[Translation] 4Gamer Interview with Kinoko Nasu and Yosuke Shiokawa on FGO (March 2017, Part 1)

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This is a translation of the 4Gamer interview with Kinoko Nasu and Yosuke Shiokawa released on 2017 March 11 regarding Fate/Grand Order. The original article can be found here. This is a very long interview, so I split it into two posts to make them easier to read. It goes without saying that there are HUGE spoilers in this. You have been warned.

Parenthetical notes are 4Gamer’s; other translation notes can be found at the bottom of the post. Enjoy reading!

Part 2

The Brand New Form of Smartphone Game Brought about by Fate/Grand Order – Kinoko Nasu and Yosuke Shiokawa Talk about the Trail of FGO and its Future

Fate/Grand Order began its service on 2015 July 30 (August 12 on iOS). Developed by Delight Works and TYPE-MOON, the first part of its story finally concluded with the release of the Final Singularity: Grand Temple of Time – Solomon on the 22nd of December 2016. Though the story has reached its destination after a year and a half, the announcement of Part 1.5 and the looming Part 2 of the story has kept the flames of excitement lit among its players.

Up until now, TYPE-MOON has been known for having released various visual novels such as Tsukihime, Fate/stay night, and Mahou Tsukai no Yoru, as well as producing the Fate/ series in its various forms. Being the first smartphone game released by TYPE-MOON, just what kind of stories, systems, and feelings lie behind its creation?

This time, to celebrate the completion of Part 1, we invited Fate/Grand Order’s main scenario writer and director, TYPE-MOON’s Kinoko Nasu, and FGO Project’s creative director, Delight Works’ Yosuke Shiokawa to talk about the tracks left behind by FGO, as well the future developments we can expect from the game.

After a Year and a Half, the End of FGO Part I

4Gamer: Thank you very much for your time today. To start off, why don’t you describe how you feel right now, a year and a half after FGO began its service?005

Kinoko Nasu (henceforth, Nasu): I’m quite overwhelmed. I have to say that I was very proud of the team when the final chapter was finally released on December 22. “Ah, there was a point to these last three years after all.” “I made something that’s worth paying attention to.”

4Gamer: I feel that the “real-time sensation” that you described in the previous interview worked really well. Seeing all the players work together and challenge the raid battles as the year headed to a close was incredibly exciting.

Yosuke Shiokawa (henceforth, Shiokawa): I think that’s part of the charm of being an administration-type game. [1] We managed to link the player unity from challenging the raid battles to the excitement as the story moves towards the climax.

Nasu: The plan to have everyone challenge the final chapter at the same time was there from the start. Normally, players would enjoy games at their own pace. But for the final chapter, I didn’t want to just hand over the conclusion to the story to everyone. I wanted everyone to work hard and bring over the future – the next year – with their own hands.

4Gamer: There have been raid battles in the game before, but I feel that it was the first time the players actually felt united in challenging the event.

Nasu: The Rashomon [2] and Onigashima [3] events were preparations for the final chapter. We wanted to stock up on answers to the following: “How would the players react to an event that demands all of them to work together?” and “What do we need to make raid battles more enjoyable?”

Shiokawa: The event went so much better than expected as a result, and I’m glad about that. But if I have to be honest, there were a lot of scary things to consider from the admin point of view. For example, no one would ever think to make the last story chapter a limited-time event.

4Gamer: Such as real-life situations barring players from participating?

Shiokawa: Exactly. Still, we didn’t want to compromise what we wished to express with the event. Thanks to the development of FGO during the past year, I feel that 2016 was a year where I re-learned that there are things that should never be conceded.

4Gamer: By the way, Chapter 7 was released on December 7, while the final chapter was on December 22. I’m surprised you managed to make it.

Shiokawa: It just felt that it had to be done. Still, it was hell! (laughs) We were already short on time, and on top of that we had a clear deadline ahead of us. The pressure was immense since we definitely couldn’t afford to postpone this.

4Gamer: It’s a story about taking back the future from 2017 and beyond. If it didn’t finish within 2016, then that would’ve been quite the disaster!

Shiokawa: Not only did we have to protect that deadline, we also had to make sure that enough players had finished Chapter 7 in order for them to challenge the final chapter. So in a sense, the deadline for Chapter 7 had already been set as the final frontline.

4Gamer: So it was definitely a close battle.011

Shiokawa: On top of that, the volume of the scenarios Nasu was submitting kept on blowing up. All I could do was just go “Oh…” and stare at it in resignation (laughs).

