Sega AM3 Interview: Mie Kumagai

Our recent chat with the lovely Ms Kumagai, looking at the stellar game that is Virtua Tennis 3 on PS3 and 360.

By Adam Doree

We recently had the chance for a brief chat with respected Sega AM3 studio head, Mie Kumagai, about the release of the sensational tennis game that is Virtua Tennis 3. Having produced the series since the original, she knows a thing or two about the fun formula that's made it so popular.

Ms Kumagai joined Sega back in 1993, and when the previous boss of the Hitmaker development studio Hisao Oguchi was promoted to president of the whole company, Kumagai became the new studio head and the first ever female president within Sega's development structure.

Over the years we've met, quite literally, every other big development name at Sega you could think of - but this was the first time we've had the chance to interview Mie, so it's a pity it was brief. A pleasure to speak with, and without the rock-star front you might associate with some Sega personalities, she's friendly, classy and polite.

Kumagai led the work on the original Lindbergh arcade masterpiece of Virtua Tennis 3 (Power Smash 3 in Japan), and oversaw its conversion to PlayStation 3 internally while keeping an eye on the Xbox 360 translation handled in the UK by Sumo Digital, the guys behind the acclaimed OutRun2 Xbox conversion. Before we give you our final thoughts on both versions in out full review, here's our recent interview.

Kikizo: Kumagai-san, thanks very much for your time. A lot of developers have commented that 1080p is an unrealistic goal for next-gen titles, so please explain how you approached this standard for your game?

Mie Kumagai: Well, we were all sure that we wanted to make 1080p a reality in this game, from the beginning. It was our ultimate goal. In the beginning, since we couldn't understand the structure of the PS3 so well, we weren't sure if it was going to be achievable or not. But as we came to understand the structure, we soon realised that it was going to be possible, and be a reality. So we were very happy about that.

Mie Kumagai, President, Sega AM3

Kikizo: What sort of online structure have you created as far as tournaments are concerned?

Kumagai: Well, firstly it should be noted, that both the Xbox 360 version and the PS3 version are in 1080p high definition, so all customers with 1080p TV set-ups will benefit from that, although only the 360 version lets you play online. With this online mode, firstly, we can do match-ups between friends. Also, you can play against other unknown users, according to your rank, and probably the ultimate goal is to become number one... among all the users!

Kikizo: How would you describe the challenge of the game compared to previous versions, is it going to be easy for new players who only now getting into console gaming?

Kumagai: The difficulty level is a matter that we were very careful about, because one of the appealing points of Virtua Tennis 3 is simple control, so it's one of the first priorities to make it easy for beginners.

Kikizo: Talking of simple control, what's your view of Tennis in Wii Sports, and do you think that your game is something that could translate well to the Wii experience?

Kumagai: Well, since there are already many titles using control in different ways on Wii, firstly I would like to buy more of them and see how they're good or what the strong and weak points are with different titles including Tennis. I would like to see what we could do. I mean, although I mentioned simple control earlier in Virtua Tennis, behind that, there is a deep strategy, and I want to check if this sort of deep strategy is able to be reproduced with the Wii experience.

Kikizo: It's been said that animation is not yet as sophisticated as modelling and effects in games. Looking at the Lindbergh as well as the new console versions, what are the recent platforms allowing you to do from an animation point of view?

Kumagai: In terms of differences across platforms, there's no big difference between the Lindbergh and console versions, because from the time we were working on the Lindbergh arcade version we already had the plan to develop the console versions in mind. So the animation is the same across the different platforms. Actually we had time to conduct a bit of a review after the release of the arcade version before starting working on consoles, so some slight improvements were done. I believe all the hardware allows for a high level of animation fidelity in a sports game like this one.

Kikizo: How successfully have you been in getting real-world players and brands in this time, is that sort of thing a challenge for Sega?

Kumagai: Well, the stadia are not licensed, but when you see the brands inside you will probably able to tell which stadium is which and of course, the visual quality is very good at any rate. It was not so difficult to get some of the famous players into the game, and in fact, they were very co-operative! To make the facial data of the players in the game we of course have to do some special photo shooting of the real player's face, and for all twenty players we carried that out, so the stars have been great.

Kikizo: Thanks again and we look forward to your next title.

Kumagai: Thank you very much!

We look forward to meeting Kumagai-san again for a more detailed chat on her next projects at Sega.

Click here for Kikizo's interview archive.

Video Coverage
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Virtua Tennis 3
New trailer (sd quality)  
1:33 18MB DF, SD, 16:9
Virtua Tennis 3
E3 trailer (hi quality)
00:32 15MB DF, ED, 16:9
Virtua Tennis 3
Arcade trailer (hi quality)  
0.37m 15MB HD, 60
Virtua Tennis 3
As above, normal quality  
0.37m 7MB HD, 30

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