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57-year-old game creator Yuji Naka arrested in Japan

Discussion in 'General Sega Discussion' started by Palas, Nov 18, 2022.

  1. Stranger

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    I find it particularly strange that the more involved fans would overlook his contributions relative to Oshima and Yasuhara, though I've seen enough to acknowledge that it's the case. The reality is that the engine, gameplay, and physics he established would not just be foundational to the success of Sonic but the very metric by which we see 2D entries and sections in the franchise judged by even today with the utmost scrutiny and insistence. This is leaving aside the fact that his pursuits with the programming led to the initial rabbit character being shifted into the character we know today, and interviews indicate that he had roles in the first entry and those after that go beyond these contributions.

    It'd be nice to see him navigate the gaming space through independent measures if the interest strikes his fancy.

    Considering he has Prope and independent publishing options, I don't see that as an overbearingly discouraging issue if he's bothered to push for something purely indie or through his company. He basically has the best fixings for a situation that's as hypothetically dire as you frame. His arrangement with Square seemed like an exception to his prior trajectory. One that seems rather odd, frankly.
     
  2. Chimpo

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    Huh?! Are we really at this point on Retro?
     
  3. Londinium

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    When did we start overlooking Naka?
     
  4. JaxTH

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    Not really Retro, but other places, yeah.

    Naka is arrogant and didn't actually come up with the concept of Sonic as whole, therefore he contributed nothing and is a hack.
     
  5. Chimpo

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    He better mean nerds outside of Retro otherwise I'm turning in my badge and gun one last time.
     
  6. Black Squirrel

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    For what it's worth, if you'd asked me ten years ago what Yuji Naka's contributions to Sonic were, I'd have just said "programmer". Naoto Ohshima did "design" and Hirokazu Yasuhara did "planning". So there were three key members.


    Except that's not quite how it worked. Ohshima was the junior partner, with less experience at Sega and less knowledge of video games as a whole. He came up with ideas and drew some artwork, Naka helped convert these into something entertaining and feasible on the Mega Drive, then implemented it in code. Yasuhara then took these building blocks and stretched it out to make a whole game.

    But Naka was almost certainly supervising the whole project because, being ultimately responsible for fitting this stuff on the cartridge, he'd know exactly what could or couldn't be done within timeframes and technical limitations. He was filling the director role, although Ohshima was probably playing assistant director, having a big say on the "look" of the game, so it's still a joint effort, just weighted more towards Naka.

    With Sonic 2 and CD, you're expanding a world that's already there - the low level design is already done, others can fit into the roles left by Ohshima/Naka, respectively.


    Then there's a whole load of poorly translated noise and fantasy, and combined with the quality of later Sonic Team products, Yuji Naka becomes the scapegoat for everything wrong in the world. I'd argue it was Balan Wonderworld where things turned unpleasant - maybe it's indicitive of prior behaviour at Sega, but we don't have any proof of that - most of the games he was directly involved in were pretty good, and he was usually directing at a senior level, so idk.

    I also don't know what to think of this insider trading thing - maybe it's part of the feud with Square Enix and chums, maybe he was stupid, maybe greed got the better of him, who knows. I'm not even super sure I care - they were saying he "showed no remorse for his actions", but if you don't believe there were "victims", what's there to feel guilty about exactly? "Knowing things"?



    Naoto Ohshima is the creator of Sonic, in the sense that he created the character. Yuji Naka literally created Sonic the Hedgehog, "the game" by typing things on a computer. Both are valid.
     
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  7. I’ll clarify that what I meant was that there was a backlash among fans to the notion that Naka was the “creator” of Sonic that started in the 2000s. This is all just how I perceive the discourse surrounding Naka in relation to the series not a statement of absolute fact.

    Before everyone blamed Iizuka (and now Kishimoto), Naka was the scapegoat for crappy Sonic games. Whether it was his attitude, perception that he took too much credit for the series, or the aforementioned crappy games, it’s like people were looking for a reason why Sonic 1-3 were so great and something like Shadow wasn’t, so they downplayed his contributions.

    I don’t think anyone ever talked shit about his programming, but I think people didn’t want to accept that he likely was the primary driver behind the classics due to his personal faults. So they started hyping up Ōshima and then Yasuhara as the “real” reason the classics were so good.

    This is your final chance, Lt. Chimpo. One more screw up and you’re getting assigned to patrolling the Sonic subreddit. :ruby:
     
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  8. Blue Spikeball

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    I can vouch for this. I remember the noughties when people here were adamant that Ohshima was Sonic's sole creator and Naka was a liar for taking credit, as if they had never heard of a thing called cocreatorship. They also accused him of stealing credit from Ohshima, even though Naka has stated that he and Ohshima were co-creators, and said that Ohshima did most of the creating.

    And yes, they also used to blame him for everything wrong with the franchise. It wasn't until he left Sonic Team that they chilled out about him.
     
  9. Black Squirrel

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    Part of that stems from the fact Naka was in America during Sonic 2/3's development giving dodgy English interviews, while Naoto Ohshima was in Japan, working on the "not always well understood" Sonic CD. Naka was also promoted into management, so was getting equal billing to the likes of Yu Suzuki at AM2. He was the face of Sonic Team, and Sega of Japan were keen to give their divisions faces.

