Sal Paradise said:Disclaimer: First up, please let me say that I’m a big fan of the Souls series, and that I’ve played Dark Souls 1 hundreds of hours, mainly PVP. I think Dark Souls 2 is a great game, but it definitely lacks the atmosphere, the organic world and the general vision of the first game. Also, PVP is unbalanced, even laggier than the first game and Soul Memory doesn’t help either.
While Dark Souls 2 will most likely still be my GOTY 2014, and I definitely don’t want From Software, one of the last great studios, to fail, since they deserve all the success for Dark Souls 1, I think it’s still perfectly fine to criticize them, just like people do with other developers.
After the speculations started that Dark Souls 2 may have been made by a "B-Team", I decided to look up the credits of all three Souls games by myself. My original post was on the Dark Souls 2 Reddit, and this is an improved and better researched version of it (mistakes can happen though). If you want, you can still look up the original here: http://redd.it/23ph5o
So was Dark Souls 2 really made by a B-Team? First up, here’s a list of names of people who worked on both Dark Souls 1 (& the Artorias DLC), as well as Dark Souls 2:
For this list, I did not include third party-developers, English script writers, the Motion Capture Team, publishing, localization department etc.
Despite having a longer list of credits compared to the first title in the series, Dark Souls 2 doesn’t seem to have much overlap when it comes to people who have worked on both games. Additionally, From Software isn’t exactly the biggest company, with their webpage saying that they currently employ a total of 230 people (Oct, 2013).
Before we go into details on that, let’s check out the oddest name on the list first, which is definitely From Software CEO Naotoshi Zin, filling out the role as the Lead Game Designer, something he hasn’t done in years. According to Moby Games, the last game he designed was in 2000. Since then, he’s usually credited as the supervisor in From Software's games, similar to how Satoru Iwata is credited in every Nintendo title, even though he had nothing to do with the development process itself.
Now, the rest of the list. On first sight it may seem like that at least a big part of the programming team stayed the same for both Dark Souls 1 & 2, even though they now go under a different name. A really well-made image was posted both on Reddit and GAF, which also helped a bit with the research. Sadly I don’t know who originally made it, but here it is anyway:
Again, this list shows that while there were big changes and additions in terms of designers for Dark Souls 2, at least most of the programmers stayed the same for both games, right? Well, that’s only half of the truth. By taking a closer look at the ending credits of all Souls games, it’s important to point out that the names aren’t sorted alphabetical in those, but most likely by importance and position. Knowing that, pretty much all of those programmers that stayed the same throughout Dark Souls 2 are from the bottom of Dark Souls 1’s list.
In the ending credits to their games, From Software usually orders the names of their programmers in two separate lists. There’s one list of main programmers for each title, as well as a second team of guys, who pretty much stay the same for every recent release, and are not exclusive to the Souls series. Again, this is the team that makes up the main part of the programmers who stay the same on Dark Souls 2. Let’s take a look:
As you can see, while the team does indeed change a bit, the core people of this programming team are on every game in the series. What I couldn’t show is that sometimes the way they order them in the credits slightly changes, or a new guy takes over the position of another person.
Armored Core is the other bigger franchise by the studio, and you can also find that team there. Let’s take a look at the last few games in the AC series and compare the names again:
As you can see, this team of programmers seemed to be formed by From Software right after Armored Core For Answer, and nearly all of them also worked on various Souls games. Starting at Armored Core V, they started naming them “Tools/Libraries” and as written above, in Dark Souls 2 they’re now the “Technical Department”.
So what am I trying to say with all of this? As helpful the original comparison image was, that was posted on here and Reddit, it didn’t make it 100% clear that this team of programmers recently work on every large From Software title, and probably do the “gritty” programming work for all of those games. To make things easier, let’s call them “Technical Department” for now.
In contrast, please take a look at the programmers who get listed before them in all three Souls games, namely, the programmers ranked with importance/position:
A bit shocking, isn’t it? From the “big 7” in Dark Souls 1 (4 of them already worked on Demon’s Souls, 3 remain in the “smaller” DLC) only one did actually work on Dark Souls 2, which is Akira Watanabe, who’s listed as a Tools Programmer. Also, Makoto Hasegawa makes a return from Demon’s Souls as a Network Programmer, but that’s it. As someone rightfully pointed out on Reddit, development teams get split up all the time, however its unusual to see so many prominent programmers missing.
