Dark Souls II Director: Enemies Designed To Evoke Emotions From Players

By Matt Hawkins . April 11, 2013 . 12:30pm

At last week’s Namco Bandai Global Gamers Day showcase, the publisher unveiled and detailed a number of its major upcoming releases for the North American and European markets. Highlights were numerous, though the clear star of the show was Dark Souls II, easily the most desired game from the publisher this year. However, the high degree of anticipation has been equaled by the amount of concern that also surrounds that game.


To a certain degree, some could say that the latter has been a bit unwarranted. Much of this worry came about when it was revealed that the first game’s director, Hidetaka Miyazaki, would be stepping aside to let Tomohiro Shibuya and Yui Tanimura take over, with Miyazaki sticking around to lend guidance.


Hidetaka Miyazaki is hardly a household name, and there was no real reason to be doubt Tomohiro Shibuya and Yui Tanimura’s abilities due to past misfires or the like. The concern simply speaks of how passionate the Dark Souls fanbase is, and how “perfect” the first game was. More or less anything that even hinted towards possibly ruining the perfect harmony that has been established has been enough to cause consternation.



One half of the new duo, Tanimura, was on-hand to show off the latest build of his new game at Namco’s Gamers Day event. Unfortunately the demo was purely hands off, but the presentation accomplished its mission, which was to illustrate how Dark Souls II is a shaping up to be a seemingly worthy follow-up to its predecessor—one that brings a few new flourishes to the table.


The visuals are nicer, for example. Areas that were dark and foreboding are even more so; the new graphics engine allows for greater contrast between lit and non-lit environments. Movement has also been enhanced and is far more realistic, thanks to newly-employed motion capture methods.


There are just as many ways to die by the hands on the enemy, who are smarter, more persistent, and even tougher this time. There are also more traps to contend with as well. One primary goal this time was to do away with certain templates, like levels are usually structured. Instead of encountering a boss at the end, he/she/it might be in the middle.


It all sounded and looked great. But still, many will no doubt be wondering if the core Dark Souls experience is truly intact. That’s what we tried to find out.



Perhaps the biggest concern among fans of the first game is if the second one will be easier. Were there any thoughts about doing this, to make it accessible?


Yui Tanimura, Director: I personally like difficult games myself, so if I had the opportunity to make a bold difference, it would have been to make the game even more difficult. But obviously this is a sequel to a series, so I have no intentions of turning the tables 180 degrees. So no, there is no intent by myself to make the game easier at all.


I plan to add onto the perfection that was Dark Souls and try to carry on the core essence. Which is the satisfaction of overcoming these incredibly tough challenges, but to also enjoy the deaths, to enjoy the hard times. That’s something I want to maintain.


What’s the process like, of creating difficult enemies to fight? How do you make sure that you haven’t gone too far?


That’s a tricky question to answer. It’s easy to kill players. It’s also easy to frustrate them. Which is why, it’s important for players to anticipate death, to understand why it happened, and to create a strategy. To overcome and defeat death, that is the core of Dark Souls.


As for the process itself, we never go “We need an enemy; let’s put one here.” Instead, we try to think about what kind of enemy will evoke a certain type of emotion that we want to communicate at that point, whether it be fright or elation. Our primary focus is on the emotional aspect that we want to be portrayed.


Was there any feedback from the first game that you or others involved found surprising?


Nothing comes to mind immediately. The reason is, as a game creator, when you’re trying to really understand the game you’re trying to make, you’re always going through the negative aspects that can be fixed up. So nothing was a shocker.


Well, on that note, what areas of the game does the sequel improve upon? Not due to player feedback but what you personal felt needed to be adjusted or completely changed?


Often, any sequel of any game has a brand new feature or element that has nothing to do with the original’s core essence, and that’s something we wanted to stay away from.


