Hidetaka Suehiro, also known as SWERY65, may not have many big hit games on his portfolio, but he still belongs to the important figures of the Japanese gaming scene.
Hidetaka Suehiro, also known as SWERY65, may not have many big hit games on his portfolio, but he still belongs to the important figures of the Japanese gaming scene. His work is truly unique - visually, narratively and thematically, he combines many elements with various references. The results are quite divisive, but at the same time, Swery also has a large number of fans. Spy Fiction, Deadly Premonition or D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die are familiar to everyone who likes slightly "different" games. What exactly is the source of their uniqueness? Swery revealed more about it in our interview.
I know you studied film and video advertising. What drew you into the gaming business?
I didn’t decide on my career path until I was about to graduate university. Luckily, a famous film director who was working as a professor at the time invited me into the film industry. However, the conditions he presented to me seemed extremely strict to me, so I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to really go into that industry.
At that time, a friend invited me to work at a game company, and since I’d loved games just as much as film ever since I was a kid, I got interested in the world of games.
You have been in the gaming business for over two decades. What is it that still appeals to you?
I think the reason why I continue to make games even now is because new creators continue to be born, which creates new ways of expressing things, and thus new types of gameplay. Also, since I’ve been working in this industry for a long time, I’ve been able to meet creators who made games that I played when I was a student, which is always a happy accident for me.
Your work is truly unique. In it, we can find dreamlike surrealism, mystery, naive characters, strange imagery, but also a smart story or obscure references. Why did you decide to create such games and where do you get your inspiration from?
When I get an idea for a game, I first focus on the game mechanics. Then, as the game mechanics take form, I try to get rid of as much notion of a “genre” as possible. Genre = something that already exists, and as long as I stay focused on that, I’ll never be able to create anything new. That’s what’s led me to create the games you’ve seen me release.
In 2010, you released Deadly Premonition, your most famous game, which has since gained a cult following. It is considered by many to be a great example of games as art. How did the development of this game actually start and where did you get your inspiration?
A little bit after I released SPY FICTION in 2003, I started working on an idea for a new game. That’s around when I met the producer, Mr. Kanazawa. He’d coincidentally cleared SPY FICTION several times, so that’s how the project got started.
After we talked about it for a bit, we discovered we both liked supernatural, occult, and mystery themed things, and we really wanted to make a kind of game that just didn’t exist yet, so that’s how the planning started.
My first plan was to make it a game where the player used scientific methods to analyze detailed crime scenes, but after discussing it more, we decided to make it a game that people could play in a more intuitive fashion, without thinking too much, and that’s how we arrived at the final version.
For me personally, it's one of the most unique and best games out there, but its initial reception was pretty mixed. But it holds the Guinness World Record for the most critically polarizing survival horror game. What do you think is the reason for such reception?
I don’t know. I can’t begin to imagine what goes on in the minds of people who only criticize games when they’ve never made one themselves.
Why did we have to wait 10 years for the sequel?
The most important thing is not speed, but rather timing, Mr. Morgan.
Do you still have any future plans for the series?
I wish you’d ask that question to not me, but rather, the producer. (LOL)
Between the Deadly Premonition games, you brought us D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die. It brought an unconventional approach to adventure as a genre and also to controls. Why did you decide to create a game around motion controls?
It all started when I first saw Kinect and thought it would be great to use as a device to intuitively control the machine, rather than a motion controller for fitness/action games. I thought it might let someone intuitively control a computer like Tom Cruise does in Minority Report. I mean, I play games at home because I don’t like sports…
What led to you leaving Access Games and founding White Owls?
That is a long story. To sum it up in one sentence: I moved on to the next step.
The Good Life represented another change of direction in your work. It's a combination of a lifesim and an open world RPG about cats and dogs. This playful environment is accompanied by an impression of mystery. What led you to such a combination of elements?
There are a lot of reasons, but the biggest reason is the crowdfunding. The crowdfunding project allowed us to gather funds directly from our supporters, which in a way, did away with some creative limitations that would found on a normal project. There were of course budget and technical limitations that we still had to deal with, but we didn’t have to worry about producer or publisher opinions anymore, so we were able to create a game purely based on what we thought would be fun.
Your upcoming game Hotel Barcelona is shrouded in mystery. We know that it will be a horror game that you are working on with Goichi Suda and Keiichiro Toyama, who are other well-known names in Japanese game development. How did you get together with them?
Let’s keep the mysteries as mysteries. Heh heh heh.
Aside from Hotel Barcelona, are you working on anything else?
We are currently working on 4 different projects at White Owls. One is DLC for The Good Life, a game that’s already been released. We’re also working on one mobile game project and one VR project. Finally, we’re working on another game that will be released for PC and consoles. I can’t say much about them yet, but they’ll all become very White Owls-esque games. I hope you’re excited for them!!