Dark Souls II Design Works
Updated: Jan 22, 2018
A complete translation of the Dark Souls 2 design works interview. It features the director Yu Tanimura as well as artists Daisuke Satake, Masanao Katayama, Hiroaki Tomari, Kota Tonaki and Shin Ou.
Firstly, I’d like to ask director Tanimura to give an overview of the Dark Souls 2 design process. This was your first role as director and you had some difficult shoes to fill in those of Mr Miyazaki, who was really the cornerstone of both the previous entry Dark Souls and its spiritual prequel Demon’s Souls. On top of that, it was the first direct sequel in the series. Was it as difficult as it sounds?
Tanimura: Yes, this game actually went through quite a troubled development process. Due to a number of factors we were actually forced to re-think the entire game midway into development. We really had to go back to the drawing board and think once more about what a Dark Souls game should be. It was at that point that I took on my current role, overseeing the entirety of the game including the art direction. To ensure we created the game both we and the fans wanted it was completely necessary, but it did, of course, create a problem. We had to decide what to do with the designs and maps that had been created up to that point. Ideally we’d start again from scratch but of course we were under time constraints so instead, we had to figure out how to repurpose the designs in our newly reimagined game. This meant everything from deciding new roles for characters to finding ways to slot locations into the world map. This unusual development cycle faced us with an entirely different set of problems and looking back on the project as a whole it was at times, arduous. Although I’m confident that none of this will be felt by the players and I’m completely satisfied with the final product. So while I don’t think we need to dwell on it too much, in the interest of giving a full count of the development process it’s something we can’t avoid touching on.
In terms of sheer volume, this entry is much bigger than the first game yet you were able to release on time which I’m sure wasn’t easy. In the midst of this difficult development cycle, what kind of direction did you give to the artists on the game?
Tanimura: Well there were really two patterns and the process differed for each one. There were the partially completed designs which needed to be modified to fit into the reworked game and the new designs created after the revision. In this case, my preferred method is to start with a base idea or concept and then develop it from there although this project had many more of the former than the latter. It is worth noting however that this doesn’t apply to the DLC as it was created completely from scratch and we didn’t begin work on it until we had completed the entirety of the main game. In both situations, I took care not to be too controlling, even when I myself had a personal preference. I like to take time to talk with the designers and artists and evolve the idea that way. In my experience this method tends to provide better results, in the end, in fact, it’s used in a lot of From Software’s games so I saw no reason not to use it with Dark Souls 2 as well.
However, rearranging the partially completed designs was extremely difficult. For example the character Lucatiel of Mirrah. Her name during development was Don Quixote and the Bell Keeper dwarf her Sancho Panza. They were originally designed as a slightly untrustworthy female knight and her bumbling, middle-aged squire much like their namesakes. But while I’m a fan of the source material inserting these two overtly comical characters into such a dark foreboding world just wouldn’t fit at all. So eventually we changed their roles to that of the cursed knight and the Bell Keeper. I simply asked the designers if they could modify them a little for their new roles.
When changing the role of a character you also have to make changes to their appearance…
Tanimura: There are some designs that don’t but yes, many require some degree of modification. There were also those designs that we just couldn’t salvage and had to do away with altogether. It really depends on the circumstances.
When I interviewed Mr Miyazaki about the first Dark Souls he mentioned a number of changes that occurred during development, for example, the character Pricilla originally being designed as the heroine but ending up as the boss of The Painted World and the original design for the Fire Link Shrine being partially filled with water. But you’re saying that this game had even more?
Satake: This isn’t unique to Dark Souls. From Software’s titles often go through such amendments, although I’d call it more of a reconfiguration than an outright change. If some aspect isn’t coming together we’ll take it apart and think about how we can make it work. This can really give the artists a chance to flex their creative muscle. To put it another way, it’s like were conducting a jazz session, but one to try and produce a superior experience. If an artist comes to us with an idea then we might suggest some something else before throwing it back. At times the studio almost feels like a live music session.
People not used to this way of working may think it wasteful but every single change is made to benefit the final product in some way, so in my opinion this back and forth really is essential. The one downside is that these changes can affect other areas of the project meaning that in some cases larger changes are necessary. I think it must have been very hard for the director to maintain this working method on a project of this size and scale. Imagine how difficult it would be to simultaneously conduct 4 or 5 orchestras!
Tanimura: Yes, this wasn’t the easiest project but everyone was extremely forthcoming with help. In fact, when approached with changes I’d often ask them to take it even further, so I’m sorry for all the extra work I created. Personally, I was able to approach and overcome a great deal of challenging problems and found the whole project to be a valuable learning experience.
As the first direct sequel in the series, there were a number of items and some equipment from the first game that also appeared in this one. Did you have to modify them at all to bring them in line with the rest of the game’s visuals?
Tanimura: The increase in graphic fidelity allowed us to achieve a number of things that weren’t possible before and I wanted the artists to embrace that. For example the character use on the cover, the Faraam knight, since he was featured in much of the early promotional material I had the artists think about every little detail, right down to the way the skirt and other fabric would move.
Satake: During the early stages of development I spoke at length with one of the 3d artists about things such as realistic cloth that we hadn’t been able to create before and the new possibilities and realms of expression that this new technology afforded us.
Could I ask Mr Tanimura to explain his direction style in a little more detail?
Tanimura: When I first give instruction I give the outline concept and the general direction I want it taken. Depending on the situation I may take a fairly direct approach, clearly explaining the place, function and role I want it to fill, at least it’s my intention to be clear and direct. However, I have been known to give intentionally ambiguous explanations, even when I myself have a clear image of what I want. I want to see how the artist will improve upon the original concept.
That’s not just in the art. I use this technique in a number of places throughout the development. For example animation. If I say ‘This character is a woman’ The animation will naturally start to look a certain way. The design is instantly confined within set boundaries and the final result will suffer because of it. To put it bluntly, it can become stereotypical. We are no longer thinking about enhancing the experience of the player, but rather simply following instructions and fulfilling the design brief. I want to utilise my staff’s creativity, in fact, You could say that I want them to go through some hardship and deliberation before producing their design. Even though this method can take time it’s more likely to produce better, more unexpected results.
Satake: Like the Jazz session I talked about earlier, We actually had a situation like this before. In the original game the butchers in the depths carrying the giant meat cleavers and wearing torn sacks over their faces. When making them Mr Miyazaki never told us that they were women. On hearing that even we were surprised so I’m sure the players were similarly shocked. Rather than the artists producing those surprising twists, it is, in fact, more down to the director's instruction.
Now I’d like to have the artists for this project introduce themselves so we can go into more detail of specific areas. If you could explain what you worked on and perhaps give us your impression of the game.
Satake: I mostly worked on enemy and equipment designs and I was also involved in map concepts and creation. The Castle Drangleic from my initial concept is a little different from the final one that appeared in the game but I talked with the director about the architecture and design and made some suggestions.
So really from the very early stages then?
Satake: Yes, right from the time we started forming the initial image we wanted to build the game around. I also worked a little on the characters.
