Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow GamesCom 2009 David Cox InterviewBy Billy Berghammer - Posted Sep 14, 2009
When Konami and Mercury Stream originally announced Lords of Shadow, everyone wondered why it wasn't a Castlevania game. As it turns out, it was a Castlevania game all along. At GamesCom this year, the Castelvania name became part of Lords of Shadow and it was revealed that Hideo Kojima would be overseeing the game's production. I had a chance to interview Castlevania: Lords of Shadow producer David Cox at GamesCom about the Castlevania name, Kojima's involvement and much more.
G4: So I guess, ya know, the big thing that a lot of people took out of the presentation was you mention the fact that you guys wanted to make a clean break. Why Konami as a company has decided to go that route?
David Cox: I think after 26 years, ya know, franchises can’t really stay the same. They need to change; they need to evolve. Castlevania has been through several iterations, several changes in its lifecycle and it was felt at this point it was the right time to make that break – make the change. It had to happen sooner rather than later. The last ten years, the series has been defined by what it was, and the company decided that the game’s not as mainstream as we’d like it. It’s not the big brand it was on NES, or Famicom, or SuperNES. We want to bring it back into the light, so to speak. This is one of the challenges, obviously, was to do that. We felt in order to do that, you need to make the break; you need to make the change. You can’t just do the same again. At the same time, we didn’t want to alienate everybody. So, it’s a tough juggling act. It’s a big responsibility. It’s like looking after a child, ya know. Different people have looked after this child and then, all of a sudden it’s your responsibility. You think, “This is a huge responsibility and I need to live up to that expectation.” You do worry about it, absolutely.
G4: So why do you think Konami’s had such a hard time bringing Castlevania into the 3D space?
Cox: Oh, I have no idea. I don’t know. I don’t buy the fact that it’s a 2D game and always will be a 2D game. I think it is possible to bring it into 3D, and that’s what we’re attempting to do.
G4: So, is this defining what the clean break – what Konami’s relationship with [Koji] Igarashi-san is?
Cox: No, I don’t think so. I know Igarashi’s company is working on projects. I don’t know anything more than that. So, I’m sure he’s gonna make some big announcements and I’m sure he’s other things. He’s a very talented guy.
G4: Why would Kojima-san get involved with Castlevania? He’s already got his hand in, like, 18 different things over at Kojima Productions.
Cox: To be honest, it was a bit of a surprise. When we showed the game internally in Japan, he came up to me afterwards to say “Hey Dave, I love what you’re doing. It’s awesome. I want to help.” And I sort of went, “Okay.” And then I went back to England and then a few days later he said, "Can we come to the studio to visit Mercury Steal in Madrid?" Oh, okay, come over, and at that time he was visiting various Western developers to see how they worked – how they make games. And I think it really impressed him, what we were doing, and he said “That’s gonna work. I’d like to help you. Ya know, be a guide for you.” And when somebody like Kojima says to somebody who’s green like me “I want to help you,” you don’t say no. It's the chance of a lifetime. The really cool thing is he’s been quite hands-off, ya know. He’s kind of offering advice, technical help – we’ve got a couple of KojiPro guys at the studio, but, ya know, he’s not really interfering. So, he’s letting us do what we want to do, which is really nice.
G4: So, why show the game last year at, I know this was asked before, but, I’ve been to the last three Leipzigs, so…it was Lords of Shadow now it’s Castlevania: Lords of Shadow.
Cox: It was always Castlevania. The original concept, the original design that we did – we’re making a game. This is the game that we’ve designed, and last year at Leipzig, Castlevania: Judgment was on display, Igarashi-san was here, and Mr. [Kunei] Neo who’s the president [of Konami Europe), wanted to show that European development was taking the next step by showing the game and there was, ya know, people were a bit worried about making a big Castlevania announcement at that event. So, we decided not to. Whether that was the right or wrong decision, that’s not for me to say.
G4: But, traditionally, Castlevania games are announced at US or European events because they’re more popular. So, why not just let it go?
Cox: That’s a question really to ask the senior management team, I guess.
G4: Ok. Well, let’s talk about the game. I mean, obviously, the significance of the masks. Can you explain how that works in the game?
Cox: Sure. Yea. The mask – God Mask is the main sort of story element of the game. The three pieces of the God Mask are held by the three Lords of Shadow. Gabriel is looking to recover those to save the world because, basically, the dead can’t find rest without it in one piece. But, also, he finds out early on the game that it has the power to bring back the dead and he wants to resurrect his dead wife who’s murdered. That’s his main motivation in the game. This other mask, we just recently revealed in the new extended trailer. This is a different mask and it’s called the Devil Mask. You’re welcome to hold that.
