Originally posted on 14 October 2013
Source: Famitsu

Siren: Blood Curse: Interview, Part 1

Good evening. This is Clockwork Toyoda. Thank you for visiting.

This blog aims to show off the charms of Siren: Blood Curse. For the next three days the developers will be talking to us. Being interviewed were the director, Keiichiro Toyama, and head of scenario, Naoko Sato.

Clockwork Toyoda (below, Toyoda): You've spent the last five days telling us behind the scenes stories about the archive items - it seems to have been quite a lot of trouble to make them...

Keiichiro Toyama (below, Toyama): We took the greatest care right down to the smallest details, so...

Naoko Sato (below, Sato): It was like glimpsing hell (laughs).

Toyoda: The quality of each individual item is amazing.

Sato: The first hellish part is that, since it's in HD, you can read even the small things... This time around we have more weapon archives, so rather than finding something to say about each one we tried to make it interesting. We had to make all 50 like they actually existed, so that really was tough.

Toyama: Particularly the ones without much to say about them, or that didn't really mean much...

Sato: With each game the archive manager is chased to the border between life and death, but the archive designer for this game, a guy called Funayama, had the particularly hellish experience of working all night the day before his wedding (laughs).

Toyoda: ...Uhh, I'd like to say that I think it was actually a nice memory to have (laughs).

Sato: Ah, it really did seem like he grew as a person (laughs).

Toyama: The archive manager from Siren 2 compiled a document containing advice and sent it to Funayama. Things like, "If you go along with this time schedule, things will go smoothly." At the very start of the document was written, "A flurry of submit, submit, re-take. A mentally-draining stage." (laughs)

Sato: What kind of stage is that? (laughs)

Toyoda: In a way it's pretty accurate advice (laughs).

Sato: There's no "right way" to do the archives. As they're gradually made everyone goes a bit mad.

Toyoda: But it seems like fun to witness. Though on the other hand I wouldn't want to be there (laughs).

Toyama: It's kind of like a rite of passage (laughs).

Toyoda: By the way, Hanuda has three "big" noodles - there's Hanuda soba, Hanyoodles, and another one, right? What is the last one...?

Sato: That's still private. Now that we've come this far, we might even make a noodle game to introduce it (laughs).

Toyoda: (laughs) Come to think of it, the voice of young Saiga was done by your son, Mr. Toyama, right?

Toyama: We actually did a recording session with an adult voice actor, but it just didn't sound realistic whatever we did, so then they made the offer...

Toyoda: Oh, an offer from the team.

Toyama: So I held an audition with my eldest and middle sons at home (laughs).

Sato: The elder one won (laughs). What I found interesting was the way, when told to "do it like you did before", his son said, "Daddy told me not to overdo it," which was an important experience that showed me how Toyama's home face and work mode are different (laughs).

Toyoda: As was said in "good evening from the development team" there are a lot of people you know who appear, right?

Sato: When I meet an impressionable person I think, "One day I'm going to use them in an archive." For example, the girl who was used as a model for the "panther woman" on the One-Eyed Dragon poster is a girl who is always wearing a hooded sweatshirt with "sukeban" written on the back, who looks like she's in the wrong era (laughs). When I saw that I thought, "Someday I'm going to make this into an archive..." (laughs) You could say it's like home handicrafts, where you try to get the most out of what little you have to work with. That's also something Toyama says. That we should try to make the highest quality things we can, even with our limitations.

Toyama: Well, I guess we're never going to have all that much money. Normally I wouldn't discuss budgeting, but the opening scene was quite a menace, since we were given the rather small total of 500,000 yen to work with (laughs).

Sato: We had to go out to shoots with all of the staff crammed into one bus (laughs).

Toyoda: For a next-gen console that's a pretty amazing cost.

Toyama: The props and costumes were all hand-made, too.

Toyoda: If there's another game, please let me be in it (laughs).

Sato: There are quite a lot of people who say that.

Toyama: It's really hard work (laughs). No, really, it is (laughs).

Sato: It's true that it's tough; when we were shooting the opening it was raining and really cold... I was wearing this light nurse outfit with a bag over my head, a pair of tights and sandals (laughs). Since I was dressed up like this I kept tripping over pebbles, tree branches and things that hadn't been cleaned up or anything. So then Toyama would cooly say, "No, cut. Do it again." (laughs)

Toyama: I could see leaves.

Sato: Doing it over because of leaves? (laughs) At that point the atmosphere got really gloomy, and the moment the "cut" was issued there were really hard glares and booing (laughs).

Toyoda: I've kind of been wondering whether you often fight or argue about things...

Sato: The team can only fight because they're such good friends (laughs).

