Yuji Naka sues Square Enix over Balan Wonderworld
A 'true disgrace,' says Naka
By every regard, Balan Wonderworld was a disappointment. Helmed by Yuji Naka, the creator of Sonic, the title was both a critical and commercial failure. Furthermore, the game was chock-full of bugs, glitches, and issues. The game seemed to release in a noticeably unfinished state, which led Naka to sue the game’s publisher, Square Enix.
Naka took to Twitter to vent about the situation, stating that he was removed as the game’s director 6 months before launch. Naka says that developer Arzest submitted a ‘final’ build of the game that wasn’t final at all, and was riddled with known bugs. Naka also claimed that one of the game’s songs was going to be reworked for promotional purposes, rather than using the track straight from the game.
Naka says that game creators should be able to improve their games until the very end, and when his requests to address issues were ignored, he decided to sue Square Enix. Naka believes if he were kept on as head of the project, it would have never released in an unfinished state. Naka said seeing Balan Wonderworld release in this unfinished state was a ‘true disgrace.’
Videogames Chronicle has translated Naka’s full comments on the matter, which you can read below.
About six months before Balan Wonderworld launched, a business direct was made to remove me as Director of Balan Wonderworld, so I filed a lawsuit against Square Enix. I would like to share additional information now that the trial has concluded.
I believe that if they don’t care about games nor their fans, Square Enix is a bad company. According to official documents, the cause of my removal as Director of Balan Wonderworld is due to two main points. This decision was ultimately carried out by the Producer, Promotional Partner, Sound Director, Project Director, and Human Resources.
One point was when a YouTuber was to perform and publish the score of in-game music for promotional purposes, we got in trouble because we believed it was odd that a ghostwriter would write an arranged song for a brand new game, so we asserted that the original song should be used rather than an arrangement.
Furthermore, the business relationship with Arzest fell apart due to my comments about Arzest submitting the final build without fixing bugs even though there were problems during development, and I was pushing for further polish. After this, Oshima spoke to the Producer, Fujimoto, about this.
The second point is that Oshima wrote in an email to Fujimoto saying, “I gathered the development staff and informed them about pushing back the trial phase of development. [Oshima said] ‘This decision was made by Producer Fujimoto. Let’s do our best for Mr. Fujimoto.’ The staff applauded and cheered. This was wholly unexpected, and we were very touched. The staff, who had recently been rather dejected, were at an instant revitalized. Thank you very much. The entire staff will do our best.’
I don’t have anything to do with the development timeline because that is created by the Producer, not me (the Director). Such tight deadlines are decided by the Producer. Something didn’t seem quite right.
I don’t believe it’s a good idea to release an entirely original game, only to utilize arrangements. I believe that original music is what people are drawn to, and makes them crave more. I believe that a good game is made by working hard until the very end, and only then hoping fans will enjoy it. I think it’s strange to remove the Director who comments on the development without having been consulted to his opinions, and then not allowing him to be involved in any capacity due to time constraints.
I was banned from sharing and liking posts on social media sites, and so I do not believe that Square Enix is taking good care of their fans. There were so many kind comments and wonderful fanart for Balan Wonderworld, and I am sincerely sorry that I could not support you. I am also truly sorry to the fans who bought and supported Balan Wonderworld. Moving forward, I can finally respond to you if you mention or tag me on social media.
I think it is completely fair to ask for game improvements, since we were the team making the game, and if we couldn’t do that, we should have at least been able to discuss it, but it seems that we couldn’t even do that. I genuinely don’t believe they [Square Enix] care to support the game.
For example, in Sonic the Hedgehog, two weeks before going gold, we changed the mechanics where if you had even a single ring, you would not die. Even up to the very end, we were still trying to improve the game, and I hope that everyone is still enjoying those games today.
Game creators are supposed to improve their games until the very end, and I believe that it is wrong to prevent them from carrying out this goal. I asked my lawyer to negotiate with our business partners to at least allow me to address issues on Balan Wonderworld’s development until the very end, but they ignored my requests, so I ultimately decided to file a lawsuit in court.
It is because of this that Balan Wonderworld received all the criticisms and comments you all know well. It is quite unfortunate that a project I had spearheaded from the beginning would turn out this way.
Personally, I believe that it is a true disgrace that Balan Wonderworld was released in the state that it was in. I wanted to show the world an action game in its proper light. Therefore, I believe that Square Enix and Arzest are companies that care about neither games nor their fans.
I think SquareEnix is full of talented folks but the people who manage it aren't so great.
I thought the art direction looked interesting so I was looking forward to it but then the demo released, ugh.
It makes a person wonder who is truly to blame for the end product. I suppose if you believe Naka, he could have pushed for the necessary bug fixes to make it a better game in the last six months. And a lot of the biggest game improvements DO happen in the last six months.
But it's possible Naka was just helming the project terribly and Square Enix realized this and pulled him off the project so that somebody more competent could fix it as much as possible.
I didn't play the game, so I can't tell either way. But it doesn't look like a well-designed game. There are some very basic things wrong with it.
Yuji Naka is not a good game developer. This entire lawsuit smacks of someone desperately trying to repair his legacy. The problem is that Balan Wonderworld is on par with his other attempts to create.
Another thought on this. Do we all remember the early Splatoon prototype footage with blocks of “tofu” shooting paint around? Nintendo gets it. You have an idea, you prototype it out to see if the gameplay is FUN… to see if your gameplay loop is actually appealing.
Nintendo even admitted that the first few Splatoon prototypes were not fun. They have been known to quietly cancel unannounced games early in production for this very reason. Luckily with Splatoon, they eventually nailed it. Only THEN do you flesh it out with assets, character art, level designs, music, and so on.
People like Naka think that some fanciful story will make a great game. The actual gameplay seems to be an afterthought. We’re all supposed to just come for the dreamscape. Prototype your games first. Cancel early if you can’t figure out a way to make it fun.
...you do realise that he's behind Sonic, Phantasy Star and Nights right? Sure...maybe Rodea didn't work out but it wasn't as bad as Balan.
And let's be real Squenix tends to be a hit and miss right now.
I dont believe him, the game is trash and its HIS fault, besided i learned yesterday that naka is a really troublemaker. Like kojima blaming konami when he wasted tons of money. So i dont believe naka one bit