There are a lot of characters in this game aren’t there.
Satake: Several of the characters were actually shaped primarily by suggestions from the artists like the previously mentioned Lucantiel. She began as one type of character and by the end of development had transformed into something else entirely. I couldn’t possibly have imagined that’s how she would end up.
Tomari: On the previous game map and character artists weren’t separated but on this project, i was in charge of the maps. I was involved right from the very earliest concept stage. A lot changed as the project progressed and there were things that appeared differently in the final game but looking through the pages of this book you’ll see a number of these concept pieces. I was involved in all of them.
Tonaki: I was involved from the enemy concept design stage and I also worked on the DLC after the main project was finished. As well as that I also worked on several of the bosses and some equipment. This was the first time I’d been involved for the entire duration of a project so it’s quite a special game for me. I was also responsible for supervising the miniature weapons in the collectors' edition, that was an interesting departure from CG.
Ou: I wasn’t involved in the project until the latter half. It was my job to aid my Tonaki and the other leads.
Satake: you worked on both maps and characters didn’t you.
Ou: Yes, maps characters and icons I worked on them all. I was delighted to be able to work in so many different areas and I learned a huge amount. I played the previous game before entering the company and was blown away by the attention to detail in the designs.
Out of my designs, I’d probably say I’m happiest with the Black Witch set. The Dark Souls series doesn’t have all that many female characters so I think it’s an important addition and it was also a lot of fun to work on.
Next a veteran from the previous game, Mr Katayama.
Katayama: Yes, it’s just Mr Satake and I that worked on the previous game isn’t it. I only joined from the latter half of the first Dark Souls but here I was involved right from the early concept stages. Once we entered the main stage of development I worked with Mr Satake and Mr Tonaki, mainly on the characters.
Satake: You worked a little on map design didn’t you?
Katayama: Yes, But only during the very early stages. Of my designs, the one I’m most attached to is probably the green-cloaked Faraam Knight which was used in the first trailer, that and the Mirror Knight. As well as that I worked on a number of bosses and a lot of the normal enemies such as the salamanders. Dividing my time between CG and real models.
This game is much larger than the prequel, did you encounter any difficulties because of this?
Satake: Yes, while working on the previous game I remember thinking a larger game would be completely unthinkable, but this project eclipsed it in both size and scale. I told myself multiple times during development that it was impossible, the fact that we completed the game at all is entirely down to the hard work put in by the artists and designers, I have the utmost respect for them.
By increasing the number of characters you also increase the number of weapons and equipment. That must have been a lot of work.
Satake: With this project, we actually relied quite heavily on out of house artists, although that did mean we spent a lot of time checking their designs. We also had the in-house artists supervise the creation of the 3d models rather than just working on 2d images. We made and remade things countless times during this project, but there were some designs like Mr Katayama’s mirror knight that made it unchanged into the final game. I remember the company director actually phoned up to tell us how much he liked it.
The mirror knight was also the boss of the first playable build, wasn’t he?
Satake: Well he has a strong image doesn’t he. Most people who saw it seemed to praise the subtle wing design embossed on the back of the armour, but personally, I always loved the way the helmet looked. You can never tell what part will resonate with people.
Mr Tanimura, what was your overall design theme with dark souls 2?
Tanimura: Since it is a sequel I was always conscious of the original game's legacy and kept that stylistic core, but of course I couldn’t just leave it the same. It’s a cliche thing to say about a sequel but it can easily become like a copy where you imitate rather than move the series forward in any meaningful way, so we had to inject our own special colour into the project to set it apart. At that time the keyword I used was ‘deep curse’. I’m not simply talking about the curse of the undead which afflicts the world of Drangleic, but more about the grim fate of the undead. Those chosen to perform this seemingly impossible task. I wondered if we could draw that out, have the player bear some of that burden as they embark upon their journey. If that is the case then I’ve been successful.
There are some tragic stories such as those of Lucantiel or Blacksmith Lenigrast and his daughter Chloanne, then there are characters like Cale the Cartographer and Maughlin the Armourer which were at times quite humorous, but I almost felt bad for laughing, it’s very black humour, isn’t it.
Tanimura: You laugh, or more accurately you can’t help laughing because the characters are so straight, that’s something we actually aimed for when developing them.
Tonaki: As we move to the end of the game the characters all begin to lose their memory, they remember their ultimate goal but they can’t remember why they’re working towards it. It’s quite sad.
Satake: It’s like many of the Japanese festivals. The tradition is passed down and we remember what has to be done but the original meaning behind those actions can get lost along the way.
Tanimura: Dark Souls’ Solaire of Astoria was a huge fan favourite wasn’t he. I liked the complexity of the character. On the face of it he’s a typical NPC that might appear in any game, supportive and jovial to a fault, but underneath it all, he’s deeply troubled. It’s only when you start to consider what type of person he really is that you discover he’s actually in an extremely dire situation. I really think that that’s tremendously clever and one of the things that draw people to the character.
Since a lot of time has passed since the prequel, how did you try to reflect this in the game?
Tanimura: Well I never actually asked the designers to think about the change in time period. It’s true that a lot of time had passed since the prequel. But as I see it old civilisations have fallen, new ones have risen up and new kings have come to power before being overthrown themselves. If there is some kind of discovery or innovation to break the status quo then this isn’t the case but in this world one never came. History simply continued to repeat itself for several hundred years. This being that case it’s natural that there hasn’t been a huge advancement in technology or any vast change is culture or customs.
Satake: The world of Lordran was one of dusk and twilight, the gods had already left it behind. The fire had weakened and the realm waited, either for a king to bring a new golden age or a slow slide into oblivion. In the world of Dark Souls 2, there are barely any traces of the old gods left, but we took care when creating it to leave suggestions of their presence behind to hint at the worlds arcane past. People who played the previous game should be able to recognise them, or those who take their time to absorb every detail. I remember Mr Tanimura telling me many times to keep it to the merest hint.
Tanimura: I often said things like that didn’t I. Posing drawn out questions that were too complex and hard to answer. [Laughs]
Next, I’d like to talk about the various locations in the game in a bit more detail. How about starting at the beginning, in Things Betwixt.
Tomari: While the concept art doesn’t appear in this book, in the initial design you were going start in the depths of a dark cave and immediately be faced with a gigantic dragon, but you had yet to procure any weapons and were powerless against it. The player would then be tasked with working out how to overcome this seemingly impossible situation. But, during the re-design, the dragon disappeared leaving only the empty cave behind. When thinking how we could re-purpose the area we struck upon the idea of making it a tutorial map.
Tonaki: There are small enemies hidden in the grass which you can attack, but you do so little damage that you can’t hope to defeat them. On top of that, attacking one will attract all the surrounding enemies granting you with a spectacular first death. It was our way of saying welcome back to people who played the first Dark Souls.
