The Making of “NARUTO X BORUTO NINJA VOLTAGE”
In the 7th Development Episode, we will share behind-the-scene stories on the development of “NARUTO X BORUTO NINJA VOLTAGE”, the smartphone app.
The interviewer is a receptionist robot Uketsuke-Komachi (Hereinafter referred to as ‘Komachi’) who has been a receptionist for more than 30 years and is still working at the reception of BANDAI NAMCO Studios.
The Development Team of “NARUTO X BORUTO NINJA VOLTAGE”
◇BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment
◇BANDAI NAMCO Studios
|Shinya Aizawa||Game Designer, Planner|
|Shunsuke Kadowaki||Game Designer, Main Planner|
|Seiichi Sato||Programmer, Main Server Engineer|
|Katsue Yamamoto||Designer, Art Director|
|Motoi Ishii||Designer, UI Designer|
|Yuki Okazaki||Programmer, Client Engineer|
■Komachi: Today, I’d like to ask about NARUTO X BORUTO NINJA VOLTAGE (Hereinafter referred to as NINJA VOLTAGE). NINJA VOLTAGE has been developed by BANDAI NAMCO Studios and delivered by BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment.
At first, I’m going to ask Mr. Shirasaki of BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment about what kind of game NINJA VOLTAGE is.
You build a fortress to keep out enemies, attack enemy fortresses and fight over ryo that is an asset in the game and chakra, to enhance your ninja cards and characters, shinobi. Win a fortress full of traps by quick and dynamic action battles using a variety of ninjutsu and ultimate jutsu. You can also join a surprise attack mission, a so-called raid battle, against a giant boss as a member of a team of four people selected online.
We have provided this game worldwide at the same time. Four language versions of Japanese, traditional Chinese, Korean, and English are available, and it’s delivered to more than 50 countries in North America, Europe, and Asia. So far, we had developed our games for the domestic market first, then popularized them to overseas ones. But this time, we have developed NINJA VOLTAGE for both markets at the same time.
●Yamamoto: This multiplayer 3D action battle game is a full-scale one, but we wanted many people in the world to play. So, we made detailed adjustments so that those who don’t have the latest mobile devices can also play.
Thankfully, so many people around the world are having fun playing this game.
■Komachi: Yes, indeed. And, in NINJA VOLTAGE, actions are so elaborated, aren’t they?
●Aizawa: Yes. Action is an important element in this game, which is rare for this category.
●Kadowaki: We paid attention to make it exhilarating. So, movements are so quick and I think players can enjoy the unique feeling of NARUTO.
■Komachi: I was caught up in those speedy ninjutsu actions. Many other challenging missions are also available, say, enhancing shinobi’s equipment, ninjutsu, fortress, and so on.
●Aizawa: Yeah. Battles become more interesting if you enhance your equipment and ninjutsu. I think it’s so fun to think about how you make your shinobi stronger or what kind of trap you should use to repel other players who have attacked your fortress. To achieve those things, I’m sure you will want to develop your village. While protecting your fortress, you attack other players’ fortresses and grab their ryo and chakra away to make your shinobi and fortress stronger. A strategy is key in this game. Also, by playing a story mission which is based on the original story or a special mission which is positioned as an event, shinobi can awake his or her power, in other words, enhance abilities.
Let’s play a full-scale multiplayer action game on your smartphone!
●Aizawa: We’ve been creating its “play-feeling”, in terms of an action game, while playing it together and exchanging opinions with each other. The processing ability is limited because its platforms are mobile devices. So we pursued how we can perform a sense of exhilaration as much as possible.
●Ishii: With a console game’s controller, a player can feel the sense of pushing because there’s a button. But you can’t get that feeling on a mobile device such as a smartphone because it’s a touch panel. Moreover, there are many sizes and models of devices, so operational feelings can be different depending on the parts layout on each interface. Although offering common experiences for all models is difficult, we considered a variety of patterns so that players can enjoy the game comfortably. Where should we lay out buttons? What kind of response is appropriate when each button is touched? We tested such things using actual devices.