Toyama: It's healthy to let these things out (laughs).

Sato: But we pay so much attention to things that when I guess people don't see eye to eye it's hard to communicate.

Toyoda: Is it because the team has worked together across the series that they have such unity?

Sato: Yes. The whole team was so into it that they ignored the costs and pushed themselves to the very limits.

Toyoda: Listening to you talk reminds me of the old Famitsu editing department. It was a time when if someone wanted a photo of us jumping into a kids' pool we would really jump in from way high up (laughs).

Sato: That's the way things are. A number of times I saw someone do ten laps of the ground and collapse to the ground, totally exhausted, then calmly say, "Just ten more laps, right?" (laughs) But - though this might come as a surprise - apparently they managed it because Toyama was quite soothing. Even though he's at the head of the team, he's the one keeping them calm (laughs).

Toyama: Well, everyone around me is getting angry, so I don't need to (laughs). I guess there's no need getting any angrier.

Toyoda: (laughs) Oh, that's right - I got the impression that the humorous elements have been subdued in this game's archive.

Toyama: I suppose there aren't as many gags in comparison to Siren 2.

Sato: It's true that the main cause is that we had it narrowed down to 50 items, so we didn't have much space to add in jokes.

Toyoda: It looks like you came up with a few ways of getting around this, like modifying one doll four different ways...

Sato: Managing a bunch of receipts is hard work (laughs). We asked the new girl to sort out the receipts for the archive a bunch of times, but we were buying such weird things that our boss would call and ask, "What, exactly, do you intend to use this for?" (laughs)

Toyoda: I remember that the doll for Siren was more expensive, around 6000 yen, but what was the most expensive item in this game?

Sato: The Jackalope Man costume. But all of the archives were done at a low cost. Oh, I guess people don't notice it much, but on Howard's blog there's a Tengu mask. Trying to settle the receipt for it got so annoying that in the end I bought it myself (laughs). I didn't really want to try explaining to my boss what I intended to do with a Tengu mask in the game (laughs).

Toyoda: But wasn't it expensive?

Sato: No, it was only about 800 yen (laughs).

Toyoda: Was it hard getting hold of the 50 weapon archives?

Toyama: We did have several weapon archives we cut out, though. The one I was most upset about was the kokeshi.

Toyoda: Huh!? You mean a wooden kokeshi doll?

Toyama: Yeah. I really tried my hardest to push for it. Like, adding a zoom-in where you thrust it into a Shibito's mouth (laughs). It was nothing but a joke, and people overseas wouldn't understand it, so while I was really upset we dropped the idea (laughs).

Toyoda: Oh, right, right. Those mini events when you defeat a Shibito using a weapon - do those have a formal name? It didn't say anything in the manual...

Toyama: Amongst the team they're called "fatal moves".

Toyoda: I see. Do these occur according to the weapon and place?

Toyama: First of all, there are fatal moves that do and do not come from weapons. Even if they do, location is important, and there needs to be a place for them. Partway through development we decided that rather than just shove them in, we should try to give them significance. For example, having a counter or changing the buttons. There were arguments amongst the staff, and we arrived at the conclusion that we should consider a system in which, though we wanted people to get as much out of it as possible, there was the possibility that they might miss something important.

Toyoda: By not getting things even when you're aiming for them, it shakes up the tempo in a good way.

Sato: Searching for fatal moves is fun, too.

Toyama: Even I don't know what they all are (laughs).

Toyoda: The archives are amazing, but so are the brain Shibito, right? How should I say it... It feels like... penetrating, or something...

Toyama: I set it out pretty clearly with regards to the brains in that "as long as they're interesting, anything goes" (laughs). Since we're on the PlayStation 3 now, I wanted to put in everything we could with new gimmicks and things that can only be done on a next-gen console.

Toyoda: Even the very first Shibito brain you meet is amazing. It's not even human-shaped (laughs).

Toyama: We already knew it would be in a wheelchair, so trying to give it shape was tough. All of the things that sprung to mind with regards to illness or injury were turned down, and we tried to think of something that would have an impact... at which point the room for explanation actually grew.

Toyoda: By the way, are that Shibito and the person who wrote the "Patient's Letter" the same person?

Sato: With this game we didn't think so hard about that.

Toyama: The concept for Shibito brains was "jokes" (laughs). Things like making them seem stupid.

Sato: That said, we were very thorough down to the last detail with making them, even things the players may not notice, so if you can get over your fear and their creepiness I'd like it if you'd take a look at them (laughs).

Toyoda: (laughs) Download distribution began on the 24th in North America; how has the reception been?