(everyone laughs)

Shiokawa: Still, I knew it would be something incredible the moment Nasu delivered his scenarios. We wanted to bring this to the players who have reached the climax after a year and half since our service started, and there were a lot of feelings involved for us on the development team as well. We wanted to prioritize delivering all these emotions to the players, which is what led to the Christmas event being brought out in November.

Nasu: The identity of the Beast as one of Humanity’s Evils was something I had brought up in Chapter 7, and I’m pretty satisfied with how it all turned out. At first, I thought that only the veteran TYPE-MOON fans would be able to catch on with all of that. But many players managed to get the story, which made me look forward to the climax.

4Gamer: So you didn’t expect the players to be this absorbed by the story.

Nasu: There was also a plan to release Chapter 7 earlier and put a one-month break before the final chapter. But I didn’t want to put in such a long gap in between the two, especially with how much I raised the stakes in Chapter 7. If you look at the calendar, putting Chapter 7 in November and the final chapter at the end of the year, with a Christmas event in between would have been the natural course of action. But I really didn’t want to sandwich an event in between the two.

4Gamer: Getting the final chapter right after Chapter 7 was indeed a very exciting development.

Nasu: Humanity’s Evils may be evil, but they are something that will never be exterminated. They will always return as long as humanity exists. And mankind must overcome them – that’s the kind of development I was going for. And I want the players to understand that once they face the final battle together. And the development team managed to understand that as well – the feeling of putting the heart of the story first before commercial reasons. I think FGO is a blessed game in that aspect.

Shiokawa: And then the Demonic Pillars got hunted down so quickly…

(everyone laughs)

Nasu: About that – we had expected that players would be split into two groups. We made it so that the pillars would grant effects to each other, so once one of them was defeated, the others would be weakened. So we thought that there would be players who would take the tactic of beating the pillars in a certain order, like taking down the one with recovery first, then the one that lets the pillars ignore invulnerable status.

4Gamer: It was announced pre-release, so I’m sure there must have been a proper order to beating them.

Nasu: On the other hand, we also knew that there would be players who would leave that tactic to the other players and just focus on gathering items. We knew that, but… In the end, everyone just went “I’m gonna collect all the hearts I can!” and gathered around Barbatos… (laughs)

4Gamer: Everyone was going, “It’s all-you-can-farm!  Beat ‘em up!” The Demonic Pillars that had rare drops went down at a scary pace…

Nasu: It was amusing to see it all unfold. “This is the true Evil of Humanity!” (laughs)

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Shiokawa: As a result, both players and non-players all went “Hey, something’s happening in FGO! Gotta join in!” and got wrapped into the atmosphere from the event. Deciding on the item drops was a pretty huge decision to make, but in the end I’m glad we went with it.

Nasu: Even if the TYPE-MOON staff had said, “Let’s do this! It’ll be exciting!” but Delight Works staff had replied, “It will take too much time and there are too many risks,” we would have given up on it and accepted the decision. But Shiokawa and the rest of the staff didn’t back down. We all decided to go with it, so the final chapter turned out that way. So I really think it was a miracle that it even happened.

4Gamer: By the way, what was your motivation while writing Chapter 7 and the final chapter?

Nasu: Well, it was definitely quite taxing on my stamina. If we also count text that I wrote outside of FGO, I’d already written 1 MB worth of text back in October. I had bags under my eyes and my face must have been unrecognizable. I had to put on a lot of facial cream, and it was only during the New Year when my face went back to normal. But I felt really fired up about writing, so I had a lot of fun.

4Gamer: A 1 MB text file?!

(Note: A 1 MB text file is roughly equivalent to 1311 pages of text.)

Nasu: October and November of 2015 might have been the busiest months of my entire life, but I was feeling confident enough to say that “I’m still really young! I can do this!” The one thing I was worried about before getting to work was whether I could write Gilgamesh’s character in Chapter 7 well.

4Gamer: You mean, as part of the game’s themes?

Nasu: More like in terms of his appeal as a character. When I wrote Fate/Extra CCC, I felt like I had already exhausted everything there is to write about Gil as an ally. I was slightly worried about being able to surpass that. After thinking hard, I finally settled on “Gilgamesh after his search for immortality,” and a new side of him was born. I even surprised myself with the result. Just changing the very premise of his character led me to creating an entirely new image of him.

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Shiokawa: By the way, I calculated the total volume of text from the prologue until now. If you count the main story, events, and interludes, it reached 2 million characters. It still doesn’t count miscellaneous flavor text, so it must be more than that.

4Gamer: At full-width text, that would be around 4 MB. I think Tsukihime and Fate/stay night are also around that range. Even if the text is split between characters, that’s still an unbelievable amount.

