Dragon Quest author Yuji Horii held a conference during the Cedec+Kyushu 2018 event on December 1. The conference’s MC was quite the personality himself: Level 5’s president, Akihiro Hino.
During the conference, Horii-san went over his career and each of the main games in the Dragon Quest series, sharing pieces of advice with the many game development students attending. He told various stories on the franchise’s development, like the memory problem they encountered when working on the first Dragon Quest on Famicom, and how this wasn’t a problem anymore for Dragon Quest III thanks to its higher capacity cartridge, allowing for a longer, more fleshed out story.
In particular, when asked by Hino-san which part of the Dragon Quest series he’d like to improve, Horii-san answered how he’d like it to be more popular in the west. He regrets they didn’t release the older games outside Japan sooner, which resulted in the current situation where most non-Japanese people are unfamiliar with Dragon Quest. It seems one of the reasons why the games didn’t release is how the scripts would take too long to translate. Most Dragon Quest games didn’t release outside of Japan until the Nintendo DS remakes. Chrono Trigger, another game he worked on, is very popular outside Japan, so it proved that people from any horizons love these types of games. So he’d like Dragon Quest to attain the same status. Dragon Quest XI made the series take a step in the right direction with its 4 million copies sold worldwide.
Horii-san also shared how one of Dragon Quest‘s game design secrets is that instead of trying to explain the systems in detail with tutorials, they make it so the game focuses on 4 points maximum, which are introduced to players through game design. The game must be made in a way so players never think “I don’t know what to do”. And even if they don’t understand what to do, the most important is to make them think they did. There’s also how NPCs’ lines are never too long, to avoid tiring players, and how they’ll always include a clear indication like “you need to go west”. Horii-san tries to never make dialogues lines longer than 3 lines, so players can easily get what to do next, and never feel like they got off the game’s rails. In counterpart, he also noted how letting players do whatever they want can be a good choice as well. He specifically cited The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild, and how much fun he had going off the game’s rails without indications or constraints. Hino-san shared his opinion as well.
As for the secret behind Dragon Quest games’ scenarios, Hino-san noted how Horii-san manages to create stories which can only be told in game format. Especially how the stories manage to betray the player’s expectations, in a good way. Seeing someone being so serious about something makes you want to play a prank on them, that’s why Horii-san always wants to trick Dragon Quest players, as it’s funnier this way. Trolling and surprising fans is the reason why he and Akira Toriyama decided to give XI’s hero long, smooth straight hair, instead of the usual Dragon Ball spikes.
At the end of the conference, Horii-san answered some questions prepared beforehand.
The first question asked whether a new Dragon Quest online game will be coming. Horii-san answered that the ways people enjoy games are evolving and that we’re reaching an era where people can play online anywhere, with smartphones or consoles like the Switch.
The second question was if he ever feels like making other games than Dragon Quest. Horii-san answered how he’d like to make a new Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken/The Portopia Serial Murder Case. It’s an adventure game/visual novel which released in 1883 for PC-6001. What comes next will spoil the game’s story, so skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to know. Albeit it’s an interesting Japanese joke to know about.
This new Portopia’s story would have multiple characters with names starting with “Yasu”, like “Yasuda”, “Yasuhiro”, “Yasushi”, etc, and you’d have to figure out which “Yasu” is the killer, so then the game would include the sentence “Yasu is the killer”. The original game had the detective and main character’s partner, nicknamed “Yasu”, being the true killer. This shocked many players, especially with how blunt and direct the revelation was. Because of that, “Yasu is the killer” became a Japanese internet spoiler meme, and the phrase is also used as internet slang to indicate you have no idea who the true culprit is when reading a detective story. According to Wikipedia, Horii-san already said multiple times in the past he’d like to make a new Portopia game, so this isn’t a breaking announcement.
The final question was on a hypothetical Dragon Quest XII. After a long silence, Horii-san ended up answering:
I already thought up some of the keywords the game will be about, but I can’t reveal anything for now. I know XI is particularly appreciated for its scenario, so for the next game I might include tricks related to the game system instead.
He also added:
People striving to make their dreams come true will probably be one of the themes in the game. But XII is still many years ahead, so, for now, you should play Dragon Quest Builders 2 which is coming out soon.
Dragon Quest XI is available for PS4 worldwide, and for 3DS too exclusively in Japan. A Switch version titled Dragon Quest XI S is coming too, we’ll know more about it in around two weeks.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 releases for PS4 and Switch on December 20 in Japan, with a demo out. The game wasn’t officially announced in the west yet.
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