What kind of game is “ELDEN RING” again?
The lecture began with Mr. Miyauchi’s introduction to the work “ELDEN RING”. This work is an action RPG developed by FromSoftware and features a wide variety of open fields. After that, you can explore fields and dungeons seamlessly. Mr. Miyauchi says that compared to the company’s past works such as “DARK SOULS”, the depth and freedom of exploration have greatly increased, making it the largest volume ever.
Mr. Miyauchi touched on the game design of the “DARK SOULS” series in order to get an understanding of the features of “ELDEN RING”.
As shown in the figure above, the company’s past works have a clear progression order. According to Mr. Miyauchi, it was a format that controlled the player’s game progress and provided experiences such as the fun of exploration and battles with formidable enemies.
On the other hand, “ELDEN RING” adopts a game design that allows the player to freely progress through a vast field as shown in the diagram above. In that case, the player can also confront a very strong enemy from the beginning by their own will. Conversely, you can also explore various places on the field, such as caves and camps, without facing the boss. A major feature of “ELDEN RING” is that the player can freely proceed with the adventure in this way. During development, the goal was to provide players with a fun adventure with the following elements in mind.
- Course decision based on player’s free will
- New discoveries ahead
- Landscape changes that you won’t get tired of walking
- A novel combat experience with no sense of déjà vu
These lead to the title of the lecture, “hospitality.” The art of hospitality in the open field of “ELDEN RING” is “to entertain players with a variety of changes and stimuli.”
Three stages of ingenuity to create a landscape that you won’t get tired of looking at
According to Mr. Miyauchi, the concern when creating the vast open field of “ELDEN RING” was “boredom”. Assuming that the player will stay on the field for a long time, the same scenery will continue and the player will get bored. So what do we do? In this work, as a solution, “variable elements of the landscape” were scattered in the field in the following three stages: large, medium, and small.
- Dai area concept
- medium landscape variation
- Small You can feel the changes in the appearance of the terrain and the movement of the camera.
Let’s introduce them step by step.
The “large” element is named “area concept”, and it is a theme color, atmosphere, and constituent elements in a wide range. This characterizes the concept of the area. It is said that the area concept changed even at the timing when the break of the story could be felt.
The whole was divided into five areas, and a different visual effect was applied to each area. I adopted the theme color as shown in the image above, and adjusted it so that each area would be distinctive at a glance.
It is said that he created a “landscape variation” as an element of the following “medium”. We have prepared a variety of scenery within the range that does not deviate from the area concept, so that you can feel that you have come to a different situation. For example, even in areas where the theme color is set to green, there are landscape variations such as “lakes”, “forests”, and “beach”.
As the “small” elements that change the landscape, those closer to the player’s line of sight apply. It is something that you can feel the change in the appearance of the surrounding terrain and camera movement. It is said that it has been accumulated mainly as an element to reduce boredom. For example, areas where ponds spread over a small area, areas where the remains of ruins create unique silhouettes, and so on. In addition, changes are also being produced at the vegetation level, such as areas where flowers spread.
Even for a small pond, the turbidity of the color of the water and the way the vegetation grows are different, so that no one looks the same. As for the flowers, the colors and shapes are different for each place, and each place is put together so that each place is unique.
In addition, there are many elements that catch the eye when the player moves. Sometimes there is a corpse holding an item, and sometimes an item is placed under a small glowing tree. Creatures that run away when the player approaches are placed, and elements that catch the eye wherever the player goes are said to have been placed.
As shown in this figure, there are landscape variations within the area concept over a large area. Then, he continued to build up the detailed elements that corresponded to “small”, and he said that he tried to create a constantly changing landscape no matter where he went.
Placing landmarks that draw the eye and guide the player
Next is Landmark. This refers to landmarks and goals that do not rely on maps or UI. In this work, icons do not directly prompt guidance to the destination, so players can find landmarks such as churches and forts that serve as landmarks and conduct independent exploration. Landmarks can be categorized into large, medium, and small in the same way as landscapes.
- large giant dungeon
- Forts, churches, etc.
- Small Enemy camps, ruins, caves, etc.
I will introduce the explanation step by step.
As you can see in the screenshot above, the Landmark “Large” becomes a giant dungeon. As for the content, it is greatly involved in the story, and it is a place that you definitely want to stop by as the game progresses. The appearance is impressive and can be seen from a distance, and the priority of guidance is high.
Stormville Castle has also been adjusted to highlight its external features so that it can be seen immediately after starting the game and entering the open field. By arranging the large landmarks in such an impressive manner, the next destination is indicated to the player. In addition, on the field, it encourages guidance with “highway”. Even if you get lost, by following the highway, you will naturally arrive at the landmark size.
