Producer Matt Walker talks STACK through the return of a classic gaming franchise in Devil May Cry 5.
It’s been 11 years since DMC4. What prompted the return to the series? Was there a defining moment where the decision was made?
There actually was a defining moment – after finishing DMC4 the director, Itsuno-san, was ready to move on to new projects – he had felt he had done everything he could with Devil May Cry. After that he started working on Dragon’s Dogma, and helped supervise production of DMC in collaboration with Ninja Theory. Once a couple years had passed after DMC, Itsuno-san noticed that the action game market was changing, and he was seeing less and less of what he calls “pure action games” – the kind of action games that are incredibly responsive, but represent a proper challenge and present an immense level of self-satisfaction when you’ve overcome those challenges. Itsuno-san approached the founder of the company, the CEO of Capcom, and asked if he could make a sequel to DMC4 and show the world that there’s still value in that kind of action game; the CEO said yes. That was the moment that kicked the whole process off.
Was there a temptation to build off the success of Ninja Theory’s DmC instead?
Originally we very much wanted to do a sequel to DMC with Ninja Theory, though that didn’t end up materialising due to internal circumstances. When we decided to make DMC5, Itsuno-san had been throwing around ideas for how he’d want the story to play out as a sequel to DMC4, and he had ideas for how the gameplay would evolve as well, so from the beginning it was always meant to be a sequel to DMC4. We felt that DmC was a fantastic game, and we learned a lot from Ninja Theory – so the temptation to build on Ninja Theory’s success materialised in our developer’s desire to apply what we learned from Ninja Theory, as well as try to make a product that would stand up to the high quality of that title. We’ve always hoped that the final product would be something that Ninja Theory would be proud to see us release.
“In the beginning the core tenets were to make a new, “pure action game” as mentioned before, and to create something that looked as realistic and stunning as possible at 60 frames per second.”
What brief was the studio given before development began?
The core dev team members were assembled early on in development, and Itsuno-san both explained his vision to them and went back and forth to determine how those ideas would develop. In the beginning the core tenets were to make a new, “pure action game” as mentioned before, and to create something that looked as realistic and stunning as possible at 60 frames per second. From a visual standpoint, we wanted something that would be able to stand toe-to-toe against the biggest hitters at shows like Gamescom and E3, and we chose to go with a more realistic look because we felt that “realistic” was the one visual style that everyone around the world has the same understanding of – the same frame of reference for.
So much has changed in a decade of gaming. How did that impact the way you approached DMC5?
The idea to create a “pure action game” stems from the fact that most other action games have veered away from that style in recent years. Just like everyone else, we’re blown away every year when new action games provide watershed moments with Hollywood calibre acting and stories, or new approaches such as single-camera setups that enable a new level of immersion – but we wanted to raise our hands and try to remind people that there’s something timeless about the value of “pure action”.
Visually, the game looks incredible. What did working on the RE Engine afford the development team?
RE Engine was originally made for Resident Evil 7, and it was our first engine with a commercially released game on it to utilise physically based rendering. When development started, it had a modern rendering pipeline, but being developed for RE7 it didn’t have the kind of functionality necessary for a quick paced action game like DMC5, and it didn’t have the kinds of special effects needed for a DmC-style game either. As development progressed we added these elements and expanded on the engine, and the end result was something that had everything we needed, but without a massive amount of bloat. It was thanks to that design that we were able to create something that looks like DMC5, and can run at 60 frames per second in 4K HDR on the upper end consoles.
With DMC being such a fan favourite franchise, how hard is it to balance a game that needs to cater for this demographic while also pitching for new players?
Our goal for DMC5 is the same as that for all of our action games – try to create something that is easy to get into, but once you’ve gotten into it you can find an unlimited amount of depth in the gameplay. Similar to DMC4, we’ve set the missions up so that you start the game with Nero, who is a different style of gameplay from Dante. He doesn’t have all of the options available to him at any given moment that Dante would have, but instead you’re tasked with considering which of his Devil Breakers you want to bring with you, when to use them, and when to move on to the next. Starting with this style should help ease newcomers into the game, while giving seasoned players new ways to experiment with the depth that he provides. We’ve also given people the option to turn on a function called “Auto-Assist” whenever they want by pressing in the right control stick for a couple seconds. By doing this, players can mash the melee attack button, and the game will automatically perform the best moves to increase your Style Rank as you’re playing – this is an easy, interactive way for new players to learn how to play Devil May Cry stylishly, and also learn how fun it can be when you do play that way.
Devil May Cry 5 is out now for PS4 and Xbox One.