A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of traveling to Los Angeles to visit GungHo Online Entertainment and play the newest build of Let It Die. If you aren’t familiar with Let It Die, it’s a new free-to-play hack and slash “extreme action game” from Grasshopper Manufacture, the developers of titles like Killer7, No More Heroes, and Shadows of the Damned. Let It Die is Grasshopper’s first title since being acquired by GungHo. After spending some time with the game, I was able to sit down with Let It Die’s director Hideyuki Shin. The following is the conversation that I had with him.
Logan Moore: I’m here at GungHo Online Entertainment with Hideyuki Shin from Grasshopper Manufacture checking out their upcoming title Let It Die which is coming to PS4 later this year. Shin, I guess my first question for you would be how do you come up with these wacky premises for video games? Grasshopper Manufacture is known for creating some insane games like Killer7 and Shadows of the Damned so how exactly do you come up with these ideas?
Hideyuki Shin: So within Grasshopper, of course, we have Suda51 and he’s kind of an eccentric guy with a lot of interesting ideas. On the creative side within Grasshopper there isn’t really a huge brainstorming process. A lot of it starts with Suda51 and a few other who have got some really interesting ideas. The creative team along with the entire development team will think of a certain game system they want to roll with and the game kind of begins from there. You have some other people who start building and adding to that system things that they think would be fun or cool. A lot of people within Grasshopper don’t hold back the ideas that they have. They have the courage to express themselves and say what they think is fun or hilarious and the game kind of begins to take shape. Sometimes someone like Suda51 may have to step in and cut some things out but for the most part, ideas are very free flowing. More than anything though, the team strives to create something that is unique instead of purposefully setting out to make something that is weird.
Logan Moore: That’s really refreshing to hear. It seems like so many games today are trying to fit a certain mold and it’s nice to see you guys creating games purely because you think what you’re making is enjoyable and funny.
Hideyuki Shin: Yeah, there are times where some people within Grasshopper will find something that they think is really funny or awesome but they aren’t sure how it fits into the game itself. They’ll then create an entire game system to fit in around this one idea that they want to implement. This leads to some of the more interesting and crazy things that appear in our games.
Logan Moore: So after spending some time with the game myself, it’s apparent that Let It Die is similar to a roguelike where you are building up your character and leveling them up so that you can continue to advance further in the game. Since it is free-to-play, I was wondering whether or not Let It Die has a true ending. Will I ever be able to say that I have “beaten” this game or does the gameplay loop just kind of go on forever?
Hideyuki Shin: Great question. So you may have noticed that there is a lot of backtracking in the game. You’ll often return to the ground floor only to then return back upwards once you’re stronger to then hopefully advance further. There is a point in the game where you will be able to reach the top of the tower and a lot of the game’s mysteries will then be unveiled, but that is just one of the aspects of the game. There is also the PVP element to the game — The Tokyo Death Metro — which should continue to drive players to want to grow and level up their characters. It is here that you can invade other players’ home bases and steal resources from them, but they can also exact revenge and do the same to you. We are hoping that this game mode will make players want to continue to upgrade weapons and find new gear in the hopes that they will become the strongest.
Logan Moore: From what I’ve played so far, there really is an addiction to wanting to grow your character and I can only imagine that addiction becoming stronger once you get more into the PVP. I know there’s a certain team element to the PVP in this game, is that something you could expand on a bit more?
Hideyuki Shin: A lot of times in multiplayer games now you’ll have these guilds and chat rooms where players are forced to interact with one another or forced to play the game at certain time. That can be a lot of work, you know? On the development side, we wanted to make a game where players can hold true to themselves and represent themselves in the multiplayer portion of the game. This leads back into the PVP where players can join teams that represent a territory from the real world. For example, let’s say we all here joined Team California. By us joining that team, it shows we want to represent this area of the country and we would be joined by other players who also want to represent California. At the same time, if we all decided we hated a certain area, say New York, then everyone on our California team could purposely invade members of the New York team and do some damage to them. While this interactivity is somewhat limited, we feel like this is still something players can connect to. It’s not as complicated as other multiplayer games but still gives you the satisfaction of connecting with others.
Logan Moore: That sounds incredibly unique and I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out when the game releases. You guys have been doing a lot of interviews lately and I’m sure you’ve been answering a lot of different questions. With that said, what’s the one thing you haven’t been asked about as much that you want gamers to know about with Let it Die?
