Yoshitaka Murayama

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Yoshitaka Murayama
Born Hokkaido, Japan
Nationality Japanese
Occupation Game designer, director and producer
Website http://www.bm.ai/

Yoshitaka Murayama (村山 吉隆, Murayama Yoshitaka) is a Japanese game designer, game director and game producer. He is the creator of the Suikoden series of role-playing video games, which he produced and directed for Konami until his departure in 2002 before the release of Suikoden III. He is also a supervisor of Warriors Orochi 4’s setting and story, the latest game in series Warriors Orochi of Koei Tecmo.

Biography[edit]

After finishing his computer programming studies at University of Tokyo in the summer of 1992, Murayama visited Konami's newly opened Tokyo headquarters to submit his first job application whereupon he was hired.[1] Initially hired for QA and menial tasks, he was handpicked six months later along with a few others to create his own launch game for an internally developed video game console, where he began collaborating with designer Junko Kawano, also a newcomer to Konami and future writer and designer for Suikoden IV and Suikoden Tactics. Tasked with writing an RPG and being fond of historical epics, Murayama composed an early version of the script for Suikoden II before the console project was scrapped. Murayama, Kawano and ten other employees were instead assigned with developing Konami's first games for Sony's upcoming console, the PlayStation. With the pick of making a baseball game, a racing game or an RPG, Murayama and Kawano decided to reopen their RPG project, although Murayama has stated that given the opportunity, he would have preferred to make a shoot 'em up, citing his preference for arcade action titles such as Taito's Metal Black.

Committed from the start to make a franchise to rival series such as Enix's Dragon Quest and Square's Final Fantasy, Murayama wrote a chronological prequel for his story and used that instead in order not to waste the Suikoden II script due to his lack of experience. Unimpressed with their early 3D polygon tests, he opted to make a traditional 2D RPG using sprite graphics. In the winter of 1993, when pitching his idea of an RPG with a great gallery of supporting characters, inspired by Murayama's preference for manga such as Fist of the North Star and Captain Tsubasa he instead decided to use the classic Chinese novel Shui Hu Zhuan in order to better illustrate his point to his boss, who was around 50 years old and assumed to be unfamiliar with these manga. The pitch was a success, and in this short meeting the game was given the name Suikoden, the Japanese reading of Shui Hu Zhuan, and Murayama was tasked with making 108 characters mirroring the 108 outlaws in the Chinese classic.

Suikoden was released in Japan in 1995 to positive reviews and an initial lackluster response from the market. However sales increased when word of mouth started spreading and a cult following was formed. Murayama personally responded to each and every fan letter that was sent. Konami was also intent on making Suikoden into a franchise, and he was asked to develop its sequel, bringing back most of the team from the first game. By then, it was well known that Square was developing Final Fantasy VII for the PlayStation, and Murayama and his team were sure from the start that their game would not be able to stand up commercially to Square's RPG. Deciding what aspects to focus on for Suikoden II, response from the fans prompted them to concentrate on further developing the world and its characters over the graphics and mechanics. The game was released in December 1998, like its predecessor to positive reviews and slow but steady sales.

A third game in the series was developed, but a month before the release of Suikoden III in July 2002, which would become the best received and best selling installment in the series, Murayama left Konami. In compliance with Konami company policy, his name was taken out of the credits for the game. The reason for his sudden departure has been long theorized on by fans, many believing corporate meddling to be the reason, in part because of the omitted credit for Suikoden III. However, in an interview with Swedish gaming magazine LEVEL in August 2009, Murayama clarifies that this was only because it had been exactly ten years since he was first hired by Konami, and his personal goal had always been to stay no longer than ten years before turning freelance. He claims that after the success of Suikoden II, his superiors were very supportive and that he was allowed to decide freely how the next Suikoden would be made, and that he is still on good terms with the old team.

Blue Moon Studio[edit]

After leaving Konami, he immediately set up his own company, Blue Moon Studio, that have since released the game 10,000 Bullets (Tsukiyo ni Saraba in Japan). In January 2010, a cryptic update was posted on the Blue Moon Studio blog.

Some fansites interpreted his use of the idiom "Crossing the Rubicon" and reference to a "certain company" as a possible return to Konami. Murayama later added that he was as of 2010, writing an RPG, again for a "certain company". It was speculated that he was returning to the Suikoden franchise, which had seen plummeting sales since the third game. However, in 2011 it was reported that the Suikoden team at Konami had been disbanded,[3] and later that year at the Tokyo Game Show, Genso Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki was announced as an upcoming release for the PlayStation Portable, another alternate universe spinoff like Suikoden Tierkreis. If the speculations about an offer from Konami were true, Murayama is presumed to have declined the offer. He is currently writing a manga adaptation of Laura Resnick's Magic: The Gathering novel The Purifying Fire with artwork by Yoshino Himori.[4]

Game design philosophy[edit]

Murayama has stated that he often prefers the supporting characters over the main character, in the case of manga such Saint Seiya and Captain Tsubasa, and whereas the protagonist keeps the plot moving forward, it is the supporting characters that are usually the most memorable.

Inspired by a line of code in Enix's 1992 RPG Dragon Quest V where each time the player is killed and resurrected, the dialog from the priest character is slowed down a little, Murayama wanted to use small details such as this to give his games a greater sense of realism and emotional depth. While levelling out the skill curves of many characters in order to push the player not to use the same characters exclusively, this type of coding was implemented in order to try to invoke different emotions, such as the case of forcing the player to use a character that's been recently nerfed in order to irritate the player, only to have that character killed moments later to give the player guilty conscience.

Works[edit]

Game Role Releases Platform
Suikoden Producer, Writer, Director 1995 PlayStation
Suikoden II Producer, Writer, Director 1998 PlayStation
Suikogaiden Vol. 1: Swordsman of Harmonia [5] Writer 2000 PlayStation
Suikogaiden Vol. 2: Duel at Crystal Valley Writer 2001 PlayStation
Suikoden Card Stories System programmer 2001 Game Boy Advance
Suikoden III Producer, Writer, Director 2002 PlayStation 2
10,000 Bullets Producer, Writer, Director 2005 PlayStation 2
Tensho Gakuen Gekkoroku Writer 2006 PlayStation 2
The Alliance Alive Scenario[6] 2017 Nintendo 3DS

References[edit]

  1. ^ Nowakowski, Kasper & Kudo, Takashi. (August 2009) "I goda vänners lag" LEVEL #41
  2. ^ Bluemoon Studio (27 January 2010). "Bluemoon Studio Official Web Site - 雑記". bm.ai. 
  3. ^ Aetas Inc. "4Gamer.net ― KONAMIとトライエースが開発中のPSP「フロンティアゲート」は,マルチプレイとターン制コマンドバトルを前提としたRPGだった。その狙いを両社に聞く". 4gamer.net. 
  4. ^ "Magic Arcana - Magic Manga". archive.wizards.com. Wizards of the Coast LLC. Retrieved 4 September 2015. 
  5. ^ Bluemoon Studio. "Bluemoon Studio Official Web Site -". bm.ai. 
  6. ^ 新作RPG『アライアンス・アライブ』のゲーム情報をおさらい。“ゲームの電撃 感謝祭”で試遊しよう . Dengeki Online. 2017-03-10. Archived from the original on 2017-03-14. Retrieved 2017-11-06.