Interview: Keiji Inafune on Dead Rising 2, character design and difficulty

Capcom's Global Head of Production, Keiji Inafune, who started with the company over 20 years ago as an illustrator, oversees production of the publisher's major franchises, including Resident Evil, Lost Planet, Street Fighter and Dead Rising. We talked to Inafune at E3 about the design decisions and criticisms of the Dead Rising series, as well as Capcom's ongoing attempt to balance east and west game design philosophies. (Don't forget to check out our preview on Dead Rising 2 for more.)
The save system ...

(Inafune laughs with no translation required, knows what's coming.)

So, the save system was very rigid in the first Dead Rising, how is it in the second one?

The biggest change is that there are more save slots. In the first one there was a single slot. This one there are multiple slots you can save under. This way you can have a little insurance, save in multiple areas under different slots if you're unsure of the direction you want to take.

Concerning having an auto save feature or not, we haven't decided not to include that in the game. The reason why is because there are a lot of people who actually liked the original save system. There are a lot people who criticized it, of course. But you don't want to alienate all the people who do actually like it.

By including more slots, it makes the save system more accessible, a little less rigid, but it doesn't make it so easy that you don't worry about any of the choices and not saving on your own accord.

Does the game still use the three day cycle repeated over and over again?

Yes, it does.

How do you train the player to understand that the three day cycle is going to happen repeatedly? Because one of the barriers to the first one was that the player would play the first three day cycle and it was impossible to win on your first playthrough. You had to level Frank up. Do you teach the player this time that they are going to cycle?

As far as the 72 hour plot goes it's basically the same system as the first one. The people who played the first one and are used to are going to know how it goes in the second one. We haven't necessarily custom tailored [Dead Rising 2] to be an easier experience for those who haven't played the series before. It is what it is, that's one of the core mechanics of Dead Rising. You're going to have to learn it while playing like you would any other core mechanic in any other game the first time you play it.
Why is Frank West not in this game? He shows up in Tatsunoko vs Capcom, Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Capcom has pushed him as a core character to the Capcom name. Why not bring him back for Dead Rising 2?

Actually, Frank as a character is very symbolic of a learning process for us, which is we didn't want to make your specific Anime, nubile, 18-year-old Japanese character. We wanted to make a more rough, tough, gritty character for the Western market and we initially designed this out of Japan so there was a lot of learning we had to go through. Like, in the beginning, some of the directive I gave was "Make Frank ugly, make him fat." You know, we wanted to make him not super attractive as a character.

As we created him and fine-tuned him throughout the development process with Dead Rising 1 we started to realize what sort of characters could work for Western gamers and which characters couldn't, but that only represents one tier along the learning process. So, we didn't want to just stop there and say, "OK, we got this Frank West character that's good enough." We wanted to then try with other characters, try to take that learning to the next step and with Chuck Greene one of the things it allows us to do its ... he's also not super ultra cool looking slick character. He's kinda rugged and worn down father character looking for his daughter.

And that also allows us to, again, change the key motivation of what Chuck is as a character as compared to Frank is as a character. [Chuck] is a character that out of the love of his heart -- out of trying to rescue loved ones -- puts himself at risk and that allows us to take the story in a different direction. So, it's really a collection of us wanting to get better and better at creating characters that we feel aren't just your typical Japanese characters, but are characters that work in the West and aren't just beautiful looking characters and are more rugged. And, on top of that, create a character that would fit in the story and allow us to take the theme in a different direction than, say, the first game.

Are Japanese characters typically more beautiful?

You don't think so?

I'm asking.

Yeah, um, again, this is all seen through the Japanese end-user's eyes. But most of the characters you're looking at: they have to be young, they have to have very little facial hair -- if any. Very smooth shiny skin. All of this ties into the Anime subculture of they don't want to play something that's realistic. They don't want to play a person who has gotten fat, old, starting to bald, etcetera. That's too much reality for them. They want to play in the fantasy world and that's going to be in these beautiful-esque looking characters.

In the West, one of the things that's great is that you guys aren't locked into a certain stereotype or pattern with your characters. You can have young characters, really old characters -- they can all be the lead character and that's fine. I think that comes from the Hollywood movie roots because in movies you see a wide variety of characters, whether they are young children or really old men, you have a smattering of different types of main characters and that filters into your game lead characters as well. Where as in Japan, a lot of our character choices are based in Anime and not in movies.

Who is this game's Otis? Who is the person that's going to be -- I understand there is an Otis-y type of character -- are they going to yell at you and tell you you're rude if you hang up the phone on him like in the first one?

So there's not really a person that's truly representative of Otis. There is a character in the game that provides you with information from time to time. If that's your meaning of "Otis-y" character ...

Will he be calling you at the most inopportune moments... and not stop.

So, basically, this character is a female character named Stacy and she's actually a closer relationship than Frank and Otis were in the first one. Apparently, if you answer her she stops calling you, so she's not nearly as annoying as Otis is.

At the end of the first Dead Rising, the problem was you had to go all over the mall and accomplish these tasks and it felt like it required having GameFAQs open or a Prima guide to complete. We already discussed the save system and how that's structurally part of the game. Do you feel that needing GameFAQs or having that sort of community discussion of "how do you even make it through the three days and do it correctly" is going to be part of the Dead Rising franchise?

(Inafune receives his translation, lets out a hearty laugh.)

Translator: The reason why he laughed is we just got asked a question about what he thought about social gaming or what's happening with that and he said, "Yes, [Dead Rising] is a social game, because you need the internet and all the friends on the internet to clear the original game."

Inafune: Dead Rising 1 was a game that probably could have used a little bit more game balancing. So there were certainly some rough edges to it, but in hindsight it's kinda one of the attractive points to the game was that it wasn't the perfect difficutly curve and that there were some rough areas and that you did kinda need to go on the internet in some cases. [Dead Rising 2] will be better balanced probably than the first game, this game will certainly be something that feels like you're going to need support network, whether it's people on the internet or whether it's a friend playing [online] co-op. There's going to be many ways to help you out throughout the game but you're probably not going to be able to clear it by yourself. You're going to need some kind of support because it is going to be a difficult game.

Dead Rising 2 will unleash three days of recyclable zombie terror starting August 31 in North America.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.