The Silver Case Documentary

The Silver Case Documentary


I’m Goichi Suda, the director of the original Silver Case. Overseas I’m known as “SUDA51”. This title was the first game that I made back when I was still an unknown game creator going by the name “Goichi Suda”, after I had just left a company called Human. This was our first game as Grasshopper Manufacture. It was released in 1999, for the PS1. At the time it was only available in Japanese, and over the years there were a number of plans to remake, remaster, or even simply port it, but these plans never really got off the ground. Now, after 17 years, The Silver Case is finally available in English, fully remastered to HD. My name is Darin Rock and we’re here at PAX 2016. I just bumped into a special person named SUDA51. One of my big inspirations. No More Heroes. I couldn’t put down the controller. I at least played maybe five or six hours straight. I was just blown away by everything in general. Like, the art, the music, the soundtrack… There’s not really anything that makes a SUDA51 game a “SUDA51 game”. Because to go into it with expectations is already kinda limiting yourself to what this guy is capable of. It’s a roll of a completely new set of dice every time. Data grindhouse. Like, it is so against your traditional expectations of “OK, THIS is what a video game is.” This heavily metaphorical, allegorical story, mixed with, like, these really, like… Oh man, also wrestlers are here, because that’s cool. killer7 was my start. And then, back in college when that came out, I would call over people, I’d be like, “you have to see this, you’re gonna think I’m crazy, but this is awesome and you’re not gonna see anything like it.” There’s always these unforgettable moments from them, and those stick with you. That’s probably the thing I like the most about it, is how bravely odd it can be. Everybody’s default is usually “just make it real, just make it as real as possible,” and he’s like, “I’m gonna start out real… And then I’m going to tint everything with a magenta gradient that goes from right to left. Oh, and I’ll also outline everybody, and when the blood happens, it might be yellow sometimes.” He has this very unique style that stands out alone and it’s very unapologetic. There’s something about SUDA51 and the way he captures and maintains the humanity of his subjects and his characters, even in that dark and difficult world that is hugely unique and compelling to him as an author, and to me, as a developer, influential as well. At the time, there were a lot of old-school text adventure games being released in Japan. It was a really popular genre here, but I didn’t want to stick with that typical style; I wanted to do something a bit more innovative. I wanted to take apart and dissect the very structure of the genre, things like the “grammar” of the text adventure genre… I wanted to rebuild it. I was inspired by a Jean-Luc Godard film called Nouvelle Vague, starring Alain Delon. When I saw the film, Godard’s style… He was trying out all these new things in film. There’s one scene with a wide shot of a man and woman speaking. First, there’s the dialogue between the two. But they also have their respective monologues going, too… Then, yet another “inner voice” starts up, and the whole image becomes a sort of typography, with yet more dialogue coming up and further narration popping in… In this one scene alone, there are about five layers of information. I was like… “What IS this?!” But I loved that scene. I’ve actually forgotten what the scene itself was about. I wanted to do something like that. I had originally planned to make The Silver Case a crime-suspense game, focusing on criminals. But for crime-based stories, the crime itself is only the tip of the iceberg. When trying to get to the truth of the crime, I wanted to touch on the story of the detectives, but also on the journalist moving in the background, and I wanted to have all this seemingly unrelated information displayed on other parts of the screen, all kinds of stuff like that. The influence and inspiration to utilize both visual and textual expression like this came from Godard. When I first started looking into Suda, I came across The Silver Case, but I just couldn’t really play it. So I had never heard of it. I know all kinds of SUDA51 games, but I’d never heard of The Silver Case. Well, I know the game, unfortunately it wasn’t available in Europe when it came out. I’m so excited that it’s going to be released soon so I will finally to be able to play it. I even learned some Japanese, but that was definitely not enough to actually, you know, catch the nuances of the Japanese language. I knew Silver Case existed. I thought that I had heard that it was coming to DS at one point… That port, if it ever existed, it never came out, so like… But I had this hope that like, “OK, Silver Case is probably going to come out eventually.” Fans were always asking me, “When? When is it coming out?” So I had always wanted to release an English localization. I’d even considered porting it, but it was about nine years ago when I started seriously considering it. I held a lecture at GDC and announced No More Heroes. I also announced that