Tango Gameworks: Ten years later

introduce

It took more than 10 years, but Mikami says his original vision for Tango Gameworks has finally come to fruition.

Mikami founded Tango in 2010 after nearly 20 years at Capcom, directed games such as Resident Evil and Resident Evil 4, and signed with Platinum Games for several years, where he directed Vanquish. His vision: To give young developers the opportunity to direct their own games and provide opportunities they might not otherwise get. Or, more bluntly, like he said polygon Year 2014allowing people under 40 to play directly.

“If you’re over 40, you’re a little out of touch with the people who buy your games,” Mikami told the outlet, “and when you’re young, you don’t know enough about the industry. When you’re in your 30s, you The balance is just right – you have energy and self-esteem and can focus undisturbed, but you have enough experience to manage people and understand the business.”

Thankfully, Mikami’s vision actually took seven years to become a reality, marked by 2017’s The Evil Within 2, directed by John Johannes. Ironically, if you were Mikami himself (56 years old), it would take 12 years. Still, in his mind, Tango is here now. And its latest game, Ghostwire: Tokyo, is nowhere to be found.

Ghostwire: Tokyo, the latest game from Tango Gameworks

During Tango’s early history, Mikami conducted many interviews about his vision. But at the time, it was just: a vision. A bit speculative and certainly unproven. However, on the eve of Ghostwire’s launch, and with 12 years of hindsight, we decided to revisit Tango’s mission statement. Through conversations with three top executives within the company — Mikami, producer Masa Kimura, and Ghostwire director Kenji Kimura — we get a sense of how Tango ended up here and what it plans to do next.

funding dreams

funding dreams

While his intentions may have been noble when he founded Tango, Mikami directed the studio’s first project, the survival horror game The Evil Within, released in 2014.

Admiral Mitsu is the first to tell you that he still enjoys commanding the game. But he’ll also tell you that in the case of The Evil Within, he’s sitting in the director’s chair and has less to do with personal investment in the project and more to do with business.

Image credit: Tango Gameworks

Mikami Shinji

“I’m not sure I can say that, but I do need to be a director to manage a brand new team under this new studio,” he told game informer through translation. “And, with that thought, I might need to be a director to get funding.”

Although the game was billed as his return to survival horror, the genre he helped invent and popularized in the first Resident Evil, Mikami rejected proposals for a new horror game in the post-Capcom, pre-Tango years. Even in the case of The Evil Within, Mikami told us, “At the time, yeah, if there was an opportunity not to work on horror games, then maybe I would consider that.”

“It’s not bad,” he added. “Just; I wish I could improve the quality a little bit.”

After The Evil Within, John Johanas is the first new director in Tango to get the chance to lead a project — at least we’ve heard of it. How he got it is a bit unorthodox. Johanas joined Tango in August 2010, shortly after the company was founded. Before joining, he was an English teacher for the Japan JET program, a government program to teach foreign languages ​​in Japan (and a common way for people to obtain work visas to move to the country).

Image credit: Tango Gameworks

Masato Kimura

As part of the application process, Johannes translated a “huge” Japanese novel into English and presented it to the studio head. Mikami was surprised, but admitted he wasn’t interested in Johannes being an English teacher. Not to mention, he doesn’t understand the language. Still, Johannes got the job. “[I] See the passion in his eyes,” Mikami said.

Johannes spent the first three or four years creating game design documents and then making levels for The Evil Within. When Tango had the opportunity to develop the DLC, the director’s role was Johanas, who led the development of “The Consequence” and “The Assignment” released in 2015. He then directed the entire game: The Evil Within 2, which was excellent – if it wasn’t commercially successful, it was received.

Johanas is already working on his next game as director, marking the studio’s first openly announced director of multiple projects. “He’s entering his prime,” Masato said.

But Johanas is certainly not the best-known name among Mikami’s new directors. That is Yumi Nakamura. But it’s complicated. Relationship with Kenji Kimura, the latest director of Tango.

politics

politics

On paper, Nakamura seems like Mikami’s ideal director. By the time she came to Tango, she had already had a long career in the games industry — also at Capcom and Platinum, although she didn’t work directly with Mikami — helping develop the hugely popular Ōkami in the former, and in the latter. According to Mikami, based on her work as a concept artist on The Evil Within, Nakamura’s talents “beyond” other developers. “The next step for her is definitely to be a director,” he said.

His intuition was right – and a few more.

