By Cheng Kai . January 27, 2014 . 5:25pm
At the Taipei Game Show, Siliconera caught up with designer Toshiyuki Yasui and Sony Computer Entertainment producer Junichi Yoshizawa to discuss Freedom Wars, an upcoming multiplayer Monster Hunter-style title for the PlayStation Vita.
Freedom Wars takes place in a dystopian setting, where humans live in underground cities called “Panopticons,” while the surface world lies in ruins. In order to main order, crimes are heavily punished, with millions of prisoners serving time and prison sentences extending up to 1 million years in some cases.
As part of the game’s story, your job will be to earn your freedom. This is done by undertaking life-threatening rescue missions against giant enemies. Successfully completing these reduces your sentence by a little each time.
Freedom Wars’ development team includes quite a number of recognizable names who’ve worked on other major titles in Japan. (Yoshizawa served as Associate Producer for Patapon, and Yasui was also game designer for God Eater) Is there any chance we’ll see that reflected in the form of cameos in the game?
Yoshizawa: A Patapon cameo appearance, huh? Well, that might be possible… I don’t know for sure!
With regards to character growth, will the growth in Freedom Wars be focused on the main character themselves (learning abilities, leveling up and gaining better stats), or will the growth be purely equipment-based, with minimal or no reliance on character levels?
Yoshizawa: We’ll be announcing more details on that in the future, but at the moment, we can confirm that there will a weapon customization and upgrading element.
Shift, the studio that made Namco Bandai’s God Eater games, is involved in the development for Freedom Wars. There are clearly some similarities between the two titles. Were there any lessons you learned from making God Eater that could be applied here for Freedom Wars?
Yasui: Well, the thing is, we’re basically a group of Japanese gamers who would very much like to make a game that everyone all over the world could play and enjoy.
So if there’s anything we learned from that previous experience, I would say it’s that we learned a lot about the presentation style, in terms of expressing and presenting games in a very Japanese way.
What we’d like to do is essentially capturing the essence of what makes “Japanimation” so popular worldwide.
In most games of this genre, there’s usually a single-player campaign and a separate multi-player mode with missions meant to be tackled by a team of players. In Freedom Wars, every time you clear a mission, your total prison sentence is reduced. So would it be possible for players who never touch the single-player story campaign to somehow “clear” the game simply by playing the multi-player missions so much that they’ve reduced their sentence from 1 million years to zero?
Yoshizawa: You could certainly do it that way. But you could also do that in any number of other play styles, through other objectives found within the game.
If a player successfully reduces their sentence from 1 million years to zero, is that the end of the game? Or is there more to do after that?
Yoshizawa: Okay, so what’s happening now is that everybody is extremely focused on the game’s premise of having the player reduce his prison sentence down to zero. But here’s the thing: the sentence can be added to. [the room erupts with laughter]
So if you get careless in the game, you might just end up getting a ridiculous number of years added to your sentence! That’s something we think players will look forward to finding out [laughs].
A big part of Freedom Wars’ gameplay revolves around using the Ibara (that’s the whip-like tool you use for hooking onto the environment). How was the idea behind the Ibara tool conceived? Also, will the prisoners gain new abilities that make use of the Ibara?
Yasui: Originally, the Ibara was conceptualized as just a simple red line established between you and the enemy you’re attacking, so as to communicate to your teammates that you are currently locked in engagement with this particular enemy. Other players who see the red line would go “ah, so you’re taking care of that enemy. Okay, I’ll head in that direction instead.”
The Ibara tool is issued to the player by the Panopticon governing body, and once certain conditions are met, you will be able to upgrade the tool.
There’s something I don’t quite understand about Freedom Wars’ universe. The game takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where there are not enough minerals and resources to sustain human civilisations—and yet, the objective of the game’s missions is to save more humans. Normally, in such a scenario, you’d think that having fewer civilians in a Panopticon would mean less strain on the available resources.
And it’s not like you’d absolutely need human soldiers to fight the Abductors—after all, the technology to create combat-ready Accessories (which are android helpers who aid you in combat while out on the field, but who serve as your prison warden when you’re back in the Panopticon) is available. So why is it that rescuing civilians is the core objective in Freedom Wars? Is there something deeper at play here?
Yasui: This is actually explained in the game itself… we can’t quite talk about it in detail yet [laughs]. But when you see it explained in the game, it has something to do with, “Ah, I see, so this energy can be used in such ways too, huh?”
Yoshizawa: If you look closely at the trailer for Freedom Wars shown today (it’s the same one as the first full trailer, except with Chinese subtitles) and examine all the various keywords thrown around, you’ll notice that pretty much everything is controlled by the Panopticon governing body—including the actual numbers of the population itself. The total number for the labour force, even the total number of casualties.
That level of control over the population is one part of the puzzle. What Yasui just said… and the keyword in the trailer, are hints to a mystery that we hope you’ll look forward to finding out more about in the full game.
In the trailer, we see a male protagonist with a female Accessory. Are those genders fixed?
Yoshizawa: Nope. Both the main character and the player’s Accessory can be male or female.Please feel free to play around with the options for customising your avatar and Accessory—as a set—when the full game is out.
That’s one of the key features that separate Freedom Wars from other titles in the genre, where it’s already quite common for the player to customise his or her avatar to taste. In Freedom Wars, since it’s a pair you can customise, we hope that players will have fun expressing their sense of fashion in the game.