INTERVIEW: Defending Dynasty Warriors
We speak to Ken Matsumoto, the project manager of Dynasty Warriors 6, about why the critics won’t stop complaining about the series that keeps selling.
Dynasty Warriors has never enjoyed the status in the west that it has in Japan, where it was once the highest-selling series in gaming, with each iteration being rapturously received. We spoke to the project manager of Dynasty Warriors 6, Ken Matsumoto, about working on a franchise that pleases its fans, but is routinely dismissed by western critics.
DW6 is the first DW game for the current generation of systems – how are you taking advantage of the extra power?
The graphical capabilities are obviously much improved. We’ve redesigned the characters with new animations. That in itself helps you improve what I’d call the ‘atmosphere’ of the game through something like having no fog on the battlefield – you can see as far as you need to. Let’s put it this way: this is a battlefield game, and if you, for example, want to survey this big space you can climb a ladder or get to a promontory and look. It makes the game vertical as well as horizontal.
What are the problems with making a Dynasty Warriors game? Do you feel a tension between staying the same and innovating?
Dynasty Warriors is the biggest franchise we have at Koei. The storyline is set, so we can’t change that to any great degree. We have to innovate, but you can’t lose sight of why people enjoy the games in the first place. The Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a story of great nuance, and I feel that an Asian audience sees what we do differently, and what’s new in terms of story, straight away – whereas people who don’t know this story or the characters completely miss that level of the game. The difficulty is in being caught between an audience who love it, and another group of people who don’t. So we get these two contrasting types of feedback and it’s hard bringing them together – you can’t please everyone.
Are there specific criticisms that annoy you?
Sometimes I feel annoyed. Comparing us to Halo, which I’ve seen on one occasion, is stupid – they’re just different. Games are often criticized on what they’re not rather than what they are. People got annoyed with Wii Sports because it didn’t have league tables, or allow you to have a three-wood in golf, or something, and it’s a brilliant game that’s simply not interested in offering those things.
With Dynasty Warriors we might feel the negative criticism isn’t fair, but when there have been a few sequels it’s hard to turn those opinions around. You’ll sometimes read something that doesn’t mention any of the new things in the game, then says it hasn’t done anything new, and you wonder: was it even played for more than 20 minutes? Perhaps people think, ‘Oh, that can fill up half a page’, and just give it to someone who doesn’t know the subtleties of this particular game – and when you get into an iterative series, subtlety is where the value lies.
So what is important to you in terms of producing a game?
Ah, that’s difficult to express… I think videogames should be fun, but everyone’s idea of fun will be different from everyone else’s type of fun. Really, people always forget that their favorite game is different from my favorite game. Wii Sports brought a new type of fun to the market, I hadn’t seen that before, and I like Wii Sports – that’s innovation. That’s the most important thing: even now, videogames are not getting to all users, and perhaps fun is the most profound thing we can think about.
Make sure to check out our preview of Dynasty Warriors 6.