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Freedom Wars to be developed by co-op effort between three companies

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Despite originally being shown off back in May, not much is really known about Freedom Wars, the Vita title currently being produced by SCE in Japan. It's a multiplayer action game; it boasts a weapon system a bit reminiscent of Monster Hunter and it's set in a dystopian future where people are born with million-year jail sentences and must fight huge monsters to win their freedom.

This week's issue of Famitsu magazine lifts the veil a bit by printing an interview with people from all three companies behind the Freedom Wars project: SCE Japan, design team Shift (maker of the God Eater series), and game developer Dimps (best known recently for helping out on Street Fighter 4).

How did this team-up get off the ground? "It's kind of a long story," replied Sony producer Junichi Yoshizawa. "This has always been a dream of mine, but as someone involved with entertainment, I've always wanted to start a real sensation. My company's tasked me with producing an original game that will promote hardware sales, so I looked for people that would help satisfy both motivations of mine."

Yoshizawa decided that the game would have to involve multiplayer action on the Vita without overlapping with other first-party games in the library. So he called up Toshiyuki Yasui, game designer at Shift, for advice. "I felt like I really had the gauntlet laid down before me," Yasui recalled. "But it was also a wonderful chance to do something I had never done before, so I took the opportunity to really think deeply about it as a game designer."

What Yasui came up with was a game concept that'd be easy for anyone to join the fun with, whether they're a hardcore participant or just someone killing a little time. Along the way, he hit upon the concept of Panopticons, in-game city-states that serve as the virtual representations of real-life regions of the world.

"We haven't announced details yet," Yasui said, "but in this game, every prefecture in Japan is assigned a city called a Panopticon. You have these city-state battles going on, with (for example) people fighting for points in the Kanagawa and Kagoshima Panopticons. You can join in just for a bit in a really approachable manner, or you can go for a more long-span approach, join a battle where a victor's declared once per day."

"People play games in a multitude of ways nowadays," Yoshizawa added. "Some people break out a smartphone game if they're just taking a train to the next station, and some people play for a whole hour. So I wanted a way you could play for assorted spans of time, whether it's a minute, ten minutes or an hour."

Sony isn't giving out a lot of gameplay details yet, except to say that you'll have a range of short- and long-range attacks, as well as a device called an ibara (Japanese for "thorn") that you use to rescue civilians from monsters or other players. There'll be a few multiplay modes available, each supporting up to 8 players at once - and since each player has a fully customizable android partner called an Accessory, every battle actually involves up to 16 characters.

"I think everyone on the dev team was like 'Can we really do this?' at first," said Dimps director Takashi Tsukamoto, "and my only response was 'I don't know, but we have to'. It isn't easy, but the more I hear about what Yasui wants to do with the story, the more I think that nobody's done it before and that it could be really cool. So we're all working together as a tightly-knit team right now."

"There's a lot of volume here, to the point where I don't know if we'll be able to reveal all of it before release," Yasui said. "It's a game themed after oppression and freedom -- what kind of freedom can you expect at the end of your million-year sentence? You'll just have to see for yourself what lies beyond that."

Freedom Wars is due out next year sometime in Japan for PS Vita, and Yoshizawa noted that it'll be available for play to the general public at an event they're planning around the end of the year.