We interviewed Gavin Moore, creative director of the title at SIE Studios, in charge of coordinating both the Japanese team and Bluepoint Games.
Demon’s Souls is the first great video game exclusive to PS5. There is no alternative: only PlayStation 5. A name known to the players of the Japanese brand; an emblem, according to many, since it would serve as a trigger for what we now understand as the soulslike formula. Back in 2009, the FromSoftware studio would sign – then without knowing it – a valuable page in the history of the medium; now, a decade later, comes the reinterpretation of that idea in the form of a remake and premiere for a new generation of PlayStation consoles.
A joint effort between SIE Japan Studio and Bluepoint Games, a complex journey of almost three years where Gavin Moore, creative director, has served as a mediator so that everything went smoothly. FreeGameTips has had the opportunity to interview the main architect of the return to Boletaria to tell us how it all started, how development has been and what we can expect from a title designed from scratch for PS5.
Before the meeting, we were able to access an unpublished extended gameplay of the title in its finalized version, so that we have already been able to see in good quality how the game will look. From now on, it only remains for the studio to take advantage of these last weeks to apply touch-ups and eliminate bugs, as is usual in these cases. Everything ready for November 12; although getting here has been a long journey.
FreeGameTips: The first thing that strikes you with Demon’s Souls for PS5 is how the game looks and how it looks on screen. Could you tell us about the graphic engine used?
Gavin Moore: It’s the same engine that we used in Shadow of the Colossus for PS4. But yes, it has been continually updated and we have continued working with it; We have never, never put it aside. It is continually being updated and as you can see it is an incredibly powerful engine. I think one of the great assets we have had for this occasion – and the reason why the game looks so good on PlayStation 5 – is the extra power that PS5 offers us, which has allowed us to remodel the lighting system to full. The lighting acts in real time constantly; everything lights up in real time. Same with shadows, all the shadows you see are in real time.
Also, the SSD memory is so powerful that you can load everything immediately; apart from the fact that you can offer much more detail at each level. PS5 offers us a new level of realism in the titles.
Demon’s Souls was created by a Japanese studio, devised by Japanese minds, and executed through a Japanese work philosophy. How has the work philosophy of a western team like Bluepoint Games reconnected with that of SIE Japan?
For us it was also something interesting. Actually, that’s why I’m here as a creative director; I mean, I currently live in Tokyo and have been in the Japan studio (SIE Japan) for almost 18 years. My job has mainly been to be able to guide Bluepoint correctly in the development of the game. Not only to make the most correct decisions when it comes to maintaining the appearance of the characters, but also to ensure that our vision stays true to the game and the original vision. It has been really important for us: that this vision is not altered too much.
Also, I have to say that we are all huge fans of this game; And that has helped enormously, because when you are a big fan of something you don’t want to damage it in any way. We had a lot of conversations regarding what we wanted to add to the game and what we didn’t.
Demon’s Souls is now a much more colorful game; the color palette has changed, it feels more … closer to the PlayStation language, don’t you think?
Being able to harness the power of the PlayStation 5 and knowing that we had all that extra power meant we could add a lot more visual quality. So it’s not just what we see in the environments, but now each stage room and arenas gain in detail, they have almost become a character in their own right. Also every piece of armor, every sword, face weapon; all objects look spectacular and in high definition. Not to mention the enemies – each final boss is incredibly detailed. But what we have basically done is create something that from the team we felt could show the best version of this world, with this story.
Now, I am aware that a lot of people love the original look of the PlayStation 3 version. So, in order not to piss anyone off, we have included a filter system in the game. You can activate what is called the classic filter, which will change the color palette so that it looks like the original version of PlayStation 3 and you can play the whole game like that. There is no problem with that. The only thing we’d like is for players to give this new color palette a shot, which is the way we’ve developed it from the beginning. But if you want to go back to the days of PlayStation 3, it is equally valid. Very valid.
How it all started: plane from Tokyo to Austin, Texas; February 2018
You have served as a mediator between SIE Japan Studio and Bluepoint Games, studios several thousand kilometers away from each other, how has the communication and collaboration been between both parties?
Phew, I’ve spent a lot of time on a plane going to and from Tokyo. However, with the current situation, everything stopped. Luckily, we have a very good relationship with Bluepoint. They are a wonderful group of guys, you know. I remember as soon as Shadow of the Colossus launched, I traveled to Austin, Texas, to see them all. I remember sitting in the office with Marco, the president, and Peter, the CTO, congratulating them on the excellent work done with Shadow of the Colossus and telling them what we were going to do next: Demon’s Souls. They were really happy because it is one of the great favorites of the fans; it’s a classic that the entire PlayStation community loves. We had no choice but to give the best of ourselves. I can’t imagine any of us wanting to alter Demon’s Souls too much; is too dear. It was even giddy to face something like that.
We had been thinking about redoing it for years, but we never came to think that we had the knowledge to do it; that we couldn’t do it justice. And it was only after Shadow of the Colossus that we realized that we did have the knowledge and skill necessary to take on this challenge and do justice to the original game. That’s when we said to ourselves, “Okay, let’s go for it. Let’s do it”. A whole new generation of users will be able to play this incredible PlayStation classic.
Approximately how many people have worked on the project? Like Shadow of the Colossus, we are talking about two major venues, SIE Japan and Bluepoint Games. Also, at what point in development did you start working with PS5?
