Elden Ring director Miyazaki Hidetaka discusses the game in an interview in the 1 July 2021 issue of Weekly Famitsu.
Part 1 of this article is available here:
Elden Ring Director Miyazaki Interview (Part 1): Discussing the Story and G.R.R. Martin’s Involvement
The interviewer asks if Elden Ring’s “open field” is different from an open world, and Miyazaki says that this depends on one’s definition of “open world”. Elden Ring’s open field’s purpose is to increase the scale of the world and the story and thus improve immersion, giving the player the feeling that the world is filled with unknown mysteries and threats, making it more fun to explore, and adding more joy to finding things and successfully traversing areas. This, and so the game, are thus aiming for the sort of fun found in classic RPGs.
Miyazaki is next asked about the character creation and customization systems, and he says that the basics are inherited from the Dark Souls series: The player can freely customise their character’s appearance, equip weapons and armor and magic, and choose the stats that they want to raise.
One change is in the skill system returning from Dark Souls 3, which has now has a higher level of freedom: While skills were tied to specific weapons in Dark Souls 3, this is not the case for the majority of skills in Elden Ring, meaning that players will be able to mix and match weapons and skills. While each weapon can only equip one skill, they can be changed freely, and there are around a hundred different skills. There are of course a lot of weapons as well, and Miyazaki says that he thinks people will have fun finding their own favourite combinations.
Spirit summoning is brought up next. Miyazaki says that allied spirits can be summoned to fight alongside the player at specific locations, and that these spirits are now an element to collect and equip like equipment and magic. The spirits are mostly based on enemies, but are all very unique, and the player can employ tactics like summoning a tank and fighting from behind, summoning archers to support the player as they attack, or using the spirits as decoys to attack the enemy from behind.
Spirits can also be upgraded, and like weapons, the player has to choose which ones to upgrade, to fit their strategies or simply to their liking. Miyazaki says that there might even be spirits that the player likes even though they aren’t useful.
The interviewer points out how From Software games have also had high difficulty, and that instead of making the games easier, they tend to give the player more choices on how to go about doing things instead, and asks if Elden Ring continues in this vein. Miyazaki says that Elden Ring in fact emphasizes this even more: The aforementioned spirits, for example, were introduced as a way to make it so that players can defeat enemies with strategy and ideas instead of mere skill, and the game gives more weight to this sort of strategic battles. Another easy to understand example of this is the introduction of stealth mechanics: By crouching and hiding in grass, for example, the player can approach the enemy unseen and attack.
Aside from stealth, the game also introduces other new actions such as horse riding and jumping. Jump attacks are heavy, and jumping can also be used to dodge low attacks. The jump is also used to allow for more freedom in exploration.
In contrast to the open field, Elden Ring also includes Dark Souls-style maps with verticality such as castles, which they call “legacies”. The jump greatly improves the freedom in exploring such maps, and Miyazaki thinks that Dark Souls series fans will find this very refreshing.
They discuss the battles next, with Miyazaki saying that the heavy, high-tension combat remains present. The game does however give the player more options in combat as well, such as the ability to counter directly from a shield block, and he hopes that players will enjoy the new strategic approach to combat, which gives them more options to employ.
The interviewer says that with so many new options, the boss battles must be tougher now, and Miyazaki acknowledges this, saying that bosses are a special experience, being climaxes in the gameplay. At the same time, however, they wanted to avoid having situations where tough bosses would stop progress entirely, and did their best to reduce the chances of this happening. As he said earlier on, Elden Ring is designed to give the player freedom of choice, and the player can choose to leave certain bosses for later, or in some cases even clear the game without defeating them. Additionally, they have made it easier than the Dark Souls series for the player to be able to have other players help them out in multiplayer.
The interviewer asks if multiplayer also applies to exploration, and Miyazaki says that while there are some exceptions, multiplayer is possible on the open field. The players can also go into boss battles from this. Riding horses, however, is not possible in multiplayer.
The unique designs of the bosses are pointed out, and Miyazaki says that the Demi-Gods of Martin’s mythology stand out the most, and says that they are not just powerful or strange, but have emphasis on heroic and myth-like aspects. All of the Demi-Gods have strong backbones in the setting, and so they wanted to make them appealing not just as bosses, but also as characters.
Next, Miyazaki is asked how difficult the game is compared to Bloodborne and Sekiro. Miyazaki says this is hard to answer: Purely as an action game, he thinks that Elden Ring is not as difficult. When comparing it to Sekiro, the player being able to level up or use multiplayer makes the game easier, with the difficulty closer to Dark Souls III, and even when compared to Dark Souls III, the addition of player choices, spirit summoning, stealth, new tactics, and easier ways to engage in multiplayer, he thinks that the difficult is best described as “very difficult, but it can be handled”.
At the same time, however, they have also included several tough, fearsome bosses, that are put in in ways that they will not hinder progression and the player’s freedom. On the flipside, they are enemies that might be disappointing, who are made this way because of how they fit in with the world’s setting and should be expected to be as such.
