From time to time, we will interview an employee of CRI Middleware to learn more about what they are doing and what make them “tick”. The first brave person to play the game is Atsushi Sakurai, from the Tokyo office.
Hello Sakurai-san. Thank you for taking a break from your busy schedule to talk to us! Can you first tell us what your title at CRI Middleware is and what kind of work it implies?
I am the executive officer of CRI Middleware’s Research and Development division. As such, I oversee all the R&D projects related to our gaming business. I also oversee the development of new products and the research of new technologies.
That seems a lot! How many projects are you actually involved in at the same time?
In terms of game related business, that’s about 4 or 5 projects at the same time.
What is a regular day of work for you?
I used to be a programmer, so of course I was coding a lot, but these days I don’t code anymore. I’m now making sure that all the R&D projects are running smoothly, which involves a lot of project management, team management and things like that. This is my primary type of work now.
When did you start at CRI Middleware?
A long time ago, 16 years!
That’s a long time indeed! Do you remember why you decided to join the company in the first place?
The primary reason was, of course, because I love games. However, back then, I was into technology research, I was not specialized in making games. Because of that, I wasn’t really thinking about working for a game company, but while I was looking for a job, I found CRI: a technology company working in the game business.
How did you start programming?
I started coding when I was in junior high school, and I found it really fascinating. First, I learned to program in BASIC and then I started using assembly to optimize the code I wrote. I was so excited when I was doing that! Then, when I was in high school, I stopped coding and started playing games instead of programming (laughs). But a bit later, when I went to the university, I started coding again!
On what computer were you programming in junior high?
Do you know MSX? That’s what I started programming on.
And later, you applied to CRI Middleware?
Yes, because of my background, I didn’t try to get into a game company. However, I applied to CRI Middleware, which was doing game-related business. I wanted to try to get that job first and then, if I had failed, I would have applied to a typical general IT company next.
Do you remember the very first thing you worked on when you started at CRI?
I can’t specifically tell the project, but it was on the image processing library of a Dreamcast project. I’ve worked on it for about a year or so and then Sega announced the discontinuation of the Dreamcast. At that point, CRI decided to go multi-platform, so for the following year I’ve worked on the porting of the Sofdec technology to PlayStation 2.
What has been your favorite project so far?
I’m initially from the Sofdec project team, so the first real project I did was porting it from the Dreamcast to the PlayStation 2. It was just a conversion, but then I took the essence of that technology and made a new version out of it, Sofdec 2. It was actually called CRI Movie. It was a really fun project!
What about ADX2, do you have a favorite feature in it?
If I had to choose one feature, it would probably be the proprietary codec called HCA-MX. It was developed by a guy who joined the company at the same time than me.
Ah yes, this codec does a great job at letting you play many simultaneous voices. You see a lot of new technologies at the office, what is really exiting these days?
We haven’t announced details about it yet, but one of the research projects we are working on is to port the audio and video technologies we’ve developed for games over to web technologies. So basically, how we could make the audio and video data smaller and have it work in a web browser environment. Very exciting things!
To conclude, do you still play games and what type of games do you like?
I like to play story-driven games: role playing games, adventure games, you know those story-based games where you can actually dive into their world, that’s something I like. I also play music games and arcade coin-op a lot. When I was working at CRI’s San Francisco office I was also playing some Western games. Do you know the PlayStation game called Amplitude by Harmonix Music System? I love this game!
That’s a great music game indeed! Well, thanks again, Sakurai-san. We are looking forward to discovering what new game technologies you and your team will come up with!