Sunday, July 11, 2010

How not to screw up Dragon Quest X

It's Sunday morning in America, and I am (very impatiently) sitting around and waiting for my local retailer to open so I can go pick up my copies of Dragon Quest IX. I'm very excited and needed to kill about an hour and a half, so... here we are :) I've got Dragon Quest on the mind...

So, with the recent re-confirmation of Dragon Quest X's development for Wii, I've been thinking about what this could mean: Square-Enix could screw this up really badly if they're not careful. I hope they plan to really test the home market (Japan) and get customer feedback throughout the development process, as they did with Dragon Quest IX for DS, so they can avoid any serious motion-control faux pas'.

I would love to believe that we're "past" the stage of Wii game development where developers think they need to wrench-in motion controls "just because it has a motion-based controller", and are moving toward the stage of Wii game development where developers are just thinking, "motion controls need to just be intuitive and integrated, and add to the experience". Unfortunately, I'm not exactly sure if we're there yet. It took a long time for developers to "get" that when you develop for Nintendo DS, you don't have to use the touch-screen "just because it has one", or more importantly, that you should "only use the touch-screen when it absolutely makes sense and adds to the experience". 

I want to make a little laundry-list of what I want to see and what I don't want to see in Dragon Quest X, when considering the capabilities (and shortcomings) of Wii. I hope others agree with me, and that Square-Enix notices. 
  • Be absolutely sure to include local multi-player. Also, an online option would be a plus, as playing on multiple screens would be great.
  • Don't make us swing the Wii remote around for 5,000 normal battles in the game. If we wanted that, we'd play Dragon Quest Swords. Give us a casino minigame, or a Pachisi map, or a "training" system (to boost your stats like a "Strength Seed" would) or something else along these lines for Wii remote swordplay. Use Wii Motion Plus for this please.
  • Don't be cutscene-heavy. I have been re-playing through Dragon Warrior 3 again recently, and it was so refreshing, for example, to bring the King of Portoga the Black Pepper special item and have the response be a 5-second text-box that said "You brought me Black Pepper! This must have been a difficult journey! You are a true hero. Please take my ship." It was over, I was proud of my accomplishment, I had a ship, and I was moving forward. Let's remember that players want to be in control of their game, and that long cutscenes are unwanted and unnecessary. 
  • On that note, please remember that one of Dragon Quest's biggest appeals is that it is book-like and not movie-like. Keep the text, lose the movies. Using my imagination has always been key in Dragon Warrior/Quest games. Don't take that away from me.
  • Keep puzzles to a minimum. Don't use the Wii remote to do a bunch of stupid puzzles in dungeons. There are two reasons I don't replay Dragon Warrior VII: That stupid opening dungeon with all the puzzles, and the lack of a true overworld.
  • Dragon Quest can be extremely simple, when considering input methods. The PS2 controller, for Dragon Quest VIII, for example, felt ridiculous because there were 400 buttons that were completely unnecessary. Give us a Wii remote-only option, where we use its pointer to control the whole game one-handed if we choose to. Think of a DS game, and touching the screen to direct your characters around on the map, and using the touch-screen to select menu options during fights. Let us point to drag-and-drop items into the Alchemy Pot. Shoot, why not let us drag-and-drop during fight sequences? Drag the "Fight" option to the enemy or group, let it highlight, and let go to select. This could be extremely intuitive. No more "A button spamming"-- just a few flicks of the wrist.
  • Integrate with Dragon Quest IX. Incentivize and reward your customers for owning multiple platforms and multiple games that you've published. DS and Wii can integrate together nicely, and I know you can come up with some interesting rewards for people who've put hundreds of hours into Dragon Quest IX (or even IV, V, and VI).
  • Second quest ideas: Customers want a lot of content and high replayability value out of a Dragon Quest game. A lot of people who play Dragon Quest games do so because of their familiarity with the rest of the series. Why not incentivize them to play through the game a second time? It could be really easy to include options like "Play through again with DQ3's music", or "Play through again with custom characters modeled after Taloon (Torneko) and Yangus". These tiny differences could make 2nd and 3rd playthroughs even more desirable. There is plenty of space on a Wii DVD disk for these tiny content additions. (Attention Square-Enix reps: I have a lot more ideas like this. Hit me up. lulzzz.)
  • Remember the overworld. The overworld is super-important (exploration and discovery is key!), and with the size of a Wii DVD, it could be HUGE. Make it huge. Give us fun little caves to discover with simple treasures inside. Take a page from DQ3 and model the overworld map to be loosely based on Earth. This kind of familiarity with the overworld is incredibly fun. A slightly-different-but-similar-to-Earth overworld map gets people thinking "Oh... this is probably New Zealand... but it's way over there! It reminds me of Pangea."
  • Content is not always restricted to the game itself. Include a fold-out map in the box. Give us a detailed full-color manual with the game. Print a chart of spells and skills on the back of the map. Taking the game world outside of the game and into your living room is cruicial to creating a lasting experience-- just ask Bethesda. You could take a lot form the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion "experience" and make it your own. Also, take a page from Final Fantasy VI: Give the in-game characters default names, but let us change them if we want. I personally enjoy using the names of my friends and family who have passed away, as it gives me the feeling of adventuring with them in the afterlife. This is my favorite thing to do in a JRPG, and it is always a huge disappointment when I don't get the option to rename my characters. This is MY GAME. I don't care what you wanted the characters names to be-- They're mine now. I paid for them, I am going to train and customize and clothe and heal and take care of them. Mine.
It would be great to see the "perfect" Dragon Quest game for Wii. I believe it's the perfect platform to do the job right now. Point-and-click and drag-and-drop seem like completely obvious evolutions for menu-based JRPG games, but it seems that developers are uninterested in using the Wii pointer like a mouse (this is puzzling).

