Crimson Head Elder exclusive interview with Yasuhisa Kawamura, scenario creator for Resident Evil 4. Our exclusive interview with Kawamura-san forms part of a lager, comprehensive biohazard 3.5 research article on his beta build, the Castle/Fog version, and his Hallucination/Hookman experimental game-play. This article contains exclusive development & scenario information, directly sourced from developer Yasuhisa Kawamura's interview with George Trevor, exclusively for Crimson Head Elder:
YK: Before answering the questions. I should point out that all the things said in this interview are my subjective views. I am confident that I remember things in detail, but one’s memory may not be the same as others. Please clearly specify that my answers here are drawn from my own personal experiences, my own views, and are merely personal opinion, focused on the facts. Since those facts are way back in the past, and there is only a small amount of information that can be properly verified, please do not take everything I say as the absolute truth. In a way, my recollections are like those of a war veterans. There are accomplices, supporters & spectators in a war, and they tell their stories from different angles. For example, even among the patriots who fought for the same country in a war, there is always a different way of seeing things & thinking, depending on their roles. I’m just a solder with some tasks, if I was to liken this to a war. You should accept what has been released/published officially if my stories differ to them. My recollections are just like the Dead Sea Scrolls.
CHE: It is an absolute privilege to have this opportunity with you, and may I say on behalf of many, many devoted fans, world-wide, who are extremely passionate about your work, how delighted we are to have this line of communication with you. It is particularly generous of you to afford us so much of you time, considering the huge development project you are currently undertaking. It is greatly appreciated, thank you.
I would like to ask you today about the narrative plot points, and creative passions & influences behind your work with the 'biohazard 3.5' project, that saw you conceive the considerably atmospheric, thought provoking Castle build, and the almost ethereal feeling, haunting Hallucination game-play experiment. My own view is that both these windows into your biohazard world, evoke the same senses experienced when playing the first 3 titles, emotions that only the survival horror genre can illicit, to a degree that biohazard 4 retail gets nowhere near. I am interested by the relationship between your Castle version, and the Hallucination game-play.
CHE: Had the Castle build been completely cancelled before you then began to develop the proceeding Hallucination version?
YK: Before answering, let me first define more accurately the context for which you use of the word 'version'. Usually, in the development of cinematic games, a game system is integrated into a world view & stories which are already defined, but this was not the case for biohazard 4. Our priority was to build a 'game system & situation that induced fright & horror' first. Therefore, both the Hallucination and the Castle were essentially trial & error ideas that we thought of implementing – which ultimately didn't appear in the final version, of course.
In terms of the order in which things progressed, the Castle scenario came first, it was the most established, then the Hallucination element came second. However, when the Hallucination was introduced into the narrative, the concept of the Castle, where Leon kept fighting while an illness was destroying him, was passed on. So although the Castle was replaced with the Hallucination, it remained in the game as an expression of Leon’s illness. Also the mechanic where Leon could view a hallucinatory or spirit world and fight against its residents when the fog filled in the room, was considered then too. We had so many trials and errors in the development.
Shibata the director had a very clear concept which he described as “seeking the horror”. He had the image of 'the horror of mogaki' – or ‘struggling’. It can be difficult to directly translate this 'mogaki' word into its exact meaning, but it is a situation in which you try to wriggle with your whole body in fear, but cannot escape. He seemed to want me to create not just physical mogaki, but rather a state where Leon couldn't resist mental or psychological pains & difficulties. A kind of mogaki that’s simultaneously mental & physical. This 'mogaki' was used as the key concept within the production team frequently as the keyword created by Shibata. In fact, the word mogaki is sometimes displayed during the continuous pressing of buttons to escape from the enemies in actual biohazard 4 game. Unfortunately, it's not in the non-Japanese version, as the word doesn't translate directly into other languages.
Shinji Mikami, the producer, also stated Biohazard was a ‘horror game’, and often demanded a production that was revolutionary in the horror genre - the concept he used was that of 'full model change', right from the beginning of the biohazard 4 production. Mikami first wanted something like The Thing, where you could not tell who was the enemy and who was a friend. I suggested a system where the game was about 'fears & doubts', but recapturing that essence in a game structure proved very difficult, so it fell through.
With such trial & error I had some world views & concepts of game systems to test, and I thought they would be suitable to express the 'horror' that Shibata, our director was searching for. The idea of hallucination, to be able to see into another plane of reality, was one of them.
In the winter of 2002, I gathered the staff and showed a scene from a film. It was a scene from Lost Souls, by Janusz Kaminski where the room started corroding blue and a killer started emerging, while the main character was washing her hands at the sink. This scene, this hallucinatory vision from the character, and the way the room changed in real-time moved me very much emotionally. So I brought up the idea of attempting this in a game.
First, I suggested that the main character travelled into a hallucinatory world which was caused by something caught in his vision, a trigger of horror. The first thing I wanted to create was the structure that the world would transform into - a horror hallucination world in real-time when viewing pictures, and other points of interest, or letters, etc. These would become triggers, as a means of seeing the story with clarity – understanding the truth behind the scenario, or seeing another truth outside the ‘real world’ scenario.
It was very interesting but was extremely difficult, as it meant effectively having two different worlds in one, operating simultaneously in real-time, which was a challenge given the memory restrictions & hardware specs in those days. In the process of resolving those problems, ideas from the other staff were adopted and the black fog, Leon’s monstrous arm, and the Hookman appeared in improvements & experiments. There were many experiments & proposals, such as peeling skins off an enemy when attacking for example.
