Hidetaka Miyazaki says he's ready to close the book on Dark Souls. In an industry where it's commonplace to stretch the popularity of franchises across annual iterations, that may be hard to believe, but he thinks it's critical to the future of his studio, From Software.
In May 2014, Miyazaki was appointed as the head of From Software. And yet the father of the Souls series appears to have little interest in stepping away from design and settling into a management role. Possibly the best testament to this is that our interview took place in a sound-dampened studio where Miyazaki had just finished work on some Dark Souls 3 audio. Really now, Miyazaki-san, you can delegate this stuff.
Such actions speak for themselves, but his words are just as illuminating. In our interview, Miyazaki discusses his ambitions to move away from Souls, along with the recent beta, the advent of many other Souls-like titles, and a surprising new obsession.
Dark Souls 3's network test beta drew a mixed response. How representative of the overall gameplay do you think it was?
So from a design perspective there's a lot of different aspects you could mean. It was primarily used to test multiplayer and obviously it was designed so corrections and adjustments could be made based on feedback.
As far as the map, the enemies, and number of choices you have for playing characters, fighting styles, and that kind of thing, it's only a very small slice of the entire game. In that sense it doesn't represent the total experience.
I ask because I played it quite a bit and felt that there weren't very many surprises in there for veterans of the series. I felt quite comfortable in it, which is not what I'd usually get from a Souls game. The worry is that it may have become a bit too familiar, and the game overall may be more of the same.
Actually, the slice of the game shown in the beta is one of the most standard parts. The creation of the game began by working on the very standard elements and achieving a balance there so we can all be at the same starting point. It certainly won't be the case where the feeling you had with the beta will continue into the entirety of the game. You don't have to worry about that.
It'd be a lie if I said I have no concerns about that. I don't think it'd be the right choice to continue indefinitely creating Souls and Bloodborne games. I'm considering Dark Souls 3 to be the big closure on the series. That's not just limited to me, but From Software and myself together want to aggressively make new things in the future. Dark Souls 3 will mark the last game where the development project began before I became president. The next title will be a game that was conceived while I was president. I believe that From Software has to create new things. There will be new types of games coming from us, and Dark Souls 3 is an important marker in the evolution of From Software.
Would it be fair to say that you don't want From Software, and your time as president of the studio, to be defined by the Souls series?
I don't care about what type of president I will be in the future or how I'll be remembered, I just believe that [moving on] is necessary in order for players to continue enjoying our games. We have to keep creating quality games and be aggressive about doing new things.
How do you feel about the legacy of Souls, then? The landscape of the action RPG genre has shifted somewhat in response to your games. There's games such as Lords of the Fallen and Titan Souls, among many others, that draw inspiration from From Software's titles.
We don't really feel our games have created a standard. I have no concern over others making similar games, it just shows that players wanted games that were like this, that are difficult, and wanted other studios to make challenging games that achieve the same level of satisfaction. We enjoy those games and their approach to creating them are never the same, anyway. We enjoy seeing the differences. We're totally fine with seeing more games come out that borrow aspects. Our main focus is keeping game creation fresh for ourselves.
What elements of the action or RPG genres stand out to you as needing attention? What do you feel players would respond to, that isn't out there at the moment.
I don't find it fun or productive to envision what the direction should be for the genres or the industry as a whole. I don't believe in a top-down approach to that sort of thing. On a personal level, however, I certainly have ideas for what might be interesting to do and what would be cool. [Laughs] But those ideas can be linked to concepts for our upcoming games, so I won't give you too many details on that.
How beholden to the previous two games will Dark Souls 3 be? There are references to Lords of Cinder, but is it going to be ambiguous in the same way previous games have, or are you going to be clear and direct, given you want it to be the final chapter?
You know I wouldn't make everything completely clear about a story. But there is the conclusion to a large theme that has continued through the entire series, something that will leave you with the impression of what Dark Souls was really about, tell you about the overarching theme.
You draw quite heavily on Berserk and have said repeatedly that you're a big fan of it. What else is in your well of inspiration?
The roots of my fantasy ideas are in Sorcery, by Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson, the adventure game books.
Anything more recent that has caught your attention?
When I play games, I have a director's perspective, so it's half work and it's hard for me to have a pure experience, to just enjoy something on the same level as others may. However, the thing that I can enjoy right now on a pure level is Hearthstone. That's not connected to Dark Souls 3, but I love Hearthstone. There are some board games too, like Eclipse. The design of Eclipse is amazing, it's really fun.
If you could take over any game franchise and had unlimited budget, which would you pick?
Past or present. You can revive a property if you want. It could be Call of Duty, do you want to make that?
[Laughs] That is a hard question, I don't think I've thought about it. What do you think?
What would I like you to do? The Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver.
Yes. A vampire kingdom in ruins which the player explores many, many years after its downfall, learning of what happened. It's perfect for you.
[Laughs] I understand!
I haven't thought about this at all, it's a really hard question. I see some things and I like the direction they're going and try and bring in some of the elements to do something inspired by those. A lot of the times that's the level I end up thinking on. Do I get the development team?
You can build your own team, using your own people, or existing ones. Remember, you have unlimited budget.
That'd be great. But seriously, The Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. Please get to work on that.
[Laughs] Ok. Ok.
Oh actually, I really look up to The Elder Scrolls, I find it very inspiring.
Are you playing Fallout 4?
As a game, I found Fallout 3 to be very interesting, but I like fantasy. I tend to gravitate towards Oblivion more.