Forts, churches, etc. were mentioned as the “inside” of the landmark. It refers to a place where you would like people to stop by during the progress of the game, such as where there are important items or where there are merchants who sell items. It has a slightly conspicuous silhouette and is visible from a certain distance.
The church has a tall design. It is said that the coordinates of the important landmarks in the “medium” were finely adjusted so that they stand out as well as the “large”.
Landmarks “small” included enemy camps, ruins, and caves. It’s intended for small-scale combat and exploration situations. It is a place where you can go or not, and it does not interfere with the progress of the game even if you do not go. There are multiple variations of guidance to the landmark “small”.
Some of the landmarks “small” are difficult to find, so there are some that have guidance to help you find them. The orthodox one is the torch at the entrance of the cave. A slightly strange thing is that when you examine an object on the field, an illusion appears, and if you follow the illusion, you can reach the landmark. There are variations even in the guidance method alone, and it is made so that you can feel the change during the exploration.
The figure above is an image of adjusting the strength of induction. It was said that they are making adjustments such as “First, aim for a large landmark, find a medium landmark in the process, and then find a small landmark along the way.” It is said that he was conscious of “leading with gentle guidance that does not hinder the decision-making of exploration” of the player.
Resource allocation in field design
Next, the story of the data that manages this vast field was explained.
In the map production of this work, forts, enemy bases, towers, etc. were arranged as described above, and such landmarks were to be frequently adjusted. In addition, new landmarks may be added. As a result, with the company’s conventional manufacturing method, it was assumed that it would be difficult to secure memory.
In the past work of From Software, it was said that the background was produced by making full use of memory. Depending on the location, there were places where it went over, and in that case, it was said that the production proceeded while making adjustments so that it would be within the allowable range. However, with “ELDEN RING”, we aimed to reduce the amount of memory by half. This is to use the remaining memory as a buffer for adding unique elements such as forts and strongholds. In order to achieve this, it is important to “make natural pictures with less memory consumption”. Please see the two images below.
The rocky mountain seen in the first image is made by combining the three types of resources seen in the lower left of the second image so that they look natural. By creating landscapes with fewer resources, memory consumption can be reduced.
During production, the resources were varied by scale and rotation, and adjustments were made to make them look natural. When assembling, he said that he built up the data with awareness of undulations even with few resources so that the horizon would not be flat. The trees scattered around the rocky mountain are also amazing because they were created using a limited number of types of resources.
Next, Mr. Morita explained the ideas behind the creation of the enemies encountered in such a vast open field.
Enemy Motion’s concept is “unrefined coolness” and “killing production”
In “ELDEN RING”, the number of enemy characters is said to be several times larger than in the company’s past works. Visual artist/motion designer Morita said that he aimed to highlight the individuality of each character and let them experience battles with novel and powerful enemies. Here, efforts to characterize characters from the perspective of motion and cutscenes were introduced.
It is said that there were two basic policies for the enemy motions of this work: “coolness with an unrefined look” and “representation of bloodlust”. This is a concept common to all enemies. So what is “dirty”? There are three important points about this:
- unpretentious and unpretentious
- Desperate and reckless to survive
- Instinctive and natural behavior
Based on these three points, it seems that the challenge was how to make it “cool”. The first example was the motion of the powerful boss “Ladan”. See the image below. Here you can see the above-mentioned motion of “no mercy for any opponent”. On top of that, the player’s point of view was also considered, and the motion was added while considering the goodness of the silhouette.
On the other hand, as for the standby motion, since this character has confidence in battle, it is said that he was conscious of the motion full of bigness, such as facing him head-on. According to Morita, standby motions are often seen by players when linking attacks and movements, so the characters’ characteristics, ratings (bosses, etc.), atmosphere, etc. were taken into consideration when creating them. .
According to Morita, another basic policy, along with the unrefined coolness of the game, is the element of unrelenting attacks and the fact that the blade is always pointed at the player. It’s a production that makes you feel fear and tension when confronting an enemy.
In addition, Mr. Morita said that he delved into the concept in order to individualize many characters. He explained what kind of process there is until the character’s motion is actually completed.
In digging into this character concept, the character “earthworm face” was first mentioned as a specific example. The requirements presented by the planner were “cursed existence”, “strong enemy and want to feel fear”, “not much reason left”. This character doesn’t have weapons and doesn’t have any combat skills, so he aimed for a motion that makes him feel murderous even though he doesn’t have anything.
