GAME DESCRIPTION Edit
Dokuro is a stoic, little skeleton who is a mere peon in the Dark Lord’s army. One fateful day he witnesses his master returning with a helplessly abducted Princess, taken with the intent to force a marriage. Immediately sympathetic to her plight, Dokuro resolves to free the Princess from the Dark Lord’s treacherous, monster-infested castle. Along the way, he happens upon a mystical blue potion with the power to transform him into a dashing Hero; tragically, this is the only time the Princess can witness his noble endeavors, as he is all but invisible in his skeletal form. Heedless of any danger, the Princess will continue to walk forward until she encounters an obstacle she cannot overcome on her own. Dokuro must switch between his Skeleton and Hero forms to utilize his various skills and abilities. While the Skeleton form allows him to stalk about in the shadows and ensure her safe passage, the Hero form enables him to mount a gallant offensive against the armies of darkness!
・Captivating chalk style art – Become immersed in the gorgeous fairytale setting as Dokuro sets to save the Princess from the Dark Lord.
・Unique, intuitive controls – Toggle switches, hack away at foes, and draw solutions in chalk to help keep the Princess safe. Players will also make use of both the front touch screen and the rear touch panel to switch between Skeleton and Hero forms.
・Tons of engrossing content – Features almost 150 platform/puzzle filled levels that will require dexterity of both body and mind as you fight through 20-30 hours of gameplay.
・Full complement of trophies to earn – Master the Dark Lord's treacherous puzzles, collect the coins in each level, and complete all challenges ahead of you to earn the coveted platinum trophy.
Developer Spotlight: Noriaki Kazama - Director of DokuroEdit
Our first Developer Spotlight shines on the bright and talented Noriaki Kazama. An industry veteran with a colorful background, Kazama-san has a passion for making fantastic and unique games with "core gamer" difficulty but widely appealing charms.
After spending some time with his latest project, Dokuro, we "chalked up" the following queries which he was more than happy to answer!
Q1:' 'How did you come up with the idea for Dokuro?
Our company held a game concept contest and someone from the sound department came up with the idea. Originally there was nothing like a skeleton involved – just a knight that had to pick up a princess and carry her around.
Q2:' 'Were there any specific events or key principles that influenced the development of Dokuro?
At GameArts we keep a personal webpage where everyone can share their own personal notes. Some chat about games they have played recently or use it to review ramen restaurants. I posted a list of words and phrases that had inspired me and one in particular influenced the part where Dokuro decides to betray the Dark Lord:"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear."
Q3: How did you decide on the graphic style for Dokuro?
I had just had my first child 2 years prior, so I found myself visiting the children’s section of the bookstore more frequently.
I was racking my brain trying to come up with a good, original concept for the previously mentioned contest, and I knew we needed a distinct graphical style that would really catch a lot of attention when seen in magazines or websites. I was convinced that if I couldn’t think of something that would leave an impact on people, I couldn’t even throw my idea into the ring!
Then one day I came across a children’s book illustrated by Komako Sakai. I was so inspired by her art that I actually started crying right there in the bookstore! I wanted to create a game that had an art style as warm and charming as hers, so I purchased the book immediately and brought it to my boss. He was swamped at the time, so he didn’t get to it for about a week – just a few days before the earthquake of 2011.
He picked up the book, took one look at it, and called my extension to say “JUST DO IT!” I was so happy to get the green light that I showed the book to our graphic artist right away. I said to draw something like that, but what he came back with was so far beyond my expectations I remember thinking, “Ah, now I’ve got the answer…”
Q4: How did you come up with the level designs?
As a team, we decided the level concepts and puzzles together. We divided up the stages and began to lay out the level elements like building blocks in our Excel sheet. Once we got far enough along, we would share them with the rest of the team and explain our puzzles and solutions. The rest of the team would then give feedback – which could get pretty harsh at times. You’d often think you’d come up with something really great, but when the rest of the team tore the idea to shreds you’d find yourself going right back to the drawing board until you got it just right. We did this over and over – implementing ideas, getting feedback, and trying again. Some levels that were great on paper turned out to be pretty boring in-game, and vice versa! There was a lot of trial and error but we found it to be a fun and challenging experience. The level designs seemed a bit unbalanced after that, with hills and valleys of difficulty, but in the end we created a gradual difficulty curve that increased as players moved toward their ultimate goal.
Another key factor we agreed upon from the beginning was that the game did not need a difficulty option. Because of this, our team comprised of hardcore gamers actually ended up creating a very challenging experience! Toward the end, we went back and forth with a group of non-gamers and had them test out the first stage over and over again until they were able to clear it. We used their feedback to temper the difficulty in early levels.Q5: We were surprised by the number of levels in the game, but were you planning to create a game of this volume from the beginning? Yes. Actually, at first I was worried that users would be upset there wasn’t enough content! I don’t want to give out any spoilers, but we wanted to put as much into the story as we could (including some fun twists) so users would feel satisfied with the breadth of whole experience.
Q6: What was the biggest challenge you faced in the development process? I can actually think of 2 instances: 1. The game is broken up into sections so that users can start or stop at their leisure. It’s comprised of multiple Stages that each have 10 Areas. Usually, in a game like this you would see a results screen after successfully completing an Area. It would normally flow like this: Area->Results->Area->Results…I believe that this actually takes users away from the experience as they feel a certain sense of satisfaction upon seeing a results screen and they may just want to stop playing. We felt that the story was an important part of this game, and we didn’t want the players to experience that disconnection between each Area. We instead opted to include the flower blooming scene, and players would then go directly to the next stage. Of course, when we chose this method, we had to make sure that all of the Areas in a single Stage connected smoothly.
