We recently had the opportunity to chat all things Ghostwire: Tokyo with the developers of Tango Gameworks, known to most gamers for The Evil Within franchise. Game Director Kenji Kimura and Producer Masato Kimura opened up on many interesting topics, from the project's origin as The Evil Within 3 to the influence of Yokai mythology, the departure from the pure horror genre, and their eagerness to create DLCs for the game if it is well received.
Check out the whole edited interview below. As a reminder, Ghostwire: Tokyo launches on March 25th for PC and PlayStation 5. Come back tomorrow for our hands-on preview and later this month for the full review.
I know that the Ghostwire: Tokyo project began as The Evil Within 3, but eventually, it became a new IP. I was wondering if you can speak a bit about this journey.
Masato Kimura: As you mentioned, it started off as The Evil Within 3 project. The setting was not in Tokyo at the time. It was set in Northern Europe. Over time though, we started thinking about changing that setting to be somewhere in Japan. As we started thinking about where in Japan would be cool, we started rediscovering some of the coolness of Tokyo and then started thinking that the very interesting parts of Tokyo would be a very fun experience for a lot of gamers out there. Hence, we changed the setting to become Tokyo.
At the time we started thinking about, well, let's rediscover what we think is cool about this city by going out and actually walking around. We couldn't all go together because of the pandemic, but the director went off on walks throughout the city and other team members also were asked to just walk around and think about what was cool about Tokyo. These are things that we kind of knew because we live here, but by actually looking around and dissecting what's cool about the city, we started to rediscover that aspect of Tokyo.
The first and foremost thing that we noticed is that the city is a very nice mix of new and old, like very historical architecture along with a very modern, cutting edge architecture that could be sitting side by side. They are very tightly knit throughout the city. For example, there might be an office building that was just recently built, and then right next to it could be a very old shrine that's a hundred years old. What happens there is that by turning a corner, you sometimes kind of feel like you've just time slipped into a different age. That's what makes the city appealing, there's so much variety in the types of architecture. Also, there's a lot of things that are off the main street. Even while you are walking on the main street, there are these dark alleys and these little streets between the big buildings that get covered with shadows. Sometimes they look a little scary to walk into, but we started thinking if it was a game, there'd be no actual harm in walking into those areas. With Ghostwire: Tokyo, we've been able to create an experience that tickles that curiosity that you normally feel while walking around in Tokyo.
Also, when you walk around the city, you can look upwards and you start seeing that there's different sized buildings. That architecture makes you think about like, if I had these superpowers, I would be able to see what's on top of those buildings, and maybe there's different things depending on the height of the building that might be up there. It also creates this fantasy of like, would I be able to jump from that rooftop to rooftop? What would that feel like? By doing this exercise we noticed that there's probably a similar desire amongst a group of different people. People do want to be able to kind of go into those dark alleys and see what's on top of those buildings. Being able to create a game that allows you to do that would scratch the itch of those in that curiosity that gets built by walking around in. The geometry is very interesting in that way because it's not just rooftops and buildings. Highways are multitiered and there's another aspect, it's not just aboveground, but it's also underground. There's a lot of underground tunnels, shopping malls, subway systems. We started to rediscover the coolness of the geometry and we've started to see that this would make for very fun gameplay.
Ghostwire: Tokyo relieves heavily on Yokai mythology. Are there any stories in particular that inspired you?
Kenji Kimura: While I was walking around the city, not just brainstorming, but thinking about general ideas for the game, I'd think about my childhood and how I was raised. I was told stories about Yokai from my grandparents and my parents. I've also probably read books about them or have been exposed to Manga and just general media that utilize Yokai in their forms of entertainment.
It was kind of natural for me, if I was walking down in the city and if I saw something floating up into the sky, to think 'I wonder if that could be a Yokai called Ittan-Momen', which is a famous Yokai that looks like a cloth floating in the air. Or if I'd hear the sound of a water drop, I might think there's probably the Yokai called Kappa nearby. Because of those influences of my upbringing when I was a child, those thoughts would come to my head and I would be thinking, wouldn't it be cool if I could actually see those Yokai, you know, and if I was able to make an experience that allowed you to see them. I started to think down that train of thought.
When we think of paranormal phenomena and Yokai is part of that, then Yokai would be something that as Japanese developers, a lot of us have been exposed to as forms of entertainment. So, if we speak of a specific type of Yokai, we'd have a basic understanding of what that Yokai is and what it would look like. We wanted to avoid utilizing that image as itself because that's something that everybody's already seen. Rather we started to think of, how do we make a Ghostwire: Tokyo version of that Yokai, how do we update it into a more modern fashion? That took a lot of iterations, a lot of trial and error to figure out, but I'm pretty happy with what we ended up with and I hope the people can enjoy the Yokai that we have created.