Satake: For the players who had been eagerly awaiting this new entry we wanted to place them in an exciting new world and immediately let them know that the adventure had begun anew, but I feel like our original design was overdoing it a bit. You were plunged into a pitch black world as if you had instantly been flung into the original game’s Tomb of the Giants, all but the most hardened player will start to lose hope being faced with that right off the bat. Then after advancing a short distance you’d be faced with this great dragon.
Of course, we wanted the experience to get off to a strong start so we added these elements, but there are also those players who didn’t play the first game, and also in terms of tempo it just didn’t work. When we took another look at the area during the re-design some elements were changed, but we still wanted the player to have that feeling that they were embarking on something amazing, plunging headlong into the dark unknown. In the opening grass-filled area you hear that faint rustling and think ‘here we go again’. It’s a complex feeling, a mixture of excitement of the journey ahead and dread of the hardships to come.
There’s a blue light in the distance. I was immediately drawn towards it, it’s a little glimpse of hope.
Satake: I’m actually very fond of that detail. It makes you wonder what could be stretching out on the other side. We worked very hard to craft a world that lives up to those expectations.
Tanimura: In the design, it’s written that very few people actually make it out of that cave alive. The undead you encounter past the house are those who became forever lost in the space betwixt.
The house itself features some wonderful detail, it really feels ‘lived in’.
Tomari: That was done on purpose to immediately distinguish it from the previous game. It feels very different. If you think about it the simple fact there is a house with people living in it is something that didn’t exist in the first Dark Souls. We wanted to make a warm little space in this otherwise dark and gloomy world.
Satake: Those old women are mean [Laughs], the way they talk just makes me want to shout ’Shut up you old hag’.
Tanimura: As a player, you feel anxious about being cast into this eerie place, but you see a house in the distance with warm light spilling out over the threshold, and it alleviates that somewhat. Of course, we couldn’t have the old women inside be too welcoming or it would have been strange, this is Dark Souls after all. In the end, we thought that fact that they offer you any kind of help at all is enough.
Satake: I don’t want to be told that I’m going to die over and over again, it’s a service I could have done without. [laughs]
Tanimura: In the end it was cut but originally the opening movie was about twice the length and the laughter was also far more prominent. We decided it was a little much so we chopped it in half.
Next, after leaving Things Betwixt we arrive at the hub, Majula. That’s a setting sun, isn’t it?
Tomari: Majula was actually the very first design I worked on. While it was to function as a hub I wanted to make it feel desolate so initially, I gave it a cloudy, overcast sky. That very first design was also near the sea and had the dilapidated buildings which the final design retains. The reason I removed the clouds was probably because you’d just emerged from a dark cave, but rather than a bright midday sun, a setting sun seemed more appropriate.
Satake: It’s a dying world is it not, there is still a calming light, but it’s not a world with bright cerulean skies. You visit the place many times throughout the game so while it does feel lonely at first, it’s a location which has the potential to develop into a new hub area. The director would often come to me and say things like ‘what shall we do about the hub area’ I think he lost a lot of sleep over it.
Tanimura: Well it is the most important area, and the most difficult to get right [Laughs]
Satake: Yes, it’s the starting point for all of your adventures but it’s also somewhere you spend a great deal of time. There is a heroine like character in the Emerald Herald and other NPCs also gather as the game progresses so it serves a huge number of functions and we had to figure out how to represent those in the environment. I think the map designers had a tough job incorporating all of those components.
Tomari: I actually think the artists had a harder time with Majula, I recall the area used to be much larger and stretch down nearly to the ocean.
Satake: In the concept stages it was divided into an upper and lower section and much like the fire link shrine in the last game there were routes that connected to both the top and bottom of the map. There was even a rope similar to the ones found in The Dragon Aerie and the lower section of Brightstone Cove Tseldora, that’s how wide it was.
Tanimura: It was just too big and no longer fulfilled its function as a hub area so we had to make it smaller. Above all else, the hub area must be convenient. The large hole in the centre of town also used to be in a different location, but we thought it was really something that should be close at hand. It was one of the maps that changed a lot over the course of development.
Moving on into the Forest of Fallen Giants.
Tomari: Much like the Undead Burg in the last game the Forest of Fallen Giants was an area primarily designed by the 3d artists. It was another map that was created extremely early on in development and it has a number of typical dark souls shortcuts. It’s really a map where the map designers were able to fit in everything they wanted to.
Concentrating purely on the aesthetics, you have the withered sleeping giants scattered throughout the area and evidence of the ancient conflict is all around you.
Tomari: In the original design the giants were actually much larger. They would tower over the castle walls and attack the player as you progressed through the area. Gradually you would draw closer to the sea where you would find the defences constructed to stop their advance.
Satake: The concept that it was a series of defences made to fight against the giants never changed so most of the area actually survived the redesign untouched. I think it’s fun to look at the place and imagine what kind of battles were fought there. Of course, you get a glimpse of the scale of them within the dreams as they hurl those colossal fireballs about.
When you reach Heide’s Tower of Flame the atmosphere changes once more. This time it’s a bright, open and extremely beautiful setting.
Tanimura: Originally it was nothing more than a path to the next area but that just wasn’t interesting. We started with the concept of the sunken city forming the road and the map just expanded from there [laughs]. We designed a boss encounter, added the Cathedral of Blue and before we knew it, it had become its own complete area.
I think the Forest of Fallen Giants was a relatively orthodox opening area so after that we wanted to introduce a curveball, to have an area where you were primarily fighting huge enemies. After this, your journey starts to take you inland so we decided to keep the visuals of this coastal region calm and beautiful.
Do the Heide Knights you encounter throughout the game have any relation to this location?
Tanimura: Yes, of course. They are the Knights of a lost kingdom, they have nowhere to return to and lack the presence of mind to do anything but wander the world.
Is it a coincidence that they bear a striking resemblance to Solaire from the first Dark Souls?
Tanimura: Yes, there is no direct connection between the two.
Satake: I hadn’t thought about it myself but I did hear people calling them silver Solaria.
Let’s move on to No-man’s Wharf.
Satake: We began designing the area with two keywords, ‘harbour’ and ‘underground’. The designers requested an image to work from so we worked with an out-of-house artist to produce the original concept. Using that as a base we started to discuss the kind of features we could add to the area. Of course, we worked hard to introduce a level of individuality into each of the game's areas, but for me, this map is an especially memorable one. I love calling the ship and then fighting upon the decks. When the staff saw it they were really excited about working on it. I remember them saying ‘I want to make it move’.
Tonaki: Originally when I had the boat designed the sail was going to catch fire, then you would fight a boss on the burning deck. It would have been a great set piece so I’m a little upset that we weren’t able to pull it off.
From No Man’s Wharf to that moonlit hell that is the Lost Bastille.
Tomari: This was a map that went through many changes, the original working name was the ruined castle but as it was revised and altered the entire castle became a prison and the inhabitants, inmates.
Tonaki: This is the point in the game where the number of enemies really starts to increase.
And we have the return of our favourite gargoyles. That’s something fans of the last game will enjoy, even the music is the same.
Tanimura: Of course. We decided it was the only way to do it!
