Two days ago, Kono went on an essay-length reminiscence about ACAH. I'm not sure it tells us anything we didn't already know or suspect, but it's very interesting, so I translated it for you guys.
As it happens, I’ve been watching more AC5 videos on Nico Nico Douga. I’m up to M27+. Seeing them brings back a lot of memories from those days. It’s just, I’ve been getting forgetful nowadays, like I was old and senile. That makes it all the more compelling to me. Occasionally a very nice comment will float my way. Like, “Well done, well done like a fine steak!”. Hah. I want to make an AC like that again. I really do.
I watched ACAH too. Having devoted three years of my life to it, it’s like my beautiful child. I very much remember the hideous amount of suffering this beautiful child caused. I still haven’t recovered in the years since, and if nobody believes me, then I’ve got only myself to blame. Three years I spent. First, panic. I came to a state where I was constantly pleading “you have to understand!” That time is still very prominent in my mind.
And after that, panic. That was the time when everyone was simply incredulous. Internally, publicly, among fans, turning as though in the blink of an eye, people threw around recriminations and baseless accusations that seemed overflowing with rage. In-house, so to say, some were sympathetic, and they supported me as together we struggled.
Basically, all my time attached to the post we call “producer” could excuse nothing. It was all “it’s your job to accept responsibility,” and eventually “only you could possibly accept the blame.” So while everyone was damaged by the whole thing to a greater or lesser extent, in the end, I “faced it alone.” Like I promised I would.
Now, when I look at ACAH, each and every asset, each element of the production, the presentation, it’s all very well made, and it all feels wonderful to me. Only, we failed to get across our intent with the product and communicate. In evaluating the game - the pros and cons - there’s things both good and bad, but if you think about it at the concept level, it’s like a totally different product.
The response was, especially after the “attacks,” not to run away, but rather ideas even to the extent of a “patch to restore the conventional mechanics,” but - as I said in no uncertain terms - it was a tumultuous time. It’s with sadness that I understood “nothing would be accomplished in such a superficial manner.”
Really though, their feelings were beyond the understanding of the people who came to lead the production staff. Well, not quite, surprisingly, they were overburdened by their own feelings as well. Basically, what I’m trying to say is, with ever so many excuses, outside circumstances, and various mistakes piling up as they did, of course things end up as they did, and if I try to change my perspective, while certainly there are even be people who came to praise us, the fact of the matter is, “just what do the majority feel, when faced openly and honestly.” It’s a soul-wrenching truth that can’t be escaped. I have to admit to that much. So, even though I’ve come back from then, it’s a fact that I needed the intervening years to see.
Ah, well, it’s best if failures like that don’t happen at all, but it’s also true that it was a very valuable experience. Indeed, two pieces of content came out of ACAH, and if ACAH hadn’t happened, then those two things wouldn’t have come to be. This is also a fact. And now, distanced, it also made what's important clear again.
And yet, make as many good things as you will, it’s also a fact that for the continuing survival of the company, you have to make good numbers.
When it comes to a niche title, something has to be done to reach out to more people and raise the profit limit. That is, this is what was imposed, or rather, this is the demand of the market’s current condition, which, once made apparent, was a necessity to follow. The cost of niches is continuing to multiply, but if we kept making similar things, we’d continue to be successful. That is, this was also an ideal, but we got half what was expected. Maybe half.
Bygone days and talk of predictions don’t mean anything before the facts, do they? If that were true, maybe things would have gone well, and maybe things weren’t so great before, but back then, nobody knew the facts of the matter. One can only guess. There isn’t any sort of right answer.
I watched AC5 and ACAH, and it inspired a lot: thinking about those times, about afterwards, the worrying, the tears of regret, and now I’m forgetting about it all. Heh. I’ve written at length, but, well, there’s nothing left to say, and now you know the facts.
Geez, this is some pretty dark and heavy stuff.
I wrote about a lot of things, but until the release of this one particular thing, there’s a lot that’s more lurid that I can’t write, so there’s more a creator must suffer. Producers, directors, and everyone else involved must suffer in their own way, I suppose. There are things with which others should not concern themselves.
Right now, I imagine there are those with a lot of the same sort of troubles, failures, and distresses. I think this is certainly the case, in so far as, even through their troubles, they have no choice but to face front and march on. And, it’s just that, soon it may be that nothing can be done, that over the course of years, gradually, we won’t in fact be able to go back. Is what I was thinking.
I said “It was a tumultuous time,” because at last after all these years I feel like I can permit myself to experience it all with a cramped smile, and it was in pretty much that mood that I wrote all of this. In these reflections, I addressed the topic of AC and it got way too heavy, and my own tension has been eased. Which was exactly the point. *bitter smile*
Clearly this is very personal territory for Kono, but what have we learned?
Well, for one, that ACAH wasn't so much trying to get the CoD audience as it was trying to get any sort of audience outside the normal AC fans without straying too much. I suspect that the CoD-like mechanics - the quicktime events, the SONIC SPEED DESTRUCTION SHOOTING, etc - were there because they wanted it to be exciting like CoD, not because they wanted its audience.
This is a reasonable response to a continuing problem in Japan for all sorts of media: that is, how to make money on niche products that are continually diverging. Japanese or otherwise, AC fans are a sort of otaku, after all. ACAH tried to widen the niche. ACI went the opposite direction.
Second, that ACAH's failure was not gentle, and that it sounds like Kono was very lucky to come away from it with his job. We all knew this thing did not do what NamDai wanted, but it sounds like it might've flopped worse than even we thought.
Those "two pieces of content" he's referring to are probably ACI and the arcade booth. What's interesting is that this implies ACI was probably a direct response to ACAH. I had always imagined that it was Kono himself that lobbied for the game getting made, but maybe that wasn't actually the case.
Now, it's easy to read this and think "lol Kono still thinks that the game's failure was due to it being not Ace Combat rather than fundamentally untenable gameplay ideas," but let's consider it more closely. It's unreasonable to expect Kono to enumerate every single element that didn't work about the game when that isn't the focus of what he's trying to say. In the end, he takes responsibility for the fact that he made a game that pretty much nobody liked, and that's in and of itself pretty bold.