The Shingo "Seabass" Takatsuka Interview Winning Eleven: Pro Evolution Soccer 2007 (or PES 6 in Europe) is one of the biggest games shown here at the 2006 Games Convention for Europeans in attendance. During the show I had the opportunity to interview Senior Producer Shingo “Seabass” Takatsuka and Aki Saito Konami Europe’s Senior Manager with a close personal friend of mine Thomas Puha from Finland’s premier video game magazine, Pelaaja. This extensive North American/European double team interview covers everything from the newly debuted Xbox 360 version, and current PS2, PSP titles. Plus we get details about the upcoming PlayStation 3 version, and the potential for a Wii release (we’re betting on it). To fully understand this interview, I need to make a few things clear. Winning Eleven is released at different times across the globe with different names for the game. Each year Winning Eleven is released first in Japan – usually in the spring. Then in Europe Pro Evolution Soccer or PES is released in the Fall (which is funny they call it soccer in Europe and not football, but then again PEF looks kind of stupid). In North America the Winning Eleven games come out in Spring, nearly a year after the Japanese version. In Japan Winning Eleven 10 was already released, Pro Evolution Soccer 6 is the next title in Europe releasing this Fall, and in North America the newly named Winning Eleven: Pro Evolution Soccer 2007 is set to be released in Q1 of 2007. After the Japanese version is released Konami improves on game elements before the European version, and the same is done before Winning Eleven is released in the states. So basically, in this interview, a number of different versions are being mentioned. We hope this clears things up before you begin reading. Or there could be the distinct possibility we’ve had too much Wienerschnitzel, and we apologize. Phew! Now on with the interview… Q: When we spoke at E3 and at the Tokyo Game Show last year you said you were going to the World Cup. I wanted to know how you liked the experience of the World Cup this year. Shingo “Seabass” Takatsuka: I stayed in Frankfurt and traveled all across Germany. We saw five matches and all of the matches were exciting. The atmosphere was terrific. The best match I saw was Argentina vs. Serbia. Going to the match you could see the supporters and how big the Serbia people are and I thought Japan would have a very tough time facing them. Q: Was there anything that you’d witnessed at the World Cup that you’d like to bring to your games? Seabass: Well yes it influenced a lot, and actually we implemented it already in our PES 6 for Europe. I’ll give you three examples. One is the ball keep. When you have your defender and you’re keeping him blocking, that up until PES 5 and Winning Eleven 10 no matter which player, you were invincible, and we thought that wasn’t true while watching the world cup. So now in PES 6 according to the body strength of the defender and yourself you might lose even though you might be blocking the ball. Also the pass speed we thought that the game was too fast for all teams. We decided to slow down for the weak passing teams. Like for instance Japan could never score by passing, passing, and passing and taking a shot. This is not realistic, but this happened in our past Pro Evo and Winning Eleven series. We decided not to do that and this was influenced by the World Cup. Lastly we changed the positioning of the defenders. We thought that the defenders positioning was much different after we saw the World Cup so that’s already implemented. Q: I saw a lot of screenshots of the online mode for the PS2 version and it looks like there are a lot of improvements and new options for the online gameplay. Can you give us the details of the various upgrades to the online mode? Seabass: I can’t give you all, but I can give you the main topics of the new online mode. We expanded the multiplay much more so if you have four consoles and two players on each console there’s a maximum of eight players for online. Also we decided to have the PC players and the PS2 players play for the first time together online. Those are the two biggest things that we implemented in PES 6. Q: Are there things like more statistics for players? How many matches you won, lost, and the percentage? Do you have goals scored, passes made, things like that? Seabass: Well, sorry to say but we didn’t make any drastic changes to that part. Of course we did balance parts, and maybe there are some new things in there. But we didn’t so much increase that data screen. What we tried to emphasize this time was having more fun with the multiplayer and allowing users to play multiplayer online for this version. Q: There were screenshots that we saw for the PS2 version that said things like “group” so can you organize things like tournaments for your friends online now? Seabass: Sorry we can’t really say it officially but if you saw it in a screenshot you can kind of guess what’s going to be in there. We can’t confirm yet, and honestly we don’t know if its going to work out. We might pull it out, but we are trying to get a lot of stuff in there. As I said, the emphasis is on the PC and PS2 working together, and the 8-player multiplayer, and we don’t want to sacrifice any of that so if there too much more lag or server trouble we might pull some out. That’s why we can’t really confirm at this time Q: Is the Xbox 360’s online component exactly the same as far as the options? Seabass: 360 is on the next gen, meaning we went back to the drawing board because the next-gen and the old-gen can’t really match when you play online, therefore 360 we regret to say one vs. one. But we had a different goal to maximize the one vs. one. on the next-gen 360 version this year for intense one-on-one play. For the PS2 and PC version you might have found from time to time that there were some awkward moves and some jumping movement. We won’t do this on the 360 because we concentrated on this tightness for intensive gameplay. For the 360 our main goal was to let the users play online as if there was a stand alone and you were playing with your friends