With that in mind, I believe Dark Souls is a complete game, so while creating a sequel, my first task was to take away the bumps and scratches in the game design. To streamline you could say, a lot of the elements that I thought were unnecessary, but maintain the fundamentals of what Dark Souls is.


So before I even though about adding new features, or new elements, I wanted to refine the Dark Souls experience.


Care to elaborate what you mean by streamlining?


Getting rid of tediousness such as backtracking. Basically anything that gets in the way.


Were there any challenges, filling the shoes of Miyazaki?


In the earlier stages, he was there to help make critical decisions, like the use of the game server this time for example. But he’s also a game creator himself, so he respects my ability and Shibuya-san’s to be directors, so he doesn’t try to step on our toes too much. He’s there to provide advice, to allow me to direct the game that I need to direct.


All day today, Namco Bandai has been showing off games that are easily identified as being Japanese. Many have very anime-like flourishes. Whereas Dark Souls feels very different, almost un-Japanese to a certain extent. Was this on purpose? And who exactly is the audience of Dark Souls to being with?


It certainly wasn’t a conscious decision. The first step was to create a traditional fantasy game… we always had in mind who our publisher is. And they are good at creating the traditional types of games you speak of, and we certainly have no desire to compete with them.


We also certainly didn’t set to design a game that fits the Western audience. The fact that they have accepted the game has been great. We did not expect such a strong response from those ends. But ultimately, who we target is the people around us, which is Japan. And to simply strive to create this old, traditional fantasy world that many are very much interested in.


Can you speak more about the character you play in Dark Souls II?


The underlying setting is that you’re afflicted, and that you’re on a journey to free yourself from this curse. Dark Souls is unique in the way that we want players to truly recreate themselves in the game, to deep dive into who your character actually is, and behave in the same way that you would in real life, if one were to encounter such challenges.


We haven’t really created any drama; we don’t have a story to tell. Instead we try to give the underlying setting and that’s it.  We want players to role-play and create their own story. You don’t have to go to the last boss. It’s more what you want the story to become, by giving players the options to adjust the high level settings that we provide.

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  • ShadowDivz

    Dark Souls II Director: No Intent To Make The Game Easier

    Only the brave, only the strong.
    No mercy.

    • Setsu Oh

      indeed. old style japanese game concept made even better: dark souls.

  • I knew I could sleep easier when I watched the player get obliterated like 10 times during that demo yesterday

    No mercy from the bridge wyverns

  • Strid

    “To a certain degree, some could say that the latter has been a bit unwarranted.”

    Possibly, to someone with poor, at best, knowledge of the industry at current.

    His answer that included “streamlining” isn’t helping his case either, no matter his “intent.” To consider backtracking as “getting in the way” just sounds lazy to me. The backtracking in Dark Souls was part of the charm of the entire game as well, it provided the choices of direction. The only way to get rid of it would be to make it… a fairly linear experience. It’s as if he’s in the series for the combat (wanting it to be more of an action game) that in it for the full RPG experience it provides.

    • Paradox me

      I don’t know if I’d say backtracking was part of the charm. I certainly didn’t mind it, but getting the Lordvessel made my experience in Lordran that much better, and with no noticeable impact on how the game played.

      I imagine he feels similarly, as he mentioned allowing players to teleport between bonfires earlier than in Dark Souls. I think that would be just fine, personally.

    • Sakurazaki

      I honestly don’t understand the whole backtracking thing. Is this referring to going back to the Firelink Shrine to go between bells? Or the fact it was open world?

      I see it this way, Demon’s Souls was linear with respect to completing an area/stone and moving on to the next one. Eventually you’d get to the last stage of Boletaria and move on from there. I had the same mentality going into Dark Souls. Complete an area, move on to the next one.

      • Strid

        Basically I equate it to mean how it’s open world with no direction. To those of us who can handle such as that, there isn’t much backtracking once we get a sense of direction. However, the majority of “gamers” need to be told where to go and what to do, if not, they get “lost” easily and in turn start backtracking and such more than they should.

