Game Freak reflects on the making of Pokemon Sword and Shield
Over on its recruitment website, Game Freak posted an interesting article about the creation of Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield. Director Shigeru Omori and planning director Kazumasa Iwao provided some insight into how the Switch games came to be.
We’ve now translated the full piece. If you’re interested in learning more about Pokemon Sword/Shield’s development, continue on below.
We asked the director and planning director of Pokemon Sword and Shield about the development cycle, teams behind the game, and what the future of Pokemon franchise looks like.
Shigeru Omori – Director of Pokemon Sword and Shield. Omori has been involved with Pokemon since Ruby/Sapphire and as well as numerous other Pokemon games
Kazumasa Iwao – Planning director for Sword and Shield. Excels in field and UI planning. Led the project with Omori throughout the development.
Changing the planning process of the Pokemon series
Omori and a few other key staff members started to think about the concept for the new Pokemon game right after Pokemon Sun and Moon development finished in fall of 2016. With the knowledge that Nintendo Switch can connect to a television, the initial idea was to make a Pokemon title larger in scope in order to surprise players. Omori met with Iwao, who directed Ultra Sun / Ultra Moon, and things started in September 2017. Omori named the games after the team thought of giving Pokemon swords and shields to fight the gigantic Pokemon.
The development team was very particular about the graphics for the new game, especially when factoring in that it was able to be connected to a big screen. The team wanted the title to be enjoyable in both docked and portable modes. Omori reflected on the project saying that he placed heavy emphasis on how the game would fit into players’ lifestyle, and how the team could incorporate the strengths of the new console. He also mentioned how they thoroughly considered the planning and design of the game. The original Pokemon games were made by a very small team and their approach to improving the quality of different aspects was to make something, break it, then make it up again. Improvements in technology made it impossible for the same approach to be used this time, as development teams became much larger. Omori knew that if he approached the new game like the older generations, it would cause mass confusion. To prevent any confusion or misunderstandings, Omori assembled a small core team at the very start of the development that conceived the design for the title. This allowed the team to put in everything that they planned into the game.
“The changing of the guard” – Giving young staff more chance, opportunities and responsibilities.
Iwao says that one of the most important themes during the development of Sword and Shield was the generational shift among staff. He gave higher positions to the younger staff members who had the ability and motivation to take on the responsibility, which gave them opportunities to grow and learn. The staff should not only have the ability to carry out the tasks placed in front of them, but communicate and build repour with other team members in the process – a project like Pokemon cannot be made by an individual.
When asked how the younger staff performed, Iwao felt the lack of knowledge and experience sometimes showed through the project. Young staff got stuck on numerous occasions and received lots of advice from the more experienced staff members. They struggled, but eventually made it through with the help of more experienced staff.
It has always been a tradition at Game Freak to give opportunities to the youth. Even for Omori, he was chosen as the planning leader for Pokemon Diamond and Pearl when he was 25, while all other staff were more experienced members. The organization often changes with every game title, which is another thing that makes Game Freak so unique.
For each individual to give their 100%
As the director leading the project, there were several factors Omori paid attention to. One of them was for Omori to delegate to individuals tasks that they excelled at. For instance, through communicating with staff, Omori gave clothing design to those who liked fashion, sporty clothes to staff interested in sport, café lovers would design those spots to ensure a café-like feeling, and so on. Omori wanted every individual to be able to bring out their strengths. This resulted in team members having the freedom to express themselves and is perhaps one of the reasons why this game was enjoyed by many. One of the director’s job is to create an environment which brings out the best in all staff.
Omori adds that he wants to continue being in part of new projects in the future. He shares that he wants to start new projects not by designing, but from making prototypes of the game instead. He aims for games to be made by not only by planners, but also by designers and programmers. This allows for anyone to be able to pitch in ideas and create games that can be enjoyed by even more people.
The development of Pokemon is never boring – It’s addictive.
Even after 20 years, the Pokemon franchise is still going strong. Omori says that even if he thinks that the game is perfect, there are always new ideas after the project is over. He added that Pokemon will continue to change with new technology, new development teams and with new ways of playing games. Omori wants to create Pokemon games that gamers desire, and give the feeling that Pokemon exists and lives with us.
It might be surprising to hear that every Pokemon title is made in an entirely different way. Team members try not to rely on experience, and enjoy tackling the new challenge given to them. Iwao emphasized that no matter the work, if you do it long enough it will eventually become tedious. With Game Freak however, there are always new opportunities and positions, and being able to join in gear projects means it never gets repetitive and never gets boring. With the vast amount of experience spanning over 20 years, a unique system that allows youths to experience failure and success and a company continuing to change generations, Pokemon will continue to evolve.
Translation provided by centurionnugget and Jarop on behalf of Nintendo Everything.
If you use any of this translation, please be sure to source Nintendo Everything. Do not copy its full contents.