Elden Ring director Hidetaka Miyazaki has once again reiterated that FromSoftware will continue to make challenging games.
Broaching the topic of difficulty in his titles during a recent interview with The New Yorker, Miyazaki explained to reporter Simon Parkin, “I’ve never been a very skilled player. I die a lot. So, in my work, I want to answer the question: If death is to be more than a mark of failure, how do I give it meaning? How do I make death enjoyable?”
“I do feel apologetic toward anyone who feels there’s just too much to overcome in my games,” the acclaimed game director lamented, reportedly with his head in his hands. “I just want as many players as possible to experience the joy that comes from overcoming hardship.”
After briefly touching upon Miyazaki’s past, noting that he grew up poor, worked for American I.T. company Oracle in order to help pay his younger sister’s way through college, and that he was inspired to become a game designer after playing the now-defunct Japan Studio’s ICO, Parkin then theorized that the director’s own overcoming of challenges inspired the difficult gameplay styles of ‘Soulslike’ games.
However, Miyazaki himself denied this theory, telling Parkin, “I wouldn’t say that my life story, to put it in grandiose terms, has affected the way I make games.”
“A more accurate way to look at it is problem solving,” he elaborated. “We all face problems in our daily lives. Finding answers is always a satisfying thing. But in life, you know, there’s not a lot that gives us those feelings readily.”
On the question of how challenging games should be, which Parkin admitted was closely tied to the question of who specific games are for, Miyazaki admitted “It’s an interesting question,” before once again standing firm that overcoming a challenge was core to what FromSoftware makes.
“We are always looking to improve,” Miyazaki expounded, “but, in our games specifically, hardship is what gives meaning to the experience. So it’s not something we’re willing to abandon at the moment. It’s our identity.”
Thus, he continued, Elden Ring offers ways “for people to feel like victory is an attainable feat” without sacrificing the game’s core identity.
These include such options as Spirit Animal summons, your horse being a speedy method to flee, and the open world offering a wide variety challenges to undertake should a player find one be too difficult.
Miyazaki also highlighted how the many, many deaths players could suffer are designed to be memorable, or even funny, noting to Parkin, “When I’m playing these games, I think, This is the way I’d want to die—in a way that is amusing or interesting, or that creates a story I can share.”
“Death and rebirth, trying and overcoming—we want that cycle to be enjoyable,” he said. “In life, death is a horrible thing. In play, it can be something else.”
Asked by Parkin towards the end of the interview if he saw the medium, and his games in particular, as a way to help people exert control in an ever chaotic world, Miyazaki replied, “I enjoy the process of solving problems that I know can be fixed.”
“Impossible challenges? That’s where I draw the line, and where I feel stressed out,” he concluded. “So I’m extremely fortunate to be able to apply that process by creating games.”
Miyazaki’s comments regarding difficulty to The New York Times echo those he gave to the PlayStation Blog earlier this year, wherein he similarly asserted, “I realize that while we offer games with a high level of challenge, we design them in a way that feels fulfilling to overcome, but I don’t want new players to worry or stress about that difficulty too much.”
“We don’t try to force difficulty or make things hard for the sake of it,” he added. “We want players to use their cunning, study the game, memorize what’s happening, and learn from their mistakes. We don’t want players to feel like the game is unfairly punishing, but rather that there’s a chance to win a difficult encounter and make progress.”
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