Next, he slammed his head against the ground and showed me an attack motion of rubbing. Based on the concept of “no reason”, it is an attack that moves violently without worrying about getting hurt. In order to create a sense of terror, they added a motion that shakes the whole body and scratches the head, as well as a motion that catches the player in the hand, bites, chews it in the mouth, and then spit it out with momentum.
I feel that this is quite enough, but it makes it even more terrifying, grabbing the character, biting it, and chewing it. Up to this point, it is the same as the previous motion, but it is said that it is swallowed as it is as a different version and added the form that the player dies. This version that swallows the player is set as a final action. Therefore, since it is not something that players see often, it has a big impact motion when it is unleashed.Another example of digging into the character concept is “Tugiki no Kiko”. This character is set as a former prince and has multiple hands. The planner mentioned three requirements as the concept: “remnants of swordsmanship as a former prince,” “somewhat distorted movements,” and “not much reason remains.” In response to these, we added a motion to the Tsugiki no Kimiko that makes him feel that he was a “sword user”. However, the director did not give the OK (in fact, this motion is also used in the game).
When we sorted out the problems, we found out that “the movement is orthodox and the characteristics as a character are weak”, “the appearance is distinctive, but the range of action is normal”. So I decided to add a lot of motions. The key point is the “disgusting motion like an insect”.
It is said that such adjustments and additions are constantly made, and the enemy’s motion is created so that the character concept can be conveyed.
Multi-layered character production such as cutscenes, conversations, and item texts
In addition, the conversations and event scenes inserted in the game, so-called cut scenes, were also explained. Morita says that there are things that can be done because it is a cutscene. It is a “production that is not bound by the player’s point of view” where the camera work and focus can be freely selected. It is also said that it is possible to delve into the character from a different angle than in-game. This is said to be able to give motions from a different angle than in the actual game and make the characters look more attractive.
The explanation was based on the example of the powerful boss character “Godric” at the beginning of the game. The following three points were cited as requirements for the production.
- A strange being with many arms
- style as a king
As for how Mr. Morita reflected these in the cutscene, instead of suddenly revealing the entirety of the many arms, he took off the thick stole-like cloth he was wearing and gradually revealed the many arms. It is said that he tried to create a production that would become The oddities and distortions are gradually revealed, and the intention was to surprise the user. The actual flow can be seen in the three screenshots below.
This sense of incongruity is also used in parts other than cutscenes, instilling a sense of incongruity in the player. For example, you can hear a suggestive line from an NPC near Godric’s Castle that says, “Hands, legs, and neck were cut off and I became part of a spider.”
In addition, in one room of the dungeon where Godric is, there are many arms that have been cut off, and jute bags that remind us of corpses are lying around. In this way, the production of NPCs and dungeons is also devised to emphasize Godric’s strangeness. He says that he tries to make the characters attractive through the series of game experiences leading up to the cutscenes.
The next requirement is “the dignity of a king”. Since Godric appears at the end of the dungeon, it was necessary to present him with a dignity suitable for the boss and a threat that he would face from now on.
Here, a comparison image of the motion created in the early stages of production and the cutscene after the final adjustment was presented. You can see that the pose that becomes the texture has changed greatly, and you can feel the “statement as a king”.
Initially, in this cutscene, Godric’s pose was created based on the design drawing, but he was dragged by the design drawing, and it seems that the personality of the king did not come out. So, as a countermeasure, he said that he tried to shake off the motion with a bigger feeling. Also, just before the battle, the ax is slammed down directly below the ax, and the powerful lion crest on the ax also impresses, which helps the production to bring out “the dignity of a king.”
What about the other requirement, “Those who desire power”? According to Mr. Morita, Godric was “wanting power because he is weak” and “gaining strength through grafting”. For example, the item “Remembrance of Grafting” has the following text:
Weak men, soldiers who sought strength in hideous grafts . Someday, we’ll return together, to our hometown at the foot of gold
Therefore, the scene of “a weak man seeking power” was included in the cutscene. The screenshot below is a hint of that.
At the beginning of the cutscene, the left hand that was stroking the dragon is now facing the sky, stretching out its hand and making a movement that looks like it’s searching for something. In this cutscene, he has a premonition as a “power-seeker”. And in the scene where Godric powers up after a battle, he first cuts off his own left hand, then uses his left hand to rip off the dragon’s head and makes it a part of himself.
While giving such an omen at the beginning, in the following scene, a weak man cuts off his own arm in pursuit of power and takes the dragon’s body as his own. It creates a surprising and impactful development that leads to an impressive user experience. After this, the player will face a battle with Godric who has actually powered up.