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Dark Souls Q&A: Variety is the Spice of Death

Sid Shuman's Avatar + Posted by Sid Shuman on Feb 04, 2011 // Senior Manager, Social Media

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 difficulty. Will Dark Souls be as difficult?

HM: Yes, Demon’s Souls was known for its incredible difficulty [laughter]. With Dark Souls, there is no intention to decrease the difficulty at all. Actually, we intend to increase the difficulty of the game. (Sid: !!!) But not simply by making the game more difficult, 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’s edible and tastes good and leaves you wanting more.

SS: How do you keep a difficult game from becoming 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 what you gain by 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 PS3Dark 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 two weapons impact combat? Is dual-wielding 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 effective. 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 watching 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.

//Add Your Own

131 Comments   27 Replies

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101

+ EJStrat on February 5th, 2011 at 6:56 am said:

Sid Shuman? As in, Gamepro Sid Shuman? I didn’t know you you went to write for playstation when you left gamepro. You were my favorite editor man, glad to see you’re still at it.


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    + Sid Shuman on February 7th, 2011 at 2:06 pm said:

    Thank you sir! It’s an honor.


102

+ pureluck13 on February 5th, 2011 at 7:03 am said:

I loved demons soul 1, while playing it my 2nd time it felt too much easier, if they make it harder, all the better! I am sooooo pumped for this game!


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+ mastorofpuppetz on February 5th, 2011 at 7:37 am said:

Already dumbing it down for the xbox kids. Spawn points? LMAO, lame. Demons Souls was not hard at all, just forced you to really pat attention and the combat system had to be mastered. You know, the way games use to be before the dumbing down began.


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    + Sid Shuman on February 7th, 2011 at 2:06 pm said:

    Did you not see the part where he says Dark Souls will be even more challenging than Demon’s Souls?


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+ mcbuttz78 on February 5th, 2011 at 8:40 am said:

So this is not a sequel to demon souls.. what is it a spin off of the universe?.. I read he said its a whole new game but alot of things are alike. So will it be like two worlds that will collide later down the line.Like star trek.??


105

+ Mosh_Pit on February 5th, 2011 at 8:51 am said:

Demon’s Souls was really good but for me it was too short and too easy once you beat it once. Will Dark Souls will be longer with more bosses and harder?


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+ Ospov on February 5th, 2011 at 9:09 am said:

It’s annoying how he keeps saying this isn’t a sequel when everybody knows it totally is.

“Yeah this isn’t a sequel, but it has the same team working on it, it’ll play exactly the same, the levels will look exactly the same, it will be just as hard, there’s still online, and there’s pretty much everything else from Demon’s Souls in this. Heck, we only changed one word in the title! But yeah, it’s totally not a sequel. It’s a brand new game.”

Give it up. It’s a sequel.


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+ escabuchen on February 5th, 2011 at 9:46 am said:

Just AWESOME.

I remember the first time I played Demon’s Souls, I was so pissed off because a player MUCH stronger than me kicked my ass and broke all my equipment that I almost sold it a day after buying it.

But then I decided I should give that game another chance and I wasn’t dissappointed, I liked it so much that I won the game like 6 or 7 times and got the Platinum Trophy. (:

Btw, EXCELLENT interview sir, you asked what we all wanted to know. Thank you.


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+ GooDer_gAMe on February 5th, 2011 at 10:38 am said:

I WAS looking forward to this game until I heard it was mutliplat. Not as interested in games going multiplat because they always lose quality, therefore I end up ignoring them totally most of the time. Oh well, guess I’ll have to wait for White Knight Chronicles 2 if I want an rpg fix. It’s a shame, friend liked the first one, was considering getting that as well to play with him.


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+ PhadedWun on February 5th, 2011 at 10:44 am said:

Two things that I would really like to know?

– Is there going to be NG+, like Demon’s Souls and will it be harder? Like Demon’s Souls?

– Is item duping going to be fixed / non-existant for this game?


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+ phinnv8 on February 5th, 2011 at 11:35 am said:

Requests for Dark Souls (which will probably go unheard):

1. Spawn points, every time you pass through the blue walls in levels for example should be a spawn point.

2. Less ways to “cheese” the bosses. If they are to be hard, don’t let there be some easy way to exploit them.

3. Multiplayer was great, but it should be MUCH easier to play with friends, just have a damn invite system like everything else.

4. A little more color in the world. Looks like this is addressed.

5. More Mana regen, it’s annoying constantly eating stuff to replenish mana.

6. Keep it PS3 exclusive :(


111

+ EvanOger on February 5th, 2011 at 1:21 pm said:

Love DS, absolutely love it. My problem is that I’ve got half a dozen friends who love it too.

The lack of real multiplayer co-op in Demon’s Souls was my only real complaint with the game.
I’m disappointed, as it seems like that will be a complaint of mine for this game as well.


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+ H3LLSPAWN2648 on February 5th, 2011 at 2:55 pm said:

I am looking forward to this game so I can die… I mean play.


113

+ Nibeltos on February 5th, 2011 at 6:29 pm said:

Demon’s Souls is the best game of PS3 so far (FOR ME), I expect sooo much about this title, the bad point in this game, it’s a non-exclusive :,(

Multiplatform games are full of glitches and bugs. for the PS3 or for the other console. Or even some games that do not go well in either

But, this is a must have!!!!!!!!!! :D ja ja ja!


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+ thundercat17 on February 5th, 2011 at 9:12 pm said:

i wonder how many times did microsoft have to kiss ur ass just to release the game on 360, this should be a ps3 exclusive, just for that im not buying, taking my money somewhere else, thank you very much


115

+ spoonfighter on February 5th, 2011 at 9:52 pm said:

The first time I put the Old One to slumber, I remember saying to myself “That was a great game, BUT I NEED MORE!”

