Interview with Akira Yamaoka (Gamasutra)
Date published: 2008.06.11
Last year, Konami surprised Silent Hill fans with the news that the fifth home console entry in the iconic horror series would be developed by a Western studio, Foundation 9's The Collective (Marc Ecko's Getting Up, The Da Vinci Code) - now combined with Shiny and renamed to Double Helix. Though at the time Climax was already working on Silent Hill: Origins for PSP, the Silent Hill: Homecoming news made more of an impact - Homecoming is, after all the game that will bring the series into the current generation of consoles, and expectations are high. Longtime series composer and now producer Akira Yamaoka, who was confirmed to be working on the title, deftly explained that Silent Hill had always been about Western horror filtered through Japanese eyes - so it's only appropriate that a Western studio take a crack at it.
During a recent Konami event, Yamaoka sat down with Gamasutra for a brief chat about his feelings on the development switch, his future plans, and the influence of David Lynch.
Gamasutra: Silent Hill: Homecoming is the second series entry in a row that's being developed in America. As the creator of the series, how do you feel about this?
Akira Yamaoka: Silent Hill's identity is that Japanese teams create the kind of horror that takes place in the U.S. I'm not saying this in a negative way, but Japanese people creating a story taking place in the U.S. was part of Silent Hill's identity. This time we worked with a Western development team, with Japanese members also involved, so it's not just Western developers making this by themselves. We are involved, too. So it's different from the past iterations of Silent Hill, but I think it is something new and very interesting. That's why.
Gamasutra: Was this move because the series is popular in America? Or is it because of the setting?
Akira Yamaoka: Right. I think both. It's popular in the U.S. market, and also we wanted to try something new and challenging with the development, to have the Japanese members working with U.S. members. We reached a consensus, and overcome difficulties and created the game together. This game gave us a chance to do that.
Gamasutra: The team members who worked on the game in Japan, are they the original team that made the first four games? Does that team still exist?
Akira Yamaoka: There are team members, but lots of people are kind of dispersed, scattered. But there are some core members left [in Japan].
Gamasutra: Are those core team members contributing to this project, or is it just you?
Akira Yamaoka: Basically I was the member involved in production, but I get feedback from other designers in Japan and then I send that feedback on that content to other members. So, core members help.
Gamasutra: This is happening a little bit more - games that were popular in the U.S., but developed in Japan, are entering development in the U.S. I can think of a few more examples. Do you think it's a good trend?
Akira Yamaoka: I can't answer that question at this point. I think it depends on how the U.S. people feel when they play this game. As I said, the identity of Silent Hill is that it is a Japanese-created story that takes place in the U.S. That is maybe weird or funny, but it's also more original because of that. So I don't know how it will be accepted by U.S. people.
Gamasutra: Right around when Silent Hill 3 was out, you told me you were going to make a project that wasn't Silent Hill. Was that something that fell by the wayside? Is it something that you still plan to do?
Akira Yamaoka: Yes, I'm trying to work on a non-Silent Hill project, too. And until now, I also worked on the DS titles. Those were only released in Japan. There were the DS titles, and I worked on some other titles that are not horror titles. But also I have something, another project in mind, that I'm trying to develop.
Gamasutra: I've wanted to ask this for a long time. I really see the influence of David Lynch in Silent Hill. Does that inspire you?
Akira Yamaoka: Yes. More than half of the team members like David Lynch's movies. I always think people think, "It must be Eraserhead," but actually The Elephant Man is a big influence. A lot of people, a lot of [Silent Hill] team members are influenced by David Lynch.