Video-game makers use Carbondale to depict 'real' America

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Images of the police department, high school and other places in this city in far Southern Illinois will soon be featured in a Japanese video game.

On Monday, eight designers and artists from the Tokyo-based video-game maker Sega toured the town to help make a planned new game more realistic.

"It's easy to (depict) New York and Los Angeles," where the company sets most of its battles between alien invaders and earthling heroes, Shinobu Shindo, a Sega manager who traveled with the designers, said Monday as the team took pictures.

But when the company decided to set an upcoming game outside of those major cities -- "anywhere between the two coasts," Shindo said -- building the three-dimensional scenes for the games became more of a problem.

Sega needed video and photographs from just such an Anytown to "add (visual) texture" to the game, said Cord Smith, a Du Quoin native who works in Sega's San Francisco office.

When he learned the team needed "a police department, a school, a sewer system, (and) some neighborhoods with big yards," he led it to Carbondale, he said.

Capturing the realism

The result was a nine-day trip to Carbondale for the Tokyo-based team to capture those touches of realism and e-mail them back home for the new game.

On Monday, head designer Shinichi Ogasawara led the team through police headquarters. They recorded close-ups of manila folders crammed onto shelves, the computer console in the emergency dispatcher's room, and the measuring chart that hangs behind suspects in mug shots to display their height.

"That's very American," Shindo said, laughing, as the team took turns posing for their own mug shots -- they'll use them in the game's closing credits.

They'll also use photos of the big yards around houses here, of the interior of the town's old high school, of City Hall and even of the local sewer system in the planned game, which hasn't yet been named.

Carbondale "looks like a lot of places look," said officer Dan Reed, who was escorting the group around the police department Monday. "It'll be (fun) to see it in the game," he said.

The sewer expedition alone made the trip worth it, Shindo said.

"It would have been much more of a hassle to get permits to use the Tokyo sewer," she said.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: