Revolve8 Interview – Koji Igarashi and Masaru Kurusawa on the Mobile Game’s Genesis and Art
I recently sat down with Revolve8 Director Masaru Kurusawa and ArtPlay's Koji Igarashi to talk about the mobile game's inspiration and art.
SEGA’s Revolve8: Episodic Dueling has just officially released for worldwide audiences, on February 5. The game takes place in a modernized fairy tale setting with humorous elements that work incredibly well in a deck-based RTS mobile game. This free-to-play title is headed by an absolute dream team of creators, including Koji Igarashi of Castlevania and Bloodstained fame, Masayoshi Kikuchi, producer of the Yakuza series, and animator Ryota-H.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Koji Igarashi and Lead Director Masaru Kurusawa about this hidden gem of a mobile title to learn more about the creative processes and inspiration that went into creating it.
VB: How did you get involved with the Revolve8 team, Koji Igarashi?
Koji Igarashi: When I created the company, ArtPlay, I wanted to make a new title. I was thinking about the ideas and assets that I wanted to start with. Then, I first met with [Masayoshi] Kikuchi-san, [Senior Producer] of Revolve8 three years ago at a Game Creator’s party. And at this party, I showed Kikuchi-san the art and assets I had begun to develop. Kikuchi-san fell in love with the ideas and concepts, and after that we officially started the project together.
VB: I’m glad he fell in love the idea, because I adore the art and concepts in the game, being a big fan of fairy tales my entire life. What inspired you to go with the fairy tale motif for the game?
KI: When I started creating the art, I began to think about completely original ideas. Instead of starting from scratch, I decided to use fairy tales as a base idea because they’re very beloved, well known stories. I would create each character by reading the source material. With fairy tales though, there are quite a few contradictory concepts and a lot of things aren’t feasible for a video game character, so we utilized some modern ideas and combined those with aspects of the original books and folklore.
VB: The character designs are definitely interesting, and I noticed that each character has a modern spin on those classic story elements, like how Aladdin now has a Genie Gun and the Fairy Godmother rides around in a floating mechanical chair. What inspired you to give each of the characters a touch of this modern technology?
KI: It was actually very important for us to maintain the lore of the original stories, first and foremost. For example, in the original fairy tale Cinderella rides a carriage, which we were originally going to change to a car. But from a game design aspect visually this seemed less feasible, so we decided to go with a compact design and chose a motorcycle instead. Technology is such an impactful part of our lives today, and blending this element with fairy tales, would make for a very fun, relatable twist for players of the game.
VB: I definitely agree, and I think it would be a lot more convenient getting back home by midnight curfew via motorcycle instead of carriage! Speaking of that, the game has quite the comedic tone; I never would have envisioned Little Red Riding Hood asking to take a selfie with the Big Bad Wolf. What influenced the comedic tones of the game?
Masaru Kurosawa: The characters are very vivid and imaginative, so with [Senior Producer] Kikuchi’s supervision he expanded these ideas and developed them into the story, which he had approval over. Kikuchi-san wanted to go with the idea of main and sub characters in the story, working off of funny interactions with each other. We also felt the modern spin would loan itself well to the inclusion of comedic moments, like the one you mentioned for example. We condensed the roster a bit before release, so that the main and sub characters would stand out more.
KI: With the feedback of the development team, I continued to create the personality for each character and we worked closely together to implement my ideas into the story. We even expanded upon concepts of the original fairy tails and folklore, such as with Urashima Taro and Otohime. In the original story, she gives him a box as a reward so we thought ‘How could we develop this into something with comic relief elements?’ Her box now has a laptop inside of it in Revolve8.
VB: That’s very clever, and you did an excellent job with the cast of the game. I have quite a few favorites myself, such as Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and the Wicked Queen. Who are your favorites, and why?
MK: Not many people use this character, but my favorite is Ring Genie. I like both the design and the gameplay of the character. His SP Skill is very useful as well. He summons two tiny Ring Genies and they attack the towers. From a writing standpoint, I find it interesting that he is a main character, yet acts like a sub character! One of the slogans of the game is, “You’ve got one chance; use it!” and I feel it also fits the theme of the character, being a Genie.
KI: My favorite character is the Emperor! Gameplay wise, he is extremely useful as a tank. When I saw the team’s Alpha build of the game, I immediately noticed the Emperor doing all his unique poses. They were immediately eye catching and stood out to me! In terms of gameplay however, we had to cut some of his posing for performance.
He still uses his pose after his SP skill though, which I think the team did an excellent job with, and I hope everyone notices that. They put a great deal of effort into the animations. I think from a design stand point, he’s very funny and interesting too; the back of his cape translates to, “Naked is Number One!”
VB: He’s definitely an important character, as he can be utilized to pave the way for other characters. How did you go about balancing the roster? I would think lore wise, Sinbad for example would be stronger than Rapunzel, but I find her to be more powerful personally. What criteria did you use to apply strengths and weaknesses to each one?
KI: We do the balancing and adjustments so each character has their own functions they’re good at and designed for. There are three deck types: Assault, Counter and Siege. So we don’t think of the characters in terms of power, but how they are best utilized within the structure of the game and those respective decks. From a design standpoint, you would definitely consider the Emperor, as previously mentioned, to make sense as a tank character. So design aesthetics influenced the team’s decisions.
VB: I can definitely see that, I think you guys did an excellent job with fleshing out engaging, fun combat in an RTS setting. I really enjoy the structure of the decks, along with the gameplay stages too, with Briar Castle is my favorite! How did you come up with the ideas for the combat abilities and arenas?
MK: We think about what strengths and weakness the character would have, and then balance it around the deck type for each respective one. We implement this into the skills for each character. As for the stages, we chose 10 characters from Revolve8 and designed the stages around them. We are thinking about adding more at a later date.
VB: How is creating characters for a game like Revolve8 different than your previous work, say, on the Castlevania series?
KI: There isn’t much difference at all when I begin to conceptualize ideas. First and foremost, I come up with how the game will function and play, what type of system and engine it will run on. Then, I develop the characters around that concept. For a game like Revolve8, there are a lot of unit types. So I would arrange those ideas, and then expand upon them for each of the character designs.
A special thank you to Igarashi-san and Kurosawa-san for taking time out of their busy schedules to speak with us. Igarashi-san is a legend in this industry, and any game he loans his creative vision to is sure to be a unique, engaging experience. You can check out the free-to-play Revolve8 on either iOS or Android.