E3 2016: Suda51 Chats With GR About Let It Die

In an off-site apartment here in Los Angeles, I met Suda51, famed developer of games like Lollipop Chainsaw and No More Heroes, to try out the latest build of his newest game, the F2P survival action title, Let It Die. I was given a controller and a man wearing only underwear to maneuver, and I headed into the tower. My first foe carried a bat, yet I managed to take him down with my fists, stealing his weapon and some pants. Not far down, I met with enemies in something like hazmat suits, carrying long pronged weapons that were a slightly bigger challenge. Taking them down with the bat resulted in a shower of blood and golden coins flooding from their bodies, certainly a stylistic choice one comes to expect from Suda51.

Down the narrow halls, I encountered enemies wearing gas masks and carrying weapons like shotguns and miter saws trying to take me down. And some successfully did. When I’d die, a woman, dressed like a hostess, would appear, asking if I wanted to take their insurance plan. This was my only way to continue further into the decrepit funhouse. Resurrected on the spot, I’d have the same foes to face again, hopefully with a little more strategy. When I finally took down some tough enemies, one by shooting repeatedly in the face with a nail gun, I began the interview.

Please note that this interview involved a translator, so we’ve edited down some of the filler or third-person speech he used while trying to relay Suda51’s responses. We’ve indicated where Suda51 spoke himself.


Game Revolution: What is the story behind Let It Die?

Suda51: Compared to previous titles, it's not extremely story-driven. Actually, instead of making a story first, we took the core gameplay elements and then made a story after that. As you can see in the build that you were playing now, you're going up this tower, which is where the main story is that you'll be playing. This is set in the year 2027, which is seven years after the Tokyo Olympics. The overall setting is that in 2027, a large disturbance occurs causing mass destruction around the world, and this tower arises out of the ocean off the coast of Tokyo. The player is thrown into this tower and will then find out there are a lot of things going on and mysteries to be unraveled. As the player explores the tower, it will slowly become clearer as to what's going on, why they're there, and what all these mysteries entail for them.

GR: Is this the first project for GungHo that you're doing?

S51: Yes.

GR: What made you choose to do this project first for them?

S51: Back when Grasshopper Manufacture was still independent, there was always a want to make a game with online aspects or a game that could be played online in a certain way or to give a new experience to players. But there's a great opportunity that came about, and that was with GungHo, and of course, GungHo is GungHo Online Entertainment, so they knew that they had to have at least something good going on there within the online space. Once Grasshopper joined the GungHo group, there were various talks about what to do, and they asked to make a game with the CEO of GungHo, Kazuki Morishita. There came various ideas, and one of them when working with Suda51 was a good match and what Grasshopper wanted to do — things that GungHo also wanted to do — and together they created the world that you see now before you.

GR: What are the online aspects of the game?

S51: First of all, something we talked about a while ago was that when you die, your character creates death data, and death data is then circulated through other players' games, including your friends. Your character as is with all the armor that they have will then appear as not only the enemy in someone else's game but also be a very strong enemy. And they will also be appearing in your game as well. That's one of the asynchronous online elements that you can see within the game. We can't give out too many other details in regards to the other elements, but there are some other asynchronous PvP elements that we are preparing – something you can maybe look forward to, not only for player versus player but a larger scale of competitive play.

GR: I saw that there's F2P. Why go with that model versus one-time purchase?

S51: One of the greater challenges that Grasshopper, together now with GungHo, had was that they always wanted to make new games, new kinds of games, and take on new challenges, and this is definitely one of them. Especially being with GungHo, who has the experience of having free-to-play and online games, but also another part that comes with having free-to-play games is the chance to do updates and expansions that go along to keep the game going. This is just another something that we wanted to take on as a challenge to try, a new way to make games and to bring something new to players.

GR: Beyond in-game customization, via the stuff you pick up, can you customize your character?

S51: There are levels of customization beyond just that, and being able to choose your gender is something we're talking about here at E3, so it's something that we've kind of started hinting at since yesterday. Of course, there's also various things that come along with that, not only gender but skin tones and different hair styles as well. There are various steps that you can take a look at to choose how you want to go from there, but we're looking at giving more options and seeing how we can cater to people's wants and needs.

GR: And what do you feel really sets this game apart from other survival action games, which as you've seen, are really increasing in popularity lately?

S51: You could say there are a lot of various ways for survival, but one thing you could say is that we have maybe a little off-the-wall sense of how to survive. Of course, in other games, you have to eat to survive, but in this game, you eat things like frogs and snails and mushrooms and have all kinds of crazy effects. But those are elements that are important for your survival in this tower – something different from other survival games.

GR: It's a little Suda51.

S51: Yes. Maybe.

GR: Have you encountered any challenges when trying to appeal to the Western audience here? Do you feel that your tastes are in line with them? Or do you feel like doing something uniquely from your own culture is the best route to go?

S51: We're not really keeping in mind that we need to make something for the Western audience. Suda-san himself, as well as everyone at Grasshopper, play Japanese games, and they play Western games and have a lot of ways that they enjoy both. From that, they can pull creativity. But for myself, I’m actually not very bright, and I make crazy, messed-up stuff. Like maybe if I think this is funny or enjoyable, others will hopefully feel the same way, too. And from my past experience, people really do kinda enjoy the weird, crazy stuff that we make. And that's just the kinda stuff we want to make sure is fun, and others can also enjoy.

GR: So more of an auteur approach?

S51: In that aspect, it's not really about what appeals to these types of gamers. We don't really do that kind of research. It's more or less what we think is fun and hilarious. From what we've seen, people have tended to latch on, like, and laugh at the things we also laugh at.

GR: So would you say that besides the push to embrace the online element, GungHo has not really affected your vision?

S51: With Grasshopper being in the GungHo group, GungHo actually hasn't hampered any of their style. They let Grasshopper do the things they want to do in regards to style here and there. But of course, being partnered and under GungHo, for all the online elements and other parts of gameplay, they've just been a really great collaboration. They puts things in, and we also put things in – we make this together as a great collaboration that people, we hope, will enjoy that still definitely maintains the Grasshopper style that people and our fans have come to like.

GR: Is there anything that you didn't get out that you want to communicate to our readers?

S51: There are a lot of survival action games out there, but we think that the things that we create that's different and kind of crazy are definitely things that we hope that people are looking forward to and will be able to see and understand right from then and there. And we also hope that they enjoy it because we're working really hard to make something really fun and interesting and quite different even within this popular genre that a lot of others also seem to be taking a challenge on. While we're working towards completion and getting it out to everyone, we hope that everyone continues to cheer us on and support us while we try to bring them something really fun and interesting very soon.

I'm not sure if you've played the PAX version, but compared to the PAX version, for E3 we've actually increased the amount of bloodshed by about 150%. Looking at PAX West, we'll have another build, and we're thinking of maybe doubling that even. So definitely come to PAX West, and see what you think.

GR: When does the game come out and for which consoles?

S51: This year. Playstation 4 only.