Early years (1960-1982)
Yoshio Kiya (木屋善夫) was born in 1960. After graduating from an automobile trade school, he worked as a car repairman. In 1981, he brought the NEC PC-6001 and then the NEC PC-8801, and learnt programming. before eventually joining Nihon Falcom as a game designer.
Career at Nihon Falcom (1982-1995)
Galactic Wars and Panorama Toh (1982-1983)
Kiya created the proto-RTS game Galactic Wars in 1982. This was one of the first strategy games with a real-time element to it, and was thus a precursor to the real-time strategy genre. It was the earliest known space-themed sci-fi strategy game, using a Dune-like plot about two galactic forces waging a war for control over a strategically important planet. This would be a precursor to his 1991 RTS game Lord Monarch.
He then developed Panorama Toh, which released in 1983. It was an early action RPG, demonstrating some of Kiya's innovative ideas about RPG design which departed significantly from the turn-based norm at the time. The game combined RPG gameplay with real-time combat, combined fantasy with sci-fi elements, and introduced survival mechanics. It would be a precursor to his most famous franchise, Dragon Slayer.
Dragon Slayer and Xanadu (1984-1985)
Kiya created the seminal Dragon Slayer franchise, credited for pioneering the action RPG genre. Its impact on the Japanese game industry, and game design in general, was significant. Dragon Slayer (1984) and Dragon Slayer II: Xanadu (1985) departed from the traditional turn-based formula of earlier RPG's, introducing hack & slash, real-time combat to go along with the dungeon crawling and RPG mechanics, creating a new genre: the action RPG. This would become the basis for action RPG's like Hydlide and Ys, and action-adventure games such as The Legend of Zelda. This would eventually lead to real-time action RPG's slowly becoming the dominant RPG sub-genre by the early 21st century.
Dragon Slayer II: Xanadu also pioneered an open-world, side-scrolling, platform-adventure gameplay format, which would later be known as the "Metroidvania" style, popularized by Metroid and Castlevania. In addition, the way each Dragon Slayer title significantly altered the gameplay from its predecessor inspired the Final Fantasy series to take a similar approach to its sequels. Xanadu's transitions between exploration and real-time battle screens was also a precursor to franchises like Tales and Star Ocean. Xanadu's Karma meter was also a precursor to later morality systems. Xanadu, to this day, remains one of Japan's best-selling computer games of all time.
Later years at Falcom (1986-1995)
Several entries Kiya created for the Dragon Slayer franchise led to their own spin-off series: the Xanadu and Sorcerian series of early Metroidvania-style open-world action RPG's, and The Legend of Heroes series of turn-based RPG's. Other entries of the series include the platform-adventure game Romancia (1986) and the real-time strategy (RTS) game Lord Monarch (1991).
Kiya contributed to the development of several other real-time action RPG's. He was part of the production staff of the first two Ys games, along with their 1989 compilation Ys I & II. He also directed the 1991 side-scrolling action RPG title Popful Mail, and the Brandish series of point & click dungeon crawl action RPG's.
Post-Falcom career (1995-2006)
After leaving Nihon Falcom, Kiya went to work for Nihon Application (now Creansmaerd). Some of the games he worked on there include Last Imperial Prince and the Gekirin series. He eventually became part of Creansmaerd's board of directors.
In 2005, his company Creansmaerd worked with Nihon Falcom to develop the MMO action RPG title Sorcerian Online, which released in Japan in 2006.