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Sucker Punch discusses Ghost of Tsushima’s approach to cultural authenticity, "One of the joys of the project was being committed to being a learner"

May 9, 2019
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Sucker Punch Productions has explained how international collaboration was key to creating a culturally authentic product when developing Ghost of Tsushima.

The American studio has received much praise for its representation of Japan in the PS4 game, which is set during the Mongol invasion of Tsushima island in 1274.

“From the very beginning, the original pitch, we were aware of the level of responsibility we had to have in this area,” Sucker Punch co-founder and producer Brian Fleming said during a GDC Showcase AMA session on Monday.

“One of the joys of the project was being committed to being a learner, not remotely pretending that we understood it, to recognise that we needed to go learn and that we had to go find a selection of teachers and mentors to really help us on that journey.”

One of the first people Sucker Punch pitched the game to was Shuhei Yoshida, who at the time was president of PlayStation’s Worldwide Studios association.

“We wanted not just his guidance and his assessment but really his blessing that this could be done, that a team from the west could really do this”, Fleming said.

“And with his support, then we began engaging with a wider audience and that almost immediately included the team at Sony, the Japan team, and their participation in the game throughout, from the original pitches to each of the videos that we would show.

“They would reflect back to us the parts of the visuals and the parts of the story and the parts of the characters, the themes of the characters, all the details that they found both worked well and the things that were not working for them.

“We were super appreciative of that feedback and responsive as a result. And so that process was really a healthy part of the ongoing development throughout and certainly without their guidance we would never have achieved what we achieved.”

Fleming said the development team studied numerous reference books as part of its research process and that one text, The Mongol Invasions of Japan 1274 and 1281, was particularly helpful.

“But I think in the end, the critical, critical thing was finding people who knew the culture, knew the history and were able to guide us with their expertise.”

He added: “One of the details I really love is that [Japan] team was so committed to the project that they made sure that every single kanji in the game, that they understood that that kanji actually existed in the 13th century.

“There are often multiple different ways to describe something and they went and found the exact kanji that would have been used back in that time to make sure that we were being authentic even at that level, so it was a tremendous effort and partnership with that team.”


Ghost of Tsushima released in July 2020 and recorded the best launch week sales of any first-party PS4 game in Japan.

In January 2021, the popularity of Ghost of Tsushima led to fans helping raise more than $260,000 to rebuild a shrine on the real island.

And this month the mayor of Tsushima announced that the leads behind the game, director Nate Fox and creative director Jason Connell, would be honoured as permanent tourism ambassadors due to the significant awareness the title had generated for the island.

The mayor has since said he would like to make everyone involved in the game’s development an ambassador for Tsushima.

 
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GreyHorace

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Jun 14, 2019
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The game may not be historically accurate (the katana was made a century after the Mongol Invasions; the armor and dress more in line with the Edo period (1600-1864) rather than the Kamakura period (1185-1333); Bushido (the warrior's code) not being a thing at the time), but at least it got the look and feel of a Japanese samurai epic down right. It's no wonder the Japanese love the game, and Western audiences too.
 

Kumomeme

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Mar 20, 2017
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we need more game like this. we need more game of cultural appreciation like this. not woke stuff. there is other culture, country or region that also worth to explore at. korean, china, india, south east asia, or even middle east for example. look at how disney continue make this kind of cgi movie. Moana for example, and there is latest Raya. we need more these kind of culture celebration game. ofcourse other than copy paste Assasins Creed game.
 
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I've just downloaded this from my ps4 cloud but it seems like such a small file size to carry all my completed game! Please tell me thats got my completeed platinum game on it please God?
 

DeepEnigma

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Dec 3, 2013
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I've just downloaded this from my ps4 cloud but it seems like such a small file size to carry all my completed game! Please tell me thats got my completeed platinum game on it please God?
It should, unless you don't have the proper one uploaded.
 
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Mr Moose

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Sep 10, 2013
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I've just downloaded this from my ps4 cloud but it seems like such a small file size to carry all my completed game! Please tell me thats got my completeed platinum game on it please God?
Mine is 15.73MB 71 hour gameplay platinum.
Only one way to find out, load the save on PS5 and see if there's nothing left to do.
 

Cyberpunkd

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Dec 16, 2020
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we need more game like this. we need more game of cultural appreciation like this. not woke stuff. there is other culture, country or region that also worth to explore at. korean, china, india, south east asia, or even middle east for example. look at how disney continue make this kind of cgi movie. Moana for example, and there is latest Raya. we need more these kind of culture celebration game. ofcourse other than copy paste Assasins Creed game.
As much as I agree they picked one of the most non controversial setting possible playing into male power phantasy. Ubisoft with AC Origins went further than Tsushima.
 

YCoCg

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Apr 25, 2020
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I love how much love this game got from Japan, you can tell it's a love letter to the old samurai movies, etc and people were having a fit about it being done by an American studio.
 
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I hear It's as authentic and historically accurate as the giant enemy crab weak point damage invasion in 1300 B.C. Tokyo North Korea. Lol ok maybe not that bad but it's not as historical as they imply.

But I heard the game is decent but mostly because there aren't many other good games of that type, otherwise I hear it's average. Will try it at some point, though I wish we would get more sensationalized historical games outside Japan, rome, and Medieval Europe. Especially with the cultural diversity push the studio and Sony are waving, but maybe one day.

I'll likely buy this game when I replace my bricked PS4, or if I find a PS5 first, I think the former has a better chance of happening with these production issues.
 

Porcile

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Oct 23, 2012
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Maybe I am just dumb, but whenever I have seen this game I just think it looks Chinese and more like a wuxia film than a samurai film.
 

nowhat

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Sep 18, 2017
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Maybe I am just dumb, but whenever I have seen this game I just think it looks Chinese and more like a wuxia film than a samurai film.
Have you seen any of the duels? They're like 100% Kurosawa. Especially the opening shots are so great, the way Jin unsheathes his katana, by flicking it up just a little with his thumb at first - *chef kiss* just perfect.
 

Porcile

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Oct 23, 2012
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Have you seen any of the duels? They're like 100% Kurosawa. Especially the opening shots are so great, the way Jin unsheathes his katana, by flicking it up just a little with his thumb at first - *chef kiss* just perfect.

Fair enough. I am not extremely familiar with all of Kurosawa's samurai films but slick fight choreography never seemed like a thing he did, so seeing the characters move the way they way do just looks very stylized to me. Maybe that is just the nature of games. However I do think the black and white mode looks very convincing.
 

nowhat

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Sep 18, 2017
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Fair enough. I am not extremely familiar with all of Kurosawa's samurai films but slick fight choreography never seemed like a thing he did, so seeing the characters move the way they way do just looks very stylized to me. Maybe that is just the nature of games. However I do think the black and white mode looks very convincing.
"100%" is maybe also exaggeration from my part - sure, there's added showmanship and spectacle there as well compared to the classic movies. But I don't think it's Chinese looking either, the moves are still authentic (and the "actors" are not tossed around the scene with wires all the time - not that you'd need wires in a virtual setting, but you hopefully get what I mean). More Hollywood maybe. But for an authentic samurai movie experience, apart from the b&w mode, there's that difficulty mode... can't remember what it's called right now, but basically you can one-shot enemies and they can do the same for you. That makes it much more like the classic movies, the fights never went on forever (well, in "Ran" they do, but the excess is kind of the point there).
 
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