It's nearly been a month since Wild Hearts came out, and yet already we can see the success of Omega Force's monster hunting game. Offering plenty of epic beasts to take down and a vibrant world to explore, Wild Hearts has proven a hit with fans and critics alike.
Recently, we sat down with the game directors Kotaro Hirata and Takuto Edagawa to talk about how they're feeling after Wild Hearts' warm reception, the future of the game, and what it looked like in the early stages of development.
After the initial greetings and a short congratulations on the success of Wild Hearts, we got right down to business, asking both directors how they've found the reception. Check out the transcript below:
"Well," Hirata-san said. "It has been received very favourably by the market, the fans love it, and the development team is happy about the situation. But, at the same time, there have been some requests to fix things here and there, with updates and things like that. So, there's a lot to do."
It seems like a mix of both validation and a need to keep the work going, but Omega Force is no stranger to the monster hunting genre. It's previous franchise, Toukiden, hasn't had an entry in some time, but it's clear there was some influence in Wild Hearts.
"Toukiden is a great series, and the know-how gained from developing Toukiden is still alive in Wild Hearts. But, Toukiden left something to be desired in terms of sales and outreach. With Wild Hearts, we wanted to change all that. First of all, we wanted to create a great hunting action game that could be enjoyed by fans all over the world, and our insight for that was the Kemono, the prey that the player go after. We wanted the creatures to be recognisable for the players no matter who they are or where they're from."
Running along that same line, in Toukiden, a lot of the monsters we see reflect mythology, whereas Wild Hearts' Kemono showcases beasts bonded with nature. Could you talk a little bit more about the decision behind creating this strong connection to the natural world for Wild Hearts' monsters?
"In creating the prey in Wild Hearts, it was important that the kemono had a high sense of familiarity, and at the same time the players had to be afraid of them. We thought about a lot of things but eventually settled on nature and animals, as everyone can recognise the natural world but it can also be something people are afraid of as well. These were our two motifs."
The fear is an interesting concept, as it almost makes it feel like a necessity to bring down these creatures rather than you just hunting them for glory. Did you include any similar themes like this in the creation of the kemono?
"The design of the kemono came after the theme was established. There are a lot of Japanese cultural elements put into the kimono, and our idea was 'what would happen if all of human artificial structures were swallowed up by the natural world?'"
Among the kemono designs, do you guys have any favourites?
"I like the ragetail," said Edagawa. "It was the first kemono that appears in the game and it has both the beauty of the nature and it has the threatening element too. I also like earthbreaker, with the artificial structure on its back like houses, that very unique design." Hirata, on the other hand, chose the Kingtusk among the various creatures. "I like the kingtusk," he said. "Because it's the first kemono we created, and we used Kingtusk to create the battle system. Without Kingtusk, this game would not exist."
Alongside the kemono populating the world, something else that stuck out to me as intriguing was the world of Wild Hearts, and there seemed to be a lot more to explore outside of Azuma. Is there the potential for us to explore these lands to the West and North in the future?
"Well when we started the development of the game it was important for us to make a fictional but realistic world. To make it realistic we looked at a lot of things, and actually started by creating a timeline. We knew from the start that Azuma would be a world, but by creating this timeline and comparing it with what actually happened in Japan in history, we explored a lot of settings. There is the potential for additional contents there, but we didn't intentionally ignore distant parts of the world because we have future content planned."
It was mentioned previously that karakuri were implemented in order to prevent Wild Hearts from being too difficult. Were there any other mechanics brought in or left out early on in development that would've altered the difficulty?
"We knew from the beginning this game had to be unique and offer a one-of-a-kind experience. One of the first things we tried was basing the game on hanging onto the kemono, something that you can do in the final game as a more subtle element. We also tried basing the game purely on shooting, and another idea had several hundreds of players working together to take down kemono. Through trial and error we settled on the idea of karakuri because it can be creative and offer the players a new experience."
There seems to be a way to counter each of the kemono with karakuri, was this rock, paper, scissors style of gameplay also conceptualised early on?
"The counter action is by intention, and we originally designed the karakuri to expand the player's actions and alternatives, but the effect expanded to be bigger than that. If you come up with the right approach with a kemono, you can give yourself a big advantage. This part of the design was established very early on, but it's not obvious or easy to come up with the right approach and actions due to the kemono having a lot of actions they can do as well."
Wild Hearts is the latest success for EA Originals, how was working alongside EA to create this game and was there much of an influence in development?
"EA Originals as a label had its own policy, but in our case they really respected developer creativity. They provided advice and support but in the end it was up to us to make the final decisions. They did not handcuff us in any way, and in fact it was a very good working relationship and good collaboration. EA's servers let us make cross-play a reality, for example, and they helped us greatly in the area of localisation."