Interview

The Haunting VR Visions of FromSoftware

An Interview with Hidetaka Miyazaki

By Lisa Mior
Published July 26, 2018
Haunting VR Visions With From Software

Founded in 1986, FromSoftware has crafted some truly iconic experiences. From Armored Core to the Souls series, there is no denying the impact From has had on gaming and the art form of interactive media. Their unique style of storytelling amidst haunting locations has made them an undeniable tour-de-force in the current generation of consoles.

Not content to rest on their laurels, FromSoftware has once again chosen a new genre in which to experiment with their upcoming title Déraciné; a VR game designed for the PlayStation VR system. Pushing the narrative structure the public has grown to expect from the studio, Déraciné looks to bring to players the haunting melancholy we have seen out of FromSoftware in the past while injecting new concepts and ideas in a VR setting. Sitting down in the Sony booth at E3, CGMagazine had the chance to talk to Hidetaka Miyazaki, president of From Software and designer/director on many of the iconic Souls series of games. Touching on storytelling and the platform of VR, Miyazaki painted a clear picture on the purpose of Déraciné and what FromSoftware has planned moving forward.

CGMagazine: Can you us how the Déraciné project got started and where the ideas came from?

Hidetaka Miyazaki: It all started with me having experiences with other VR content. Before VR headsets were commercially released and made available, I played a bunch of things, and sure enough, the VR experience was something that blew me away. I was very impressed with the sense that you exist in the world that you’re seeing in VR. But at the same time that I was impressed that once you start to look around and want to reach out a touch or talk to the character who whoever is in that space, you know that while you exist, sometimes you don’t really exist, because they are not interacting the way that you are envisioning. That zone, or that give and take, is like, “Wow, this is really interesting, because I felt like I just was transported, yet it’s not really happening.” And that feeling is something you can only get in VR, and I thought, “Okay, that’s very unique.”

Haunting VR Visions With From Software 1
Déraciné – Image provided by FromSoftware

Now, how can we build something around that sensibility that you have once you’re in VR and in that space? And so, it really started from there—what is a great game concept that would really mirror or match what that idea of sense of existence, but also at the same time, non-existence? So it was something that we wanted to fully experiment in VR.

At the same time, we had that idea or thought that we wanted to make something only special in VR as a studio. I felt like, “Okay, we need to keep up with the times in terms of VR technology, too. So we need to get our  hands dirty and start working on something.” That was a strong enough reason for us to move forward internally and say, “Okay, let’s start working on a VR project.”

Another opportunity that kind of helped us push ourselves in that direction is as we were wrapping up Bloodborne and Dark Souls III, we kind of looked at, well, in recent years, what has built our reputation. FromSoftware has been creating games from way back in the day, and our genre—sort of portfolio—used to be a lot wider. We used to make adventure games. There’s one in particular called Echo Knight that was really well-received, and so we’re like, “You know what? We kind of miss those days where we had a wider portfolio and variety of titles.” So, if we’re going to do something fresh and new, let’s not do the Souls and the Bloodborne series, but something completely new.

On another level, we were thinking of maybe challenging ourselves at something—project scale-wise—a little bit more manageable on a smaller scale. So not as big, sort of mainstream production line but on a smaller scale. That was another good enough reason to challenge ourselves on this project.

And then lastly, kind of with that adventure game that we just mentioned, I would like to build that reputation that once in a while, they (FromSoft) actually come out and surprise us. And there’s the unique, very peculiar, “We don’t know what this game is about” thing, but it’s from FromSoftware. So I think all of that combined, were married into kind of one big concept or one big sort of pitch, and then we spoke to Sony about it, and they agreed that this is a good enough idea that let’s move forward with the project. So that’s really how it came to be. Everything happening at the same time and wanting to do something new and fresh.

Haunting VR Visions With From Software 2
Déraciné – Image provided by FromSoftware

CGMagazine: Déraciné is on a very different scale, and yet it keeps some of the elements that we saw with Bloodborne and Dark Souls. Was that a difficult thing to achieve? To change gears that quickly?

Miyazaki: I think a lot of people probably think that it was a difficult transition coming off of the games that we just released, but, in actuality, it wasn’t as difficult as I think people think. Personally, for me, they kind of help each other out. And what I mean by that is that there’s kind of this synergy or rotation of feelings where even just taking a break from something and then going to work on something for a concentrated time, then you maybe get tired of that, and then I can go back to something else. So it really helped me to keep on my toes, and then really helped to keep that healthy cycle going, because when you’re only in the zone on one thing, then you could really maybe get tunnel vision and just think about that. But for me, even right now with the other title, it’s helping me keep those cycles alive. So it’s actually mutually beneficial to both projects, because I’m only one person, yet I can kind of go back and forth.

CGMagazine: Games that come from FromSoftware have lore that goes far beyond the game. Are we going to see a similar feature here in this game?

Miyazaki: It’s actually a very good question, and sort of a topic that you touched on, because when I started working on Demon’s Souls, you would be able to share your experiences or talk about it or learn from each other, just in general. So, being aware of that, there are system choices, design choices that I made into the game, and that goes for the Souls series and the Bloodborne series. The question is, “Am I very conscious or aware of the fact that I made those choices in Déraciné,” I will say that that is not the case.

However, that’s not to say that there won’t be that, because what we’re doing is a very immersive. almost isolated single-player experience. But that doesn’t mean that once you take off your headset that you’re not going to talk to anyone. There might be a different language that is written or different sort of method of approaching the sharing of the experience. I don’t know what that would be, but the core focus and concentration of us developing this title versus what I was very much well aware of developing our previous titles, would be quite different.

Haunting VR Visions With From Software 3
Déraciné – Image provided by FromSoftware

But I will say that the way that we approach storytelling in our games is done in a very fragmented way. You’re picking up the pieces and you can sort of link the information, and a lot of it is up to player imagination. You may not understand it the first time around, but once you come back to it, you understand maybe a little bit more or you have an “ah ha”  moment. In that sense, that is very common to our previous games and the way that we are approaching the storytelling in Déraciné as well. So, I think there is a way there is a sense of kind of like unravelling the mysteries and then talking about the experience—how did you find or look at it, or the interpretation by the players—and that sharing of information will most likely happen, but it might just happen in a slightly different way.

To read the full interview, please pick up CGMagazine Issue #34 at your local newsstands or digitally via our online platforms.


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