Inuzuka joined Enix Corporation (now Square Enix Co., Ltd.) in 1992 and has served as the producer of the DRAGON QUEST MONSTERS series, the DRAGON QUEST MONSTERS: JOKER series, and the new DRAGON QUEST spin-off series, DRAGON QUEST TREASURES.
TOSE Co., Ltd.
TOSE Co., Ltd. was founded in 1979 and has been a one-stop shop for outsourced development services including planning, developing, debugging, and managing games along with other digital content. As a dedicated development team with the largest development organization in Japan, TOSE supports high-end, high-quality game development, leveraging its extensive technical expertise, including the use of Unreal Engine and other state-of-the art development tools. TOSE is dedicated to working with clients to create digital content and services that can be enjoyed by a wide audience.
For 36 years, the DRAGON QUEST series has enthralled and entertained fans worldwide. The series began with the original DRAGON QUEST on the Nintendo Famicom in 1986. The franchise is a cornerstone of the role-playing genre, with GameSpot calling it “the most influential role-playing game of all time.”Since then, the series has grown to 11 main entries and a host of spin-offs, including the DRAGON QUEST MONSTERS series, the DRAGON QUEST HEROES series, and the DRAGON QUEST BUILDERS series.
The latest release is DRAGON QUEST TREASURES, developed by Square Enix Co., Ltd. and TOSE Co., Ltd. Starring the sibling duo of Erik and Mia from DRAGON QUEST XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age, TREASURES finds them in Draconia, a new land that players can explore to find glorious treasure. They can also befriend cute iterations of familiar DRAGON QUEST series monsters in a game that IGN called “charming” and “relaxing.”
Our sense of adventure led us to talk with Square Enix and TOSE about developing a new game in the series, capturing the feeling of DRAGON QUEST, and how Unreal Engine helped bring the game to life.
DRAGON QUEST TREASURES is a new game in the long-running DRAGON QUEST franchise. What was the inspiration behind this new title?
Taichi Inuzuka, DRAGON QUEST TREASURES Producer: DRAGON QUEST TREASURES started off as a new entry in the DRAGON QUEST MONSTERS series, but following many twists and turns along the way it ended up becoming a new spin-off instead.
DRAGON QUEST TREASURES stars two characters from DRAGON QUEST XI, Erik and his sister Mia. Why was this pair chosen as the leads of this spin-off?
Inuzuka: Ever since DRAGON QUEST XI, the siblings have become the de facto choice whenever a game calls for a boy/girl duo.
Why did it make sense to have DRAGON QUEST TREASURES take place before DRAGON QUEST XI?
Inuzuka: Two reasons: I wanted to tell a story about childhood, and I wanted to make a game that didn’t directly affect the narrative of DRAGON QUEST XI.
In the game, players can befriend various DRAGON QUEST series monsters and search for treasure, which is similar to previous DRAGON QUEST MONSTERS games. How does DRAGON QUEST TREASURES differentiate itself from those titles?
Inuzuka: Though the two series have similar gameplay elements, DRAGON QUEST MONSTERS and DRAGON QUEST TREASURES have different goals: to entertain players with monsters in the former and with treasure hunts in the latter.
Given DRAGON QUEST's series history with turn-based combat, why did the team decide to go with real-time action combat for Treasures?
Inuzuka: I think that spin-off series should be challenging, so this decision came naturally from the very beginning. On the contrary, it never even occurred to me to go with turn-based combat in Treasures.
Unlike some previous DRAGON QUEST series, Erik and Mia cannot use magic spells powered by MP, instead shifting the system to the use of limited magical items via targeted slingshot. Why was this new magic system the right choice for DRAGON QUEST TREASURES?
Inuzuka: In DRAGON QUEST XI, Erik and Mia were thieves, not mages, but they had to use elements of magic spells (like Frizz and Crack) due to how the game was structured. This informed our design of the new magic system.
Can you talk about how you approached monster design and balance in the game?
Inuzuka: We designed the monsters to emphasize how cute they are. They aren’t just obstacles to be defeated; they’re important world building elements that capture the essence of DRAGON QUEST in general and TREASURES in particular.
Being a treasure-hunting game, how did the team approach designing DRAGON QUEST TREASURES’ environments?
Inuzuka: The main focus of the game shifted to treasure hunting in the middle of development, so not everything was made with treasure hunting in mind. We picked and chose from elements that were originally intended for the DRAGON QUEST MONSTERS series, making adjustments here and there, removing anything that wouldn’t be needed for treasure hunting, and expanding on elements that seemed like they would be important. As approaches to game design go, I think that this is a rather unique case.
Players can establish their own gangs and bases in DRAGON QUEST TREASURES. Did the team have any design goals here?
Inuzuka: We added these to serve as a “home base” for players where they can build camaraderie with both players and monsters they have befriended.
In addition to monsters, players will occasionally run into rival gangs who try to steal your treasure or attack your hideout. Can you talk about what this system adds to the experience?
Inuzuka: We introduced this system to express our vision of a world where players compete with rival gangs, as well as to add some urgency when players are hunting for treasure.
Players can tackle Treasure Dungeons, which are randomized dungeon encounters. How did the team approach tuning these encounters to make them challenging for players?
Inuzuka: By introducing monsters with widely varying appearances and parameters, these Treasure Dungeons serve as places to look for companions. They have also been designed to maintain a good combat tempo.
Why was Unreal Engine a good fit for DRAGON QUEST TREASURES?
TOSE Co., Ltd: Because we were targeting the Nintendo Switch platform, performance was top of mind while we developed the game. Unreal Engine’s rich feature set allowed us to make the appropriate adjustments and finish the game without a hitch.
It was also extremely helpful to have access to Unreal Engine’s source code, allowing us to find bugs and pinpoint bottlenecks on our own.
Adjusting the game’s balance was easy, as well, because Unreal Engine could handle even our more difficult demands. Given that gameplay involves hunting for treasure in vast fields, Unreal Engine had all the features we needed to create open-world maps without difficulty.
Were there any Unreal Engine tools or features that helped in the development of DRAGON QUEST TREASURES?
TOSE: As developers, we felt that Unreal Engine provided an environment that allowed us to focus on creative work. Unreal Engine’s Post Process Effects include rich functionality for fine-tuning graphics; the ability to apply changes in real-time while playing the game really helped to improve its quality. With respect to materials, artists could use Blueprints to take an active role in experimenting with shaders, which had traditionally been created by programmers.
Sequencer was easy to use, as well, and allowed us to iterate quickly. We had all the features we needed to create event demos; this was extremely helpful in raising the bar on quality. Regarding 3D graphics, Unreal Engine’s standard feature set includes culling and level-of-detail (LOD) visualization, which we felt made it easier to check and adjust rendering workloads.
We are also indebted to the Unreal Developer Network (UDN). Though it isn’t a tool or feature, when we had a question the Epic Games staff responded quickly, allowing us to easily check on features we had never used before and resolve problems as soon as we encountered them.
In terms of data management, Unreal Engine can integrate with version control tools like Subversion and Perforce (P4) to consolidate complicated workflows all in one place. Collections, while having a very specific use case, were also quite useful. They made it easy to immediately open frequently used levels and other assets to access data. Collections also allowed us to clearly see relationships between data; this prevented us from carelessly deleting things that were still in use.
Thank you for your time! Where can people learn more about DRAGON QUEST TREASURES?