Originally posted on 14 August 2018
Source: Echo Night Perfect Guide, page 128-131

Echo Night: Developer Interview

Wandering around an extravagant passenger ship from the start of the century - how many people around these days have had that experience? But the 3D space they have created allows us to faithfully experience that atmosphere.

23 July 1998
Recorded at From Software

Akinori Kaneko (program)
Toshifumi Nabeshima (planning)
Sakumi Watanabe (character design)
Keiichiro Segawa (sound)

Akinori Kaneko Toshifumi Nabeshima Sakumi Watanabe Keiichiro Segawa
From Software CS Development Division 3 From Software production department From Software production department From Software production department
In charge of main program. Was involved with Echo Night from the experimental stages of 3D space construction before game development began. In charge of planning and scenario. Created the core elements of an adventure game from proposing many tricks to worldview and story background. In charge of graphics. Created all visuals, from characters to props, and the designs serving as the basis for polygonal models from rough sketches. In charge of sound. Focuses on creating tracks specifically to be used for game music. Favourites include Crea's theme and the observatory theme.

●A world in which drawers have keyholes

―When you think of From Software's games, it's RPG King's Field (below, KF) and shooter Armored Core (below, AC) that come to mind. Please tell us what led you to this time wanting to take on the challenge of the adventure genre.

Nabeshima: We didn't set out in the beginning intentionally trying to make an adventure game. With both KF and AC, 3D spaces using polygons are our field of expertise, but if you take KF III for example, we've made realistic spaces like having a house in the middle of a square and there's a desk inside that house. We had this proposal where we'd try experimentally making a world where we took this one step further and gave that desk a drawer, and the drawer a keyhole. It was nothing more than an experiment in the beginning, but it went pretty well, so we decided to try making a game out of it. Initially, it was set in a place like a Western-style house, but that gave it a dark and quiet air, so we thought it would be better not to make it a game like KF where you have frenzied fights. We wondered what type of game would be most fitting, and from that arrived at adventure.

Kaneko: In a game like KF, things like the enemy characters take up polygons. The first research I did was going ahead and eliminating those, which allowed us to dedicate more polygons to showing things like rooms and create a more realistic-looking space.

―Roughly when did the planning begin?

Kaneko: I think we started our testing in about summer of last year. The program came first, and we tried out a lot of different things with it.

Nabeshima: It was in around October that we decided to have it set on a boat.

―The difficulty seems fairly subdued in comparison to KF and AC. Was that something you were conscious of?

Nabeshima: We didn't think too much about it. We did decide not to do anything too absurd, though. Not like the game suddenly becoming tricky out of nowhere for no good reason.

―Why did the setting change from a Western house to a ship?

Nabeshima: Well, Western-style houses are something that often gets used as the setting for adventure games, so we wondered if we could do it somewhere else. If it were too spacious of a place it would lack unity, so it would be an insular space, something original.

Kaneko: Like a hospital or abandoned building.

Nabeshima: Or an abandoned lab.

―So you all worked together to come up with settings, and finally arrived at a boat. Where, then, did the idea to come and go between the boat and the past world come from?

Nabeshima: At first it was a pretty conventional story where the protagonist had companions and got lost inside the ship. As we were making it, though, we realised that if you spent the whole time on the boat, everything would end up looking the same. You could predict what would be on the other side of the door when you opened it. So we started thinking, how could we add to it with worlds like a castle, a train, etc.? That's how it became a story about travelling between the past and the boat.

―When you're thrust into the past world, the first thing you do is wander around the building.

Kaneko: If the first thing that happened when you're flung into the past is appearing inside a room, it becomes difficult to tell the different between that and moving around the boat. First of all we show you the outside in an attempt to indicate to you that you've arrived in a totally different world.

―But when you think about things like the modelling done and camerawork added for just a few seconds, it's amazing.

●Reproducing an extravagant ship from the beginning of the century

―When you were hammering out the plan for the game, that was before Titanic created a stir, wasn't it?

