New Tales of Arise Staff Interview Discusses Unforeseen Console Generation Challenges, Graphical Development & Combat Balance

Bandai Namco Japan’s website has recently added a lengthy interview conducted with several members of Tales of Arise’s development team. It has been divided into two halves, with the second releasing at a later, unspecified date.

Our team’s Ryuji has provided a translated summation of the first half’s key points regarding console release timing, the atmospheric shader’s birth, and the combat system.

Interviewees:

  • Yoshimasa Tanaka – Development Producer
  • Shouji Ikegami – Project Manager & Next-Gen Development Producer
  • Hirokazu Kagawa – Director
  • Minoru Iwamoto – Art Director & Character Designer
  • Hiroyuki Kobayashi – Graphical Programmer
  • Moeka Oshiyama – Project Manager

Postponement of Plans Due to Next-Gen Hardware

The original plan was to release Tales of Arise in 2020, and indeed, development had pretty much concluded in time for that original scheduling, but then the game released in September 2021, so what’s up with that? 

Well, in 2020, the developers had discussed the need to support the upcoming next-gen consoles. That is, the Xbox Series X|S and the PlayStation 5. They felt that those consoles were an integral point for Tales of Arise. It was a large-scale title, so there was a lot of back-and-forth within Bandai Namco about when they should release the game. 

And that is when Shouji Ikegami joined the project. Since it would’ve been impossible to develop the next-gen version simultaneously with the current-gen one, he created a specific team to do just that.

Overall, it was a difficult call to make, especially with such a tall order of enhancing the graphics while still making sure that the current-gen version wasn’t severely inferior to the next-gen release. Still, though tired, the development team persisted and they’re really happy that they marched on with that decision.

Tales of Arise 3

Developing the “Atmospheric Shader”

Now, let’s rewind to 2015, where Hiroyuki Kobayashi and Minoru Iwamoto discussed various graphical styles. The art direction for Arise was decided in 2016. Their goal was to aim for a “succession and evolution” style, where the naturalistic parts were drawn with a realistic tone while still looking like illustrations. They wanted to inherit the exemplary qualities of the “Tales of” series while still making a leap forward as a new “Tales of” game.

Then, an idea was born: “What would happen if the warmth and 2D graphics of the Tales of series were depicted with today’s technology?”

And thus, their research of style began. And, after repeated considerations of various types of expressions, the watercolor-like depiction was decided, and the Atmospheric Shader was born.

Once again, during the development of the next-gen version, complications arose. One of the issues lied with the Unreal Engine, which was the game engine used for Arise. While it is fantastic, boasting several positive traits, there were many unforeseen obstacles.

For one, the versions of the engine used in the current-generation and next-generation releases are very different. Therefore, the developers had to make sure that the game would work on both versions, without much compromise. Secondly, the simultaneous release of the title on multiple platforms was problematic, because while it’d be fine with the PC version, the console iterations were more challenging to solidify the quality of. (While each PC system is “unique” in its own way, a console is not.)

Tales of Arise 1

From Battle Conceptualization to Actualization

Early on in development, Arise’s battle system was nothing like how it is in its final state. Since the battle system was intended to create a new generation of “Tales of” as a series, evolution was crucial.

“I wanted the system to be easily understood, simple to operate, and exhilarating to play.” Kagawa stated. The reason for this was that the developers felt that the systems in the “Tales of” series had become increasingly complex, so they wanted to make it intuitive and straightforward to understand.

For example, making the enemy’s weak points easier to see was one such choice for the aforementioned design philosophy. They also wanted to make it simpler to target those weak points amidst the action. The team focused on how to efficiently execute each technique. By identifying the enemies’ actions, it becomes elementary for allies to strike them down.

Another goal was to make the enemies feel more threatening than ever before. So, from the planning stages, it was already decided to make the bosses’ sizes large. This was done so that the player would feel intimidated and perceive these foes as legitimate threats, as if they were suddenly thrust into a final battle of sorts.

“However, to be honest, the fact that it took several months to complete a single boss was not something we anticipated. That said, we were able to create bosses that were challenging, and I hope that players were able to feel their threatening natures,” Kagawa stated.

At one point, the developers wanted to add more “destructive elements,” such as the ground being gouged by attacks, like in a shonen manga, but unfortunately the idea was not feasible due to time and technical limitations.

Regarding each party member, the team wanted to make sure each one had a clear-cut role. The most evident example of this is Kisara, who is literally the shield of the party, because she, well, is holding an enormous shield. The other characters’ traits were designed to similar extents. 

Finally, the most important part: the game balance, which was decided through discussions among all the staff members while playing. The battles in this title have a jittery balance, and they became an appealing aspect that was born from the combined opinions of all the staff members.

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Tales of Arise has launched worldwide on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and PC.


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Orpheus Joshua

Random gamer equally confused by the mainstream and the unusual. Fan of JRPGs, Action, Platformers, Rhythm, and Adventure titles.