The Player Experience
Case Study – Dark Souls III
Dark Souls 3 is developed by From Software, the developers of Demon’s Souls, Bloodborne and the earlier Dark Souls titles. Initially these games had a small, niche audience but as time has passed their popularity has grown leading to recent titles being more well-known to the extent they could be considered mainstream. The trailer represents a hostile, dying world, paralleled to a fire that burnt out and is now merely ash. The gameplay shown in the trailer represents both the hostility of the world as we see a large mix of the player winning and losing fights, and the genre as it displays how the character acts and what they are capable of.
In terms of narrative the trailer begins with a short voiceover which speaks in vague terms, the world is left mysterious in order to garner curiosity and speculation due to much of the information about the world being learnt through playing the game. Most of the important information comes through the environments and enemies showcased as they are used to convey what happened to the world and what it may have been in the past.
In the souls series there is always a short area at the beginning which uses messages on the floor that teach the player controls, though in the trailer many mechanics are showcased which informs the player that they are capable of these actions. With this knowledge players can experiment and learn new techniques even without the tutorial.
The trailer displays that much of the player’s focus will be on combat and defeating bosses to progress through the game, the player will be able to use a variety of weapons and techniques in order to overcome obstacles in their path. Among all of From Software’s titles combat and overcoming bosses as a way to progress is a core concept, the games always focus around your character being thrown into a hostile world and having to quickly adapt and become stronger to overcome great challenges.
In these games there are very few cutscenes, aside from an intro and an ending the only cutscenes are introductions to the bosses and information on how you changed the world when defeating a boss that couldn’t be given otherwise, for instance how ringing a bell can open a gate somewhere else which leads to the next area of the game. The cutscenes which introduce bosses are designed to give you information about bosses and may show their fighting style before combat begins, knowing a boss is agile may prepare you to be on the defensive as soon as a fight begins.
This trailer shows very little in terms of characters in the world, in the previous Dark Souls titles NPCs are often merchants or will talk to you about the world, though they may also have motivations of their own, some will have motivations that align with yours, assisting you in your journey, though others may end up as your enemy. These characters are often not as central to learning about the world as the enemies, environments and bosses so the trailer has focused on displaying these aspects of the world instead. The player character is often less important to the world outside of the role they play, this is because the game focuses on you playing a customised character, for whom you may want to imagine your own backstory.