Dark Souls Design Works Translation: NPCs and Monsters Part 1/2

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.

No Caption Provided

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.

No Caption Provided

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 about Gwynevere, because compared to the other female charters she's very different, almost glamorous.

No Caption Provided

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.

Fujio's Yasaragi no Yakata
Fujio's Yasaragi no Yakata

Miyazaki: Well, the truth is, I just wanted to make a really big woman. I think it was a Fujiko F. Fujio manga, (Yasuragi 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.

The woman who inspired Guinevere's design
The woman who inspired Guinevere's design

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.

Everyone: Haha


Otsuka: Earlier we were talking about Half breed Pricilla, but are there any other characters whose role changed dramatically as development progressed?

Early concept art depicting Andre
Early concept art depicting Andre

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

No Caption Provided

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.

No Caption Provided

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?

No Caption Provided

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.

No Caption Provided

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?

No Caption Provided

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.

No Caption Provided

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.

No Caption Provided

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!

No Caption Provided

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?

No Caption Provided

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.

No Caption Provided

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.


Follow me on twitter... or not... it's up to you @ThePeterBarnard

Read part 4 HERE.