CHE: Was the virus infecting Leon in the Castle build exactly the same as the one featured in the Hallucination game-play?
YK: There is no point really in distinguishing the two. Once the game system is fixed, we can modify the scenario & setting even though they're already established. That is our method of production. Actually, although Mr. Sugiyama of FLAGSHIP had written a good scenario plot which I contributed to with the framework, it was not adopted in the released biohazard 4 at all. When FLAGSHIP & myself left the project, Mr. Mikami re-organised the team, made the game system & mechanics concrete, and then went on to re-write the whole scenario. Which was okay by me, as that was the right way for them to proceed.
CHE: What was the featured virus of your build, and was it brought into the Castle, or already present therein, and if brought in by an outside party, who was responsible?
YK: The fog - it is a new gaseous bio-weapon by HCF, which was a new biological weapon company, that Wesker belonged to. It was brought into the Castle by a HCF squad, who planned to seize UMBRELLA HQ - Spencer’s castle. They ran into, and battled with Leon’s army, HCF troops were destroyed by the black fog. Leon’s army were also destroyed except for him, but Leon himself was also affected by the virus, with just a little time left to live, and then having to fight in what little time he had remaining. Incidentally, Wesker did not enter at this point.
CHE: Is there a link between Leon's infection & the pursuing tentacles? This creature looks similar to the Biohazard 5 virus Uroborus - is this mere coincidence?
YK: I have no knowledge of Uroborus. The 'Black Fog' is a collection of viruses, gathered to form a bacteria sized entity, and behave as if they have a unified, sole intelligence. The tentacles might be a hallucination, but also might not be. The Uroborus virus was created for Biohazard 5.
According to the setting I created, the primal virus was a superhuman virus, found in an ancient fossilised human being, at an archaeological site, deep underground Spencer’s castle. This virus could not be applied to modern humans, but then the t-virus was created during a process of adaptation. However, while the t-virus could cause mutation, mutated beings could not thrive as a species (they were sterile), so there was no effective means other than to grow biological weapon through cloning.
There is also a t-virus like t-Veronica, improved for the purpose of making oneself super-human. So, in order to transcend the t-virus, Dr. William Birkin developed the G-virus. The concept of G-virus was so revolutionary, because a G-being would stabilise after mutation, then they could breed with other G-beings, from the same species. There is a possibility that Sherry was the only G-being in the world. Was Annette working on the vaccine for G-virus?
This was my own setting and is no longer official, but the biohazard 4 I was involved with, was built with the FLAGSHIP world view. This is my feeling. The change of name to BIOHAZARD with capital letters may be the declaration that the game is no longer the same as previous biohazards. Naturally the staff in the production have been replaced and Mr. Mikami has left too. I do not think it is wrong. It’s restarted. Hence what they are doing now is the right way.
CHE: Here is a piece of concept art, from the Famitsu feature on the Castle version. As you can see it shows a large theatre stage and ornate auditorium. Were you involved with this design, I have further questions if so?
YK: I am not familiar with this.
CHE: What is the building that Leon is exploring in the Hallucination game-play? Is it the same Castle we see in the Castle version?
YK: It was Spencer’s castle. Everything started from the castle owned by Ozwell Spencer, when the ruin was found, and aristocrats started digging. They found the primal virus and Spencer began to have his ambitions.
CHE: What, if anything, causes the mannequin dolls & the Hookman to animate, and then attack Leon? Are they merely non-moving hallucinations, or actually part of the lucid world? Are they B.O.Ws, or are they secondary infectants?
YK: They are mostly Leon's hallucinations. Some are hallucinations, but others could be B.O.Ws, or enemies in the 'real' world. However, they are far from lucid reality since Leon only sees them when he is delirious. So they die when Leon dies. You hear a story that a person develops a blister when he is hypnotised to believe that he’s burnt. That was the kind of concept that we aimed to apply.
CHE: There was another attempted build after your Hallucination version which has been commonly referred to as the 'Zombie' version, but it was never revealed publicly, and details are scant. Are you in a position to give further detail on this?
YK: That was after I departed the team. We had the prototype of Ganados while I was still there. Originally it was applied from the idea of 'doubts and fear', horror of who was who, like The Thing. It was called 'Doba man' because their faces would suddenly split and show the real identity. Doba is an imitative word describing a sudden movement. It was me who thought of what it was called, since the model was built first for Ganado, and I then I put a lot of my own thoughts into it, experimenting with the 'Doba man' as a project.
CHE: Is there anything further you can tell us about your contributions to the 'biohazard 3.5' project? Perhaps other points of interest for our community, that I have neglected to ask?
YK: I have more stories to tell for my own part, so may I deviate and spend some time on other points, which involve different references, such as my own scheme, hobbies & preferences. On a future occasion, I could offer more stories including what I did not include this time. Although it is not relevant to your question, I do have new game projects but I do not have the complete funds & a publisher. There is no developer studio in Japan that is making Zombie games. I work like a mercenary, working at one studio, then leaving for another. Please contact me if there is anyone out there who wants me to make such a game genre. There is plenty of human resource out there to develop high-end games in Japan, but the main stream is social & puzzle games, and there are only a few games like biohazard. I really would like to create more horror games.
Yasuhisa Kawamura interview with George Trevor, Halloween 31.10.13
Copyright (c) Crimson Head Elder 2013