Tomohiko Deguchi worked with Vanillaware on Grand Knights History, and his more recent tactical RPG Grand Kingdom is releasing in the West next month. Siliconera spoke with the director who shared more on how the game started, what makes it different from Grand Knights History, and his two cents on developing 2D games.
What happened from after Grand Knights History was released to how Monochrome was created?
Tomohiko Deguchi: Upon leaving Vanillaware, I took plans for a new game to various different companies. Among those, I met Mr. Kazuhiro Watanabe of Spike Chunsoft, who had liked Grand Knights History. We hit it off and I was able to present the game design plans for Grand Kingdom to him. We started in a small office with just three people, our staff gradually increased, and finally we were able to complete Grand Kingdom.
It’s disappointing that Grand Knights History didn’t make it outside of Japan, especially since localization work began on it. How do you feel about Grand Kingdom coming to the West?
Having as many players possible play your game is a glorious thing for developers. Even though some time might have passed since the Japanese release, I’m extremely happy to be able to present this game to everyone in a more polished state.
Fantasy games typically begin with a world at war. How is the situation different with the Uldein Empire?
The Uldein Empire has already collapsed and the player, as they interact with each country and complete quests, will uncover the mystery behind its collapse. Furthermore, Grand Kingdom’s powerful story is divided among the Guild and each of the Four Great Nations; the Guild section specifically has a lot to do with the Uldein Empire.
Grand Kingdom has a variety of classes from the standard Fighter and Hunter, but there are a lot of unique classes like the Challenger, Dragon Mage, Shaman, and Blacksmith. How did you develop these classes to fit in with other characters in battle and how do they work?
Shamans sacrifice their allies in order to unleash powerful attacks. Blacksmiths are able to destroy objects in an instant and so on. Each class was created with the theme of the game in mind. Because of that, each unit is created to be especially powerful at one particular aspect of battle.
Both Grand Knights History and Grand Kingdom have asynchronous online multiplayer as a key feature. What inspired you to work with asynchronous online multiplayer and what did you want to do differently with Grand Kingdom?
There are two reasons that we decided to go with asynchronous online multiplayer:
For one, we wanted to have some sort of all “all players vs all players” PvP in the game. There are many games that have online features, but usually they max out at around 10 v 10 or so, and it’s difficult to make it so that all players are encountering the same situation at the same time. Therefore, we really wanted to challenge ourselves to make this possible.
The second reason is that I wanted to present a new idea to developers that would expand the idea of online play. Especially, when I started working on Grand Knights History, pretty much everything was synchronous online multiplayer, and I really wanted to prove that asynchronous was doable as well.
The basic thought process for the setup of Grand Knights History and Grand Kingdom is the same, but there are more elements of being able to compete or indirectly help someone else in Grand Kingdom.
How do you balance the gameplay so one side isn’t completely dominated and stuck in a position where they can’t come back?
For War Mode (the online portion), all players’ support effectiveness is determined by a vote and there are skills that can support other players. By skillfully using these two systems, the player can overcome a negative situation.
Also, the game is designed so that the outcome of War is decided in a short period of time. Because of that, victory or defeat is decided on a short time cycle so that players can regroup and get back into the action again quickly.
For aspiring artists out there, what are some tricks you’ve learned to making beautiful 2D artwork and animations like in Grand Kingdom?
I think that all creative works have their ideas in objects and feelings that actually exist. Therefore, I believe it’s important to carefully observe the real world around us.
Before Vanillaware there weren’t too many developers making high resolution 2D games, but now it seems like more developers are trying this style out. What do you think the future is for high resolution 2D games?
Compared with 3D, 2D development is evaluated as less costly, but in order to create higher quality animation there is a tendency for the cost of development to increase greatly. Because of that, I think that causes the greatest amount of headaches when the game actually ends up with the same development cost as a 3D game. In order for developers to handle this, I think they need to prepare more efficient development environments.
However, that’s just an issue that developers need to face and the more 2D games with high quality visuals are out there, the happier the players will be. As a player myself, I’m really looking forward to the future.
Grand Kingdom will release for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita in North America on June 21 and Europe on June 17, 2016.