After beating the gargoyles and lighting the bonfire you descend down into an area full of dogs. It bears quite a resemblance to the narrow room you fought the Capra demon in the first game doesn't it. Was that intentional?
Tanimura: I’ll leave that to your imagination.
Huntsman’s Copse was the map used in the network test, was it one of the first maps completed?
Tanimura: Yes, it was the very first map to be finished, once we decided to use it in the network test we prioritized it above all the others.
It’s a dark area but you can glimpse the sun shining through the trees.
Tanimura: Yes, it’s the early morning sun. I remember making all kinds of requests while working on the area like, ‘There must be depth to the area to give you the feeling that you’ve traveled some distance’, and ‘we must make sure that you don’t entirely lose your sense of direction, but have an idea of the place you entered’. I also wanted it to feel like it was connected to areas in multiple directions.
There is the route over the rope bridge to the Undead Purgatory and the path along the cliff to the caves.
Tanimura: In the Undead Purgatory we only really have the chariot boss don’t we.
That location is full of detail, both the outside and the interior. I find it an interesting area because the entire map is part of the boss battle.
Tonaki: Once you spring the trap and the chariot crashes you realize that the boss is in fact, the horse. On seeing that for the first time I was very surprised.
Tanimura: At one point we did have the executioner come down and fight after the horse had been killed, but the fight was too easy and the battle lacked any kind of impact, so I decided to kill him off. When I first showed this within the company everyone was surprised saying, 'but he looked so imposing in the intro movie’.
After the Huntsman’s Copse, we enter the poisonous regions Harvest Valley and the Earthen Peak.
Satake: Originally the entire map was like a basin completely filled with poisonous fog. In the first design, you would redirect the flow of water to start the windmills and that would clear the fog away. Of course, that changed in the final game but I think ultimately it became a visually interesting location.
Is the fact that it’s poisoned fog and not water an idea left over from the original concept? The presence of the poison itself hints at a long history of industrial activity and the fact that the windmills are moving is evidence that there’s somebody there.
Satake: The inclusion of windmills was something that was suggested quite early on in development. From there we simply had to build a map that would incorporate them. We developed quite a number of ideas and images and found that rather than a sturdy, well-built structure an old run-down mill was far more appealing so that’s what made it into the final design. Although I recall in the original concept the mill was next to a lake and used its power to turn the wheel.
About the poison extending through the area into Earthen Peak, it’s lurid green colour really sticks in my mind. I think it really enhances the effect somehow.
Satake: I talked with the 3d artists and together we decided on that colour. I believe the poison in the King’s Field series was green so we matched it with that.
Tanimura: In the last game poison was represented with purple, but here we used that to represent the darkness attribute so it would have overlapped.
On top of that, it’s as Mr Satake says, From’s games have a history of using that colour to represent poison. If the poison had been purple then it would have been an extremely purple world. [laughs]
Next we move onto The Iron Keep, although many people found the fact that these locations were linked to be something of a mystery.
Tanimura: The idea is that the lake of magma is actually on the upper strata, like a caldera lake on a plateau. However, looking down from the top it was far too wide, that and the fact that there isn’t an adequate transition between locations meant we didn’t really communicate the idea as well as we could have.
Satake: The image for The Iron Fort came from a piece of concept art created for a separate project, a dam which harnessed the power of magma. In the end, it wasn’t used in that project, but with every new game I’d show it to the producer and director and see if there was some way we could fit it in. Of course, conventional wisdom would place magma underground but when you start to consider this lake and realize that there must be a reason for it being there, then the world becomes a little more interesting. I tried to implement ideas like this throughout the game, to give the player something curious and unexpected.
Next to Brightstone Cove Tseldora, a city built into the cliff walls. Looking down you can see crystals shimmering below.
Tomari: Originally those weren’t crystals, instead the entire map was covered in spider’s nests. The town was always build into the walls of a deep ravine but in that design, you’d have to use the spider webs to cross to the other side.
Next, we go down the hole to the Grave of Saints, The Gutter and the Black Gulch. Locations very similar to The Gutter have appeared in all the Souls games haven’t they, those filthy, grimy places with uncertain footing [laughs].
Satake: Yes, it started in Demon’s Souls with the Valley of defilement, then Blight Town and now The gutter. Although during development it went by a different name, everyone called it D-suke village because my name is Satake Daisuke and D-suke is my nickname. [Laughs]
Tanimura: In the end, you were the one who named it The Gutter weren’t you?
Satake: One day I just said ‘Would you guys stop calling it D-suke village!’ We had a few different ideas and The Gutter seemed to fit the best, but I thought you were the one who suggested the name?
Tanimura: I just gave you a list of names and said asked you to pick one, that’s when the name was decided.
The stone effigies in the Black Gulch left a pretty lasting impression, they were also used in the first DLC…
Tomari: I was the one who designed them. It actually a huge surprise for me, I had no idea they would be used so widely throughout the game.
Satake: There’s something distinctly Japanese about them, they’re reminiscent of jizo statues or dousojin. (statues placed along the roadside to protect travellers)
Tamara: The keyword I based the design around was kokeshi. (A limbless doll carved from wood)
At last, we reach Drangleic castle, it’s an important location as it’s integral to the story.
Satake: Mr Katayama produced the first concept, A vast castle hidden amongst the mountains. It’s a place built by the king to hide away in rather than one built for war so capturing that feeling of isolation was important.
I started working on it when the time came to decide how the actual map would fit together. The first plan I received from the designers was rather flat and uninspiring so I introduced some verticality and made it into more of a castle-like location, connecting rooms vertically as well as horizontally. I tried to give the map and the path you take through it a certain rhythm as I fit everything together. Then I handed it over to the 3d artists for a final brush-up. Thinking back it was an area that saw a lot of reworking.
The original concept for the area never changed then?
Satake: No that never changed, it was always a remote castle nestled amongst the mountains. Anor Londo was a relic of a golden age, now forgotten and abandoned, but with Drangleic Castle it was important that it felt even more isolated and remote.
Even in the concept art, there is rain falling isn’t there. To my knowledge, this is the first location with rain in the series.
Satake: I don’t recall the exact path we took to get there but rain is wonderful for making something look forlorn and as I said before, we really wanted the place feel desolate so this was just one more trick to do that.
Tanimura: As well as that there’s the Mirror Knight and the lightning. I was sure that battle would look beautiful if it was fought in the rain.
With the rain you can tell there are many holes in the castle, it’s raining inside too!
Satake: That was requested very early on, the designers mentioned how they wanted to make an inner courtyard and have holes where the rain would pour in. As I see it, the castle wasn't built for war so it’s not going to be as sturdy as one that was. Instead, it was built as a place of residence so we tried to remove anything that didn’t fit with that idea. Also, we wanted to allow players to scale the castle and reach the higher areas so we introduced quite a number of spiral staircases, however, we realized that people quickly become bored running in a circle 3 or 4 times so we took them out again.
Tanimura: It’s very difficult to make a spiral staircase interesting, it’s fine to introduce some flavour but relying too heavily on them for the main route is unwise.
