Siliconera sat down with Dave Cox from Konami and Enric Alvarez from MercurySteam to discuss the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow series. In this detailed interview, Cox talks about how Mirror of Fate, a Nintendo 3DS Castlevania title, has more exploration elements even though it does not follow the "Metroidvania" formula. Cox also talked about creating the Lords of Shadow saga and how the explained the trilogy to Konami. That’s where Batman helped out.
Why did you want to try the Metroidvania style of Castlevania instead of the action oriented Lords of Shadows game.
Dave Cox, Head of Product Planning and Development at Konami: Although, this game has a map to explore it is not really a Metroidvania. It is very much an action combat game based on the Lords of Shadow universe. One of the things people really liked about Castlevania: Lords of Shadow was the combat aspect of it. Mixing up strategies, using light and shadow magic, sub weapons, and things like that. So, we beefed that up. Our audience was telling us they wanted a bigger exploration element to the game, so we added a more traditional exploration side.
I think the inspiration really comes from [Castlevania III:] Dracula’s Curse and not Metroidvania. It’s more about multi-branching pathways, the ability to go back and explore other area of the castle as other characters. It’s definitely not Metroidvania.
We didn’t want to do a Metroidvania because one of the things about the Metroidvania series is the games start out bloody hard because you haven’t gotten anything. By the end of the game, you have everything and are super powerful. We really want to have a game that starts out really easy and gets tougher, tougher, and tougher. Exploration has been beefed up for sure, but we don’t want to have a game where you run around collecting loads of things. We want to tell a story. We want players to enjoy the adventure.
There are going to be four characters in the game. Trevor Belmont, Simon Belmont, and Alucard have been announced. There’s going to be one more we’re going to announce later. Each one of them has different abilities, skills, and bring something different to the story as well.
You will play the characters set by the story, but it won’t necessarily be in chronological order. You might play in different times. You might see certain things when you play through that would have affected the time when you play as another character. You might knockdown a wall with one character and when you go back in with a different character you’ll see that wall knocked down.
How else are you going to design levels and place sub items to increase the amount of exploration in Mirror of Fate since the audience said they wanted more exploration?
It’s mainly items to help with combat. Secondary weapons, health potions, hearts to power your secondary weapons. For example, in the demo you saw there was a chest that allowed you to increase your health for a particular character. Things like that. It’s not an RPG game.
You’re not going to find 15 million swords and none of them are really useful. It’s going to be more about restocking the abilities you really got, using secondary weapons and that kind of thing.
Players can go back and once they found an ability [with another character], they can track back and move through the castle. You can make notes [in the game] about those characters you couldn’t get to because you didn’t have that particular ability. When you play as Alucard you can turn into mist, one of the cool things about turning into mist is you can explore various parts of the castle that you couldn’t as Simon and Trevor.
Will there be reimagined characters or enemies?
Of course. Reimagined enemies and characters are something we’re really interested in doing. The whole point of doing the Lords of Shadow saga is to tell the story of Dracula. Dracula is the center of the universe and the Belmonts revolve around it. Lords of Shadow 1 is like "Dracula Begins." Lords of Shadow 2 is going to be the conclusion of the saga where you play as Dracula.
Mirror of Fate is more focused on the Belmonts. What there relationship is to Dracula. Why is it them that has to go up against him? Part of reimagining the universe is you have to take those iconic monsters that you’ve seen in the previous games and give them a fresh coat of paint and a different perspective. One of the things that people liked about Lords of Shadow was the art direction and people seem to like the character design for this particular game. We want to give it that Lords of Shadow spin, so, yeah, you’ll see skeletons and mermen, all of the kinds of enemies you expect to see.
For Lords of Shadow 2, can you tell us what playing Dracula will be like?
F-ing awesome. I mean what can I say? You’re going to play as the most bad as dude.
OK, but what kind of abilities will you have. Can you fly around, turn into a bat… sparkle?
[Laughs.] Hell no! I think if you look at the trailer you have a good idea of some of the things Dracula can do. I think that’s all I can say at this point.
He’s an interesting character. He’s a powerful character. What we want people to understand Dracula and where he’s coming from. You might not necessarily agree with him or identify that, but you can kind of understand how he got to that dark place. That’s what we’re trying to achieve with the series.
Enric Alvarez, Head of Studio at MercurySteam: The whole point about Lords of Shadow is telling Dracula’s story. We felt that Dracula was more interesting than being stabbed in the heart every hundred years.
We started with Lords of Shadow, which was criticized because the castle didn’t appear until the second half of the game. Once the three games are out there people will understand many of our decisions.
What we wanted to show was not Dracula in his castle. We wanted to show Gabriel Belmont in his world and his journey into darkness. If you want to show that you can’t start in the darkness. You have to start by showing how things go dark. You will realize that Mirror of Fate and Lords of Shadow 2 are much darker games in every aspect – narratively, visually, even the characters will be more serious. This is fully consistent with our idea. We envisioned this as a trilogy, as a saga.
At the end of Lords of Shadow, you may remember [Gabriel] becomes the prince of darkness. We know now, he had a son with Marie, so Trevor starts the linage of Belmonts and Mirror of Fate is about that story. Once that tale is told, we’re done with the saga.
DC: When we were developing Castlevania: Lords of Shadow we weren’t sure if people were going to accept it. So, we put the epilogue in there to kind of say ‘hey guys this is where we want to go with it.’
Luckily, the game did very well. It’s the most successful Castlevania that’s ever been released in the series’ history. We’ve sold more units than every other game. Konami said you guys get another chance. We said, ‘Great let’s finish our story.’ When players see all three games they will say we did something kind of neat with that character.
This is the analogy we used when we were presenting it internally, we said Tim Burton got his Batman and it’s a work of genius, it’s a fantastic movie, it’s Batman there’s no question about it. Then you got Christopher Nolan’s Batman, which uses the same characters and universe, but it is very different. That’s basically how we approached it when pitching it to the senior management. What’s really gratifying and somewhat vindicating is the success of the games. It was more than any of us anticipated. It’s great that we got a chance to finish that and show the whole vision.
I think people see the whole vision they may want to play Lords of Shadow again and see it in a different light. There is a lot of loaded stuff in Lords of Shadow that people haven’t picked up on the meaning of. When people play Lords of Shadow 2 and go back to the game they’ll say ‘hey, there’s a lot of meaning here.’
Will we ever see "Tim Burton’s Castlevania" again?
DC: [Laughs.] I don’t know. We always saw this as the torch being passed to us. We don’t own Castlevania. We aren’t holders of the key. We’ve got it at the moment. We have a story to tell. We don’t want to keep regurgitating something after this. We want to tell our story and let someone else have a go.
I think it’s up to other creators to come along, like it used to be in the past, to give their vision of Castlevania. I think Castlevania means a lot of things to a lot of people. If you look on the Internet, some people love what we do, some people hate what we do, and some people are undecided.
Is Óscar Araujo coming back to do the music and will you have any rearrangements for Mirror of Fate?
DC: We will have Óscar back to do the music and we are always looking at bringing back old tracks and rearranging them slightly for the new game. He did the music for the trailer for Lords of Shadow 2.
EA: You saw the trailer right? That music was recorded in Spain and we tried to attempt a Guinness World Record. We still don’t know if we’re going to get it or not. The Guinness record is about the biggest orchestra ever united for a video game. The previous record was for Onimusha. They got 203 musicians together. We united 227 musicians. That music [in the Lords of Shadow 2 trailer] was recorded by the biggest orchestra ever used in a video game.