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

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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.

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27 Author Replies

  • Soul of lost withdrawn from its vessel, may strength be grant so… I can bear waiting the whole year for this masterpiece!

  • I can’t wait to play (die in) this game!

  • Let strength be granted, so the world might be mended. So the world might be mended.

  • great interview

  • will there be some sort of benefit/reward for having a Demon’s Souls game save when we play Dark Souls?

  • I can’t adequately explain in words how much I loved Demon’s souls, I got the Platinum trophy and still played many many hours after. I am overjoyed to hear that its successor (spiritual, haha) is coming out this year. One of the aspects I enjoyed immensely was the way the game told the story, with its attention to detail in the environments, the music and lack of, to what the NPC’s said, this game told a cohesive and detailed story a way few games with much more budget ever do. I eagerly await my time in this game, and thank you for making this.

    • It’s a really impressive game. It spanked me good, but I might have to try it again…I’m definitely excited for Dark Souls.

  • is looking better than (cant believe im saying this) than Demons Souls itself! Open world RPG ala Demons Souls, sign me up for the collectors edition!!!!

  • very nice read :]

  • Sony is really dumb for letting Demon’s Souls pretty much go multiplatform. I’m looking forward to it though.

  • this looks extremely cool. however, the sheer difficulty of it steers me away from it.with that in mind, are we going to have a tales of graces coverage here,sid or jeff?

  • Lots of good info there. I’m so ready this!

  • Cant Wait for this game!!! thx for the interview

    You guys at Sony should make Demon’s souls 2 that would be nice too

  • I cannot forgive how after all the support the PS3 community gave you guys, that they just went around and made this spiritual successor to DS a multi platform game. I’m sick of that…

    We need a true sequel on the PS3 only, not this pure bs…

  • doesn’t sound like there will be use of voice chat in this one either. hopefully there will be some kind of in game text chat available to make co-op a little smooth

  • I was so excited for Demon’s Souls, but the difficulty eventually got the better of me and I haven’t played it since last december (2009). I might give it a second chance because I really like the beacon fire concept coming in this next addition.

    Very nice report too.

    • Thank you! I’m very curious about the Beacon Fires as well – I’m curious how players can “emotionally communicate” with each other.

  • Demon’s Souls was such a great game, is heartening to hear how similarly – yet expanded – this “spiritual successor” is designed.

    I can’t wait for multiplayer. Multiplayer in Demon’s Souls was so satisfyingly unique, and terrifying!

    The dark, medieval European fantasy world too…so perfectly realised. It’s funny how it takes a Japanese company to do it properly.

    Bravo From. I’m a big fan of your production style (and games) and you are an inspiration to a little aspiring indie like me.

    Can’t wait.

  • this game looks cool. hope it’ll have some sort of in-game text or voice chat this time around

    • I sort of like it when multiplayer games don’t rely so heavily on voice or text chat, to be honest. But to each their own!

  • Too hard for me, meaning I understand having a really difficult game but loosing all the progress that you made in the last 3 hours because of some backstabbing trap it just too fustrating for me. Good luck either way!

  • Sweet! Looks awesome :D

    I never got super far i Demon’s Souls. But that’s cause i played like a few hours on my PS3 before it yellow lighted. >.<

    But i'll get around to it again lol.

    • D’oh! It’s an insanely tough game, but the people who “get it” absolutely love it. I’m tempted to make another attempt…

  • Great Interview. I can’t wait.

  • I can’t wait to dive into this :D buying it on both consoles – Umbassa

  • I really hope this is harder than Demon’s Souls, that game was to easy.

  • wonder if there will be DLC for this one

  • Hurt me more, From Software!

  • You think they added voice chat? Cuz if they did thatd be to AWESOME! And the gaMe would FOR DAMn sure buy!


  • Nice. I’m really looking forward to this game. Even though I never actually finished DS (damn Manticore!) I still enjoyed it a lot.

  • Dark Souls is one of my most anticipated games for this year. I have completed Demon’ Souls 4 or 5 times and i still watch others play it on youtube or live streams. It’s fun seeing how they approach a challenge differently.

    More weapons sounds like fun. hopefully more unique armor set as well.

    It felt like a dream come true when i heard that FROM was making another DS like game. Glad this one is coming out soon and i can’t wait to play it!

    Nice Q&A! Thanks, Sid. How about a Skyrim Q&A next? :D

  • working on my second Demon’s Souls playthrough

  • I love Demon’s Souls. I still make love to it to this day.

    I want to know why they dropped the other. This is clearly Demon’s Souls related. Dark Souls make me think of it as a cheap rip off.

    I still don’t get why this is suppose to be anything other Demon’s Souls 2?

    Still want it tho.

  • I too love Demon’s Souls and I’m really looking forward to this game. Thanks for making great games for us to enjoy.

    • Always happy to hear so much support for Demon’s Souls. It’s a really unique game and I’m glad it found its audience!

  • Dark Souls seems extremely good and has the potential become GOTY 2011 or at least mine. I absolutely loved Demon’s Souls and from what I’ve seen in trailers it seems even better. Superb news!

