Earlier this year, we got the release of Ghost of Tsushima. The game looks to have been quite the big hit for Sony, and will no doubt become a new franchise for the company. The game had a lot of notable things about it, but one was the setting. While the feudal Japan setting is far from unique, it’s rare to see one from a Western dev, especially one almost totally devoid of fantasy elements. It seems Sucker Punch was a tad nervous themselves, too.
Talking at PAX Online, Producer Brian Fleming revealed that there was a lot of doubt about using the setting when it came to pitch the title. They were not fully confident in whether they as westerners could represent the setting and history properly, and there was doubt that their Japanese owner would be keen to let them try. But it was former SIE President, Shuhei Yoshida, who encouraged them to do their own thing and to go on with the project (thanks to Twinfinite for transcribing the talk).
“We didn’t know: could we do it? and even more importantly, could we convince Sony Japan that we could do it? An important litmus test for us was, Ok, if we aren’t able to convince Shu (Shuhei Yoshida) — who was actually the person we went to — that this was a good idea and that we could do this, obviously with plenty of help, then we couldn’t do it.
“So the pitch wasn’t widely shared inside Sucker Punch. It was maybe six or seven people who knew about it, and we took a meeting with Shu and Scott Rhode first just to vet this issue because we were so nervous about a western team tackling this material.
“It was on the strength of Shu’s encouragement that we would embark on this journey. We sort of pre-vetted our concerns and I think Shu encouraged us and I think his advice was very sage. As you know Shu can be really really helpful. He’s a very wise guy.
“His take was ‘You’re never really gonna fool anyone about this game having been made by a western team, but you can surround yourself with resources — some of which are inside Sony and outside resources — to do this well.’
“He’s like ‘Your goal isn’t to pretend you’re something you’re not. Be a great version of yourself. Go on this journey and you can do well.’
“It was on the strength of his support, which then turned into support from Sony Japan, and of course, the consultants that we used here in the studio, in L.A., and around the world… All of that contributed to us tackling it.”
Ghost of Tsushima sold well in Japan and was largely well received by critics there, though some have been critical of its somewhat stereotypical portrayal of feudal Japan, especially with the romanticized role of the samurai. But regardless, it is what it is, and the game is a success all the same. It is also available now on PS4, with a multiplayer based expansion, Legends, set to come out this fall.