Satake: There were places we had to use them but we avoided them where we could. In another project, we were using similar spiral staircases so we thought it would be okay but we received a lot of feedback that players found them boring so we decided to remove them. Instead, the designers and I used other techniques like having staircases open out into rooms and then continuing upwards from there. This is an example of the rhythm I was talking about earlier.
After climbing the castle we are plunged into the depths of the Shrine of Amana. It’s beautiful, almost dreamlike.
Tomari: The final area is almost identical to the very first concept, however, if you look at the concept image you’ll notice that there are fireflies in the trees above and these were removed. It was designed as a quiet and beautiful place, but one where disturbing the silence caused the enemies to emerge and attack you.
Tonaki: I love the atmosphere of this area, the way the song floats out over the silence.
The solitary house in the middle of nowhere, it has a certain rustic charm, but at the same time, it’s subtle and quite beautiful.
Tomari: On many of the maps we introduced objects to make them more visually interesting, but here we were careful to keep it to an absolute minimum. It was important to keep it quiet and serene.
Although playing through that area you realize it’s actually hellish! That contrast was one of the highlights of the game for me. Moving on we reach the Undead Crypt.
Tomari: I worked on some of the objects, but in terms of the layout, it’s a typical dark souls map so the 3d artists took the lead on the design.
After that is Aldia’s Keep. I remember this area was featured in the first trailers, was this also finished relatively early?
Tomari: Yes it was, similar to the Shrine of Amana the initial concept made it relatively unchanged into the final game. The name during development was the Dragon Research Facility, the idea being that they had captured dragons and other living things and were experimenting on them. Similar to the Duke’s library in the first game it offers a glimpse into the worlds past, this once illustrious place now abandoned but left relatively undisturbed.
Satake: Looking at it next to the other locations it’s clear that it was a place filled with learned people, at least that’s what we aimed for. If that comes across when you’re playing through it then we were successful.
How about the Dragon Aerie and the Dragon Shrine?
Tomari: In the original design Castle Drangleic linked to the Dragon Aerie and beyond that, the Dragon Temple so these two areas were always connected. In terms of the location I worked hard to try and make the player feel like they were extremely high up, that’s something that the first Dark Souls didn’t have so I reworked the map countless times trying to capture it. Because of that, it’s actually one of the more memorable maps for me personally.
Next, I’d like to ask you about the enemies, starting with the boss characters. The first major boss enemy most players will encounter is, of course, the last giant.
Tonaki: The design for the last giant was actually completed very late in the project. As we said previously, originally it towered over the castle walls and would hurl great fireballs at the player, but as the project progressed it decreased in stature and became a withered prisoner confined deep underground. It went through many changes but eventually we settled on the design that you see in game.
Did the design change visually every time its role was revised?
Tonaki: Yes, you encounter the Giant Lord within one of the dream sequences, I believe his design was based on one of the earlier designs for the last giant. That of the prisoner deep underground.
The hole in his face is an interesting feature, it really makes the character memorable.
Tonaki: I took inspiration from one of the bosses in the last game, the iron golem. He had a perfectly round hole right in the centre of his chest. It’s a small detail that really stuck in my mind and helped to shape this design.
Katayama: Bosses like the iron golem that had some kind of distinguishing feature are really befitting of the Dark Souls world. I think we touched upon it briefly when we talked about the mirror Knight, but it’s important that even bosses have some layers of depth to them. They are an enemy you fight first and foremost, but they should exhibit weakness as well as strength. Strength alone isn’t interesting, but if you add a feature such as a hole or a scar then that weakness, that imperfection really adds to the character.
Satake: Not only Mr Tanimura, all the directors at From software will say that, if at any point it feels like you’re simply fighting a bunch of polygons then it’s no longer fun. If there is some conflict or contradiction behind a character, weakness behind its strength, or if they are inhibited in a believable way then that comes across as you’re fighting them and makes the battle more enjoyable.
It’s an action game, so fighting is inevitable, but this too can be a form of communication. Mr Katayama spoke about adding layers to a character, and that doesn’t just apply to combat. You can put that across in every single aspect of the design. If it’s an interesting design that the players we want to know more about then that’s even better.
I see. Next a boss you fight multiple times during the game, The Pursuer.
Tonaki: The image for the pursuer is based around his cursed armour, cursed spirits permeate his entire being and that motif is central to his design. I also remember the director asked me to that a sense of mystery and also a subtle air of sorrow. I really struggled to bring the image to life.
On his back carries a huge array of weapons, like Benkei.
Tonaki: Originally he was a hunter who collected the weapons of his fallen enemies. While we did away with that design the weapons remained. Not only do they make him look a good deal more imposing, but they also add a sense of history and intrigue to the character. You start to envision the glory and horror of his past battles. I love that sense of weightiness as he crashes to the ground and the way he moves and teleports you fight him.
While we’re speaking about bosses you fight multiple times, could you tell me about the Dragon Riders.
Satake: This was designed in-house. Initially, the knights were actually mounted on two-legged dragons, but there were other designs that had characters riding beasts, and we realised that the soldiers looked imposing enough by themselves, so we decided to go with that in the end.
What about the lost sinner?
Tonaki: What’s up with that bug-like creature in her introduction movie…
Satake: When you think about it that is quite an interesting little detail isn’t it. This character was designed in the latter half of the project, we decided we had enough hulking, armoured characters and wanted to make a character that didn’t rely on their equipment to appear imposing. While she wields a great sword her hands are bound which lends an interesting distinctiveness to the way she moves. The map was also very interesting to work on.
Speaking of interesting maps, Mr Satake previously talked about the Executioners Chariot in the Undead Purgatory.
Satake: The designers took care of the specific details of the fight while the artists simply worked on the visuals, wondering all the while just how the player would fight it. Occasionally the designers would ask us to incorporate things into the design, for example, the blades on the side of the chariot. They wanted them to hit the player even if they managed to avoid the chariot.
The features of the map and the characters within all come together into a cohesive whole. It’s all works extremely well.
Satake: You’re dropped into the area and have no idea what is happening or how to progress. It’s a situation you see in a lot of movies where a character is trapped underground and the subway train is coming. We wanted the player to experience that feeling in a fantasy setting.
Tonaki: The combination of the sound design and lighting really add a sense of drama to the area. I love the way the light shines around the corner as he approaches, it’s wonderfully atmospheric.
Satake: You see his shadow before he comes into view don’t you, the artists spent a lot of time achieving that effect. Please take notice of it when you play.
Mr Katayama, could we talk a little more about the mirror knight?
Katayama: Yes, from the weeping face carved into his helmet, to the subtle wing design embossed on his back, the character is packed with detail and contains a number of interesting features. I think it’s very at home in the Dark Souls world and personally, I’m very fond of it.
His enormous mirror shield is certainly very striking.
Katayama: Originally, when the player was reflected in the mirror, a copy of your character would burst out and attack. In the final game, it works slightly differently, but it still retains the summoning aspect of that original design.
