Time moves quickly in the video game industry. A single year will often see the launch of several new genre standards, and just about everything tends to look almost completely different after just five years or so. Development tools and especially hardware see radical development in that time too.
This is all to say that reviving an old IP, even one that’s only ten years old like Dragon’s Dogma comes with a lot of unique challenges and decisions. At TGS 2023, Hardcore Gamer had the chance to sit down with Dragon’s Dogma director Itsuno Hideaki and producer Yoshiaki Hirabayashi to discuss exactly that as well as what they’re excited about for Dragon’s Dogma II. Not to give too much away at the outset here, but longtime fans are likely going to be pleased with this one.
We started our conversation by asking about any unique challenges the team has encountered in trying to develop Dragon’s Dogma II after so many years. Director Itsuno commented that one of the biggest difficulties was just getting the old team members back to work on the project. As one might expect, after ten years many had either ascended the ranks or gotten involved in other projects, so (unsurprisingly) it wasn’t easy building the team back up. It seems though that Itsuno-san and Yoshiaki-san did their best to gather as many as possible.
From there, we moved directly to what they felt the biggest changes are between the original Dragon’s Dogma and Dragon’s Dogma II. Itsuno-san started by saying this: “In terms of differences, I would say that I’ve tried to put in many of the things I’d wanted to do for the original game but ended up not being able to.” Some examples he provided included the Beastren race and a bigger world. Also, the world is bigger now, with two nations to potentially serve as the player’s home/base rather than just one.
After that, we turned to the opposite. That is, what was he and the rest of the Dragon’s Dogma II team most concerned with preserving from the original game? The answer was somewhat surprising. See, the direction for Dragon’s Dogma II isn’t completely driven by his (Director Itsuno’s) and the team’s internal ideas about the core concept for Dragon’s Dogma. They also put in the effort to survey and interview people (presumably fans) about what people wanted to see in a Dragon’s Dogma sequel. What would people expect such a sequel to have? It was the results of these interviews and their own ideas that’ve guided the development process.
One such example is the world of Dragon’s Dogma. Itsuno-san mentioned in his answer that, “[…]keeping the world very traditional, rather a high fantasy world, a fantasy world where people are going ‘yes, yes! This is is what were were expecting out of a fantasy world!’, keeping those concepts and enhancing them so that they meet the standards of current day gaming [is very important].” He said the same for other aspects of the game too: making sure that they were what people were expecting while enhancing them as much as possible.
On the topic of expansions and things Itsuno-san didn’t get to do the first time around, one system that came up was the vocation system. As was mentioned in our hands-on impressions for Dragon’s Dogma II, the biggest difference in the sequel’s version of the system is that all the jobs are more distinct. He explained that due to things like improved physics in Dragon’s Dogma II, they actually wound up having to start from scratch with the vocation system and work their way through it again seeing what worked and what didn’t.
One example he gave was the Strider from the first game, which enabled players to use both daggers and bows and arrows. He said, “it worked well as an all-rounder class, [but] it was also not specialized in anything, [making it] not particularly good at anything.” So, for it and other things they went for jobs that were more distinct from one another. Or put another way, jobs that were more usable/valuable for their specific strengths and weaknesses. He also mentioned trying to create good reasons for players to use each job. Based on this and what was seen in the demo, it’s looking like players will indeed be wanting to try out all the jobs rather than just sticking with one or two favorites.
He and Producer Yoshiaki also clarified that there were in fact a lot of tweaks, changes and updates that they’ve had to make behind the scenes too. These were apparently not done to change the actual gameplay experience, though. Rather, these were largely implemented to keep things feeling consistent with the previous game. It seems that another symptom of working on the game ten years later is that a lot has had to be implemented differently in order to achieve the a similar result to what was done in the past.
Above all the impression this writer took away from the conversation was that everyone on the team from Itsuno and Yoshiaki-san downward is concerned with preserving the concept/experience of the original Dragon’s Dogma. This isn’t the kind of project where those making it feel it necessary to reinvent the game for modern gaming, quite the opposite. They’ve apparently had to do a lot of things differently, but it was all to preserve the core experience. This apparently included resisting certain modern standard features like fast travel.
Director Itsuno explained it like this, “I really want to keep the freedom you get by not having fast travel. I want to make sure that you retain this feeling of ‘Well, that takes time; it’s hard work.’ […] Fast travel would make everything easier, but I didn’t want to add it just like that.” He then went on to explain that they found in-universe ways to give players more ways to do things like get around or rest up to recover from fights. For example, players can now ride ox carts in the game and they have more opportunities to make their own camps, but there’s a cost associated with them both. In the case of setting up camp, they need to carry around a certain item in order to do it, which Itsuno-san feels helps to preserve the adventure experience.
This is all to say that Itsuno-san, Yoshiaki-san and presumably everyone working on Dragon’s Dogma II are doing their best to make a game that preserves the core ideas and experience established in the original while also making something that’ll be enjoyable for modern players. It was clear that they were passionate about both, and the demo worked well to back up what they were saying. Chances are good that longtime fans will be pleased with Dragon’s Dogma II once it finally debuts.