This interview is simply my interpretation of the events that lead to the development of Asura’s Wrath and as such it is entirely fictional.
It’s summer in Osaka. Heat radiates from glass and metal, cracked black asphalt like skin stretched taught against the brilliance of the morning.
A muggy humidity beats down on the commuters who labour to work, and seeps from their pores.
But this room is cold, almost uncomfortably so. Three figures sit in silence, arms crossed, their eyes fixed on the opening door.
“Punctual as ever”
Two suited men shuffle in and bow awkwardly, their footsteps echo out into the vast sterile space.
“Mr Matsuyama, Mr Shimoda… Thank you for coming. Please.”
He gestures and, the pair take their seats.
“We know our last meeting wasn’t as… fruitful as we’d hoped it might be, but we are still confident that our relationship can be a successful one.”
They bow politely, hints of a sanguine smile.
"I’m certain Mr Inafune only rejected your proposal because he knew you we’re capable of so much more.”
Mr Matsuyama is the first to speak.
“Not at all, in fact I feel it was a blessing in disguise. Since then we’ve essentially reworked the entire project from the ground up. A small team at cyberconnect2 have been working on some concepts and I think… Well I’m really quite proud with what they’ve been able to produce.”
“We’re are delighted to hear that.”
“I see now that there was a certain lack of purity in our original pitch, we needed to take a step back, to think about the experience we wanted to craft and the essence of the action genre… what we’ve come up with is entirely more focused in its themes. We began with a single emotion, that of rage and built the game from there.”
“Yes, for what purer emotion is there, we’ve all felt it at some point regardless of colour or creed… in a way it’s a theme which transcends such boundaries…”
“…but were our past games have been very much action orientated, and this project will continue to build on that, this time we want the narrative to drive the experience… Not the other way around.”
“Look at modern action games. The majority have become nothing more than thrill rides with little to no player agency. This is appropriate for what they are trying to achieve, they live and die not by their content, but by their pacing.”
“This is true.”
“Much of the gameplay revolves around shepherding you through a series of elaborate set pieces, but without momentum you are left with dead time… where you have peaks you must also have valleys, and this is not conducive to an enjoyable experience. Players will simply suffer through this dead time in order to reach the next scripted set piece… And we’re not From Software… the last thing we want the player to do is suffer.”
“Quite… So how are you going to break this trend.”
“Break it…? On the contrary… in a way, we mean to embrace it!”
“May I ask, are you familiar at all with western drama? 24, Lost, Battlestar Galactica…”
“Of course… but I’m not entirely sure where you’re going with this.”
“The vary wildly in their themes of course but is there not a consistency in the way they weave their tale… at their best they demonstrate complete mastery of pacing and the creation of a compelling narrative. We began to wonder if it was possible to adapt this same formula to a game, to split the experience into episodes and create something where it is the story which urges you to progress.”
“Mr Yoshida, Mr Kamiya has shown it’s possible for a Japanese developer to produce a quote on quote western game, but I assure you it’s not as easy as you might imagine…”
“The structure is taken from western drama, yes, but the story itself is very much a Japanese one… If I may.”
He reaches down and produces a piece of concept art. The character is striking, a shock of white hair and shining eyes set in a face the colour of burnished copper.
“I like to think that we at cyberconnect2 have our own style and with this game I’m confident that our artists have once again succeeded in creating something unique. A style that pays homage to both its Japanese origins and its East Asian influences.”
“I see… so you’ll deliver this story through cut scenes or during combat?”
“As I said, the narrative is the main focus, and we thought…” He pauses for a moment “we want to use quick time events.”
An uncomfortable silence descends.
"Mr Tanaka, I’ll admit that while both Mr Mikami and Mr Suzuki have been able to use these QTEs to great effect, by themselves they’re hardly the most stimulating method of interaction… Do you plan on delivering your all important narrative through QTEs alone?"
“We have been looking at more traditional combat sections as well as on rail shooting sequences but as I said, we want the experience to be a spectacle and we feel a straight quick time event is the best way to maintain some level of interactivity while showing the player something dynamic and interesting.”
“I see… So what happens if I fail your quick time event?”
“Well… Nothing… That is to say, the on screen imagery may vary but the story will, in most cases, continue.”
“There are those, Mr Tanaka who maintain that a game with no fail state is not a game at all.”
“Yes, but when you consider the alternative then I’m confident that our way is in fact, the lesser of two evils, especially when your game is trying to tell a story. QTEs quickly become a nuisance when you are forced to repeat them, but used in the right way we believe they can complement and even enhance the impact of the moment. They’ll give the game a rhythm, an ebb and flow a… heartbeat.”
“Well you certainly don’t lack conviction. If you would be so kind as to excuse us for a moment.”
The three men exchange a few brief words before turning back to the pair opposite.
"Well Mr Matsuyama, Mr Shimoda… It seems our faith in you was not misplaced. I must admit I see real potential in your ideas.”
“Then we have your permission to continue development on project?”
“Yes… begin by polishing the prototype, Mr Tsuchiya will be assigned to aid you with production…”
"Yes sir of course… Thank you."
“Mr Matsuyama… there is one more thing…”
“We haven’t yet spoken about downloadable content…”
Originally appearing in the Japan only art book 'Xenoblade The Secret File: Monado Archives this is a side story which takes shortly before the final battle. Although the events have little real impact the story (they are alluded to briefly in a heart to heart) there are some spoilers with regards to the events during the latter part of the game.
Translator's note: I've tried to match the English translation as far as I can, but since I played the Japanese version there are bound to be some things which don't match.
There can be no darkness without the light. Their perpetual conflict a part of nature, and so it was with Mechonis and Bionis, the old gods rose, and fell together.
They are dead now, their monstrous frames no more than lifeless husks, but their progeny survive and through them their ancient conflict endures.
The Homs of Bionis. Their elders tell of a time when they thrived, when their colonies spread throughout this world. But that was long ago, and one by one they fell to the machine god's armies until all but a handful were left in ruins. Colony 9 would have met a similar fate, were it not for its distance from Mechonis. Now despite the conflict which rages around them it remains the closest thing to a place of refuge the Homs have left.
An oasis in the desert of this uncertain world
Shulk ...got a sec?
Shulk looked up from his research.
It was Dean again, stony faced and love sick. The long war had made many widows, and he had fallen for one. He thought of nothing but winning her heart and seemed to take pleasure in burdening Shulk with his troubles.
He had little choice but to listen dutifully although, even he had to admit, that after everything he and his companions had been through, there was something comforting about the normality of it all...
Still, Shulk thought to himself, I'm not exactly the best person to ask about this sort of thing…
Dean however, failed to notice his stoic expression, and launched headlong into another tale of unrequited love.
It quickly became apparent that Dean was after more than just a sympathetic ear, he had cooked up another scheme designed to win favour with the woman of his dreams and as it unfolded, Shulk was to play a small but essential part.
"I'll see what I can do…."
In truth, Shulk was happy to help, after all what was this compared to the the trials and hardships of their journey, the monster infested caves and their ascension of the ancient gods. It wasn't long before he was returning to Dean to report his success.
"There you go, all done"
At Shulk's words Dean's expression softened at last. Although old fashioned and serious to a fault, he was likeable enough and his heart was in the right place.
Climbing the steps, Shulk emerged into the Military district plaza as dusk was falling, bathing the square in a golden glow.
Another day had ended and it continued to elude him, another day of false leads and dead ends, of ceaseless toil with nothing to show for it.
As a scientist he was bound by reason, but had he listened to reason he would surely have given up long ago, and he couldn't give up, not while there was even the slightest hope.
Dean's little diversion had made no difference, it seemed that some things would always remain just beyond his reach
Could what Linada said really be true… he puzzled.
Heavy hearted, Shulk crossed the square. Around him, the air was abuzz with the chatter of residents hurrying home before nightfall, and the rhythmic thud of iron shod feet as the troops filed out to their posts to begin the nights watch.
He had watched this scene unfold countless times, though of course in the past it lacked such pattern and purpose, in those days they had thought themselves safe from the Mechon, the fighting, while fierce, had all been concentrated far away in the Sword Valley, any threat seemed insubstantial and remote. Indeed to many Homs, those cold iron soldiers were nothing more than a story used to frighten children. The occasional sightings on the Gaul Plain all that served to remind them of the war that raged outside their walls, but for them to come as far as Colony 9... it was unthinkable.
That tranquil life ended the day the Mechon came, they swept across Bionis taking Colony 6 and advancing on Colony 9, shattering the peace that had lasted since Dunban had driven them from the Sword Valley a year earlier. It was that sudden attack that had started Shulk on his journey.
Since then the colony had been transformed from a small outpost into the base of operations for the fight against a new threat... The Telethia
Reawakened at the ceremony of destruction and recreation, they were beings whose sole purpose was the destruction of all life on Bionis, but the people refused to give up, instead spending their days planning and constructing defences. There was an air of conviction, a hope which had been absent in the days immediately following the attacked.
A return to that former, peaceful, existence was impossible, but some semblance of normality had returned.
With everything they'd lost, Shulk thought, the colony members had gained something more important; the dogged determination to not simply give up, but to go on living in this precarious world
He found great solace in that.
For they all knew the end was coming, the final battle which would decide not only the fate of the Homs, but of all life on Bionis. Venturing into that 'lifeless husk'; the shell of the giant god was a journey which, in all probability, they would not return from.
But they couldn't go without first passing on the fruits of their labours, the knowledge they had gained on their journey, of the Machina and the monaco replica, a weapon which had the potential to turn the tide of the war and give them an crucial advantage over the machines.
It was Dean, far more adept with metal than with romance, who was chosen to lead the project. Shulk recalled the look on his face when he had passed him the data, a wide eyed enthusiasm he had previously only seen at mention of his sweetheart.
But that wasn't all, there was something else, something Linada had shared with Shulk that, unlike the monado replica, he had kept completely to himself...
He cut through the commercial district, passing shop keepers readying their stalls for the night market, exchanging idle pleasantries with the people he encountered,
From here he headed towards the town gates, to the house where Dunban and Fiora lived. It was Dunban who had chosen this place, that he might be first to respond to any danger that threatened the colony.
Shulk had spent much of his childhood here, a thousand memories came flooding back as he paused to take in the familiar sights and sounds. Night was descending, and light spilled out onto the threshold as he opened the door and stepped inside.
Fiora was a gifted cook, during their journey she had been able to conjure something edible from even the most meagre rations, but here in her own kitchen surrounded by her aged utensils and familiar ingredients she could work miracles. Shulk glanced at her as he entered the room, she wore an expression of deep satisfaction as she busied herself with the next recipe.
In the past the house had often been host to visitors. Not just Shulk and Reyn, but Dunban's comrades Mumkhar and Dickson, and even Colonel Vangarre and Kantz of the watch.
But only the chosen may wield the Monado, and for all Dunban's strength using it to drive the Mechon from the sword valley had taken a terrible toll. After he had been carried back gravely wounded and clinging to life, visitors to the house had become infrequent and the atmosphere somber.