        All of my friends that play games only do so casually and this was their biggest complaint about Dark Souls, “backtracking.” The hardest game they tend to play is whatever rendition of Madden or Fifa is out, so having to figure out something new, on their own, was a bit of a chore – much less even, was their will in obtaining a sense of direction for “a stupid video game”, as they like to say.

    • 60hz

      i wouldn’t take anything literally since it was translated. “getting in the way” may have been a best fit approximation.

  • Glad they’re not trying to reinvent the wheel with this game. This series has some of the best gameplay I’ve ever experienced, and it’s a good idea to keep the core of it intact.

  • XiaomuArisu

    You will die…

  • amagidyne

    Good thoughts in there. I like that they’re edging a little closer to Demon’s Souls this time around. As enjoyable as Dark Souls’ open world is, backtracking does suck.

  • SirRichard

    It sounds like the overall goal is “Dark Souls with the wrinkles ironed out”, and I’m perfectly fine with that. I personally wouldn’t have called the back-tracking an issue in the original game, but that’s just me, and as long as the game is tough and keeps you on your toes, it should turn out fine.

    • Yeah, that’s an interesting topic. Like, does re-playing an entire segment leading up to the boss help the player understand the boss they’re dying to after they’ve perfected the long trek to get back for the 6-7th time? I’m really excited to see just what that means in terms of streamlining.

      • mike

        i didn’t have a problem with the backtracking

        • The question I asked was rhetorical, not an indication of my preference. Thank you for sharing, though.

          • mike

            meant to reply to the other guy sorry

      • Asura

        Umm, I don’t think that’s backtracking. That’s just dying and going back to checkpoint. Backtracking is going through an area you’ve been to to get to a new area (ie, having to go through Firelink Shrine multiple times to get to new areas).

        • If you die against a boss and have to go “through an area you’ve been to to get to a new area”, your words not mine, albeit just to get to a gatekeeper of a new area… not sure what you’re trying to tell me then. But it’s a rhetorical question, so the idea is to explore whether or not we gain or lose anything from possibly removing that if it’s streamlined, which we still don’t know.

          The idea of policing the player explicitly by putting in a consequence to dying is one thing I thought of, but then I do accept that some people would want to go back and fight the boss immediately. I like the idea of checkpoints in Dark Souls because there were some branching paths of approach, albeit still controlled. You could go somewhere else if a boss wasn’t working out, hopefully find a solution elsewhere. Given that I don’t know if they’re removing checkpoints, I’m mostly just wondering what streamlining stuff they’d consider and shooting in the dark based on a comment.

    • mike

      backtracking in this game is kind of good. This game isn’t just about the boss. its the journey. If this director doesn’t get that…i’m not sure he’s even played the game. which makes me very concerned for how DS2 will turn out

      • SirRichard

        You say that, but Demon’s Souls didn’t have any real back-tracking as Dark Souls does and that’s still a brilliant game (personally, I prefer it to Dark Souls, not for that reason though). You can still have a good, memorable journey without having the player track all across a massive world, after all, I don’t see how his opinion on it would bring the game’s quality into question.

  • I disagree that this game feels un-Japanese. The mechanics, the look and aesthetic… it’s their work. I think this whole “You made a Western Game” garbage has to stop. The Japanese have games like this to offer, and while I do enjoy a little cross pollinating, give some credit where it’s due.

    • mike

      yea its the art and the polish, attention to detail. feels more japanese. westerners pay attention to different detail. obviously gta is a great game. but the attention to lore and respect of tradition. thats more japanese.

      • Not sure what it is myself, but here’s some really long-winded crap cause I feel you on trying to sort it all out for ourselves and want to share my take:

        I think early RPGs from Japan were clearly inspired by Dungeons and Dragons, but it’s easy enough to see the permutations and changes where they are merely inspiration and not ownership. You won’t see a game like Demon’s Souls or Dark Souls from America or Europe or whatever the hell “The West” means other than “Not Japan”, because Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls are Japanese games.

