Posted 4:51pm

Dark Souls Q&A: Variety Is The Spice Of Death

Fans of 2009′s PS3-exclusive RPG Demon’s Souls are sure to have questions about Dark Souls, which is being produced under the watchful eye of Demon’s Souls director Hidetaka Miyazaki. Though the game was formally revealed just days ago, I had a rare opportunity to speak directly with Miyazaki about his plans for Dark Souls. We discussed the game’s soul-crushing difficulty (it’s going to get harder, not easier), his favorite new feature (a new form of “emotional communication” via Beacon Fires), and the games he’s most excited to play in 2011 (hint: UNCHARTED 3).

Dark Souls for PS3

Sid Shuman: Would you describe Dark Souls as a sequel to Demon’s Souls, or a spiritual successor? Does Dark Souls reside in the same universe as Demon’s Souls?

Hidetaka Miyazaki, director, Dark Souls: Dark Souls is not a sequel to Demon’s Souls by any means. However, it’s created by the same producers and director and so the ideologies, concepts, and themes have carried over and are similar. It’s a totally new game with similar concepts.

SS: Demon’s Souls is infamous for its high difficulty. Will Dark Souls be as difficult?

HM: Yes, Demon’s Souls was known for its incredible difficulty [laughter]. With Dark Souls, we don’t want to decrease the difficulty at all. Actually, we intend to increase the difficulty of the game. (Sid: !!!) But not simply by making the game harder, but by giving players the freedom to strategize freely and conquer that difficulty, and to be rewarded accordingly.

This is an analogy we often use: We are trying to create a game that is spicy. And we want to make it as spicy as possible. But it is edible, it tastes good, and it leaves you wanting more.

SS: How do you keep a difficult game from becoming overly punishing, and drive the player to quit in frustration?

HM: Good question. We can’t tell you all of our secrets, but there are a few ways we prevent users from drifting away. Number one, the difficulty is not dependent on the skill level of the user. We have not created a game where players who react faster or press buttons faster are better than others. Second, when a player dies, we try to leave a sense of “maybe if I try a different strategy I can succeed.” Things that you lose in death can be outweighed by the rewards of trying again. We try to give players lots of freedom to design their own gameplay style, and we’ve implemented enough content to enable users to continue challenging themselves and continue making progress.

One more aspect is the difficulty based on repetitiveness. We don’t want users to have to constantly carve away health from enemies. We’ve created all characters — including enemies and the player — to have high attack power but low defense. We don’t want users to hack and hack and hack away to defeat an enemy. It’s more strategic. We want users to think, “if I avoid this enemy, maybe I can overcome him.” We don’t want players to be frustrated by doing the same things over and over.

Dark Souls for PS3 Dark Souls for PS3

SS: Death was a part of life in Demon’s Souls. But it required that you replay the entire level from scratch with enemies in identical locations. Will Dark Souls force players to restart levels? Will levels be less repetitious to replay?

HM: The main concept has not changed: You try something, die, learn from your mistakes, and eventually overcome those mistakes. In Dark Souls, we’ve added the ability to players to choose their recovery point — essentially respawn points. If you die, you won’t be taken back to the beginning of the level. And as you explore the world, you can carve out your own territory and retry quests you failed. That’s a big difference. It’s an aspect that we want players to use to strategize their approach to the game.

SS: Will Dark Souls have a less intimidating control scheme than Demon’s Souls?

HM: In Demon’s Souls, when you finally get used to the controls, it feels pretty good. So for Dark Souls, the controls and feel won’t change too much. However, we are adding a tutorial so players don’t have to fight to learn how to play. We don’t want to take the players step-by-step, we just want them to get past the first step.

But generally, for Dark Souls, learning commands and controlling your character is probably a little bit easier. But to counter that, we’ve added a lot of aspects that users must learn beyond the controls. The amount of magic, the number of weapons, the types of weapons, the moves attached to the weapons…there is a lot more that players must learn in order to conquer the challenges.

Dark Souls for PS3

SS: Does that mean we can expect a lot of new weapons with unique functions?

HM: The simple answer is yes. But we’re not just increasing the number of weapons; we want to improve the uniqueness of each weapon. Each weapon will have characteristics that are vastly different from other weapons in the game. As an example, the player starts with a Long Sword. Eventually he might find a Holy Sword, which is far more powerful but is used very differently. Some players will choose to continue using the Long Sword simply because they’re more comfortable with it.

We want to give players many options, even if that means they use the sword that ‘fits best in the hand.’ We want you to become emotionally and physically attached to the weapon you’re using. Perhaps the Long Sword, after you’ve used it for so long and taken such good care of it, is the real Holy Sword. [laughter] The real Holy Sword, though, might be very hard to master despite its power. And some players will say, “This is difficult to use? Leave it to me, I’ll master it.” [laughter]. The mind games and strategizing — that’s the most fun aspect of the game to me.

