Kotaro Uchikoshi

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Kotaro Uchikoshi
A 2016 photograph of Kotaro Uchikoshi, holding an autographed Zero Time Dilemma game cover
Uchikoshi at Anime Expo 2016
Native name 打越 鋼太郎
Born (1973-11-17) November 17, 1973 (age 44)
Higashimurayama, Tokyo, Japan
Nationality Japanese
Other names Hagane Tsukishio[a] (pseudonym)[1]
Occupation Game director, planner, scenario writer
Years active 1998–present
Employer
Notable work

Kotaro Uchikoshi (打越 鋼太郎, Uchikoshi Kōtarō, born November 17, 1973) is a Japanese video game director and writer. He is known for his work on visual novels, including the Infinity and Zero Escape series. His writing style often incorporates elements of science fiction with various scientific and philosophical themes, and makes heavy use of plot twists.

Interested in narrative based games from a young age, Uchikoshi studied video game development at a vocational school. His first job in game development was at KID in 1998, where he primarily wrote scenarios for bishōjo games and other visual novels. These included Memories Off (1999) and Never 7: The End of Infinity (2000). In 2001, he left KID to become a freelance writer, and continued to work on visual novels. Uchikoshi joined Chunsoft in 2007, where he came up with the idea of integrating puzzles into a visual novel for the player to solve. He implemented this idea in Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (2009), the first game in which he served as the director.

Both Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and its sequel Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward (2012) were commercial failures in Japan. When Chunsoft put the Zero Escape series on hiatus, Uchikoshi returned to freelance work, and wrote his first anime series, Punch Line (2015). He also worked on a manga and video game adaptation of Punch Line. A large fan presence helped revive the Zero Escape series, and Uchikoshi returned to write and direct the concluding installment, Zero Time Dilemma (2016). He is currently directing and writing an adventure game titled AI: The Somnium Files.

Life[edit]

Early years[edit]

Uchikoshi was born on November 17, 1973, in Higashimurayama, Tokyo.[1][2] Almost immediately after birth, he began choking on amniotic fluid, and claims he would have died had his doctor not held him upside down and "hit his backside".[2] Uchikoshi was born with torticollis, which required surgery when he was three years old.[2] While in middle school, he started reading gamebooks written by Steve Jackson, which instilled an early interest in narrative based games.[3]

He studied management engineering in college, but dropped out and spent a year without a job. Uchikoshi then enrolled in the vocational school Vantan Design Institute, where he studied video game planning, 3D modelling, 2D art, sound, and programming. Vantan was founded as a school for clothes design, and only branched into game development later; according to Uchikoshi, the teachers were not well versed in video games, which led to uninteresting courses and many students dropping out. Eventually, only Uchikoshi and a few others attended classes, which resulted in the teachers being able to better focus and take care of the smaller group of students who still attended; because of this, Uchikoshi says that he and the other remaining students were able to achieve a higher level of proficiency.[4]

Career[edit]

Uchikoshi's first job in game development was in 1998 when he joined KID, a company known for bishōjo games.[4][5] At the time, KID was also developing video game adaptations of board games; he originally joined KID because of these board game projects, as he was interested in making simple games that a lot of people would be able to enjoy.[5] His first project at KID however was designing 3D models for the action game Pepsiman (1999).[2] Sometime after the release of Pepsiman, a producer at KID asked him to write a scenario for an upcoming bishōjo game. Uchikoshi believes he was chosen because of his personality and experience with writing.[5] The first bishōjo game he worked on was the visual novel Memories Off (1999), followed by Never 7: The End of Infinity and Memories Off 2nd (both 2000). While writing Never 7: The End of Infinity, Uchikoshi wanted to include science fiction themes, but was instructed by his superiors to instead focus on the relationships between the game's characters.[4]

In 2001, Uchikoshi left KID to become a freelance writer and developer;[6] this was the result of a need for independence, and the ability to work for other companies besides KID.[4] Over the next few years, he worked on several games, including Close To: Inori no Oka (2001),[7] Ever 17: The Out of Infinity (2002), and Remember 11: The Age of Infinity (2004).[4] He also wrote two erotic visual novels, the first was a 2003 game which he was uncredited for and whose title he does not remember, and the second was Eve: New Generation (2006).[4]