Yet looking at the room today it almost felt as if those days had returned, though now instead of grizzled fighting men, scarred and battle-weary, it was Sharla, Riki, Melia and Reyn who now encircled the dining table. Dunban sat quietly taking in the scene. It was clear that he too was remembering the old days.
Memories of another age... another lifetime.
Then the food arrived on the table:
"Hey, you big meanie that's mine" squealed Riki "You've eaten too much already... I've been outside all day working my fingers to the bone, this should be mine!"
"What fingers!?", blustered Reyn, "And I think you'll find I was the one doing all the work, you just stood there shouting in that squeaky voice of yours"
"Well... That uses calories too you know! Heropon has to eat or he'll waste away"
Dunban continued to watch the scene with amusement, his dark eyes twinkling.
"Where do you put all this food anyway you little midget"
The pair began chasing each other around the table, much to the disapproval of Sharla who was growing visibly more agitated with each passing second...
"Will you two give it a rest. Honestly, it's like watching two children squabble"
Melia stood up, her precise, graceful movements at odds with the surrounding cacophony.
"I'm sorry for being so ill-mannered" she exclaimed as she made her way towards the food which lay cooling on the counter "but if these two don't eat something soon…"
"Don't worry Melia" said Fiora without even pausing to turn around
"Riki and Reyn can wait, I made that for you"
"...There's no need to make a special effort on my account"
"It's not that, I just made yours before I added the spicy cabbage"
It was true that Melia didn't share Reyn's love for this particular delicacy, but she had been raised since childhood to eat everything she was presented with, Her father's words echoed even now.
"The High Entian royal family must be just and benevolent rulers, to refuse food given by our people is to belittle their diligence and sacrifice, and that Melia, is a shame we cannot bear"
So on the Gaul Plain when Reyn had offered to share his rations with her as a clumsy gesture of good will, she had eaten it all without complaint ,although she hadn't been at all amused when he'd offered her seconds.
"You didn't want me to?"
"No...it's not that I... Thank you"
Fiora beamed at her "...You know Melia, you've really started speaking your mind... It suits you"
In truth Melia was caught off guard by the remark,
In the short time she had known Fiora she had come to admire her honesty and the ease with which she spoke her mind. Indeed, on more than one occasion she had caught herself wondering if she could ever be so straightforward, but old habits die hard, and a lifetime among the High Entia meant it still felt strange to speak frankly.
"Okay you two, grub's up! Sweet salmon and baked aubergine, everything you growing boys need"
Reyn and Riki's stopped, their eyes lit up
"Fiora's food makes Riki's tummy happy"
In an instant all slights were forgiven as Reyn began piling food onto Riki's plate.
"You should eat up too Melia, it's going to get cold"
"Oh... of course"
Melia returned to her place at the table, sat down and gingerly brought the fork to her lips...
Without the spicy cabbage, the subtle flavours were fit for even the most delicate High Entian palate.
For the first time in recent memory, she ate something that was truly delicious.
Melia awoke with a start, a cry of pain had pierced the quiet stillness of the night.
The ether lamp still cast its ghostly, pale light; it appeared there was some time left until dawn.
The three girls slept on the first floor of the house in Fiora's room, Sharla and Melia had been forced to make do with moth eaten mattresses spread on the hardwood floor but even those had seemed like luxury compared to the nights they had spent out in the wilds, the titans looming black against the night sky, blotting out the stars.
Sharla slept peacefully, her chest rising and falling with the quiet sound of her breathing. It was Fiora who was suffering. Her mechanical hands lay clenched by her sides, her breaths short and sharp.
Melia went to her.
This wasn't the first time she had cried out in her sleep, but she couldn't sweat or have a fever, repairing her robotic body was beyond the expertise of even the most learned High Entia. The only one who could help her now was Linada; the Machina doctor.
It was a feeling of powerlessness she had rarely experienced. The might of the High Entian Empire at her beck and call and she could do nothing more than hold Fiora's hand and whisper words of comfort into the darkness.
Anger welled up inside her, burning, acrid, white hot.
At that moment something moved, a shadow between the ether lamps that lined the street outside "...Shulk?"
Where was he going at this time of night? Shouldn't he be here? Shouldn't he be the one supporting Fiora in her hour of need?
Melia knew that it made little real difference who sat by her side, but someone had to tell him... had to let him know just how callous he was being.
Pausing only to gather her equipment (for the Telethia could attack at any time) she set out in pursuit. She already knew where he was headed for these days he rarely left the laboratory in the military district.
By the time she arrived Shulk was already buried in his reports, scanning the room she noticed hundreds more, stacked in precarious towers like gigantic paper monoliths. Whatever he had been doing this afternoon, it appeared that he had returned to continue it.
It was just like him, he was single minded, almost to the point of obsession; but it was that self-same devotion that made him such an invaluable companion, and that dedication which would no doubt ensure the success of the Monado replica project. But he was forgetting something important, he was forgetting Fiora.
Naturally, Shulk was completely oblivious to her presence, he thought of nothing but the regeneration machine.
That was what Linada had told him about. Advanced High Entian technology so ancient that even they had lost all record of it, but if he could find it; then there was a chance that could save Fiora from her suffering.
Since hearing Linada's words words they had consumed his every waking moment.
Even the machina were unable to recreate it, yet there was still a chance that one existed somewhere on Bionis. So when he wasn't assisting the Monado project he was pouring over the archeological reports left by his parents and the other explorers who had cataloged the ruins dotting the landscape. Perhaps somewhere in those records...
Knowing nothing of this Melia stormed into the lab, her poise and etiquette momentarily forgotten.
"Shulk, what are you doing here?"
But her blunderous entrance disturbed the delicate balance of the documents piled beside the doorway, they swayed and rippled for a moment, like some great serpent, before collapsing.
Shulk had just enough time to grasp what was happening and leapt to protect her from the descending avalanche. At that moment...
Melia stood in front of the authentication device and spoke.
As sovereign of the royal house of the High Entia I request that control of this facility be passed to me.
Dunban hid his face, he didn't want the others to see his tears.
"It appears I'm in your debt once again..."
"No problem" Reyn laughed "I'll keep Shulk out of trouble until it's done..."
Linada placed a reassuring hand on Fiora's shoulder
"The preparations are complete, it is time to enter"
"What happened Shulk?"
Visions gave way to a monochrome world, ink blots to water colour, reds and blues. Then Melia's face swam into focus, she stood over him.
"Shulk" she said, her anger forgotten.
"Melia, where are we?"
He looked around the lab, documents lay scattered in great heaps upon the floor, his mind still trying desperately to process everything he'd just witnessed.
Melia had seen it many times before, that fleeting moment when Shulk's consciousness was elsewhere, that faint blue light glimmering in the depths of his eyes.
"You saw it didn't' you... The future"
Shulk nodded and slowly began to explained what he'd seen.
Whatever ancient system kept the machine sealed, it could be opened by a member of the royal family... By Melia
"I think I've found it..."
"found what? ...Shulk?"
"All this time and it was right under our noses" Shulk exclaimed "Don't you see Melia, there's a way to help Fiora, and you're the key!"
"There's this machine, of course the technology's been lost for eons, but I knew there had to be at least one left somewhere on Bionis"
Melia's expression went from puzzlement to delight
"It's right here in colony 9, and you were the one who showed me. It's all thanks to you!"
Forgetting herself a second time, Melia embraced him.
"We did it!"
Despite her delight, Melia couldn't help feeling guilty. Of course Shulk had been thinking of Fiora all along. She had been wrong to doubt him...
The journey from the hidden Machina village wasn't an easy one, but difficult and fraught with danger as it was, Linada responded to their summons and arrived just a few days later. Together the party headed to the Mag Mell ruins above Colony 9.
They made their way into the caves in silence, the atmosphere of anticipation palpable.
As they walked deeper Melia's pace began to slow, her eyes fixed on the structures which sprang from the rocks in the deepest part of the caves.
"You know it's strange" she said in a barely audible whisper "but this place, it reminds me of the the royal palace somehow"
"There is nothing strange about it" Linada replied "these walls were built by your ancestors hands, what inhabits this space is not a ruin as you seem to think, but an ancient ship of High Entian design".
The companions were taken aback by this sudden revelation. To them the old ruins were as familiar as the streets and houses of the colony, the creatures weak enough so that even the rawest recruits could train in relative safety. No one suspected that they held such a secret, that the metal structures were actually part of an ancient ship, crash landed so long ago that centuries at the mercy of the elements had rendered it indistinguishable from the surrounding mountains.
"The High Entian people developed many unique technologies in their high towers, regeneration chief among these. They protected it well. It is little wonder that time has not touched this place."
The colonials visited the alcove at the highest point of the ruins frequently. It's walls, lined with hundreds of ether cylinders were an invaluable resource, though their true purpose remained a mystery. The door at it's rear resisted any and all attempts to open it.
Now, Melia stood before it and spoke.
"As sovereign of the royal house of the High Entia I request that control of this facility be passed to me"
The captain's final orders fulfilled, the ship's computer accepted Melia as its new master and the automated systems, for the first time in hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, unlocked the door. With the defences finally at rest, the party progressed quickly through the ships dark interior until they reached the central chamber.
"This is it, no doubt about it"
Linada nodded her agreement
The device appeared just as it had in Shulk's vision. Before them lay a great mass of complex machinery, a human sized transparent capsule at it's centre.
Dunban gazed at the machine, his voice trembling as he spoke.
"With this, Fiora's body will...?"
"Yes," said Shulk "I'm sure of it"
"It appears I'm in your debt once again..."
Shulk averted his gaze, he knew Dunban was trying to hide his tears.
"This machine, will it really...."
Fiora seemed far from convinced, could this antiquated contraption really be the answer?
Linada spoke, placing a slender hand on her shoulder.
"Though Iron and steel replace your flesh, the patterns of your original construction remain, this machine can use the information in your remaining cells to rebuild you as you were"
"Riki doesn't understand machines, but soft Fiora would give better hugs"
Fiora looked at Riki and smiled, though her doubtful expression remained.
"Something wrong Fiora?" Asked Sharla, concerned.
"...it's, well... how long will it take...?"
Linada punched something into the terminal before answering"
"Your physique is slight, half a year will be sufficient"
"Half a year...?" her expression darkened.
"Half a year... No problem, I'll keep Shulk out of trouble until it's done" Reyn laughed
"Like I need you to protect me you big lump"
"The preparations are complete, it is time to enter" at Linada's words the capsule slid open."Sleep deeply, and awaken to your own body"
But Fiora stood resolute, turned to them, and said
"I... I'm not going in..."
Shulk and Fiora stood outside the Terra Cave, below them the colony lay shrouded in the early morning mist.
"You're sure about this?"
"For the last time, I'm sure"
Shulk was understandably worried, but Fiora spoke with unwavering certainty.
She couldn't going in, not now at least, of that she was certain.
It was true that six months in the machine would save her life, but the Telethia would not cease the slaughter while she slept, and unless they marched to meet Zanza, the cycle of destruction and recreation would continue. Fiora couldn't let her friends go without her.
