Let It Die, an asynchronously online, post-apocalyptic journey where players must fight their way to the top of the mysterious "Tower of Barbs" after a cataclysmic earthquake – a nod to the manga Violence Jack – destroys Tokyo. Let It Die plays like the deranged lovechild of FromSoft's fiendish Souls series and a survival game in the style of Rust, albeit one still slicked and writhing in bloody orthopteran afterbirth (sorry).
In other words, it seems exactly like what a proper comeback for Suda and his team should be. I spoke to the studio's frontman at this year's E3 – accompanied by Let It Die's director Hideyuki Shin and GungHo's CEO Kazuki Morishita – about how this beautiful union came to be.
Left to right: Suda, Morishita, Shin
The concept of a survival game, which Let It Die is being described as, isn't fun – the genre tends to be challenging and stressful. But Grasshopper games are often the opposite: high-energy, stylised, crazy. How do you reconcile these two kind of opposing ideas? Morishita: With the core concept of survival, yeah, I think we're definitely all in agreement that for some people it's fun, but sometimes it does get tedious and stressful. But when we were designing Let It Die, we wanted to make sure the survival part was what was fun.
So while we were considering that, my inspiration came from watching a late-night variety TV show that was sort of a survival program. Not necessarily like Survivor, but very similar to the TV shows on the Discovery Channel. Basically, in the TV show, the host goes to places like forests, deserts and the ocean. And he's supposed to survive in that environment without anything, finding all his equipment and whatever he needs to stay alive – food as well. And that whole concept was very interesting, so I wanted to make something similar. That was sort of where the idea came from to make a "fun" survival game.
So one day I mentioned the show – and apparently Shin-san was watching it too. So we started thinking of how the concept could be fun, and how these elements are fun in the show. And, also, if you look at Shin-san's face he looks like someone who might be a mountain climber. He's someone who might say, "Hey, I'm going to go climb Mount Everest." And that whole mountain climbing aspect was also pulled into the game, since you have to climb the tower.
Shin, are you a mountain climber? Shin: Yes, of course! (Laughs) I actually live in the mountains.
Suda: Yeah, see how tanned he looks? (Laughs)
He does. Suda: It's also called golf. (Laughs)
Suda, how did you fit into these conversations with Morishita and Shin watching this survival show? Suda: I was there when they were first were talking about it. I sometimes watch it but not as much as the other two. They were watching it every week! (Laughs) It's late night, so it's too late for me. But it's a good show.
What's the name of the show? Suda:I am Boken Shonen ("I am An Adventure Boy"). Another TV show is Crazy Journey – that's also good. And there's another one, ItteQ!, which is in many parts similar to a survival show. There's a lot of these TV shows in Japan, sort of like reality TV.
I'm surprised they were such a big inspiration. Suda: Yeah, some people have said, "Is it really that good?" (Laughs) Late night means it's not the best primetime TV, but we really enjoy it.
Shin: I actually play a lot of survival games, too. But in my opinion, if you make those elements into a system that's basically parameters and numbers, then sooner or later you get tired of it, because it's always hounding you. So with Let It Die I wanted to make sure that wouldn't happen. So, if you want to restore your health, I felt like just picking up medicine would take away from the world. Since this is a post-apocalyptic world, if you want to survive, you're going to have to find food. If you want to find food, you're going to have to catch animals, which is why they're in the game. You need to be careful so they don't run away. So, you have to creep up to them, pick them up and then eat them raw.
Morishita: In I am Boken Shonen, the guy will grab frogs and spiders and cook them together and eat them, because he needs protein. But then he'll just puke it all out because it tastes terrible. (Laughs) So, we have that in the game as well.
Suda, what about a survival TV show concept fits in with a world like Violence Jack? Suda: When you're making a survival game, you might think the design should be as close to reality as possible. So initially we were thinking about sleep maintenance or using the bathroom. But like Shin said, once you put a system like that in, it becomes tedious. It's repetitive. The fun is gone because it's like you're doing a job – it feels like work.
So we were trying to figure out how to mitigate that, and started cutting out anything that might become a pain in the ass later on. And we quickly realised if the world can't be reality, it should be a separate one. I came up with the Tower of Barbs and started thinking about what kinds of scenarios that could exist in that world. That's when Violence Jack popped into my head.