The interviewer brings up how large the field is, and asks how the player advances the story. Miyazaki says that for the most part, the player is left to explore freely, and events occur that give them new goals as they explore places. Meanwhile, the “blessed guidance” mentioned before serves as the player’s basic choice, and as there are NPCs who urge the player to follow it, he thinks that there should not be cases where the player does not know what to do next. He does emphasize, however, that the guidance is not forced upon the player, and the first freedom the player has in the game is to disobey it.
Wandering around has the player run into NPCs and dungeons, and in addition to the large-scale “legacy” dungeons, there are also small to mid-scale dungeons such as forts, catacombs, caves, and mines. As for NPCs, while there is a large number of them in the game, there are no towns or villages with huge populations. There are places that once were such towns or villages, but they are now ruins crawling with enemies. The decision to make it this way was to allow them to do what they are good at with limited resources.
Miyazaki is asked about the legacy dungeons, and he says that one can expect more of what was seen in the complex areas of the Dark Souls series. He adds that they in fact now have a larger scale, and new elements like the jump make exploration more fun. The interviewer asks about fall damage, and Miyazaki says that they considered the jump while adjusting fall damage, and it is set low so that the player does not feel stress during exploration. Additionally, they have made it so that things like attacks do not result in unfair-feeling falls off platforms. Going back to the legacy dungeons, Miyazaki says that there are six such “maximum-scale” dungeons.
The interviewer asks if the player will be able to go to the edges of the map from the beginning the game, and Miyazaki says that this is not the case, with things such as checkpoints that stop the player from accessing the parts of the map beyond them. There are many cases however where there is more than one way to get past the barriers, and he thinks that the player has a high degree of freedom in handling them. The interviewer says that speedrunners might have fun with this, and Miyazaki says that while they did not design the game to consider speedrunning, he does personally like watching speedruns, and hopes that they enjoy the game nevertheless.
The interviewer brings up the size of the world again, and asks if the game has a world map. Miyazaki says that the open field does have a world map, and that there is fun in looking at a map, deciding on a destination, exploring an unknown place, and filling out the map. The legacy dungeons, on the other hand, do not have maps, as they emphasize the fun of exploring the unknown and learning to understand the structure of the dungeons.
Horse riding is limited to the open field, but Miyazaki thinks that it feels very good. The horse can also jump over small obstacles and run down steep cliffs, and in specific locations it can also do a huge jump, allowing for more dynamic exploration with more verticality.
Item crafting can be done anywhere as long as the player has the materials to do so, meaning that the player can also restock their supplies as they get the materials while exploring. However, HP recovery remains a different, special thing in Elden Ring as well.
Time and weather does change in the game, in realtime, and this affects gameplay as well. For example, both the player and enemies have their vision limited at night, making strategies and experiences running into enemies different. Meanwhile, some things such as special traces of certain things stand out more at night, and there are also fearsome enemies that only appear at night.
The interviewer comments that the game seems to be quite big, and Miyazaki says that one of the directions Elden Ring took was to focus on the large scale, and so it has the greatest volume of all the games they have made yet. This has resulted in them having to make adjustments so that the sheer size does not become troublesome for the players, as they want to make it something that players will enjoy. The interviewer asks if he means that this is the biggest game From Software has ever made, and he answers, simply, “yes”.
Miyazaki is asked how long it takes to clear the game, and he is unsure, but thinks that if the player makes no detours at all, they think it should be around 30 hours, but he says that he honestly cannot tell.
When asked about other multiplayer elements, Miyazaki says that non-synchronous elements such phantoms, bloodstains, and messages return, and can also be set to specific groups by the player: This makes it so that when the game displays such elements, ones from the player’s group are prioritised or visually changed to stand out more. This is done to make it so that even if the player does not participate directly in multiplayer, it still gives them a loose feeling of connections, that they are playing the game with others.
Up till now, phantoms, bloodstains, and messages were always from “one of many nameless players”. By prioritising the transmission of these elements people that the player knows to some degree from the same group both ways, they aim to give these elements new meaning and emotions. It is a simple system, but they hope that it leads to new ways of playing the game.
Groups are defined by keywords. Players are able to freely set the keywords for non-synchronous element groups, and players using those keywords are treated as members of the group. There is no limit to how many people can be in a group, and players are free to share them in whatever way they wish. Miyazaki says that playing with others is fun, and so they wanted to make it easier for players to engage with it.
Miyazaki says that many people tend to be wary about games like Elden Ring, which are known as “tough”, and so they hope to appeal to new players by showing how there are many reliable comrades who share their pain online, and by making it easier for the new players to play the game with these other people. He hopes this helps to make it so that the game can be recommended to people who are interested in the world, story, and characters, but are wary about the difficulty.
Finally, Miyazaki says that the staff are doing their best to make Elden Ring an enjoyable game, and hopes that players look forward to it.
The official English translations of some terminology has not yet been established: This article uses translations of the Japanese terms.
Elden Ring will be released on the Playstation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC on 21 January 2022