While working as a freelance writer, Uchikoshi was contacted by the game development company Chunsoft about a possible job offering. Looking to provide a stable income for his wife and daughter, he accepted the company's offer in 2007.[4] Chunsoft had developed several mystery visual novels in the past, such as Banshee's Last Cry (1994), but wanted to create a new type of visual novel that could be received by a wider audience.[5] Uchikoshi came up with the idea to include puzzles that are integrated within the story, and need to be solved in order for the player to make progress.[5] Afterwards, he began implementing and expanding upon these ideas in Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (2009), in which he served as the game director, planner, and scenario writer.[4] Although the game was a commercial failure in Japan,[8] its unexpected critical success in North America prompted Uchikoshi to continue the series.[9]

The sequel to Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors was Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward (2012).[8] In an attempt to reduce costs, Uchikoshi asked Chunsoft if he could develop Virtue's Last Reward and its eventual sequel simultaneously, as both games would use the same engine and digital assets; Chunsoft agreed to the proposal.[10] Uchikoshi maintained his duties as the director, planner, and scenario writer.[4] Despite positive reviews in the West, Virtue's Last Reward was another commercial failure in Japan. As a result, Chunsoft placed the game's sequel on indefinite hiatus, effectively concluding the Zero Escape series.[8] Uchikoshi examined the possibility of financing the development through the use of crowdfunding on a website like Kickstarter, but felt that the idea was "not quite persuasive enough".[11]

After Virtue's Last Reward, Uchikoshi returned to freelance work. He wrote a scenario for Steins;Gate: Linear Bounded Phenogram (2013)[4] before working on his first non-game related project, an anime series titled Punch Line (2015).[12] Uchikoshi wrote the episode scripts, which he noted were more cinematic in tone than most of his previous projects.[13] The series ran in Japan from April to June 2015.[14][15] Uchikoshi also wrote a Punch Line manga, which began serialization in September,[16] as well as a video game adaptation, released in 2016.[17]

Meanwhile, fans of the Zero Escape series created an online campaign to raise awareness and support the development of a sequel to Virtue's Last Reward.[18] Uchikoshi noted that the fan presence was a key factor for the sequel's reevaluation.[10] While delivering the pitch for the game, he used a fan-made vocal rendition of the series theme song; Spike Chunsoft[b] agreed to the proposal, and green-lit production on Zero Time Dilemma (2016).[19] With Zero Time Dilemma, Uchikoshi intended to resolve all mysteries left from the previous two games in the series, as well as those introduced in the third.[20] Following the game's release, he remarked that having devoted the last decade of his life to the series, he was saddened to see it finally come to an end.[21] His next two projects were announced in 2017: the escape room game The Pop Star's Room of Doom,[22] and the video game AI: The Somnium Files.[23]

Writing style and philosophy[edit]

A photograph of Kurt Vonnegut
A photograph of Isaac Asimov
Among Uchikoshi's influences are science fiction writers Kurt Vonnegut (left) and Isaac Asimov (right).

As a writer, Uchikoshi prioritizes storylines over characters, with the goal to write a story that people will remember regardless of the overall quality.[2][24] He first writes the basic outline of a story.[24] With plot twist heavy stories, he will typically work on the ending first and continue backwards, in order to not get confused when writing the plot.[9] This method of writing, referred to by Uchikoshi as the "deductive composition method", was not used in his earlier works; Ever 17: The Out of Infinity was written using the "inductive composition method", where a setting is created first, and a story is created to support the setting, something he described as a gamble, with the risk of an uninteresting story.[25] He also likes to work non-sequentially, writing multiple scenes in parallel.[4]

After crafting a story, Uchikoshi attempts to create a balanced cast of characters with regards to genders, personalities, and ages.[24] He used the Enneagram of Personality as a reference while creating the characters for Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and Virtue's Last Reward.[26] He purposefully does not give the main character of the story a strong personality in order for the player to more easily empathize with them.[24] Although the character dialogue is usually written with an international audience in mind, Uchikoshi will sometimes incorporate humorous or important lines aimed towards Japanese audiences.[4] This style of writing can be seen in Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, as a vital plot point hinged on a Japanese pun, which forced the localization team to play through the entire game again to determine if the story still made sense in English.[27]

