Dark Souls Q&A
We speak to development director Hidetaka Miyazaki about why hard games are OK and how Dark Souls is a lot like real life.
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Dark Souls is on the horizon, and if you couldn't get enough of its predecessor, Demon's Souls, here's your chance to once again die countless times in From Software's upcoming role-playing game. Not for the weak-willed, Demon's Souls was a brutally challenging game that forced you to get better--and quickly. Death is a common theme, which you'll come to know quite well. And while some people may balk at the idea of the game being too difficult, From Software is pushing to make Dark Souls even more so, and the developer has no qualms about it.
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GameSpot: Why did you decide to do a game like Dark Souls as opposed to a traditional sequel?
Hidetaka Miyazaki: From a creative standpoint, I'm glad that it's not a direct sequel and that we're calling it Dark Souls, which is a new game, simply because we don't have to be bound by the features, the game design, and the content of Demon's Souls. So we were able to try out new things, take the experience from Demon's Souls, and put it into a brand new game.
GS: What do you find interesting about the fantasy setting and themes associated with Demon's Souls?
HM: So, there are two answers to that. First of all, my past experience with creating Demon's Souls [was] a good experience. But I want to express being strict. Life is not easy, you know. I wanted to express being in a devastating situation and being able to fight against it to try and succeed. [This doesn't just apply to games], but sort of to life, and that's what I want to express.
And when you think, "OK, how do I express this or where do I express this?" the dark fantasy world was a perfect place to sort of communicate to people that play this game to constantly stand up--to constantly fight. Perhaps it's not as deep as I sort of make it sound, but to answer your question, one is my past experiences, but the next is sort of the message I want to try and get across.
GS: One of the things Demon's Souls is known for is its difficulty, but was there any internal concern over making a game so challenging?
HM: In terms of game difficulty, there were definitely some arguments or discussions that went on within the development team itself. And there have been requests for different modes, like an easy, normal, and difficult or hard mode. But the reason why we [said no to those modes] is we want to give rewards for something…being able to carry out and achieve something very difficult. As soon as you start to make an easy mode and as soon as you bring down the barriers for that difficulty, then what we're trying to create and what we're trying to express isn't going to be true. It's not going to be real.
Secondly, the messaging system in the game--similar to the one in Demon's Souls--and the feelings you have from reading the messages is simply because you know that other people are facing the same difficulty. The way I express it to my team and help them understand is this: It's like throwing seeds into a dried-out land, basically. You throw seeds out, but sometimes the seeds will bloom. That's sort of what I'm trying to express with Dark Souls.
But I don't feel all games have to be as difficult, but for this game, that's the concept I have in mind. There's no intent in making the game any easier just because of the rewards, happiness, and satisfaction you get from seeing the seeds sprout out of dry land.
GS: Early reports suggest that Dark Souls is even more difficult than Demon's Souls. But one of the biggest hurdles in Demon's Souls came from understanding the rules of the world, rather than the combat. Is that the case in Dark Souls as well? Or is the actual combat going to be more difficult as well?
HM: So in terms of difficulty, there are several ways of increasing the difficulty. But one thing I'm set on is to not make the game more difficult based on skill level. I don't want the users to necessarily have to be quick or necessarily have high-skill level in terms of how you control the game. That's not where we're trying to create the difficulty.
What I'm trying to achieve is a game that anybody can clear. It may take time, but a player who is attentive, can strategize, and create their own game style…that's how the player will be able to complete the game.
The way I plan to make Dark Souls is a little bit more difficult than Demon's Souls. We will require players to pay a little more attention and be a little bit more careful as opposed to being strictly not quick enough [to use a bunch of different moves]. That's not how we will make the game difficult.
GS: So more paranoid?
HM: Paranoid, yes. Yeah, so if you try to continue on with the same strategies for every situation, you're going to be in a tough situation every time. So you have to be attentive and have to learn from what you experienced in the game.
