Prompt: Share another example. Someone in your field who understood the genre, developed idiosyncrasy and ended up finding partners or an audience they never expected. What do they stand for?
Funnily enough, when I thought about a game creator that is named before any of the games they produced, this answer became obvious.
Written, Directed, and Game Designed By SUDA51
No More Heroes is one of my favorite games that I have yet to complete :^) What makes this game special for me is actually the infinite amount of small details that makes this title stand out amongst the sea of hack-and-slash games in its genre.
Goichi Suda , commonly known by the nickname Suda51, is a Japanese video game designer, writer and director. He is the founder and CEO of Grasshopper Manufacture, which I will circle back to a little later. When SUDA51 is given the opportunity to have creative direction in his titles, all his idiosyncrasies resonate from the themes, settings, and style.
SUDA51 catered for the Western audience of gamers, starting with the main character, Travis Touchdown. https://static.wikia.nocookie.net/nomoreheroes/images/0/00/TravisTouchdown.jpg Judging from this character design alone, Travis is based on Johhny Knoxville from Jackass, including a lot of the vulgar and brash personality. It’s cool to be a self-centered jerk, right?
Travis begins his journey with one goal: to become the top assassin in the world. Western audiences love violence, and being able to stylishly obliterate your enemies is just one of the many popular power fantasies we regularly indulge in. Travis fits this criteria by slashing enemies into gorey bits with his beam katana, converting bodies into bloody fountains, spewing liquid every which way. It’s cool to be a killer, especially a paid killer, right?
With our character set, Travis embarks on his journey to become the #1 ranked assassin. As he gets deeper and deeper into the world of assasins, Travis finds out that being a contract killer is not all it’s cracked up to be. Every fight he encounters, he becomes less and less sure of why he even wanted to go down this path in the first place, up until after the final fight and he asks, “what is this all for?” This collision of ideologies from battle to battle is what SUDA51 is renowned for: he loves grinding ideals against each other to see what character dynamics emerge and by extension, audience reception.
These core collisions would form the basis of the moral compass of Travis Touchdown, including:
In many respects, Travis Touchdown wielding his beam katana is the modern version of the samurai. This moral compass would time and time again be tested against SUDA51’s larger and favorite themes: Individualism, Society, Death
Hilariously enough, to even get to the boss fights, Travis must take on a fleet of part-time jobs to pay the exuberant entry fee to arrange the duel. The reason for adding these minigames is two-fold: it is a reflection on the theme of society where we must “pay our dues” before we are allowed to have fun, and it is a reflection on how SUDA51 used to be a grave digger to make ends meet while still wanting to be a game designer (circling back to his favorite theme of death).
One of the more stand-out things about SUDA51 and Grasshopper Manafacture is how the players fight in their games. No More Heroes is on the Wii which leverages motion controls, and it shows as you play though the game.
A remake of the original game on “next-generation consoles.” The updated graphics, voice acting, and world felt “off” compared to the original game. It lost a lot of the idiosynciries that made NMH a stanadout game in the first place, so why was this game remade in the first place?
Executive Director: SUDA51
Notice how SUDA51 has less roles in this title, and it shows in the finished product. After the rampant success of NMH1, his then-current publisher expanded his development resources, and as a result SUDA51 had less influence to add his idiosyncrasies as it just wasn’t possible anymore at scale. Though this title wasn’t received poorly, it didn’t live up to the grandeur of it’s predecessor, and this is where SUDA51 decided to part ways with his publisher and downsize his company to 10 employees.
His now 10-person company’s first title since NMH2. I had a chance to play it recently, and I must say I LOVE every second of it. Though the game itself isn’t revolutionary by any means (notice a trend here…), when SUDA51 gets influence over a title, it shows. I’m still chewing through the game, but wow these boss fights are tight and the story, settings, and environment just ooze personality. It just goes to show you don’t need million-dollar budgets and thousand-person teams to churn out something worthwhile. Sometimes all you need is you and a vision.
There is a LOT of lessons to learn from SUDA51’s journey so far, but what I want to emulate is how much he:
I had fun writing this up, and I hope to someday finish my playthrough of No More Heroes 1 :^)