Capcom producer Megafies our understanding of Mega Man Universe

Mega Man Universe, seemingly a DIY Mega Man game with cameo appearances from characters across Capcom games, has been tantalizingly, tortuously mysterious since its splashy, stop-motion introduction. Finally, we found someone who knows a thing or two about the side-scroller: producer Akiko Ito. At TGS, we confronted Ito and begged her to give us any information possible. Well, actually we interviewed her in an appropriately professional manner, with our desperation just under the surface.

According to Ito, the game isn't "just" a Mega Man title with customizable levels and guest characters -- it's also based on Mega Man 2; containing faithful remakes of the stages from that game as its premade levels. Find out more about the game's origins, its development, and our shared dream of playable Ace Attorney characters in the full interview after the break.

Joystiq: Who all is on the team working on Mega Man Universe? What past Mega Man titles have they worked on?

Akiko Ito: Well, of course, at the top we have Mr. Inafune himself. He's the one who developed the concept behind Mega Man Universe, and he's working very closely to make sure that everything goes according to how he envisioned it. As for the people who are actually working on the title, we have a lot of members of the original Mega Man 1 and 2 teams; so they know the game in and out. We have a lot of people working on it, like the producer for the first couple Mega Mans, Tomita-san. Originally, he was a graphic artist, and he is also participating on this project.

How long has it been in development?

Well, we actually just started production. We spent quite a while thinking about the game -- maybe about a year; a little less than a year; and then we didn't really start with production until March or April of this year. We're actually still at the beginning stages.

So development started after Mega Man 10?

Mega Man 10 was developed by a totally different team, so we were able to start coming up with ideas and concepts for Mega Man Universe even before Mega Man 10 was completed. Honestly, we've got a couple different Mega Man titles on the front burner right now; so there are different teams working on each of those.

So the Universe concept is building your own stages and characters. Can you trade all of these creations online?

You can't trade any of the characters you make for yourself. Those are your customized characters. But, you can trade any of the stages that you make.

Come and give us feedback. Let us know what you want to see in this game. - Akiko Ito, producer

Will players have all of the parts and tools for levels immediately, or do they have to unlock them? Or even buy them?

We're trying very carefully not to make it difficult to get all the parts. But we feel that if we just gave everybody parts from the get-go, it's kind of boring that way -- there's no incentive to replay the game or try harder or do different things. Players will be able to get different parts in different ways. For example, parts from bosses, you'll have to beat the boss first, obviously, classic Mega Man-style.

There will be other things where, like, maybe you have to collect a whole bunch of screws and buy them from the little store inside the game. Or various other things, where you have to clear certain missions or stages to get certain parts as a bonus for completing that stage. There's going to be a variety of ways to get these parts to customize your Mega Man with. We're hoping people can enjoy each and every one of those.

Will you be able to play Universe as a traditional Mega Man game, with eight premade stages and a Dr. Wily castle?

We made this game such that you can play it in a normal way if you'd like. The base story and the base game is taken from Mega Man 2, so players can experience Mega Man 2 through this game.

So does it include with revamped versions of the Mega Man 2 stages?

Basically, we're going to create the stages from Mega Man 2 faithfully in this new style, and you can play them as is, or you can customize different sections of them; or you can customize all of it if you want to. So pretty much you can do whatever you'd like with the stages. Or you can start from scratch and build your own. But the stages will always be there for you to play, if you want to play through the old Mega Man 2, just in a new style.

Mega Man Powered Up also had a level editor. How much does the new game have in common with this PSP title?

We don't want to reveal too much about it right now, but what we can say is that there were some areas in the Mega Man Powered Up stage creation process that were a little bit complicated and sometimes a little hard to get around. We've tried our best to remove all of those difficult aspects of stage creation, and we try to make it as simple and as intuitive as possible.

Another thing is that -- Americans may not have a problem with this, but for some people, especially in Japan, it's very difficult to create a level; to just give them a blank canvas and say, "Go ahead and create." Some people may prefer to have premade stages or templates of some sort that they can then modify and use. So we're also being very careful and considering those types of people who maybe want to have some sort of base to start with, so we'll be preparing a bunch of those as well. Rest assured, we'll have a bunch of different things that we can customize and we'll have a bunch of different ways you can approach the editor.

We're hoping that this game will continue to grow and grow and grow as the years go by. - Akiko Ito

The first trailer hinted a lot of different Capcom characters, including Ryu from Street Fighter and Ghosts 'n Goblins' Arthur, as well as references to Bionic Commando and other games. How will players access those other Capcom characters?

Unfortunately, we can't really answer how you're going to get those characters, but you're going to get them at some point. One of the reasons that we showed all those characters from all those different properties is that we wanted to stress how many different ways you can play the same game. You saw that we have the new Mega Man Universe Mega Man and we also have the Mr. Inafune-style Mega Man, and also the "Bad Box Art" Mega Man; and of course you can customize your own Mega Man. So all these different characters -- we wanted people to experience the different ways you can play this game.

On top of that, we thought, "What if you could stick in different characters from different things -- other series?" For example, if you had Ryu, he could use a Shoryuken, which is completely different from what you can do with a Mega Man. So, how can you beat the stages that way? How can you beat the bosses that way? We want to provide players with different experiences and different ways to interact with the game.

Will there be stages from other Capcom games as well?

We're still in the middle of thinking about all that. We're still planning it out. Actually, one of the things we want to ask -- we want to ask you, or ask any of your readers -- what kind of stages would you like to see? What kind of characters would you like to see in our game? Would you like to see Arthur, or would you like to see Ryu; or maybe some other character from another franchise? As we get more feedback, we might consider putting some of those in.

Is that why the game is being heavily positioned with the Capcom-Unity community site?

It's exactly like you said. This game, we want it to be organic, we want it to be something that people playing it feel like they're a part of and they contributed. Mr. Inafune and I felt there's this big distance between us as a company and the players who are the fans. We didn't want it to be like, "Oh, here, this is our product, we're giving it to you, we made this." You're a part of our creative process. Come and give us feedback. Let us know what you want to see in this game.

The base story and the base game is taken from Mega Man 2. - Akiko Ito

For that reason, we are collaborating really closely with our friends at Capcom-Unity, and also we've created Rockman-Unity for the Japan side, so we can also get Japanese users' feedback. Really, in the end, we want this to be something that the fans will enjoy playing, and also that they will enjoy participating in the creation of.

Fans will obviously be creating new content once the game is released. Will Capcom continue updating the game as well?

Of course, after it goes on sale, people will be making stuff. And we're hoping to also make stuff as well; we're still thinking about different possibilities. And so, we want to see some of the feedback that people give and what people are creating. Maybe we can, in turn, do something with them. We want it to layer on top of each other. We're hoping that this game will continue to grow and grow and grow as the years go by.

When is the planned release date?

Really, really sorry, but we just started making this game, and so it's really hard to give a projection. We would love to say, like "this year" or "next year" or something, but we can't even really say that. Wait a little bit longer.

One last question: Of all the characters in every Capcom game, which would you most like to see in Mega Man Universe?

Out of all the titles that I've been a producer or assistant producer on, I would actually love to see a character from any of the Ace Attorney games. It would be kind of fun and kind of insane at the same time to see somebody go "Objection!" and have that become some sort of attack. It would be funny to see, for example, instead of the usual Mega Man blaster, instead of little pew-pew-pew pellets, you have "Objection!" bubbles come out of his fingers.

Right -- you get to the end of the stage and argue with the boss.

I think that would be incredibly amusing. I would love to try that.