[In this interview with Dark Souls producer Kei Hirono, he reflects on the development of the game and what director Hidetaka Miyazaki and his team at developer From Software have achieved with the eagerly anticipated, famously challenging, and innovative title.]
With all of the commentary about how the Japanese market is failing to create games that appeal globally, especially for hardcore audiences, you need only to point to Dark Souls as an example of a game that bucks the trend. Not only is it wildly successful in its home market -- as its debut on this week's Media Create charts at number one shows -- it is also one of the most eagerly anticipated games of 2011 in the West.
One reason it is anticipated so highly is simply because it's the direct successor to a well-respected and successful title: Demon's Souls, which debuted on the PlayStation 3 in 2009. It's a much more polished, thoroughly bigger and better-made version of that game, essentially, as many sequels and follow-ups are.
But it's also because it's a game that bucks trends: it's not simply a well-designed RPG, but it's one of the most challenging games yet released this generation. And as veteran developer Mark Cerny has often pointed out -- a point recently echoed by Gears of War's Cliff Bleszinski -- it's got innovative online play that may set the tone for how single player-focused developers will handle those modes in the future.
How did this game come together? To find out more, Gamasutra spoke to the game's producer at Namco Bandai, Kei Hirono. Gamasutra last spoke to Hirono at E3, where he told us that the secret to the game's success was getting out of the way of director Hidetaka Miyazaki and his team at developer From Software. In this new interview, he reflects on the development of the game and what the team has achieved with the title.
When we spoke at E3, you said that you're getting out of the way and letting the team really do the work. Our readers really liked that statement -- the idea that you really just let From make the decisions on the game.
Kei Hirono: Absolutely, our stance is the same -- we let devs do what they want. Every time we receive a build, we're actually surprised by the new aspects that have evolved. So our job is to deliver this game to you guys on time, so we'll do our best to do that, and make sure that a great game is delivered.
Normally you produce a lot of anime games.
KH: I do!
It's a pretty different experience from really hardcore games like Dark Souls.
KH: Well, the producer position might be a bit different in Japan; it's chiefly focused on the publishing side. Most of the design work and testing and so on is being handled by From Software; we're trusting them to be good enough for the task, so we're leaving it to them. Meanwhile, we're the ones who are figuring out how to deploy this product worldwide, in North America and Europe. It's really been a new experience for all of us.
You're gold on Dark Souls; how do you feel when you look at the final game and how it went?
KH: Oh, partly it's a relief that something we worked right up to the line on turned out so well. I do think it turned out wonderful, though, really.
Did it exceed the expectations you had at the beginning?
KH: It's really nothing like we pictured it at the start. There were concepts that went unimplemented because, especially with the online component, you can't really tell how some of it works until it's actually in motion. It was really a difficult project because it kept on changing and evolving as we were developing it. A lot got attached to it, so it's really a much greater project than we first conceived. I'm just glad it all came together.