It’s been a little over a week since Soul Sacrifice graced PS Vita, so we tracked down celebrated creator Keiji Inafune to get his thoughts on the game’s launch – and how PS Vita players are adapting to the game’s morally murky gameplay choices.
Have you been watching how players interact with Soul Sacrifice now that it’s in the wild? Are they playing it the way you expected?
Keiji Inafune: I see users are playing the game the way I wanted them to, so I’m pleased. Users are enjoying the decision-making process of sacrificing and the consequences associated with it, which is what I intended and for that I’m grateful.
Are you hearing feedback about a particular moment or boss battle in the game?
KI: There are various things users are talking about, and many users seem to be talking about multiplayer. But I also hear users are complementing the storyline and that it unfolds in unexpected ways and that came as a surprise. They’re saying the story is in-depth and touching – that feedback is something I was hoping to hear, so I’m happy!
The game features some spectacularly grotesque monster designs — is there one you’re particularly proud of?
KI: We tried to have each monster make a big impression and I feel our designers did fantastic jobs. If I was asked what my favorite monster would be, I wouldn’t be able to pick one because I’m proud of all of them. However, I have a special place in my heart for Librom, the book character who is strongly tied to the storyline. I specifically like its personality and the design, so when I give autographs to fans I tend to draw Librom next to my autographs. I think Librom represents Soul Sacrifice very well.
Where did the idea for the Black Rites come from? Do you have a favorite?
KI: I learned that in life, you must sacrifice something big in order to gain a bigger outcome. If you want to become rich, you need to work hard; when you’re gambling, you may win big only if you bet big and risk losing a lot of money. So the idea of sacrificing and the consequence associated with it came to me first.
The biggest sacrifice, I thought, would be the limbs of your body. Or your own life or even your friends’ lives. This is how I came up with the idea of Black Rites. They are very powerful, but the cost is huge. For example, one of the Black Rites called “Gorgon” requires you to take your eyeballs out, which makes your vision very narrow afterwards. Using “Infernus” will cut your defence in half, but it’s an easy one to use because it can attack enemies without you targeting them precisely.
Mass Effect 3 and Telltale’s The Walking Dead have elevated impossible choices into a near-art form. Why do players seem to enjoy making excruciating decisions?
KI: Those types of choices heavily involve emotional aspects and the decision making process isn’t automatic. In the old days, the decision making process for players was a reflex: stepping right or left in order to avoid a bullet. That doesn’t involve your emotions. But let’s say you have two choices and either decision will cause a different character to die. Then you would have to question yourself and also consider the consequences you will live with. This has a stronger tie to your emotions.
I’ve been in the game industry for a long time and gaming in general seems to be headed towards emotion. I think we’re in the era of incorporating feelings and emotions in video games and it’s about how to design these. Soul Sacrifice, for example, asks you who to sacrifice be it yourself or your friends. You could make a decision not to sacrifice anything and let it be, too. You can’t make these decisions without being emotionally involved. I think future games need to incorporate emotional elements.
You’ve had a long history in game development – where do you see games going next?
KI: If I was asked what trend would come next in gaming, I wouldn’t be able to put a finger on it to be honest. But I believe console games will evolve dramatically. I think social aspects will be incorporated in its best way with console games. When I say “social”, I don’t mean the social element in social games these days. I think the true social aspects, not just connecting via online, will be implemented to console games in the best way ever.
The cycle of console games up until now was to buy a game and play it for several hours and then buy a new game. I think the cycle will change and something other than this cycle will become the next trend. A new console such as PS4 needs to incorporate this aspect well to maximise its potential.