The Making of Dark Souls II
GAMES

The Making of Dark Souls II

2011- 2014

Dark Souls II is the third game of the Souls series. It is the first Souls title developed by game directors other than Hidetaka Miyazaki.

Dark Souls II split the fan base during its release, with most treating it as an inferior Souls game compared to the first two, and some considering it as highly innovative, more accessible, and even better than the original.

Discover how Dark Souls II was created and the development story behind FromSoftware's third Souls game.

Overview

Development Start: Nov 7, 2011
Official Reveal: Dec 7, 2012
Gameplay Reveal: Apr 10, 2013
Release Date: Mar 11, 2014

Background of Dark Souls II

To appreciate the full story in the making of Dark Souls II, we must begin with the success of its predecessor, the highly acclaimed Dark Souls.

The Success of Dark Souls

Unlike the previous game, Demon's Souls, the release of Dark Souls was highly anticipated and received commercial and critical acclaim.

So it is no wonder that during its release, it broke all FromSoftware sales records. It was so successful that it outsold Demon's Souls one-year international sales in just one week of sales. And that is for Japan only.

Hence, the next important question for FromSoftware is, what should Miyazaki do next?

What is Miyazaki's Next Project?

The most logical conclusion, based on the sales of Dark Souls, is to make a DLC for it. And that's what FromSoftware aimed next.

Miyazaki, as the director of Dark Souls, continued with the creation of the new expansion named Artorias of the Abyss.

The development finally completed, and the expansion was released on Oct 23, 2012.

However, before this date, there were already two new games being developed inside FromSoftware, still unknown and yet to be announced to the fans.

These two games were Dark Souls II and Bloodborne.

Dark Souls II Without Miyazaki

The Reveal of Dark Souls II

The first of the two unknown games to be officially announced is Dark Souls II. It was revealed on Dec 7, 2012, just two months after the Artorias DLC. But development for it has started as early as November of 2011, a mere few months after the release of Dark Souls.

When Dark Souls II was revealed, it was also announced right away that Miyazaki would not be involved as the game director. Instead, two other directors were introduced.

You might be wondering, with the success of Dark Souls and its DLC, why would FromSoftware risk Dark Souls II by not having Miyazaki the director?

Why Miyazaki is Not in Dark Souls II

As Miyazaki was working on the DLC of Dark Souls, he was not assigned as the director of Dark Souls II.

Miyazaki: Partially due to the development of Artorias of the Abyss Edition and Dark Souls II were going on at the same time, I was kind of removed from the Dark Souls II project, and then I began to work on Bloodborne. As it turned out, I was having a lot of fun working on it too.

Knowll Insight: This information shared by Miyazaki is unexpected, though, as he had always in the past worked on multiple projects. This is also a trend he will do for future Souls games.

The logical explanation is that FromSoftware had the intent to give the Dark Souls series to other directors, to enable Miyazaki in developing other IPs.

In a way, FromSoftware thinks that what Miyazaki achieved for Demon's Souls and Dark Souls can be easily replicated. This is a wrong assumption though for the company, as it would soon show up in the future challenges the teams will go through, for Dark Souls II and Dark Souls III.

Without Miyazaki, the development of the Souls games struggle.

Miyazaki: I am not in a position to comment on the kind of decision FromSoftware made at the time, but my personal view on the topic was that the Dark Souls II project could be a huge opportunity for someone other than myself.

I already received plenty of chances, and if someone else in FromSoftware could take that same chance and excel on it, the company could grow as an organization. Also, speaking as a creator, and I have shared this in other interviews, I would like to see what kind of possibilities will result when the direction of Dark Souls was unshackled from myself.

Knowll Insight: The result of this experiment, though, is that the sequel is a shallow copy of Dark Souls, missing what made the game great. And this is also the main reason why in the future, there will be no more Souls game that is not closely directed by Miyazaki. This is the reason why Dark Souls III was returned back to Miyazaki, and all the future Souls games had him as the director, even when he was already promoted as company president.

What Did Miyazaki Really Contribute to Dark Souls II?

With two directors already involved in the game, what did Miyazaki actually contribute to Dark Souls II? The honest and true answer is - nothing much. Miyazaki was busy with Bloodborne while Dark Souls II was being created, and after Bloodborne, he proceeded in directing Dark Souls III.

Here is the complete timeline:

  • Sep 22, 2011 – Dark Souls is released
  • Nov 7, 2011 – Dark Souls II planning begins under different directors
  • Jul 9, 2012 – Bloodborne planning begins
  • Oct 23, 2012 - DLC Artorias of the Abyss is released
  • Dec 7, 2012 – Dark Souls II official reveal
  • Apr 10, 2013 – Dark Souls II gameplay reveal
  • Jun 10, 2013 – Dark Souls III planning begins (Miyazaki was not involved here. He would join this project after Bloodborne)
  • Mar 11, 2014 – Dark Souls II is released
  • May 21, 2014 – Miyazaki becomes FromSoftware president
  • Jun 9, 2014 – Bloodborne official reveal
  • Mar 24, 2015 – Bloodborne is released
  • Jun 15, 2015 – Dark Souls III official reveal

In the interviews, though, this simple fact could not be shared. Miyazaki had to be involved in some ways.

Yui Tanimura: The role of Miyazaki, the previous game director, is still in a sort of supervisor role. He periodically provides advice and gives his thoughts in terms of the project. However, he too is a director, and he does not really try to direct what I'm doing on Dark Souls II, but the advice is still there. There is still some light involvement from him. The reason why we changed from Miyazaki to myself and Shibuya was that, as a company, we want to provide a new perspective on the series in creating sequels.

We are definitely going to keep the essence of what Dark Souls is. By having a new director, we believe that the game can continue to evolve and become much better with the introduction of a new set of eyes. But as a company, the main aspects of any of the games we create will remain.

Knowll Insight: As shared above, without Miyazaki, both Dark Souls II and Dark Souls III struggled during their development. And based on the output of FromSoftware after Dark Souls II, they never released again another Souls game where Miyazaki was not involved as a game director.