●Okazaki: To express characters’ dynamic actions on mobile devices keeping picture quality, a visual designer must have done all kinds of things, I guess.
●Yamamoto: Yes. Most of the things we can easily add to game consoles cannot be introduced to mobile devices. To improve picture quality with those restrictions, we had to avoid any waste. So, I asked engineers about the details of data processing such as a processing range and an order of drawing and tested again and again during development.
●Okazaki: We checked how many polygons we can use for each character, remember?
●Yamamoto: Yes. In NINJA VOLTAGE, many characters are displayed at the same time because there are many enemy characters other than the player’s character. As compared to other mobile games, the number of polygons for each character is only about a half. As for the background, the pretty wide area needs to be loaded at a time. I think the number of polygons for that is 5 times as many as other games. Then, the game will suffer from slowdown if we do nothing. So, we tried a lot to make it better.
At first, we had set specifications per map but a load was too heavy because a whole map was processed. Eventually, we decided to divide a map into each display area and set specifications on each of them.
■Komachi: In NINJA VOLTAGE, effects for fortress traps and gimmicks are very flashy. Besides, in the multiplayer mode, each of the four team-members performs a big trick at their own timing on the same map. So, I think you needed to simulate a variety of situations.
●Yamamoto: Right. Engineers and I had checked the maximum capacity of processing at the beginning, then started to allocate them to each asset*. We had figured out the right data amount for each element like character, background, or effect, and created an asset adjusting to each amount. Effects is the element that is one of the most deeply connected to the exhilaration of action game’s play-feeling, and, ninjutsu is a big appeal and a part of a character’s personality in this game. Although it’s not as easy as animations or console games, we were dedicated to making this game attractive as much as possible with limited data capacity.
Various materials necessary for composing a game such as model data for character/background/effect, motion data, and audio data
●Yamamoto: When we were making effect allocating less data, there was a request “It should be a bit showier.” So we had to start over using more data.
■Komachi: But still, you are aiming for the most comfortable way of playing for customers.
●Yamamoto: Exactly. Since engineers worked very hard to reduce a load, I believe players are enjoying the game without being troubled by slowdowns.
■Komachi: Could you tell us what kind of things you tried as an engineer?
●Okazaki: If models and effects need to be loaded each time, it’s too heavy. So I always made and cached them in memory beforehand when it was possible. To use more data for polygons, reducing program processing load is the only way. So I made efforts like asking other engineers to optimize a route search program and taking data from other parts to use it for pictures, and so on.
Making a game that brings the world together
■Komachi: Players can play this game as a member of a team of four. As soon as a player selects the mode, other members are quickly selected. How did you do that?
●Sato: The server of NINJA VOLTAGE exists only one in the world. There are four kinds of apps depending on OS and language, but they are all connected to the same, one server. That enables that Japanese and Brazilian players, for instance, to play the game together. You can play with someone anytime because players are all around the world in all time zones.
●Okazaki: To consolidate all access to a single server, you must have been required lots of effort. For example, traffic can be so heavy if it’s not decentralized.
●Sato: Uh-huh, so I have checked and improved everywhere likely to be a bottleneck.
●Aizawa: How do you manage the time lag in case of a play between Japan and Brazil?
●Sato: Just like Mr. Okazaki said he makes and caches picture data in advance as much as possible, it is configured that necessary information for selecting team members is also cached beforehand. By doing so, a processing load when the team is made becomes lighter.
■Komachi: Team members’ names and text messages are so diverse. Sometimes I wonder what this language is. I can realize people from various countries are playing this game at the same time!
●Kadowaki: There are more players overseas because it’s being played in many countries. Especially, I have an impression that Hong Kong’s players enjoy the game aggressively.
■Komachi: From Japan, there is only a little time difference between Hong Kong but a 12-hour difference between Brazil. Did you have any difficulties having an event because of a big difference in time?
●Aizawa: Yeah, it’s difficult to set somewhere as a standard. So we usually have an event based on Japanese time. For example, an event can start at six a.m. in Brazil.