Nasu: I see… Actually, I was feeling writer’s block around the start of January. No wonder I couldn’t feel motivated at all. Anyone who writes that much would definitely feel exhausted.

4Gamer: [Takashi] Takeuchi [4] must have felt exhausted from his illustration and CEO work too.

Nasu: I wonder about that. He should be a lot busier than I am, but he’s always drawing Arturia during his free time (laughs). We’re all busy with the main story and events and then he goes “Here, I drew ******** Arturia” out of nowhere. I’m jealous of how he manages to be busy with work and still find time to have fun.

4Gamer: Oh no, another Arturia…

Ready to Pick up Burning Coal from a Fire – Shiokawa’s Vision

4Gamer: Let’s go back to the scenario later. For now, I would like to ask Shiokawa about your current position. I hear that you joined FGO in the middle of the project. How did you manage to get involved with FGO?

Shiokawa: Well, I’m acquainted with [Kenji] Atsushi [5] from a previous project, so he’s been consulting me about a lot of things regarding FGO before it launched. Back then I was still an outsider, so I only managed to play a bit of the game in development and heard a few things here and there from him.

4Gamer: Oh, Atsushi! We interviewed him before too. How is he doing?015

Shiokawa: He’s doing pretty well as a producer. I also looked into FGO after it launched out of curiosity, and even from outside I could see that everything was on fire…

4Gamer: Well, a lot of things were happening back then…

Shiokawa: Back then, he would tell me, “I have a lot of problems right now,” and I’d say, “I’m sure you do…” As a result, I started playing FGO too so I could help him out. I would play and try to figure out what went wrong and how to fix those problems, and report my findings to him.

4Gamer: You were still working at a different company back then, right?

Shiokawa: Yes. So it wasn’t really work, but just something I did personally. It sounds nice putting it like I was helping them out, but it was partly just out of curiosity. Eventually, he asked me, “Do you want to meet with TYPE-MOON’s Nasu and Takeuchi?” And I did.

4Gamer: So you weren’t actually involved with the game yet back then.

Shiokawa: Yes. There’s no need to pick up burning coal from a fire, right? Still, I was quite troubled back then. At the time, FGO was going up in flames as I was playing and analyzing it, but I really thought that it had a lot of potential. And then when I met with Nasu and Takeuchi, I knew that they really were trying their best to make something good out of it. They weren’t just riding on the Fate/ name with FGO, but using it as an opportunity to make a brand new part of the franchise.

4Gamer: What kind of potential did you see in FGO?

Shiokawa: I simply felt that the hidden depths of the game and its charms were lost on the players. For example, when I asked TYPE-MOON about why the Servant strengthening or battle portions were made this way, they would give me clear answers, like how they’re made like this because that’s how it works in Fate/. They were made like that because it’s something from the Fate/ series – in other words, that’s how FGO should be. I found it to be very appealing, so I felt that the game would change a whole lot just by being able to express its charms properly.

4Gamer: So that’s what made you decide to join Delight Works. And after joining the company, did you help out with each of those parts that you felt weren’t being clearly expressed to the players?

Shiokawa: I’d say that my job wasn’t to help out with individual parts of the game, but rather to fix the game as a whole. Back when I joined, the game didn’t have a clear vision of “where it wants to be.”

4Gamer: You mean that the game couldn’t bring out Fate/’s appeal because it didn’t know where it wants to go?

Shiokawa: Of course, back then, the TYPE-MOON team didn’t have a lot of experience handling this kind of game. In other words, they didn’t know much about the methods to realize what they want to create. So after fixing each of the parts that weren’t working, it finally turned into a game that was fit for the mobile game format.

Nasu: For example, the Overkill mechanic and “picking the right target to attack” were supposed to be part of FGO’s tactical aspects. But at the time, the game’s system wasn’t able to clearly express that. Shiokawa made tweaks into the UI and such in order to make the game more fun to play.

Shiokawa: Still, we couldn’t really improve all of the game in one go. So whenever we found a problem, we would give it a priority level then fix each of the problems one by one, starting from the most urgent ones. “This is what we should fix right now.” “This is a problem, but we can worry about fixing that later.” Of course, we sometimes had to give more specific orders, but it was more important to decide on the direction the game should take as a whole.

Nasu: I saw FGO after its launch as something like a highway left abandoned for ten years. The road is there, but it’s all covered in weeds and the asphalt and tiles are all chipped and cracked. The only reason why the players were still driving cars on it is because of the trust and investment that Fate/ had behind its name. The players put up with it because of the Fate/name.

4Gamer: It’s because it’s Fate/ – it’s because it’s TYPE-MOON – that it still had fans.

