Kenta Cho (ABA Games) Interview

Recently, we were fortunate enough to get Mr. Kenta Cho, the developer of such classics as rRootage and Parsec 47, to answer some questions over e-mail for us. If you haven't played any of his masterpieces, they can all be downloaded from his site here for free, and they really represent some great thinking and innovation within the basic framework of the shmup. I don't think I am exaggerating when I say that he is one of the most highly respected folks in the Indie gaming community.

SR: You seem to be a very talented programmer with some good ideas. You have produced some of the most beloved little games in the shmup community. What first pulled you towards programming shmups specifically?

KC: The main reason was that Noiz2sa, my first shmups for Windows, was favorably received by many people.
Many comments from many people pulled me towards shmups.
Of course there was the fundamental reason that I liked playing shmups.

SR: Are their any other significant contributors to ABA, or do you do everything yourself?

KC: I do everything by myself. But after releasing a first version, I consider people who give me valuable comments as contributors to my game.
Many features in later versions come from their comments.

SR: BulletML is a pretty impressive tool for creating shot patterns, and something that can even be manipulated by any curious player of your games.
You have even made several tools available to make it easier for other people to work with. What are your hopes for the future of BulletML?

KC: My hope is that many people know the way how to create the barrage patterns in bullet-hell shmups through BulletML.
I'm glad if BulletML makes some one especially who is outside Japan want to create their own shmup.

SR: I noticed you real seem to use a specific style of graphics, with a look that emulates some of the classic vector graphics games. You've really managed to do a lot with this look and take it in different directions. Is there something that attracts you to that graphics style? Do you ever consider taking it in a different direction, as you did with Suzuri (not a shmup, but a game I still play to this day)?

KC: Rez is the game that most influence me. Rez showed me a great combination of an old vector style and a modern graphics. I also prefer the style of vector graphic system such as Vectrex and Atari StarWars.
I always try to create a simple but impressive graphics style without holding on to the vector style, and the writing brush style in Suzuri is one of them.

SR: Several of the modes in rRootage are homages to gameplay styles in some of the great classic shmups like Psyvariar and Ikaruga. What are some of your favorite shmups? What kind of things do you look for in shmup games?

KC: Raidiant Sivergun, Ikaruga and Gradius V, shmups from Hiroshi Iuchi are my favorites. These games have the innovative features such as chaining, white and black attributes and option controls.
Shmup is a very traditional game genre and there are already too many shmups in the world, but I think we can still invent new features and realize a new feeling with shmup games.

SR: I often feel that some of the simple game genres I loved as a kid will not last beyond my generation. Perhaps in the US, we have moved on from these classics too quickly. What do you think will happen to shumps in the face of more complicated games and 3D gaming?

KC: I think the recent game market is divided into two regions, casual gaming and modern complicated hardcore gaming. Shmups and games you mentioned are classified into classical hardcore gaming, that have simple game play but require a lot of patience and a lot of practice to the player.
The classical hardcore gaming is about to die because games in that region are hard to approach for most of players because it takes too long time to find enjoyment.
So shmups have to be more casual to attract many people.
I know it is very difficult to create a game that is simple, easy to learn, addictive and having great depth.
But there is a real need for those kinds of shmups to get a new lease of life.

SR: You have made some excellent games in a few other genres (some of which may seem odd to our American readers). What other types of games do you enjoy, and what are some of your favorites?

KC: Since I'm an omnivorous gamer, I play most types of games such as god sim, flight sim, driving, RPG, puzzle, actions and of course shmups.

When I saw this question, I remembered an event among Japanese bloggers.
It was called videogame baton, that was a variant of musical baton, and people who accept the baton should answer their own best 5 games.
Since my answer with the videogame baton also can be the answer to your question, I'll list them up here.

- Transport Tycoon
My favorite god sim.
- Xevious
Flying monolith and Nazca Lines.
- Tank
A nice game that worked on my first pocket computer, PC-1500 (Sharp).
- Power Drift
Breakaway from a straight line driving game.
- Rez
As I mentioned before.

SR: What inspires your work other than video games? We'd like to hear about movies, TV, comics, or anything that you find helps motivate you.

KC: There are few things influenced me other than video games.
I like to listen to music, but I spend a very little time to watch movies and TV.
Perhaps the most influential thing to me is a billboard on the street.
Some of them have a very good design, and these encourage me to think about a graphic design in my game.

I'd really like to thank Mr. Kenta Cho for taking some time from his schedule to answer our questions, and of course for the excellent games that he continues to produce.