I also worked on Scorpioness Najka. As you can see, chaos witch Queelag from the previous game formed the base of her design. Originally we planned for two scorpions, male and female, to attack the player together. In that design, the female was larger, but the male was more nimble and would skirt around her. If that had made it into the game I’m not sure how you would have fought them [laugh]. It would have been a difficult boss that’s for sure. I remember the decision to go with the Scorpion design actually came from the directors.
Satake: As we’ve said before we wanted to introduce a variety to the locations that we didn’t see in the original dark souls, so we designed an arid desert setting. But, if it simply looked like the Egyptian desert then it would have been uninteresting, so we had to fit it in with the rest of our fantasy aesthetic. Of course, this also extended to the enemies, Queelag was a spider and in a desert, well you have scorpions.
Dukes dear Freja is a spider isn’t it, albeit one with two heads.
Tonaki: Yes, it has a head on the front and the back. Originally we planned for the boss to split into two, you’d begin fighting a single enemy, and then after doing enough damage, it would separate. There was another design where there was a weak point on its back and attacking that would cause it to split. I also recall there was a design with eggs on its back, attacking them caused them to hatch and baby spiders would come out. That really gave a frenetic pace and sense of tension to the fight.
The Smelter Demon has a very interesting design.
Tonaki: I intentionally incorporated elements of the Giants and the stone bull statues into the design to connect it to the location. Once I obtained the armour and put it on I was really surprised, I wasn’t expecting it to look so… I mean, you can even see the belly button.
Many players like equipping that armour on their female characters. It really enhances their chest.
Tonaki: That’s all the 3-D artists doing. They’d send around screenshots and ask everyone ‘what do you think of this?’ [laugh].
Really [laugh]. Next the throne watcher. We have the throne defender and the throne watcher, I’d like to talk a little bit about the differences in the designs.
Tonaki: I was in charge of the throne watcher, and Mr Ou the throne defender. There is also Velstadt the Royal Aegis who, in the original design was the third member of the group who protected the King. Although the course, in the end, Velstadt became his sole protector. The throne watcher is another of my designs that I’m very fond of. There was a boss in the last game, dark sun Gwendolyn and I wanted to bring something of that character to this design. From the details of the mouth to the feminine lines of the body and the equipment primarily comprised of cloth, I thought about all the things as I drew it.
The throne protector, on the other hand, is a very well built, solid design.
Ou: Of course, it was important that he look powerful and robust. So I gave him thick, heavy armour. As Mr Tonaki mentioned, originally the design was for a three-man group, and he was to be the oldest, I wanted to make him look like a grizzled veteran, so I added details like the beard design on his mask, and the ecclesiastical markings on the cloth hanging from his armour.
Tonaki: Mr Ou also drew the Knights in Heide’s tower of flame and the users actually noticed some common themes between the two designs, I was surprised and overjoyed that they picked up on them. I’m constantly amazed that they look into every detail so deeply.
You mean the green giants in Heide’s tower of flame don’t you.
Ou: Both of those designs were completed early on in development.
Next, the last boss, how about Nashandra.
Tonaki: Originally, she wasn’t going to be the final boss. She was always the monstrous, true form of the cursed Queen, so the character didn’t change, just her role within the game. Her original role was closer to that of Nito from the first game, although he was simply the inspiration, the characters themselves aren’t directly linked.
I think she works well as a final boss, she’s quite a repulsive character and she links well with the theme of the 'deep curse’ that Mr Tanimura spoke about.
Tonaki: Her portrait also curses you if you get too near. When I first played that section I remember thinking 'What the hell is this!’. [laughs]
Next, I’d like to talk about some of the standard enemies. First, some enemies which cause new players a lot of trouble, the ogres. They look quite comical but they’re also frighteningly strong.
Satake: That was in another design from early in development, I created the original image, and then worked together with Mr Tonaki to complete the design. It’s based on large mammals like the hippopotamus.
Compare them to lions and they don’t appear outwardly aggressive or fearsome, but if you had to face one unarmed, what would that be like? I wanted the player to experience fighting something like this, slow and lumbering but at the same time, intimidating. As I was searching for reference material I stumbled upon a picture of a hippopotamus skeleton. It really is far more frightening than that of a lion or other big cat, the skull is especially terrifying. If someone told you it was a dragon’s skull, then you’d almost believe them.
Because they have this internally their outward appearance is also extremely unique. We based the design on this idea, a creature that didn’t appear outwardly aggressive, but that would pose a fearsome challenge.
Hippopotamus are said to be the strongest mammals on the African continent. I hear that even Lions can’t best them.
Satake: I’d always planned to have them near the beginning of the game. As we said earlier, in the original design the first map was pitch black and quite large, in the centre, there was a forested area and the ogres would wander around it in procession. You could let them pass by, or attack and inevitably regret your decision. They were like terrible stray dogs. Often you anticipate some valuable reward so you can’t resist engaging, and placing them at the start of the game means you’ll likely underestimate them. It’s a situation many souls players are familiar with and I think we managed to preserve it in the final design.
If the readers have a chance, I’d also recommend searching for a picture of a hippo skull, they really are extremely cool.
Like the ogres, the flaming salamanders were visible in the centre of the map even in the beta build. They’re another enemy you want to attack but you suspect might give you some trouble. I really like the design, they are definitely more lizard than dragon, the way they crawl along the ground and raise their head before they vomit flame at you.
Katayama: I wanted them to look like animals that could potentially have evolved in that environment, so I paid special attention to details like the wide, flat head.
Satake: It’s actually an amalgamation several real-world animals, perhaps some of you might find it interesting to try and guess which ones. The basic anatomy is modelled after a certain species of dinosaur which should be fairly obvious to some people. They way its throat inflates as it shoots out flame is taken from a different animal. What the people of this world call dragons are perhaps just animals from a different genus.
When you start to think about the ecology of the world it really becomes interesting doesn’t it, it brings a sense of reality to this fantasy universe.
Satake: Many of Mother Nature’s creations are far more fantastical than anything we could imagine.
The masked assailants featured in the very first trailer for the game had quite an impact. Originally they had those distinctive white faces, then when they appeared in the game their heads had disappeared altogether. The mask from the marionette armour set also had a different design.
Satake: We created quite a variety of designs, I think about seven and eight in all. We settled on the design from the trailer too because we wanted them to appear secretive and enigmatic, and that blank white design fitted with the director’s image.
Tonaki: I had an image of a white mask emerging from the darkness; the rest of their clothing is completely black so it appears to be floating. I based the original design around this strange image, although in the end the head completely disappeared so… [laughs].
Could I ask about the mimics? They proved to be very popular with players of the first Dark Souls and their design looks very similar in this game too. Did you think about changing it at all?
Satake: Yes, in fact, we thought about it a great deal. The enemy was so popular that the director and artists were all worried about how to approach it this time. We produced a number of ideas, some of which changed the design entirely but we wanted to produce something that served as a nod to those who played the previous game and still surprise newer players so we settled on this design. On encountering the enemy some players may have laughed, but during development, it was the subject of some extremely serious discussion.