"I've decided, I'll fight with you, with this body. I'd rather face this head on than be stuck here worrying, and besides the machine has survived this long, I'm sure it will still be here when we get back."
For Linada, Fiora's words were disquieting, they had no way of knowing how long this fight would continue, and no guarantee that her robotic body could endure it without Meyneth's protection, but she was adamant, immutable.
Her body weakens with each passing moon, she thought, but I'll give her all the time I can.
Reyn and Dunban join them overlooking the colony
"We'll be back, won't we Dunban"
"Once it's finished. Then we can fix Fiora. Then we can finally live in peace"
Shulk nodded in agreement.
"Yeah, we'll be back, this is our home after all"
The companions, making for the Gaul Plain, turned and headed into the caves, behind them Colony 9 stood defiant, just as it always had.
Waragai: Initially he was conceived as an illusive purveyor of rare objects.
Miyazaki: Yes, a character like that is actually very easy to fit into the game, you can essentially place him anywhere and move him about wherever you want. Mr Waragai took care of the design, but it wasn't until he added glasses that the character started to emerge.
Waragai: I agree. There are actually a number of examples of armour with glasses attached so I just used those as a base for the design. At first glance the character may look eccentric, but his armour is actually quite typical of suits worn in central Europe in the late middle ages, just chain mail, a surcoat and leather boots.
Miyazaki: I was adamant that he should be carrying a lot of things I think Waragai did an admirable job. Even in this world where money has lost it's value he holds onto these precious objects and carries them with him.
Nakamura: Talking of Domhnall, didn't we design a weapon for him, the triple crossbow. I really liked it, it was very unique, especially when compared to the other weapons in the game.
Miyazaki: The triple crossbow, you mean Avelyn? Unfortunately I had to move the it to the dukes archives.
Otsuka: Avelyn was originally Domhnall's weapon? I really like the name, where did that come from?
Miyazaki: Hmm, think there was a reason behind it, but… I've forgotten... at least that's what I'm going to tell you. Haha. I was fully aware when we were designing it that the detail and complexity of the weapon wouldn't come across in the game, but I specifically remember saying we'll probably make an art book in the future so let's just make it. I'm glad we were able to realise that dream.
Waragai: Make sure you to make it really big so as soon as you open the book, BAM. Haha. I don't work in that area much myself, but designing weapons looks like a lot of fun. Avelyn would have to be my favourite, but I also love the design of the Dragonslayer Spear.
Otsuka: That's Ornstein's spear isn't it.
Nakamura: We talked at length about that, about how you would pierce through the tough dragon scales.
Miyazaki: There's only so much you can do with a spear so it can be difficult to design, but once we hit upon the idea of using your bodyweight the design emerged pretty quickly.
Nakamura: Yes, the shape of the weapon was based entirely around the idea of stabbing the dragon, and then using all your bodyweight to force the spear deeper.
Miyazaki: I like the dragon weapons, especially the Drake sword and the Moonlight Greatsword, I'm really happy with the way they turned out.
Hatayama: I'm pretty sure I designed one of those…
Miyazaki: Ah yes, one of the early designs. I thought the Dragonslayer Greatbow looked great and once we added the animation it really came together.
Satake: I'm fond of the Dragon Tooth.
Waragai: Although I've heard some of the users calling it the fried chicken. Haha. They say it looks like you're carrying a giant piece of fossilised chicken.
Miyazaki: ...No comment.
Satake: But, I love the simplicity of the design, there's something really cool about it.
Otsuka: How about the shields? I know you actually held a contest so the fans could submit their designs.
Miyazaki: Well, shields are the opposite to spears in terms of design aren't they, you have a great deal of room to create something expressive and unique, it's because of that we were able to hold this type of user contest. It was a great success actually. The quality was exceptionally high and there were scores of ideas that we simply wouldn't have come up with ourselves. Despite the fact that the contest was only open to Japanese fans we were inundated with fantastic designs, far more than we could ever hope to put in the game. Designs like the Owl Shield really gave me some trouble, I simply couldn't decide and in the end was forced to leave it out.
I regret that we weren't able to use more of the designs, perhaps If we had started the process sooner we would have been able to, but it just wasn't possible.
I suppose the last thing about the contest is that we didn't really give the entrants any direction, I thought it would be far better to just let the entrants use their imagination.
Anyway, on to the designs we created in house, what do you think of them? Personally, I really like the simplicity of the Sunlight Shield.
Waragai: I like the Dragon Crest Shield.
Satake: I like the items that emanate that eerie glow.
Miyazaki: You mean the Crystal Ring Shield? I must admit, I wasn't entirely happy with how that turned out.
Waragai: Perhaps, but I think it's a really great design.
Satake: If you combine it with the Moonlight Greatsword it looks fantastic.
Waragai: Like Ultraman's Ultra Slash right!
Miyazaki: That's right! That's exactly how I tried to explain it to the artist, but he had no idea what I was talking about, I really felt the generation gap when that happened.
Otsuka: Looking at the equipment and armour from that game as a whole, how do you feel about it?
Miyazaki: Well this is going to get a little abstract, but I really like equipment that shows feeling or emotion, the best example of this would be the Armour of Favour, I mean, it's the only thing you have to depend on when you step onto the battlefield. So I really wanted players to say, I trust this with my life. Whether it's a sword, shield or armour, I want it to evoke some kind of feeling, and to do that sincerely, be it the devotion of the wearer or the hopes and dreams of the one who made it. I went into all the designs with that in mind, and while I wasn't able to get that in every single one, I feel I wasn't entirely unsuccessful. Of course this doesn't just apply to the aesthetics, the game systems must also be constructed around this idea. It's something I always strive for, a theme that carries through everything I do.
Otsuka: So you'd like the players to find a weapon or piece of armour they like and just stick with it?
Miyazaki: I'd be delighted if that were the case! This strays from art design a little, but with the weapon upgrades we made sure that there was one upgrade path that preserves not only the weapon's name, but also the motion and timing. I wanted people to be able to continue to use their favourite weapon so I left them this option.
Otsuka: Of course once you've created the art, you have to add the animation. Was there anything that gave you trouble during this stage?
Miyazaki: The way I prefer to work is that once the concept design is finished, I'll always gather together everyone involved with a particular character to talk through all of our ideas and ultimately decide where we want to take it. That means that for each and every character I get the artist, animator, effect and sound designer, AI planner and programmer and all the concept artists. While there might be some small areas that need work, there was never anything that differed wildly from my initial image.
One animation that I'll always remember is when the play activates the Dragon Torso Stone. I actually acted the motion out for the animators but when they showed me the finished animation I didn't like it. "He wouldn't move like this" I said. To which they replied "but this is how you showed us, I'm sure of it" and of course everyone agreed with them. Haha. I was a bit embarrassed, but that awkward, jerky motion actually conveys what it would be like if a human was trying to force him or herself into becoming a dragon, so in the end after some slight adjustments I gave it the okay.
Otsuka: How about the dogs in the depths, I actually found their movement a little unsettling.
Miyazaki: Yes, they weren't originally supposed to move like that but just as you say, it gave them a very unsettling quality so I left it in. If everything goes exactly as you plan that unsettling element, that disgust is very difficult to create and you end up with a game that doesn't surprise or shock the player. But it's very difficult to manufacture so it needs some stimulus, some mistake that you can utilise and turn to your advantage. I suppose in the end it's all about being receptive to failures as well as successes.
Satake: I'll always remember the Dark Hand's soul drain attack. This was the first thing Mr Miyazaki tried to explain to me and the first time I found myself on the receiving end of his acting. He was saying "I want it to be like this" while acting out the motion, and of course, I had no idea what he was doing. Haha.
Miyazaki: Yes, that can happen, but as I said before it's really a chance to hear everyone's ideas and get us all thinking on the same wavelength. I like to encourage everyone to contribute their ideas, no matter how trivial because from those some great ideas will emerge. For example having characters imprisoned inside the crystal golem. The lead artist actually came up with that idea. While we may end up using less that ten percent of these ideas I still think it's an important exercise. Of course we could just say "you go away and think about these 20 enemies" but I much prefer coming up with ideas together, having everyone contribute and develop the concept together. Although too many cooks can spoil the broth. Haha.
Satake: We actually used motion capture for the pre rendered movie, but in the sections where it differed from Mr Miyazaki's image he would act it out himself. Such as the part where Nito opens his hand, we reshot that many times didn't we. Also the part where the maiden takes the fire, originally she just took in in her hand but Miyazaki wanted it to look more like a prayer. We reshot that part many times too.
Miyazaki: Yes, I wanted her to take it gently as if she was protecting something very important and delicate from being broken. It took a long time to achieve that, no matter how many times we reshot it, it always looked like it was going to break. Actually right after working through the night on that, I was flying from Haneda to American. I remember someone asking "where are you going to sleep" I decided I'd be fine just sleeping on the plane, but I wasn't fine at all, it was absolutely awful.
But I learned a huge amount from working on Dark Soul's pre-rendered intro. At that point we were much more experienced working on mech games like Armoured Core and I think that lack of experience with fantasy games hindered us a little, but there are things I really like about it. Seath's scene or the part where Nito raises his hands are my favourites, I think they came together really well.
Otsuka: Lastly I'd like to ask about the cover art.
Miyazaki: This was another area that gave us some trouble. Since she designed the Elite Knight Armour I asked Hatuyama to design the cover. The cover features the player character and the bonfire, but it's the darkness behind the two that is the key to the design. Explaining this darkness was difficult without getting extremely abstract...
Satake: It was really interesting seeing the design develop, at first the knight and the bonfire were arranged very differently, separate from each other, but Nakamura started talking about facing the shadows and how to have the viewer feel the depth of that darkness. Hatuyama's original design was adjusted again and again until, we were looking form directly behind the character into the darkness. It's actually the opposite of most cover art isn't it.
Nakamura: Your proximity to the darkness and the impending sense of dread and anticipation, we tried to capture all that in the design.
Miyazaki: I think that really comes across when you see the art blown up into a poster, although speaking honestly, as a cover it does have some problems. I think it comes across as a product more than a game, although I do like the image and I was the one who suggested it so I'm responsible for the way it turned out.
Satake: Yes, I really think Hatuyama overcame a difficult challenge, taking advice from various people but at the same time producing something that is all her own.
Miyazaki: Yes I agree, that's something I really like about the image. It's interesting to compare it to the cover art used abroad. I'm sure it's shown somewhere in this book, It's really is completely different! I just gave them all the materials and took no further part in the design so I was actually really looking forward to seeing the results. I was really surprised. Haha. I thought the finished cover looked really cool, especially the cover used for the special edition.
Hatuyama: When designing our cover I have to admit, I was at a complete loss as to what to do, I was told I had to "face the darkness inside myself", which didn't really help at all.
Miyazaki: Really? I didn't think I'd say such an abstract thing...
Hatuyama: It was Satake who told me that, I didn't know how to react.