Nabeshima: Right. We were just starting to work on things like the scenario then, and it was like, "Hey they're doing a movie about the Titanic in America." "Oh yeah?"

―It must have been quite painstaking to create the atmosphere of a ship from that time, though.

Nabeshima: We had to spend a lot of time researching. Even though they're all boats, things like yachts and battleships do have data on them, but it doesn't exactly help much. We did go and see the Hikawa Maru at the Port of Yokoyama, though.

―The passenger cabins would be one thing, but how would you go about researching things like the construction of the engine room...?

Kaneko: We used things like the engine room scene near the end of Titanic as reference for that stuff.

Nabeshima: We looked at things like model ships and pictures in some books and thought ah, that's what they're like. That was definitely the part that took the most time.

―Were there any other things likes films and books you used as reference when bringing together the worldview?

Nabeshima: It's a bit of an old film, but The Poseidon Adventure was where the initial idea of the protagonist having companions came from.

Kaneko: I was in charge of staging, so I watched several horror movies and things like that.

●About half of our ideas got implemented

―About what percentage of the tricks you all came up with were implemented into the game?

Kaneko: About half, I think.

Nabeshima: For this game I did the planning by myself, then got some ideas later on from Mr. Kaneko and chose the ones we could use from that. There were some we couldn't get in due to running out of time.

Watanabe: After I did the designs and handed them over, I had no idea what got used for the game. I'd play it and think, "Wait, that thing I drew isn't here. Huh?" So I'd ask, "Did you take it out?" and they'd be like, "Yeah." (laughs)

―Why did you abolish combat?

Nabeshima: One reason was that we wanted to preserve the dark, quiet atmosphere. Also, strong action elements are popular in adventure games at the moment, but we wanted to make it so that you could take your time to think and enjoy it. So while there are enemies, you have to use not guns or knives but tricks to deal with them.

―Did you decide right from the start not to have the protagonist appear on screen, too...?

Nabeshima: We went back and forth on that, and actually at one point he was visible. Back then we did things like showing the protagonist crouching.

●The music changes depending on your actions

―Were you in charge of both music and sound effects, Mr. Segawa?

Segawa: That's right. Right now we have three members on the sound team, but we were working on Shadow Tower (below, ST) at the same time so things were really busy, and apparently the next thing they knew it was done.

―The protagonist's footsteps change from moment to moment depending on what the floor is made of, don't they?

Segawa: That was thanks to our footstep-obsessive programmer (laughs) who sat there endlessly going, that's not wood or stone or anything, things like that (laughs). I think we have about ten different types of footsteps alone?

―What were you particularly specific about yourself, Mr. Segawa?

Segawa: It's kind of abstract, but "gamey-ness". "It's like a movie!" often gets used intended as praise, but I wonder if that's really okay. For this game, we made it so that monster tracks only play in areas where a monster's present. The way a track only begins and only ends due to your own actions makes it game-y, so I like it.

―Hearing the laughter when the little girl's ghost appears sends shivers down my spine.

Segawa: Even for the laughter, we had the voice actor do several takes.

Nabeshima: We asked the voice actor to do a scary laugh (laughs). We had her laugh in a few different patterns in succession, then picked what suited what was going on on the screen.

―What kinds of requests for the music did you have from Mr. Nabeshima and Mr. Kaneko?

Kaneko: They were pretty vague directions. Sort of like, give this scene this atmosphere, make the songs tempo around this much, and so on.

Segawa: Actually working out the tracks while listening to them, too.

―Was there anything that gave you trouble working on this at the same time as ST?

Segawa: Well, the games weren't particularly atmospherically different. Just between us, I might even have used a track I'd made for ST in Echo Night instead (laughs).

●Showing their faces clearly was our goal

―You were in charge of design, Ms. Watanabe, but specifically how much...? Just the reference sheets?

Watanabe: Yes. They basically just said to me something like "make whatever you want" (laughs).

―Then you were given an image by Mr. Nabeshima or Mr. Kaneko and turned it into an object to actually appear within the game? Everything from people to backgrounds and props?

