Attendees of this year's Captivate event in Rome probably had a pretty good idea of exactly who and what would would be in attendance at Capcom's annual showcase. Yoshinori Ono wasn't among them. Just a few weeks after the Street Fighter IV producer was transported to hospital with a sudden, unexplained illness, Ono-san sat down for an interview with Eurogamer.
Spanning decades and revealing a darker side to the work-life of those in the employ of the Japanese publisher, Ono's story might give some insight as to why so many of Capcom's high profile developers have left the company in recent years.
With the creators of Mega Man and Resident Evil now long gone, Yoshinori Ono has become the public face of Capcom. Charged with the responsibility of managing both the creative direction and marking of the publisher's fighting brands, Ono has had his hands full since the resurgent genre sprang to life.
After wrapping up a lengthy promotional tour for Street Fighter X Tekken, Ono returned to his Osaka home for a well-deserved night's rest. Planning to get a few hours of shut eye before work in the morning, he made it as far as the bathroom, only to unexpectedly lose consciousness and collapse. After being rushed to the hospital, medical testing revealed the fatigued Ono possessed a blood acidity level "on par with someone who had just finished running a marathon."
Nobody told me to take a rest. When I returned to work, Capcom didn't even acknowledge that I had been in hospital. There was no change in my schedule. I was at home for an entire week before the doctors allowed me to return to work. When I returned to my desk there was a ticket to Rome waiting for me. There's no mercy. Everyone in the company says: 'Ono-san we've been so worried about you.' Then they hand me a timetable and it's completely filled with things to do.
Things weren't much different when Ono joined the company in 1993. As a newly-hired sound programmer, Ono found himself with the grueling task of hand-writing music in binary. "Even back then Capcom was very good at squeezing people to the last drop of their blood to get work done," he explained, recalling a two year period where he lived out of the office, only managing to sleep in short bursts and rarely making it home.
Despite the long, exhausting hours it's the fans that help Ono get out of bed in the morning. He explains that it's the community that "fuels [his] passion." Specifically likening Street Fighter to a game of cards, the producer notes that the fighter is a system of rules through which people connect and express themselves. Previously limited to groups of friends huddled around a console or acquaintances in the arcade, Street Fighter IV took that community global -- something that almost didn't happen.
In the interview, Ono reveals that Capcom looked at the game that rejuvenated the genre as "an unwanted child" and waste of resources that likely never would have came to fruition without the support of the fans. But Ono isn't going to stop there. He still wants to "support the next generation of fighting game," by expanding the community and bringing it closer together.
The full article is an incredibly captivating read and truly behind-the-scenes look at an industry that's all too secretive about the conditions its workers endure to bring us the games we love. I strongly encourage you give it a look.
The Rise and Collapse of Yoshinori Ono [Eurogamer]