Interview: Let It Die director Hideyuki Shin

Kiwako Seto is a jerk.

Let It Die

Read More: Our two-hour gameplay preview

I played a bunch of Let It Die last week, but I also got a chance to sit down with the game’s director, Hideyuki Shin, who shared a bunch of insight into the game with us, as well as reconfirmed the game’s fabled 2016 release date.

Get the full interview below.

I’ve never heard of this game. Sell it to me.

Shin: “This is our first initiative since Grasshopper Manufacture joined GungHo Online Entertainment where we’re making a game together. As crazy an action game as it is, which is what Grasshopper is known for, it’s also free-to-play. If it’s free-to-play, there isn’t an excuse. If you have a PlayStation 4, download it, and I think you’ll see how much content we’ve put into this game. A lot of times, people will have a negative perception of free-to-play, but no, we’ve put a lot of content into this game. You’ve got nothing to lose. Download it, try it, and you’ll find out that you’ll be able to play it for a long time because we’ve prepared a lot of stuff.”

Why take the free-to-play route this time?

“Free-to-play wasn’t necessarily added to the game during development. Sometimes there are games that are designed, and then it’s like, ‘oh, let’s make it free-to-play.’ Before the direction of the actual game was decided, we decided at the very beginning, from the concept drawings, that it would be free-to-play.”

Obviously with free-to-play comes free-to-play worries. What are you doing to ensure this isn’t a pay-to-win title?

“In regards to the free-to-play aspect, once we decided that we would go with that model, we said that we wouldn’t have any elements that would be pay-to-win. That’s a huge turn-off for a lot of players, especially in the west. Along with that, we decided that the three main points for monetization would be continuing, cutting the time necessary to craft or create weapons and armor in the shop—usually you get your blueprints, you get your materials, and crafting it takes time, one to three minutes, maybe half-an-hour depending on the weapon or armor, and also when you buy anything from the shop from the things you’ve crafted, it takes time to remake, so if you wanted to cut the time, we can monetize. And the third big point for monetization is the VIP Express Pass.

“Buying the Express Pass gives you special little privileges to make the game even smoother and a lot more efficient. It doesn’t give you an extreme advantage because you’re not paying money to get stronger, you’re just making things more efficient. For example, there are two elevators: the janky elevator you pay to ride with Kill Coins—the currency you get for killing enemies—and the Gorgeous Elevator, which can only be accessed when the Express Pass is active. So you can ride that and not have to pay any Kill Coins. The next thing is you’ll be getting skill decals, which are usually obtained at the Mushroom Club, where you put them on and activate passive skills. But with the Express Pass, the decals you can get when placed onto your fighter increase the amount of experience and Kill Coins obtained in battle, so you can level up faster or buy more things and save more money quicker. The biggest bonus is the expansion of your Death Bag. Usually in your Death Bag, you would have your weapons, your creatures and beasts that you’ve captured that are used as health items, as well as your blueprints and materials you find all around the tower on your runs before you get back to your base. So your typical first rank-one fighter will have about 20 slots. The better fighters you get as you progress through the game will have more slots depending on their specialty, but with the expanded bag from the Express Pass will give you more slots to carry more items instead of wondering what you have to throw away or keep. So a lot of our monetization is really just to make the game cycle a lot smoother and more efficient, especially for people who don’t have a lot of time to grind. But nowhere is it thrown into your face where it’s like, ‘oh, you should buy this.'”

There isn’t a limit to how much you can play, right?