At E3 2019, Nakamura announced her directorial debut, Ghostwire: Tokyo, at a Bethesda press conference. Almost immediately, she became an internet celebrity, mostly because of her lovely speeches. This has made Nakamura one of the more recognized game developers in recent years and has put her new project in the spotlight. “Given the gaming industry at the time, it was clear that if she took the stage as a creative director, she would become very popular faster than anyone else,” Mikami said.

Again, his instincts were right, but fate had it otherwise. In September 2019, Nakamura left Tango Gameworks, which completed work on Ghostwire two years earlier.

Nakamura’s departure was complicated, and we spoke to her in depth in 2021. In addition to the health issues she was experiencing, Nakamura struggled with the pressure of the developer-publisher relationship; she didn’t like the pressure of Tango’s parent company, Bethesda, because she had complete control over her project.

Image credit: Ikumi Nakamura

Behind the Scenes of E3 Nakamura Yumi

“I’m a creative director, so this is literally my baby,” Nakamura told us. “My four-year-old baby. So let go – any mother please. It’s heartbreaking.”

Unsurprisingly, the Tango employee we spoke with wished Nakamura all the best in her career; she’s listed in the “Special Thanks” section of Ghostwire credits. Shortly before the release of her previous project, Nakamura officially announced her new indie studio, invisible, marking the next stage in her career. “She created the world and art for Ghostwire, and we are very grateful for the work she does,” Mikami said.

Kinji Kimura, who started working on Ghostwire as a game designer, takes over from Nakaura. His new job came with a learning curve. Kinji was quick to point out that Mikami was a mentor, especially in how to instruct video games. That’s not to say Mikami didn’t learn from his younger staff either.

become boring, powerful

become boring, powerful

If there was one thing that came up repeatedly in our interviews with Tango, it was the idea of ​​customer experience. And almost every time he was mentioned by Masato and Shinji, they would immediately point to Mikami.

“His mindset on customer experience is much deeper than anyone else might imagine,” Kinji said. “It was a very important learning experience for me.”

Image credit: Tango Gameworks

Kenji Kimura

According to Masato, Mikami, who is currently an executive producer at Tango, withdrew from the project. He stayed behind the scenes; he took a few steps back, watching things.

However, Mikami has a wealth of experience directing video games — some of which are considered the best ever, or at least the most influential. Even if he is not currently in the director’s position, this experience is not wasted; it is passed on to a new generation.

On Ghostwire, Kinji said Mikami was instrumental in teaching him how to focus on the customer experience, achieve quality “firmly”, and deal with the pressures of being a director. He also learned when to let go of ideas.

“I’ve learned the responsibility we need to focus on,” Kinji said. “Sometimes it’s a very difficult decision, but everything is [service] Trying to hone the customer experience. “

Mikami said he chose Kinji to take over Ghostwire because of his ability to process and understand complex information. He’s also passionate about making a great game, which helps. In the end, Mikami said he has a strong and healthy mindset, something he looks for in a director.

Now that he has a chance to see his two directors successfully release the game, Mikami said he has also learned from his young staff. The simple answer is learning how to work more efficiently from home, a symptom of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But there’s also a surprising answer: Mikami says he’s learning how to be more selfish.

“It was probably more of a reminder,” he said. “But as I got to this age, it became harder and harder to be more selfish about what I wanted to do.”

Which begs the question: Does Mikami think he’s directing another game? yes.He has said the same in other recent interviews Tell VG247 He wanted to make “at least” one more game. However, he told us, there may be more than one.

Ghostwire: Tokyo, the latest game from Tango Gameworks

“I think it will be plural,” Mikami said. “I didn’t think about when to actually stop, or do the last [game]. I may not be able to stop. “

“I worked with Mikami-san for a long time,” Masato continued. “I can tell you he’ll probably make a difference for the rest of his life.”

Time will tell when Mikami returns to direct as director.Honestly told VG247 In the same interview mentioned above, Mikage will not lead Tango’s next game.This could be a new project for Johanas, Mikami recently told Weekly Famitsu (pass Video Game Chronicles) is “the exact opposite of terror”.

Either way, 12 years after he first established his vision, Mikami’s track record remains solid; two-thirds isn’t a bad number. But Masato also sees this approach to game development as a unique advantage. Tango’s approach is different. According to him, it all started with Mikami, he said, a man who gets bored easily.

“But in a very powerful way,” Masato said. “He’s always wanted to do something new. He’s looking for something cool new. It always starts with an idea; it always starts with a game plan, a game plan. If he has a good plan for the game, he A director would be chosen for the program. It’s always about games and game design. That comes first. That’s why you see us a little bit different from other studios. We do see that as an advantage.”


This article originally appeared in Issue 345 of Game Informer.