Bloodborne’s Victorian inspirations influence both setting and gameplay

From Software's PS4 game set for simultaneous global release.


In addition to his recently published interview with Famitsu, Bloodborne director Hidetaka Miyazaki of FromSoftware also sat down to have a lengthy chat with Japanese publication Dengeki about his upcoming PlayStation 4 game.

While some of the details reiterate what we’ve already covered earlier this week, Miyazaki nevertheless had plenty of new things to say about the design philosophy of the game, its influences, and what to expect in broad terms with regards to how he envisions it will play.

Miyazaki starts off the interview by discussing how the game was conceived. As it was stated previously, development on Bloodborne commenced soon after work wrapped up on the ‘Artorias of the Abyss‘ downloadable content for the first Dark Souls game back in 2012. Sony approached him asking if he wanted to work on another game with them for their then-upcoming PlayStation 4, an offer that he happily accepted as someone already keen to collaborate with them again. As such, he states that Bloodborne had always been planned to be a PlayStation 4 game from the start. Nevertheless, while he concedes that similarities between it and Demon’s Souls are bound to manifest in this new game because of how the latter was created under analogous circumstances, he doesn’t consider it to be a direct successor and as such never intended it just simply be Demon’s Souls 2.

In terms of the fundamental ideas that are said to lie at the heart of the game, Miyazaki offered three key concepts that are said to inform the identity of the game. The first of these is the ability to have fun while exploring the unknown, which he says not only applies to the actual gameplay, but also to how players experience the world, storyline, and the mysteries belying Yharnam, the city in which the game takes place. The second core concept that he brings up is that of the feeling of fighting to the death. While it most directly has a hand in the combat, particularly in boss and PVP fights, Miyazaki contends that it’s also something that’s tonally carried throughout the game world. The easiest comparison, he claims, is to horror games, although he’s not striving to make a game of that ilk per se and that overall, he’s atmospherically looking for something that resembles the Tower of Latria in Demon’s Souls. Nevertheless, he says that the end goal for combat is to imbue players with a greater sense of fear and of the grisly nature of fighting so that they feel that much more satisfaction when they do manage to come out on top. Finally, Miyazaki mentions that online connectivity is important to the game like it has been in the Souls series, but deigned to go into specifics other than to say it’s rooted in the idea of “free, yet shared exploration.”

Miyazaki also commented on titling the game “Bloodborne” specifically, stating that it’s meant to be a reflection upon the game world at large, but that he wants players to explore and play around with the game so that they can figure out the particular significance of the name for themselves. Conversely, he was more forthcoming about the potential that the Gothic/Victorian-inspired setting of Yharnam offers him as a creator. Akin to how Demon’s Souls went the medieval route because the combat flowed in a more passive manner, as typified by the game’s array of iconic swords and shields, Miyazaki believes that the Victorian-laden trappings of Yharnam are a natural fit for Bloodborne‘s comparatively more proactive combat style. Indeed, in his eyes, the prominent use of metalwork coupled with clothing made of fabrics helps convey the game’s philosophy of forcing players to be more engaged in fighting compared to his previous works. According to him, the setting is also what enables him to add guns to the game without needing to turn it into an outright shooter. Visually speaking, he also says that the game is loosely modeled after Eastern Europe, with some research trips conducted in Romania and the Czech Republic.

Furthermore, Miyazaki also says that there are technological motivators behind going with Bloodborne‘s particular aesthetic, as he hadn’t been able to produce such a world on console hardware prior to the PlayStation 4 and now has the raw technological power to make it happen to his satisfaction. The mechanized nature of the setting is something he wants to take full advantage of the game with various tricks and gimmicks, a desire that extends as far as the weapons, remarking that the weapons will be imaginative and diverse in their capabilities. The gun in the E3 trailer, he mentions, can change shape and such distinct characteristics are present throughout the game’s weaponry, with the focus therefore being on figuring out how to best utilize a given weapon’s gimmicks, rather than just the latent properties of more straightforward weapons occupying conventional tropes.

With regards to whether Bloodborne has much in the way of normal humans roaming about, Miyazaki answered by saying that they’re rare. Indeed, as a result of the endemic disease discussed previously that’s rampantly turning people into beasts, the townspeople go on nightly hunts, with their weapons compromising those that players themselves will use, but they otherwise predominantly keep to themselves behind closed doors. In a sense, he argues, given the circumstances, even the so-called “normal humans” might have their own share of abnormalities to contend with deep down. The protagonist, meanwhile, as mentioned before, is a traveler from a far-off land in search of ancient medical procedures that the town is said to host.

In line with the game’s emphasis on proactive fighting, combat is said to be about forcing openings and getting done what needs to be done before the opposition has a chance to get what they’re after. Being passive like in a Souls game, Miyazaki warns, serves to only get players killed that much faster. Guns in the game are meant to be especially emblematic of that approach, with the shotgun that’s been shown being particularly fitting given how its primary usefulness is, as expected, in close quarters. Indeed, it can be used for a variety of purposes such as getting enemies to let their guard down, counter attacks, and engaging groups of enemies, among other things. While long-distance attacks aren’t without their uses, Miyazaki implores that they aren’t the primary function of guns and that allowing for that would detract from his desired set of combat dynamics, especially since, again, he doesn’t want the game to be played like a shooter.

In terms of consumable items, Miyazaki says that he isn’t quite ready to delve into very many specifics, but he does explicitly mention that the team is looking into making it possible to using HP healing items with just a single button press in order for them to not detract from combat. However, on the flip side, he wants to avoid a common pitfall that he perceives in other games that make healing items the default selectable item where the strategic usefulness of other types of items are rendered comparatively ambiguous, although he doesn’t provide specifics about how he intends to combat that particular issue.

When pressed about how the game will treat player deaths, Miyazaki said that he doesn’t want to make such an inevitability a huge deal. Rather than use death in Bloodborne as a form of punishment, Miyazaki hopes that it will instead prove to be a motivational catalyst for players and compel them to keep trying to tackle challenges again and again. Death, then, is less meant to be something intended to make players feel helpless, but rather heighten that sense of just barely making it out of fights alive when they do manage to win against an enemy.

Miyazaki also touched upon character customization, saying that the protagonist has a selectable gender and that their face can be fine-tuned, with the overall extent of customization likely falling somewhere in line with what Demon’s Souls had available. He mentions that he’s looking to expand upon what that game had to offer, but explains that the timing wasn’t yet right to discuss the matter. Beyond that, character growth is confirmed to be a natural part of the game, although he remained mum on what that specifically means in Bloodborne beyond what he already discussed earlier regarding the game’s weapons.

Towards the end of the interview, Miyazaki talks about how he has a keen interest in the PlayStation 4’s online features and while online connectivity will be a big part of Bloodborne, he doesn’t intend to leave more solo-oriented players out in the cold, either. In particular, he says that he’s rather intrigued by the PlayStation 4’s Sharing functionality and that he and Sony are looking into how to fit it well into the game.

Finally, while the game is still only due somewhere within spring 2015, Miyazaki states that the development team is planning for it to be a simultaneous worldwide release.

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