Persona 5 Developer Interview About UI Design, Sound Design and Music
The recently released Weekly Famitsu magazine issue #1449 featured an interview with the following Persona 5 creative leads: art director Masayoshi Sutou, lead sound designer Kenichi Tsuchiya and sound composer Shoji Meguro.
Play-Asia has provided a translation of this interview.
Art Director Masayoshi Sutou
First up is P5’s Art Director Masayoshi Sutou. Mr. Sutou joined Atlus in 1999 creating the user interface for games beginning with Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne from scratch all by himself. He then went on to create the UI for Persona 3, 4, 5 & Catherine.
From the first full Persona 5 trailer we saw a lot of the Game User Interface (GUI) that you created for the game, it really is a splendid piece of work. Your chance to create such work began with Persona 3, correct?
Sutou: Yes, whilst working on Persona 3, Mr. Soejima (the games character designer; Soejima Shigenori ) we got together a lot to throw ideas and see if we could confirm how to create the games GUI. Not just the GUI but also the game’s website design. Speaking of design, we really wanted to create a GUI that didn’t just stand out in a game related magazine but also something that would look interesting and stand out in magazines aimed primarily at females as well, it was an idea that I never thought of before. I always like using traditional methods, I tend to not add gradations, but prefer filling in each and every graphic. When I’m designing, I will continue to create my best work through trial and error until I feel 100% satisfied.
Is there something that you’ve put your entire heart and soul into when it comes to your designs?
Sutou: The biggest thing I put my all into was regarding the color of the interface compared to the game’s main colour scheme. For example, the main color for Persona 3 was teal, Persona 4’s a vivid yellow color and so I had to decide the right colors for the menus etc. Of course Persona 5’s main color scheme is a crimson red and therefore after much deliberation I sat down and after trying out black and white text I was confident with it.
How did you come up with the conception of your designs?
Sutou: I tend to read design related books/magazines or go for a walk and anything that really fills me with inspiration will help with the creation of my designs. It could be a road, a signs design, nature, people or vehicles anything that catches my eye and creates a spectacular layout which has helped the course of development within my work.
Ahh I see. My next question is, why did you want to become a game designer in the first place?
Sutou: When I was an Elementary School my drawings were also 1st place in a lot of compeitions, although I preferred to look at people’s drawings rather than draw myself. As I began playing Video games I enjoyed the way the characters were animated and how it all moved and decided from that point that I wanted to become a game designer.
Speaking of animation, the animated GUI in Persona 5 is truly unique!
Sutou: Catherine was the first time we experimented and of course created an animated CG model within the GUI and I really enjoyed doing so. Each entry on the menu screen is animated and due to the fact that a lot of the GUI’s data is found in the Resident Areas memory as soon as you press the button to bring up the menu it will pop up without any lag whatsoever, this was something that I was very particular about and something I needed to implement into the game.
It’s very important that the designers and programmers work closely together isn’t it?
Sutou: Indeed. First we have to figure out the concept and lay out design for the UI and what components would need to react in what ways and so it’s important to relay that to the programmers. We tend to create things manually rather than rely on using optimization tools when it comes to the creation of the UI. Other companies may think that our way is inefficient but we find it is the most enjoyable way of designing a game in my humble opinion.
After walking through the town and looking at all the sights within the game I was overwhelmed. From Graffiti, road construction, ripped up paper across signboards, locked up bicycles and garbage filled bins it’s not just the graphics are great, it has a sense of realism that makes you feel like you are generally in the game.
Sutou: Thank you for the kind words. It is exactly what we wanted to create from the very start; a world that reflects our very own. Also if you compare this to real life places you’ll never see something as beautiful as this. We wanted to create a town very well laid out and realistic with a lot of places to enter and items to interact with, placing billboards advertising various news alongside various sights to view that will bring out further realism. As you travel to places such as Shibuya, Akihabara and Yongenjaya you’ll see a lot of NPC characters just living their non-lives which we committed a lot of time and energy into creating.
Due to this, players will really spend their time heading across each area huh.
Sutou: We really hope everyone will spend a lot of time just checking out the areas out of story. You’ll see a lot of change in what kind of people you’ll see during the day and night, for example, during the day you’ll see a lot of young children and teens whilst during the night you’ll mostly come across drunk salary-men and so we’re hoping the change in not just scenery but the people that populate the areas will thoroughly entertain people also. With its picaresque roman styled design it is easy to define the main characters from the public which is a point we also wanted to make.