        The subtlety of the mechanics, the feel and the art… they’re familiar to things that may be from “da West”, but picking the low hanging fruit isn’t saying much. The way you can get a fire spell in Dark Souls and not have to use it “on the fire enemies”, the subtlety of the mechanics, the story telling as a symbiosis of the way you choose to play and what the game presents you…

        I don’t know what all that means, but I know I’m not stooge enough to speak out of the side of my face and say that that wasn’t all From Software, a Japanese company, allowing me to experience things in a game in a new way. A game that made me think of ideas from games like Castlevania or King’s Field. Japanese games. I guess this is also “just a new Castlevania” by my logic there, which seems just as insane.

        It’s a really dumb notion to act like the only thing going on here is “Hey there was this thing called D&D/Western Pen and Paper game that this game has some visual element relating to, I claim this game in the name of the West!”

    • Setsu Oh

      yeah its like SO MANY of JP games across the decades:

      there is a fine line between making a game for westerners (and a bad one at that), AND making a game that occurs in a western world.

      i would love to see a castlevania game like dark soul. WAIT. IT IS A castlevania-like game! i mean the 8-16-32bit castlevania games were if you go to fast you get killed right off, hard as rocks, kinda goth…..

      could it be …could dark souls be our generation king’s field/wizardry ??

  • Paradox me

    A lot of folks seem anxious, and for good reason, but I’m pretty confident in Dark Souls II delivering on what fans have come to love, but more of it and with a few new twists.

    Everything they’ve talked about, outside of vague terms like ‘accessibility’ and ‘streamlining’, just sounds wonderful. They seem to understand that they’re working on something gamers hold sacred, yet they’re showing ambition and a genuine interest in taking the next step forward, which is something I wish I could say about more Japanese developers/game series.

  • Domii

    I think that our concerns as fans our normal being that Dark Souls is the best game of all time, so the sequel’s expectations are up the roof.

  • Dark souls had a very powerful setting/lore indeed.The minimalist story telling through items , exploration and NPCs was truly something to behold.I hope that carries through.To me that’s that is as important as the “difficulty” of the game.

  • grevlinghore

    “We haven’t really created any drama; we don’t have a story to tell. Instead we try to give the underlying setting and that’s it. We want players to role-play and create their own story.”

    THAT is a huge relief, if he is telling the truth!

  • TiamatNM

    I can’t wait to get killed :)

  • i like how they didn’t talk about fixxing the problems most ppl cry about so all u ppl that cry over everything srry

  • I’m really liking the direction they’re going with this one. I will be prepared to die over and over again, and enjoy it lol ^_^

  • mike

    this new director guy saying there will be no backtracking has me concerned. the journey is a big part of the fun in this game. even the backtracking isn’t boring. I wonder if this guy has even played the game. plus he’s kind cocky…says things like “its easy to kill the player” and seems to really not appreciate the previous director.

    • Asura

      You sound cocky, the new director does not. And this is coming from somebody who was super anxious initially.

  • PK212

    “we want players to truly recreate themselves in the game, to deep dive
    into who your character actually is, and behave in the same way that you
    would in real life
    , if one were to encounter such challenges.”

    I guess I’ll just prepare to die…

  • Setsu Oh

    i dont like when they say that. i remember how tecmo forgot the mojo of ninja gaiden with 3, trying to make people ‘FEEL’ how it is to cut someone down.
    but i guess i ll see on release day: it is normal to fear for something as special as those kind of games when there is a sequel coming.

  • Follower_of_Pram

    I’m liking the idea that the boss can be anywhere in the level, not just the end. It helps intensify that paranoia of a first playthrough. Keep your shields up for you have no idea what’s around the next corner.

  • Setsu Oh

    WAIT! is there a character creator mode, NONE, or/and can we get our DS1 char in DS2?

    i heard there would be none.

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