Interview with: Kenji Saito and Takahisa Sugiyama on Babylon’s Fall from PlatinumGames

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    • Interview with: Kenji Saito and Takahisa Sugiyama on Babylon’s Fall from PlatinumGames

      Babylon’s Fall does not have an easy standing with PlatinumGames’ fans shortly before its release. Microtransactions and live service are not the experiences that action-savvy single players associate with.

      While Babylon’s Fall raised high expectations at its unveiling in 2018 and with the first gameplay trailer in 2019, disillusionment set in later. In our interview, the creators want to clear up some misconceptions and allay fears about microtransactions.

      We talk about all that, but also about PlatinumGames action in a multiplayer game, about the complex gameplay and equipping four weapons at once, and about the special relationship between Yosuke Saito and NieR creator Yoko Taro.

      Executive Producer Yosuke Saito, Producer Junichi Ehara and Directors Kenji Saito and Takahisa Sugiyama answered our questions. We hope you enjoy reading! A playable demo of Babylon’s Fall will be released tomorrow, and the game is scheduled for release on March 3.

      The first teaser trailer from 2018 was not yet revealing, but when you showed a first gameplay trailer for Babylon’s Fall together with Square Enix at State of Play in 2019, many fans had expected a single player action RPG. In 2021, you unveiled Babylon’s Fall as an online multiplayer RPG and promised post-release (live service game) content. Did you rethink during development or was Babylon’s Fall designed from the beginning as a multiplayer co-op game with life service elements?

      Junichi Ehara (Producer): From the very start of the project, it was decided that BABYLON’S FALL would include the elements of high fantasy, hack-and-slash, and live service. While PlatinumGames were experimenting with things, we stopped promoting the game – which meant that there was a longer than expected period of time during which players were under the false impression that it would be a single player game. Looking back, this is something we could have handled better.

      Kenji Saito (Director): We had decided from the start that it would be an online multiplayer live service game, but whilst we were trying things out internally, what we could reveal was limited, so I believe the misunderstanding came as a result of us not being able to show the online multiplayer.

      With the 2018 announcement, you mentioned „2019“ as the release period. It’s quite normal for development teams to encounter challenges and problems over time. Your plan was obviously pushed back by almost three years. What challenges did you face and how did you solve them?

      Saito: COVID-19 had quite an impact, but aside from this, when we worked on creating the game, other factors like the system and arrangements for post launch were significantly different to the games and style PlatinumGames had worked on in the past.

      Takahisa Sugiyama (Director): Creating an environment where PlatinumGames action gameplay could be done in online multiplayer, and also constantly as a live service game, was a lot harder to do than we thought. It also took more time than we thought because we also had to respond to the changes happening at the time, for example changes in the development environment due to COVID, and changes in hardware trends.

      I personally love the brushwork-style look. I’m sure you do too. It’s also great how the Square Enix and PlatinumGames logos transform from brushwork-style to normal before a trailer. In the context of fast action, however, problems probably arise. You have toned down the intensity of this look significantly during the beta phase. Can you talk about the feedback and the changes?

      Saito: We received a lot of feedback during the beta test. During the beta tests, the filter had a slightly lower level of polish and leaned more strongly towards an artistic depiction, which meant that screenshots looked better than the game in action. We’ve balanced the game to make it easier to play, incorporating feedback from players in the beta tests and adding new features.

      The brush stroke look was already adjusted during the beta phase.

      „PlatinumGames action“ is a promise. On the one hand, that distinguishes PlatinumGames, but on the other hand, this leap of faith also brings with it great expectations that you have to live up to game after game. How do you approach this task? Is there a „template“ for PlatinumGames action?

      Saito: There is no template for PlatinumGames action. As we have some expertise regarding action gameplay, we think about what kind of action would suit the game, and then carry out a process of trial and error. I believe this is the same as if you were to decide on a general plan of action, and then make adjustments as and when needed whilst creating and playing the game.

      It is possible to play Babylon’s Fall alone. Kenji Saito, you described the core concept of Babylon’s Fall (and the live service updates) in an interview as „continuing to pursue action as players push forward to a never-ending goal“. That doesn’t sound like a game that single players typically enjoy. I guess Babylon’s Fall can’t show itself in all its glory to single players. What is your tip to your fans who prefer to play alone?

      Saito: I think single player and multiplayer can both be enjoyed in their own way, and we are preparing content for the game. Personally, I also love playing single player games, so I’m definitely not looking down on playing solo. We’ve created a system that allows you to hop into multiplayer without any reservation or hesitation, so I hope people will give it a go.

      There are five weapon types to start with. There will be more weapon types after release and they are free, I read. But the character of live service games is also monetization later on. What kind of microtransactions will there be, can you please give us concrete examples?

      Sugiyama: There are absolutely no plans to sell things like strong pieces of equipment via microtransactions in the future. There are essentially microtransactions for elements which allow you to express your individuality in-game, or which can add value, like cosmetic items etc. I would like to emphasise that we are prioritising the time the player spends in the game and the opportunities they can have over everything else.

      In a developer interview you explain that there will also be items that help with progression. What kind of items are those and how will that correlate with different game modes? You also want to add more game modes after release and should there be competitive or ranking elements, are such items likely to be problematic?

      Sugiyama: There are items which will temporarily increase experience points, the number of items which can be acquired, and the amount of in-game currency. These items will be distributed equally to players, and we currently have no plans to sell them. The players will have many opportunities to obtain these resources when playing the game, there are also lots of ways to grow your character, such as via dropped items or crafting, and there are also a variety of builds which can match various playstyles and abilities. Please rest assured that we have not designed the game so that there will be disparities and huge gaps with others as a result of using these boost items!

      The Gideon Coffin allows you to equip a total of four weapons and enables insane combos. Who came up with this idea and how do you make such a complex system intuitive to control? Do players have to get used to the controls for a long time?

      Saito: It’s the embodiment of trial and error. We tried various elements and different controls, and what we have ended up with is the fruit of that labour. It looks complicated at first glance, and it’s possible to fight even just by button mashing, but I think that you’ll be able to reach a higher level by getting used to the controls and understanding how the system works.

      The community site, The Hanging Garden, is expected to play a special role during the post-release period. Can you tell us more about current and upcoming plans and features of The Hanging Garden?

      Sugiyama: Hanging Garden will of course provide lots of information regarding content to the player from when operations start, but it will also be an environment where players can directly try out some of the functions in the game. You can try out builds, change equipment, or enhance equipment at the forge even when you’re away from your console, allowing you to make all the preparations needed for BABYLON’S FALL even when you’re not playing the game.

      Yosuke Saito, did you enjoy not having Yoko Taro on this project? (laughs) I know you have a special, (maybe friendly, I guess) relationship. You said Yoko Taro also asked you about Babylon’s Fall. Everybody always says at the end of an interview that you should say a few words to fans. Today I would like to ask: What would you like to say to Yoko Taro? He’s not here right now! (laughs)

      Yosuke Saito (Executive Director): YOKO TARO and I are joined at the hip, and are always together on Voice of Cards! When no new information was being put out, he asked me „So has BABYLON’S FALL had it then?“ haha. However, I’m certain that we’ll be able to spend time together once it’s been released, so I’m looking forward to that! The thing I’d like to say to YOKO TARO is, „Meet your deadlines!“ haha.

      Thank you very much for your time and good luck with the launch of Babylon’s Fall!

      The new trailer:

      Bildmaterial: Babylon’s Fall, Square Enix, PlatinumGames