Dark Souls Interview With Kei Hirono

By Jordan Douglas on July 1, 2011, 8:35PM EDT

Demon's Souls took the world by surprise when it was released on PS3 2 years ago. Now FromSoftware and Namco Bandai have teamed up to bring Dark Souls, sort of a spiritual successor to Demon's Souls, to both PS3 and Xbox 360.

Unlike Demon's Souls, Dark Souls is taking a much more open approach, with seamless worlds and dungeons and plenty to explore. We caught up with Namco Bandai producer Kei Hirono earlier this month at E3 and we talked bits and bobs about what to expect from the new world, as well as what FromSoft have planned in terms of networking and multiplayer.

GamingUnion.net: Demon's Souls was previously a PS3 exclusive. Why did you decide on bringing Dark Souls to Xbox 360 as well?

Kei Hirono: Since we're treating Dark Souls not as a sequel, but as a brand new game, we're treating this game a little differently and by Namco Bandai being able to partner up with FromSoftware, we simply wanted to be able to deliver the same experience to a wider range of fans and players.

Why go open world this time and just how open is Dark Souls? Can players, right from the outset, have an objective, but do whatever they want? And how does that change the design of balancing the difficulty of the game?

In terms of the world and how open it is, it's sort of hard to describe at this point just how open it is, but in terms of the different venues and different worlds we have been able to show you in screenshots through different demonstrations in the past, we formed this world off of three main concepts: one being the atmosphere of kings and knights, second is the concept of purgatory and the third is the darkness and death. These are the three concepts that the world is based on.

The reason we went for a seamless open world is because we wanted to implement more of an exploration aspect to the game and give players more of a chance to explore the world.

When it's a linear, straight path, you can really fine tune the difficulty in each section. Was it really difficult this time around with the amount of exploration?

Kei Hirono: Definitely, that's a good point. The tuning is something that's really difficult and something that's constantly being done. Because it's open world, the tuning is something that we've put a lot of emphasis on and it certainly is more difficult than when compared to a more linear design.

But as much as we say open world and free-to-roam, there will be areas where players may be able to go, but the venture might not be so successful. There'll be certain areas where you'll find new items and discover new things, as well as areas where you can first conquer, then be able to go on to different areas of the game. So it'll be free-roaming, but at the same time there's a certain level of guidance.

With Demon's Souls you introduced a very unique form of online multiplayer, which made the game a very communal experience with sharing messages and the like. Did you feel any pressure this time around to continue pioneering new forms of online multiplayer?

Kei Hirono: In terms of the network, we have a new belief/religion system that we've implemented in the game to keep players constantly entertained. We know the expectations for online is high.

This 'religion' will act as a system to help players determine whether or not they want to co-operate or compete with other players. Depending on whether another character has the same belief as you, it will define the kind of roles these players carry out when they play the game.

On top of that, this is a bit of a secret and also a bit on the technical side, but for Dark Souls we aren't actually using a server. It's a new system that we've been able, or are at least trying, to implement and will hopefully be able to enhance the unique network system that we've built in this game.

Dark Souls is out on October 4 in North America and October 7 in Europe on both PS3 and Xbox 360.

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