Saturday, June 09, 2012

Interview: Dragon's Dogma

Capcom’s new action role-playing game, Dragon’s Dogma, was developed by the same staff members that had worked on Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, and Breath of Fire, and the game's large open-world environments have drawn comparisons to Capcom's own Monster Hunter series as well as The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

In addition to the large open world, Dragon's Dogma also features a large city environment with over 200 NPCs who will move about according to their own time schedules. The player will be able to communicate with the residents in full voice.

The game features a persistent world with a day-night cycle; this affects the gameplay during the night, when the game takes on a more survival horror feel reminiscent of Capcom's Resident Evil series. In addition, the game's art style and character movements have been compared to Dark Souls, the hack-and-slash combat elements have been compared to Devil May Cry and Dark Souls, some of the fantasy elements have been compared to Breath of Fire, and the combat and party systems have been compared to Monster Hunter.

Capcom Director Hideaki Itsuno also cited the influence of other Eastern RPGs such as Dragon Quest and Western RPGs such as Fable and Oblivion. Itsuno later explained that they have "seen a great deal of open-world action RPGs over the years," but that "there's never been one that really put everything together in the action parts. We figured that if there hasn't been a game made by people who understand how action works, then we ought to do it ourselves. We wanted a game where the player is thrown into the world and needs to figure out how to stay alive via nothing but his own controller."

The game is being designed to be playable even by those who are not too skilled at action games. These types of players can recruit strong NPCs and let them do the fighting during combat as they watch over the battlefield. Players can look forward to up to 30 hours of main quest play and up to an additional 70 hours or more of side quests.

During the press conference at Capcom's Captivate event in 2011, Itsuno said that Dragon's Dogma is a game he had been dreaming about making since his school days. He was able to realise it now due to advancing technology, and has been directing a staff of around 150 people at Capcom Japan for the past two years development time (three years including conceptual phases). Istuno said: “We're trying to make a new genre: We're using our action heritage and putting that into an action RPG."

Capcom Director Hideaki Itsuno took us on a tour of the battle scene and explains what sets it apart...

How big was the development team?
More than 150 people from Capcom, and more than 300 people if we include our partner companies, are involved in the production of Dragon’s Dogma. Many of the team members from Capcom have previously worked for games such as RE5, Lost Planet 2, Monster Hunter and Devil May Cry 4.

How much customisation is there? 
Players can customise their player character, as well as “Pawns” who will be traversing the world as the player’s party members, in different ways: gender, age, body type, length of arms/legs, facial features, hairstyle, scars, posture, femininity/masculinity, and even cosmetics. Furthermore, the results of your customisation actually affect the performance of each character’s actions within the game. There are 9 unique classes in this game for players to choose from. There are a plethora of different weapons and equipment that players can choose from, or layer together, to really give their characters a unique look. You can also collect up to 20 kinds of skills from over 200 special actions based on each class or weapon. All these elements together will create an almost limitless amount of customization options for all players to enjoy.

What is the style of combat?
We’ve created a highly strategic battle system that is based on intuitive button presses and a variety of attack possibilities, and each element contributes to a very satisfying gaming experience. Players who are not entirely comfortable with the action elements can focus on optimising their Pawns and their class abilities, and researching the weaknesses of the enemies before taking them on. Levelling up and raising your Pawns will also give you an edge in combat.

What is the "pawn" system?
A party is comprised of four members: one main hero, who you control, one main Pawn, who will be your partner throughout the game, and two other Pawns, who you can obtain from the online network and belong to other players. You can also upload your main Pawn to the online server and let other players borrow him/her as well. Players can lend and borrow main Pawns, and go on adventures with a variety of teammates. Pawns that a player borrows will have knowledge on past enemies and quests that they have been on, and provide useful tips along the way. In addition, Pawns that you lend out will return with new knowledge and loot from their travels. You can also return Pawns to their owners with presents and messages, so we hope that players will utilise the Pawn system to communicate with each other across the globe. We kind of see it as having your kids going on a trip with some family friends! In order to borrow Pawns that are at a higher level than the player has attained, currency called Rift Crystals will be needed. Players will receive Rift Crystals by lending their Pawns out to other players. In order to facilitate players’ Pawns being rented more often and gaining those all important Rift Crystals we implemented the ability for players to share or advertise their Pawns’ information on Facebook and Twitter. The essence of the Pawn system is the communication it brings between the various players who interact with each other.

How vast is the open-world environment?
In terms of game time, if players start from the centre of the world it will be tough for them to reach their destinations while the sun is still out. A round trip could take an entire day, in-game. We’ve set it so that players really get a sense of exploring a huge, diverse environment. If you are planning to go for a long stroll, it’s best to be prepared.

From where did you draw inspiration? 
Definitely the DMC series! As well, the arcade version of Dungeons & Dragons, Oblivion, Fable 2, and the Dragon Quest series also provided a lot of inspiration for Dragon’s Dogma.

Must players be good at RPG/action gaming?
Players who enjoy RPGs can utilise their knowledge of those games to minimise any difficulties they have with the action elements. Conversely, players who are good at action gaming can use those skills to compensate for any lack of RPG knowledge they may have. For those players who are good at both RPGs and action gaming, this game is definitely for you!

What inspired the cross over?
Ever since middle school I have always dreamed about the possibilities of a game that seamlessly merges the strategic elements of an RPG with the raw combat of an action game. Lately I have enjoyed playing a number of different RPGs, but I do feel that they are lacking in action elements. With Dragon’s Dogma we were able to make a brand new game from scratch, so it was a chance to make my dreams come true as well.

Will this spur a new genre of gaming?
I do feel like RPGs with action elements will increase as a result. I also hope more games start to incorporate network communication that supports player interaction.

What was the greatest challenge in development? 
There were a lot of challenges with developing this game; almost too many to count! Capcom, and even other Japanese developers, had never really tried to make an open world action RPG before, so that in itself was a huge undertaking. Implementing action elements in the battle system, creating the online network, producing Capcom’s first real character customisation system, making sure the enemy AI was of the highest quality, the list goes on and on. Perhaps the biggest challenge was trying to explain to everyone all of the features we were trying to put into the game! Even though we had all these great ideas, making sure that these ideas were being communicated clearly to everyone was really tough.

What elements are you most proud of?
I believe that we have been able to provide a true feeling of adventure and exploration, through the innovative blending of RPG and action elements in Dragon’s Dogma. I can say for sure that players will never find themselves with nothing to do in the game, so I hope everyone will try it out!

  • Michael Gordon is editor of Charged Middle East magazine, a leading Dubai-based gadgets and games title that provides news, reviews and features on the latest home and consumer electronics. For more about the magazine, visit its Facebook page after the jump. Check out this article and many more in the June issue.