Satake: Ah yes I say things like that from time to time, then Mr Nakamura has to fill in the gaps.
Nakamura: Yes, I'm like a translator aren't I.
Hatuyama: But I was really in trouble, I didn't understand what Satake was trying to say.
Miyazaki: Oh dear Mr Satake. Haha.
Satake: But thankfully we were able to talk through all those problems.
Hatuyama: Yes, I feel like a learned a huge amount working on Dark Souls.
Miyazaki: It turned out fine in the end.
Hatuyama: Yes it really did, when I look back on everything we achieved, I feel a huge sense of achievement.
Miyazaki: In closing, I just want to say that the four artists here and two others not present were the entirety of the concept art team. With only six people we had to rely on out of house artists, but their job was mostly just to clean up our rough images. Almost all of the actual concept design work was done by just this handful of people.
That may surprise some you, and we certainly encountered difficulties because the team was so small, but I also believe that there are things that could only be achieved by a small team like this. It was a difficult balancing act, and as artists I'm sure you'd prefer to tighten up your own designs, so I'm sorry that you weren't able to.
Nakamura: Not at all, I think you really created an excellent environment to concentrate on producing interesting ideas.
Miyazaki: I'm glad you don't hold that against me. I truly enjoyed my role in developing the concepts and collaborating together with the artists and working together to shape the designs. I really think that looking at the game as a whole, we were hugely successful.
… Oh, and I'd also like to thank enter brain for producing the art book.
Otsuka: Thank you very much.
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Otsuka: There are some really unique weapons and suits of armour, could we speak a little about them? Siegmeyer's armour is one that really stands out.
Miyazaki: The Catarina armour was designed by Mr Waragai. Long before we started work on the game, in fact, not long after he joined the company we actually asked him to produce a number of designs, not for any specific project but more as a kind of test to help us decide which development team to attach him to. During that period I asked him to produce some fantasy armour, and among his designs there was a large, overweight character like Bazuso from Berzerk. It was really distinctive with a spherical, onion shaped helmet and I took to it immediately. Once we started work on Dark Souls and I began to outline Siegmeyer's character, it seemed like a perfect fit so I just used the design as it was.
Otsuka: That's great, so, does it have a special meaning for you since it was one of your first designs?
Waragai: Yes I suppose it does. I've always liked fantasy but it wasn't until I started working on these designs that I really began to think about how the armour was put together. Then I started thinking, how would you construct armour for someone who was really overweight, and this design was the result.
Miyazaki: Although Siegmeyer isn't actually fat, it's just his armour. Haha. It's strange little details like this that I really like about it. If there's one thing I regret about the Catalina armour, it's that I wasn't able to show the helmet opening, it's designed to do that and I have a mental image of Siegmeyer popping it open and hungrily guzzling down some food. I just wasn't able to fit in anywhere in the game. I have to apologise to Mr Waragai for that.
Otsuka: If you get the camera into just the right position you can actually see inside Sieglinde's helmet, she's quite a looker isn't she.
Miyazaki: You did that!? Haha. Well Waragai and the 3D artist he was working with made almost all of the npc's faces.
Waragai: And in a pretty short space of time as I recall.
Miyazaki: In my mind Sieglinde was always a cute character. I specifically remember asking for that.
Waragai: In the end she turned out completely different but at one point you asked me to make her look like Hermione.
Miyazaki: Eh? I said that? Surely I would have asked for Emma Watson, anyway I don't think she ended up resembling anyone in particular.
Waragai: You definitely said it. I remember because I'm also a fan. Haha.
Otsuka: Well, for some reason I was certain that a handsome man and beautiful woman would emerge from that armour.
Miyazaki: Fairly early in development I was actually talking about the game abroad when I blurted out something about her being beautiful, once I'd done that I couldn't go back on my word could I...
Waragai: Although in the end you never see her face. Haha.
Miyazaki: That's Dark Souls in a nutshell. Haha. In the end they lost something of their initial resemblance to Bazuso, but I'm very happy with the way the two characters turned out. Siegmeyer's story, including his touching final scene is actually enhanced by the fact that he's wearing that armour don't you think? …perhaps that's just be me. Haha.
In many ways it's the complete opposite of the Catalina armour but the set which best embodies Dark Souls' dark fantasy aesthetic, and which was consequently featured on the box art, is the Elite Knight armour. Hatayama designed this. I actually showed her the knight's armour from Demon's Souls to use as reference and asked her to enhance it by adding features that weren't present in the initial design such as the surcoat. I really wanted to bring out an air of nobility and refinement. Nakamura designed the knight's armour from demon's souls, and it was such a great design that it actually gave us trouble when it came to trying to improve upon it, there were several times where we took it in entirely the wrong direction, when it started to look like an inferior copy rather than an improvement.
Hatayama: I redrew it countless times didn't I.
Miyazaki: Yes, we struggled at first but I really think the final design is great. In fact when I find the armour in game myself, I can't help but equip it for a while. With the blue surcoat and other additions, I really think it turned into a very cool design.
Otsuka: And what about Mr Nakamura's designs?
Nakamura: In the early stages I worked on the equipment for the warrior, the wanderer, the hunter and the bandit.
Miyazaki: For the warrior we wanted to move away from the traditional soldier class seen in Demon's Souls and instead aim for something more like an adventurer, we used the relatively simple image words of leather armour with metal plating, and I suppose, a little of Parn from Record of Lodoss War...
Nakamura: Yes he did come up didn't he.
Miyazaki: It's not surprising, we're a similar age and both grew up with the series. Also I assumed that players would spend a significant portion of the game using this armour so we actually paid special attention to the back as it's the part the players will be looking at the majority of the time. It's the same with armoured core, we have to ensure that each and every camera shows the player some little detail or point of interest. We tried a number of different ideas but in the end we actually settled on something very close to the initial idea. The final design walks that line between warrior and adventurer so I'm really happy with it.
Nakamura: When I started work on these four designs I decided that I didn't want to just create a standard set of armour and swap parts around,
Instead I aimed to create something that while not traditional, looks like it could exist. Designs which felt like they were from another world but that were entirely plausible. That's what I was really strived for.
It was actually a very difficult period for me, I was determined to have something substantial before I showed my designs to Mr Miyazaki, to be able to explain my choices and defend them if needed.
I worked on them intensively for a long time before I was finally ready to show them to anybody. In fact as soon as I received the OK I went straight home. Haha.
Waragai: Oh yeah, I remember that. The look of relief on your face as you left!
Nakamura: Up until then I was practically sleeping at the office.
Waragai: I remember your look of satisfaction, as if to say "I've done it!"
Nakamura: I heard later that Satake and Miyazaki were discussing my designs over ramen and saying how pleased they were.
Satake: Yes we did.
Miyazaki: Of course I remember too, that was a great moment. Haha
Otsuka: Next is Satake san.
Satake: As far as equipment goes… the Thorn Armour. I remember it didn't start well at all.
Miyazaki: Ah, I was quite rude about the first design that reached me, I apologise. Originally I asked for something like Hydra from Saint Seiya. I like the poignancy of that character, to have gone through such harsh training to earn his holy armour, and after all that, his special ability amounts to nothing more than some claws attached to his hands, you would be pretty crestfallen wouldn't you. We talked like that a lot, but basically our images for the armour didn't match so we spend a long time working on it.
Satake: My first design was a huge guy covered in spikes, but that wasn't what you wanted at all was it.
Miyazaki: The design only began to take shape when we started talking about the trial of the 77 rings from Jojo's Bizarre Adventure. In the first part of the manga there are two characters called Tarkus and Bruford who, in order to earn their knighthood have to overcome the trial of the 77 rings. Each combatant wears a metal ring, the winner taking the loser's and adding it to his own. They have to defeat 77 opponents, but with each victory the number of rings they are forced to carry increases. It's a really cool idea, so we started talking about what it would be like to attach thorns to those rings. The final design was slightly different, but that's where it really started coming together.
On the other hand the design for the Iron and Sun set went extremely smoothly. I really felt like we agreed on the main elements, the large sun symbol and the mismatched, almost hand made look, so the design emerged remarkably quickly.
Satake: I never expected him to be raising his hands like that when I drew it though. Haha.
Miyazaki: Ah, that pose was something I brought over from demon's souls, a holy man always makes that pose. Haha.
Satake: We actually took to calling that his "Power" didn't we.
Miyazaki: Yes we did, although I think the 3D artists would have heard that more than the concept artists, those people in charge of lighting and effects. At first we tried to explain it saying "You know, the light glows behind him like this" but in the end it was just easier to call it "Power" Haha.
That pose actually carries some significance for me. During Demon's Souls that was a holy sign. When I presented the game to the rest of the company I showed them that pose and one of the higher ups told me it just wasn't cool enough. Of course I told him I'd get rid of it but I secretly kept it in the game. So naturally, with this game I was determined to use it.
By the time I began thinking about Solaire's character I had already decided I was going to use it for the Sunlight covenant. By using it for summons it doesn't interfere with the action. I remember I actually acted the pose out so the artist could take pictures.
Waragai: I'd like to ask about the Darkmoon Knightess.
Miyazaki: The Knightess' brass armour was actually one of the starting sets for a while. In amongst the other classes I wanted to create something a little more unusual, and this was designed as a pagan knight, but it was too difficult to balance so we gave it to the knightess. However, that initial image remains.
The majority of the people in the Dark Souls world follow the way of the white or Gwyn and the sunlight covenant, but there is another far more secretive group who follow Gwndolin
and the dark moon. They have developed in almost complete isolation so their customs and traditions are also completely different. The Darkmoon Knightess was designed around this idea.
These ideas, the moon and purity also carry with them something feminine, infact they obsess over the image of a maiden dancing in front of the moon, and strive to capture this beauty.The copper armour's appearance and indeed, the appearance of Gwyndolin himself can be attributed to this.
Nakamura: The skirt like garment he wears on his lower half for example, actually represents female menstruation. An interesting thing is that I actually made his head a little bigger than usual. When Mr Miyazaki saw it he was delighted, saying that it made him look like a little girl and that I had to keep it.
Waragai: Huh? Haha
Miyazaki: It's not what you think. Haha
Nakamura: To be honest I just made a mistake when I copied and pasted it.
Miyazaki: Yeah, I did say that didn't I. When I first saw that you'd made his head that size I thought you were a genius. Haha. But the fact that it was an accident, I was hoping you'd take that to your grave. Haha.
I'm very happy that our feminine image for the Darkmoon covenant made it into the game intact.
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Otsuka: Personally I'd really like to know more about the Ceaseless Discharge
Miyazaki: As with Priscilla, I had a pretty clear image of how I wanted the character to look and behave so I entrusted his design to an out of house artist.
All demons are born from the fire of chaos, but he was the first, born so long ago that the fire wasn't yet stable. He possesses it, but he can't control it and it burns him constantly.
Despite his size, he's actually the youngest of Izalith's children, he stands gazing up at the ruins where his sisters live. The only source of comfort in his pitiful, painful existence is the belief that they are watching over him.