■Komachi: When you announce an event and explain its rules, you need to prepare them at least in four languages, right? Did you have any difficulties with that?
●Ishii: For an event announcement alone, so many banners are necessary! In the case of an update, I had to make 200 or more banners in four languages before its release day. It was tough!
■Komachi: Even for expressing the same meaning, the necessary numbers of characters are totally different between alphabets and traditional Chinese, right? Moreover, isn’t it difficult to know which word or part you should emphasize?
■Ishii: It is. There is a word order or a place to start a new line that native speakers of each language feel right. It’s a subtle difference so I always ask someone who understands the language which is the most suitable one. And I think we need to improve quality checking. It’s really difficult to understand how people in different cultures feel because Japan is an island nation. For example, we have an impression for each color like “Red is attacking” or “Green is recovering,” right?
But it varies from culture to culture. I heard people in Europe have impressions of “poison” and “creepy” for green color besides “nature” and “healing.” But when we Japanese hear “poison,” purple comes up to mind.
Conveying our intention or idea correctly in those kinds of differences is our task.
■Komachi: In the aspect of a way to enjoy games, did you find any culture gaps or preference differences depending on countries or regions?
■Aizawa: In some points, a way of enjoying games is totally different between overseas countries and Japan. Popular characters are also different, and some parts of the play are welcomed in Japan but not at all overseas.
■Kadowaki: Overseas players are not familiar with the system intensifying cards while Japanese players get into play smoothly because it’s a very common system in Japan. Now the game is in the operation phase and I began to understand the tendency of overseas players. It’s time to think about what we can do to make them get used to the system.
NINJA VOLTAGE will keep on evolving!
■Komachi: For the evolving NINJA VOLTAGE, what kinds of things would you like to try from now on?
■Aizawa: Well, this game will never be completed because this is LiveOps. So we’d like to add many more new elements. And at this point, you need to spare a certain amount of time when you play this game because of its characteristics as an action game but we think it would be nice if we can offer casual, light play, too.
■Kadowaki: I think some parts need to be changed more accessible because they are pretty difficult now. For example, the difficulty levels of attack missions are basically set high. I want to lower the bar for them so that players can try more easily.
■Okazaki: I would like to make new fortress equipment which surprises a player who gets bored of existing ones. I also want to add interesting elements to being faithful to the original comics. And if players think “I want that character’s ultimate jutsu!” as a consequence, I would be so happy.
■Ishii: I’d like to work on an improvement of UI. When UI is changed, people often feel it awkward because they had been used to former operations. So I’d like to improve UI in a way that players think “It became rather easier to use by this change.”
■Yamamoto: Since characters are attractive IP, I want to show their colors thoroughly.
I want to increase the chances to expose characters by adding various expressions and effects. It’s not easy at all because there are severe restrictions such as data amount but I’ll do my best so that players can enjoy the world of NINJA VOLTAGE and the characters in it.
■Sato: Of course a load is unavoidably heavy at some points but still, I’ll try to reduce it as much as possible. The less number and amount of communication, the better. So I will keep improving it.
■Aizawa: Social network games are constantly evolving. Stay tuned for NINJA VOLTAGE!
■Komachi: Yes! We can enjoy changes along the course of evolution. I’m looking forward to the further evolution of NINJA VOLTAGE!
It was nice talking to you today. Thank you very much.
NARUTO X BORUTO NINJA VOLTAGE
Characters in “Boruto: Naruto Next Generations” and “Naruto Shippuden” finally show up in “NARUTO X BORUTO NINJA VOLTAGE”!
Build your own fortress and attack an enemy’s fortress!
Experience new Ninja battles which have both sides of actions and strategies.
Break your enemy’s perfect fortress dynamically.
The creative action battle of Ninja and Fortress is now ready.
Official web site
Distributer: BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment
©Masashi Kishimoto, SCOTT / SHUEISHA Inc., TV TOKYO Corporation, Pierrot Co., Ltd., ©BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Inc.