After working on a American/Japanese co-production, a pair of Japanese developers speak about what we're doing wrong, and what we're doing right.
To Western eyes, Japan can often seem quirky or even outright weird. The reverse is also true however, and getting an insight into the way we do things - in this case, making videogames - from people who do them very differently, can be very enlightening.
Speaking at the CESA Developers Conference in Yokohama, Japan, Square Enix developers Yosuke Shiokawa and Yuki Matsuzawa shared their experiences working with teams in the West on a project that is being co-developed in Japan and the US. The pair didn't have a particularly high opinion of Western videogames, but they did admit that certain Western practices had advantages over the Japanese way of doing things.
The pair believed that Western developers weren't striving for realism in their games, so much as believability, and that an unrealistic protagonist was fine as long as players were able to suspend their disbelief. They said that trying to make believable characters resulted in a certain character type - rugged, macho soldiers - being fairly common in the West.
In their opinion, the Japanese method of decision-making, where orders come down from upper-level management, was more effective at making consistent settings than the consensus model used by Western developers. They did concede however, that the bottom-up decision making style favored in the West was quicker and often result in greater project efficiency. They also thought that having a game "bible" - a shared document that contains all the important details for the game - helped maintain the consistency of a setting. Shiokawa and Matszawa said that in order for Japanese developers to be successful in the West, they would have to make their games believable in the same way that Western developers did.
Source: 1 UP