Kingdom Hearts Unchained X, with its transition to Kingdom Hearts Union X [Cross], is getting a new multiplayer mode, letting multiple players swing their keyblades around in spectacular fashion, as well as chat with each other and help each other across the game’s worlds.
Siliconera spoke with co-director Hiroyuki Ito to learn more about the thought processes he has brought to the game over the past year of its life, as well as the experience with Kingdom Hearts that he brings to the title to keep it fresh, yet still tied to its roots.
Ito-san, you’ve been working with Square Enix titles for some time.
Ito – It’s been about eight to nine years since I joined Square Enix, but even when I was at my previous company I was working on Square Enix titles. For instance, for Kingdom Hearts on Game Boy Advance, I was the main programmer and designer. I was also a game designer for The World Ends With You.
When I joined Square Enix, I was still working on Kingdom Hearts. I worked on Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days and Re: Coded. After that, I’ve been working on various Kingdom Hearts titles as well.
With your years of experience working on Kingdom Hearts, how has that affected your work on this game?
Ito – Kingdom Hearts 1 and on have possessed complex and flashy action, but it’s really not difficult to do for the players. Sora does these crazy attacks and complex combos on-screen, but it’s actually just a tap on the buttons for the players. I made sure that kind of simplicity is in this game.
There’s kind of a half-automated system where, with just a tap of the button, the character will attack for you. That’s what I’ve been careful to keep in this game, and that’s continued since the first Kingdom Hearts.
This time, with the introduction of multiplayer mode, there’s six people on-screen doing that same thing, with all of these flashy actions happening at once.
How has Unchained X been doing since its launch?
Ito – It will have been out for one year next month for its worldwide release. Even from startup, there’s been a lot of people who’ve been logging in every day and playing every day for that one year. That’s very surprising, because in a mobile title, the usual is that people leave after a certain period of time and they don’t come back.
Also, in this game, we do have a party and communication method. There’s a chat system in there. I do see that people have made friends within the game. I check Twitter almost every day, and I do see that they connect on Twitter as well, and just become friends. And that’s really nice to see.
What’s the work you’ve been doing to keep players continually logging in after a year? To make them want to play every day?
Ito – I don’t really have a concrete answer to that. Everything is more trial and error as we try to figure it out. But, I do make sure that we don’t do the same thing over and over again so it doesn’t get boring.
The surprise element is what we’re very keen about. I try to do the opposite of what our players would expect. That, of course, can generate a lot of hate towards us, I guess, but it’s still that surprise element that I want.
How have you built upon and changed the game since launch?
Ito – We do have more stages now! More than five hundred. We haven’t really changed much of the system. It’s been the same since the beginning. We do have updates, but those updates introduced new medal systems, new medals, and changed the parameters. We’ve had events and Twitter events.
This time, we have our first large update, where we will introduce multiplayer mode. I believe that that would utilize the surprise element which I mentioned earlier. It isn’t even a regular update, either, as we’ve even changed the title of the game to Union X [Cross]. So, it hasn’t changed much, but this time, we’re seeing the biggest change.
Can you tell us a little bit about how that multiplayer is going to work?
Ito – There are things that we are very careful about when we are creating the game system, and the first would be the ease of play. Usually, with a multiplayer mode, there’s a thing called matching where you have to create a room for yourself, wait for other players to join. There’s a lot of things you have to do before you actually get to start playing.
In this game, we tried to do away with that. So, there’s a start button at the very beginning of the game where you can just hit it, get into another person’s room, and just play from wherever they are at that moment. If you defeat that boss, you still receive the loot. It’s a function where you can just quickly log in with a tap of a button.
Will your character be matched with other characters around the same level or relative strength?
Ito – I purposely didn’t include a function that matches you with characters of the same level. That’s because the weaker player can just look at how the stronger player plays, and feel like “I want to be like that some day.”, or just try to get ideas on how to play.
Also, we implemented a system in there where, when you’re defeated, a tap on your character from another person will revive you. so, the stronger player can help you revive and keep on going and playing. Or, if you think that you’re one of the weaker players, you can stand behind the stronger one and not get involved, but if someone falls, you can tap on them to help them revive. You can figure out your roles within the party as you like, so I think there’s a lot of ways to play.
You can still get that sense of accomplishment when you win, even if you’re weak and if you join a party that’s a lot stronger than you.
How will players be communicating using the game’s chat system? With players now able to play together, will you have to watch the chat for nasty talk?
Ito – You actually can’t type in your own messages. There will be set phrases, and each phrase or word is associated with a motion made by the character. You can do a “Yay!” move, or dance without any text. The more you play mutiplayer mode, the more motions or phrases you actually gain. So, that becomes an incentive to keep playing multiplayer mode.
Are you just offering helpful multiplayer modes, or will there be competitive ones?
Ito – Currently, it’s co-op only, but the system is not one where you just go into a fight and just go defeat a boss. You get missions in that stage. For instance, it’ll say that “A strong boss appeared on the map. Let’s go defeat it!”, or “A bunch of shadows have appeared. Go defeat 50.”
So, you try to clear those missions within a limited amount of time, and you can use that phrases feature to say “Let’s disperse and go defeat those monsters.” or “Let’s gather here and defeat the boss!” and stuff like that. So, it is only co-op, but I’m making sure it changes from time to time. You’re not just doing that same thing over and over again.