Dark Souls II co-director Yui Tanimura discusses development philosophies and game difficulty

Satisfaction and connections make Dark Souls.

Dark Souls II

In a 4Gamer interview last week leading up to the Japanese release of Dark Souls II (which opened at 261,000 sales across PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360), co-director Yui Tanimura discussed at great length his development philosophies toward making a new game in such a critically acclaimed and beloved franchise without Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls director Hidetaka Miyazaki captaining the ship.

Although Tanimura has a lot to say about the perceived increase in difficulty the series is already known for, he also discusses how the game tries to foster a desire in players to explore the world and experiment more thoroughly than they have in the past.

Plenty of ground is covered beyond those sorts of topics, though, so read on below for the full translation of the interview. It’s an interesting read.

4Gamer: Thanks for joining us today. Unlike Demon’s Souls and the original Dark Souls where Hidetaka Miyazaki helmed development efforts, the torch was handed off to you for Dark Souls II, so to speak. Since the game’s release is quickly approaching, would you mind giving us a quick overview of what other games you’ve worked on in the past?

Yui Tanimura: Sure. More recently, I put out Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn with Bandai Namco Games. Before that, I also worked on the Another Century’s Episode series, as well as Shadow Tower Abyss. And ever since Armored Core 2 on the PlayStation 2, I’ve been involved with that series as well.

Suffice it to say that you’re quite the veteran at From, then. That being said, I’ve noticed that you’ve mainly worked on a lot of games with mecha in them. That’s a pretty unusual resume.

I guess that’s true. Actually, between you and me, I’m really into 3D dungeon-crawlers and action RPGs like Wizardry and Dungeon Master. King’s Field was what actually made me want to work at From in the first place, so when they asked me if I wanted to do Dark Souls II, I didn’t hesitate to accept the job on the spot.

Even if you were eager to do it, though, surely you felt some anxiety about developing the game going into it, no? This is the follow-up to Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls we’re talking about here, both of which are very well-regarded around the world.

Of course I felt it, I won’t deny that. I couldn’t begin to tell you how intensely I was sweating bullets while we were making Dark Souls II. I’ll definitely never forget the wave of satisfaction that hit me once we finally went gold and sent off the master copy. But honestly I wasn’t really worrying about the reviews per se as we were developing it. That all comes after you’re all done actually making the game, so I didn’t dwell on that point a whole lot while we were still making it. That’s how it always is when you’re making a sequel to something.

For me, the bigger concern was figuring out what aspects of the first Dark Souls game people liked and why they liked them. That was at the forefront of my mind during development.

What would you say was well-liked about the original Dark Souls, then?

I think the two most critical things that make Dark Souls games what they are is the satisfaction you get from triumphing over adversity and the sort of nebulous connections that players have amongst each other when they’re playing the game. That first point in particular is necessary to the identity of the series. It harkens back to old games that we used to play and how we’d just bang our heads at them until we finally won when faced with a difficulty spike.

But I think it’s the latter trait that really defines the Dark Souls series. There’s a sense of solidarity that you get when you bring in another player to help you out for a rough patch and together you manage to come out on top despite the limited means of communication you’ve both got at your disposal.

That goes as much for the actual summoning mechanics as it does the messages that you can leave for other players, I imagine.

Definitely. Those two gameplay systems are inseparable in our minds, so we made sure to preserve them for Dark Souls II.

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