Panzer Dragoon Orta director recalls how the shooter was almost a strategic online game

Panzer Dragoon Orta director recalls how the shooter was almost a strategic online game

“We took these two concepts to Kawagoe-san and pitched it to him, and he came back and said ‘hey, this is for Xbox. Let’s go with the shooting game.'”

Panzer Dragoon Orta director Akihiko Mukaiyama, reminiscing (as translated by Camouflaj’s Ryan Payton) about how the game wound up being a rail shooter.

There hasn’t been a new game in Sega’s venerable Panzer Dragoon series since 2002, when Sega subsidiary Smilebit first released Panzer Dragoon Orta for the original Xbox. 

Devs curious to catch up on what happened with the series should know that Camouflaj founder Ryan Payton recently caught up with Orta director Akihiko Mukaiyama, and he recorded (while translating) at least part of their conversation.

Most notably, there’s a big chunk of it embedded in the latest episode of the game nostalgia podcast Back In My Play (starting around the 19-minute mark) which covers the production of Orta and the story of how Mukaiyama wound up directing it — his first time in the director’s seat.

“[Takayuki] Kawagoe-san approached me and brought up this Panzer Dragoon project idea, and at first I was thinking I don’t really want to do this, and I eventually declined,” he said, according to Payton. “But then they kept coming back and saying ‘if you don’t do this project, this new game is finished. It’s not going to survive.’ And I just really didn’t want to have that sense of responsibility, so I changed my mind, really looking deep into my heart.”

He goes on to recall that after bringing on a few more former Panzer Dragoon devs (Mukaiyama himself had worked as a planner on the previous game, Panzer Dragoon Saga) there was some freedom to decide what, exactly, a new Panzer Dragoon game could be: the games were traditionally fantasy rail shooters, but Saga had been an RPG, and Mukaiyama recalls that he was at first very excited about the notion of making an online game.

“Because we had a background working on RPGs and online games via our Dreamcast projects, we kind of started to get excited about two concepts in particular: one was doing a simulation game in the Panzer Dragoon universe that would combine strategy elements, and online elements, maybe even have some online battles,” he said. “The second concept being, more of a traditional Panzer Dragoon shooter. Specifically because we were designing this for Xbox, and we think about Xbox associated with shooters, and also associated with powerful hardware.”

He goes on to recall that they took those two concepts to Smilebit president Takayuki Kawagoe, who wound up favoring the idea of making a shooter and thus picking the path of Orta‘s development.

You can hear more of Mukaiyama’s conversation with Payton in the full Back In My Play episode, and there’s a bit more embedded in the latest episode of Camouflaj’s own podcast. 

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