5
Rieko Kodama

Aliases:

"Phoenix Rie", "Phenix Rie"

Companies:

Sega (joined 1984)

Selected Games:

  • Alex Kidd in Miracle World (Character Designer)
  • Phantasy Star (Creator/Writer, Executive Designer)
  • Altered Beast (Designer)
  • Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle (Assistant Director, Animator)
  • Mystic Defender (Enemy Designer, Character designer)
  • Phantasy Star II (Executive Designer)
  • Sorcerian (Graphic Designer)
  • Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi (Graphic Design)
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Design)
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Zone Artist)
  • Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium (Director, Environment Designer, Object Designer, Event Designer)
  • Magic Knight Rayearth (Director)
  • Deep Fear (Producer)
  • Skies of Arcadia (Producer)
  • 7th Dragon (Producer)


About:


"Born in Kanagawa, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan on May 23, 1963, she began her education undecided between art and archaeology. She opted for art and enrolled in a trade school for advertising design. It was there, in 1984, that she met a fellow student who brought her to work at Sega and the rest, as they say, is history.

Quite a history it is, too. Kodama has been involved with some of Sega’s biggest projects, including a obscure little RPG known as Phantasy Star. She got her start doing character designs for arcade titles such as Champion Boxing (1984) and Ninja Princess (1984), as well as some Master System games like Alex Kidd in Miracle World (1986) and Quartet (1987). She also did several characters for a smattering of other Master System games. As one of the few designers at the company, she found herself doing multiple games at once, as many as five or six games a year. Kodama built up quite a reputation as an artist and was soon given a chance to work on something big. To counter the release of Dragon Quest, Sega decided to make an epic RPG of their own. The result, Phantasy Star, was not only a major benchmark title for the industry and RPG genre but also launched the careers of Yuji Naka and Tokuhiko “Bo” Uwabo. Brought on as the main designer, Kodama was responsible for creating all the character designs, the 2D maps, battle-scene backgrounds, and townspeople, among other things. From there, her career blossomed and she went on to work on some of the most successful titles Sega ever produced.” (Sega Stars: Rieko Kodama, Sega-16)

"At a time when most console RPGs were your standard medieval fare, she crafted a Star Wars-esque universe with robots, space travel, and cool, credible characters." (Developer Spotlight: Rieko Kodama, In the Shade of a Wave)

On Phantasy Star’s 3d Dungeons:

"As far as 3D dungeons go, if you want to make them run as smoothly as possible, then it’s not that hard; all you have to do is draw all the frames for the advancing walls. However, if we did that, then we wouldn’t be able to get all the frames into the ROM, and it wouldn’t look as good if we dropped some frames and left others in… so, we thought, how about we make a wireframe 3D dungeon in the program itself

That’s how I ended up having [Yuji] Naka build a wireless 3D dungeon program for me. The basic idea was to take art and place it on top of the wireframes. After that we just had to experiment with which frames we could drop and still keep things smooth and pretty. Once we got it right, we found that we could run around the dungeon faster than we ever expected—several times faster than it is right now, in fact; it was almost to the point where the program, not the graphics, was the main bottleneck.” -Rieko Kodama (Rieko Kodama on Phantasy Star… er, One, Video-Fenky)

On Sonic the Hedgehog’s Graphics:

"It was still hard to display polygons back then, but the graphics in Sonic the Hedgehog were designed incorporating polygonal styles. I drew the whole field using CG-like images. We intentionally created the designs as if they were illustrated artificially with CG tools. To tell you the truth, we drew them bit-by-bit because the software for computer graphics had not been developed much at the time. [Laughs]” -Rieko Kodama (Birth of a Hedgehog, Nintendo Power, January 2007)

On Being a Woman in Game Development:

"Sega has always been a company that judges based on your individual ability rather than gender. As for women in game development, it’s changing. Gradually, and slowly, but it’s changing. I think it’s a bit more common for women to want to get into this field here in Japan. Playing games as a recreational activity for young girls is much less common than it is here. But if they play games they find very enjoyable, the desire to make their own games will certainly go up. I think that as more and more people start playing games, the number of female game designers will gradually increase." -Rieko Kodama (Interview: Rieko Kodama, The Next Level)

Other Links: Rieko Kodama Interview from the Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (Video)

Image Sources: The Next Level (Photo of Rieko Kodama)

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