We start right after finishing Shadow of the Colossus. We finished editing a few things, and from the beginning, we worked with a codenamed prototype; we didn’t even know it was still a PS5. At that time we were aware of the incredible power that we were going to have: it was going to make a radical change in the new development possible. For example, SSD memory is a game changer for a video game like Demon’s Souls.
As much as there is recurrent talk about the difficulty of the game, in reality what is truly frustrating about the original work are the loading times. Every time you die you have to wait two minutes for the game to reload. Now you’ll keep getting pissed off about dying over and over again… but you can get back to the game quickly enough. You can immediately proceed with your challenge. This takes a lot of stress out of the equation.
When it comes to teams, we are actually very small compared to some of the studios out there today. At SIE Japan Studio we have been only 25 people; in Austin [Bluepoint Games] We had 65 or 70 other people, which is really low for a AAA launch; especially since it is a great launch game for a new generation of consoles. We had to outsource a lot of work to Asia and we have also been able to count on support teams in California to help us out, which was really great.
You’ve talked about difficulty, so here we go. The barrier to entry to the genre is very high for many users. In this case, some players will come to the store to buy their PS5 and will ask themselves: “Can I get Demon’s Souls? Is it too difficult for me? ” Maybe you can tell us about some kind of accessibility option.
Offering as many options as we can in accessibility was very important to us in order to expand the audience as much as possible. For example, in Demon’s Souls for PS5, you can change the audio from stereo to mono (for deaf players); you can configure the visibility of the user interface with changes in the interface color; funds can also be activated behind subtitles; you can disable camera shake; you can configure the haptic feedback of the controller; you can enable or disable the adaptive triggers function … We have provided many options to the game, so that it is more accessible for people.
But no, there is no difficulty selector in the game. Not at all. If this is Demon’s Souls, it must be like the original game. It is fair, but it is also challenging. This is how it should be.
PS5 is the generation that promises to make 4K a standard, do we have some kind of specific resolution and performance mode in Demon’s Souls?
When it comes to performance, we have added two modes. On the one hand, one that is native 4K at 30 FPS, a mode that is impressive to the eye: all active, lights for all loops, shadows, tessellation … it is magnificent. On the other hand, what we have called the performance mode, which is dynamic 4K at 60 FPS. This is the one that we think is aimed at the majority of players because it is more fluid; you have a better response in control. Now the controller response actually gives you a bit of an advantage over the game over the original PlayStation 3 version.
On PS3 there were a lot of drops in framerate, which made the game more difficult. Now with such a powerful PlayStation 5, we can run at a constant speed of 60 frames per second. I think this is the true essence of Demon’s Souls.
Another word we’ve heard hundreds of times is ray tracing. Are we going to notice it so much? Lighting is a key element in Demon’s Souls.
Indeed, one of the novelties is ray tracing, now you will see more realistically when lightning hits a tree and sets it on fire. That is brand new and never existed in the original. Now we can do it because we have all that power with PS5. It’s great.
Demon’s Souls for PlayStation 3 is an incredibly dark game. What we have done is, after evaluating the power of the PlayStation 5, we realize that we no longer had to activate or deactivate any light source, but we have been able to include light in real time thanks to ray tracing. So every aspect of the game lighting is in real time. It is dynamic. We have used the lighting as a way to guide the player through the levels, as little hints of where to go.
The relationship between SIE Japan and Bluepoint Games has become clear, but have you had any kind of conversation or guidelines from FromSoftware?
Once we decided that we were going to do the remake [de Demon’s Souls] We reached out to FromSoftware and received their blessing. They told us: “Go ahead, go ahead. Play the game ”. But they have not participated in the development at all. So all development was done by SIE Japan Studio and Bluepoint Games. But obviously we have stayed true to the original vision, that was a strict rule.
Many readers ask us if we will find new content in the game, you know, if there will be new worlds or the theme of the sixth Archstone.
Well unfortunately we decided that there are only five Archstones, they are still intact. Our game has those five Archstones, just like the original, so don’t expect a new world or something like that. I think it’s fair, honestly, because that was not our vision, nor was it up to us to do so. That was the vision of the original creator, FromSoftware. And so it must go on.
What we have added are objects, weapons, armor … Things that are very interesting; there are no changes to the gameplay, just new things to find. I want to see people looking for them and finding them.
Another aspect that many players wonder is the reference to the camera, which was not perfect, let’s say, in the original 2009 video game.
Totally agree. Demon’s Souls was very difficult for anyone also because of the camera. The rooms and corridors are very narrow, it is very difficult to prevent the camera from going through the environment and hitting the wall, or getting into character. So what we have done is implement a system to relocate the camera so that it does not get disoriented; now it is much more fluid and is always where it should be. Let’s say the camera is now more natural, you won’t feel disoriented.
I have to say that if you don’t like our new camera and want to play with the old one, you can activate the camera from the original game. It is in the options, you can activate or deactivate it. Like the display filter we have added. Do you want to feel like you are playing the PS3 version? You can activate it if you wish. You choose.
Demon’s Souls will go on sale in physical and digital format exclusively for PS5 this November 12, the same day that PS5 and PS5 Digital Edition land in stores across Europe; a week earlier in the rest of the world.