[E3 2010] Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Interview

We spoke to Konami about the rebirth of one of their classic franchises.
Author: Ryan Green
Published: July 18, 2010
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TPS: How did you envision the combat for this game, and has it turned out how you wanted?

DC: I wanted to have the combat to be very snappy like a fighting game. Fast paced, lots of strategies for the players. Not just mashing buttons killing enemies. We didn’t want that. So we kind of took a leap out of Street Fighter. We have combos, we also pledged block, we also pledged a counter, and we also pledged a dodge. So we tried to make it very fast, very snappy and I think if you try it again, you’ll find it flows fluidly. The combos flow into one another. We don’t have lots of big animations. Everything's kind of "block, roll, block, fight." You know, its like actual combat. And I think that’s something that we worked on in the very beginning. That’s one of the first things we worked on in the design phases. And I don’t know if you can see this but it's very different to a lot of other games out there. I won’t mention any names. Our combat is much more. You can change on the fly. You don’t have to wait till the enemy finishes. You can immediately go into another move. You can immediately turn on a button. Anywhere, you get knocked over, you can immediately get back on your feet again and quick recover and carry on quietly. So it makes it fast, makes it feel fast and makes you feel like you’re in control. And that’s something I am quite proud of in this game.


TPS: How long have you been working for Konami? And, in all your time there, have you worked with an external developer before?

DC: I’ve worked for Konami since 1997 so I am quite old. I was product manager in Europe so I know all the Castlevania trivia then. I think when you work with an external developer, you are always guarding your brand, and you’re always guarding your product. We’re driving the development and they seem to have their own ideas about how they want to do things. They know their technology, their engines, and their own engine. They know what it's capable of and so when we sit down every week, we talk about what can the engine achieve. What can we achieve, with the engine. We work very closely with them. We collaborate with them. They’re doing the development. They’re the guys doing the hard work if you like. We’re kind of managing them, making sure it's going the right way. But for them it's been a nice experience, because their previous experiences haven't been so great. So they like working with Konami and they enjoy it. But you’ll have to ask them. They’ll probably say ‘no he’s lying. We hate them’.

TPS: Can you tell us anything more about the story that we haven't already heard?

DC: We don’t want to spoil the story. Its very important that when the people get the game, the day it comes out and they go home, they play the game, when they get to the end and they’re like, that was f***ing awesome. And that’s what I want. That’s why I’m fighting the PR people here as well about releasing information about the story. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to spoil it. I want people to sit there, and get a kick out of it.

TPS: Will the game be sold in Japan?

DC: Yes, we are. We are obviously going to sell the game in Japan. With the Kojima Productions name involved, they are very keen into making sure the game is properly introduced to Japan as well. But essentially, the brief was to make the game more popular in the West - to bring a Western feel to it. At the same time, I work for a Japanese company. I love Japanese games. I love the setting of Japanese games. And we tried to bring that to the design of the game as well. So, although it's not a very anime looking type of game, it's not a pure Japanese game. There are many things in there that I think people who play Western games will find Japanese.

TPS: I know it's early, but is there any talk of a sequel?

DC: I’m not going to tell you about the sequel right now. I think when you play the end of the game, the end of the game has got a "What the f***?" moment in it.

TPS: What would you say was the most difficult part of designing Lords of Shadow?

DC: Making a game is a challenge anyway. You know, there are many problems that you have to overcome when you are developing a game. Many ideas that you think are great on paper but when you see them actually in reality - they don’t work. I think you have to be strong and brave to cut the things that don’t work, and develop the things that do work and polish it. I’m very proud of the game. There isn’t really anything in it that I think is weak or not meeting the criteria we set at the beginning. I think the biggest challenge was getting the game off the ground in the first place. That was really tough. It took a lot of time, and a lot of convincing people and we got slapped down a lot. We really did. And it wasn’t until we got given a chance to create a prototype and we showed that prototype in Japan. I’ll never forget that day when we showed it off. After that meeting he came up to me smiling and we said, "Wow, this is really going to happen!" It took nearly a year to get to that point. A lot of tears, a lot of frustration, a lot of hard times. But once we got the go ahead, Konami was behind us 100%.

TPS: Do you think people who originally planned on skipping this game are now coming around?

DC: I think the problem was it was very different and this is something a lot of the fans were saying. It's not what they expected. "This is not like Castlevania." So I think that there was a fear, and I think that fear still pervades but it's going away now. I think people are starting to see more into the game and become more confident and say, "You know, this does look cool!" And I think in Japan, there was that fear. On paper, this looks very different. And it wasn’t until we showed the character, the environment, and they saw what we were trying to do with it, and they were like, "Hang on a minute, this is like Castlevania." I think at that point, we began to show people you could sprout all you like about it, but until they can envision it, they’re never going to believe you. So I think that was a real turning point in developing the game.

TPS: Is there anything in particular that you want to tell to the people that you feel hasn’t gotten out there?

DC: Yeah. I think everyone should remember that the Castlevania game was also about platforming and not just about combat. And I think one of my fears when showing the demo was people think, "Oh, its just combat, combat, combat" when really its not. You guys went to Gamer’s Day right? So you saw the clock tower stage, you saw the platforming stages, and you know, we haven’t done it in a way that you play one level combat, one level platform, and one level of something else. We haven’t done it that way. The first level is sort of easy combat and then we slowly introduce platforming to that. And when you get about a third through the game, the levels are going to be made up of everything all at once, platforming, combat, story, puzzle - all of these things are going to happen naturally, and feel very natural in the environment. So know that there’s something to actually show for it there. At this point in time, those who are a bit concerned that it’s a little too much like Castlevania, have a little bit of faith.

TPS: Well thank you for your time.

DC: Always a pleasure!
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