My primary concern is having to swing the damn remote around for every battle. Let's just hope they're at least in-touch with Wii owners enough to know better than that :P

How else could Square-Enix make sure hat Dragon Quest X works well with the Wii's capabilities and shortcomings? I'm interested to hear about what other fans of Wii and the Dragon Quest series have to say. Do you think I'm wrong about any of this stuff? I really want to know what you guys think.


  1. I haven't played a Dragon Quest/Warrior game, unfortunately, but I agree with the overall points you made about developing for the Wii.

    One of the biggest examples for me of a motion-control faux pas was Call of Duty 3. They put these annoying bits in where you had to, say, put an explosive on something, wind it up, and pull the pin out to arm it, but the motion for pulling the pin out was woefully unresponsive to the point where you would just be standing there getting shot in the back with your hands on the bomb. At least the actual aiming and shooting wasn't too bad, and you didn't have to use a motion for grenades if you didn't want to...

    Anyway, I'll try to remember to keep Dragon Quest X on my radar as a possible great RPG for the Wii (though with college coming up, it may not matter...)

  2. Never have played or even been interested in Dragon Quest before, but now I must admit I'm pretty excited about it. The last damn good RPG I played was Golden Sun (& The Lost Age), awesome old school turn-based, and for the last few years I've heard that DQ is pretty good, simple and fun. Will get it by Monday tops. :)

  3. Crono... you should pick up Glory of Heracles... its really good! :)

  4. Very good article, I must say I agree with most points on your list.

    There is one I disagree though, the one about heavy cutscenes. DQ VIII has awesome cutscenes with voices and it brings emotion to the game to a certain extend that was close to some Final Fantasy games. It is a very interesting way to unfold the story and to keep the player interested in knowing what's coming up next.

    I agree with you though, that they have to be limited and by being a player, not a movie watcher you must control a big part of the game.

  5. I agree and disagree:

    * Local multiplayer: YES YES A THOUSAND TIMES YES!
    * Motion controls: Either way.
    * Cut-scenes: BIG disagree, loved DQ VIII, want more of that.
    * Text: Disagree. For the sake of the franchise, no text please.
    * Puzzles: Either way.
    * Controls: Either way.
    * DQ IX Integration: Agreed!
    * Second Quest: Sure, but I'd rather extra quests and other DLC like in DQ IX.
    * Overworld: Disagree about Earth-map. What is this, an episode of Star Trek where the "new planet" inexplicably looks like ours? Lame. The exploration in DQ VIII was the best of any game I've ever played, more please (except no random battles; do monsters like DQ IX).
    * Maps etc in box: Either way.

    To sum up, if they deliver the game that is a natural growth of DQ VIII and DQ IX, it'll be awesome. The only really super idea here is the local multiplayer. That would make it the best game ever.

    P.S. Casino and monster collecting please!