SS: How will dual-wielding weapons impact combat? Is using two swords at once a successful strategy, or more of an “expert’s mode”?

HM: Dual wielding is an option, but it’s a very difficult choice for novice players. The default fighting style is holding a shield in one hand, a weapon in the other. And the shield adds a lot of protection, it’s quite powerful in its own way. If you see another player dual wielding, we want you to think, “Oh my god, this guy is special!” Dual wielding is a way to challenge yourself, but it has a lot of downsides and makes the game much harder. When you’re in trouble, you’ll want to return to your shield and sword.

We want to keep dual wielding special. It’s a very unique strategy that will hopefully give a new experience to the player as well as those who see him.

Dark Souls for PS3

SS: Like Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls will include online co-op and competitive play. Are you planning any broad changes to the multiplayer?

HM: Yes. Throughout the game, there will be both cooperative and competitive play with other players. Each user will enjoy a unique single-player game; at times, they will cross paths with one another. Depending on the situation, the time, and the players’ goals, those players may cooperate or compete against each other. The multiplayer system we’re creating will envelop the single-player mode. Multiplayer will enhance single-player, make it more unique, compared to other games that emphasize traditional multiplayer co-op or competitive play.

SS: What’s the single addition to Dark Souls that you’re most excited by?

HM: Probably the Beacon Fire. It stands for a lot of things. It serves as a recovery point; when the player’s health is low, the Beacon Fire helps you recover. It serves as a respawn point as well. So it’s powerful from a gameplay perspective. Secondly, the Beacon Fire will be used to share experiences with other players. It’s a place where players can gather together and communicate — not verbally communicate, but emotionally communicate. Third, it’s probably the one place in Dark Souls where users can relax just for an instant. In this cold, dark world, the Beacon Fire is a place of warmth. It’s one of the few locations in the game that is heartwarming. It expresses this dark fantasy world I’m trying to create.

SS: How will character creation work? Are there still classes? How can I augment and customize my character?

HM: The basics are quite similar to Demon’s Souls, but you can customize the physical build of your character now in addition to his face. There’s a lot of customization in terms of gameplay styles and parameters. It’s very open, and there are many more options than in Demon’s Souls. You can create any type of character you’d like to create.

Dark Souls for PS3

SS: What’s your philosophy regarding monsters in Dark Souls? Are you going for really grim, grotesque creatures?

HM: Calling it a “philosophy” is probably overstating it a bit [laughter]. I want to expand the range and variety of all the enemies, whether they’re hideous or beautiful or strong. I don’t lean towards any particular type, but [high-level enemies] will be pretty disgusting. And you might not believe this, but all the monsters I design — from Demon’s Souls to Dark Souls — are “beautiful” to me, no matter how gruesome their appearance.

SS: What games are you looking forward to playing in 2011?

HM: Politically this is sort of a difficult question to answer! [laughter] I’m a big gamer. But to be honest, right now I absolutely love Magic: The Gathering Online. For 2011, I’m really looking forward to UNCHARTED 3 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

UNCHARTED 2 came out around the same time as Demon’s Souls, so it was a big competitor for us at the time. But UNCHARTED has done so well, and now I’m really excited for UNCHARTED 3. I’m quite interested in Skyrim because the fantasy world is something I really look forward to in games.

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Comments

35 Comments 11 Author replies
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Can’t believe Sony managed to lose out on the greatest game this generation and a new AAA franchise. Give yourselves an applause!

Doesn’t change my situation however: Will enjoy Dark Souls immensely.

 
SWEandroid72 4 February, 2011 @ 9:18 pm   2

Sounds fantastic! Can’t wait to play this. After Demon’s Souls I have total faith in Miyazaki. Great interview as well.

    Sid Shuman 4 February, 2011 @ 10:19 pm    

    Thank you! It was a memorable Q&A. The guy is very articulate and passionate, it was inspiring to speak with him.

 

Will this be released this year? If so don’t release it too near Skyrim because that game will kill this if it releases too close.

    Sid Shuman 4 February, 2011 @ 10:19 pm    

    They’ve named 2011, so it appears so! So many great games this year, you guys…

 

Not interested. Should have stayed PS3 exclusive.

 
Carnivius_Prime 4 February, 2011 @ 9:32 pm   5

Not for me. Really didn’t enjoy the previous game at all for many reasons.

    Sid Shuman 4 February, 2011 @ 10:20 pm    

    Demon’s Souls is definitely one of those games. The people who love it worship it, and everyone else just scratches their head ^_^

 
ShadowDoGGG 4 February, 2011 @ 10:07 pm   6

@Saber_IV

Dont be silly. Best to maximise profits by developing for both consoles especially seeing as it was fairly successful in west.

