Since Capcom first showed it at the original PlayStation Meeting back in February where Sony announced the PlayStation 4, the company hasn't said a great deal about Deep Down, their PS4-only online title. The game was a no-show at E3, and it was only at Sony's PS4 conference last week that we got to see a bit more of the high-fantasy title in action. That's changing at the Tokyo Game Show this week, where visitors can play the in-progress title for the first time.
As executive producer Yoshinori Ono told Famitsu magazine in an interview published this week, Deep Down and the PlayStation 4 are deeply intertwined with each other. "We had a chance to sit down with SCE Japan Asia to discuss next-generation hardware," he said. "We got an outline of the hardware specs and a pitch describing how much of a neat fit the system was for Capcom's development environment. Hearing that, the MT Framework [Capcom's internal game engine] R&D team began exploring what our new next-gen engine would look like, and simultaneously we began work on this project."
Why did it become online-only? "This was an open question still at the R&D phase," Ono admitted, "but we began to see that our team was giving us a superior edge on the technical front, so we decided to explore going with an online-only business scheme."
"Going online-only with our first next-gen title is a first for Capcom," added producer Kazunori Sugiura. "For me, when I heard about it, I thought this was something I really had to get into. The fact that the new game engine was so deeply compatible with the unique traits of online games was a big attraction to me."
Deep Down's players will take up the role of "ravens," members of a shadowy group based in 2094-era New York, They have the ability to obtain the memories of people, living or dead, simply by touching them or objects dear to them. In the game's story, these ravens are being sent to Bohemia circa 1494 A.D., exploring a vast walled city and the dungeons that lurk below it in search of previously unknown cultures and memories.
"The dungeons are automatically generated each time you enter them," Sugiura explained. "However, it's not completely random; it's a method deliberately created by our team to get more fun out of each dungeon. As you go through each one, you'll obtain something that's related to a story of some sort. The heroes can read memories out of these ruins, so they can use these objects to learn the memories of the people who were there in the past."
It seems like a tall order for the engine, creating both a massive cave system and an array of items that don't contradict the game's story on the fly. "Just creating simple random dungeons would lead to enemies and traps being laid in places where they made no sense," Sugiura said. "We came up with this pseudo-random method to ensure that players always had some new excitement, or experience, every time they went into a dungeon."
Sugiura didn't say too much about how the game's RPG-like elements will work, although he did discuss character advancement a bit. "In this game, you can use certain items you acquire in the dungeons to boost your weapons," he said. "As you go on, you'll be able to use skills commensurate with your weapon's level. Every enemy can take sectional damage on different parts of their body, so they'll have weak points that you can try to deliberately aim for. Weapons and enemies are also related to each other — not in terms of parameters, but in terms of how they look, too. For example, enemies that are hollow inside are tough to stab with spears, but a slash from a sword can deal more damage to them. With all these factors, I think the battle system will be pretty deep."
So when will the public beta begin? "I'm hoping we can give you an outline on that around the time of the PS4's release," Sugiura replied. "TGS 2013 will mark the first time it's shown in playable form."
"This game is full of new stuff — a new IP, new hardware, and new technology," added Ono. "We're going to deploy the environment such that we can get as many people into it as possible, and I look forward to hearing feedback at TGS and during the beta test. This is starting purely as a PS4 project, although we'll have a smartphone-compatible app that connects to the game as well."