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Andrew Szymaksi, Producer at Capcom Japan, on Lost Planet 3, Alien Country Music and Love Letters

August 28, 2013 Written by Joseph Fait

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Lost Planet, a series by the Japanese publishing house Capcom, helped define what our current consoles could do. At the time, Capcom proved it was a developer that could make the transition to HD with ease – snow effects, monster size, and attention to detail left everything on the PS2 in the past. With the upcoming release of Lost Planet 3 we had the opportunity to speak with Andrew Szymanski, Producer at Capcom Japan. Enjoy!

Jim seems like a character many can relate to in the idea that he is doing something to provide for his family, but that stops him from being around. Is there much interaction between him and the rest of his family during the game?

There is quite a bit of interaction in the form of video letters from Grace (Jim’s wife) that play in Jim’s Utility Rig vehicle as he is exploring the landscape. Jim then reciprocates by sending video messages of his own in reply, which play in the game during some of the loading screens. The great thing about these is they are individual video messages that have been transmitted over great distances, not real-time video chats. This gives them much more of a “love letter” kind of feel.

There are even more concrete interactions that happen later in the game, but I don’t want to spoil the story by giving too much away.

Going back in time always seems like it can easily create continuity problems, what have you done to help mitigate that problem?

We take the continuity seriously, but we try not to be too constrained by it or beholden to it. For instance, Gale (the father of LP1’s protagonist Wayne) is a major character in the game, but if you do the math, his age doesn’t match up 100% with how old he would be going backwards from LP1. But it is close (within a few years) and therefore we feel fine with taking some artistic license there.

On the other hand, one of the benefits of going back in time is that it allows us to tell the “origin story” of Lost Planet – who are the Snow Pirates? Why is NEVEC evil? How did the conflict between the two begin? Going back and examining that background is very satisfying as none of it has ever been explicitly explained in the previous games.

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Was it difficult to design Akrid that serve multiple purposes? Like the Fire Wasp was mentioned to do both long and short range damage. Also, why are you playing on all my fears with the Spitter? That thing looks like my nightmares. 

One of the nice things about the Akrid is that, because they are fictional creatures, we have free reign to design them as we see fit and have them perform all sorts of interesting attacks. The Enbee (Fire Wasp) and its combination of ranged attacks and close-in “stings” is a good example of that.

One of the things that we were conscious of was to give each Akrid a unique identity and make sure that they all played separate roles in combat. For instance, you don’t want to give all Akrid ranged attacks – it’s easy, since the game is a shooter and it’s easier to have enemies that shoot back than those that try to get in close – but if we did that, we would lose the uniqueness that comes from having primarily creature-based enemies as opposed to human enemies with guns.

Glad you mentioned the Tangaant (Spitter) – that’s one of my favorites. I am especially fond of the different attacks that it has throughout the encounter. It spits goo at you from its tail to slow your movement, and once you shoot its tail off, it comes in with its claws trying to slice you to bits. It’s definitely a creature out of a bad dream.

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One of the things that stuck out to me was the lighting, how much work has gone into it?

We put quite a bit of work into making the lighting feel natural, while still being uniquely alien in nature. The team went to actual glaciers and studied how light plays off of and shines through ice, and how that changes the feel and texture of ice; combine that will different types of cool and warm light, and you can create a very compelling atmosphere to go adventuring in.

How has it been working with Jack Wall, someone who has quite a legacy as a composer?

Working with Jack has been amazing. Not only is he a superb musician and composer, but he also takes the time to talk to the developers and truly understand the emotions they are trying to elicit in every major scene in the game so that the score can provide a musical underpinning to what the player sees on screen.

There’s actually two different soundtracks in the game: the score, which plays throughout the cinematics as well as at key parts throughout the combat and the Utility Rig soundtrack, which is actually the music that the main character Jim listens to while he is piloting his vehicle… the setup there is that his wife has sent him his favorite music as an attachment to one of her messages. These tracks were written as “alien country” music songs by Jack and performed by a group of his musician friends in Los Angeles. They are amazing songs just to listen to on their own, and they really lend a “frontier cowboy” feel to the proceedings in the rig.

At the end of the console generation, are you feeling any constraints?

Disc space can sometimes be an issue as can memory limits. I think the increased memory in the next gen consoles will be the single largest improvement that will allow us to break barriers that we haven’t been able to up to this point.