This game also introduced some new races that didn’t appear in the first game, namely the Lion clan and the Gyrm.
Satake: What we call the Lion clan are a little different to the beast-men you see in more traditional fantasy, those types of creatures don’t exist in the Dark Souls world. I think instead that they have been afflicted by some curse or disease which has altered their appearance and lion clan is a name they have come to be called by those around them.
In the concept stages we spoke about this, we didn’t want to simply introduce generic fantasy races to the world, but that the same time it would have dull to simply concentrate on the king and his subjects so we thought why not think about the people on the outskirts of society. These races may seem slightly out of place but that’s what we were aiming for, of course looking at the designs independently there are those who would say, “This isn’t Dark Souls”.
So the Gyrm aren’t dwarves but in fact humans.
Satake: The Gyrm warrior and worker we both designed by Mr Tonaki, while we did use the term dwarf during development to help unite everyone’s image, they aren’t traditional fantasy dwarves. I think we spoke briefly about D-Suke Village and the Gyrm were originally created as its denizens. Manual labourers employed by the king to work on the underground waterways below the castle. Within that image, we certainly drew from traditional fantasy but they aren’t simply short, muscular humans. Personally, I’m particularly fond of the Gyrm warriors.
I really like their squat, almost spherical silhouette. The NPC merchant Gavlan is a Gyrm and his short, round frame definitely made him more appealing as a character.
Tonaki: I like those huge thick suits of scale mail they wear; there is really a sense of weight to the design.
Satake: Although it’s not ordinary scale mail, it actually made of stone.
Tonaki: They don’t protect their backs, their simple minds only think about the enemy in front of them.
Mr Katayama worked on Vengarl didn’t you?
Katayama: Yes, that was me. There’s an old Irish story featuring a headless swordsman called Dullahan that provided the original idea, and when it came to designing the character I wanted to make him broad and powerful like a grizzly bear. In the original design, the body was on a murderous rampage searching for its head, and it was actually up to the player to return it to him. Once you did he would find peace and pass on.
I also designed the Leydia pyromancer. Initially, they were going to attack the player together with the Knights you encounter in the Royal Crypt. At that stage, the two designs were known as the Phantom Knight and the Phantom mage. Similarly to the planned scorpion fight they were a group of enemies whose strengths complemented each other making them a dangerous adversary.
Satake: we planned to have them face the player three on one.
That particular enemy has a very interesting design, the fact that they don’t have a lower half is quite unique.
Katayama: I like that hollow emptiness as if they’re barely clinging to the physical realm.
Now onto something else, the Dragon acolytes have those distinctive masks and white robes. Can you explain that a little bit?
Tonaki: Well they were originally designed as researchers working in what was then known as the dragon research facility. The key-word we used when designing them was observation, so that’s where the eye design on the mask comes from.
So the design was derived from the idea of observation.
Satake: Their robes are interesting, they look almost provincial. They are researchers, but they definitely aren’t typical straight-laced scientists are they.
What about Mr Ou, are there any designs the particularly stick in your memory?
Ou: Well it’s not one of my designs, I’d have to say the demon of song. There’s something about the frog-like design that I find very appealing.
Tonaki: It’s actually based on an actual frog from Africa. It looks like someone who's suddenly lost a great deal of weight, the way its skin hangs from its bones. I found it fascinating. To that, I added the bleached skull-like face that would emerge from the mouth. Although I wonder if it isn’t a bit of a one trick pony [laughs].
It looks slimy, but it’s also extremely hard.
Tonaki: It’s quite gross isn’t it. It has that loose skin but also manages not to look too soft and flabby. I was really happy that that idea translated to the in-game model so well. It’s an interesting character because it’s actually singing. I enjoy that contradiction, that something so disgusting could have such a beautiful singing voice [laughs].
I’d like to talk briefly about the NPCs if I may. I realise the game went through a lot of changes during development, but generally speaking was there a central theme or idea you had in mind when designing their equipment?
Satake: The last game was set at the close of the age of fire, and this idea was central to its themes. In this game, we wanted to concentrate on the people in a time even further removed from that ancient age of prosperity. The gods have deserted them, and any tangible trace of their power is gone, because of this human knowledge and ingenuity has started to replace the divine. In the far reaches of the kingdom, there are still those who have power left, but we move ever closer to the world of men. For the entire development, we were always aiming to make a more human-centric world than the last game.
I like to ask about the DLC. You only began working on it once you had fully completed work on the main game?
Tanimura: Yes, we began work on it immediately after the release of the main game. Of course, the original Dark Souls had DLC, so during the project, we did have some ideas about what we’d like to do if DLC became a possibility here too. But, we couldn’t begin working on it in earnest until we’d finalised the deal with Bandai Namco games, and that wasn’t until the main game was on store shelves. Development was continuous from that moment until the final piece of DLC was completed.
Which means, that this wasn’t affected by the previously mentioned redesign, and was built entirely from the ground up.
Tanimura: That’s right. The main game took place entirely in Drangleic, the land ruled by King Vendrick, but the DLC all takes place in different kingdoms, ruled by different monarchs. This gave us a good deal more freedom in the design, although it had to be accessible from the main game so we couldn’t separate it completely.
The downloadable content was split into three parts, each with differing themes. I’d like to start with the crown of the sunken king. Deep underground status ailments like poison and petrification proved a challenging obstacle to the player.
Tanimura: The original plan was to introduce as much variation as possible between the three pieces of DLC. In one of them, we wanted to travel to the deepest darkest places of the world. Originally, when we were thinking about what kind of place it would be we thought, it’s even deeper than the Gutter or the Black Gulch so naturally it’ll be even filthier.
But that’s not how it turned out is it.
Tanimura: Well, while it isn’t set in Drangleic, this is still an organised society under a king’s rule. Instead, we decided that it would be far more interesting to explore a colossal sunken city. The society was so deep and isolated, that they developed their own advanced culture completely separate from those above ground.
It’s full of poison, but there’s also a distinct lack of moisture.
Tanimura: As we mentioned, it’s deeper than the Gutter or the Black Gulch so we could have simply increased the number of poison statues, but that would have been overdoing it a little [laugh] So we went in a slightly different direction. Also in this first piece of DLC, I was adamant that there was going to be a dragon. I felt it was something that we didn’t truly capture in the main game so the desire to right that wrong became my motivation.
Of course, you face Sinh the slumbering dragon at the end of the DLC.
Tanimura: When we were thinking about how we could draw out the cruelty and harshness of this subterranean world we decided to tie it to Sinh. The entire culture was built around the worship of this dormant beast, they constructed their great capital around its resting place, but in doing so got too close and awoke it from its slumber. Unbeknownst to them, the dragon was their guardian, absorbing the deadly poison seeping from deep underground. The instant it awoke they lost its protection, the poison was released into the air, and the civilisation was wiped out.
Looking at the design of the creature, Sinh actually has a spear sticking out of it, doesn’t it?