Watanabe: Whatever they told me to do (laughs).

―There's a huge number of switches in this game. There are some you press, and some you turn...

Watanabe: They pretty much just said, "Alright, just draw about ten different types." But there are normally two or three different types of switches in a room on a boat, right? So I wasn't sure what to do.

Nabeshima: Nobody knew what kinds of switches were actually used on real boats. You can watch films, but it's not like they do any close-ups on the light switches. So even my directions ended up being abstract. Things like, "Make them look like the sort of light switches a rich person would have," (laughs).

―Most of the characters are shadows. Was it difficult giving them identifying features?

Watanabe: I was given directions like their general age, whether they were rich, whether they didn't have that much money - stuff like that (laughs). But with silhouettes alone, there's not much of a difference when it comes to men.

Kaneko: The first character we created was Crea on the train.

Watanabe: They were like, "Just make her likeable! Make her pink! And frilly!" (laughs).

Nabeshima: We decided not to give the humans expressions in KF, but since this is an adventure game, we talked about wanting to properly show their faces. But what kinds of faces would those be? We couldn't suddenly go and show something intense to the fans of our previous games, so we struggled quite a bit with that.

●Game style and story

―Where did the idea for the astral pieces come from?

Nabeshima: Really, it came from the game-y aspect of it. It's a story about setting free the people who have lingering attachments keeping them in this world, so we thought you'd want some sort of reward for doing that.

―From what you've said so far, it sounds like the construction of the 3D spaces and game style game first and you came up with the background and story later on, but the story is so well put together that I couldn't tell at all.

Nabeshima: There were plenty of ups and downs while we were making it, though. We played it as we made it, so we ended up not really being able to tell. It was like, "I think it's a good story, but will someone seeing it for the first time be moved by it?"

―So you aren't moved to tears by it thinking "this is amazing!" while you write the scenario.

Nabeshima: (laughs) I wonder. Maybe there are people who do that, but I'm more the type to pull back. If anything, I actually end up wondering if it's a bit too cheesy.

―Let me ask about the story. Was the storm that wrecked the Orpheus created by William in order to kill all of the passengers?

Nabeshima: It's a fact that the Orpheus was caught in a storm, but it didn't shipwreck the boat. The power of the red stone grew, sending it into another world.

―What happened to Crea's parents?

Nabeshima: There's a photo hanging in Family Hoom: Sky. It shows Crea's mother and father. They both liked riding on airships, but they died on one in an accident several years before the Orpheus came to be.

―The ghosts of the girl, the woman and the king meet their ends, but William's ghost simply vanishes with the lights on. What happens to him afterwards?

Nabeshima:The final ghost appears as William, but it isn't exactly his soul - its the red stone, having gained too much power, borrowing the form of its previous owner and exerting its power on the outside world.

●Messages to the players

―Finaly, then, please tell us about your aspirations for the future.

Kaneko: It might be quite a way off, but I do want to thoroughly try out a virtual reality where the player can touch anything and everything with their own hands, like a simulator.

Segawa: I hope we could use a sound-based approach, though. Like a game where we put out a CD first, and then you have to solve all of the puzzles by ear (laughs), or having all of the puzzles be using a piano keyboard (laughs).

Nabeshima: I want to try out a bunch of different things, regardless of the genre. We're blessed with an abundance of people at our company who specialise in 3D, so I think we could make it work. There's still room to delve deeper into the possibilities of 3D.

―Finally, a message to the players, if you would.

Segawa: The soundtrack is going to be put on sale, so please give it a listen.

Nabeshima: It's a game with a story, which is unusual for From Software, so I'd really like to hear people's thoughts on it.

Kaneko: We've put a lot of effort into the sound for this game as well, so I hope people enjoy it.

Watanabe: The characters and story are more prominent than in KF, so...

Nabeshima: I think we've been praised in the past for a high level of freedom not constrained by a story, but with Echo Night we aimed to have story and freedom exist in harmony. There are also some parts of the story we purposely left out, so I hope people come up with a lot using their own imaginations.