Yu Suzuki is rightly considered to be a truly legendary video game designer, thanks to his contributions to Sega's arcade hardware throughout the 1990s, his role in pioneering polygonal 3D graphics, and the many incredible games that he's been involved with. In 2015, he announced plans to commence development on Shenmue 3, and now he's released a new video update with comments on how the game's story is coming together.
Suzuki goes into the challenges of developing a video game with good pacing. He observes that everyone who watches a two-hour movie will see the sequence of events play out in the same way, whereas player agency in a video game means that each individual will enjoy a slightly different experience.
The average length of a game — especially an RPG like Shenmue 3 — also provides difficulties for designers. Suzuki discusses the fact that players might spend 100 hours in a game, which might mean that they forget plot details from the early stages when they reach the endgame. However, another player might blaze through the game as quickly as possible, so it's difficult to cater to all possibilities.
He also comments on audiences' desires for thematic depth. A game that lasts tens of hours might seem to have an underdeveloped narrative if there aren't multiple, interconnected themes at play. Video game audiences have certainly come to expect better stories in recent years.
"In Shenmue's case, it's always been an adventure about kung-fu, and how this brusque guy meets someone like Shenhua," Suzuki said. It's not romance, but I wanted to show a little interaction between a boy and a girl, and what's difficult is that one plot is not enough, so you insert two or three themes, where you get mixed up with which introduction goes with what climax and which conclusion."
Hearing Suzuki talk about his process for Shenmue 3, it's clear that this particular Kickstarter project is by no means a cash-grab. The designer is looking to create an amazing story to follow up on the first two installments, and that should be very exciting for fans.
Shenmue 3 is scheduled to launch for PlayStation 4 and PC in winter 2017.