Toyama: It's not released at midnight each night, but the reaction has been really good. Surprisingly positive. Offering it online only at a resonable price works in its favour. Also, downloads on the PlayStation Network generally have quite a light feel to them, but it looks like players unexpectedly wanted something heavier. I was shocked by the number of people saying they were glad to have such a rich game available via PSN. Compared to Japan, people in North America aren't all that familiar with Siren, but with things like Howard's blog and the images it seems to be fresh and enjoyable. They're also getting together, asking questions, taking their time looking for the archives, which was wrapped up on day one in Japan.

Toyoda: The Japanese players really did get all of the archives in the blink of an eye, didn't they? I heard they had already finished before I had them uploaded on my blog (laughs). Oh, by the way, how is the reaction to Saiga's character in North America?

Sato: I've heard that they really like him. We were looking for an actor who could portray the image of a Japanese person who would be accepted worldwide and ended up with an amazing actor like Mr. Hattori, who did a great job.

Toyoda: Speaking of the players' reaction, the page for "Searching for Hanuda" has been really popular even though it's not part of the main game, isn't that right?

Sato: I honestly didn't think that even something like that would get so much attention...

Toyama: It was kind of unexpected (laughs). Merging together the background and world view is a delicate task, so I would say it was a test directed to people who don't know of Siren to make them wonder why they're doing such strange things and grab their attention that way. It was done half officially, half like a festival (laughs).

Sato: I think the festival bits were really good.

Toyama: Well, there are also quips about something that occurred a year ago being live (laughs).

Sato: Everyone does get really excited about the siren sounding at 12 o'clock, though (laughs). That people are so happy about a siren sounding on a set timetable makes me happy too.

Toyoda: The first time I saw it I wondered "is this live?" (laughs).

Toyama: There were also people who thought we were hiding in the shed, getting ready for things, apparently.

Sato: They were going, "The staff really worked hard today~" and I was like, we didn't do anything! (laughs)

Toyoda: I think the fans of the series know that it's the kind of thing the team would do.

Toyama: If it were live, the wages for the actor in the tank top would be low. He appears way too much (laughs).

Toyoda: Where did filming take place?

Toyama: Okutama.

Toyoda: Hold on a minute. Do you mean you went all the way out there for recording after the game was done?

Sato: Yeah, we went there just for that (laughs).

Toyama: The weather was just right, light showers the whole time.

Sato: It was Siren weather (laughs).

Toyoda: I see. One of the main things that made it feel live was that out of season feeling.

Toyama: We were lucky. Even though we went there unplanned (laughs).

Toyoda: (laughs). Oh, does that mean that you held castings specifically for the actors who appear in "Searching for Hanuda"?

Toyama: Yeah, Episode 0 as well, just for that (laughs).

Sato: The glimpse we got of the actress playing Micchi eating her lunch normally also made it into the role (laughs). Episode 0 is a bit different from how we've done recordings of oddities in the past, but that doesn't mean it has nothing at all to do with the game, just that it has gimmicks in it you will enjoy if you look at the videos once you've played the game, so if you haven't seen them yet you should go and take a look.

Toyoda: There are all kinds of types of posters and signs you can see in each area. It feels like the meeting to decide which ones to do would have been fun (laughs).

Toyama: Well, the art director was really strict, and wouldn't let us put something in for no reason. We were constantly being asked probing questions like, "Why is this product's name what it is?" (laughs).

Toyoda: You mean you thought of a background for them?

Sato: They have a background, yes, but we were also careful with what they conveyed to the person looking at them. For example, if we were going to do a parody of something we had to figure out what our aim with that parody was, and what it would say to the viewers, which was shockingly harsh (laughs).

Toyoda: I've written about a lot of things on my blog, but I wish I could have found them all... Also, there's a poster with "I wonder if we'll meet, Manche..." on it, right? What product is that for?

Sato: It's for sweets.

Toyoda: I see. Then, the sign with "腋" written on it - is it okay to read this "waki" (armpit)?

Toyama: It's actually "月夜" (tsukiyo / moonlit night). Hm, it's pretty trivial, but the idea behind it is that they were supposed to have messed up the design and the characters were too close together, so it looked like "armpit" (laughs).

Toyoda: (bursts out laughing)

Sato: Something as pointless as that stands out quite a lot in the cutscene (laughs).

Toyama: And that's even though we made it darker. At first it was even brighter and it shone (laughs).

(Continue to part 2)

Good Evening from the Development Team

The rehearsal for a cutscene. It was written quite simply in the script as "Saiga carried Howard"... but carrying a full-grown man around is harder than it looks. (Toyama)

Tried carrying him on his back. Doesn't really look all that climactic...

Found a cool way of carrying him as directed by Gavin, in charge of mo-cap. This is a shot of him carrying Gavin.