We had a chance to speak to the face of Granblue Fantasy, Yuito Kimura, about his role as a producer at Cygames. While there is some GBF content, it is more of a general interview covering all the titles he’s worked on. Check it out!
What does the Producer do?
Granblue_en: Your most public duty as producer is to make statements on behalf of the game team – how do you define what statements the producer should make, and what statements the director should make?
KMR: The method of determining who will make an announcement (the producer or the director) depends on the particular game title.
For Cygames titles, the producer tends to be the one who is the most outward facing, so naturally they are the one who usually acts as the dev team’s representative, and the one who usually makes the announcements. But when there are things that the director is thinking about that need to be announced, such as information pertaining to game design and new functionality or content being implemented, for example, then the director may be the one to make the announcement.
Granblue_en: The role of producer can be vague to those who are not familiar with the game industry. Could you describe what your responsibilities include, and how they might differ from a director?
KMR: Simply put, the role of a producer is to make the big decisions when it comes to a game (both for the game itself and outside the game). A producer really has to deal with so many different things when it comes to making a game.
For example, in Granblue Fantasy, I make the final decision when it comes to the direction to go with game content updates. I also decide the direction when it comes to promotions, Granblue Fantasy Fes, other events, and mixed media crossovers. In addition, I have final say when it comes to approving anything before it goes live. (GBF Fest does have another person who is in charge at the event itself, and a lot of things happen at their say)
It’s basically the same for Princess Connect! Re: Dive and Shadowverse.
Granblue_en: Do your responsibilities differ with each game (GBF, Princess Connect! Re: Dive, Shadowverse), or are they generally the same?
KMR: They do change, based on the title’s genre and game structure. I supervise the storylines in Princess Connect! Re: Dive and Shadowverse, but (GBF creative director Tetsuya) Fukuhara holds the reins for Granblue Fantasy’s story. As a separate example, when it comes to stat balance and such for a digital card game like Shadowverse, I do review the cards’ abilities, but for the other titles, I mainly leave things like character and enemy stats to those titles’ directors and the people in charge.
Granblue_en: Being the public face of so many Cygames titles means that people tend to think you make all the decisions. What is something that players commonly think you’re in charge of that you actually have no involvement in? For example, how much control do you have over the timing of character releases?
KMR: I do make the final call on many things, but there aren’t actually that many matters that are decided solely by my thoughts. The director and the project manager decide things like the character release schedule. I pick the timing of things like “let’s give multiple ten-part draws every day to all of the players”, but very often the ideas for other presents, like crystals and so on, come from the team.
Granblue_en: Could you describe your typical work schedule? Do you tend to focus on a specific title each day, or do a little bit of everything? Has working remotely during the pandemic disrupted this schedule?
KMR: My schedule shifts a lot depending on the day, but every day, I check on various items for multiple titles. When I was working from the office, I was able to cut things up into 15 to 30 minute pieces, and had my schedule filled up from morning until night. Now that we are working remotely, there are a lot more things that I end up checking on via Slack.
Granblue_en: Rage of Bahamut recently reached its 10th anniversary, something very few live games have achieved. Congratulations! What do you think keeps players coming back?
KMR: While I feel nothing but tremendous gratitude to our players, I do believe that the reason they have continued to play the game is the various things we have done (and continue to do) for the title both inside and outside of the game these past ten years.
Further, I believe one of the reasons that our players have continued to love Rage of Bahamut is that we have included many appealing characters from Rage of Bahamut in the other Cygames titles that have been released after its own launch.
Granblue_en: If you could travel back in time, back to when you were first starting to work on Rage of Bahamut, what kind of words or advice would you give your younger self?
KMR: If I end up giving saying the wrong things, it might end up causing problems for me, so I don’t really have anything I would say.
If I have to give an answer, then I might give myself a sports almanac, though.