Waragi: Do you think people would have been able to guess all that simply by looking at the boss room?
Miyazaki: I don't really think so. There are a huge number of things that while present in the game, we make no attempt to explain to the player, and many more that they simply have no way of finding out. The Ceaseless Discharge's story is just one of these. I recall the main difficulty designing the character was trying to get across that sense of sadness that I wanted. People just couldn't see past the fact that he's a flaming giant
Satake: Poor guy, everyone just wanted to attack him didn't they.
Miyazaki: It's not difficult to see why, but simply giving him a melancholic expression or making him weep would have been taking it too far in the opposite direction wouldn't it. It was a very difficult balance to achieve.
Otsuka: So in a way, by killing the ceaseless discharge you are doing him a kindness aren't you.
Miyazaki: Yes probably, relief from his pain at last… Although it's extremely difficult and I doubt anyone will ever discover it, I seem to recall there being a way to progress through the game without killing him, although in truth, it's more of an exploit than a valid method.
Waragai: I really like Ornstein and Smough
Miyazaki: Those were both Mr Nakamura designs. I personally really like Smough's armour.
Nakamura: He was the first thing I designed
Miyazaki: Smough came form the initial concept stages, while Ornstein was introduced much later. I remember the channeller's design was put forward around the same time as Smough's and we all took to referring to them as the four knights, knights C and D if I remember correctly. I hoped that by doing this it would ensure that knights A and B were created. Haha.
But of course in the end they never were, the four knights disappeared and the design work for knights A and B was transferred to other characters like Ornstein and Artorias. The channeller was given a different role, so that left Smough. I'm extremely fond of the design so I wanted to do something special, turn him from one of four knights into something almost… heretical.
I'm sure made the designers and programmers really angry because I forced them to make his armour equippable.
Otsuka: You really were fond of him weren't you. Haha.
Miyazaki: He's offers a substantial challenge for the player too doesn't he.
Otsuka: I thought the strongest boss in the game was probably the… Capra demon
Waragai: For me it's undoubtably the fight with Ornstein.
Miyazaki: There's something unnatural about Smough's armour, it doesn't look like something that would have been created by a normal, sane human, I think that's what I like about it. There was a rumour that we were hunting players who bought the game early. I wasn't us, but whoever was, was wearing Smough's armour and I remember thinking how fitting that was.
Otsuka: How about that Chaos Witch Quelaag?
Miyazaki: Quelaag was another character I always had a pretty clear image for. The truth is there is an old board game called Dragon Pass which I really love, in the game there is a special unit called the crag spider, all it is, is a tiny chip with the name, parameters and a small silhouette but for some reason it really stuck with me. Although she developed into something quite different, that's where the inspiration for the character came from. It's not just dragon pass, I love all old table top games and game books, my copies of Titan and Out of the Pit remain some of my most treasured possessions.
Satake: When he's having difficulty trying to explain something he will often take out an old book, point to something and say "Like this!"
Miyazaki: It was my first foray into fantasy so it holds a special place in my heart... but getting back to Quelaag she became strangely popular, perhaps it has something to do with her chest….
Waragai: Ah, her introduction cinematic. Haha.
Miyazaki: I wonder… Personally, and this is also the case with the ceaseless discharge, I'm not entirely happy with the way they turned out, I think we could have improved both their behaviour and the way they are introduced to the player.
Waragai: She spoke at one point didn't she.
Miyazaki: Yes she did, and, perhaps with a better script we could have made it work, but I felt like the character lost something, so we quickly took it out. She's actually one of the few completely silent characters.
Otuka: What boss gave you the most trouble?
Miyazaki: Who gave me the most trouble…. Hmm
Nakamura: All of them right?
Miyazaki: That's the truth. Haha. There are quite a few, when deadlines were closing in and I couldn't get a good mental image of what I wanted, but we had to settle on something. Those situations were the hardest because I knew something was wrong, but couldn't express what I wanted and couldn't give a solution. That was difficult, both for me and for the artists I was working with. I suppose the Bed of Chaos is the principal example of this.
Otsuka: It seems you designed King Izalith at one point too, what was that like?
Miyazaki: Ah yes, evidence of the twists and turns we went through.
Waragai: Initially he was going to be the boss of the area, the Bed of Chaos lies sprawled on the floor and waves it's hands about but he was a king sitting in his throne...
Miyazaki: That's right. We really had trouble with that didn't we. I've already talked about quite a few aspects of the game I'm not entirely happy with, but I'd have to say that my greatest regret is the Bed of Chaos. The artists and designers worked extremely hard and came up with some fantastic ideas, but it exposed a real problem in our production method. We have no way to find a common goal and work towards it when things go wrong. It's definitely something I want to correct in the future.
Otsuka: Well now we've talked about the boss characters I'd like to talk a bit about the normal enemies.
Hatuyama: I want to ask about the black knights. I remember originally they were going to wander the world, why was it that you decided to change that?
Miyazaki: We've been thinking about introducing wandering enemies since Demon's Souls, then it was skeletons and grim reapers… but for whatever reason we've yet to go through with it. The Black knights behaviour was changed slightly, but their role never changed. Since they were burned by Gwyn's fire they wander the land. As far as design goes there were a number of themes I wanted to incorporate. I wanted to make them really detailed models so we gathered a huge amount of reference material, of course cloth wouldn't fit their burned image, but I wanted to design right down to the patterns carved into their armour. I really wanted that quality. I also wanted their armour to look like something a normal person couldn't wear, thick, heavy and almost hollow. I'm really happy with the final result, in fact it really helped us promote the game.
I hadn't expected people to say it looked like a character from Demon's Souls though. Haha. That wasn't at all intentional.
Hatuyama: The fact that they used to be silver knights and were transformed by Gwyn's fire. I was really happy that players actually noticed. I saw someone saying "This must have appeared when they were burned" and I realised they'd got it!
Miyazaki: It's always great to see things like that.
Otsuka: The Mimic was quite different to those in other games, it's certainly the strongest I've ever encountered...
Miyazaki: Yes, the mimic. I wanted a mimic in the game from the very start, but mimics in other games are all the same aren't they. The point of the enemy is to surprise people but in doesn't does it. I love the design but it's just been over used. So I wanted to create a mimic that would surprise the player again, to go against their preconceptions… "Oh this is a mimic isn't it… wait what!" That was the image I had for the enemy from the very beginning, it was designed out of house but as long as it left a strong impression then it succeeded.
Hatuyama: It has an interesting way of kicking doesn't it.
Miyazaki: Yes that actually Super Tiger's rolling sobat. I think I recall saying that Super Tiger's story is one of the greatest ever told, although I suppose that's not really relevant here.
Waragai: How about the tentacled beasts in the Izalith ruins? When I look at them all I see is Mixer Taitei from Kinnikuman. I think some of the players noticed it too.
Miyazaki: well he is one of the few people to ever win against Kinnikuman isn't he.
Otsuka: So that's why he looks so much like Mixer Taitei?
Miyazaki: No, I'm joking. It wasn't intentional. although I have no problem with it looking like mixer Taitei. I'm a fan of the series and people seem to enjoy it.
Satake: I was responsible for designing that. It was actually based on a very old sketch. I was trying to create something strange and unique, like the Great Race of Yith from the Lovecraft mythos, or something with many eyes on springs. There was a period where I was created a lot of designs around these themes, and it was one of these sketches that formed the basis for this particular design. I'd been wanting to do something with it for a long time now so I'm glad we were able to use it in the game.
Otsuka: Of all the enemies in the game the ones which scared me the most would have to be the crow demons in the painted world, and the basilisks in the depths.How about them?
Miyazaki: the crow demons came about during the initial concept stages. I think the animator did a really incredible job.
Satake: I think they are really at home in the painted world.
Nakamura: I like to think that they were humans who wanted to fly so badly that they sprouted wings, but rather than their skeletons evolving over time, they instead twisted their limbs into unnatural positions, forcing their bodies into a birdlike shape, that's how I've always imagined them.
Miyazaki: I always thought of the painted world as somewhere where things go to escape, and the bird men but no different. They were originally designed as worshippers of the Goddess Velka whose bodies were warped by their devotion. I think this obsession makes them really interesting characters.
Satake: In some ways there are very similar to the gaping Dragon aren't they.
Otsuka: How did the basilisk's come about?
Miyazaki: They also came out of the initial concept stages. Although the idea that they could turn people to stone came much later.
Waragai: Yes, it was never designed as a basilisk. In was just one of the many designs created during those initial stages. In the end, we had an out of house artist brush up the design.
Miyazaki: the concept images are extremely rough. They're great for getting the design across, but when it comes to building the model and animating it, it doesn't contain nearly enough information. So we had and out of house artist complete the design for us. The thing which takes the longest time and needs the most communication is of course the very first image, so having this work done for you it actually a very good method. In his book, I'm sure there are a lot of rough concept images, I think is interesting to compare them to the finished images.
Otsuka: Did you all like fantasy before starting the project?
Everyone: Of course!
Miyazaki: Everyone really loves it. There are a couple of people who also draw mechs, but I think it would be very difficult to work with someone who didn't like fantasy. It would be hard to communicate some of the more fantasy based ideas. Haha.
I don't have that problem with people like Mr Nakamura or Mr Satake. I've worked with Mr Nakamura for a long time on both Armoured Core and Demon's Souls, and have always trusted him with the most important designs. I've also worked with Mr Satake since Armoured Core, and on this project he worked with the out of house artists which basically meant he had to translate my abstract directions into something they might understand. Haha. I'm very grateful.
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In this section of the interview the artists talk about their designs for the NPC characters and bosses found in Dark Souls. If you missed the first two parts you can read them HERE and HERE. Also be warned, some of this could be construed as spoilers so read it at your own risk.
Otsuka: Now we've covered the maps I'd like to ask about the NPCs (non player characters), There certainly are a lot of memorable characters aren't there.
Miyazaki: Thanks very much, we spend a lot of time on them so I'm happy to hear you say that.
Waragai: Personally, I really like Big Hat logan
Miyazaki: That was one of (Mai) Hatayama's designs wasn't it?
Hatayama: Yes it was… but I have to ask, why did you make him naked?
Miyazaki: Huh? I made him naked?...
Waragai: Haha, I'm sure it was your idea mr Miyazaki.
Miyazaki: I suppose it was… Well as to why I made him naked, I wanted to show that the character had found enlightenment, but unfortunately the character models in dark souls weren't built with a wide range of emotional expression, so as I was thinking about how to overcome this problem, for some reason, I hit upon the idea of making him naked… Its Logan's goal to gain the power of the ancient dragons, so in order to do this, I had an image of him casting off his human clothes. It's similar to when when you use the Dragon head or torso stone, you have to remove your equipment don't you. Of course there are gameplay reasons for this to, but there was also this image of the player character leaving something of their humanity behind. Similarly, Logan removing his clothes is his attempt to bring himself closer to Seath in some way. Although I couldn't take his hat off because you wouldn't have known who it was, but personally I like to think that unlike the followers of the path of the Dragon, Logan sought to gained the dragons power, while still retaining his pride as a human.