Hideyuki Shin: So this is our — Grasshopper Manufacture — first game we have made since joining GungHo and from the beginning, we have known that it would be a free-to-play title. We know there are a lot of negative stigmas in regards to free-to-play games on console but we here at Grasshopper — along with GungHo — feel like we have put so much work into this game. With the amount of both quality and content that we have put into Let It Die, we feel like there is a lot more here than you would find in some games that are on the store shelf — but it’s all for free. So if you have a PlayStation 4, more than anything, we would just like you to download the game and give it a try. I feel confident in saying that if you put a few hours into the game you will understand what it is we are going for with Let It Die and you’ll find that you’re enjoying it quite a lot.
Logan Moore: So you mentioned that from the beginning you have known that your first game with GungHo would be a free-to-play title. Did the idea creating a free-to-play game come about first or did you already have the idea for Let It Die which you then slowly began fitting into the free-to-play mold?
Hideyuki Shin: From the earliest days of this project, we have known that we wanted our next challenge to be creating and online free-to-play game. The game has evolved a lot over the years but we have always known that at its core we wanted it to be a free-to-play game.
Logan Moore: Okay so sticking with the topic of free-to-play, I was wondering about what the future of Let It Die potentially looks like. A lot of free-to-play games when they launch are one game, but maybe a year or two down the road they end up being drastically different from the game that originally came out. How do you guys plan on supporting Let It Die in the future and do you already have ideas for potential changes you would want to make over that time? Will any of these changes mix the game up in a dramatic way?
Hideyuki Shin: We have planned some things down the line that we can’t talk about currently. I don’t know if any of the things we would like to update would drastically change the game but I do know that down the road there are certain elements I would like to add to Let It Die. As it stands though, we were able to fit most of what we wanted into the game and there’s a lot of content there. I do have a roadmap for the game in my mind though, of course.
Logan Moore: Very interesting. So the one thing with Let It Die the I couldn’t find a firm answer for on the Internet was in regards to the cell phone app that you at one point said you wanted to make to work in conjuncture with the game. Is that still something that is going to happen, or no?
Hideyuki Shin: There was talk about that quite awhile ago, but as of right now, there are no plans to release a companion app for the game.
Logan Moore: Okay then, I’m glad we finally have a firm answer regarding the phone app. That was one thing I could never find anything definite on. So Let It Die is coming out before the end of 2016 which means you guys have to have nearly finished up your work on the game. How are you feeling leading up to launch? Are you excited to finally get it in people’s hands?
Hideyuki Shin: The game is pretty much done at this point and there’s no worries from us that it won’t come out before the end of the year. More than anything though, I’m curious to see how gamers respond to it. Of course, I want the game to do well, but I’m more interested in seeing everyone’s reactions. I don’t feel like there are many games out there like Let It Die. We have created a free-to-play action hack and slash game with so much content and so much to explore. I just really want to know what gamers feel, what they enjoy, and how they react to what we have created. That’s what is most intriguing to me right now.
Logan Moore: From the time I have spent with the game, I think you and your team have the makings of something great here. Like you mentioned earlier, there are a lot of unfortunate stigmas that come with free-to-play games and I really hope players can look past that. If most people can just get their hands on the game — which shouldn’t be hard because it is free after all — then I think they’ll find that there’s a lot here and that the gameplay loop is quite satisfying.
Hideyuki Shin: Yeah, in regards to the free-to-play elements, when creating Let It Die I really wanted to look at it from the users stand point. I know from playing free-to-play games myself that a lot of times, the monetization options are way too in your face — and I really don’t like that. Business wise, maybe we should have placed more monetization opportunities in Let It Die but I know that as a player myself, I wouldn’t enjoy that. In fact, if the game was too in my face telling me I needed to spend money, then I would probably just quit playing altogether. We didn’t want to push that in anyone’s faces with our game. If you do want to monetize then it’s purely for your convenience. This might not be the smartest idea in terms of business, but I guess we will find out.
Logan Moore: As a gamer myself, I appreciate that so much. I think a lot of free-to-play games are so in your face about spending money and that’s why this negative stigma with them has developed.
Hideyuki Shin: Don’t get me wrong, I do hope that people find it convenient to spend money on our game because that would be great for us from a business standpoint. If the game for some reason doesn’t to do well in terms of money but we do end up having a large base of gamers who are enjoying the game without monetizing, then for me as a game creator, I can live with that. To me, people playing and enjoying a game that I have created well, what more can you ask for?
Logan Moore: Personally, I find that a lot of times with free-to-play games I will give the developer my money purely because I love the game and want to support that dev. While I don’t necessarily need to pay money to advance in the game, I do it almost as a showing of gratitude towards the developer because I love their product so much. I don’t know if anyone else does that, but I know that I typically do.
Hideyuki Shin: Well then be sure to tell everyone how fun Let It Die is so that they’ll do the same!
Logan Moore: I will do my best! It’s never hard to get the word out about great games. Shin, thanks so much for your time today I really appreciate it. Let It Die will be out later this year so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for a release date.