Granblue_en: Cygames recently celebrated a large number of anniversary milestones, from The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls Starlight Stage‘s 6th anniversary to Rage of Bahamut‘s big 10th anniversary. Do different producers at Cygames approach anniversary celebrations differently for each game, or do you have a shared policy at Cygames for how to celebrate these milestones?
KMR: We don’t have a specific uniform way of celebrating things here at Cygames. Each title’s team considers the best way for them to celebrate things, both for the game itself and for the game’s player base.
Granblue_en: When we interviewed Fukuhara-san earlier this year, he mused that perhaps the 7th anniversary gifts of a gold brick, a sunlight stone, a free character, and a new class were too much at once. Have you and Fukuhara-san had conversations about this, and will it affect the 8th anniversary next year?
KMR: We are discussing it. I don’t believe it will cause any problems for the 8th anniversary event, though.
Granblue_en: Between GBF and Princess Connect! Re: Dive, sometimes we see an idea from one be implemented into another – is this a result of your input as someone involved with both of them, or do the teams communicate with each other independently of you?
KMR : I do share information between the two teams, of course. And I do believe that the details come about from them comparing notes on their own.
Granblue_en: Cygames has many titles with either an official English release or translation now. How much of a factor is the global market when making decisions within those titles, or in the planning of new ones?
KMR: One of the many major deciding factors for us is how big the market is—in other words, how many people will be able to enjoy the game. Since Cygames has an internal localization team, we always try to launch our titles in the best format possible for each region when it comes to releasing in multiple languages.
Granblue_en: Are you able to determine roughly what portion of the GBF player base is overseas? How do you feel about this, considering that GBF is not “officially” released in English?
KMR: We can see how many people are accessing the game, and we do take a look at the reactions on overseas social media from time to time, but since it is not officially released overseas, we are always truly grateful for the incredibly large number of players we have outside of Japan.
Granblue_en: The pandemic continues to disrupt a significant amount of development and be a factor in scheduling. Compared to last year, has Cygames fully adapted to the new realities of remote work? Do you see any of these changes to the way people work now remaining after the pandemic is over?
KMR: I believe that we’ve adapted pretty well to doing our development work remotely. We are going to be making our decision on what to do post-corona based on how things are like at that point, but we’ve introduced more than a few new methods and tools to our processes due to the effects of corona, so I feel like it might be beneficial for us to maintain those from here on.
Granblue_en: GBF and Princess Connect! Re: Dive are both fantasy RPGs – how are their development workflows similar, and what differences do they have with each other?
KMR: First off, they’re different in the fact that Granblue Fantasy is a browser-based game, while Princess Connect! Re: Dive is a native application. For a browser-based game, many major program updates can be handled by just updating the server, but for native applications, there is a need to update the application as well, and this is a major difference between them.
When it comes to how they are run, they both share one major similarity in that they both have regularly scheduled additions of characters and monthly events. But Princess Connect! Re: Dive has the additional factor of anime-esque scenes that generate a large difference in its development flow.
Granblue_en: Princess Connect! Re: Dive is unique in that it continually adds anime cutscenes to accompany main story updates and monthly events. Does this affect the development schedule, or vice versa?
KMR: The fact that we have to keep the additional animation in mind when it comes to the development schedule is a major topic for us. In order to provide that animation on a frequent basis, we have to keep the game production and the animation production schedules running in parallel. For example, for a scenario event, once the plot has been roughed out, we have to start the animation production at the same time as the game’s production.
In order to do that, the person in charge of the scenario and the animation cooperate in order to work with our animation company, Cygames Pictures, or other outside animation partners.
Granblue_en: Shadowverse has a reputation for being an esports title, yet it also has an ongoing main story and single player campaign. Given that many esports titles usually don’t even have a story, what is the reasoning for including it and continuing to update it?
KMR: Since Shadowverse is a digital card game, the story doesn’t affect the gameplay. However, without a story, the card abilities and flavor text would just become bland, meaningless words.
