"When thatgamecompany introduced Flower to me, I was so moved," says Masaya Matsuura, creator of PaRappa The Rapper. "It was the first time I'd had these sorts of feelings when playing a game."
Speaking at the Develop Conference, he spoke of his distaste for the action-based orientation of most games. "I don't want to play with that kind of thing," he said, "going to the battlefields and shooting other countries' armies. I don't like these feelings."
Matsuura sat with Flower designer Jenova Chen and industry expert Ste Curran, playing through thatgamecompany's seminally artistic title. Though Flower and PaRappa The Rapper are cosmetically very different games, the two developers shared similar experiences when creating their respective titles, and in working on games that went against the grain of their eras.
Chen described Flower's design theory. "It's kind of like a secret back yard that you can enter through your living room," he mused. "We wanted to create a space that feels happy and warm to visit."
But he didn't want to create a game that promoted nature and condemned the industrial and commercial nature of modern society. "We didn't want to make an eco-terrorist game," he said, "because that's not what we believe in." But Chen still wanted to make a strong statement with his game and evoke emotions rarely seen in the medium, as we revealed yesterday.
Curran asked Matsuura for his thoughts on Flower's control mechanism. Pondering for a moment, he said "The Wii controller lets game designers focus on physical actions. But [the PS3 sixaxis] is about more subtle movement."
"There's almost zero feedback " said Chen, "and it means the players almost forget they're even holding a controller."
//Hip-hop, skip and jump
"I must apologise to Masaya," said Jenova Chen, "because I didn't get the chance to play PaRappa The Rapper until probably last year. I grew up in China, where people can't really afford to buy games consoles and things. So this game completely passed me by."
"The story of PaRappa really got me invested in the character straight away," reminisced Chen. "It's so much about American culture, but the art is very Japanese. So it's almost like a fusion. But [the the game's subject matter] is very relevant."
"Four or five people were having a weekly meeting to talk about the story," said Mastuura.
Chen dropped into the role of interviewer, asking Matsuura how he and his team managed to convince a publisher to take on a game that was so different from the rest of the gaming market at the time. Music games may have experienced a recent popularity explosion, but at the time, there was nothing else like it.
"The prototype was actually very different," Matsuura said, "but Sony still said 'is this a game, or is it some sort of music experience?' Originally, Sony only made 30,000 copies, as they didn't have confidence in this sort of title. But the reaction from the market was surprising. No one said 'this is not a game'."
Asked by Ste Curran about similarities between Flower and PaRappa, Chen said: "Our scopes were similar. We were both trying to do something new."