E3 has many of us bubbling with exciting discussion over things like Final Fantasy VII, Kisckstater successes, and other reveals that were rumored but still unexpected. Among the more likely of those confirmed rumors was From Software’s next project, Dark Souls III. And yes, the subject of this game got me thinking about the industry at large so brace yourselves, dear readers, for another examination of this industry through the lens of a beloved series of mine.
The Souls series has gained great notoriety but its past is a bit confused, especially to those who have come into the series from the middle, likely with the original Dark Soul or Dark Souls II. With Demon’s Souls, the Dark Souls series and now Bloodborne as well as people wondering about the state of a possible Demon’s Souls II, I would forgive almost anyone for losing track of what this series means and how, if at all, these entries are supposed to be connected. In searching for that connection, I would expect most to begin clicking on various Youtube lore explanation videos to suss out the intended secret nods to each game in the series. But doing so misses the true connection, and it is a connection I wish would be made more often among the mainstream buyers.
Hidetaka Miyazaki is that connection, not the lore and not the gameplay, it is also not the subtle nods or allusions to some cameo characters (like Patches), it is instead the director. While only on board Dark Souls II in a supervisory capacity, Miyazaki has had an influential hand in all of the games I have listed thus far. These are not “Souls games” or “Soulslike games” or whatever other clever names people have come up with, these are “Miyazaki games”. This distinction of a game belonging to its lead talent and not to the genre of gameplay is largely unprecedented in the games industry.
Readers of Lcom will no doubt want to say “but what about Sakaguchi or Miyamoto or Levine or Carmack or any other number of more veteraned and accomplished names in game development?” They are well known to us, people who would read a long-form editorial about the state of the games industry, but to the majority of people those names are smaller compared to Final Fantasy, Super Mario Bros., Bioshock, or Doom. Compared to movies and books, game directors’ names are much more inside baseball. Most readers know what a Steven King book is and most movie goers know what a Martin Scorsese film is, but most gamers do not know what a Hidetaka Miyazaki game is, instead calling those games after the game title.
The social currency (or lack of it) of a developer’s name means more than just what we are calling these projects, it means a developer can get hemmed in by their own successes. Since Miyazaki has worked very hard (and not alone) to build up the Souls brand, it means he is in some ways obligated to stick with that brand. Starting over with something like Bloodbrone was exciting and refreshing to me, but had this been called Darks Souls III there is little doubt the legwork of PR would have been mostly accomplished ahead of time. And so, Miyazaki is now directly involved in Dark Soul III which is a game I feel had to be made more than wanted to be made. From Software would be insane to drop all of the cache the Souls name has. But if that cache was instead attached to the director, maybe he would be freer to make more fresh starts than retread sequels.
This is not to say sequels or even retreads or all bad, look at how the internet collectively orgasmed over the announcement of a remake a few days ago. But it does not bode particularly well for the kinds mysterious games Miyazaki seems adept a creating. With more games in the series, there is more obligation to expand and dilute the fanbase, there is more incentive to pull back the curtains that concealed the mystery. That mystery is the lifeblood of those games, and though it may just sound like thin storytelling to the uninitiated, it needs to be preserved for these games to work.
But maybe that is just a very specific case and other series do not stand to gain from having a more notorious director. So do you think these “big names” of development need to get bigger or would you say they already are? If they got bigger would that present problems of its own? I actually have a few counter points to my own argument here, but I want to know what you think first and then we can see if our thoughts line up at all. Give it some thought!