Dark Souls 2, Popularity and Edge Magazine’s Big Mouth

Dark Souls 2 is announced and I’m obviously excited. I have the same concerns as everyone else. I’m a fan of Miyazaki, Shibuya’s comments about preferring “direct” over “subtle” concern me, but ultimately I’m positive. It takes a company and a complete culture to make a game like Dark Souls and I don’t think Shibuya, a former Monster Hunter guy, can ruin it. His strengths will be shared with the project. I’ve even heard that Miyazaki has said in a Japanese interview that he wouldn’t even want to direct another Souls game — not because he doesn’t want to do one, but because he wants to be freed of the ‘director’ responsibilities so he can get more down and dirty with design. The role of Supervisor is a vague one, so what he’ll actually be doing is anyone’s guess. Hopefully more rather than less.

Still, there was a line in the Edge Magazine teaser that bothered me. Some people even attributed this to From Soft due to shoddy writing on Edge Magazine’s part.

We sympathise if that sort of statement concerns you, but at the same time, we can surely agree that we would all like to see Dark Souls attain as great a presence as The Elder Scrolls. How it gets there is a worthy matter for debate, but it’s certainly a noble task.

No, we can’t all agree on this. Perhaps in a theoretical world where the Souls games could get to Elderscrolls level without compromise, sure, but we do not live in that world. The compromises needed to make a Souls game as popular as an Elderscrolls game would kill the essence of what makes it a Souls game. And on a financial side, if it tried to compete with that audience, could it even win, or would it instead kill the series? The strength of niches is the fanatic level of devotion fans have. You might not be able to support the most massive projects off a niche, but they can be safe and stable once you have a fanbase. Dark Souls proved From has access to quite a sizable niche and it makes sense to grow it more. Adding accessibility, even if it negatively effects me, is probably for the best as long as it done cautiously and tastefully. I don’t think people should have to look up what “poise” does or have to read that resistance is a dumb stat. I even think having a more direct, top layer narrative would be fine, as long as the subtle layers are just as deep. It could even be a tool to make players dig deeper. It’s easy to play Dark Souls and think there is no plot or lore to be found and that’s a shame. So you can make a friendlier and more accessible game and hopefully From will do it as tastefully as I hope they do it. I hope Dark Souls gets as popular as it can, without horribly compromising its self. But that basically assures it will never be as popular as something like Skyrim. Even if it could, that isn’t a ‘noble goal’. The “noble goal” would be not to compromise — to make one’s art with passion. To do what one things is best for the ‘game’ rather than maximizing profits. We can’t expect a company to do that, but putting forth the idea that cashing in a Brand Name to try to get Skyrim-Dollars is a ‘noble goal’ is absurd. For art, popularity and money is not a ‘noble goal’, it is a necessity and the means to an end.

Again, these are Edge’s words, not From’s. Regardless, they still make me cringe, even if I’m still expecting the best out of From Software.