we would be porting our first title as GhM, The Silver Case, to the DS. We actually ended up completing the DS port, but the biggest issue, the English localization, never made it. It was just a raw port, and so we weren’t able to take advantage of the double screen of the DS at all. Just a simple port wouldn’t be good enough; we would need to remaster it at some point. So at that point we gave up, about nine years ago. The years went by, and we never really got an opportunity to remaster the title. But then, about two years ago, PLAYISM came to us with a proposal for releasing an English localization. I was like, “Is that really even possible? There’s a massive amount of text, you know…” The problem was the two segments, Transmitter and Placebo, act as the story’s foreground and background, and to fully comprehend the entire scenario as a whole, you can’t just sort of skim through the game. You really need to understand the story itself. Simply translating the words from Japanese to English wasn’t going to cut it with regards to getting the core story across.. Anyway, finding a translator had proven to be impossible. And then I met PLAYISM… I feel like maybe fate brought us together. I think especially in games it’s a shame that so much of our old media – our history – is being lost to time. Unlike a lot of other media, games are very tightly tied to the hardware they’re on. So a game that was playable only a decade ago could be completely unplayable because those consoles no longer exist, or those processors or hardware no longer exist, those operating systems no longer exist… And we’ve lost so much of our medium to just time already. Seeing a remake of an older game, seeing someone take up their older work and recreating it or remaking it for a new generation of people, for a new generation of players, so that they can not only experience those games, but also understand the context of our games today, I think that’s enormous. It’s very, very important. I think that’s fantastic I love that that’s happening with The Silver Case, that the game is sort of getting a second chance. It’s nice to see things like that in our industry as it matures and gets older, that we’ve been around long enough for things like that happen. To have a game that, you know, that didn’t get its shot, be able to come back around, to like, have enough time for that cycle of rebirth or second chances. The art doesn’t change. The graphics might have changed, the capabilities of computers or whatever might have changed. But the art itself doesn’t change; the story doesn’t change, right? The culture around that story still existed or still exists… I think it’s important to be able to give a wider audience something that maybe didn’t get it before. I’ve never heard of The Silver Case. I’ve played The Silver Case, or part of The Silver Case right now and love it. And if I’d have played it in 1997, it would’ve changed my life. I love the idea that this could change somebody’s life right now. It didn’t – it couldn’t – before; the Internet was in its infancy, you know? Like, there was no way for people to get hold of this game in the way that you can get a hold of it now. So the game is getting localized along with the remastering, right? In that sense, it’s an opportunity to have the whole world play the game, which is a really huge thing for both the Japanese gaming industry, and also for me, having followed in Suda’s footsteps. As an independent developer in the West. I think these games capture so much more of what we are trying to do for our audience than our own triple-A developers and publishers are trying to do. Frankly, I feel over here, you know, our triple-A storytelling is repetitive and dry, and we do the same things over and over again, and I think there’s so much to be be gained to remaking some of these stories and remaking some of these games, and showing people that a lot of things that they think they are doing originally now are coming from an entirely different place. We’re actually retreading ground that was cut long ago by so many of these developers in Japan, and SUDA51 is a huge example of that. My name is Douglas Watt. I am a producer and director at Active Gaming Media, and I am currently responsible as the director of the remastered version of The Silver Case from SUDA51 and Grasshopper Manufacture. It’s a 17-year-old game, so a lot of people think, “How do you… how do you translate that?” But there’s a lot of work involved but it’s relatively straight-forward work. You know what you need to do, you already got… The game is made, so now you just have to make it work again, so to speak. And so there’s a lot of translation – not only linguistic translation, but taking these old scripts from the PlayStation 1; moving them over to the PC; making sure they still work and do what they’re supposed to do… And we worked very hard to ensure that the graphical design of the PlayStation 1 game was maintained… not just visual threads, but thematic threads as well… but enhanced aesthetically to create a modern, low-poly thematic feel. My name is Takashi Miyamoto. I’m currently working as a designer, doing mechanical design, prop design, and set design in animation. When