Kazuma Kujo Interview – Rebuilding Disaster Report 4, Balancing Realism, and Getting Really Sweaty

We had the wonderful and exclusive opportunity to interview Disaster Report creator Kazuma Kujo, at the NIS America headquarters in Santa Ana, California.

We talked up Granzella’s origins, their switch to more traditional game development, and of course – lots of things with Disaster Report 4, which is finally coming westward!

You can find our entire interview below:

Niche Gamer: How did Granzella transition from primarily making lots of PlayStation home content to being a being a traditional developer, especially taking on a pretty anticipated project like Disaster Report 4?

Kujo: Our initial stages, we were developing for PS Home, but then behind the scenes, we actually had development for our full-fledged console games in the plans. Our company is actually developing towards our goals and our plans accordingly.

Niche Gamer: I know that Disaster Report 4 was in development for a while, then it was shelved when the earthquake actually happened in Japan. Why after how much work was done initially, did you decide to just completely rebuild it and add to it?

Kujo: The initial version was actually made for PS3, but the game itself, the contents and the further story, it’s still the same for the PS4. We had to take content that was made initially for PS3 and re-implement that, remake that for PlayStation 4 because the engine is different, and everything else is different inside. We had to remake it for PlayStation 4, and then we added on the VR features.

Niche Gamer: Was virtual reality support always considered, at least with the PS4 version? Were there elements that were added just because of VR?

Kujo: With PS3, of course, we didn’t have any plans for VR, but when making the PS4 version, I was actually researching the VR. I thought that it would be nice to see this area in VR. I didn’t originally make it like that, but I didn’t change anything of the main game for VR.

Niche Gamer: You play through roughly a week with the new version of the game. Did you and the team look at maybe doing like two weeks, or a month?

Kujo: I actually did want to make it two weeks or a month or maybe even six months, but there’s so much time in between each story element that it would just be pulled out too long. Everything that I wanted to do is condensed within one week. In Japan, they do have the extra story mode that’s actually end game content, like five months after the natural disaster happened.

Niche Gamer: It’s the popular thing now, open-world design. At any point have you ever considered doing a fully open world Disaster Report, and just letting players do whatever?

Kujo: I do want to actually make the series into an open-world setting one of these days. We did have initial talks about making it open-world before but it didn’t happen, but I think that it’s very fit for Disaster Report. I do hope that one of these days they can view an open-world type of game.

Niche Gamer: The risk and punishment mechanics seem great, when it comes to eating spoiled food or not going to the bathroom enough. How do you balance that?

Kujo: I don’t want it to really affect the gameplay. I don’t want it to punish players for not going to the bathroom. I think I made it so that it looks bad if you don’t go to the bathroom (laughs)

Niche Gamer: So things can get quite messy really quick?

Kujo: In that sense, I would think that people will want to go to the bathroom because it looks bad. (laughs)

Niche Gamer: Coming off that, considering in the game world there’s no running water or whatever – will the characters get more disheveled and dirtier over time?

Kujo: I actually did have plans to put in for, but we didn’t make it this time. I had ideas of flies buzzing around you, people making you laugh about it. It looked too bad, in a gross sense. I didn’t put it in this time. (laughs)

Niche Gamer: I think it’s really awesome that you worked with the Kobe Fire Department for accuracy. Was that something you wanted to do from the beginning?

Kujo: Actually, the Kobe Fire Department contacted us to make the game accurate. In my sense, I feel the player should be able to do anything since it’s a game to counter that, but I don’t want them to get the wrong idea or the wrong knowledge when actual disaster does hit.

Niche Gamer: So you have to balance the comical bits with the realism of surviving a natural disaster?

Kujo: I thought that people needed to learn the actual truth while having fun and doing goofy stuff. That was another part of the game, but I didn’t want people to think that and get the wrong knowledge when actually being in a disaster. I didn’t help make the correct choices and accuracy in that sense.

Niche Gamer: That’s a really good point – was there any limit where the team said okay, we can’t have them do anything more crazy than this?

Kujo: We didn’t really put a limit to ourselves. The players, when you’re in the real world, people have the numerous options that they can take. I wanted to put these options, and then I feel that it could be tens of thousands. I wanted people to actually not have a limit. I didn’t put a limit to myself either.

Niche Gamer: Were there any really intense ideas that you had for risk-reward mechanics that maybe didn’t make it into the game?

Kujo: The dirtiness of the bathrooms, because if you’re playing in your living room, I didn’t want people to see that while in their living room, so that didn’t make it into the game (laughs).

Niche Gamer: How much influence or interactivity players can expect just with the environment overall?

Kujo: It’s actually more based on the interaction of people. This time around, it might not be a lot of objects that you’re able to interact with as much as humans.

Niche Gamer: The original version of the game had 60 characters I believe? The new “Plus” version surely has more?

Kujo: With the PlayStation 3 version we said there’s going to be more than 60 characters – well, at least 60 characters. The 4 Plus version definitely has more than 60 characters.

Niche Gamer: With that many characters, is there a limit to how many you can confront or fight?

Kujo: You can’t necessarily fight them in the game, but you can talk to them and you can have sort of an episode with them. Some characters have long episodes, whereas other characters might be a one off where you just talk to them and you never meet them again.

Niche Gamer: Why is the game set in summer versus fall or winter? Are there plans for extreme weather conditions?

Kujo: When we actually make the Disaster Report series, we start with the season. This time around, I wanted to make the characters sweaty (laughter).

Niche Gamer: It gets pretty disgustingly hot and sweaty in southeast Asia during the summer.

Kujo: Yes, that disgusting feeling of being sweaty. I wanted to start with that, so I picked summer. (laughter)

Niche Gamer: At any point, did you feel bad for the protagonist? Maybe you thought ‘Are we pushing them too far?’  in terms of the experiences and trauma that they go through?

Kujo: I myself have never really felt bad for the characters, but the people who work around me, they’re like, ‘You’re going to make her do that much?!’ or ‘Will the character do that much??’ (laughs)

Niche Gamer: So players will have to make up their minds on how far they’ll go.

Kujo: I want players to really play for how they act in real life, to be true to themselves.

Niche Gamer: I’m really curious why the previous game – City Shrouded in Shadow – why you decided to do that first before returning to Disaster Report?

Kujo: The talks for City Shrouded in Shadow were actually brought to us first, before the talks for Disaster Report were actually finalized. In that sense, it’s really which talks came first.

Niche Gamer: Would you – ever consider releasing City Shrouded in Shadow in the West if the Disaster Report 4 plus sold well enough? (laughter)

Kujo: Please ask Bandai Namco (laughs). Push Bandai Namco! (laughter)

Niche Gamer: Do you have a message for fans that have been waiting for Disaster Report 4 for a long time?

Kujo: I know that they’ve been waiting for a long time, and I will really be happy if they just have fun playing it.

Niche Gamer: Awesome, that’s all we’ve got. Thank you so much!

Kujo: Thank you!

Niche Gamer regularly interviews developers on a variety of subjects—if you’re a developer and want to chat with us, please contact us!

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Owner and Publisher at Niche Gamer and Nicchiban. Outlaw fighting for a better game industry.

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