What on earth is Scalebound, Platinum Games’ new Xbox One exclusive? We don’t actually know, but we got some pretty broad hints at TGS 2014.
Platforms: Xbox One
Developer: Platinum Games
Release date: ???
Scalebound was announced via a spectacular cinematic trailer at E3 2014, but we’ve heard almost nothing since, and Microsoft isn’t ready to tell us anything. Despite this, the publisher gave press an opportunity to talk to Platinum Games about the new Xbox One exclusive at Tokyo Game Show 2014.
At a roundtable with studio boss Hideki Kamiya and JP Kellams, Scalebound’s creative producer, we all tried to find out whatever we could while fighting Microsoft and Platinum Games’ reluctance to talk about it at all. And I feel like we did find out quite a lot, actually – but as everyone kept reassuring us that the project is in the early days and subject to change, nothing here can be considered final. Are we all disclaimer’d up? Good. Here’s what I (probably) learned about Scalebound, along with my absolutely baseless bonus wild speculation.
It’s not a hardcore action game like Vanquish or Bayonetta
“The games that I’ve worked on in the past have been more on the pure action side. They really tested your skills, your quick reflexes and you’re advanced mastery. It’s safe to say that you either got that and went for it, or not. But it was really meant for those kind of players,” Kamiya said.
“For this game though, for Scalebound – of course taking all the things that we have learned and our battle systems and the know-how from all the accumulated titles that we have worked on, we will take that and reflect or integrate it into this new game.
“But really the focus, the core concept of the game is we wanna show off this large, epic-scale battle taking place with these large monsters. That’s where it really all begins. It’s unlike any action-oriented game that we’ve made. On top of that the setting is more in the fantasy realm. The subject matter, the dragons – I’m hoping that will attract a wider audience, rather than just the pure action gamers.
“Bayonetta was a challenge for me while staying in the same genre. Seven years before I made Bayonetta, Devil May Cry was born. It was a challenge to me to see what I had learned in that timeframe, and put it into what I could do now.
“With Scalebound, it’s really, on a higher level, a game unlike anything I’ve ever made before and also anything that Platinum Games as a studio has made before. It is in a sense starting from point zero. To me that is really exciting and really fun, to see how this is all gonna come together.”
Bonus wild speculation: Scalebound will have RPG elements allowing players with less technical skill to progress more easily. The fantasy theme appeals to RPG fans.
The trailer contains hints of what’s to come
“The tone is what you would expect from me, looking at the games I’ve made before,” Kamiya said. “A lot of CG trailers [give a rough idea of a concept], and it’s fluffy. For us, what you saw in the E3 trailer, we have really packed in our vision. Every scene, every moment that you see really has meaning and purpose behind it – including the headphones.
“While I can’t explain or describe why at this point because that would be giving away other parts that we can’t talk about yet, if you look at the trailer carefully you’ll hopefully come to a point where a lot of things will start to make sense.
“For now, I’ll have to ask you to pull up your imagination and figure out what each of these moments in the trailer are meant for.”
“Every shot has meaning in that trailer, and if you look at that trailer and think about it the meaning will come through,” Kellams reiterated.
“Up to E3 we were literally focusing on single frames. Frame by frame in that trailer we made sure that everything was in there to really express the vision we have for Scalebound.”
Bonus wild speculation: Scalebound uses a rhythm action battle system, hence the headphones.
It’s going to be “easier” than previous Platinum Games titles
“I think difficult or easy can be defined in so many different ways depending on what you’re talking about. For example, if it was a very heavy text or dialogue game and yet if you got to a point where you couldn’t solve a puzzle, people could say that that was difficult,” Kamiya said.
“Our games in the past were really intense, high-impact, high-pace sort of action games that required skills. In that sense, Scalebound may not deliver the difficult experience that you’re seen from our games. At the same time, that doesn’t man that it will be easy. There will be various creative ways to plan your strategy and to figure out how to overcome the battles and encounters. It’s more of an all-around, really bringing out the fun in various levels.
“The games that I’ve worked on – I’ll just give one example: Devil May Cry. That was years ago. I was young too at the time that I made that game, and if I had a user or a fan in front of me who said ‘I really tried but I guess I suck’ or you know ‘I just can’t overcome, I can’t get this enemy’, it was easy for me to say ‘hey – that’s your skills. You kind of suck.’
“That is not the kind of difficulty that we’re going to demand from players.”
Bonus wild speculation: Yeah, no; at this stage my “RPG elements” and “rhythm action” nonsense theories are still 100% watertight.
Yes, you make friends with the dragon(s)
“In terms of the overall world setting – from the visuals, I think you can see or envision in your imagination what it might be. In terms of the story, as I touched on earlier, the real focus of this game is to to showcase this epic-scale battle between these monsters – dragons on the one hand,” Kamiya said.
“When you have a large creature but you’re the player character, a human character, but there’s some sort of relationship forming – that is going to be key to the story, how the relationship grows and the bond becomes stronger. That is really the theme or the background of the story. I just can’t go into a lot of details at this point.”
Bonus wild speculation: Maybe you make friends with multiple dragons and can take on aspects of the one you are closest with, sort of like Crimson Dragon meets Drakengard meets an RPG I imagined in a fever dream.
It’s probably an open world game
“This image, this vision we have of these large monsters having these super high impact, dynamic sort of battles – probably the perfect environment and setting that we can give to show that off would be a place in this sort of vast space, natural environment. I do wanna bring that out and be able to showcase it in the right kind of setting,” Kamiya said.
“This is another one of those questions where I would love to but I cannot share too many details. It’s sort of related to, and I wanted to follow up on, the earlier answer I gave. If we take Bayonetta as an example of a pure action game, I think the overall structure, the flow of the game, I think is somewhat to us becoming more of the old-school type. You know; you clear the stage and then you go onto the next one, and there’s next stage and next stage, and always that boss at the end. You clear the game, and if you wanna go back again.
“If that was the cycle of that game, for Scalebound, we’re not looking to build it in that way.”
Bonus wild speculation: 100% open world with dynamic monster battles. I’m calling it. (I’m calling it “wishful thinking”.)
You can (probably) customise your character, but you play as the guy in the trailer.
“With regards to how much customisation is going to be offered or even if there is customisation, that does touch on the details and specifics which I can’t go into just yet. I’m happy to hear [the protagonist] is cool and you took interest in the character. I can say that I personally have invested in this character and I have a personal sort of attachment to him.
“As the story will go, this bond that you end up forming with the dragon – that story, it’s something that really popped into my mind, to the point where I was writing the stories particularly or specifically for that character.
“In that sense, this is the character that you’ll be playing throughout the game.”
Bonus wild speculation: Customisation will be related to battle abilities; those RPG elements I mentioned? Yep.
Scalebound may have multiplayer
“Unfortunately we’re not able to comment or say at this time,” Kamiya said when asked about multiplayer.
“But as I said before, we’re not building this as a pure sort of linear, boss clear and go back if you wanna replay the entire game. We’ll kind of leave that to your imagination. We’re making this game for it to be not a short game, but something players will be playing for longer hours at a time.
“Another thing would be that after this session if you are able to go back to the trailer, every shot counts. Every shot means something. There may be some things that will allow you to connect the dots.”
Bonus wild speculation: The trailer contain multiple dragons. Multiple players. Obviously.
We have absolutely no idea when Scalebound will release. When asked how far through development the project is, Kamiya said only that it is progressing well, and that he wouldn’t be speaking to press if it weren’t.