Per Hiroshi Matsuyama (CyberConnect2) via the official PS Blog today:
My name is Hiroshi Matsuyama from CyberConnect2, the developer of NARUTO: Ultimate Ninja STORM.
Last time I spoke with you, I covered some of our basic game features. Today, as promised, I'd like to share some of our development secrets with you so that you can learn about how we made this incredible game.
We began work on the game in January 2006, while most of our company was still working on the .hack//G.U. series for PlayStation 2. We hand-picked a team of our 10 most obsessive developers which constantly grew in number as the project progressed.
The team expanded from 10 to 20, 30 and eventually 65 people, which were all working on the game for the last 9 months of development. Our basic concept for the game was to eliminate the lines between traditional animation and video games. This is a pretty serious goal! We knew that to meet this goal, we would have to produce a game the likes of which nobody has ever seen.
Fundamentally speaking, I think CyberConnect2 is good at action games. After gameplay, we pay a lot of attention to graphics. With Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm, we knew we couldn't just advance our graphics technology by just one step - we had to aim for two steps. Everyone here is a fan of every type of animation such as cel animation, cartoons, CG, and flash.
Of course, the NARUTO TV series was our biggest influence for this project. I know a lot of fans feel that Japanese animation is unique because it has a special hand-drawn look to it. It's hard to totally nail down exactly what it is, but we studied a ton of animation to make sure our game had these same qualities.
We also upgraded our development environment to take on this game. We started using LCD graphics tablets which allow us to use a stylus to create hand-drawn textures. We also installed round tables over the artists' workstations to prevent light reflections from interfering with their work. This is an example of some of the steps we took to create CG graphics with a hand-drawn feel.
Our animation team regularly watched the NARUTO animated series while they worked to keep the same sort of tempo of movement and frame progression. As you can see, each animator has three monitors at their desk. The one on the left allows them to see the graphics as they will appear in the game, the one in the middle is the CG tool program, and the one on the right plays animation throughout the day as inspiration and reference material.
Of course, we have a lot of reference material beyond animation. We have almost 1,000 NARUTO comic books and NARUTO-related magazines and books in our office library.
We also have a huge DVD collection. The list of these little animation secrets go on and on, but the key one is that everyone working on the game loves NARUTO. I really believe this group loves NARUTO more than any other group in the world.
These are some of the elements that helped us create NARUTO: Ultimate Ninja STORM. I think the game will really satisfy fans and also be accessible to people who may not know much about NARUTO.
Thank you all for this great opportunity to talk about the game. It comes out tomorrow - Tuesday, November 4th - so I really hope you all get a chance to check it out! More PlayStation 3 News...