Additionally, for a card game, having a story is a vital element for introducing new card packs. For example, if a card game continues on for 10, maybe 20 years, there will end up being duplicate cards, and they might run out of ideas. But if you have a continuing story, you can introduce new cards based on its themes.
Another reason is that we feel that having a story to use as the background for the cards is vital for helping players love a game for a long time.
Granblue_en: What was the reason for making Shadowverse Champion’s Battle, given that the original game is free and available on multiple devices already?
KMR: I had the thought, “I’d like to make a game that crosses generational gaps, where friends and family can face off against one another and have a grand old time playing it.” I felt that it would probably be a lot of fun to play against your opponent, each of you holding a Switch in your hands, in the same way it’s fun to play a physical card game that way.
Granblue_en: Do you forsee people using Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle as a gateway to playing regular Shadowverse? Or do you think it has an appeal of its own?
KMR: Champion’s Battle is a combination of card game and RPG, and our goal was to make it an easy to understand and fun to play game for first-time card game players. In addition, various parts of it were linked to the Shadowverse anniversary, so we feel that it was enjoyable, not just for current Shadowverse players, but also for primary and middle school aged players who had never experienced Shadowverse before it.
We definitely want players who have discovered how much fun Shadowverse is from Champion’s Battle to also play the smartphone version, and we think that they have been. And if they eventually decide to try entering a tournament or find other ways to enjoy Shadowverse even more, we couldn’t be happier.
Granblue_en: Mobile gaming has become one of the most competitive industries in the world, with as many titles starting up as ones shutting down. What do you think are the elements a title needs in order to succeed in the current market?
KMR: I think the most important thing is to make a game that the players truly find enjoyable.
A developer has to be a game player themselves, and play a lot of games (including their own). They need to constantly think about what their game needs, and make sure that the quality level of their game is high enough. As simple as this may seem, I feel that it will help a developer create a game that will connect with their players.
Granblue_en: One common argument against playing mobile games is that “if it shuts down, you can’t play them anymore.” What would you say to these people to convince them to try Cygames titles?
KMR: Cygames also puts out console titles, but when it comes to mobile games, I don’t believe that there’s any need to feel compelled to play them. If someone doesn’t want to play mobile games, then they shouldn’t force themselves to. However, if they do end up playing mobile games, then I would be happy if they eventually try playing one of Cygames’ titles some day.
Granblue_en: Granblue Fantasy Fest has been an opportunity to strengthen the connection between the world of Granblue Fantasy and its fans through in-person interactions. With the uncertainty of holding such events due to the ongoing pandemic, what are the challenges you face in maintaining this connection for fans through online-only programming?
KMR: As game operators, we feel rather disappointed that we cannot create any chances to meet with our players directly, but even more than that, we recognize how difficult it is to provide an online place for our players to meet each other face to face as a community.
We are looking into putting together an event where our players can feel connected to one other, despite it being online.
Granblue_en: Do you have any funny stories from behind the scenes at Granblue Fes?
KMR: This is something that we actually planned for and implemented from the very first yearーthere are hidden Vyrns in the various attractions and set pieces at Granblue Fantasy Fest. And so far, no one seems to have spotted any of them.
Granblue_en: It’s a tough life being a dedicated Cygames fan, as shown by the home screen of one of our staff members. Limited time events running simultaneously lead to tough decisions or sacrifices. As a player yourself, do you have any advice on time management for playing multiple Cygames titles?
KMR: Hmm… have you considered giving up sleep to play? No?
Granblue_en: Please give a message to fans of all Cygames titles overseas.
KMR: Thank you for always playing Cygames’ titles. With the English versions of Princess Connect! Re: Dive and World Flipper now released, we’ve been able to increase our presence outside of Japan. We are currently working on Granblue Fantasy: ReLink for future release as well. Please look forward to it.
When conditions allow for it, I would love to create opportunities to meet with overseas players directly once again.