At a preview event alongside GDC, EA offered the first playable demo of Grasshopper Manufacture's From Dusk Till Dawn-esque third-person shooter, Shadows of the Damned. Immediately after experiencing its floating skull sidekicks, baby-head gates, and demons in seductive-woman suits, we spoke to Grasshopper's CEO, Suda 51, and asked the first thing that came to mind: how did he convince EA to back such a strange game?

Suda, of course, understood the intention, saying that "strange equals compliment for us." And besides, "Actually, EA has always respected our punk rock style. It was really easy, and we had a lot of freedom. EA is not just a giant corporation, but they're very accepting." He said that Grasshopper pitched the game to EA -- though later in the same interview, he told us that it was at EA's request that the game became a shooter. "We wanted to do well with the Western market," Suda said, "and we wanted to have that challenge of creating shooters," and so the studio agreed.

We want to be able to compete with developers around the world -- technically, idea-wise. You have Criterion, Media Molecule, Starbreeze, there are so many good developers.- Suda 51

Though the choice in gameplay was motivated by an attempt to appeal to American and European gamers, Suda said that Grasshopper doesn't usually make a special effort to reach out to any one group. The West is important, "of course, but Japan is really important as well." Though the sensibility in Grasshopper games may often come off as distinctly Japanese, Suda doesn't see it that way. "I think people around the world love the punk rock style," he said. "And, if I may say, I think everyone wants the punk rock style."

"We don't see ourselves as competing in the Japan market," Suda said. "We want to be able to compete with developers around the world -- technically, idea-wise. You have Criterion, Media Molecule, Starbreeze, there are so many good developers." One way that Grasshopper is keeping up is by using Unreal Engine 3 for Shadows. "It's been three years working with that tool. Staff members are used to it, and it's pretty cool."

For a Japanese company in the midst of what seems (at least to ex-Capcomite Keiji Inafune) to be a struggling Japanese industry, Grasshopper Manufacture appears to be soaring. It recently made some high-profile hires, including Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka and key staff from Marvelous Interactive. When asked how Grasshopper continues to grow in the face of a turbulent industry, Suda wryly attributed it to past experience. "I guess I started as a planner [at Fire Pro Wrestling developer Human Entertainment], so we "plan" or we come up with new ideas. Our job is to come up with new ideas, so I guess that works well with publishers."

This article was originally published on Joystiq.