Hatayama: I drew a lot of designs for underwear so I'm a little disappointed he didn't emerge wearing one of those instead.
Miyazaki: In his underwear… If we had done that I'm not sure it would have been taken in the way I wanted. Haha. But I also really like Logan as a character, so I spent a good amount of time on the design. He's a wise man or a sage, but I really wanted to make him unique, so I had quite a few designs made. Once we arrived on the idea of his big hat the design came together, but that wasn't there from the start and only emerged through continual revisions.
Hatayama: At first I held back thinking "Is it really okay to make his hat this big" but as time went on It gradually got larger and larger until…
Miyazaki: Yes we went through that process many times. Haha.
Hatayama: I thought he'd turn into a mushroom, but I was told that it wasn't a problem so I just went ahead and did it.
Satake: Turn into a mushroom… I like that. Haha.
Hatayama: Artistically speaking I made his hat far too big, you can't actually see his face anymore.
Miyazaki: I think it turned into a good silhouette in the end, he looks like someone who doesn't like other people… I can empathise with that. Haha.
Hatayama: Can I ask aboutGwynevere, because compared to the other female charters she's very different, almost glamorous.
Miyazaki: …. You don't like the design?
Hatayama: No, I just wanted to know what the original idea behind it was.
Otsuka: As a fan of the character I'd be interested to hear that too. Haha.
Miyazaki: Well, the truth is, I just wanted to make a really big woman. I think it was a Fujiko F. Fujio manga, (Yasaragi no Yakata, literally Tranqil Mansion), there was a company president who joins an exclusive club to escape his stressful work life, and there's a giant woman who takes care of the club members, almost like a mother… don't you think that's just a perfect situation? A giant, considerate, caring woman. The kind we all lost when we grew up, that's what I wanted to make. Originally I also wanted to put a mouth in the palm of her hand, and we made all of the animations, but it didn't make it into the final game. Talking of glamour, her breasts are nothing to do with me, they happened without my knowledge. It's all the artist's fault. I think I mentioned it earlier but I always seek a certain refinement in all my designs.
Waragai: Really? Haha
Miyazaki: Yes, But the artist had such a happy look on his face that I didn't have the heart to stop him.
Otsuka: Earlier we were talking about Half breed Pricilla, but are there any other characters whose role changed dramatically as development progressed?
Miyazaki: Oh there are many, for example Andre of Astoria. Originally he played a far more important role in the story.
Satake: Andre is no longer related to Gwin is he?
Miyazaki: Yes, we took that out. He was originally a descendant of Gwin whose task it was to protect a door within the fire link shrine. In the end he was going to push aside the goddess statue to let you progress, but as development progressed he became just a simple blacksmith. Haha
Waragai: But there are still those statues that look like him around the game world aren't there?
Miyazaki: Yes they are aren't they. but I don't think they are related, they're simply vessels which hold the embers.
Otsuka: Next I'd like to ask about the enemy characters, starting with the boss characters…
Miyazaki: There are too many for us to talk about all of them, so why don't we have the artists talk about their favourite designs.
Waragai: I'm afraid I didn't really work too much on the enemy designs.
Hatayama: Really? How about Pricilla?
Miyazaki: Pricilla was designed out of house. I had a pretty clear image of what I wanted for the character so I trusted it to an outside art studio.
Waragai: From my designs… I suppose Nito
Miyazaki: I remember all the trouble we went through naming the character. Waragai thought my original name for the character was too sad. Haha. Dark souls was his first job as an art designer and Nito was his first design so I felt I should respect his wishes. I changed the name slightly, and I actually think the new name fits the character much better. Also Nito was originally created as the boss of the prototype map, and because of that we tried out a huge range of different effects. from that time there was constantly discussion about what colour he should be and how he should look.
Waragai: He was originally on fire wasn't he?
Miyazaki: Yes, Nito is also in the pre-rendered intro, but it's a really intricate design so It was extremely difficult to communicate what I wanted to the animators making it. The character had to be cloaked in shadow, shrouded in a deathly aura, but that's not easy to get across and their first attempt wasn't what I wanted at all.
Waragai: It can be difficult to explain how you want the material to behave to the animators can't it, the feel and the weight of something isn't easy to put into words.
Miyazaki: Yes, exactly. I had a good idea of how I want the materials to move in the pre-rendered scenes, but actually putting it in a way that was easy to understand was extremely difficult. No matter how many times you say "he's always surrounded by an aura" he would just come back covered in smoke. In the end I told them to make it more like cloth. Since he was selected to be in the intro we had a very difficult time with the character, but the fact that he was chosen shows how strong the initial design was.
Miyazaki: Next is Mr Nakamura isn't it?
Nakamura: Right from the initial concept stages, when we were still working from key words like "ancient dragon", "chaos demon" and "undead" I thought long and hard about how to create something fresh and new for the people who played Demon's Souls
Miyazaki: The demon in the undead asylum, the taurus demon and the capra demon, in fact the majority of the demon enemies were designed by Mr Nakamura. I really love all of his designs, they're simple, but not predictable. Exactly the kind of creatures that I imagined populating the Dark Souls world. They're just fantastic enemies.
I'm also a huge fan of the Gaping dragon. It's a little different to the other dragons in the world, It's part of an ancient race of mineral based life forms, existing since long before the emergence of mankind. Yet despite its superiority over us, its time has passed, and it finds itself alone in the world, the last of its race forced to survive in any way it can. As to what triggered this change, well the emergence of life corrupted it, it was warped by emotion and desire…
When we were initially discussing the design we came upon the theme of greed, once we arrived at that Mr Nakamura produced the design remarkably quickly. You would expect designs based around this theme to be either fat or have a huge mouth, but that's a little too predictable. When I saw the design I was genuinely surprised and absolutely delighted.
Otsuka: It just ate and ate so much that he turned out like this?
Nakamura: Yes, it was completely consumed with the desire to eat, so much so that it began to adapt, and the parts of it's body it no used such as it's head, began to retrogress. It no longer eats with it's mouth but takes food directly into it's body, but it had to change in this way in order to survive. Aside from eating It's lost any faculties it may have once possessed and has to survive in this desolate, harsh environment by eating anything he can. It simply did what it had to, to continue to exist.
Miyazaki: You can almost imagine him saying things like "You're too far away", "Get over here, I want to eat you". Haha. Of course these words never came up in the design process as I never imagined the creature would develop in this way, but I think it's a really incredible design. As I said before I love working together with the artists, I really think it benefits both of us. In fact I'd go so far as to say that it's my favourite part of the job.
Nakamura: Before we move on, I'd like to ask you about the Demon enemies I designed, specifically those designs which incorporate some type of symbolism. I know that you dislike designs which are too easy or obvious, but spending too much time trying to force symbolism into designs can also be just as damaging to the development of the world. So I just wanted to know how you feel about the demon enemies overall.
Miyazaki: I think you're thinking too much. Haha. To put it plainly, I'm delighted with your designs.
It can certainly be difficult to achieve the right balance of symbolism in designs. It's true I dislike designs which are too obvious, but there are times when I feel a design lacks a certain something. At times like this I have been know to look through the reference materials, pick out things I like and simply stick them on. The capra demon's head is an example of this, it gives a sense of ceremony and long held tradition, which in turn hints at a developed culture. Details such as this can really improve the designs giving them a significance not present in initial image. Symbols contain inherent meaning, they wouldn't be symbols if they didn't, but it's difficult to then add new meaning to that symbol. So I think this can be a really powerful weapon for the artists. Anyway getting back to your question, I think you did a fantastic job.
Nakamura: I'm relieved to hear you say that.
Miyazaki: Really? I wish you wouldn't talk like that, It's almost like you're scared of me. Haha
Otsuka: What were you in charge of Ms Hatuyama?
Hatuyama: The black knights and the gargoyles!
Miyazaki: She joined us slightly later in the project, when we'd already finished the initial concept stage, so I had her work on those designs which had to adhere to a more rigid set of conditions. As Ms Hatuyama just said, the gargoyles where one of those designs. This enemy would appear just before you rung the bell in the church tower, this much was decided but I couldn't get a clear image for the creature. Originally the centipede demon from Izalith was here, but looking at the route you take through the opening stages of the game, to Sen's fortress and Anor Londo beyond, it doesn't really fit. It's also the first large boss enemy you face so I wanted something a little more typical. So since it's a church and we have a relatively open space, we decided on gargoyles. It was one of your first designs wasn't it Ms Hatuyama?
Hatuyama: I think it was the second design I worked on…
Miyazaki: This was my first time working together with Ms Hatuyama, so I wanted to begin designing something that was relatively orthodox, and use the opportunity to get us thinking on the same wavelength, unite our ideas of fantasy if you will. I think that was my plan… but it took quite a while to get right.
Hatuyama: I'm very sorry. Haha
Miyazaki: It turned out well thought. It was even featured in the commercials wasn't it!
Hatuyama: I was so happy!
Miyazaki: I remember we talked about a great many things, how to make the creature fit in, about it's heavy thick armour and it's level of technological advancement. I don't really remember what I said in too much detail, but looking back I think I bombarded you with too much at once.
Hatuyama: No, not at all I think you pointed out a lot of useful things, I think it really took me to places I wouldn't have gone to before.
Miyazaki: Thank you for saying that.
Otsuka: What about Mr Satake?
Satake: I don't really have to speak do I?
Miyazaki: What are you saying! Let's talk, you were in charge of the last boss Gwyn lord of cinder, how was that?
Satake: Well we had a good initial image for Gwyn so I remember it going relatively smoothly. His armour, or more accurately his clothing needed some work but other than that… We simple continued to adjust the design, checking it in game as we went.
Miyazaki: We wanted his clothing to look ancient didn't we, he is an old king after all. I researched a lot of old clothing but I couldn't really find anything that looked *cool*. Short pants for example wouldn't create the image we wanted for the character. I'm happy with the final design though so…
Satake: Yes, as design progressed he really turned into the type of king who would fight at the head of his troops didn't he.
Miyazaki: Although as far as the game is concerned I think we could have done a little more with the character. He's the last boss and the concept of the character was to have the player use all the skills they'd developed through the game. I wanted them to have to use everything they've learned in order to beat him. The reason that he uses such a simple single sword fighting style stems from this concept, but in the end we ended up taking a different direction.
Waragai: Parry, parry, parry. Haha
Satake: Yup parry, parry. Haha
Miyazaki: That's the truth… I regret that the fight turned out this way… That's probably about it as far as it goes for bosses, of course there are other designs that I really like, the iron golem for example, is a great large powerful enemy.
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Part 2 of the Dark Souls Design Works interview, this section takes a more detailed look at each of the game's main areas.
If you missed the first part of the interview you can read it HERE.
Otsuka: Next I'd like to talk about each of the areas in the game in a little more detail. I suppose we should start at the beginning in the Undead Asylum.
Waragai: I was in charge of the Undead Asylum, but in was actually the last thing I drew.