Nasu: Shiokawa came to us in that kind of environment and helped us do a lot of cleaning. “Let’s do some weeding first.” “We can’t fix all of it at once, but we can refurbish these places first.” After each repair, the course started becoming clearer until the highway finally unleashed its potential.

4Gamer: I see.

Nasu: Before Shiokawa arrived, even though we knew what was wrong with the game, all we could do was offer our opinions as players. We couldn’t exactly fix those problems. Shiokawa showed us the way and presented us with a proper plan on implementing our opinions. “This is how to implement this, this is the right order we should do this, and this is how we should fix this.” At that moment, my eyes met Takeuchi’s and we said to each other: “Don’t let him get away! We have to catch him no matter what it takes!” (laughs)

4Gamer: (laughs) When did all of this happen?

Nasu: That was around the end of August 2015. Back then, all we could do was look on as the players put up with the game and the Fate/ brand started depreciating. I knew that we had to restructure the game’s backbone before the brand completely crumbles, or else we’ll end up betraying all of our players. At that time, we really needed someone who understood how the game works and knew how to get us out of that situation.

Shiokawa: Nasu had talked to me many times about the depreciation of the Fate/ brand, so the danger of the trust in Fate/ and TYPE-MOON falling off came across well. Slowly, I started feeling that I should take part in this full-time in order to help out. The staff of TYPE-MOON being quite passionate in giving me the last push was a huge factor in making my decision to join Delight Works.

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4Gamer: Before, in your CEDEC 2016 presentation, you talked about how you valued the TPI (TYPE-MOON Performance Indicator) over the KPI. [6][7][8] I get the feeling that it’s connected to what you’re talking about now.

Shiokawa: Well, managing FGO consists of adjusting the base that Delight Works created according to the requests and demands of TYPE-MOON. If it gets the OK, I’m sure it’s something that will make TYPE-MOON fans happy, and I would also feel that it’s alright to go with this. I used “TPI” during my presentation to make it easy to understand, but that’s really all there is to it.

Nasu: For example, when we were told, “Since we want players to get excited for our summer swimsuits event, let’s prepare 8 swimsuit characters for the event,” I almost felt like throwing up from the amount of work involved. But I ended up going along with it because of the way Shiokawa presented it.

4Gamer: Even the players were surprised by the swimsuit event. Nobody expected it to come in two stages.

Nasu: I think that’s the important part. There’s no way the plan to bring out 8 characters would come from us. In terms of the schedule, it’s too much, and if we do end up bringing them out, it would be 4 characters at most. Still, when you shout, “It’s summer! There are blue skies! We just have to have 8 of them!” so passionately at us, you just end up saying, “Yes, you’re right! Eight of them! I don’t get why though!” (laughs)

4Gamer: I see, I don’t get it either! (laughs)

Nasu: The 2016 Valentines’ event was a whole lot of work, so I thought that we should take it easy for this year, but Shiokawa said, “Let’s do twice as much this year!” It’s quite harsh for us, but I knew that the players would be really happy with this, so all I can say back to him is, “Alright, let’s do this!”

(Note: The 2017 Valentines’ event was an expanded version of the 2016 event. In addition to the new female Servants added after the 2016 Valentines’ event, they also added scenarios for all of the male Servants. In other words, all of the text for the male Servants was made from scratch…)

4Gamer: Isn’t that a bit much?

Shiokawa: I don’t really intend to push everyone over the edge, but when I think about the dango event from 2015… [9]

Nasu: Ah… Well, the dango event was back when we were still riding on the Fate/ brand, like I mentioned earlier. Looking back on it, it was something that we did as a reflex. That was back when I still had no experience with writing event scenarios or announcing events, so it turned out quite messy, and we couldn’t get a grasp of the entire situation.

4Gamer: You mean, in terms of the schedule?

Nasu: That was part of it, but also in terms of the players’ reactions. The Nero festival was a battle-type event, so we wanted to give the next event a scenario, and we really thought that it would make the players happy. And then when I asked, “So when’s the deadline?” they said, “Tomorrow.” (awkward laugh)

4Gamer: That would certainly wipe the smile off anyone’s face. (laughs) Was that the first time you heard of that?

Nasu: Yes. Forget about not having written a single letter of the scenario; it wasn’t even on my mind at the time. Still, I strongly felt that I had to do everything I can for the players who were still sticking with FGO. Back then, I was the only writer who could work at the time, so I replied, “Alright, I’ll have it done by tomorrow somehow, so you all should prepare to die too to get this event off the ground.”

4Gamer: Amazing… Or rather, that’s insane.

Nasu: Still, I look back on it as an opportunity to build our companies’ relations. If TYPE-MOON works hard on something, then Delight Works will be working hard on it too.

