Dragon’s Dogma: Classes, Gameplay & Pawn Interview
Dragon’s Dogma is the stunning new fantasy title from Capcom. Inspired by The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, we chat with Hideaki Itsuno about why this looks set to be the new Dark Souls of the RPG scene.
Published on Feb 15, 2012
Dragon’s Dogma is an exciting prospect for anyone who enjoys Dark Souls or Monster Hunter, although such comparisons do Capcom’s fantasy action RPG a great disservice.
Set in a fantasy world where large beasts roam free, you play as a fledgling warrior on a quest to reclaim his heart from an ancient Dragon.
While many gamers have cried foul at the lack of multiplayer in Dragon’s Dogma, the online component will get Dark Souls fans very excited indeed.
To learn more about Dragon’s Dogma, we sat down with creative director Hideaki Itsuno to discuss his influences, and why it could be one of the greatest dark horse releases of 2012.
You've mentioned previously that Dragon's Dogma is a game you wanted to create since you were a child. In what ways does the finished game differ from your original vision?
My original vision isn't the same to the final game, but it's close. Of course here are a lot more new things, as far as speech and the overall volume of the game is concerned. For example, the Pawns will say a lot of dialogue, and there is a lot of customisation.
I always wanted to put a lot into the game, and with current technology we've been able to put a lot in there, and I'm very satisfied with it.
The whole Pawn system is a very interesting take on the game, and it recalls Demon's Souls and Dark Souls in the way everyone is online helping each other from within their own single player game. Was this always part and parcel of how the game works since day one?
Yeah, that was the vision that I had. I wanted to make a single player experience that doesnt feel like multiplayer, but it has connections to the Internet and networking with players all around the world.
Basically I felt that multipler - at times - is fun, as there are a lot of great multiplayer games out there. But at times it can also be inconvenient, for example, with a game like this you really have to plan with your friends when going online.
You'd say, "OK, well let's meet at 8pm in the lobby and we'll all hook up and play. Stuff like that. So in that sense, you'd also have trouble if you wanted to leave a game, and your friends would be like, "Oh you're leaving? But we haven't finished this ques yet."
I wanted to avoid all of that, and let you play without having to worry about all of those multiplayer things, and just kind of just play whenever you want, but still reap the benefits of networking and online features.
The whole idea of bringing together Twitter, Facebook and all of these online elements is ambitious. You certainly couldn't have done something like this a few years ago before Facebook and Twitter really exploded. How easy was it to pitch this game to Capcom at the start three years ago?
When we were working on the original online concept for Dragon's Dogma, blogging became popular. I mean, this game has been in planning for a long time. So we stared looking at ways to put blogging into the game.
But while in development of the game, Twitter came out and Facebook became popular, so as far as implementing thes efeatures into the game goes - there were difficulties. But implementing all of these social features and making them work in tandem with the game was not too difficult.
We touched upon Demon's Souls. Both Demon's Souls and Dragons Dogma move away from the JRPG staples of big hair, funny outfits and intense stat crunching. Was this a conscious decision?
We didn't consciously try to stray away from making a non-JRPG game. What we focused on was making a realistic action fantasy action game. This is why Dragon's Dogma has taken the form it has now.
Buy we also researched a lot about popular fantasy in the world, kind of like knights, kings, queens and dragons - that kind of stuff. Taking that genre and making it into a game was something we really wanted to focus on.
Most importantly though, we wanted to make a game that appealed to audiences all around the world, moreso than making very Japanese-style characters, or a JRPG.
Dragon's Dogma will last anywhere between 30-100 hours. Can you begin to quantify how much content is in there, and what will people have to if they want their experience to stretch to the latter end of the scale?
Originally it was about 30 hours for the main campaign, but if you took into account all of the side quests, you're looking at around an extra 70 hours.
But actually, as a result of recent developments, the main campaign will now be over 30 hours. It will be very difficult to complete in 30 hours.
Looking at the bulk of potential quests in your Quest Log, you're looking at having 20-30 active quests at any one time. There might not even be main quest either, as there are many side quests with a lot of rare things to collect, and so on.
We also saw three Vocations at work - the Strider, Fighter and Mage - and there are six other we are yet to see. Will there be a lot of replay value to playing as a different class on another playthrough?
You will definitely get a lot of replay value with this game. Of course, you can switch Vocations throughout the game, but if you wanted to max out the Vocations it would take a very long time.
But if you wanted to max out all of them, you'd have to replay the game a number of times to do that. Buy it really comes down to what you want to do with your party - the equipment you are all wearing, the weapons the party is using, and the customs skills that you make for your Pawns, and yourself.
When setting up a party, you ideally want to have a good balance, but if you want all out defence you can do that, or if you want to unleash a barrage of magic by using just mages, then you can do that too.
Every time you play the game, it will be a very different experience, and a different approach to enemies. One example from when you were playing earlier, is when you were fighting the hydra.
You can watch us tackle the entire Hydra battle here.
You were a fighter, and it was very difficult as a filter to climb up the hydras neck to hit the weak point on its head. So you were slashing at its neck and tail, but doing very little damage.
Eventually one of the characters chucked an explosive barrel into the hydra's mouth and only then were you able to climb up and explode that barrel in the hydra's throat.
But if you were a strider, you wouldn't really get any help in that sense, as striders have greater agility and better climbing ability. So you could have just climbed up to the hydra's head and just slashed away. This really changes things up during each play through.
High fantasy has been in style for some time now, highlighted quite recently by the release and success of Skryim. How confident did it make you to see a game like Skyrim launch and do so well? Dragon's Dogma also feels a bit like Monster Hunter in the way you team up to take down large creatures. What other IP has inspired you along the way?
I can't say that Skyrim was an inspiration, as it was just released recently. I actually bought a copy but I haven't been able to play it at all. I bought it on day one, but I've been so, so busy.
So I can't say that Skyrim has been an inspiration, but Oblivion definitely has been in the development of Dragon's Dogma. There have been a lot of influences and inspirations that have come from that game.
In terms of Monster Hunter, I'm not a big Monster a hunter player, do I can't say that. Although I did work on Devil May Cry, so you'll see that a lot of the Dragon's Dogma move sets will be similar to those found in Devil May Cry. I was also inspired by the old side-on Capcom Dungeons and Dragons game.
Given your past as director for most of the Devil May Cry games, what are your thoughts on Ninja Theory's DmC game, as well as new Dante?
I can't go into too much detail [Laughs] but I was in Cambridge earlier this week to attend a meeting regarding the game. I just want to say, don't worry about the game at all, it's going to be awesome. We're sure that a lot of people are going to be pretty blown away by it.
Back when Hideo Kojima released Zone of the Enders, Konami bundled it with a demo of Metal Gear Solid 2, and many people at the time bought it just for the demo - almost forgetting they had a full game to enjoy as well. Are you worried this will happen with Dragon's Dogma and the bundled Resident Evil 6 demo? What would you say to anyone thinking about doing that?
In the games industry now, it's very difficult to promote a new IP - just because there's so many 'legacy' games out there, and series that have sequels and prequels.
Those kind of games have a solid fan base, and it's very difficult to get them to try something new. I've spent a lot of time playing Dragon's Dogma - hours and hours - and I've lost sleep playing it, just because I like it.
Again, it's a game I've been dreaming of making since I was little. But i do know that it's a new IP that will be difficult to win over everybody, so having the Resident Evil 6 demo with Dragon's Dogma - of course - some people will focus on that fact first.
But once they actually play Dragon's Dogma and start moving through the game, they will really like it. I'm very confident that while playing they will switch their attention from Resident Evil 6 to Dragon's Dogma.
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