Yui Tanimura is co-director of Dark Souls II, the man who used the word ‘accessible’ in describing From Software’s forthcoming sequel, and quickly regretted it. He has since apologised for the misunderstanding, and clarified what he meant. There was similar remorse from Takeshi Miyazoe recently on the subject of the PC port of Dark Souls, the sequel’s producer admitting to us that its predecessor’s PC release was “rushed”. That won’t happen with the new game, he promised.
Here’s more from our recent conversation with co-director Yiu Tanimura about Dark Souls II, its intended platforms and the tweaks and improvements the studio has made to the follow-up to critical darling, Dark Souls.
There are obvious visual improvements in lighting, cloth physics and animation. Why stop there? Why make the game for 360 and PS3 when Dark Souls is the kind of game that could sell new hardware?
At the start of development, we felt that there was still a lot of potential that remained unused in Dark Souls. I hope this can be seen with the demos and footage that we have released. Our intention was to capitalise on the total potential of [seventh-generation] consoles and deliver the game to fans as soon as possible.
The PC version of the first Dark Souls wasn’t a good port. How did that make the team feel, and what are you doing to ensure that the PC iteration is better this time around?
We understand and accept a lot of the feedback we have received from fans around the world who have played the PC version. We first decided to port over to the PC platform as a result of the petition signed by players around the world. And with our goal to release a PC version as soon as possible, it was a decision to simply port the experience over in the shortest amount of time possible. For the PC version of Dark Souls II, the game development will be based on the PC – we will make sure that the main PC game features are supported and also do our best to attend to a lot of the user feedback that we have received.
What would it take to bring the PC version of Dark Souls II to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One?
We have not put any thought into this yet, so I unfortunately can’t answer at this point.
Miyazaki isn’t directing. Has his distance from the project changed the way Dark Souls II is developed?
The basic thinking behind how Dark Souls II is developed has not changed. Team structures and members have changed a little bit, and we may think a little more together to bring ideas together. But because we are aligned in regards to what has to be communicated with the game, we have not faced any major changes internally. Miyazaki is still involved as a supervisor, and I seek advice when necessary.
There are small things here and there [that Mizazaki might not have chosen], perhaps, but whenever we go back to the core elements of the Dark Souls experience, I feel that the thinking behind the game development is similar. I do want to state [there are] some differences between Dark Souls I and II, so I think the players can also look forward to new elements when they pick up the game.
Players can no longer hide from invasions by staying Hollow, and are punished for doing so by having their HP affected by death in this form. How are you balancing this shift in thinking? Being invaded on your way to a boss that you wanted to summon help for is one of Dark Souls’ most irritating moments and appears to be contradictory to greater accessibility.
First off, my main intention was to have players play with the idea of wanting to stay as a living [human]. [That’s] when players immerse themselves more into the character; we wanted players to strive and grasp onto life, and sense the sorrow, remorse and loneliness when playing the game. For this, when players play as a living, we have implemented methods to help the player out, such as The Way Of Blue Covenant and other items that will not make the player completely vulnerable to being invaded. The invaders will also have their risks when invading and so there will be a strategising element for invaders to determine whether they want to invade or not.
What are the biggest challenges in balancing a game of two very different components – PvP interactions that permeate a PvE world? Many of the beta changes seemed to be aimed at tweaking PvP, but is there not a risk that catering for one group of players risks upsetting the others?
For the sake of the network beta test, we wanted to encourage PvP gameplay in order to fully understand the impact on the servers, and also learn patterns of how players around the world play and enjoy the game. The final game will obviously prioritise PvE, but at the same time [it will] make enhancements to the PvP systems.
To what extent is the world shown in the beta the same as the final game? Bonfires and item drops in particular were very generously spaced for player testing. Can you confirm if this will this be the case in the full game?
The environment used for the network beta build was unique and is difficult to directly compare with the other venues. The pacing of bonfires will change based on the environments, and we are still in the midst of tuning and balancing the game progression. Items, too, were more of a beta decision. We will take the user behaviour and results to continue tuning the game to its top level. Life Gems are still being balanced and tuned, but I can tell you that the number of items will be limited to balance the game progression. How the items are to be used [is something] the player will have to decide, but in tight, intense moments, the Gems may help a little more, since players can walk away while recovery takes place.
In terms of size, how does Dark Souls II’s world compare to that of Dark Souls?
We are thinking about the same size world as Dark Souls. The storytelling will be fairly similar, but in regards to proceeding through the world, we want to give more freedom for the players to choose their decisions, and so the unfolding of the world will hopefully be unique to each player.
Dark Souls was P2P based; Dark Souls II uses servers. Why the change? Has the beta confirmed that this was the right decision?
In connection with enhancing the roleplaying elements for Dark Souls II, we wanted players to take on their role in the universe. For this to be most effective, we felt that returning to a server-based game system will allow for more visibility on the loose connections with other players. The beta, we feel, did prove a lot of the game’s functionality, and with the results we will continue to tune for our ideal game balance with online game play.
Did you find any of the classes were in need of rebalancing?
This is a very good point. The classes available in the network beta were only preset characters that we created internally and do not represent the balancing or characteristics in the final game. The balance of the classes is important, but the players will have the freedom to develop their own characters.