Miyazaki: It may sound strange, but it's quite common for the tutorial to be the last thing to be integrated. It's much easier to design once you know what needs to be communicated, and have thought about how best to explain it to the player. I remember saying that the Undead Asylum should take Dark Souls' dark fantasy aesthetic and just distill that to it's purest essence. We began with the image of a gloomy basement cell and the stone architecture, and also incorporated that cold, sad atmosphere I mentioned previously. Once we decided on this direction the area came together fairly easily. In many ways it fell directly in the centre of designs we had been working on up until that point...
Otsuka: Next I'd like to ask about a very important area, the Firelink shrine.
Miyazaki: The Firelink Shrine was Mr (Daisuke) Satake wasn't it?
Satake: Yes. From what I remember it was originally designed as a water temple. But as work on the game progressed, and the image of kindling and fire became more prominent, the water gradually dried up. Haha.
Miyazaki: Yes that's right. The Firelink Shrine is what serves as the hub for the game so I initially wanted it to be a very healing place with water, greenery, soft light and subtle music. and while that never really changed, as Mr Satake said factors like the introduction of kindling and frampt's arrival later in the game, meant the water gradually disappeared from the area. We realised that when Frampt appears he bursts through the ground, so the water that used to fill that area would all have to drain away...
The other thing is the bonfire placement. It use to be in a different location, the place it's in now used to be a small pond. We had problems with the original placement because when the ground wasn't flat it interfered with the players sitting animation. So we had to search for a level place to move the bonfire and that's were it stayed… but of course you can't have a bonfire in the middle of a pond so that water had to go too.
Waragai: But it feels like a place everyone will gather so I think this location actually worked really well.
Miyazaki: Yes, I had an image of people gather around the fire from the very beginning, but getting back to the subject, the Firelink Shrine was one of the first places we designed, it's a small area but it connects to many different places and has many hidden areas, It was actually a very enjoyable location to create.
Satake: Yes. It was made to connect with areas in every direction. In fact we had to remove some routes from area in the final game, as well as some other things. Initially Pricilla was the heroine of the story and she was going to be there for example…
Miyazaki: That's not really something I want to talk about just yet….
Otsuka: Pricilla is certainly the most beautiful character in the game
Miyazaki: Thank you, she was the heroine of the story at one point so I'm glad you think so. Moving on to the undead burg. We never really spent much time working on the look of the area. It was the first map we created and the large bridge, the church and the other structures were already planned out by the 3d artist who was in charge of the area. As the lead artist on the project, he had already decided exactly how he wanted these things to look right down to the smallest detail, even the levers and statues.
Otsuka: Next I'd like to travel upwards to ask about Sen's Fortress...
Miyazaki: Sen's Fortress and Anor Londo were both overseen by Mr Waragai. As for me, I had a definite visual image right from the beginning and a good idea of the concept behind the area i.e. the trial to reach Anor Londo, full of deadly traps. The designers had real trouble with this area I seem to remember. We spent a long time on the rough map didn't we.
Waragai: Yes we did, but the image of a trap road was fairly straightforward. The pendulums, rolling boulders and other major traps were all there from the start. Infact we almost tried hard to make them obvious and create things that screamed trap!
Miyazaki: It's almost comical how obvious they are, but I think things like that are all part of Dark Souls' appeal. Personally I love the stone launcher, the way it endlessly fires the boulders, and the strange complex contraption build to achieve this simple action. It's things like this really add a sense of intrigue to the Dark Souls world. In terms of achieving the original design aims, I think the area works really well.
Satake: I really like the way the stairs are worn away where the boulders roll down.
Waragai: I think that was Miyazaki's idea
Miyazaki: Was it?
Waragai: Yes, the idea was that the worn steps might give players a warning as to the dangers ahead.
Miyazaki: I see, although I doubt people will be able to pick up that on that small detail, especially on their first time through, Haha, perhaps the second time it will serve to remind them.
Waragai: Diligent people will notice I think, by that point you've already seen several large boulders haven't you...
Miyazaki: Well I'm glad we were able to create a design that really incorporated all of our ideas. Haha
Otsuka: Next up is Anor Londo.
Miyazaki: There was a lot I wanted to fit into Anor Londo. As I mentioned before I wanted it to feel like a reward after finishing Sen's Fortress, but I also wanted it to be an area with no clear road, to have the player walk in places that you wouldn't normally walk such as the buttresses. Then there was also the image of the setting sun, and the way it the area changes once night falls. I really like the way your eye is drawn to to different features like the revolving staircase elevator.
Waragai: That was Nakamura's idea, I remember him saying Life is like climbing a great spiral…
Miyazaki: Nakamura comes out with some strange things doesn't he. I mean that in the best possible way of course. I think this idea works really well, there are several spirals in the area and I'm glad that we were able to incorporate that idea.
Otsuka: Did you use anything for reference when designing Anor Londo?
Waragai: We had the image of walking on buttresses from the start, so that I suppose. Their actual purpose is to support the walls so they can build them even higher, but when I visited the cathedral in Milan, I walked beneath the buttresses and I thought how fun it would be to walk upon them…
Miyazaki: There was one more thing I wanted to achieve with Anor Londo, the last game I directed Demon's Souls was based in the early middle ages so it was extremely difficult to gather reference materials for the area design Dark Souls is based in a later time period so with Anor Londo I saw a chance to create an area that felt more cohesive and full of the kind of detail that we couldn't achieve in Demon's Souls.
Otsuka: How about The Duke's Archives and the crystal caves… The library looks a little like...
Miyazaki: Yes the revolving stairs are from Harry Potter aren't they. Haha. Personally I was really interested in creating a library or archive, but if I'm being honest I would have liked to spend a little more time on some aspects of area.
Otsuka: How about the Old Londo Ruins?
Miyazaki: We tried a slightly different approach with the New Londo ruins, closely basing it on existing architecture, in this case Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France. Of course it's not exactly the same but if you compare the two, the similarities are obvious.
Very much like creating the cities in armoured core, it's much easier for the planners, designers and 3d artists to start with a bases in reality than to start from scratch. Real things contain such a mixture of influences and ideas and such an abundance of information, so I wanted to try using this technique in dark souls too. Of course some things worked out better than others, but I think in the end we created something that wouldn't have been possible starting from zero. Even with the areas that didn't turn out as I'd hoped it was a pretty successful experiment. Looking at it against the other areas I think the difference is actually fairly obvious. But since we used this different approach for this area it was the last area the artists worked on.
Waragai: Yes. While I was in charge of New Londo, the fact that it was based so heavily on a real world location meant there wasn't actually a great deal of work to be done. All but the finest details were already in place.
Otsuka: Well then moving on to the Depths and Blight Town
Miyazaki: Well the depths were based around the image of an underground aqueduct, but it's aesthetic is very similar to that of the undead burg. It also shared the same lead artist so the two areas really fit together well.
As for Blight Town, I started with a number of images I wanted to incorporate, but due to the complexity of the area it would have been difficult to try and design everything all at once, so instead we began with large features like the water wheel elevator and, with the designers and artists, gradually build the area up from there.
Otsuka: Moving even further down to the Demon Ruins, they have a different feel to the previous areas don't they.
Miyazaki: I mentioned previously that Dark Souls is divided into three main sections or themes. The demons in are all based around the idea of chaos, but we had to think long and hard about how to convey that image in a map. We decided upon an oriental theme. I'm worried people may this that the wrong way but oriental things possess a kind of chaos, or to put it differently they lack a kind of peace or order and that's what I wanted to try and capture. The best example of this is found at Angkor Wat in Cambodia and in the areas surrounding it, where east and west asia meet.
Otsuka: How about the Catacombs and the Tomb of the Giants?
Miyazaki: The Catacombs and the Tomb have a similar atmosphere to that of Blight Town, but both contain a great many more man made objects, which meant more work for the artists. In our team the 3d artists will sometimes be called upon to do work more akin to that of a traditional artist so we tried to utilise their skills as much as we could. As I said before we don't have many artists to start with, and just throwing more people at something doesn't guarantee a better result.
Otsuka: On to the Great Hollow and Ash lake
Miyazaki: These two areas were entirely created by the designers, with little to no concept work. I had a clear image of both areas from the beginning, and as work progressed I continued to modify that so as to be in keeping with the other areas we were creating. Most of the work was done directly from the rough map, but there is also more than a little Avatar in there I think. Of course if the area hadn't have come together I'd have had the artists create some concept art, but in the end it wasn't needed.
Otsuka: Now, a very interesting area, the painted world of Artemis
Miyazaki: We drew a great deal of concept art for the painted world. It was actually based on the map used in the dark souls prototype. Of course the prototype is your chance to really get across your vision for the game so we spent a long time on the area. So much so that I really wanted to use it in the full game but I couldn't find a way to make it fit with the other areas. In the end I cheated and put it in the painted world.
Waragai: It's the only area with snow so it would be hard to put anywhere else.
Miyazaki: Yes. it may sound like a poor solution, but I actually had an image for the painted world from the start, I'm just happy I was able to combine that image and the prototype map.
Otsuka: It was here you decided to put former heroine pricilla wasn't it
Miyazaki: Yes. I think she she works well here… she's kind of snow coloured after all…. but I also think the painted world is place where someone who's being chased might go to escape, and she fits that description doesn't she.
Waragai: Like she's been chased from her natural place?
Miyazaki: Yes, although "natural place" means something slightly different in this case. Haha.
Otsuka: I think it's a really unique area, I remember before travelling there I was excited to see what would happen.
Miyazaki: Thankyou. I'm very happy with the area overall. It was the important first map and I think I was able to incorporate the new ideas I had while not taking anything away from the original design of the area. When collaborating with the team I often come up with ideas, and I enjoy trying to fit them in as we develop the world. Of course I also have to be careful not to break anything. I think this method of continuous improvement can really help add to the atmosphere of an area, infact we also used this method on the last game I worked on "Demon's Souls", the problem is that there is a tendency to over produce things and before you know it the project can spiral out of control and work can slow down.
I suppose I'm getting off subject slightly so I will stop there but it's something I want to work on in the future.
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With the recent release of the Dark Souls DLC on consoles I thought it might be interesting to translate the interview from Dark Souls Design Works. It's pretty lengthy so I'll be splitting it up into four or five parts and hopefully releasing one every couple of weeks.
This initial section concerning the basic design principles is, in all honesty, not the most interesting part of the interview, but I want to provide a complete translation so...
The interview is conducted by Famitsu's Kadoman Otsuka and features the director Hidetaka Miyazaki as well as a number of artists who worked on the game.
Otsuka: Firstly I would like to ask Mr Miyazaki a little about the general design process.
Miyazaki: Well, we pursued two main avenues when designing Dark Souls. In the initial concept stages I gave each of the artists a few simple "Image words" to use as a starting point, and then they were free to develop these in whatever way they wished. We then took the images we liked, adjusted them where needed, and used them to begin shaping the world. The Gaping Dragon, Egg Carrier and Gravelord Nito for example, all emerged during this concept stage and made it almost unchanged into the final game.