GS: What sorts of limitations exist when dual-wielding weapons? Does it restrict your movement or magic abilities? What sort of dual-wielding combinations are there and how will that help you survive?
HM: In terms of dual-wielding, the quick answer is it's a demerit or it'll make the game a lot more difficult for the player. The difficulty of the game has been tuned based on having one shield and having one sword. And using a shield has many advantages against enemies, obviously. Taking that shield off and putting weapons in two hands will cut down on the amount of stamina that the character has and will make the game a lot more difficult.
But if that's the game style that the player chooses...if that's the offense that he decides to take, the game will become difficult. We wanted to leave that choice up to the user. [At the same time], we don't want half the users to be dual-wielding. That's not what our intent is. Hopefully, very few players make that choice.
I love the shield. And so that's where the difficulty has been set. But if there is a player that decides to use two swords, he's more than welcome to do so. But I want to make sure that having two swords is a cool characteristic and that's an aspect of a character or of a person's way of thinking. So if everybody uses two swords, it's not going to look as cool. So we're trying to have a small number of people go for that extra coolness, but I fought against the difficulty--the increased difficulty--by using two swords. So that's sort of the balance that I want to keep.
GS: Do you have more choice in whose game you play if you join in cooperative mode than in Demon's Souls? Is voice chat possible if you team up with a friend?
HM: In terms of ways to cooperate, the number of variations has increased from Demon's Souls. But as a basis, we want to make sure that players use the network to share their experiences. There's no concept of friends, or there's no concept of voice chat. Each player will play their role in the world and there will be a way to contact each other within the game. But the obvious concept of it is not to hold hands with somebody, obviously.
The network feature for this game is designed to enhance the single-player mode. It's designed so that players playing single-player will be able to have that [new game plus] effect when playing the game. And that's something that's original for this game.
There are lots of games out there that allow people to play multiplayer or play with friends or voice chat, but that's not what we're trying to provide the user. I understand people may want multiplayer mode or people may want voice chat. But for this game, because we are trying to achieve an original sort of game standard, we have deliberately not put in any voice chat. And, again, the network system is not to support multiple people at the same time but to enhance the single-player mode.
GS: Are there any significant changes, such as being able to ride animals or dabble in alchemy or other crafting activities?
HM: Riding animals. I actually put some thought into it, but I cut it out of the features.
GS: What about downloadable content?
HM: We're at a difficult stage to be able to really explain new features to you. So we can't tell you very much, but I guess in terms of new features, we can tell you the recovery system has changed drastically. It has changed from Demon's Souls, where you have to collect grass to recover yourself, to something a little bit different.
And the interesting aspect about this new feature is--for really hardcore players--the game will probably be a little bit more difficult. And for casual players, the game will be a little bit...not easier, but this feature will be a little more helpful and accessible.
GS: One of the most noteworthy aspects of Demon's Souls was the sense of discovery. Not only do you have to learn most of the rules of the game yourself, but every level also had many shortcuts, items, and buried treasures that made replays enticing. Is that still the case here?
HM: Definitely. I understand that this was one of the big key points in Demon's Souls, and we have implemented even more discoveries for Dark Souls. So hopefully, even the players that love Demon's Souls will come back to Dark Souls and have a lot more discoveries as he or she plays the game.
GS: Are the classes still based on basic archetypes, such as wizard, barbarian, or warrior? Are there any additional classes or are different races going to play a part? Do you still play the human regardless of your skills?
HM: The base concept of having different classes and archetypes is very similar to what was in Demon's Souls. We will have prepared several archetypes, such as wizards, that the user can choose. But, again, the concept is how the player chooses to live life within the game. Yeah, so we haven't shifted very much from that.
But an additional comment is that the volume and what you can reveal from the different archetypes has increased as compared to Demon's Souls. The options have grown and the users will have more freedom to sort of...again, live within the Dark Souls world.
GS: So will it be out before TGS?
HM: Nice try.
GS: Had to try! Thanks for your time.