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Developing a Pixel Art Game Inspired by the Lonely Side of Tokyo

Yuki Ikeda, the Producer and Director behind Tokyo Stories, shed some light on the development process behind the game, discussed the software the team is using, and shared some advice on getting noticed on social media.


I'm Yuki Ikeda, the Producer/Director behind Tokyo Stories. I had been developing smartphone titles at Drecom. Before that, as a Director, I released Rain on PS3 through SIE. It's been a while since I released a non-microtransaction title.

About two years ago, I was considering a number of plans for a fresh IP; one of those was Tokyo Stories. At that time, it remained pending as the plan wasn't a fit for the smartphone market, which plans were favored for. However, it began moving again as we thought we would challenge the non-transactional type of games found on Steam and such.

Although we thought we would like to create a pixel art game, we thought we wouldn't be able to make one that wasn't high fantasy or cyberpunk, so we considered making a game that was pixel art in an ambiguous way. The inspiration came from thinking of a plan to make pixel art in a way that resembled cutouts of everyday backgrounds.

The Art Style

Rather than a top-down or side-scrolling style, I thought I'd like to create a sort of game where players could walk around in a world expressed through pixel art with dynamic camera work.

Although we are using Unity as the game engine, we performed our first visual tests using Blender. We implemented verifications like a moderate amount of low-poly models, screen resolution control, dropping the number of colors in the textures, adding a rich feeling by adding lighting and post-effects, and so on. Afterward, we have taken a process of replicating that in Unity.

Before this, we had been using Maya as our main tool, but from this work, we are moving completely over to Blender. Since this software has a lively, active community, we were able to test out new things, and it has been exceptionally fun.

Story and Atmosphere

I thought that I would like to take the feeling of wanting to meet with someone special and turn it into a story. I think it would be nice if I could turn it into a story where the loneliness that everyone feels could be a little bit buried. It's been nothing but things I still can't talk about, but I think it will become an exceptionally realistic and exceptionally spiritual story.

Although the real town of Tokyo is a brilliant and very happy city, in this work, I am playing with the thought of illustrating the other side of Tokyo, the loneliness that it hides. The map isn't being made of large streets, but primarily out of back roads with a slightly dirty feeling.

We are using a game system with a fixed camera, which in this era is a fairly classical game system, this is because we thought that with the intended plan of wanting to walk in the middle of pixel art with dynamic camera work, it would be able to give an experience like continuing along in the middle of beautiful scenery as if the city were a collection of cut out photographs.

However, since games with fixed cameras become difficult to play if they are not strictly coordinated, we are doing our best to coordinate them. As one can tell by looking at the color scheme, we have been taking the blue to an extreme; at the same time, we are making a conscious effort to depict the parts with darkness as relatively bright.

The reason is that if you depict darkness in black, it gives off a horror-like impression; the concept isn’t to walk around town alone and lonely but to give the impression of continuing forward while feeling uneasy and afraid. Since we are thinking that we would like to present the unsettled backgrounds of this work with a bit of fantasy, we are coordinating it to give off a lonely yet beautiful impression. 


As for the pixel art processing that is becoming its distinguishing feature, rather than simply degrading the image quality, we are putting it together with things like tone processing and limiting the number of colors in the textures.

As the lighting in the stages is exceptionally important, with the base parts’ stage lighting and ambient occlusion that are baked into the light map ahead of time, we are trying to create the feelings of 3D and depth. We are taking an approach where, as we are making the burnt in light map’s light placement and darkness fairly bright, the bright parts become even brighter.

Streetlamps and other lights where we want shadows to be cast in real-time aren’t calculated in advance, but rather, a real-time spotlight is in place. Spotlights give a voluminous cone effect when they are given simultaneous deployment, and in some places, we are having the lights animated.

While I’m also aiming for fairly blue post-effects, the building materials on the other hand have a slight touch of red, so that in the end, it doesn’t just become simply blue.

The Roadmap

The release date is still undetermined, the console information is also not at a stage to be made public yet, so I am sorry, but please wait just a little longer. Since it has been made public, we have been receiving responses beyond our expectations, and there are parts where we are feeling the pressure not to release something that is an incomplete effort, but the game development itself is proceeding in an exceptionally fun way.

We will be delivering a game in which people around the world can have a taste of the Tokyo atmosphere, so please keep an eye out until its release!

Getting Noticed on Social Media

As for getting noticed on social media, we think that there’s no clear-cut technique, but we are making an effort to post on a fixed schedule and communicate. We try to make different kinds of posts rather than just game info, such as posts focusing on the characters and content introducing Tokyo which will be the setting. We are basically posting videos so that they will draw eyes from amidst a feed.

I think as a personal development, it’s a part I can’t quite get my hands on, but as it is extremely important to have people know about it, I think it is best to put power into SNS.

Yuki Ikeda, Producer/Director

Interview conducted by Arti Burton

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