Obviously, lead programmer Jun Ito is gone too, replaced by Yoshitaka Suzuki, and with him basically the whole group of main programmers from Dark Souls 1. Why would From Software not bring back any of them for Dark Souls 2? The sequel to the most successful game in the company’s history?
I tried to look up those “big 7”, but they seem to have not worked on any new From Software game since they finished Dark Souls 1. Maybe detective GAF can help me out with that. This is getting into speculation territory, but assuming they haven’t left the company or retired, they may be working on something with former director Hidetaka Miyazaki. The much rumoured Demon’s Souls 2 comes to mind, with Sony’s Japan Studio providing the necessary backup, that usually Form’s “Technical Department” would do, or maybe he’s still in the planning stages for something else and the others will join in when they’ve completely wrapped up Dark Souls 2. Again, speculation.
Either way, here’s a quick list of names who replaced Dark Souls 1’s “big 7” in Dark Souls 2:
Yoshitaka Suzuki - ?
Kyoichi Murata – Armored Core
Kazuaki Ito - Enchanted Arms
Masashi Shimizu - ?
Kenji Uchida - Armored Core?
Tomotaka Nakamura - ?
Shun Okabe - ?
While it’s hard to research what they've worked on previously without knowing Japanese, just like it was when the new directors Tomohiro Shibuya and Yui Tanimura were first announced, none of them were involved with any Souls games before. The most famous of the bunch is probably Kyoichi Murata, who used to be the lead programmer in various Armored Core games, and there are a few others too who worked on the AC series and are now on Dark Souls 2. Here’s a quick, rather pointless overview of the main programmers on the most recent AC games:
Not much really, but a few overlaps, mostly on Dark Souls 2 fo course. More importantly though, what all of these lists clearly show is that the prominent developers or the "big 7" have not appeared in an title since Dark Souls 1 and feeds the rumours that Miyazaki is working on something big like Demon's Souls 2 even more.
Either way, the question still remains – was Dark Souls 2 really done by a B-Team? Perhaps it wasn't, but I think that this post at least proves that the main programmers of Dark Souls 2 have had very little experience with the Souls series and the lack of veteran developers is apparent as well. I’m no game developer, but all of this may indeed explain the change in atmosphere, the less organic gaming world, as well as the unbalanced PVP.
Again, this is pure speculation, but all the new members joining the project may also be the reason why Naotoshi Zin made his return as the Lead Game Designer. They probably needed guidance that no one else really could provide. Maybe even because Miyazaki, who was supposed to be the supervisor of Dark Souls 2, was busy otherwise.
Two weeks ago or so, after I was once again killed by a quick rolling Havel carrying dual mundane Avelyns in PVP, I did something which I usually try to avoid at all costs. I was so angry about the fact that everyone was using the same two builds in PVP, that I sent the guy a message saying “Call Of Duty Souls”. What started out like the typical flaming PM exchange, turned into an actually great chat. The guy was from overseas and he was so pissed about the lag in PVP, the terrible hitboxes and stunlocks of dark hex buffed katanas, that he basically chose the “other OP build” in the game. Can’t really blame him.
I’m not saying that Dark Souls 1’s PVP (and PVE) was perfect, it was far from being so, especially in the beginning, but maybe it would have been better for the original, more experienced team to stay and fine-tune what was already amazing. Ignoring the PvP, aspects such the level design and lack of atmosphere may have benefited form their inclusions as well. In the end we both agreed on giving Dark Souls 2 another chance and still try to have fun with it, because it is indeed a great game. However, with the right people and the right attitude it could have been even better.
Credit goes to Sal Paradise for doing all the work.
Please read the OP and not just the title
What do you guys think? Personally, I find it interesting how Dark Souls 2 lacks the important programmers and much of the design team, arguably the area in which Dark Souls 2 is lacking.
Also it may suggest that Miyazaki and his team may of have started development on their new project (which may be Demons Souls 2, or a new IP or even a new Souls game) as soon as dark Souls PTD was finished: October 2012.
Black graph highlighting the veteran devs was created by Neogaf user: Kazaam