    By the way, is Sony considering the possibility of a Demon’s Souls 2? Sure, Dark Souls will be simillar but also different enough to be called a sequel. It may have an excellent world and things, but I still feel like playing something in the same universe as Demon’s Souls, whether it be sequel or prequel, especially if it has Dark Souls’ improvements! Please, I want to face off the Old One and its minions once more!

  • Loved Demons Souls but when my PS3 Died :( my saved data that I couldn’t back up was lost with it. Hope this is fixed one day. I haven’t played it since then. A shame to I was on last levels, and all that grinding for souls was for nothing.

  • @27 “ImFromIndiah”

    I think I can speak for everyone when I say; no one cares.

  • @31 <3

  • This is right up there with Uncharted 3 for games I’m looking forward to the most this year.

    Demon’s Souls was not only an experience, but a well designed game as well. I’m expecting Dark Souls to deliver the same and improve on that as well.

    For anyone too intimidated by Demon’s Souls and it’s overblown difficulty, I’d like to say just give it a try. Take your time and be patient, the game has a lot of measures in place to make it easier but you need to look out for it. Player notes, ghosts, inviting Blue Phantoms to help you out, etc.

  • Please, don’t use copy protected save files. The reason I haven’t gotten Demon Souls is because there is no way to backup your saves, offline.

  • Looking good!

  • I don’t like the interviewer, complained too much about difficulty and punishment. the game was easy and fair.. don’t you remember when you had lives, and if you ran out you had to restart the game?
    THAT is much worse then this.

    • Hehe, I wasn’t *complaining* about it per se. Most players found Demon’s Souls to be soul-crushing difficult — though that was part of its charm. Interviewing the director of Dark Souls and ignoring the topic of difficulty would’ve been like interviewing the creators of Mortal Kombat and not asking about fatalities.

  • Demon’s Souls was easy. All you had to do was find a blue soul stone with the username LettuceD on it. ;)

  • Sid, you should have asked if there was going to be a CE that included a guide like Demon’s Souls had. That guide was my bible for that game. I’m definitely buying the CE if they do the same route.

  • SCEJ should buy From Software (assuming they are for sale), as the Japanese branch of Sony needs some beefing up. Ueda and company are great as is Polyphony, but these teams need time, where as From seems quite capable of releasing titles on a regular and timely basis.

    I so agree with #8 about letting this one go multi-plat is a shame, fantastic looking game that would be great for the stable.

  • I am super excited for this game!

  • I honestly believe that this game would go very well with Move support. I’m psyched to see how it turns out though. I loved Demon Souls… I’m just a little worried about the game’s balance and ideals in trying to make it ‘harder’.

  • I loved Demon’s Souls, the art style evoked a fantastic ambiance and really great mood and it’s one of the only true HARDCORE “gamer’s games” (if you get my meaning) that have been released this generation. The art style in Dark Souls doesn’t look to disappoint either, I’m definitely looking forward to it. I hope though, that From Software intends on bringing more exclusives to the PlayStation platform.

  • I need to go back and beat Demon’s Souls(which should have just been called Demon Souls). Loved the game just got to caught up with tendency and got annoyed.

    • Yeah, I always thought the apostrophe useage is a bit weird for the title. The way it’s used, I think it means that there’s a demon (singular) who has many souls. “Souls of the Demon”

  • I absolutely loved Demon’s Souls. The game was pretty hard until you learn the in’s and out’s of each level, and developed a strategy for each boss.

    Although, it took a lot of blood (from my character), sweat, and tears haha. I played it up until I fought Flamelurker (which I believe is the toughest boss in the game) and quit for 3 months out of frustration. Came back and beat him on my first try :)

    I can’t wait for Dark Souls. If it’s half as amazing as Demon’s Souls, I will love it (but I’m hoping it improves upon it’s predecessor). I just wish it was exclusive…….. this is the Demon’s Souls franchise we’re talking about here, there’s nothing wrong with being selfish over it :D

  • Great piece, Sid! Got here from Kotaku. Glad to hear about the respawn points in Dark Souls.

    Looking forward to some Skyrim coverage. I remember seeing Oblivion for the first time at your office, and it ended up becoming my all-time favorite game. ;)


    • Thanks Ben, glad you liked it! And good to hear from you! How are you? ^_^ I gotta get on the horn with the Bethesda guys about Skyrim…

  • Hidekata Miyazaki is my new hero :D

    Demon’s Souls is my favorite PS3 exclusive (and yes, Sony dropped the ball with this one) and Dark Souls (c’mon, it’s a sequel) is my most anticipated game only behind The Last Guardian.

    I’m not good at skill games, i suck at Ninja Gaiden and Devil May Cry (Street Fighter too) but Demon’s Souls has the perfect style of difficulty for me and every accomplishment was rewarding, not to mention the fantastic ambience, music and art style. It’s my most played online game as well, i have no patience for the repetitive nature of shooters. Hope Capcom will finally bring Monster Hunter to the PS3 since the NGP allows cross ports between the two.

    And please bring White Knight Chronicles 2 over here, Sony. Thanks.

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