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Former Namco programmer Yoshihiro Kishimoto (Pac-Land, Baraduke, Family Stadium, Mappy MSX, Toy Pop) talked about his career with Florent Gorges. Here is a quick summary






On July 3rd, 2021, video game historian Florent Gorges talked for almost 2 hours with former Namco programmer (and sometime graphic designer) Yoshihiro Kishimoto / 岸本 好弘 about his childhood, Namco and some of the first games he developed there, namely the MSX version of Mappy, Pac-Land, Baraduke and Family Stadium.
Since the video is 1) full of interesting information 2) in French 3) not yet subtitled, I decided to make a quick summary. Of course, if you speak French, you can watch the video here.

Yoshihiro Kishimoto studied programming at a time when it was still uncommon and in high demand in the job market, which gave him the luxury of being able to choose between different companies.
He applied to Casio, Nintendo (which was not looking for programmers at the time, but rather hardware engineers) and Sega (which was willing to hire him), but chose Namco because the people there seemed more relaxed (Namco employees wore jeans and T-shirts instead of the traditional suit and tie). He joined the company in April 1982.

Pac-Land (Arcade)
Kishimoto believes that, following the success of the Pac-Man TV series in the US, it was Bally Midway who asked Namco to develop a game for the American audience.
The anime was not broadcast in Japan. So videos of the series were sent to the developers for inspiration. Namco developed a powerful hardware to have a visual close to the series and to be able to display elements in the foreground, which is also present in the series (trees that are displayed in front of Pac-Man, etc.).
The game was apparently very successful in Japan.
It was Kishimoto’s idea to allow the player to go back and fly. He programmed these elements without asking the planner first.
It was the planner who decided not to use a joystick, he thought it was easier / more fun to use buttons to vary the speed (Track'n Field may have had an influence on this).
The game took a little over a year to develop, which was pretty long for that time, but there was a break in the middle.

Mappy (MSX)
The development of Pac-Land was stopped for 2 months because the hardware was changed in between. Between version A and version B of Pac-Land, the developers had some free time and Namco had started to develop for MSX. Kishimoto chose to make a port of Mappy, alone, in one month. He presented the project to Namco when it was finished. The game sold very well in Japan (for an MSX game), was number one in MSX games sales for 3 months with about 20,000 copies per month for a total of about 100,000 copies.
The game doesn’t use a real scrolling, Kishimoto redesigned all the parts of the backgrounds by shifting each of them by 4 pixels.

Baraduke (Arcade)
Namco had the reputation of making cute games but Takahashi, the game planner, was tired of making cute games. So the developers tried to make the most disgusting graphics possible. The game was inspired by movies such as Alien and Nausicaa (both for the heroine seen in the ending but also for one of the bosses, inspired by Ohmu). One of the monsters is inspired by Pac-Man (roughly speaking, it was a “bad version of Pac-Man”).
The names Kissy and Takky (for Takahashi and Kishimoto), used for players 1 and 2, were not meant to remain in the game. The developers used them during the development and thought that they should replace them with “1P” and “2P”, as it was customary at Namco. But when Kishimoto’s superior saw the game with the names Takky and Kissy, he didn’t ask to remove them.
The game did well, but not much more.
Takahashi did work on Baraduke 2, Kishimoto didn’t.

Family Stadium (Famicom)
Toy Pop was the first game of its director, who didn’t have much experience and the development of the game didn’t progress very fast. Kishimoto was also working on Toy Pop, but sometimes he didn’t have much to do at his workplace and spent his free time playing Baseball (Famicom), Great Baseball (Mark III) and other baseball games (including one game released on Intellivision) with his boss (Nagashima). He complained about what was missing in these games and his boss then told him that he should develop his own baseball game.
After the development of Toy Pop was finished, Kishimoto went back to Nagashima to make this game. The decision to develop it on Famicom was made naturally because of the popularity of the console.
In addition to the programming part, Kishimoto had designed almost all the graphics and the logo of the game, which was originally called Fine Play. His boss told him to change its name to Family Stadium because Namco had started a line of games called “Family something” (Family Tennis, etc.) for 2 player games.
The first Family Stadium was developed in almost 6 months by the ピッカリ (Pikkari) team, founded on May 10, 1986. The game was directed by Hiro who had worked on Family Tennis before that. The team scouted the Kawasaki stadium because Kishimoto was having trouble animating the batters from behind. He was the one who paid for the tickets for the matches. He was inspired by what he saw to create the players’ statistics.
The Computer Vs Computer mode amused the developers and allowed them to spot bugs. One of them suggested that this mode be kept in the final version.
During the development of the game, more and more Namco members came to play it. An internal tournament was organized but the shouting of the players bothered the developers around them. The management then forbade to play Family Stadium in their workplace.
The game was first released as an arcade game on Nintendo’s VS System before being released on Famicom a week later. This was probably a request from Nintendo.
A bug related to the VS System hardware caused the game to stop during the game. As it was impossible to correct this issue on all the systems, Nintendo asked Namco to add a message that appears when the bug occurs. The message in question said that “the game was interrupted due to rain”.
The Famicom version quickly sold out, with an initial run of 300,000 units (which wasn’t huge). It is said to have sold nearly 1.1 million in total.
Kishimoto received a diploma from Namco’s president Masaya Nakamura (who wrote it in his own handwriting), to thank him for his contribution to the prosperity of the company, as well as an envelope of 1 million yen in cash. It seems that Kishimoto was the first employee of Namco to receive such a diploma. His boss Nagashima as well as his colleagues didn’t receive one so he shared his envelope with them.



Tengen released the game in the US under the name of Atari RBI Baseball. Kishimoto worked on this US version. To change the names of the players, a planner from Atari came.



Kishimoto then worked on all the episodes of the series from the Famicom to the Nintendo 64.


Kishimoto didn’t talk too much about his job when he was working on arcade games, as arcades didn’t have a very good reputation. He started talking about it during the Famicom era, which had a better image.
Namco’s developers were not allowed to put their real name and were not kept informed about the success of the games in general.
About the games that the developers themselves couldn’t see the ending, there was the case of Xevious where players could play endlessly (the game loops all the time) and the fact that, according to Kishimoto, the players at that time were very good. So, the developers at Namco thought that the players would manage to finish the games even if they couldn’t.

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