G4: Yea, that’d be great. [picks up, looks at mask]
Cox: This also plays a significant role in the game – certainly at the end of the game. It’s a major plot element, actually. So, we’re not gonna reveal too much about that at this point.
G4: So, magic has also played a big role in the Castlevania games, at least, a lot of the portable ones. How in-depth will the magic system be a part of Lords of Shadow?
Cox: Yea, magic system is a big part of the game, and Gabriel will require the use of magic fairly early on in the game. It’s really combat-based; it’s mainly used for combat, and helping the player to – can’t think of what I’m saying here – aiding the player in combat also in other elements of the puzzle solving.
G4: For the Castlevania purists, I guess, could you explain some of the things you’re – you are pulling from the earlier games and bringing over to the new game?
Cox: Sure. In Super Castlevania IV, one of my favorite features was that you could use the whip to swing across areas and latch onto areas where you climb up. So, the platforming element of the game is pretty in-depth. It’s much more of a platformer, action-adventure game than a full on, ya know, intense action-adventure, where it’s, ya know, actions set this off and action set this – our game isn’t like that. We do have some intense combat in the game, but we also have quieter moments of exploration and puzzle-solving and platforming that fans will be familiar with.
Cox: Eh, I suppose you could get that kind of stuff from the trailer, but I think as we reveal more information about the game, they’ll see that that’s very different. The game’s a much slower paced game. It has more –we looked at God of War, obviously. We looked at these action-adventure games because that’s the competition, but we didn’t want to go the same route. So, we’re not copying God of War or anything like that. We have elements of those games in there, but we also have more, in keeping with the Castlevanias. That’s where we’re coming from.
G4: One of my favorite things the last couple portable versions did where they were like difficulty towers that you’d scale ‘em and then the higher you’d go – it’s more of like a big boss challenge situation – any plans for that in this game?
Cox: Not really, no. I mean, this game follows the more classic Castlevania elements; it’s more of a linear path that you take. I mean, you can – the areas are pretty big, so you can explore multiple routes, multiple areas. You can go back to areas that you’ve been before to acquire piece of the puzzle you pick up and you need. We have these areas with big boss battles and titan battles. We have titan enemies in the game, which are these – kind of huge – bosses, sort of the ice titan from the trailer, I guess, and those fights are more like Shadow of the Colossus, more real-time fights. We don’t really have any quick-time events in the game. We do have, like, minigames in the game, but we’re doing it in a very different way. We haven’t shown that, yet. It's too soon to show it. Different to the way it’s been done before in other games. So, one of the things I hate about quick time events is you take your eye off the action, you need to remember what the button presses are. It pisses me off. So, we’ve devised a system where you don’t have to do that.
G4: I have one more question. Obviously, the Castlvania fan base is pretty rabid. You’ve probably read forums –
Cox: I’ve read a few.
G4: And heard some feedback from the hardcore fans. How much does that – I mean, Castlevania’s been around for a long time. How much pressure does that put on you guys, making this clean break, going with the European developer and doing something extremely different from the series?
Cox: I think we always knew that, ya know, we weren’t going to be able to please everybody. You’ve excepted that from the very beginning. I think a lot of fans will come ‘round someway. That’s a fair comment. All we want to do is we want to broaden the appeal of the game. We want to bring in new players. [We want] to make sure that Castlevania is back at the forefront of Konami as a brand. But I think, ya know, change can be very, very shocking, and your first impressions are that you hate it or you love it, yea? And that seems to be what’s happening with the fanbase, ya know. It’s pretty split, I’d say, but I think as we reveal more, the more familiar elements will make a lot of the fans a little bit more comfortable. At the same time, ya know, there’s always gonna be that small group of people that just love the game to stay in 2D, but, ya know, as a company we can’t release a 2D game. 2D games just don’t have the appeal of a big 3D action-adventure, and that’s the bottom line.
G4: One quick follow-up, what’s it like – does that add pressure, having Kojima-san as your boss?
Cox: [laughs] It’s a pressure, but it’s quite nice because it makes you – it pushes you further than you normally go on things. You always question “Is this going to be good enough?” It’s funny because sometimes you show him something and think “Yea, he’s gonna love this.” And then he’s like “Nah…” and you think, “Oh shit,” ya know, and go back and work on it harder, and other times you think “Ah, no, that’s not something – don’t look at that.” And he’s like, “Oh, that’s really cool. I love that.” It’s strange, but it’s a nice pressure. He’s very careful not to step on anyone’s toes. I think that's what I like about him. He’s a creator who has this huge wealth of experience, which he wants to share, but at the same time, he’s painfully aware that he doesn’t sort of want to take over the project. That’s quite nice. I think I’m in a very lucky position.