Shiokawa: That’s one way to look at it.

Nasu: Back then, I think that Delight Works was expecting something relatively light. But then things turned out like, “What? I only asked for a 10KB scenario, but this guy wrote 40KB!” Takeuchi even stood at the sidelines laughing and said, “I told you so. That’s what happens when you ask something from this guy.”

4Gamer: How about you, Shiokawa? Did you ever receive any impossible tasks?

Shiokawa: Well, from TYPE-MOON’s side, it’s mostly regarding the main story. The sheer volume of text is one thing, but starting from Chapter 6 on, they’ve started asking for a lot more from us.

Nasu: That was when everything up to Chapter 4 had been released, so Shiokawa had already fixed all the tasks that needed fixing for the year, and we were finally in a position to make massive improvements to the game. But Chapter 5 was set to release in about a month, so it would’ve been difficult to add any more to that. So starting from Chapter 6, I thought that I should start making the ideal JRPG that I had in my mind. I suggested things that would combine the fun of playing the game with the fun of reading the scenario. I prepared to have around half of my suggestions to get shot down, but all of them got implemented.

4Gamer: I remember that’s when gimmicks such as the Gifts started getting implemented, and the battle portions also received a major overhaul. That’s also when single CGs started getting used as part of the special effects. Like the scene where Ozymandias launches his Noble Phantasm.

Shiokawa: That was a result of thinking how we could express the feeling of the story heading to a climax. For the battle portions, we began implementing enemies launching pre-emptive attacks way back in the Fate/Accel Zero Order event, and we set out to explore its full potential in Chapter 6.

Nasu: That was when Takeuchi read the scenario and said, “We have to put in a special CG here,” and then more and more effects started getting implemented until we said, “Let’s ask Koyama for help with this!” [10] Even TYPE-MOON was quite pumped up during that time. So when Chapter 6 was released the way I imagined it to be, I thought, “Wow, this team is incredible!”

Shiokawa: And then we started aiming higher for Chapter 7…

Nasu: Our production teams were slowly getting better over time, but it was in Chapter 7 and the final chapter where both of them pulled all of the stops and gave their all. But in the end, I’m just really glad that the players enjoyed something that we poured our entire heart and soul over for.

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In Between the Game Balance and being “Fate/-like”

4Gamer: Now that the battle portions from Chapter 6 have been brought up, I’d like to ask more regarding that. I noticed a difficulty spike starting from that point onwards. Was that intentional?

Shiokawa: Yes, that was an intentional balance decision. We needed that kind of difficulty level to express the themes of Chapter 6. You’re thrust into a precarious situation facing the Lion King’s conquests, so we wanted the players to feel during battle that yes, this is a very dangerous place.

4Gamer: And it worked quite well. I thought I could face the first battle with just my farming team, but I ended up having to use my Command Spells…

Shiokawa: That’s the one where you get beaten up by a Sphinx, isn’t it?

Nasu: I wanted to avoid a situation where the scenario says they’re really dangerous, but you easily beat them once you actually fight. During the meetings, I always stressed this point: FGO is a story where you save the world after overcoming a crisis, so we just can’t have the player’s journey be an easy one.

4Gamer: That’s the hard part, isn’t it? It’s not really guaranteed that players will be happy if you ramp up the difficulty.

Nasu: Actually, the person in charge of game balance told me, “If you ramp up the difficulty in a smartphone game to the point where players can’t easily clear it, everyone will just get stressed and start hating the game,” and pointed out problems with the plan.

4Gamer: That’s probably the right reaction. For regular smartphone games, you’ll expect players to react badly to anything too hard to deal with.

Nasu: But I just couldn’t give that up. I believe that worrying about how to face a challenge and eventually overcoming it is part of what makes RPGs fun, and it’s also where RPGs shine compared to novels or short stories. If you don’t have that, then there’s no point in turning it into a game. We debated on that point over and over again until we could finally draw the line where we could all say “Yes, we can settle on this.”

4Gamer: Let me change the subject for a bit. When talking about the difficulty level, it’s easy to think of the second Nero Festival’s finale mission. In the end, the difficulty was brought down citing a balancing mistake, but was it really just a mistake?

Shiokawa: Yes, it was just an oversight on our part. That was the first time we tried making a “Very High Difficulty Quest,” and we were all busy balancing the missions until right before the release. We tried to settle for a difficulty that’s just close to pushing it for each day, but we messed up at the very end.