Uchikoshi believes the most important aspect of writing visual novels is to envision what the player will think about in each scene,[5] saying that he always has "a conversation with an imaginary player" when writing stories.[6] Uchikoshi's works often deal with scientific and philosophical themes, including idealism, Rupert Sheldrake's theory of morphic resonance, and the prisoner's dilemma.[2][6] When asked about this, he noted that he often has them in mind before writing a story, and collects web pages related to the topics. Once he has completed the final preparations for a story, he will choose which topics interest him and conduct further research.[2] Among his influences are science fiction writers Isaac Asimov and Kurt Vonnegut.[6] Uchikoshi believes ninety percent of any creative work consists of pieces from others' works, and that the remaining ten percent is creativity, with the result hinging on how well a writer can incorporate their influences with their own ideas.[6]

Works[edit]

Video games[edit]

Year Title Role(s) Ref.
1999 Pepsiman 3D modeller [4]
1999 Memories Off Planner, scenario writer [4]
2000 Never 7: The End of Infinity Planner, scenario writer [4]
2000 Memories Off 2nd Planner, scenario writer [4]
2001 Close To: Inori no Oka Scenario writer [7]
2002 Ever 17: The Out of Infinity Planner, scenario writer [4]
2003 Unknown erotic visual novel Scenario writer [4]
2004 Remember 11: The Age of Infinity Planner, scenario writer [4]
2006 Eve: New Generation Planner, scenario writer [4]
2006 Kamaitachi no Yoru Niwango-ban Scenario writer [4]
2008 12Riven: The Psi-Climinal of Integral Planner, scenario writer [4]
2009 Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors Planner, director, scenario writer [4]
2012 Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward Planner, director, scenario writer [4]
2013 Steins;Gate: Linear Bounded Phenogram Scenario writer for one scenario [4]
2016 Punch Line Scenario writer [17]
2016 Zero Time Dilemma Director, scenario writer [28]
TBA AI: The Somnium Files Director, scenario writer [23]

Other works[edit]

