Mr Tales himself, game Producer Hideo Baba, spoke to MyM about what’s new and what’s coming soon in the ever-growing RPG series – including Tales Of Xillia 2 and Tales Of Zestiria. James Pickard reports…
MyM: Tales Of Xillia 2 begins about one year after the end of the first game – what’s happened in the game world since then?
Hideo Baba: Basically, Tales Of Xillia 2 is a whole new adventure in the world. The events that have taken place in the storyline between both games are not described in any detailed way, but you can feel the changes in each character and see how they’ve changed since then. You can imagine how they’ve grown up between these two games.
One of the big features you’ve introduced in Tales Of Xillia 2 is player choice. How did you incorporate that idea into a massive RPG?
When we first set out the main theme for Tales Of Xillia 2 we wanted to focus on how important choices are and what their impact could be. Then we started considering some of the best ways to incorporate that idea into the game and settled upon using a player choice system.
How much has the decision to include a choice system been influenced by the success of Western RPGs that put a greater emphasis on the freedom of player choice?
It’s a little different in Tales Of Xillia 2. With a lot of the choices you have to make in the storyline it’s more about the reaction from the characters you are with or changes to the events following immediately after your decision. We haven’t got many significant branching choices that will affect the ultimate ending or anything like that. Of course, there are some important decisions to make that will affect the ending, but I won’t say how many there are. I hope you enjoy finding them, though!
What’s it like having the responsibility of being the brand manager of the entire Tales series?
My strategy is to always find more ways to introduce the series to new players while also ensuring our existing fans will be satisfied with the new game. I think there are a lot of traditional features in the Tales series that are far too crucial and important to be removed, but, on the other hand, I know we have to introduce new ideas and improvements, too.
If we kept making the same game over and over again the fans would realise very quickly! However, if I did remove every traditional feature, it wouldn’t look like a Tales game, so it’s important to carefully balance out the old and the new. We need to mix these features very carefully, so some of the things we know are important to keep are the characters, the entertaining skits and the highly appreciated battle systems.
Where do your inspirations for story and characters come from?
My inspiration comes from many different areas, but one I look to for ideas is the current social situation – not only in Japan but also worldwide. For example, in Japan there are so many young people who cannot leave their homes or their rooms and I really wanted to send a message to these people through my games. More broadly, I sometimes look back to Japanese and world history for story ideas.
Are games an ideal medium to explore those ideas and other similar subject matter with such focus?
I think so. When talking about movies or novels, for example, the reader or viewer can feel there’s an important message but that cannot have any impact on the storyline. On the other hand, videogames are interactive entertainment, so they can! In a game it is much easier for the player to feel sympathy for the characters because they can have some impact or involvement in the storyline.
Is writing the story your favourite part of designing an RPG?
Even though it’s very challenging and hard work I really enjoy everything when designing a game. I do especially enjoy plotting out the game from the beginning to the end, though.
You’ve only recently made an announcement regarding the game, but is there anything you can tell us about Tales Of Zestiria at this time?
I was really pleased to make a worldwide announcement about Tales Of Zestiria last year, so I can promise that Zestiria is coming to Europe, the UK and the rest of the world. We are still developing the game, though, so I cannot reveal any specific details or a release window at the minute. What I can promise is a whole new chapter in the series and some exciting new features so please stay tuned for more information!
Photography: Kay Ibrahim