“There is no limit. I think you saw some story elements [during your gameplay session]. These will continuously come up as you play the game and advance through the tower while raising your fighters to become stronger and stronger. You’re going to start unraveling the mysteries about what’s going on in the Tower of Barbs, why you start off in your underwear, and so on. Uncle Death will bring you through here and there as the sort-of storytelling guide reaper on a skateboard. But at the same time, the reason you’re strengthening your fighters, because you’ll have more than one, is for them to participate in the PvP elements, where you’re going to raid bases. And your base might be raided, too. So you’ll raise fighters to stand as defense mechanisms in your base and protect your resources. So the whole thing of going to attack other players, maybe being attacked, constantly strengthening yourself and getting better equipment to deck out your fighters, be more efficient in battle, and do better at defending your bases, is going to keep on repeating. Especially when someone comes into your base, and you know someone has attacked you because the Revenge List is generated, you want to get them back. So this cycle is going to keep on repeating. And the further you get into the PvP elements, I think you’ll see there is a lot to do.”

Is there any reason we’re not seeing Let It Die on other consoles?

“One of the reasons is much harder for us to explain because it’s on an executive level in regards to how it was decided between GungHo and Sony. I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept that a lot of developers and publishers are approached by platform holders that want something exclusive made. I’m not sure how the discussion was with this one, but for a game like this, having one platform on the development side, at least, is a lot easier for development. I’m not sure how much you’ve gotten to play with the controls so far, but you’ll notice that the DualShock 4 controller, including the touch pad button, is being fully utilized. Even the speaker itself, through which Uncle Death talks to you. So the entire controller is being utilized to really show what it’s capable of, and to make sure we can show really what we can do with all of the materials and tools given to us for PlayStation 4. That’s of course only on the development side. Maybe there are deeper reasons on the business side, but that’s all we really know right now.”

Let It Die

Outside of other players’ characters showing up in your game in their afterlife as “Haters,” which is something I experienced a few times while playing, what other interactions with players are there? You mentioned PvP so far.

“The very basic level of interaction is when you come across Haters, the other players’ death data. If they died, their reanimated body is now wandering in a bunch of other players’ games. You might come across them and have to beat them, you might have to run away depending on how strong they are, but there is a certain resource you can get from them, SPLithium energy, that you can use to craft weapons and armor, which is important. But if you want a lot more, there are other ways to collect this energy. So the death data from players dying is known as a Hater, but there are also Haters that are hunters. You can send out the fighters that you’ve been raising to invade other players’ games for a certain amount of time and try to collect more resources by killing them. So that’s another way of interacting. And if you’re killed by them, a Revenge List is created, and you can go and try to get back at them. The biggest part is when you get a little bit further into the game, when you get to Tokyo, you can access Tokyo Death Metro, a bigger PvP part where you’re able to join a team and scope out other players’ bases to attack and raid. They may have fighters set up as defense mechanisms, but if you kill all of them, you can pick up the gear they’re carrying, break their banks and tanks to steal their resources, and return home to make it yours. But in the case where that happens to you, you want to make sure you raise a bunch of fighters to stand in your base as a defense mechanism so it’s harder for people to take your stuff. And if someone does, you want to get them back. So there’s this whole continuous cycle.”

Kiwako Seto is a bit of an interesting character. Can you talk about her?

“That’s the first time anyone has asked about Kiwako, actually. Here’s a really funny story. You know how she’s an insurance agent for Direct Hell Insurance? She of course greets you nice and properly, and says, ‘Are you OK? Well you did die, but luckily we have this great offer for you,’ and she seems really cute and is very proper to you, and asks if you want to be brought back to life, but on the inside, she’s really rooting for you to die. Because the more you die, the more money she makes. So she looks really cute and really proper, but she’s really like, ‘DIE! I want you to die! Keep on dying, because I’ll make more money that way!’ So it’s really kind of the side that most people don’t see. You start to think, ‘you know, she probably wants me to die because I’m paying her to come back to life every time I want to come back to life.’ So while it looks like she’s cheering you on, she really just wants you to die. A lot. She thinks it’s cool. The first time she meets you, you know, she’s like, ‘it’s gruesomazing.’ It’s great. She’s an interesting character in that sense, but that’s kind of a funny backstory.

