Survival Horror Community & Podcast

Interview by Colvin. Translated by Colvin & George Trevor.

This interview also forms part of a larger research article.

Yasuyuki Saga was the lead background story writer and planner for the original Resident Evil, alongside Kenichi Iwao. Most notably, Saga-san devised the hugely iconic, and equally tragic Trevor family; architect of the Spencer mansion George, his wife Jessica, and catalyst for the G virus, daughter Lisa.

The tragedy that defines the doomed family, is ingrained into Resident Evil folklore! The original source for their nightmare, 'George Trevor's Notes', along with other iconic files, were authored by Saga-san, as he worked closely with Shinji Mikami.
CHE: What is your background, and do you remember what sparked your interest in video games?

YS: I have been fond of playing simulation games since junior high school days and continued playing such games until my college days. Starting with 'Nobunaga's Ambition' (Strategy game by Koei, focused in the Sengoku period of the history of Japan), and 'The Atlas' (Strategy game set during the Age of Discovery) I loved the game because of the lare world map. With games from abroad, I liked 'Rampart', by Atari. I would play this at the central game arcade. The reason why I like these games is because I like history and can enter the world and play over a long period of time.

CHE: What else were you interested in when you were a child?

YS: I liked science fiction novels and read them a lot. From abroad I read the classics like Arthur C Clark, Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, etc. I also liked science fiction comics. For example, 'They Were Eleven', and 'The Poe Clan', by Moto Hagio. I recommend 'They Were Eleven' because it is a very interesting manga, set on a spacecraft carrying eleven propective students, taking an entrance exam for Space University.

CHE: How did you start your career with Capcom?

YS: I did not intend to join that game company from the beginning. As a result of job hunting, I received offers from both Capcom and Japan's Civil Service, and I had to choose between the two. My parents wanted me to become a civil servant because this was a stable career. However, when I thought about what I wanted to do, I decided I wanted my work to create something that was tangible afterwards, so I choose to join Capcom.

CHE: Did your parents ever forgive your decision!?

YS: Over time my parents came to accept my decision. It has been now been over twenty years since I made that decision, but my parents have never told me "I wish that you had become a civil servant"!

CHE: How did you become involved in the development of the first Biohazard/Resdient Evil game?

YS: The reason for getting involved in the first Biohazard is as follows. At that time Biohazard's development commanded a lot of work, and very soon there became a shortage of planners. So there was a requirement to increse the biohazard team, and I consequently joined as a planner.

CHE: Was it daunting for you to join the Biohazard team, after it had already begun the development process?

YS: Yes, it was difficult because I was still a newcomer, and I was not familiar with the game as compared to the other members of that team.

CHE: What were your tasks as the lead background story writer?

YS: I was primarily responsible for the files that can be found during gameplay on bookshelves, and on the floors. These files would contain sentences offering biohazard gameplay tips, and interspersed with details for enjoying the wider world view. The Trevor Notes make up part of these files.

I was inspired by academic books and memoirs, whilst asking other planners about necessary files, ordering the necessary images from the graphic artist, and editing sentences. I also wrote the explanatory note ('Botany book'), including a description on how to use the medicinal herbs, authored in the style of a university teacher.

In other words, my work involved combining and editing the texts that the multiple planners drafted, correcting that work for inclusion into the game, arranging  and editing images for to the graphic artist, and co-ordinating with the programmers. I remember working on combining pictures and lettering from books to create images to be displayed in the game.

There was a desire to use kanji  as much as possible in order to bring out the atmosphere of the files. However, the technology of consoles at that time system, did not allow for the display of Chinese characters, so instead we relied on drawings.

CHE: How closely did the game planners and designers work together?

YS: Once I decided on the necessary pictures for the game, I would consult with the designer to create an image. And from the rough stage to the completion, I would hold several meetings to check, adjust and correct the design direction. It is normal for the planner to draw out the picture for the designer, but in some cases the designer will have done it.

CHE: What was your focus when working on creative direction?

YS: This was my first experience to be responsible for both my own work, and the work of others. At the time, I knew that it was important to share and consult about what I wanted with those concerned. That was how I was at that time. Communicating  clearly the image I had in mind.

CHE: What were the positives you experienced as part of the the biohazard team?

YS: The fact that I could see the work of Mikami, the director, was invaluable learning. When I entered the biohazard team, the game was not yet complete, but as Mikami-san directed the programmers and designers, I saw the game becoming more and more wonderful. Mr. Mikami is neither a programmer nor an artist, but he had a clear image of the game's finished design, and was able to lead the creators towards completing that visualisation. Through my subsequent work, I learned that the results were different depending on whether there was an excellent director, or not!