About the story, I am very interested in how the world will change around it!
Sutou: Apart from the games story and system we made sure to carefully design everything precisely. For example, if you look closely we designed each electrical pylon one by one instead of simply copy and pasting with some slight changes. Images such as the main character during night time will change compared to day time and as we took time to design and perfect everything for the players we hope in turn that each player would enjoy every single aspect of the world we have created for them all and again in turn I would be extremely delighted.
Lead Sound Designer Tsuchiya Kenichi
Next up to interview is the Lead Sound Designer: Kenichi Tsuchiya. Mr. Tsuchiya joined Atlus in 1995 and was in charge for creating songs for the very first Persona game. He has also taken part in creating both music and sound effects for each numbered title in the series. This has given him the nickname “The Sound Team’s: Leader of Chores”.
First of all I wanted to talk to you as a sound designer, what role do you play in the creation of Persona 5?
Tsuchiya: I am in charge of creating sound effects ranging from the system, battle, visual and event scene sounds. As a huge game me and Kitajou (Kitajou Atsushi) handle a lot of event scene and field sound effects with the help of Kozuka (Kozuka Ryouta) with all Coop events. Basically working a lot with all of the sound team with various sound effects and working with the Voice Actors whilst we record their voices for the game.
You will have a lot on your plate won’t you!
Tsuchiya: The only reason I live is to help anyone in the team with problems regarding editing or sound effects etc. Konishi (Konishi Toshiki) from our sound team is in charge of creating music for anime cutscenes in which he went from a debugger to a planner within the sound team which gave him a lot of experience in order to start planning boss battles etc.
The Atlus Sound team sound incredible! What kind of steps do you take in order to create the games sound effects?
Tsuchiya: I base my thoughts around “If it moves, it’ll make a sound”. Not just simple movements due to the physics of the world but the feeling of time and the human mind moving. Showing the passing of time via sounds is also very important, be it a black screen, during sleep etc sounds will always be there and will always change, and that’s how I view sound and how I would implement it from my mind into the game.
After watching game scenes do you review it and think up sound effects for various scenes from the scene you just watched?
Tsuchiya: That is the ideal; however there are times that I cannot do so. I’ll sometimes think “Once I’ve seen the scene I will think up applicable sound effects” however, I cannot postpone the due date for creating sound effects for scenes regardless if I have seen or not so in that regards, I tend to dig myself into an early grave haha. There are times however where I am told to create an unreal sound effect and in that instance I tend to look at the physical design and figure out a sound that would fit it. An example would be in Persona 3; during development, I saw a part of the UI that looked a lot like glass, so I decided to create a sound that would reflect on what I saw. Everything in our physical world has a specific frequency. Think of a guitar and the variety of tones you can get from strings of various thicknesses & lengths. Not just instruments but you can imagine the noise that an object will make before you hit it and that’s basically the sound team’s job in a nutshell.
Looking back on the sound effects you’ve created for Persona 5, what would be your initial feedback seeing it implemented in game?
Tsuchiya: I believe that it has greatly changed compared to previous games and that the atmosphere, although staying true to the series, it does also have a new feel to it. The music and sound effects also changed and we created it all knowing that it is a Persona game, but with a little extra. For example, we use the same software for sound effects and creating music so when pressing buttons for sounds we may not know what sound we are creating so it can either be enjoyable or a tad annoying at the same time. I may be a bit selfish, but I always wanted to create the sound effects on my own, but the good thing is that when I see other members of the team handling certain scenes and how they create and handle sounds for the flow of the scene it makes me think “Wow I wouldn’t of thought to do it that way/add that kind of sound that is pretty interesting!” and so I am always learning from other members.
The Sound Team does indeed think deep into the creation of the most effective sounds!
My next question to you Mr. Tsuchiya is in regards to your favourite sound and what scene it is in?
Tsuchiya: Oh there are so many. There’s the sound when the main character catches a crown stolen by another character, the noise the ground makes as it cracks beneath Niijima Makoto when she first awakens the power of her Persona. Speaking of Makoto, as her Persona resembles a bike and the sounds from her battling with it & when she defeats an enemy with a Max Stun. The previously mentioned sounds could not be made without co-operation with the main development team. Also a lot of sounds that Morgana makes are edits I created from my very own cat; I love the cat so much that I had to add her sounds into the game lol.