Nasu: Nero would even keep on re-applying the Guts status on herself. (laughs) I actually had a lot of fun with that, but when you think about it, there’s no way you could clear it normally…

Shiokawa: It happened because we missed inputting something from the setting documents into the game data files. When we checked on the players after the mission was implemented, we noticed that and went, “Huh? Only 1000 people have cleared the quest? That’s weird…” We really wanted to apologize to all the players for that.

4Gamer: Even so, 1000 players still managed to clear it. I actually wanted to challenge it one more time before the quest was rebalanced. I would have cleared it next time… I think.

Nasu: That’s why I think that the players who cleared the quest before the balance fix were truly “the Chosen Ones.” We want to make another Very Difficult event in the future, but we think it’s more important that the players feel satisfied with the regular quests. And with that, we hope that the players can enjoy the Nero Festival every year.

4Gamer: I see. Related to the difficulty level and game mechanics, I notice that in FGO, there are a lot of hidden mechanics that you normally wouldn’t figure out just by playing normally. Put in another way, there’s a lot of “masked data.” What led you to put these into the game?

Shiokawa: Recently, I’ve started to think that games are starting to become too “convenient.” The trend is for games that don’t require you to think too hard or remember too many things. On top of that, if you just look around a little on the net, no matter what game you play, you’ll end up with the same strategies and conclusions that other people came up with. I think that the only thing at the end of being able to clear anything you wish is plain “boredom.”

We intentionally made FGO a game where you can keep discovering new things from its many different aspects. Since you keep discovering things, you don’t get bored of it. I think that what’s fun about FGO is that you keep on thinking on how to consider these hidden things while playing the game.

Nasu: Other than things related to game balance, we also masked a lot of data related to character profiles. For example, the Heaven/Earth/Man/Star/Beast attribute system for Servants is something that you can look back from the first chapter and go, “Oh, so that’s what it meant!” Most of the masked data are things that the core players can enjoy once they get noticed.

4Gamer: Heaven/Earth/Man is pretty straightforward, but I don’t really get what the Star attribute is all about.

Nasu: It’s something related to being a “Pioneer of the Stars.” Basically, Star-attribute Servants are persons throughout history who left behind hope for humanity. Not only do you need to perform a “great deed” – you also need to be a shining beacon for all of humanity. That’s the concept of the Star attribute.

4Gamer: So what about Mysterious Heroine X?

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Nasu: Oh, she’s different. I only put her in there simply because she came from outer space. She’s not exactly a shining beacon for humanity. (laughs)

4Gamer: So she’s a star because she’s an alien? (laughs) So next, I’d like to ask about the special damage bonuses. That’s a mechanic that heavily influences your tactics throughout the game, so I’d like to hear more about them. For example, what about Brynhildr’s “beloved”?

Nasu: “Brynhildr’s beloved” simply refers to those who fit Brynhildr’s definition of “a righteous person.”

4Gamer: A righteous person?

Nasu: Not the general definition of being righteous, but a hero who fits Brynhildr’s definition of “righteousness.” So if someone righteous like Tony Stark from Iron Man shows up, she might say, “I don’t feel anything… He must be evil.” (laughs) So if you can figure out what “beloved” means, you can also figure out Brynhildr’s definition of righteousness, as well as her preferences.

4Gamer: I see. In other words, that’s something that players who figured it out can giggle about.

Shiokawa: If we had revealed all of the damage bonuses from the start, I don’t think it’s something that would’ve added to the game’s appeal. Making certain elements vague stirs the curiosity of players and leads them to seek more in order to be satisfied.

4Gamer: There are also some joke bonuses like Mysterious Heroine X’s bonus to “Saberfaces.”

Nasu: That one was something we prepared to make her stand out more, but we had to be careful around those, since we risk lowering the seriousness of the game. But in FGO’s case, we have characters like Mysterious Heroine X or Tamamocat who are relegated to being the life of the party, so in that case, we can do whatever we want with them, since it’s more important to make them stand out.

4Gamer: Next, I’d like to ask about the skills. In particular, “Clairvoyance”, “Instinct”, and “True Name Discernment” get attention for not being very useful.

Shiokawa: When managing the game, it’s extremely difficult to balance characters and skills when new ones keep getting added all the time. Still, I’m aware of those opinions.

Nasu: I think “Instinct” is pretty useful when you max it out. But then again, it’s a lot of effort to get it that high. Regarding “Clairvoyance”, we’re trying to put in subtle differences between the Servants who get it. But we can’t really do anything about “True Name Discernment” because of the system in place… Oh, Jeanne…

4Gamer: Well, it is unique to her…

Nasu: Jeanne’s “True Name Discernment” is supposed to be her strongest appeal as a character, so we can’t exactly make it too powerful or completely overhaul it. So within the year, I’d like to see an event where we can go “It’s Jeanne’s turn now! Her ‘True Name Discernment’ is super strong this time!” at least once.

