I'm Pepsiman, a freelance Japanese-English translator and founder of Tanpenshuu Translations. Sometimes I do it for fun and other times I do it to make my bank account slightly larger and be able to keep the lights on! If you're interested in hiring me for translation work, you may contact me at the address provided in the "About Me" page for a free quote! 「短篇集トランスレーションズ」という独立翻訳グループを設立したフリーの和英翻訳者です。お仕事にお雇いになりたいとお思いになっていらっしゃる方は以下の「コンタクト」というセクションで書いてあるアドレスでいつでもご遠慮なく是非ご連絡なさって下さい！
From the look of how people are taking to my post discussing how Persona 3’s battle system came into being, there’s an audience interested in hearing about the thought processes that went into the development of Persona 3. Today I’ll be diving into another blog entry posted by director Katsura Hashino, this time talking about a tool the team used to help plan out the pacing of Social Links in Persona 3 and other things influenced by the in-game calendar. I’m pretty sure this hasn’t been previously translated, although I know I have other Atlus-centric translators following me, so apologies if I’m stepping onto your territory accidentally! And make sure to click on the images to expand them if you’re reading this in your main feed! -Pepsi
Creator Works: December 20, 2007, Katsura Hashino, Volume 24
Hi there, it’s Hashino again, the director of Persona 3.
I’ve been really busy lately, so this blog ended up being neglected for a while. I know I have a handful of fans who enjoy these development diaries and eagerly await new updates, so if that’s you, I apologize. I’ve been hard at work on my next project and I really want to this make this one an enjoyable game more than ever before, so I hope you can forgive me for my recent silence.
Anyway, this marks the fifth entry on my series about difficulties in developing game systems, which intends to cover everything from battles to dungeons to events and various other sorts of mechanics along those lines.
Previously, I’ve written about how we’ve gone about producing battle systems and enemy encounters at great length, but this time I’m going to turn our attention Persona 3’s Social Link and event progression systems. I’m pretty sure it goes without saying, but I imagine that coming from previous games we’ve made, the daily calendar and Social Link systems represent some of the most drastic gameplay changes we’ve ever implemented, no?
The genesis for these systems came from our desire to see if we could replicate through gameplay the sensation of having a day-to-day life, one that includes actual weekdays and weekends. The sense of fun you get over the course of a single week can change depending on what sorts of plans you make and how your goals are coming along. We figured that if players could get a taste of that sort of sensation through a game that we’d be on to something enjoyable and that’s how the calendar system came to be. (It’s worth pointing out that we actually originally set out to let you play through all three years of high school!* But we realized that we’d be asking a lot of the players to go through that much time, so we pared it down to a little less than a year. ^^;)
In Persona 3, you go to school during the day and make friends there. Then during the evenings, you work on Social Links and at night you head out to Tartarus. Getting the feel for that sort of gameplay loop and imagining how it’ll play out in your mind is tough, though, especially since the calendar has you committing to play the game for a long stretch of time and includes weekdays in your schedule. What’s more, once the data is supposed to be locked in towards the end of development, you can’t exactly easily backtrack on anything without there being serious repercussions. So in order to avoid that scenario, we decided to make a calendar simulator internally that we could use on our PCs in an effort to grasp how the gameplay flow would feel. (This sort of practice is par for the course for every game we make before production fully commences. When we were working on Shin Megami Tensei III, for instance, we made simulators for demon growth and fusion in order to grasp how the game was going to turn out since, unlike previous entries, it allows you to level up your demons through battle. That program, though, just displays a lot of numbers, whereas the program we developed for Persona 3 also features a lot of text. Things like that are what go into the programs we use behind the scenes during game development and knowing that, I feel like now is a good jumping off point to introduce you to the actual program.) [Translator’s note: Jump to the bottom of this entry for a brief breakdown of what the different parts of the window are.]
↑We’re so old school, if that’s the right term for it, that we even have a name entry field in this program. You can trigger stuff like the calendar and schedule listings and dictate your day to day actions, including on weekdays and days off, through commands within the program.
↑You can also join clubs and trigger Social Links within the simulator. Here, you can have up to five different Social Links going on at once.
↑It’s pretty primitive, but you can take on things akin to dungeon quests as well. In the final version we sent out to retail, these quests turned into ones doled out by Elizabeth.
↑Visiting the fusion facility lets you simulate Persona fusions, too. The contents of what you see here are tentative and were used for testing purposes.
It takes about two weeks and a handful of people to produce this sort of tool.
By conducting this sort of testing, we were able to determine things like the timing for schedule hints, when to trigger Social Links, and also which stretches of time were ultimately unnecessary. If we didn’t come up with this sort of arrangement ahead of time, we probably would have run into a lot of problems towards the end of the game’s development and wound up delaying the release date. (Argh!)
As a bit of a side note, one of the most unusual things I heard about from the staff when gathering their thoughts about this simulator was… well, how fun it suddenly was once a character became your lover! Even with no visuals to go along with the Social Link and nothing but dialog boxes to work off of, somehow that allure you feel around the opposite sex as a young adult like in the game still somehow came through! (Haha)
As a result of all that, this simulator was indispensable to us as we were working on the feel of the calendar system and it somehow made Social Links with the girls in the game even more satisfying than we originally envisioned. (Haha)
How’s that for today’s story?
Next time, look forward to more stories from behind the scenes of game development.
Director, Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, Persona 3, Persona 3 FES, Persona 4
*High school in Japan begins at year 10.
And here’s that breakdown of what the program window is actually saying, in so far as I can make out at such a low resolution. Make sure to expand the image and/or open in another window for maximum readability.