Masato Kimura: What's interesting about Yokai is that they are originally characters found in stories. They are told from generation to generation in traditional stories, like fables, to teach children a certain lesson. They told us 'Hey, don't go near the water because you might run into a Kappa' (a Yokai known to drag people into the water). It was a way for the elders to teach the younger children to stay safe, don't go outside at night because they might run into a scary Yokai that walks around at night. So these characters were already kind of implanted into our brains at a younger age. Because of that, we all have a certain specific image for these, and we definitely wanted to make something new. Even though they were based on traditional stories that most people in Japan would already have an image in their head about. So we wanted to modernize them and update them and create a Ghostwire version of them.
From what I've played of the game's preview build, Ghostwire: Tokyo is clearly not a horror title. Was it a deliberate choice to allow more players to get into the game?
Kenji Kimura: When we were creating this game, we wanted it to be enjoyable just to walk around in Tokyo. We were trying to introduce the old and the new cultures of the city that get blended together along with these alleyways that take you to very surprising places like shrines or that make you feel like you just time slipped into a different place. Naturally, we wanted people to explore the city, and to do that it just became a natural evolution of this process where instead of it being a horror title, it would make sense to be an action-adventure title, because we would want the player to walk around and explore the different geometry as mentioned earlier.
It turned into this natural thing of saying this game would be a lot more fun if it was an action-adventure game and not a horror game. While there's a lot of paranormal things that are going on in this city, it needed to be fun just to be able to walk around and explore. Also the studio head Mikami-san was telling us to challenge ourselves and make something new that is really fun. He was at the same time telling us that we don't need to be tied down to the history of the studio. We can always reinvent ourselves, we can reinvent the Tango brand to be the studio that makes something cool and new. It doesn't have to be a studio that makes horror games.
Masato Kimura: The studio is evolving, changing for the past 10 years. We've finally gotten to a point where we're with Ghostwire: Tokyo, that we are creating something new and original that feels right for us. You know, it feels like we're creating something new and original that has the Tango flavor and style. Going forward very likely we will be creating other things that might surprise the world in regards to like, did this game actually come from Tango Gameworks studio? Hopefully, you can look forward to seeing those titles when they come out.
Ghostwire Tokyo feels more akin to an open world game than The Evil Within. How do you classify the game internally? Also, how long will it take to complete it?
Kenji Kimura: When we were thinking about the genre of this game if this was an open world game was a question that we wanted to kind of address first in this response. Depending on your view of what an open world game things might change, but for us, we think this is an action-adventure game with a sandbox style map, with a mystery that you want to solve by exploring through the city. In that light, it probably wouldn't fall into the open world genre, but that's our thinking.
When we built Ghostwire: Tokyo, we built a game from the ground up to make it fun, just to walk around and explore the city. So we were very careful to make it so that was not too scary for the player. We didn't want to prohibit exploration. We wanted to encourage it. And also we didn't want to make it too stressful for the player to explore. We wanted the player to have the ability to go wherever they wanted to go that felt interesting to him or her as the player. If you see something that's cool, you want to go there and we want to remove the hurdles or the stress that would normally exist to actually go there.
That included the vertical access, going up buildings. So if you're walking around the Shibuya crossing and you see a nice building, you might think I wanna go up there. One of the challenges you were asking for making a game like this is to allow the player to find a way to go upwards and find the right path, even the easy path to get up to the rooftop that they see. We were able to use spirits and place different objects that would kind of act as hints to tell the player what's the easiest way to get there. That was a new challenge that we weren't expecting, but it was something that was fun to create. In regards to the longevity of Ghostwire: Tokyo, we think it's about 15 hours just to complete the main missions. If you want to play and enjoy all of the side missions, depending on your skill level, it would probably take about twice that amount of time or more. And so we'd say about 30 to 40 hours of gameplay if you wanted to do all of the side content.
I noticed that you recently released the free visual novel Prelude. It looks like there's a lot to explore in the Ghostwire Tokyo franchise. Does that include future DLCs?
Masato Kimura: We've just finished the game. We're in this comfort zone of that relief of just being able to finish a big thing right now, so we haven't given that much thought quite yet, but after we get some rest it's likely that we'll start thinking about something cool. If there's an opportunity to create DLC, then that's something that we'll probably want to think about. As developers, we always want to continue making and improving the work that we've done, so DLC is always something that we want to do, but that really depends on the success of the title and how the community reacts to the release of Ghostwire: Tokyo. We'll have to wait and see, but if the opportunity arises, it's something that we'll definitely want to jump on.
Thank you for your time.