And then I hear about this piece of good news? It’s just like DS, but there’s more of everything! More weapons, more armor, mroe places, more enemies, MORE SOULS.


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+ TallCrowe on February 6th, 2011 at 2:06 am said:

What has Microsoft done to deserve this series? Nothing that’s what I tell you. Still I look forward to this game and the inevitable gimping that will come with making it multi-platform.


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+ Aexuz on February 6th, 2011 at 6:58 am said:

“all the monsters I design — from Demon’s Souls to Dark Souls — are “beautiful” to me, no matter how gruesome their appearance”.

Nice one.


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+ amjr72 on February 6th, 2011 at 8:59 am said:

Regarding Beacon Fire and checkpoints.

Remember, Demon’s Souls was a linear game but Dark Souls is open world, i believe it will work similar to Red Dead Redemption where you can set a campfire anytime, but not everywhere (and i bet we’ll have a limited number of beacons). I’m sure you won’t be allowed to create beacons inside dungeons, so if you die you’ll probably start over so, i don’t see how this will make the game less challenging. And this ‘Beacon Fire’ will probably work like the stones, Miyazaki said players may join around the fire so, you may watch the beacon from other players and join their game as phantoms.

It’s a speculation, but it makes sense to me.


119

+ zacljessee on February 6th, 2011 at 3:45 pm said:

Looks good, but I think Dragon Age 2 is going to be way better!


120

+ zombie9 on February 7th, 2011 at 5:57 am said:

Still waiting on that Good RPG game this GEN. Demon souls is OK but not a great RPG. But I guess every one has there own opinion about it. Most GOOD RPG gmaes on on the other system x-wait PSP:p


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+ DEMOCRAC-Y on February 7th, 2011 at 6:10 am said:

I cant wait to get my 1st hatemail >=) I still have some people playing DS eevery siingle day. -_- I cant wait to kick their butts again in Dark Souls. Naybe I shouldnt have deleted them… oh well… =P


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+ DEMOCRAC-Y on February 7th, 2011 at 6:18 am said:

P.S. I wish ps3 and 360 would use the same server… kinda stupid how we have to suffer because they cant fit a GOOD game on 1 disc. Thats is why MY xbox 360 remains in my closet…somewhere


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+ Assassin_Pug on February 7th, 2011 at 7:09 am said:

I beat this game with the same character 5 times around and earned the platinum. This is by far the most anticipated game of the year for me.

BTW Once I figured out DS, the first playthrough with one character was easy. But the second…..


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+ Scarecrow– on February 7th, 2011 at 12:13 pm said:

Sorry SCEA/Naughty Dog, this is the Game of the year.

My god what a great interview, I personally loved the bits about weapons and the gruesome creatures :D

I love world 5 (Vally of Defilement), so much so that I’ve actually had dreams of being a kin of “protector” of the swamp.

I actually don’t see the creatures as ugly/disgusting either. Specially the ones in the Valley of Defilement.

Call me weird but I really grew attached to that world.

Best interview out of the interviews I’ve seen for this game, thanks PS blog!


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    + Sid Shuman on February 7th, 2011 at 2:07 pm said:

    Glad you liked it! Stunning to see how many fans Demon’s Souls has.


125

+ Dennie on February 7th, 2011 at 5:47 pm said:

Even though I gave away my PS3 to my sister, I’m still going to get the Collector’s Edition of Dark Souls!


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+ kyosuke9999 on February 8th, 2011 at 11:55 am said:

That’s one thing I won’t mess up on- I didn’t buy the collectors version of Demon’s Souls, and now that thing is hundreds of dollars and out of print. Day one buy for me.


127

+ Doutrinador666 on February 19th, 2011 at 1:51 pm said:

Very good interview.
One thing I’d still like to know: Will be there the possibility of multiple playthroughs again? (New Game +, ++, …)
I’m going to platinum this week, but I don’t really think I’ll stop playing this game. It’s always getting harder, specially when I think I’m getting almost overpowered…
Oh, and PvP in a action RPG of this level is a rare gem.


128

+ MustardSmuggler on February 19th, 2011 at 5:15 pm said:

I’ll be honest…I wouldn’t say Demon’s Souls was a particularly easy game, but people tend to completely exaggerate how hard it was. If you haven’t played any games before the current trend of hand-holding, coddling, super-easy, “accessible” games you wouldn’t find this all that hard. Plus you can always grind to level up and make it easier if you’re having trouble. That being said, it was the best PS3 exclusive so far, in my opinion, and it seems to me that the only reason Dark Souls isn’t being consider a “sequel” is only due to the unrelated story and world (which strangely never seemed to keep Final Fantasy games from being sequels…) As far as I’m concerned, no other game being released this year matters (although hopefully I’ll be proven wrong).


129

+ solidsnake_cs on February 22nd, 2011 at 1:45 pm said:

I hope they improve the way to find people to coop. Should be nice if that was done on that beacon fire.

Maybe we should be able to see all beacon fires from everyone playing, since (look like) it will be a key to survive, so there should be a lot of them around the world.

Was kind of hard to find a blue sign in Demons Souls


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+ DARKNINJAJCV763 on February 24th, 2011 at 2:41 pm said:

I hope they will put voice chat it will make more easy to explain thing more clear like white knight and other games were you can live voice chat all day hate typing i just like to talk to people on the mic it make more fun and plan killing monster will not make you tired with out hearing each other


131

+ DARKNINJAJCV763 on February 25th, 2011 at 3:05 am said:

true that


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