When hearing the word Japan, what kind of things come to mind? The art? The people? The culture? Maybe for some, it’s the food, the landmarks, or maybe even the importance that Japan brings. For me, thinking about all of this does come to mind, but also the rich history that is still presented to this day. So when I heard that developer Endeavor One made a game where you take on a role as part of the imperial class where betrayal was lead by power and greed, I had to learn more. So I reached out and Creative Director, Tom Doyle, was happy to talk about their newest game, ARASHI: Castles of Sin, and also about Virtual Reality.
Interview with Creative Director and Project Lead, Tom Doyle
Welcome to THE VR DIMENSION. Would you please introduce yourself and what you do at
“My name is Tom Doyle. I am a Creative Director/Project Lead here at the studio.”
Growing up, what were some of your biggest gaming influences and what was that one VR experience that really drew you into Virtual Reality?
“Street Fighter in the arcades at a teen. Later – PC fps titles like Doom and Quake. Goes without saying my younger years were dominated by Nintendo and Sega. The one experience that drew me into Virtual Reality was while I was attending in college in the 90s. My school had an SGI lab, and I got to use an application called MultiGen to create content in virtual reality. Even as simple as it was back then – VR had me hooked.”
Endeavor One has worked with VR with projects such as JUMP, HALO Recruit, and Dome of the Dead that each has its own type of Virtual Reality experience. Your newest game, ARASHI: Castles of Sin recently released. What can you tell us about the game and the character you play?
“You take the role of Kenshiro, the last surviving son of Clan Arashi. Kenshiro was a part of the imperial class until his
family was betrayed by the wicked and power-hungry rivals to his house. Since then, he was operated from the shadows. Always waiting to return his family to a position of honor and nobility.”
Being a ninja, part is keeping into the shadows and not being seen. How does that play into the game?
“Arashi is all about not being detected. We provide tons of opportunities in our level for the players to set up ambushes. We want our players to look at our environments and think about how they want to overcome our encounters. There are lots of features in the levels to keep the players out of sight and also help provide the players refuge if they get detected.”
You have a wolf companion in the game called Haru. What can you tell us about this wolf and what are some of the things they can do?
“Haru was an idea that the team was excited about early on. There is something really special about being co-present with a living thing in VR. We wanted the player to feel like they were not alone on this epic journey of revenge. Haru has a suite of commands that she can perform – moving to point a to b, setting up distractions, digging up loot, and, my favorite, pinning enemies so that Kenshiro can set up a silent taken down.”
What can you tell us about the different types of Japanese weapons in the game?
“When people think about a shinobi – they think about their arsenal. We wanted to provide a power fantasy where you
got to use all the marquee weapons associated with this period in history. And thankfully they all worked very natively
with VR motion controls. Melee weapons like the katana, range weapons like shuriken, and the bow and arrow. To
thrown weapons like Gas and Frag grenades. We even have trap-style weapons like poison food and landmines that
make setting up ambushes even more exciting.”
When using the sword, do you have any tips for new players to make sure they can survive as long as possible?
“Swordplay in our game is a little bit different than how it is in other titles. On the surface, we have a simple attack, block, parry system. But fencing means keeping up a good defense – and also how you use footwork to not leave yourself open to attack. Swordfighting isn’t about crowd control in Arashi like in other melee-only focused games, when you get detected, the predator becomes the prey.”
So you really can climb rooftops and strike from above?
“Yes – climbing is used to not only advance thru the levels but also there to help the player get into unique vantage points to make getting the drop on the enemy even easier or more satisfying. Combined with the grappling hook – it opens up a lot of possibilities of play.”
Graphically speaking, Arashi: Castles of Sin looks very beautiful, and love how at night time you can see the moon and the clouds and it just adds to the atmosphere. Was this style always planned for the game or did the game have a different look to it?
“Thank you! Early days, our Art Director, Isaac Hannaford, went through a lot of different looks for the game… ranging
from stylized, cartoony, to photoreal. We were making a game that was an homage to the genre films that inspired us. In the end, realism won out. We wanted to capture the look and feel of films like Kwaidan, Narayama, and Throne of Blood.”
What do you feel is the most challenging and surprising when it comes to creating content for Virtual Reality?
“Trying to resolve a photorealistic world with running the game at a high framerate. Arashi is a game where the player is encouraged to move with aggressive speed and mobility. A screaming framerate makes all this possible without making our player feel simulation sickness.”
The game is out on PlayStation VR, are there any plans to bring the game to other platforms such as Oculus, Steam, or Viveport in the future?
“We have a lot of ideas on how we want to explore and grow Arashi, but right now it is only available on PlayStation VR.”
There seems like there can be many stories to tell in this world. Do you see Arashi: Castles of Sins being part of a franchise in the future?
“Absolutely. Arashi was very inspired by serial storytelling – like Batman. Even in the early days of development, we wrote treatments for 3 others stories in Kenshiro’s journey of revenge and justice. We would love to bring them to fans too.”
If you walked through a door into THE VR DIMENSION, but could be anyone from any time to be the main character, who would you be and why?
“Ooh. Great question. There are too many great choices. Off the top of my head, I think seeing the world thru the eyes of a Ghibli Studios hero would be something pretty special.”
What is next for you and Endeavor One?
“Supporting Arashi for sure. We are also excited about bringing some of our other IP properties to the world of VR too.
Watch this space. :)”
With the content for Virtual Reality continuing to set the bar, what would you say to someone as to why they should experience Arashi: Castles of Sin?
“There is something amazing about playing VR in a period of history. Arashi strove to bring this world of history, culture, and authenticity to VR fans without compromise. Plus – who doesn’t want to pet Haru?”
I really want to thank Tim for taking the time out of his day to give us a closer look at Arashi: Castles of Sin and for also talking about Virtual Reality.
In case you missed the trailer, please enjoy.