Transformers: Devastation – Interview with Game Director Kenji Saito and Lead Producer Robert Conkey
Transformers: Devastation is a Transformers game whose time has come, mainly because it brings the franchise back to what made it so great in the first place: the larger-than-life, bold, colorful characters of G1 and their personalities. Sure, the fact that it comes to us from PlatinumGames, one of the leaders in hyper-stylized third-person combat certainly helps. Over the weeks since its announcement at E3, details have been slow to trickle out, and we’ve been consuming these details silently, with anticipation for what comes next while we patiently await the opportunity to grab a controller and take command of our favorite Autobots as we wage our battle to destroy the evil forces of the Decepticons.
In the meantime, we’ve had the pleasure to chat with Game Director Kenji Saito at PlatinumGames Inc. and Lead Producer Robert Conkey at Activision, who both graciously took the time to answer our questions about the game. Here’s our interview!
Nerdy Stuff: This is truly a great time to be a fan of G1 Transformers and we couldn’t be happier to see our favorite classic Autobots and Decepticons get their own console game. With so many characters to choose from, how did you decide on the playable characters?
Kenji Saito: One of the main reasons we went with Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, and Sideswipe for the starting characters was because we wanted an all-around character, small sized character, and a speed type character. Optimus Prime and Bumblebee are also staples of the franchise so it would be hard to leave them out of course. We chose Wheeljack and Grimlock for the unlockable characters as we wanted characters that were a bit more unique to work with.
Nerdy Stuff: Combat in this game is interesting. In the show, even though the Transformers had weapons, much of the fighting was hand to hand. But you’ve also added in transformations as special attacks. How do you balance the combat so it feels right and fair?
Kenji Saito: I’ll second that it’s interesting ☺
It’s of course fun to have giant robots fighting, and even more so including transformation based attacks. We just aimed to give the player as many options as they could between the two forms as possible, letting them go from powerful combos in robot mode to devastating finishers in their vehicle form. These finishers can then lead into follow up combos, making how far the player wants to push the limits of battle almost completely up to them!
Nerdy Stuff: Transformers are giants. They’re a lot bigger and heavier than most video game characters. How do you make sure the player feels like they’re controlling a character with such mass but also ensure this doesn’t slow down the feel of the game?
Kenji Saito: We attempted to give the characters mass primarily through their motions and VFX. We didn’t want the actual controls to feel slow, so we just made their animations slightly slower than those of what a human would have. They also kick up dirt and stomp cracks in the ground when they walk, which I think adds to this effect.
Nerdy Stuff: In the game, Earth is being transformed into another Cybertron. But this isn’t something that the Decepticons are responsible for. Are the Quintessons involved? Is Unicron?
Robert Conkey: That’s actually a major part of the plot and we don’t think we should spoil it at this point. You’ll have to play the game to find out!
Nerdy Stuff: Music-wise, will you be using any of the tracks from the excellent soundtrack from The Transformers: The Movie?
Robert Conkey: All of the music in the game is completely original. However, a certain composer who worked on the 1986 movie may have made significant contributions…
Nerdy Stuff: Side note: What do you think of The Cybertronic Spree, the band that performs the soundtrack while dressed as characters from that classic film?
Kenji Saito: I’ve never heard of this band before! They seem to have a fun time performing. I think it’d be cool if they played something from Devastation.
Nerdy Stuff: Will Devastator be the only combiner in the game?
Robert Conkey: No comment on this just yet. Stay tuned ☺
Nerdy Stuff: The character designs are very reminiscent of the designs in the G1 Transformers cartoon, but there are some notable changes. For one, Bumblebee looks like he’s no longer a classic VW Beetle. Why were changes such as this one necessary?
Robert Conkey: The character designs (and the game’s world in general) are most heavily inspired by Hasbro’s TRANSFORMERS Generations toyline, but also by the IDW comics, and of course the original TV show. The way the characters move is based heavily on the original animation, but PG has added modern animation techniques such as glow shading to really nail the classic yet contemporary feel.
Transformers Devastation will be available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC on October 6, 2015.