I was working at Human, Suda was making a game called Moonlight Syndrome. There was a small game I’d worked on at Human before that, and Suda saw my drawings for it and liked my work, and so he asked me to do the character design for Moonlight Syndrome. At that time I worked as a freelancer, and after Moonlight Syndrome, Suda left Human and established Grasshopper Manufacture, and he asked me to join him. That’s how I came to work on The Silver Case. To be honest, it’s a bit embarrassing. I do feel like I want to fix the art, but compared to what I draw today, it’s distinctly different. So it’s impossible. I once tweeted about how I was embarrassed, but a fan of mine told me, “But that art was what made me fall in love with it,” sort of admonished me for it. So I apologized; what I had said was rude, you know? The hardware, the era, and the specs… It all has to be made to fit with the time period. After all, it’s a PS1 era game, but having a modern gamer play it in its original resolution, the true awesomeness of the game would likely be lost. I mean, the eyes of today’s audience have gotten too accustomed to HD, so I want the game to be in proper HD. Also, if there’s something that needs to be tweaked and improved a bit, then I want to match that up, too. I want the game to really feel like a game from that era. We originally submitted some graphics that were much higher poly, much higher texture quality than is actually in The Silver Case HD that will be released and that’s already available for demo on Steam, and it was rejected. “Too beautiful, too nice; not enough ‘Silver Case’.” And so we went back through, we took out some polys, we reduced some texture quality, we changed the lighting to be more surreal, aesthetic, that’s real-like, but not real. In the current era, the PS1 era polygons, I think of that as art, in a way, those PS1 and N64 polygons. The way the shapes are kind of, “edgy”? Like, “zig-zag art”? I wanted to express that “zig-zaggy” feeling. I wanted it to be “zaggy”. Even more “zaggy”. I worked hard on that. For the English-speaking fans, the whole game is new. And it’s gonna be possible to change, to turn off a lot of the visual changes that we made so you can play the game very much like it was on the PlayStation 1. But I think the most visually interesting change that we made was to the menu system. The original game has very bare-bones menu systems, and since we added in the English language to the game, now we had to have a way to switch between languages; we had to add in a way to switch between the original graphics and the HD graphics; and other such functionality. Since it’s now a more powerful 3D game for PCs, in order to support a wide variety of PCs, we added some limited graphic settings as well. And so in order to incorporate all of that, we had to create new menu systems. And we created a brand-new visual language for the menu systems. For players that’ve already experienced The Silver Case before, I think that will be the most interesting change that they’ll see. Of course I’ll play it, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the higher grade graphics, which have been adjusted just right. I was super happy. I own the PS1 version, and also the downloadable version, but I was really impressed by the beautifully improved graphics, so I made sure to get the word out to my friends. I came to the Game Show today really looking forward to this. The interfaces are all new, lots of things look even better, like all cleaned up; it’s really is like a new Silver Case, but the original elements have all been preserved, too It’s like a perfect HD remake. Compared to the original, the screen is very refined and it’s much easier to figure out what’s happening, and I was really happy about that point. The thing that makes me most excited about getting all this work out in front and into the hands of players is their response. It’s a game that they’ve been requesting for 17 years! As long as I make one person happy then I feel like I’ve done my job. And that’s all I’m just trying to do. And I think that, with Silver Case, we’ve got something that will make not one person happy, but a large number of people happy, because it’s a really great experience. Well, I’m excited. It’s not the thrill or fear of the release, but… how can I say this? A lot of emotions… Or rather, It’s like, I’m producing the game that the “me” of 1999 created and I’m finally, able to finally release the game “he” directed to the world. I feel really relieved… Wait… do I? Yeah, “relieved”. But once I start getting feedback from players around the world, “It’s good,” “it sucks,” “it’s expensive,” “it’s cheap,” “I’m gonna wait till it goes on sale”… There’s going to be a lot of that. I’m simply looking forward to seeing players across the globe form opinions and have reactions to the game. I want to accept all the feedback, and I want to take all of the raw reactions and show them to that past “me”. That’s how I’m feeling right now. Cheers!

9 Comments

  1. Amazing! Thank you for giving us this window into Suda's creation of The Silver Case and highlighting all the fans of his work.

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