Square Enix and Entersphere, a new company formed by former Nintendo designer Motoi Okamoto, created a new intellectual property to launch alongside PlayStation Vita. In Army Corps of Hell you command the King of Hell who takes control of a goblin army to reclaim the underworld after he was stripped of his power. Why was Hell chosen as the setting and how did the team plan to use PlayStation Vita’s hardware features? Read on to find out.
So, you’re sitting down preparing to design a new Vita game and you pick Hell as the setting. Can you tell us how you come up with the concept for Army Corps of Hell?
Takamasa Shiba, Producer: I had the initial concept of a battle game with an “army corps” that moves in a fluid formation. I thought it would be fun to make the corps fight with a gigantic monster, and started working on an art style and world setting to match this. Shortly after, the “Jigoku (Hell)” concept with a new and edgy world setting was born.
Let’s talk about King of Hell’s design. Did you draw the devil with any alternate art and why did you choose Goblins as minions? Did the King of Hell ever control different monsters?
TS: We had a hard time on the King of Hell’s design. While giving a dignified look, we kept in mind to make him look more like a wizard and not someone that makes contact with his enemy, since the King of Hell is the “Character who commands an army”. From the onset of development, we haven’t deviated from the concept of the King of Hell commanding goblins. However, there were lots of ideas for the types of goblins, and so we narrowed it down to the current three which brought unique characteristics to the game.
How did you create levels and bosses that make the three types of goblins useful?
Motoi Okamoto, CEO of Entersphere: Each goblin has its strengths and weaknesses, but we wanted players to be creative with their setup and made it possible for players to be able to clear the game even with a very extreme team structure (e.g., 100 lancer goblins only). When one considers certain achievement such as the “Overkill” bonus, it is actually better to use soldiers for a particular stage, even though wizard goblins can more easily clear the field. This was done so that players can enjoy the same stage multiple times and go after high scores (platinum medal).
How can players upgrade their goblins in preparation for the post game Hades stage?
Yuichi Tanzawa, Director: By achieving a Platinum rating at the end of the stage, you can obtain rare materials that can be used for powerful weapons and equipment. Revisiting and conquering stages that you’ve beaten before and collecting a Platinum rating on them to trade in for rare materials is the key. I also recommend taking on difficult stages with the co-op mode, in which you can play with up to four people.
Since Army Corps of Hell is a Vita launch title, some part of its development cycle was done before you got to work with the new hardware. How did the game’s design change when you got to test it on Vita?
YT: Currently players use the front and back touch panel to use the in-game items. However, prior to actually playing with the PS Vita, we were thinking of using these features for attack purposes.
Once we were able to play with the device a bit more, we realized that to in order to maximize fun and playability we needed to use these unique features as an “instrument” for using various items, and not for attacks.
Why did you add the rear touchpad drumming mini-game as a way to heal goblin minions?
YT: From the beginning, I had wanted to add a feature like that because it seemed like a lot of fun to have goblins play instruments. I thought it would be a bit bland to just select an item and hit a button to recover health, and so I came up with a method unique to the PS Vita. However, it is difficult to maneuver a performance in real time within such a fast-paced game, so I devised a way for the player to concentrate on the mini-game by making the army invincible while using an item.
Mixing rock music with a game set in Hell is a good fit. How did you select artists and will the North American version have the same songs?
TS: Mr. Yokoyama of UNITED, a band that plays globally, selected a few hundred songs from Japanese heavy metal bands for us, and we selected the songs we thought best fit each stage. The songs in the Japanese version will also be featured in the North American version as well.
Army Corps of Hell will be Entersphere’s first packaged game. How is Vita development different from your mobile titles and what was it like working with the hardware?
MO: Personally, I’ve been making games only on Nintendo hardware, and so it was refreshing that the technical terms and design concepts were much different. The company, as a whole, has programmers on staff with experience on different consoles, and so there wasn’t much trouble. A console unit, unlike mobile applications, has a dedicated functionality, and so it’s easier to create in terms of games that push the limits of the hardware.
A game that can paint a hellish picture with a maximum of 200 goblins, 100 enemies, and an immeasurable amount of blood splattering was only possible because of the capabilities of the Vita. It was fun and exciting to make the game on what was console with the right analog stick shrunken down to handheld size.
How do you want to use Sony’s hardware for a second Vita game?
MO: In the next Vita title, I’m interested in working on something that uses multi-touch and the back panel touch screen. Also, I’m interested in creating a structure in which hundreds and thousands of players can come together to play. My impression is that the Vita is a great platform to create a game with that kind of design.