Year Title Media Role(s) Ref.
2015 Punch Line Anime Writer [12]
2015 Punch Line Max Manga Original concept [16]
2017 The Pop Star's Room of Doom Escape room Scenario writer [22]
2018 Akanesasu Shōjo Anime Original concept [29]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Hagane Tsukishio (槻潮 鋼, Tsukishio Hagane)
  2. ^ Chunsoft merged with the Japanese company Spike in 2012, and was renamed Spike Chunsoft.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Uchikoshi, Kotaro (May 2, 1998). "プロフィール". Mechb.net. Archived from the original on January 8, 2009. Retrieved May 21, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g
  3. ^ Drake, Audrey (April 22, 2013). "Down The Rabbit Hole: The Narritive Genius Of Virtue's Last Reward". IGN. Ziff Davis. Archived from the original on March 24, 2016. Retrieved August 27, 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y Szczepaniak, John (August 11, 2014). The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers. 1. SMG Szczepaniak. pp. 298–313. ISBN 978-0992926007. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Parish, Jeremy (February 13, 2014). "Inside the Genesis of Virtue's Last Reward and the Challenges of Visual Novels". USgamer. Gamer Network. Archived from the original on May 14, 2016. Retrieved June 9, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Nutt, Christian (January 11, 2013). "The Storytelling Secrets of Virtue's Last Reward". Gamasutra. UBM plc. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved June 9, 2015. 
  7. ^ a b KID (2001). Close To: Inori no Oka. Level/area: Credits. 
  8. ^ a b c Tach, David (February 14, 2014). "Zero Escape's third entry is stalled, but director has hope". Polygon. Vox Media. Archived from the original on July 15, 2015. Retrieved April 17, 2017. 
  9. ^ a b Chapman, Jacob Hope (August 13, 2015). "Interview: Zero Escape series creator Kotaro Uchikoshi". Anime News Network. Archived from the original on February 21, 2016. Retrieved April 17, 2017. 
  10. ^ a b "AX 2015 Uchikoshi/Zero Escape panel" (Video). Aksys Games. July 5, 2015. Archived from the original on March 13, 2016. Retrieved April 18, 2017 – via YouTube. 
  11. ^ Smith, Carly (February 13, 2014). "Zero Escape Conclusion Put on Hold Indefinitely". The Escapist. Defy Media. Archived from the original on February 22, 2014. Retrieved April 18, 2017. 
  12. ^ a b "Noitamina Announces Punch Line Original Anime". Anime News Network. November 27, 2014. Archived from the original on March 1, 2017. Retrieved April 18, 2017. 
  13. ^ Nutt, Christian (April 25, 2016). "No escape: Zero Time Dilemma and the narrative design of Kotaro Uchikoshi". Gamasutra. UBM plc. Archived from the original on October 9, 2016. Retrieved April 18, 2017. 
  14. ^ "Crunchyroll to Stream Noitamina's Punch Line Anime". Anime News Network. April 2, 2015. Archived from the original on July 10, 2016. Retrieved April 18, 2017. 
  15. ^ "第12話 放送情報更新!" (in Japanese). Aniplex. June 24, 2015. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved April 18, 2017. 
  16. ^ a b "Punch Line TV Anime Gets Manga This Fall". Anime News Network. August 8, 2016. Archived from the original on July 10, 2016. Retrieved April 18, 2017. 
  17. ^ a b "Punch Line PS4/PS Vita Game's Teaser Reveals April Release Date". Anime News Network. January 29, 2016. Archived from the original on August 8, 2016. Retrieved April 18, 2017. 
  18. ^ Davison, Pete (February 17, 2014). "Zero Escape Fans Band Together for 'Operation Bluebird'". USgamer. Gamer Network. Archived from the original on July 6, 2015. Retrieved April 18, 2017. 
  19. ^ Kotowski, Don (July 30, 2016). "Shinji Hosoe and Kotaro Uchikoshi Interview: Zero Times". Video Game Music Online. Archived from the original on October 1, 2016. Retrieved April 18, 2017. 
  20. ^ Sanchez, Miranda (July 7, 2015). "Zero Escape 3 'More Philosophical Than Past Volumes'". IGN. Ziff Davis. Archived from the original on August 25, 2015. Retrieved April 18, 2017. 
  21. ^ Frank, Allegra (March 2, 2017). "Zero Escape director teases next project". Polygon. Vox Media. Archived from the original on November 29, 2015. Retrieved April 18, 2017. 
  22. ^ a b Wawro, Alex (September 11, 2017). "Zero Time Dilemma director tries hand at writing a real escape room game". Gamasutra. UBM plc. Archived from the original on September 13, 2017. Retrieved September 13, 2017. 
  23. ^ a b Shigeta, Yuichi (July 6, 2018). "打越鋼太郎が手掛ける本格推理ADV『AI:ソムニウム ファイル』がPS4/Switch/PC向けに発表!". IGN (in Japanese). Ziff Davis. Archived from the original on July 6, 2018. Retrieved July 6, 2018. 
  24. ^ a b c d Sahdev, Ishaan (October 26, 2012). "Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward Director On Designing Characters". Siliconera. Curse, Inc. Archived from the original on February 2, 2016. Retrieved June 25, 2017. 
  25. ^ Hooper, John; Israel, H. Anthony (May 1, 2017). "Ever17 Anniversary Uchikoshi & Nakazawa Interview Part 1 (Non-Spoiler)". Lemnisca. p. 2. Archived from the original on May 1, 2017. Retrieved May 1, 2017. 
  26. ^ Uchikoshi, Kotaro. "Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward – Q&A". Aksys Games. Archived from the original on July 9, 2017. Retrieved June 25, 2017. Question 66 
  27. ^ Lada, Jenni (April 5, 2013). "999 and Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward Interview: Aksys gets things done". TechnologyTell. NAPCO Media. Archived from the original on April 9, 2013. Retrieved August 10, 2017. 
  28. ^ Frank, Allegra (October 31, 2015). "Zero Escape 3 has a new, official name". Polygon. Vox Media. Archived from the original on November 29, 2015. Retrieved November 30, 2015. 
  29. ^ Antonio Pineda, Rafael (March 21, 2018). "Animax Reveals 20th Anniversary TV Anime/Game App Akanesasu Shōjo". Anime News Network. Archived from the original on March 22, 2018. Retrieved July 10, 2018. 

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