    But this isn't throwing Naoto Ohshima under a bus - they were at different points in their careers.


    Naka can take the fall for Sonic Heroes, but Takashi Iizuka was the man behind Shadow and NiGHTS 2 and Sonic 4.
     
  10. Yeah, I've been lurking here since Heroes and the whole, "We never blamed/dismissed Naka," is just not accurate when describing Retro's discourse as a whole (and before you say, "I never said that," I'm not talking about individuals - obviously not everyone believes the same thing).

    People are more nuanced about it now, but you'd still never see people calling for Naka to return to Sonic the same way you see people calling for Yasuhara or Ōshima. I'm guilty of this myself even though I always held a lot of respect for Naka. I hate to admit it, but the falling out between Naka and Ōshima gave me a little hope that we'd see the two reunite since it was very unlikely we'd see Ōshima without Naka at the time, and extremely unlikely we'd get Yasuhara if Naka was there.

    Anyway, I hope Naka the best.
     
  11. charcoal

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    I'd rather get the death penalty
     
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  12. Palas

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    (We're going off-topic again, but) part of that movement was due to the previous notion, espoused by SEGA itself a little bit by making Naka a manager, that Naka was to Sonic what Miyamoto was to Mario, or a director like a movie director work. The idea that Sonic was irrevocably a collaborative effort, and a commissioned one at that, was weird and hard to assimilate. Even today, the idea that "the game" was Naka's creation because he made a tech demo that sort of played like Sonic, and Yasuhara merely did level design, is present. But we know from interviews and a better understanding of game development as a structure that what "the game" as a whole was made by all three of them, and in fact more people. Still, one had to make room for the others to come up, and no one found a better way than to downplay Naka.
     
  13. Yeah, this is what I meant by it being a backlash. Though even if he wasn't an "auteur" in the sense that Kojima, Suzuki, Ueda, Suda51, etc. are, everyone involved seemed to acknowledge him as the person in charge. I spoke to a bunch of SoA guys like Kalinske and Nilsen while researching my master's, and they made it pretty apparent that they saw Naka as the representative of Sonic even back then, and Jon Burton (Travellers Tales for those unfamiliar) has expressed as much in GameHut videos.
     
  14. Palas

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    He ought to be: as @Black Squirrel mentioned, chief programmers naturally had to act as producers because storage limitations more or less determined processes and resource allocation. So it stands to reason that he should be the first in line and supervise it all, especially the technical aspects. Of course, I don't disagree! He shouldn't get the backlash he did.
     
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  15. Stranger

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    I've actually seen Naka called nothing but a Code Monkey, I've read his programming being regarded as something that any hired hand could have done, and I've seen any and all surrounding context completely handwaved away. You mentioned elsewhere that Naka wasn't necessarily an 'auteur', but I think it's actually quite notable how many pies in the process he had his finger stuck in where Sonic is concerned. The fundamental concept of a game where you're trying to go faster and faster was his own after playing 1-1 of Super Mario Bros, if I remember correctly. His tech demo with smooth curve alignment was the foundation the game was built on, the engine was his own, his qualms with getting the gameplay programmed/feeling good involving the original rabbit design Oshima had apparently resulted in a design change that eventually became the hedgehog we have now, and there's even a magazine interview that implies he did what could be level design for at least Green Hill Zone. The guy's fingerprints are really spanning where the inception of Sonic is concerned regardless of other qualms some may have with him.

    In a sense, the latter part of what you've said in the quoted portion is a succinct summary of what I would agree underlies the dismissal, smears, and attempts to take hearsay as irrefutable while discrediting his contributions as useless.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2023
  16. Overlord

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  17. Chimpo

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    [​IMG]

    It's a such a shame that people are trying to erase his contributions in the outside circles. I've definitely seen it and I've always defended him rightfully deserving credit.

    Edit: Wait, this is the naka thread
     
  18. Azookara

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    The contributions and skills of Naka and how people perceive them are part of a greater problem.

    People have a very hard time accepting that a person they hate or think did bad things could also have been very talented or made things people enjoy. It makes it hard to pinpoint how you feel about everything, with your enjoyment conflicting with the knowledge. And the general public is, as a whole, really bad at picking out the nuances there, because it's easier to sweep someone under the rug and forget about them than it is to accept harder truths.
     
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  19. The KKM

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    Saw someone compare Naka to people like Miyamoto or Miyazaki, who are also infamously hard perfectionists that mistreated those under them in the drive for a perfect end result. It genuinely feels to me they're all in the same rings, but I think in part because of the whole Sega of America vs Sega of Japan culture war angle, Naka's always been downplayed.
     
  20. Snowbound

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    For a long time Ohshima and Yas’ contributions were under valued. Now people are under valuing Naka’s contribution due to his various scandals. My position is that classic sonic (as we know it) would not exist without all 3 of these men. We weren’t there so we can’t speak with certainty about who contributed the most or who is (or isn’t) a good person.