“If you think about it, you saw her sick ride, right? That thing’s not free. Actually, while we call her Kiwako Seto, in Japanese it’s read Seto Kiwako. It’s from a pun of ‘setogiwa,’ which is translated as like ‘brink’ or ‘critical moment,’ like you’re on the brink of death. So she meets you when you’re dead. So it’s like are you going to stay dead or will she bring you back to life? So it’s kind of a play on words from ‘setogiwa’ with ‘ko’ at the end for a girl’s name. So her name is really just based off the pun.”

In Let It Die, ‘Let It Die’ is the hottest game in an arcade. Are you in a game in a game? But then Uncle Death appears outside the in-game ‘Let It Die,’ so that kind of confused me.

“That also ties in Kiwako’s name being based off ‘setogiwa.’ It’s funny because you see when she greets you, she is neither in the game or out of the game, she’s sort of in-between. It’s as if you’re going to stay dead, she’ll bring you back into the game, or you leave the game. But Uncle Death is on both sides, in or out of the game. All of these things, the reasons for them, where they stand, what’s going on, and the like will hopefully be revealed to you once you play through the game and get through a lot of the story elements we have planned.”

Alright, I’ll ask no more about spoilers. What’s at the top of the tower?

“(Laughs.) I can’t say that.”

Darn. Thought I could get you. Moving on, obviously since this is free-to-play, I’m assuming this won’t be something that comes out and is over and done with. What are your plans for updating the game in the future?

“You caught on. Since this is free-to-play, we will have events after launch and other updates, like assets added like weapons and such, and we can’t say too much about the details, but we’re going to make sure we have new content here and there to keep players engaged. And of course, it will be free. No paid expansion packs.”

We always remind our readers that Let It Die is coming in 2016 at the end of each our articles, but it’s become sort of a joke among our users as we’re so late into the year and still are without a release date. Is it still coming this year?

“If you do write an article and state that it will be out in 2016, don’t worry because we’ll make sure that we don’t make you into a liar.”

I feel like this topic is mandatory whenever we talk about Let It Die. Obviously, this game was Lily Bergamo before it became what it is now. I’m not going to ask you what made you change direction, I feel like that’s been discussed before. But having seen the reaction to change of direction, did that bring up any discussion about maybe going back to that concept for a future project?

“I’m the director of Let It Die, but I don’t know too much about Lily Bergamo. I can’t really say if it will come back in the future, but I know there has been a lot talk among users wondering what happened and if it will come back, but there is nothing official pointing anywhere to it actually being created. There are a lot of reasons why it was changed internally, probably a lot of things I wasn’t there for, since I came on the project later, but I’ve heard things here and there. We put a lot of work into Let It Die and believe it’s a lot of fun. Had it been Lily Bergamo, we’re not really sure what would have happened. So I think that at least with our current concept, I know you will not be disappointed, so please don’t worry.”

Well, Let It Die has taken quite some time. It was announced in 2014 and was supposed to come out a lot sooner than 2016. What’s taken it so long?

“If you include the development time that started with Lily Bergamo being the prototype, it’s about three years. But from a lot of the things that happened within development and how things change—you know, from the whole Lily Bergamo to Let It Die concept switch—to some people, two years for a PlayStation 4 game seems a bit long, but on the development side, it actually seems just about right. We’ve asked everyone looking forward to the game to please be patient. We’ve tried our best and I think that you won’t be disappointed in the outcome. I think also some people think that because it’s free-to-play that it will be somewhat cheap or not have a lot of content, or that we’ll just get it out at the bare minimum and add more content, but the attitude we took for this game is that, even though it was free to play, we decided to put enough content and quality to rival or even surpass that of a typical package game. You think of a typical package game you buy at the store, those usually take two-to-four years of development in this day and age, so two years isn’t really that much. Some people just have this negative impression of free-to-play games lacking content and being dry or cheap. But we’ve put in so much!”

Thank you so much for your time, Shin-san!

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