Hisashi Koinuma, 20-year veteran in the Japanese game industry and (as of May) executive vice president of Tecmo Koei Games, got into the business for the same reason a lot of his peers in the early '90s did — he really liked games, and he couldn't imagine himself doing anything else.
"It wasn't about what I would do in the industry so much as 'I just want to be involved,'" he told Famitsu magazine in an interview published this week. "So I wanted to study programming to make that easier, so I only applied to universities that had good computer facilities. My drive may have been partly in response to my parents, too, since they didn't let me play with PCs and video games at home much."
Koinuma wound up joining Koei chiefly because he was a fun of their Romance of the Three Kingdoms strategy series, and because he wanted to placate his parents, who insisted he join a company listed on Japan's stock exchange. But, as he told Famitsu, there was another, more strategic reason. "I worked part-time at a video arcade while I was in school, and I was totally addicted to fighting games," he said. "I wanted to make a game in that genre sometime, but I figured that if I joined a company that already had a presence in fighters, I'd have to deal with a lot of internal rivals. Koei was still all about simulations at the time, so the idea in my mind was that, if they ever decided to get into fighters, I'd have a good chance of getting involved. It was pretty conniving of me, despite how young I was."
The plan worked. Two years after joining Koei, Koinuma was the main programmer on the very first Dynasty Warriors, back when it was still a one-on-one 3D fighter. He's been involved with every single Warriors game since as either coder, director or producer, including the spin-offs themed after Gundam, One Piece and Fist of the North Star.
Why does Koinuma think Warriors wound up becoming one of the new Tecmo Koei's flagship IPs? "I think there are many reasons," he replied, "but one of the big ones could be that we release them right around the launch of each new system. Putting whatever tech or visuals we couldn't do with other hardware into a new Warriors game adds a very direct sort of excitement for the player, and I think that has given us a certain amount of share in gamers' minds. It's not something that we deliberately decide beforehand, but we know how that mindshare works, so sooner or later it naturally becomes an atmosphere of 'We better make sure our games don't stray too far out of the hardware launch window'."
Along those lines, how will the Warriors games evolve with the imminent next generation of consoles? "Speaking just in terms of possibilities," Koinuma said, "I think it might be fun to make an open-world Warriors game, or maybe an RPG that takes advantage of the Warriors system. Also, there's still a lot of explore here, but I think taking advantages of the specs of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One will let us explore new types of gameplay that we couldn't do before."
Such as? "With Warriors up to now, all the military action not taking place right onscreen is still simulated in a pretty basic way. If we had it so the entire thing was fully simulated, that'd be a huge boost to the strategy aspect, and I think the fighting would a whole new level more exciting. Also, when we produce a game on the new consoles, I want to really focus on making really varied terrain in terms of height and shape. It'd be fun to take a more realistic approach with it such as creating a lot more destroyable objects and things."
Tecmo Koei's first next-gen title in Japan will be the PlayStation 4 version of Dynasty Warriors 8 with Xtreme Legends, due out Feb. 22 in the region.