Concerning voices in the game, I was extremely happy to see the amount of sentences recorded for the surrounding NPC’s across all areas.
Tsuchiya: Of course as you travel across the various areas you’ll hear a lot of background chatter from the NPC characters. We also added that the closer you get to them you’ll be able to clearly hear what characters would be whispering to each other. It’s very important to listen and check what the public are saying throughout the game as it leads to hints and help regarding the story.
The Art Director, Mr. Sutou, previously stated he designed the art of the game with a picaresque roman feel to it and he was very picky when designing it so it would be able to show what is going on with the public.
Tsuchiya: Exactly as you proceed through the game of course the game will change and so will the movements/expressions of the characters alongside what they will tell you. We (the Sound Team) got together with the designers, planners and programmers in order to create the sounds and changes in sounds when changes in the game occur. As previously stated we did this in order to not only create something interesting but also to help guide the player.
I can’t wait to check out just the smallest parts of the game! This is not just a big game, this is a rich experience filled to the brim!
Tsuchiya: We hope you all enjoy. To anyone who has played one or all of the previously Persona games, we think you should really check out Persona 5! It stands out from the older titles enough to entice new players but veterans of the series will be even more excited as they play though the game.
Sound Composer Shoji Meguro
Finally we come to our 3rd and final interviewee, the Sound Composer; Mr Shoji Meguro. Mr. Meguro joined Atlus in 1996 and helped create the music for the first Persona and then was in charge of creating music for the rest of the series. His unique sense of music creation can be first seen in Persona 3 with his Dark Pop like soundtrack. As I was playing the game I thought “Wow this music fits perfectly with the whole theme of Persona 5”. The Battle BGM among others was amazing yet had a different feel compared to the previous Persona games themes. I found it to be very gracefully.
Meguro: Thank you very much. Be it the BGM for battles, enemy encounters, the tempo between offense and defence during battles and the tense moments of battle before you defeat the enemy. I always create the music as I am imagining it in my mind. The gracefulness you mentioned is mostly from the mix of various stringed instruments with the vocals. When things start to look bad in game the music I chose to implement is Acid Jazz as I felt it really was unique and brought life to the tense bad moments in the story. This time though, the boss battle music has a crackling rock like taste. I did this so it would fit the theme of a strong enemy that would stand in front of a team of unique thieves. I feel sound has a big part to play in conveying a story.
It certainly does. Speaking of creating music for this game in particular, has your way of creating said music changed at all?
Meguro: Both Persona 3 and 4 core was within the game’s opening and ending whereas that is not the case for Persona 5. It is really difficult to explain but all I can say is that the game’s music is essentially the same song and even then that is not correct.
I assume it’s quite hard to daringly explain it.
Meguro: Yeah… I don’t know how I could explain it in a simple phrase of even a single page of a magazine but think of “so la” as a unique syllable related to Persona 5’s sound track. Now imagine the opening theme as “So la re MI” as a phrase as the hook of the song is being played with various string instruments. The normal battle BGM plays similar to “So La!” as the phrase with a slight accent added in.
I think I get it; I’ll have another listen when I play the game again.
Meguro: Speaking about the music within Persona 5, the director of the game, Mr. Hashino told me he was impressed especially with the title screen BGM. He said “Now this feels extremely Persona 5-esque!”, he then went onto pointing out that “the song for wandering the city areas sounds remarkably like this”. At that point the music wasn’t even completed and it was the music for the demo version of the game. If you were to hear the demo version & complete versions music you would hear a completely different soundtrack! Also because Mr. Hashino did in fact feel something and connected with the 2 previously mentioned themes it helped me create more songs with a similar feeling for the rest of the game.
This is a really deep and interesting chat. I really want to hear the amazing soundtrack you’ve produced whilst I play the game!
Meguro: Please enjoy the game and the music I’ve created for it right up until the end and I’ll be very happy!
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Persona 5 is slated to be released for the PS3 and PS4 in Japan on September 15, 2016. It will release in North America and Europe on February 14, 2017, and in traditional Chinese and Korean in 2017.