Ignition has been pretty quiet about Dragon’s Crown after revealing the game at E3. The four player brawler from Vanillaware has is a throwback to Capcom’s Dungeons and Dragons arcade games. With PlayStation Vita launching in just a few days and Dragon’s Crown slated for release in spring 2012, we reached out for more information about Dragon’s Crown. We ended up getting a conversation with George Kamitani, the game’s director.
To start, when did the Dragon’s Crown project first go into action?
George Kamitani, Director: The planning document itself came around 13 years ago. I planned out Dragon’s Crown right after Princess Crown.
13 years! What platform were you planning to release it on?
In the beginning, it was a Dreamcast project. Before that I had been involved in the development of Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom, and for many years I’ve wanted to make something like that. It was very tough to find a company to greenlight it, however… Once development on Muramasa was complete, I rewrote the planning document and went around to companies to hold presentations. It was finally Ignition that gave it the OK. They made the decision very quickly.
So you’ve been developing it for over two years now, then. Could you tell me what the concept of this project is?
This project is a challenge to see what it would be like if games like Golden Axe and The King of Dragons, both titles I love, continued to progress and evolve while staying 2D. I’m hoping we can incorporate a lot of tricks and surprises we couldn’t manage in Muramasa.
What sort of tricks?
Tricks that come about with evolving the genre, from the terrain on down. If you’re fighting one of the game’s titular dragons — a red dragon, for example — he might be sleeping on top of a mountain of treasure. If you try taking the treasure away, he’ll wake up and attack you. If you’re confident in your skills, you can go ahead and defeat it, but that’s going to be pretty tough.
So what are you supposed to do? One option, if fighting isn’t going to work, is to run away in the midst of battle. The dragon will chase after you, but if you can survive until you reach a stone bridge along the way, you have a chance to collapse the bridge and drop the dragon below.
I see. So you can adjust your fighting approach based on your level and the enemy.
That’s right. We’re planning to always have some sort of escape route like that for the higher-difficulty bosses. That way, even if a low-level player runs into a high-level boss by accident, there’s still a way to survive.
What happens if the player loses to a boss?
If the player has any lives left, he’ll be resurrected several tens of seconds after falling. However, if all of your allies are defeated, the game’s over regardless of how many lives you have, and you’re taken back to town.
It sounds like teamwork is going to be important.
I think the game lends itself well to situations like replenishing the health of an ally near death, or one party member luring enemies away so another player can survive.
Can you give us any details on the action gameplay?
This will probably change a bit during the fine-tuning process, but I can talk a bit about how it currently works. Weapons have durability levels, and if you hack your way through battles, you might have your weapon knocked out of your hand. If it falls nearby, you can pick it back up, but you might wind up losing it entirely. If that happens, then you will have to fight barehanded until an allied thief picks up the weapon.
All of the characters look very different from each other. Do they fight in different ways as well?
I’d like to balance out the characters while ensuring each one retains their own personality. For example, elves are unique — they’re a strong class if they attack from long range with arrows, but they have a limited amount, so you always have to think about your supply as you fight. However, you can retrieve arrows by touching enemies that you defeated with arrows, so if you play well enough, you can go all-out without running out of arrows. That’s the sort of character I’d like it to be, at least; we’re still experimenting and fine-tuning the details.
Is only one of each class allowed in multiplayer?
You can adventure with multiples of the same character. We’re planning to display names above characters so you can discern between them, but if we have time, I’d like to add color variations as well.
It sounds kind of like an online RPG.
That’s true. We’re implementing assorted RPG-style customization elements, like searching for more powerful weapons and learning assorted skills. You can’t chat with other players, but for online play, we’re planning to allow customized greeting messages when joining battle, as well as dying messages.
What are dying messages?
This element is still experimental, but when you play online, the game will retrieve character information from the other players. When other players die during the adventure, they will appear in your game in the form of bone piles. Your dying message is what’s displayed when you examine these bones. If you run into a set of bones that grabs your interest, you can take them back to the temple, resurrect them, and have them join you as an NPC. That’s the plan, anyway.
That sounds useful. To wrap up, do you have a message for your fans?
For someone like me who loves arcade games, Dragon’s Crown is a project I definitely wanted to take up at least once before I die. I’m putting all my power into this! We’re still planning out a lot of elements besides what I discussed, but as always, we don’t have enough people. [Laughs.]
Vanillaware is hiring more programmers, so if you think you have what it takes, please apply! We’ll be waiting!