During the editing phases, if we wanted to lengthen a pit here or add a step there, we had to make sure that it would link up properly with the Area before and after it. This naturally had a great impact on our later Areas and the whole process involved a lot of trial and error. If an Area turned out to be more difficult than a later Area in the same stage, it was no simple matter to fix. If we had stuck with the Area->Results method, we could mix and match the stages however we wanted since nothing would have to connect. In all honesty, this complicated method was something we started to regret later on (laughs), but at the end of the day we’re glad we stuck with this more difficult route – especially when we hear our fans say, “It’s hard to decide when to put this game down.” I really want to thank our team for toughing it out and working with such a vexing and unusual setup!
2. To get the cute graphics we wanted for this game, we actually had to utilize two graphics engines. When we considered what resources we had and what we wanted to accomplish, we realized it was the only choice we had. Working with brand new hardware was challenging enough, so adding two game engines to the mix made this extremely difficult for our team. I’m incredibly grateful for their dedication.
Q7: Despite Dokuro’s cutesy chalk art style, the game ramps up in difficulty quite dramatically and it has some intense action in many parts. Is there anything specific you focus on when you create an action game? I want players to experience both failure and success as I believe both are important components of gameplay. There are some games out there that have extreme difficulty as their only selling point, but I don’t agree with this concept since it really only lets players experience failure. We didn’t want to go that route, so we contemplated on the best way to provide players with controlled failure that lets them experience just the right amount of challenge. As for the action, we were solely focused on button response. We needed to make sure that the character’s responses to each button press were as tight as possible.
Since the players’ reactions must always be connected to the character they control, this is crucial for any good action game. Another thing we concentrated on was the roles for the enemy characters. When creating the combat system, the roles of the minions and bosses were completely different. Minions are just obstacles to get in the way of the player; whereas, bosses are one of the main appeals to an action game. I wanted to make the bosses so strong that the players would feel hopelessly defeated at their first attempt, but after reading the patterns and considering their options they would be able to plan a successful course of attack. This sense of satisfaction for successfully conquering a boss is an essential part of any fun gaming experience. To be fair, the ideas we focused on were actually the same ones considered in just about every action game. We just followed what other well-respected franchises were doing.Q8: What are your impressions on working with the PS Vita? It’s definitely a good piece of hardware! The specs are high, but it’s surprisingly easy to develop for. This project has actually been one of the quickest ones I’ve ever worked on. SCE provided us with some solid support, and I could really see their passion and drive when it came to this new hardware. Originally, we had it so that Dokuro’s transformations were handled by tapping the touchscreen or Rear touch pad respectively. However, when we started debugging the game, we noticed that in more intense gaming sessions, players would inadvertently revert back to Dokuro and have a much harder time with a level. We decided to add the option to use the R button after that, and I think the versatility of the system gave us a good workaround for our problem.
Q9: What was your target age range when considering the difficulty level of the game? Our main audience was teenagers and older who appreciated action/platforming games. Like I mentioned in Q4, the game was made so that even non-gamers could pick it up and enjoy it as well.Some may feel like they can solve a puzzle instantly, while others may feel it’s the most impossible game they’ve ever come across. During the development process, we decided on adding the level skip function that allows players to pass over ten levels that they felt were too difficult. I thought this was an excellent choice because it allowed players to completely experience the game without having to give up because of a hard puzzle or two.
Q10: It looks like the game received some criticism from feminists in North America for its portrayal of a weak princess who’s incapable of doing anything. What are your thoughts on this? I sincerely apologize for this as it was definitely not my intent. I don’t consider myself a sexist person. In the end I was going for a somewhat stereotypical story that would pay homage to classic fairytales. I also wanted the act of “picking up” to be beautiful and dramatic looking. I thought to myself, “What character archetypes would look best in this situation?” My immediate conclusion was a prince and a princess. I would also point out that if the princess really did just keep walking ahead without hesitation, it could create a stressful gameplay experience for the player. This way, she has sense enough to stop when there is an obstacle in her path. It was not meant to be a negative reflection of women so much as a workable game function. If I create another similar game, I will consider a different approach to this type of escort mechanic.Q11: At the end of the game there is a message that shares condolences for the victims of the 2011 earthquake in Japan. Can you provide some details behind this? I remember the afternoon when we were just getting ready to start this project. An earthquake hit our office in the middle of Tokyo, and as we were evacuating I started seeing a flood of Twitter messages from friends and breaking news updates all discussing the horrific details. I spent four hours walking back to my house while listening to a wind up emergency radio that was providing regular updates. With all public transportation shut down, it took one of our staff members eight hours to walk home. Some of our staff didn’t even bother leaving the office because their homes were too far away. The next day, the news was absolutely heart wrenching. Since everything was happening just as the project was kicking off, the game is directly tied to my memories of that earthquake.
At the time I started thinking that it really wasn’t appropriate to make games during such dark times, but as we moved forward I switched gears and realized that becausewe were going through such dark times I really wanted to make a game that was heart-warming and fun for everyone. Another thing that was important to me was that this title was inspired by the children’s books and children in general. Because of that, I truly wanted to offer my deepest condolences to all those who suffered in the earthquake – especially the children. Adding that message at the end seemed the most natural way to express these feelings and I negotiated with the company president to let me include it.
Q12: What would you like to tell the Western fans? Thanks for your passionate interest in Dokuro and his epic adventure. The team and I have poured everything we have into this game! It’s got both action and puzzle elements, so it’s a little hard to pin it to a single genre. We believe we have created something fun – and in the end, that’s all that really matters. All of us here at PonKotz Troops hope this game provides countless hours of enjoyment for you!GungHo Online America Official Facebook Fanpage