studios’ ambitious racer that has been in development for ages, is finally coming out this week. The racer received plenty of changes throughout its development based on community feedback and the final product will be in […]

  • Star Wars Battlefront dev reveals planet Sullust

    Sullust, a planet that has not been previously shown, will be featured in one of Star Wars Battlefront’s maps. Star Wars Battlefront developer DICE revealed today that planet Sullust will be one of the game’s locations. The planet was mentioned in the films and other Star Wars works, but was only shown today. DICE posted […]

  • Destiny House of Wolves: Tower vendor changes

    House of Wolves will change the inventory of some of Destiny’s vendors and add new roles to others. Here’s everything that has been announced so far. You know that House of Wolves will bring a new social space to the game in the form of The Reef. But did you also know that the good […]

  • Nintendo apologises for Amiibo shortages, will reissue some out-of-stock figures

    Nintendo released a statement today to apologise for fan’s frustrations in finding some Amiibo figures and promised to handle distribution better going forward. Nintendo has been criticised recently for its lack of communication when it comes to new Amiibo figures. Something which has lead fans to not know if certain figures are limited to some […]