Tanimura: That was the spear that awoke it. Sinh is a poison dragon, according to the design its pale colour is due to the fact that no poison remains in its body, but I still felt we needed another point of interest. Mr Tonaki suggested we pepper his flanks with arrows which formed the bases for the idea, rather than arrows, why not a spear. The dragon is an ancient and powerful creature, so we were careful not to make him appear weak. Even in his wounded state, he is still majestic. It wasn’t easy to pull off but I think we managed it in the end.
As well as that, the area incorporates many other interesting features, such as the way you move the giant stone pillars to progress. I was immediately struck by how well the design and visuals came together, and how the area changed as you move through it.
Tanimura: It is an ancient ruin so originally we drew inspiration from the pyramids of Giza which contained many traps designed to keep grave robbers out. We created a lot of traditional spike traps and things of that nature but it was stereotypical and uninteresting. From there we decided that we wanted the entire city to be more dynamic, to alter and transform as you progress. That dynamism was something that the main game’s areas didn’t have, so it’s definitely something we wanted to challenge here. That’s the reason it ended up as it did.
I love that it was the player that triggered the map to move think it was an excellent idea.
Tanimura: I think so too, moving the stone pillars to open up the way to the bonfire, it really gave you the impression that you were the one forging the road ahead.
Next the second piece of DLC. We travel to the home of the Old Iron King, venture into the black fog and investigate the dark towers.
Tanimura: For the second part of DLC I wanted to create an area with a lot of verticality and have the player scale towers hundreds of meters tall. This region was once ruled by the Old Iron King, the boss of the Iron Keep in the main game. The advantage with maps of this nature is that the way forward isn’t as clear as a more linear map. You can have the player ascend and descend and this is something we thought about when creating the map. This DLC introduces a character similar to Elina the squalid queen from the first DLC, but she doesn’t attack you like a normal boss, instead, she manipulates the area and everything in it. That detail makes this area quite unique.
As this is the territory of the old iron king it’s linked the main game’s narrative in a way the first piece of DLC wasn’t.
Tanimura: Rather than an entirely new area, this is more like an extension built upon the foundations set in the original game. Although having said that it was important that we create a different type of area than those found in the rest of the game.
Finally, we move onto the third piece of DLC. Here we travel to the frozen north.
Tanimura: Yes, it’s a region shrouded in snow and ice. With the previous DLC we concentrated on large imposing structures, so here we aimed for a simpler design, with a certain quiet serenity. The locations for the previous DLC were so grim and desolate that we wanted to make at least one beautiful place, although you may disagree once you play it. [laugh]
The main goals of this DLC were to convey the sense of deep cold, and also give the player the experience of exploring a large walled city, located far to the north. The interesting thing about the area is the way the snow storms change it as you progress. It’s really an area that rewards you for exploring.
Mr Ou, you worked on the DLC, were there any designs that stick in your memory?
Ou: That would have to be the Fume knight that appears at the end of the second piece of DLC. Mr Tonaki was in charge of the design and he also worked out the intricacies of the battle. There have been many knights in both this and the previous game, but almost all of them have been fierce and imposing. Here we tried to show the character’s weakness. He is designed, not as a knight sworn to protect the ailing queen, but one sent long ago to defeat her. However, in the end, the quest claimed his life. The important part of the character was the fact that he isn’t fighting you of his own volition, but rather he is being controlled by the queen. It’s a little complicated isn’t it [laugh]
Fire is a symbol of strength and power and as I said we wanted him to show weakness, so he is an ashen knight, a fire burned to embers. Another notable feature is the weapons he carries, an ordinary knight’s sword paired with a huge great sword. We wanted to have him dual wield his weapons but at the same time it was important to add something unique, so we had him drag around his great sword. This gives the fight a completely different tempo.
That way he fights changes depending on his adversary.
Tonaki: Dark souls two was the first game in the series to introduce dual wielding so, of course, we wanted the enemies to do it too. That’s why we went in this direction. Concerning the tempo of the battle, he attacks the small sword waiting for an opening and then goes in for a lethal blow with his greatsword. If you remember the fight with Artorias in the original game’s DLC, it had a fantastic rhythm to it, which made the whole encounter hugely enjoyable so we wanted to try and emulate that. We also wanted to introduce a second phase where the fume knight ‘heats up’. He begins the battle using both swords but partway through he changes to his greatsword. Here the queen's power becomes even greater adding flames to his already ferocious attacks.
Ou: As I said before we really want to emphasise that he is being controlled. If you look at his hands in the concept art you’ll see that there are flames burning within them, like an extinguished fire which springs back to life. We also wanted to make him a tragic character, and give the impression that he is fighting you with the last of his strength. I hope that comes across as you play.
Lastly, I like to get your impressions of working on the game.
Katayama: This is the sequel so I wanted to see how we could expand to the concept while still keeping the essence of what is dark souls. The project was completed safely and the users seem to be enjoying themselves so as a member of the team it’s a huge relief, that’s the honest truth.
For me, once it was decided that the Faraam knight would be used in all the promotional material I really put my all into the design, so it’s something that I’m quite attached to. Other than that I remember the moment development was over and we could finally relax. It was great to see designs that came from my own head recreated on the screen in such detail. I couldn’t help myself, I had to take pictures when they were featured in the promotional materials.
Tomari: I played a huge amount of the first game, and as a huge dark souls fan, I really wanted to make this a game worthy of the Dark Souls name. I was glad that we could introduce things that hadn’t been in the first game. Features like the storm over Castle Drangleic maps like the dragon aerie that convey that sense of altitude or locations like Majula next to the sea. I think we succeeded in creating a wide range of interesting areas which was great.
Ou: While the start of the project was difficult, I was permitted to work on many different areas of the game. This is also the first time I’ve had one of my designs used in a game and when I see players saying they think they look cool it makes me so happy. It really was an invaluable experience for me.
Tonaki: I was involved for the entire duration of the project, this is the first game where that has been the case. At times I was learning as I went along, but that was also part of the fun of it. I didn’t part with my designs after completing them, I was also involved in putting them in the game and continued working on them with the 3d artists. I hope I can put this experience to good use in my future work.
Satake: To the people reading this book, you have my sincere thanks for playing the game. Simply having a game come out and be played by so many people his wonderful, and on top of that have an art book! As for my part in the game, I was able to challenge many different things in different areas. At times I’m sure I made extra work for the in-house artists and directors, but they offered me so much help and advice, so I’d like to offer my thanks to them too. There were times I wasn’t able to reach the lofty goals I set for myself but they were always there to offer support.
From a design perspective, I can’t say I’m completely satisfied with everything but as long as the readers of this book enjoyed there time with the game I’m happy. If you have time I urge you to play the DLC, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!
Tanimura: looking through the designs I remember all of the things that happened during the project. Of course, there are places where I think we could have done better, but there are so many things that evolved and improved immeasurably as the project progressed. I’m sure this is due to the way we discussed and developed our ideas with the other team members. This type of discussion with people who think differently really adds spice to the game. Finally, of course, I’d like to thank everyone who played the game, thank you.