right next to you. Q: What are your plans for Xbox 360 modes and do you have plans for any downloadable content? Seabass: Of course we want to pursue this one-on-one, the more precise gameplay because the game control is everything in PES. We don’t want to lose that if you play online. Offline or online we’re going to deepen and enrich the soccer feeling when you play the game with upgraded AIs. If we talk about modes, I want to make the master league completely different and make it completely fun for the audience. That’s in the future line-up. We’re even thinking about online master league in the near future. Multiplayer we’re going to expand, even though the 360 is one-on-one this year, we’re not satisfied with one-on-one. We want to first create the base and then expand to multiplay. We already have a good main core system for this year set up. Meaning, like your FPS online game. You will have no lag and you will feel comfortable playing online. We’re almost up to that point that we can deliver that next year. You aked about Live downloads - this is a little bit difficult issue. Once we have the license and political stuff sorted out we are trying to get the downloadable upgrades on your stats, teams, rosters, whatever. But this is all in our future plans. Q: So you won’t have roster updates in this version? Seabass: No, we’re not cleared for the license issues just yet for this year. Q: So that’s the reason PES 5 didn’t have any updates because of legal reasons? Seabass: Yes, that was the main reason. Technically speaking from a programmer’s side this is all possible. We can do it and we want to do it, but we don’t want to get sued by doing it so we have to clear a lot of things first. Q: Why can EA do it? Is it the FIFA license? Seabass: Well, EA is still a little ahead in terms of licenses. As you said they have the crown and are the most prestigious and the biggest. As you know from our series we’re trying our best and always expanding. Aki Saito: Sorry, but I have to say one thing about the Microsoft presentation. The presentation was misleading. We never said exclusive for one year for the next generation. We said this year. We were agreed that it was this year. Q: So up until January 1? Saito: Yes. In a sense. If we’re going to release PES 7 next year during this time, yes it may be one year. But we never agreed that we were going to say that officially. It was kind of misleading and a misunderstanding. What we meant or agreed with Microsoft was this winter or this season for PES 6 – this is exclusive. Q: I wanted to ask about that. Was that agreement you came to the conclusion that you couldn’t get a PS3 version out anyway or was there some sort of marketing involved or incentive from Microsoft to make that announcement? Seabass: It’s a very difficult question to answer and there are a lot of company politics involved. Saito: Seabass is not responsible for that aspect so I should probably answer. As Konami, we always try to be better – this is true. We don’t want to go exclusive on anything basically because we believe there are PlayStation users, Microsoft users, Nintendo users, PSP users, and everything. No matter how much a good marketing deal there is we still believe that we should be equal. And this is a company policy as well. So this announcement was made, but it wasn’t anything to trigger any issues with the other parties. But actually this one year thing that we didn’t kind of allow, it triggered a little issue right now and we’re trying to sort this out. Microsoft understands that yes, we’re equal, but we’re trying to be fair. So this year, yes, it’s 360 only on the next gen. Q: Can I just expand on that. At E3 when we talked a PS3 version wasn’t even started. Has it started production, and as you said just now does it mean that theoretically we could have Winning Eleven 10 or PES 6 next spring on PS3? Seabass: That’s no doubt. We already started, and I said in that interview I think that how we work as fair is that we don’t work on one console anymore. We work on the core and then we spread it out – we have this mentality. So for next year, if the market is there. If the PS3 doesn’t ship this year, and there’s no users, there’s no meaning for us to present PS3. As long as we hear the users voice, and everyone wants it we will consider it. I already am considering that, and probably PS3 will be released, they’ll be good followers and fans. If it’s up to us, we’re going to deliver it. Q: Now are you going to continue creating current generation – PS2, Xbox – of Winning Eleven/PES? Seabass: Yes, we will. If you look back at the days when we jumped from PS1 to PS2 we kept on releasing for about two years on the PS1. This time on the PS2 it’ll probably be much longer because we know that the fans are there. But we’re not going to make the simple conversions and upgrades each year. From our new development on the next gen, which will be our main on the years to come, we will try to take the best essence of that and filter that to the PS2 or the last-gen machines. We don’t want to do easy data changing upgrades even for the PS2 versions of the future. Q: The visual upgrades for the Xbox 360 that we noticed – the facial features are fantastic, but the rest of it – the stadiums and the fans in the seats seem like more of a high-res Xbox version. Is this a new graphical engine, or is this a high-res Xbox version for the 360? Seabass: Since it was next-gen we can’t really make use of the old-gen materials, meaning we did create new things from scratch. In years to come with PS3, maybe Windows Vista, next-gen machines to come, we still think that there’s more space to expand the graphical aspects. Because of my graphics staff working hard, what you see in the 360 version is a kind of real renewed models and everything. Q: So with the PlayStation 3 version we can expect to see the visuals take a larger step? Seabass: Don’t get us a wrong, we’re not going to create another engine for the PS3, we’re probably going to use the next-gen engine. But the advances we did for PES 3 to PES 4 to PES 5 – Winning Eleven 7, to 8, to 9 – that kind of upgrade we’ll do for the PS3.