Okami is best known for its distinct visual style, inspired by Japanese watercolor paintings. However, in its earliest stages, it looked completely different. Impressed by the visuals in the Resident Evil remake, director Hideki Kamiya wanted to create a photorealistic game showing off the beauty of Japan. It also took quite a while for the development team to decide on Okami‘s core gameplay, and early builds were focused on farming sim elements.
Okami as a photorealistic farming sim
In the latest episode of Kamiya Chronicles, Hideki provided insight into Okami‘s development process. Early in development, he realized that PlayStation 2 couldn’t handle large fields and forests in a photorealistic style, so it was back to the drawing board. One of the game designers used a brush style to draw Amaterasu’s design, and Kamiya decided to employ this style for the whole game. With the iconic look achieved, he turned next to gameplay. At the time, they were mostly working with farming sim elements.
At the time, I was experimenting with a simulation type of game. Something where you could sow seeds to make a field, plow the field, and harvest crops, then use the crops to expand the field. You could add more fields, dig rivers, things like that. Not a full-fledged agriculture simulation, but I tested it out, and not only was it not fun at all, but more importantly, nothing made with it could depict the vision of Japan in my heart. It was just a bunch of game tiles lined up.
The team had already decided on Amaterasu in wolf form as the protagonist, but they were struggling to come up with a core gameplay mechanic. At Kamiya’s request, a team of eight brainstormed through the weekend. Eventually, Kamiya proposed that Amaterasu would use the Celestial Brush to interact with the world, and the idea was well-received. The rest is history! Okami is a vastly different game than the photorealistic farming sim that was first imagined, but it’s much better for it.