Dragon's Dogma Interview (Xbox360)

We get a little face time to quiz Hiroyuki Kobayashi , the Producer of Capcom’s most expensive game to date, Dragon’s Dogma, and quiz him on the design of the game, what makes an RPG and large versus small game development teams.

Strategy Informer: The game features trading of your party members – pawns – between players online but doesn’t feature any sort of ‘active’ online multiplayer. What was the reasoning behind only having pawn trading as a multiplayer feature?

Hiroyuki Kobayashi: From the beginning we decided we were going to make this a single player experience. I think one of the main reasons behind that discussion or what led to that discussion is because we wanted to focus on the action elements of this game. In that respect it's a traditional action game, and if you've played action games you know that it's all about response and timing. So in this game if you block with your shield and you go on with your sword... with the different types of combos that you use with your attack there's a very time contingent element.

So when you go online other people would interfere with that; there might be lag or things like that, so we wouldn't be able to do the proper action elements that we'd wanted with the game if we took it online. I think also when you go online and you talk about multiplayer or co-op mode you always have to set time aside with your friends to make sure everyone's together and you can keep going, and because we want to focus on the story and all the different elements of this game, we didn't want people to feel constrained by the fact that they had to play with other people, so we created this pawn system that allows them to interact with their friends and other players, but their experience with the game isn't necessarily tied to those people.

Strategy Informer: There's been a lot of really interesting things said about this game from Capcom; notably that this is your first proper open world game, and also about the expense of the development and the size of the development team. Is there a particularly larger than usual burden of pressure that the team feels?

Hiroyuki Kobayashi: Oh yeah. When you take all those elements into consideration and what we're trying to do here you're always going to feel that type of pressure. I'm sure the dev team was under a lot of pressure making this game.

From the outset there were things that really went right with this game, there were things that went wrong that we couldn't control, and that just feeds into the cycle as well. We had everyone in the company internally looking at the game, playing it, giving their feedback and, you know, there are a lot of people asking us "Can you make this part fun?" or "Will this part be interesting?", and you feel that as a developer as you're trying to get this game finished you're always worried "Are we going in the right direction with this? Is this gonna be a fun game?"

The game is nearing completion but we're not done yet, so we haven't had that sense of relief yet that we're finished. I think that sense of pressure of trying to live up to the expectations of the fans, the press, the media, everyone else, is still very much apparent.

Strategy Informer: The thing that really strikes me about this game is that despite being developed in Japan it is a very Western-styled game. It looks more Elder Scrolls than anything out of Japan. What was the thought process behind deciding for the Western trappings? Were there any particular inspirations, movie, game or otherwise?

Hiroyuki Kobayashi: What we try to do is look at other open world games - especially ones that are popular in the West. That means we look at your Fable series, Oblivion, things like that. We wanted to see what it is about those games that make them tick, how they work, what could we improve on and things like that.

From the Capcom side what we bring to the table is our action pedigree; we're known for our action games, and I feel that lots of other games of a similar breed lack fully-realized action. Thankfully we could bring that to the table without any problems. But we did have to look at the challenges of creating an open world game, so we had to be able to look at the games that were popular in the West and our designers really studied them and looked at the design choices, the art direction, and just all those elements and see what was good about them. We made sure to look at what people respond to positively and how we can incorporate that into our game.

Strategy Informer: Obviously you've worked on many, many games in the past and I'm really curious as to how you feel about the difference in style about having a huge team like this one and having a more compact one, and if he prefers a particular style of development? Is it really much harder with a bigger team?

Hiroyuki Kobayashi: Personally speaking I think I'd probably prefer working with a small team, just because you get to know all the members of the team really well and you get more face time with everyone. You’re able to discuss decisions and directions of the game much more on a personal level than you can with a big team, but of course with a game like this one you're going for volume.

There’s lots of content in this game, and to create that content you need a bigger team. It is harder to manage and it is definitely harder to get to know everyone, but that's the trade-off when you want to have a lot of content in your game. You can't make a game like this with a lot of content without a big team; it's just impossible, so for me personally that was the goal - to get a lot of content into this game. I think because I've been working with a bigger team to get all this content into the game, personally I feel like what I wanna do next time is work with a smaller team!
Strategy Informer: You described the game as an Action title a few times in this interview, but it's also been listed as an RPG. What is the core of the RPG side of the game? Is the team and Capcom in general keen to put the emphasis on this being more of an action game than an RPG in terms of promotion and referring to it more as an action game?

Hiroyuki Kobayashi: To answer your first question, it's a game that has both action and RPG elements, but for us the action was the focus and we wanted to make sure we got that into the game. But it's an open world - an open world action game if you will - and with that we've taken and added RPG elements on to it to kind of fill it out. We've looked at what kinds of things you have in an RPG and to make sure that some of those key features are part of this game, but to make sure that the action was really well done.

As far as how Capcom views the game and what we actually think about it... when we were developing this game we spent some time asking ourselves about that - "Well what do we wanna do? Do we wanna make an Action RPG? What are we making here?"

We realized in the course of discussion that everyone has a different opinion of what a true action game is and what makes a true RPG. It's actually hard to limit games nowadays into defining genres. I think most games nowadays have elements of multiple genres included; RPG and Action games included. So you can't just pigeonhole games into genres anymore, it's getting harder and harder. So as a developer, personally, I don't view games in terms of those genres anymore. I just view them in terms of "are these games enjoyable? Can you have fun in it?"

Thank you very much! Don't forget to check out our preview as well.