Of course, in cases where I had a clearer idea of what I wanted, the design process was slightly different. For example, this is going to be used in this place, to perform this function or, the area is designed in this way so it must adhere to these conditions. In cases like this I often had a clear image of how I wanted these things to look, for example the mimic and the gargoyles. But regardless of which design process was used, rather than appoint a person to take charge of each concept, I took the designs, talked them over with each of the artists and developed them in that way.
Otsuka: With all this freedom in the design process, and the concept artists differing styles, was there a need to unify all the designs?
Miyazaki: I suppose there was, but as I said before I took charge over all the designs and was ultimately responsible for their direction, and since they all went through me I suppose there was some degree of unification. But having said that, I tried to bring out all the artists individual styles because, rather than taking pains to make sure everything was uniform, I think working closely with each designer on developing their ideas, whilst still embracing their personal style, creates a much richer, organic feeling world in the end. As I mentioned earlier, each artist began with just a few simple "Image words" and developed their designs from that, well the words which inspired each artist's designs and they way they chose to use them was very different. Some found that relatively philosophical words gave them ideas while some artists used them to develop character's back stories. Each collaboration was different, and because of that, each was stimulating in it's own way. I think this is the main reasons that the world of Dark Souls turned out as well as it did.
Of course, having said that, there was need for some direction, so in Dark Souls there were three main sections or themes, the image of Gods and Knights centred around Anor Londo, Lost Izalith and the theme of Chaos, Fire and Demons, and Gravelord Nito and the image of death and decay. I suppose you could also add to that the image of the ancient dragons. These themes, along with utilising the artists personal styles, formed the basis of the Dark Souls design principle. And as I mentioned previously, in contrast to most art teams, we didn't have our artists concentrating on a specific section, for example, this artist will work on environment, this one on characters and this one on equipment. Instead all the artists contributed to all of these areas.
Otsuka: So Anor Londo for example, wasn't created by a single artist?
Miyazaki: Not quite, we didn't have a single designer making Maps, Characters or Equipment, but we did have separate people in charge of each of the game's areas. I believe Mr (Masanori) Waragai was responsible for Anor Londo.
Waragai: Yes, I was the artist in charge of Anor Londo, but before we started developing the look of the area, we first decided on the general layout and then working together with the 3D artist, I set about designing the main features such as the statues and the revolving elevator.
Miyazaki: This is actually how most of the areas were constructed. The map design was really what dictated everything else, once we determined what needed to happen in each area we would immediately draw up a rough map, then once the basic layout of the area was decided we'd work on the finer details. Through the rough map I was able to communicate the requirements, structure and appearance of an area to the artists, and have them develop those ideas through collaborating with one-another. I'm never satisfied with design work which simply follows the design brief, so I often requested that the artists and designers add some of their own ideas, I really believe that these ideas can enrich the area, if not the entire game. Although, this can lead to more work of course. Haha.
Otsuka: So you had one artist/designer and one 3d artist team working on each area, and then it fell to you to make the final decisions?
Miyazaki: Yes I suppose so, but each of the areas had it's own feel or tone, as far as art direction was concerned. for an area like Blight Town for example, we found that once we decided on the general direction and gathered together the appropriate reference materials, there wasn't really a need to spend too much time developing the look of the area, it just came together. However in areas which were composed of more traditional architecture we had to spend a lot of time working on the finer details. There weren't a huge amount of artists on the team so it was a case of moving people to where they would be of most use.
Anor Londo for instance, is one of the most complicated areas in the game in terms of architecture, and as the mid way point of the game it's also a very important area so we spent a great deal of time working on it. After ringing the bells and overcoming the traps of Sen's fortress I really wanted to player to feel "Yes! I've made it" I think Mr Waragai did a great job with this.
Otsuka: It seems that your direction was at times quite… abstract
Miyazaki: Yes, according to the artists it was, but I think, If your instructions are too specific, the designs you get will be somewhat devoid of creativity, so I try to give them just the most basic, essential information before handing it over to the artists imaginations, which inevitable eclipse my own. But my initial instructions are certainly abstract. For example, when designing equipment I'd simply say "Make Something you can trust your life to on the battlefield, or "Make something that has enchantments to protect you." I think the artists probably didn't know what I was talking about half the time. Haha.
Waragai: That's true
Miyazaki: I'm sorry. Haha. Of course, If I don't get what I want, then I start giving more specific descriptions, and I might even start drawing things on the white board, but even then I'd never go so far as to say it has to be this colour or this shape. I don't want the designers to just become my tools. Of course, It doesn't always go as I want, but I think that's probably due to me not getting the best out of the artists, and this is something I want to get better at in the future.
Otsuka: It's similar when I put a book together, I understand how you feel.
Miyazaki: With this game some fantastic images came from the initial concept stage, for example Lautrec's "Armour of Favour". If we had simply concentrated on what was required rather than trying to experiment, I don't think something like this would have been created. In order to get this from my designers I tried talking to them about all sorts of things, for example I spoke at length with Nakamura about philosophy.
Waragai: You spoke about space and stuff too right?
Miyazaki: Oh yeah! especially at the beginning. About the world, life and death, and with regards to the game world, the meaning of fire and role of the four kings. By talking like this with the artists I found it not only helped them develop their ideas, but it really helped me shape my idea of the world I wanted to create. I also tried hard not to be predictable or conservative. Of course we decided on a fantasy setting so we couldn't stray too far from that, but we had to be careful not to just take the easy route or the world would become boring. I really tried hard to maintain this.
Otsuka: Is there anything else in particular you tried to avoid?
Miyazaki: You may not believe me, but I always tried to maintain a certain level of refinement and elegance in all the designs. I often told the artists muddy or messy is definitely *not good*. I think this carries through the entire game, of course if you asked me to describe what this "elegance" is… well I think you just have to look at the designs and judge for yourself, but it really is one of the most important factors in everything I oversee.
Waragai: I remember you said that to me when I was working on the zombie dragon. Originally it was covered with maggots, but you told me that I needed instead, to try and capture the sadness of this great creature.
Miyazaki: As I said before, everything has it's particular shade or tone, blight town for example is the rawest, most disgusting area in the game, but looking at the area as a whole, I wanted it to feel both bitterly cold and possess a deep sadness, and that's the atmosphere I tried to build on. You could say I have a habit of working in this way, and I think you can really see that in Dark Souls' art direction.
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After a long wait it's finally time to find out how are story ends! The original audio can be found HERE (the drama starts at the 43 minute mark) and the Junker HQ video translation HERE. If you want to remind yourself of the story so far, act 1 can be found HERE
SDATCHER act 7
Jack: Where's Alice!
Robin: Alice? I'm afraid I have no idea what you're talking about
Jack: You know, I have an old friend in Rughunt, you heard of Harry Benson?
Robin: Harry… the Engineer, Yes I know him.
Jack: Well, Harry attended your funeral, so could you please tell me just what the hell is going on!
Robin: Ah yes it was a lovely service, I was in floods of tears. Crying at your own funeral… how stupid
Jack: Rughunt the top-secret government organisation devised a plan to erase the identities of their agents, they called it the "zero contact plan".
Robin: You seem very well informed, you may even know more than I do, but that's not good, not good at all, nobody likes a know it all.
Jack: That's not all, I know you plan to introduce snatchers to Neo Kobe, and that it's happening, tonight!
Robin: You know that too… what a shame, you'll ruin it for yourself, all the fun. Inspector Gibson, you're one of those aren't you, someone who wants to know the ending before it's happened?
Jack: You bet I want to know, as soon as possible
Robin: Oh I'm afraid I'm the opposite, if I'm looking forward to something I'll kill anyone who spoils it, no matter who they are… even family
Jack: You'd kill Alice too?
Robin: No, Alice is god
Jack: God, Alice is no god, she's my wife.
Robin: Alice doesn't belong to you, not any more, it's time you came to accept that.
Jack: What's your relationship with Alice?
Robin: She is God and I am her subject
Jack: I didn't mean that, I meant as a man and a woman. Alice's saliva is acidic, it would always irritate my lips when we kissed… and your lips look sore
Jack: Alice what have you been up to… you know I can't forgive him for this
Jack shoots Robin
Robin: How cruel you are Jean Jack Gibson, my perfect body has been ruined, I'm… I'm a monster
Jack: Listen well Monster, I pulled the records on the murders in the Udmurtia republic, the murders were all committed in a small area and all under the cover of darkness… almost like Dracula wouldn't you say... and Dracula's greatest weak point...
Jack: ...It's not garlic or crosses or holy water…
Jack: It's sunlight!!! Jon FIRE!!!
An explosion rips through the warehouse where the snatchers are being stored.
Jon: direct hit! The warehouse has been completely destroyed
Monstrous screams emanate from the warehouse
Jon: What… the bioroids caught in the ultraviolet light, they're crying out in terrible pain, I'm… Jack…. what's happening
Jack: Jon I'm so sorry I made you do that
Robin: Hahahahaha What a beautiful view, my comrades dance of death, how… moving
Jack: What's wrong with you
Robin: Burn as many as you want, we will just make more, this… this is only the beginning
Jack: Die, die and never return
Jack fires a volley of shots at Robin fatally wounding him
Robin: Success! Well done Jean jack gibson, you have performed your duty admirably. SWITCH. ON.
A plane flying overhead explodes into a ball of flame and hurtles towards the ground
Jack: Jon what was that, something exploded.
Jon: Analysing… analysing, people are crying out…. JACK!!!… Jack, something terrible has happened
Jack: What is it, what happened
Jon: Robin was the detonator, terminating him set the whole thing off …the plane was rigged…, they planned the whole thing, this, this was the "zero contact plan".
Jack: what… what have I done… Jon
Jon: Jack the bioroids have been wiped out, our mission was a success
Jack: …but at what cost, how many lives have I sacrificed, there's no justice, I was wrong.
Jack's phone rings
Alice: Jack, it's me
Alice: Jack, I'm very grateful to you for guiding this plan to it's conclusion.
Jack: What is it you hope to achieve?
Alice: I want to make a world where snatchers can live, that's all i've ever wanted
Jack: If that's true… then... I'm going to have to kill you
Alice: Yes… I'm waiting, the other Alice, the one trapped inside me is crying out
Jack: What's she saying
Alice: She says please, please come... and end this
Jack: Can I ask something,
Jack: Do you remember Katarina?
Alice: I still feel deeply for her, for both of you, such deep emotions can't easily be erased. I can love just like a human, the only difference is that i'm not… human
Jack: Alice, wait… and forgive me, I want to kill you with my own hands, if I do that then maybe… I can put things right in some small way. Alice…. I still love you
Alice: I love you too, goodbye Jack
Jack: Jon, I'm going to kill Alice, will you come with me partner
Jon: Of course, partner
Jack: I know where I'm going to die, when, and even whose going to kill me, but despite this I refuse to abandon hope. The things Jon and I have discovered will be of vital importance… I just hope that I can see them get put to use...