DeathToTheISA 4 February, 2011 @ 10:09 pm   7

@Saber_IV, its not a sequal to demons souls, so we may see a sequal to DS hopfully in the future

 
HUNG-REIL-LO 4 February, 2011 @ 10:21 pm   8

Sweeetnesss. BBS+PFS FTW. Never has a game made me act so cautiously when jus walkin around a corner (sheild up) Never have i thought i WILL need certain equipment so im not 1 hit material. Too many games have weak pawns but in DS even the pawns could have you in 3 hits… if you ever got hit. I liked the idea of the invading an co-op but never actually got invaded or joined someone for a boss fight.. i tried but i think i was too high a level for the system to find other players at 4 in the morning. Exclusivity? im no botherd as long as the quality doesn’t take a hit. Oh an if you didnt play DS but ur gonna i’ll give you a hint:forget defence.. don’t get hit =D

 

Demon’s Souls looks better graphics wise? I wonder why[hello xBox 360] :D

 
tiago-kun 4 February, 2011 @ 10:57 pm   10

Great interview, though you could have asked if they would be improving the story that was the weakest point on Demon’s Souls (for me it was the only weak point!)

Every other aspect of the game is terrific and it’s one of the best RPGs I have ever played! It’s easily in my top 5 rpgs. Can’t wait for Dark Souls.

Fall 2011 is rapidly getting better and more expensive: Uncharted 3, Mass Effect 3 and now Dark Souls :D

    Sid Shuman 4 February, 2011 @ 11:35 pm    

    Great feedback! I’ll ask about that next time. I got the feeling that they’re keeping the story very secretive for now.

 

Looking forward to this. Great QandA here guys. Not too surprised to see him looking forward to Skyrim – I always though the character generation of Demon’s Souls was very ‘Oblivion’.

    Sid Shuman 4 February, 2011 @ 11:36 pm    

    Thanks much! ^_^ I’m excited for both games, but for different reasons. The character generation, though, is quite similar!

 
Silver-Seraphim 4 February, 2011 @ 11:19 pm   12

Can we have “pretty” characters this time? Ok maybe that’s asking too much at least a character that I don’t wish to place a bag over the head of every time I see it’s ugly mug.

Besides that bring on the death!!

 
ShadowDoGGG 4 February, 2011 @ 11:19 pm   13

Hope there is a bit more story to this. It made it a forgettable game when I finished demon’s soul.

 
HighLuxury 4 February, 2011 @ 11:26 pm   14

” Dark Souls is not a sequel to Demons Souls ”

Stop being so oblivious Sony and give Hidetaka the money to produce a sequel! You really slipped a BIG opportunity here letting Namco move in. The popularity, fanbase and demand is there!

Either ways, cant wait for Dark Souls.

Looking forward to this (and Skyrim!) :)

Lovely interview, I really liked the questions and the way Miyazaki-san gives a lot of information but coats the game in mystery at the same time.

    Sid Shuman 5 February, 2011 @ 12:28 am    

    Me too! Glad you liked it. I always felt that Demon’s Souls excelled in its sense of “mystique.”

CartBlanche 5 February, 2011 @ 12:00 am   17

Demon Souls is not just one of my favourite games of this generation, but one of me favourite games of all time!

Flamelurker was my favourite 1v1 boss battle. No magic, just a sword and shield. Awesome stuff.

Only the boss battle in MGS 3, with the “The End”, surpasses it for me.

I twittered a few days ago that I was playing the BulletStorm demo, and it wouldn’t let my game character fall down a hole. It seems the developers think I, and millions like me, are too stupid to remember that if I fall down a hole, I might die again the next time. But, the kicker is you can kick the enemies down this magical hole. I hate invisible walls, and that is why I LOVED Demon Souls. It spoiled me. Never before had I cared so much for the life of my gaming character.
I mean actually care. Because losing that life cost you so much. It is a very special game. BulletStorm is a Nanny State Game. The devs think that if it is just a little too hard, gamers will spit the dummy and move onto something else. Modern gamers just aren’t mentally tough enough :).

    Sid Shuman 5 February, 2011 @ 12:29 am    

    Hahah, I like your points. One question that I wanted to ask (and couldn’t, as I ran out of time) was quite simply, “Do you think games these days are too easy?” I think that would’ve gotten an interesting response. Next time!

MGS4_80GB 5 February, 2011 @ 12:02 am   18

@Carl-G:

Not so fast. This game is being developed ONLY for the PS3, hence its exclusivity in Japan.

Namco-Bandai will be tasked with the porting job.

