Gamers often aren’t aware of the struggles and hardships developers go through to release their games especially when development faces issues. While ultimately successful, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is one of those games, as explained today by Producer Kazutoki Kono via a heartfelt chain of tweets.
Kono-san mentions that Ace Combat 7 is the return to the numbered series after twelve years. After devising the project, he had to sit on it for two years because there was a large emphasis on free to play as the top priority within Bandai Namco.
Fortunately, Ace Combat Infinity was supported by the fans for four and a half years, but Kono-san and the team were convinced that with a new hardware Ace Combat 7 could be made a reality. Unfortunately, the project was started once and then suspended without seeing the light.
While the fans had been waiting for a long time for a new numbered Ace Combat, the team could not deliver that. This was very difficult and painful for Kono-san, but he didn’t want to just quit.
When the game was finally announced at PlayStation Experience in 2015, the cheers of the fans were echoing in Kono-san’s ears. He had to start over. At times the continuous appearances at PlayStation Experience even were laughed at. “Will it really fly?” It was made into a joke.
In the meantime, the possibility of VR came up, but it was a disappointment at first. Some days were just painful. Neither Kono-san or the team could see the goal. That’s why he decided to “reset” things, although it troubled the fans, the company, and all the people involved.
“I lowered my head many times, created a huge amount of materials, convinced, asked, explained, presented, always running around and talking to people simply to move forward. It was crazy.”
Then around Christmas 2017, things started to be rearranged. Ace Combat 7 had become a large scale project and even outsourced help was involved. Things gradually began to move little by little.
A source of encouragement was that Kono-san’s former colleague started coming back to the team. The two producers everyone was familiar with finally joined together.
Until then, he had felt he was the only crazy person in the world. Since it could have been the last chance, he could only think of moving forward.
At some point, there were also direct requests to Kono-san’s boss to remove him from development. Yet, his boss defended him.
From then on, the painful days began anew. Quality wasn’t improving. It was boring. He wasn’t sure that there was even a meaning to moving forward, and he felt that whether he released the game as it was or added more details it wouldn’t matter and things wouldn’t change. He was seriously conflicted.
Since ultimately game development is a business, time and money are limited. At one time, Kono-san was called by the boss who protected him. He asked what was the future of the Ace Combat brand between quitting and disbanding, or continuing anyway.
Kono-san and Shimomoto-san (Manabu Shimomoto, the other Producer on the game) promptly responded that they wanted to continue. The call and question were sudden, with no prior notification. Only two people were beginning to see the goal.
His boss said, “Ok, let’s continue.” Even if the game had hit rock bottom, he believed in Kono-san and his team. Yet, at that point, all they had was the trust of their boss. From there on, once again, they had to feel a painful taste.
That decision to continue had to be approved by the company. Kono-san made a very brief document, but he made sure that every word counted, on top of a short video filled with the charm of Ace Combat. He confronted the company with just those two things, and it worked.
Kono-san concluded by mentioning that he wanted to write the story until the release of the game. Yet, it was impossible to continue for tonight. As he finally went to sleep at nearly 2:00 AM local time, he thanked everyone who was reading, as he wanted to reminisce while his memories were still clear.
The rest is history: Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown launched to positive reviews and a warm welcome from the fans. It nearly sold out in its debut week in Japan while solidly topping the Media Create charts. It also went on to sell 500,000 copies in its launch month in Asia.
This was achieved thanks to developers who didn’t give up through years of adversity in order to deliver to the fans a glorious return to Strangereal.
As one of those fans, thank you, Kono-san.