4Gamer: I look forward to that. Since the topic of skill levels has been brought up, I’d like to ask about the drop rates for items. I’m sure that all players know just how difficult it is to raise a Servant. You mentioned in your blog once regarding an “item budget”…

Nasu: What I meant by the item budget is just the average number of items you can get from an event. That number doesn’t include the drops you can get from free quests. With enough work, I’m sure anyone can get more items to drop, but on average, I think that most players would only be able to max out all skills for around 6 Servants every year. Put in another way, it’s more like “pick the 6 Servants you want to max out.”

4Gamer: Hmm, I see.

Nasu: FGO is set so that you can only use your limited resources on the characters that you really love. I don’t really want it to be too easy to raise all of the characters you have. I mean, you can’t really call that love anymore, can you?

4Gamer: Even among the new Servants, it doesn’t feel like the game is heavily affected by a power creep. I wonder if that’s also being considered.

Shiokawa: With regards to Servants, we balance them so that the old characters never fall out of use completely. If we make all characters too easy to raise, players will only look at their abilities and pick only the strongest characters; as a result, their love towards each of characters is lost. We don’t want FGO to be a game where players only consider numbers and abilities; we also want players to look at each Servant’s individual personalities and quirks.

4Gamer: Regarding the endgame for FGO, right now, that consists of maximizing skill levels and the Grail Ascension system. For the moment, there are no plans of doing PvP or rankings… Will that change in the future?

Shiokawa: We are also preparing more content for FGO’s endgame. For example, increasing the limit for bond levels is one of those attempts. FGO is a game where we link the game’s system with the player’s perception of real time. We set the bond levels so that it will take around 3 months to half a year or so of playing before you can maximize one for that reason.

Nasu: Then again, once you get them to max bond, they become hard to keep using. It’s kind of sad to see Andersen getting left out of my party… (laughs)

4Gamer: I get that feeling. (laughs) The extra bond points you get also feels like a waste.

Nasu: That’s why I want an option where players can reset the bond level to 9, and then you receive 1 Quartz once you reach level 10. Hey, we can settle for 1 Quartz, right?

Shiokawa: Hmm, I’ll think about it. (laughs)

018

Who is Playing FGO?

4Gamer: From a previous interview, Nasu and Atsushi mentioned that you would aim for a Fate/ series that would attract 1 million users. How does it feel having achieved that goal?

Shiokawa: I think that the younger fanbase increased by a whole lot. At first, we expected that only veteran TYPE-MOON fans would be playing the game. But looking at the data, we saw that the majority of players were all in their 20s, and during the real events, most of the audience were quite young.

Nasu: To be honest, among us in TYPE-MOON, we had a phase where we expected that only 100 thousand core fans would keep playing, and that things would be okay as long as we kept those 100 thousand happy. If I had to put it into words, it was like: “Let us tell the story of some nerds. We’ll be making something fun, and we’ll die together with these 100 thousand people in the TYPE-MOON colony! Garden of Avalon!”

4Gamer: And FGO changed all of that?

Nasu: Yes. FGO brought in a lot of youngsters who play games primarily on smartphones, so we felt that we should stop limiting our horizons. It’s not that our style doesn’t appeal to the younger generation anymore, but it was more of the difference between the PC and smartphone environment. Once we pinned that down, we noticed that a lot more people started enjoying the game. It was a huge culture shock for me.

4Gamer: Was there a period where there was a huge influx of new players?

Shiokawa: Our numbers have constantly been increasing ever since service started. If I had to give periods where the numbers spiked, there was the Fate/Accel Zero Order collaboration event with Fate/Zero, the FGO Summer Festival 2016 ~1st Anniversary~ event, and 2017’s New Year event. Every time there’s an event, we have to keep updating our highest records for Daily Active Users (DAU). The most recent record breaker was the Chocolate Ladies’ Uproar Rerun – Valentine’s 2016 Expanded Edition event.

4Gamer: Are those new players introduced to Fate/ for the first time through FGO?

Nasu: I think so. Out of all the players, I’d say that less than 20% of them have actually played Fate/stay night.

Shiokawa: That’s why we have to keep in mind the preferences and passion of Fate/ fans for the series, while also aiming to producing content that can reach out to the young fans who have yet to experience all the previous works in the franchise.

4Gamer: To be honest, I was skeptical when I heard the mention of a Fate/ series that would break 1 million users. I still can’t believe that it’s managed to spread this far.