CHE: What were the challenges you experienced as part of the the biohazard team?

YS: Until I got a job at Capcom, I had never worked in that field, and was unfamiliar with the basics, such as not being allowed to share information. In addition to being unfamiliar with this working environment, the team were anxious with their busy workload, and nervous, so I too became nervous.

CHE: Was it difficult to create an image for a game-file in 2D, and which images and icons did you create?

YS: I directed the creation of the game file images for the first biohazard.  As for how to make the images that was the individual desinger. I consulted with the graphic designer as pictures were produced, and made adjustments. I also had to add the text that accompanied images. I remember it was difficult to get a satisfactory picture of the text because the console at the time had low resolution, so it was difficult to display kanji properly, and so it was only completed after many failures.

CHE: Please explain the process of introducing, and then removing 'Trevor's Notes'.

YS: In Biohazard in order to provide assistance into a mansion that was full of tricks, I created files that explained the background of the mansion. Because of developing complications, that series of files were removed.

Trevor's Diary remained right up untill biohazard was completed. During the development process, the director Mikami-san, thought that the amount of in-game content  was insufficient, and decided it was necessary to give the gamer more details about the playing environment and gameplay . As part of this, Mikami-san asked me to write the game files that would be added into mansion rooms. It became quite a challenge!

After much difficulty, we received Mikami's approval, and added the 'Trevor's Notes'  into the game. However, in the completed version of the game, the gameplay conflicted with the world view presented in Trevor's notes, and this caused inconcistencies. So I advised Mr. Mikami to remove the 'Trevor's Notes'. At first he did not agree, but the translator in charge of making the English version at the same time as the Japanese version also agreed (with their removal), and so it was decided to remove Trevor's note from the game.

CHE: Why did you decide to build Trevor's notes around the family's tragedy?

YS: I was imagining what would have happened to the people who would have stayed in the mansion during the time that it was first completed.

CHE: The Trevor Notes tell a story of horror and tragedy. Trevor dies with his wife Jessica and his 14-year-old daughter Lisa. Is it true that this narrative was inspired by the events portrayed in the NES videogame and film of the same title, 'Sweet Home'?

YS: No I did not refer back to Sweet Home. However, I often read European 19th century novels and manga with aristocratic themes located in Europe, such as 'The Poe Clan', by Moto Hagio. I comprehensively read it for research. It's about an immortal vampire family, suffering tragedy for many years. It may have been helpful in terms of the tragedy taking place in an old European style mansion, with characters of nobility, and mysterious monsters.

CHE: Were you aware although 'Trevor's Notes'  were removed from the original Resident Evil, they appeared in the GameCube remake and recent HD remasters of Biohazard, after their publication in the Sega Saturn book?  Also, the Trevor family have been referenced in further games, and guide books.

YS: I knew that some of the scenarios I created were used in other biohazard games (for example, the university setting), but I did not know that 'Trevor's Notes' had appeared in other versions of the game.

CHE: Did you author the revised version of 'George Trevor's Notes' that were published with the Sega Saturn version of Biohazard, in the 'True Story Behind Bio Hazard' book?

YS: I remember Mikami-san stating that the content was shared after the first release of biohazard, not just for the video game, but I heard it would be published in a book. But by that time, I was in a different department from Mikami, so I did not participate in that revision work. The content seems to be omitting some things and adding extar explanations to what I had written.

CHE: Looking back, is there anything that you would change about 'Trevor's Notes'?

YS: 'What do I think was wrong with Trevor's notes?' If that is your question, then the answer is as follows. That the world view set up in 'Trevor's Notes' consequently deviated from the story set out in biohazard. So had they been included into biohazard, I think gamers would have been confused.

CHE: In addition to the 'Trevor Notes' can you remember any other game files that you wrote for biohazard?

YS: I also wrote the 'Botany Book', an explanatory note about how to use herbs. The person who wrote this botany file had the setting of a teacher at Raccoon University.

CHE: Looking back, what key lessons did you learn about game design?

YS: During that era at Capcom, their games were a mix of tension and relaxation, and I learnt this was how to entertain gamers. I think that is still as true today, as it was back then.

CHE: Would you like to give a message to the many fans of your work?

YS: Looking back to twenty years ago, I do not think that anyone from the biohazard development team would have thought the game would be loved for such an amount of time.Thank you for loving the game for this long!
Special thanks to Yasuyuki Saga and Welsh.

This interview also forms part of a larger research article.



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