It’s been almost a month since Wild Hearts came out, and yet we can already see the success of Omega Force’s monster hunt. With plenty of epic beasts to take down and a vibrant world to explore, Wild Hearts has proven to be a hit with fans and critics alike.
We recently spoke with game directors Kotaro Hirata and Takuto Edagawa about how they feel after Wild Hearts’ warm reception, the future of the game and what it looked like in the early stages of development.
After the initial greetings and a brief congratulations on the success of Wild Hearts, we got right down to business and asked both directors how they found the reception. Check out the transcript below:
“Well.” Said Hirata-san. “It has been very positively received by the market, the fans love it and the development team is happy with the situation. But at the same time, there have been some requests here and there to fix things, with updates and things like that. So there is a lot to do.”
It seems a mix of both validation and a need to keep the work going, but Omega Force is no stranger to the monster-hunting genre. Its previous franchise, Toukiden, hasn’t had a submission in a while, but it’s clear there was some influence on Wild Hearts.
“Toukiden is a great series and the know-how gained from developing Toukiden is still alive and well in Wild Hearts. But Toukiden left something to be desired in terms of sales and reach. With Wild Hearts, we wanted to change that. First of all, we wanted to make a great hunting action game that could be enjoyed by fans around the world, and our insight for that was the Kemono, the prey that the player goes after. We wanted the creatures to be recognizable to players no matter who they are or where they come from.”
In Toukiden, many of the monsters we see reflect mythology, while Wild Hearts’ Kemono shows beasts connected to nature. Can you talk a little more about the decision behind creating this strong connection to the natural world for Wild Hearts’ monsters?
“When creating the prey in Wild Hearts, it was important that the kemono had a high sense of familiarity, and at the same time the players had to be afraid of them. We thought about many things, but in the end we settled on nature and animals, because everyone can recognize the natural world, but it can also be something that people are afraid of. Those were our two motives.”
The fear is an interesting concept because it almost feels like a necessity to take these creatures down rather than just hunting them for glory. Did you incorporate similar themes to these in the creation of the kemono?
“The design of the kemono came after the theme was established. A lot of Japanese cultural elements were put into the kimono, and our idea was ‘what would happen if all the human artificial structures were swallowed up by the natural world?’ “
Among the kimono designs, do you have any favorites?
“I love the rage cake,”. Edagawa said. “It was the first kemono featured in the game and it has both the beauty of nature and the threatening element. I also like Earthbreaker, with the artificial structure on the back like houses, that very unique design.” Hirata, on the other hand, chose the Kingtusk from among the various creatures. “I love the kingtusk.” he said. “Because it’s the first kemono we made and we used Kingtusk to make the battle system. Without Kingtusk, this game wouldn’t exist.”
Besides the kemono that populated the world, there was something else that struck me as intriguing about the world of Wild Hearts, and there seemed to be much more to explore beyond Azuma. Is there the potential for us to explore these lands to the west and north in the future?
“When we started developing the game, it was important for us to make a fictional but realistic world. To make it realistic, we looked at a lot of things and actually started making a timeline. We knew from the beginning that Azuma would be a world, but by making this timeline and comparing it to what actually happened in Japan in history, we explored a lot of settings. There is the potential for additional content there, but we didn’t intentionally ignore distant parts of the world because we planned future content. “
It was mentioned earlier that karakuri were implemented to prevent Wild Hearts from becoming too difficult. Were other mechanics introduced or omitted early in development that would have changed the difficulty?
“We knew from the beginning that this game had to be unique and provide a unique experience. One of the first things we tried was basing the game on sticking to the kemono, something you can do in the final game as a more subtle element. We also tried basing the game purely on shooting, and another idea had several hundred players working together to take out kemono. Through trial and error, we came up with the idea of karakuri because it can be creative and offer players a new experience.”
There seems to be a way to counter each of the kemono with karakuri, was this rock, paper, scissors style of gameplay also conceptualized early on?
“The counter action is intentional and we originally designed the karakuri to expand the player’s actions and alternatives, but the effect became bigger than that. If you come up with the right approach with a kemono, you can give yourself a big advantage. This part of the design was established very early on, but it is not obvious or easy to come up with the right approach and actions because the kemono can also do many actions.”
Wild Hearts is the latest success for EA Originals, what was it like working with EA to make this game and was there much influence on the development?
“EA Originals as a label had its own policies, but in our case they really respected developers’ creativity. They gave advice and support, but in the end it was up to us to make the final decisions. They didn’t shackle us in any way, and in fact it was a very good working relationship and good cooperation. EA’s servers allow us to achieve cross-play, for example, and they helped us tremendously in terms of localization.’