Can’t wait for Eurogamer and Lens of Truth to show how much this game improved in terms of graphical appearance over its predecessor. :)

CartBlanche 5 February, 2011 @ 12:03 am   19

My tips for anyone thinking of playing Demon’s Souls for the first time :
1. Don’t “Run ‘N Slash” like other games, and you’ll be fine!
2. Treat your character’s life like it were your own, and you’ll be fine!
3. Play the game any other way, and you will surely die, lots and lots and lots :).

I can’t wait for Dark Souls!

 

Please Sony, I also want to Demon’s Souls 2!

 
Darkscorpius 5 February, 2011 @ 5:30 am   21

Great interview. I’m so looking forward to this game, out of all the great games coming this year, Dark Souls is one of the games I want most.

Just heard Hidetaka Miyazaki is interested in doing an instalment for the series on the NGP. I hope he does bring the series to the NGP in some form, I’d buy it even if it was a direct port of Dark Souls.

 

“We don’t want players to be frustrated by doing the same things over and over.”

So that’d be why, when you die, you don’t just restart at the start of the level, but you lose all of any consumables you used getting there and only have half your health, so have to slowly chip away at the early stage bad guys to save up the souls just to be in a situation to go back to where you died.

For me, the difficulty in DS (at least in the first seven hours) wasn’t in the combat, it was in the dodgy camera (I died numerous times because the camera got caught behind scenery).

I’m only mentioning this here in the hope that they can sort this for Dark Souls – the atmosphere/art in DS was awesome, and the combat, while a dash clunky, was fun enough. It was just the interminable grind every time you died. For some it created a wonderful (if ridiculously contrived – you respawn with half your health and everyone you’ve died respawns with all of it?!) risk/reward system, but for me it just added needless, immersion-breaking tedium. It’d be great of Dark Souls could create an immersive rather than contrived risk/reward system, and a more reliable camera, and create a game that could be more widely appreciated :).

 

I really love Demon’s Souls, I just hope Dark Souls’ servers will last a bit longer.

please answer my question !!!!!!!!!!!!
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sorry for my bad english and going off topic(our russian support does not answer)
I have got YLOD more than half a year ago and thanks to russian ps support i have got my new ps3 only today, but unfortunatly i have forgotten the password and date of birth of my old accaunt “pit 007″ i have entered, so can you recover my password and send to my email: “parfenova07@mail.ru”,i have not bought any psn games so you can say that i better make a new account( so i have made “jukehook”) but with my old accaunt i have got a lot of true friends with whom i play LBP and Killzone
sorry again for going off topic
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I don’t suppose they mentioned whether the online aspect would be region-locked again, or global this time?

 

[Edit] ‘he’, not they… just woke up, between GT5 and the KZ3 beta, late nights are a common thing.

 
WilliamBirkin 5 February, 2011 @ 10:59 am   27

Namco Bandai huh? Wrong one. Shame on you Sony.

 
carlosdfn 5 February, 2011 @ 2:21 pm   28

One of the best games ever is in the making and I can’t wait to play it. This interview made me even more excited for it.

kingkrunch456 5 February, 2011 @ 3:03 pm   29

I honestly can’t wait for this. The beacons sounds like a welcome idea. Also will there be more classes in this?

Robert-Ninja 5 February, 2011 @ 3:39 pm   30

Aw man – It’s on the 360 too? That means they’ll have to add size constrictions for the disc space into the game JUST for 360′s release. Dissapointment. I like it when game developers don’t care, though – and just make the game as big as they want and then leave the 360 with 2 discs lol. Dead Space 2 as an example. More developers should do that.

 
MohammedMK 6 February, 2011 @ 6:49 am   31

Looking forward to the game, although it looks a lot like Demon’s Souls. Thanks for sharing the interview with us.

Erorrless 6 February, 2011 @ 8:37 am   32

i didnt play the first game, but this one might be the kind of RPG i’ve been looking for for quite some time.

 

I’m still waiting for Demon’s Souls 2.

 
RevSchroedter 7 February, 2011 @ 11:24 am   34

After all the “good” work SCE did with Demon’s Souls I personally find it very satisfying to see that they are now being commercially punished for it on both the platform and publisher front. I count myself as a SONY fanboy but they really had it comming in this case.

Doesn’t change anything for the end user as it was the end user who made the original a sleeper hit and now it’s the end user who’s being rewarded for it by getting a shiny new sequel (“Oh noes! Don’t call it a sequel! SCE owns the name…!” That’s about all they own on it now.). Dark Souls is still bound to be 2011′s GOTY at least in the RPG category and we can all be happy about that but just think of all the money SCE… all the pretty money…

Great to have op of looking @ the interview, thanks!

Looking forward to playing this game :)