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Capcom thinks big with sprawling open worlds in Dragon’s Dogma

Dragons Dogma
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Capcom had an impressive Comic-Con presence, both at its massive booth and throughout the convention, where numerous panels focused on big game franchises like Resident Evil, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and Dead Rising. Along with these well-worn names, Capcom also focused time on brand new games like Dragon’s Dogma. While the game is new, the creator, Hiroyuki Kobayashi, is not. Kobayashi has produced some of Capcom’s biggest games, including Devil May Cry 4 and Resident Evil 4.

Dragon’s Dogma is Capcom’s first open-world game. The development team has been following three guiding concepts in creating this new adventure, which Capcom hopes will evolve into a brand new franchise.

“We’re blending the elements of action gaming with an open-world gaming style to create a whole new type of gameplay experience,” explained Kobayashi. “Gamers have played open-world games where you get to walk around a lot, but there’s not much to do. And there are action games that force you to go in a straight line and fight a lot of creatures without giving you the freedom to do the things you want to do. Dragon’s Dogma seeks to bridge that divide and bring both those things together, so you never feel one of those elements is lacking.”

The second concept guiding Dragon’s Dogma is the fantasy setting. Kobayashi’s team is creating a fully-realized sword and sorcery world for players to explore through adventures. Two of the biggest influences on the Japanese team have been from Hollywood – The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. The team is seeking to create that degree of realism in its game using Capcom’s internal MT Framework game engine.

Dragons Dogma
Image used with permission by copyright holder

“The third thing we’re developing are new concepts and features for online and network play,” said Kobayashi. “We’re going to combine the AI-controlled pawns in this game with various elements of social networking to bring these elements together in a whole new type of online network play.”

Kobayashi said this idea came from game director Hideaki Itsuno. Ever since he was in junior high, Itsuno had always wanted to make a realistic fantasy-based game. He was immersed in fantasy novels and games from when he was a kid, so Dragon’s Dogma has allowed his life-long dream to become a reality.

Dragon’s Dogma story begins with a giant dragon attacking the game’s central character, literally tearing his heart out. While dragons normally should be a part of any fantasy game (as Bethesda’s Skyrim demo showed), within the world of Capcom’s game, dragons haven’t been seen in decades. Also, regarding that absconded heart, the hero lives even as his heart is now under the guard of said dragon. The adventure begins as a hunt for the heart. Helping along the way, the hero can hear the dragon’s voice inside his mind.

Dragons Dogma
Image used with permission by copyright holder

“The hero takes up the challenge and sets out to get back his heart and kick the dragon’s butt,” said Kobayashi. “He meets a lot of people along the way, including the pawns that are going to work with him. These pawns are mysterious characters that inhabit this world and will join players on their adventure.”

Kobayashi said that the world of Dragon’s Dogma is sprawling. Players can go anywhere in this world, including forests, castles, caves, and mountains. Everything that appears in the distance of any scene can be explored, including large cities and castles. The game world also incorporates an internal clock with a 24-hour cycle, which means characters, creatures and other inhabitants will go about doing their activities on a realistic timeline.

“You might meet some monsters in the daytime and they’re not anything to worry about, but at night they get really powerful,” said Kobayashi. “So depending on the time of day when you’re playing in the game world, the whole game will change dramatically.”

Dragons Dogma

Players will also interact with hundreds of characters along the way. Capcom is actually holding a contest to name about 300 of these characters. Some of these people will help players along the way, getting involved in quests and solving mysteries. They’ll also provide vital information, including why the dragon has stole your heart.

The player will be joined on this adventure by three AI-controlled pawns. Players can choose from fighter, strider and mage classes with these pawns. Depending on what pawns one chooses for their party, the way they fight, take down enemies, and interact in the game world will change.

“Sometimes on your way you’ll find creatures that are impervious to magic, so you’ll have to decide what pawns to bring in your party,” said Kobayashi. “You have to figure out the best fighters or magic users for each creature you fight and each area you explore.”

Players will be able to customize their own characters based around the pawns they choose. If someone chooses to be a strider and makes their main pawn a mage, the game provides enchantments to make the character more powerful when fighting enemies. If the central character is a mage and the main pawn is a fighter, gameplay will revolve around the player holding back and casting spells from a distance while the pawns take on the enemies up front. Each game will be unique, in this sense.

“The game’s main pawn will remain with you throughout the journey and he’s going to grow and learn and get better just as you do in this game,” explained Kobayashi.

Players who weren’t able to check out the demo at Comic-Con will be able to get their hands on this PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 game in early 2012. The game’s coming along nicely and certainly stands out from anything Capcom has created in the past. With the excitement behind these fantasy-bred team members, this action open world game is shaping up to be something fresh.

Also check out our in-depth look at Capcom’s Resident Evil franchise.

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John Gaudiosi
John Gaudiosi has been covering video games for over 25 years, dating back to his work for The Washington Post while in…
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