Nasu: I can only say this with confidence now, but I had a vision: if Fate/stay night – a series that had so much text and was not easy at all to create – could sell that much, maybe we could get a million people to play a smartphone game, if we actually took it as seriously. Of course, it wasn’t that simple, and there were a lot of worries along the way.

Shiokawa: I can’t give exact numbers, but the current DAU is probably around three times higher compared to when service started. The consistency of users is also pretty high compared to other smartphone games. I have to say that it’s amazing that there are this many people who play the game every single day.

4Gamer: And what about the ARPU (average revenue per user)?

Shiokawa: I’d say it’s on the low side compared to other titles. I’m pretty sure this is because there are a lot of students and young people among our users. It’s still quite far from the extreme situation of “only a few players spend, but they spend so much that it ends up supporting the entire game” as well.

4Gamer: Eh? Now that’s unexpected. That’s actually quite healthy isn’t it? I honestly find that hard to believe.

Nasu: The amount of money spent on the game depends from person to person, but it feels like the younger generation is less resistant to spending money on the game. On the other hand, there are more people who refuse to spend money on the game in their 20s or 30s. Still, there’s a difference in the amount that they can spend, so it all balances out.

4Gamer: FGO’s service also started in China back in October 2016. How well is the game doing abroad?

Shiokawa: It’s quite popular, and we’re also getting a lot of sales there. The standards are a different from Japan’s so I can’t compare them easily, but I can say that the numbers are exceptional compared to other Japanese titles. It even reached #2 on the App Store rankings a few days ago.

4Gamer: Oh, I hear that Okita finally arrived over there. (laughs) [11] By the way, what about the English-speaking community?

Shiokawa: I can’t say anything concrete yet, but we’re getting a lot of access abroad, and not just in English-speaking countries. They keep on playing even though you can only play in Japanese at the moment. We’re always wondering if there is something we can do for the players who are waiting for the game abroad.

Part 2


Notes:

[1] 運営型ゲーム – this appears to refer to a sub-type of mobile games. I can’t find a proper source for the term, but it seems to be referring to games like FGO, LLSIF, Neko Atsume, Granblue Fantasy, etc. where the focus is managing their characters and participating in limited-time content. It appears to be discussed at length in this article (http://www.4gamer.net/games/295/G029574/20160316158/), which is an analysis of the structure of Japanese F2P mobile games.

[2] Rashomon – an FGO event that took place on 2016 May 31 – June 15, featuring Shuten-Douji as the limited-time Servant. The first raid battle event, where the goal was to take down the raid boss Ibaraki-Douji. More info here: http://fate-go.cirnopedia.org/quest_event_20160531.php#nav

[3] Onigashima – an FGO event that took place on 2016 July 11 – 25, featuring Minamoto Raikou as the limited-time Servant, and Rider Kintoki as a free Servant. Another raid battle event, this time with multiple raid bosses over the course of the event. More info here: http://fate-go.cirnopedia.org/quest_event_20160711.php#nav

[4] Takashi Takeuchi – CEO of TYPE-MOON Inc., as well as the character designer for Tsukihime and Fate/stay night.

[5] Kenji Atsushi – Former creative director of Fate/Grand Order.

[6] CEDEC – Computer Entertainment Developers’ Conference, a yearly Japanese conference organized by the Computer Entertainment Suppliers’ Association (CESA) which gathers speakers from the computer entertainment industry, including video gaming. Official site: http://cedec.cesa.or.jp/2017/koubo/index.html

[7] TPI – TYPE-MOON Performance Indicator. During his presentation at CEDEC 2016, Shiokawa talks about how FGO overturns the “common sense” of the mobile game industry, where he mentions that FGO’s team values the players’ love for Fate/ and TYPE-MOON (TPI) over the game’s KPI (Key Performance Indicators). Source: http://www.4gamer.net/games/266/G026651/20160825099/

[8] KPI – Key Performance Indicator. A business term that refers to a quantifiable set of metrics used to evaluate a company or an employee’s performance over time. More information: http://www.investopedia.com/terms/k/kpi.asp

[9] Dango event – Do Moon Goddesses Dream of Dango? is an event that took place from 2015 September 25 – October 12, featuring Orion as the limited-time Servant. Infamous among players for being one of the most poorly-designed events in the game’s history. More info here: http://fate-go.cirnopedia.org/quest_event_20150925.php#nav

[10] Hirokazu Koyama – character designer for TYPE-MOON. Known for his work on Mahou Tsukai no Yoru’s character designs.

[11] Okita – refers to Souji Okita, the limited-time Servant for the Fate/Gudaguda Honnouji event. More info here: http://fate-go.cirnopedia.org/quest_event_20151125.php#nav

 

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