When From Software’s Elden Ring launched in February, it took the gaming world by storm. Bringing fans of From’s earlier games together with new players, Elden Ring provided one of the most streamlined, accessible experiences the team had ever created. What’s more, for the first time in a From game, it was all wrapped in a beautiful, expansive open world that begged to be explored. The game was a massive hit right out of the gate, with millions of players striving to sit atop the Elden Throne.
We recently had a chance to speak with Hidetaka Miyazaki, the longtime From Software Director who has been instrumental in bringing games like Dark Souls, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and Elden Ring to fans all over the world. He gave us some insight into how Elden Ring was designed, which bosses were his favorite, and how to cope with the nightmarish Fingercreepers.
Xbox Wire: How did designing for an open world change your creative process from your previous games?
Hidetaka Miyazaki: In terms of overall game design, the sense of accomplishment is a theme that has maintained since Dark Souls and the like. As well as that, we placed major focus on a “sense of adventure” that allows the player to engage with this huge world, with its many unknowns and threats, at their liberty.
From an actual production perspective, the game became far bigger than anything we’d made before, so you could also say the responsibilities handed to staff other than myself were much greater this time.
To put it another way, there are many staff here now who’ve grown and gained experience over the years, and the fact that so much could be entrusted to them was one of the reasons we decided to make Elden Ring when we did.
Xbox Wire: What was the thinking behind the Ashes of War system? Was it designed with flexibility in mind?
Hidetaka Miyazaki: Flexibility was definitely part of it. We wanted to put emphasis on giving the player more freedom in various ways, and the Ashes of War represent a link in a series of such efforts.
The goal was to increase the degree of freedom in the context of strengthening your weapons and customising them in your own way, and I think this feeling of weapon customisation ended up being something quite expansive and fun.
Also, the Skill system itself was created with Dark Souls 3, as a means of improving the distinct characteristics of each weapon category. It entrenched the nuance of power necessary for battling in a high fantasy world of myth and legend, which resulted in a greater range of ostentatious or idiosyncratic Skills in Elden Ring.
Xbox Wire: How did you design the different type of Ashes you could summon?
Hidetaka Miyazaki: The Spirit Ashes were essentially picked from enemies, but it came down to how they worked in gameplay. Where possible during their selection and design process, we tried to remain conscious of each summon’s unique qualities and what they brought to the game.
Then on top of that a layer of personality was added from a role-playing perspective. While this wasn’t true of every single one, I personally have a bit of a thing for the role-playing aspect, so it’s something I hope players can enjoy in that sense as well.
Xbox Wire: there any design decisions that helped determine which boss was in a particular area in the open world?
Hidetaka Miyazaki: When we start designing an area, the setting establishes from an early stage which boss will appear in that area, particularly for the major ones.
In this way, the boss character’s gameplay forms a premise for the area design, and the boss gameplay, too, can be adjusted based on the map in which it appears.
Xbox Wire: Who is your personal favorite boss in Elden Ring?
Hidetaka Miyazaki: It’s very difficult to make my mind up, but I’d have to say Radahn. I find him fascinating as an individual character, and I’m fond of the Radahn Festival as a situation. As well as capturing that literal festive atmosphere and sense of exaltation, I suppose it has that lonely and oppressive feeling that you could associate with our games.
It feels like only yesterday we were talking about the “Radahn Festival” idea… No one on the team took me seriously at the time! (Laughs)
If there’s a runner-up prize, it would go to Godrick and Rykard.
Xbox Wire: Did any particular open-world games serve as inspiration for your design choices in Elden Ring?
Hidetaka Miyazaki: There wasn’t one specific game that served as inspiration, but we’ve enjoyed many classic open-world games from a player’s perspective and each one has given us a unique and wonderful incentive.
There’s no end to this list of titles, but “The Elder Scrolls” series and “The Witcher 3” are on there, plus “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” as a more recent example.
Xbox Wire: Is there a way to unsee the Spider Hand enemies? I see them every time I close my eyes…
Hidetaka Miyazaki: What can I say to make up for this… I’m really very sorry… The Fingercreeper is actually one of my favourite designs…
I think making a conscious effort to unsee them is going to have an adverse effect. If you want to topple your trauma, you have to fix your gaze directly on them, never looking away as you strike them down. Maybe that’ll work…?
Xbox Wire: Has Elden Ring’s hit status had any effect on your mental state?
Hidetaka Miyazaki: As a member of the production team, the fact that such a huge number of people are playing Elden Ring brings me enormous joy, and has come as a great surprise.
Speaking both for myself and on behalf of everyone at FromSoftware, as game developers we’ve always felt exceedingly fortunate, and this time has really driven that feeling home.
I’m not sure if you’d call it a mental state, but our stance towards game production hasn’t really been affected.
Up until now, we’ve made the games that we ourselves find fun, and I don’t imagine that’ll change going forward.
We’ll continue to make new, fun games in this way. I believe that’s the best method of conveying our delight and appreciation to the players.
Bandai Namco Entertainment America Inc.
ELDEN RING Deluxe Edition
Bandai Namco Entertainment America Inc.