Dragon’s Dogma 2 is right around the corner, and our month-long IGN First covering the game has revealed tons of new details about its incredible new monsters, systems, and vocations. In our conversations with creator Hideaki Itsuno, we also learned about a number of new features of the NPC systems in Dragon’s Dogma 2, including one that might result in NPCs fighting one another over the player character.
The first Dragon’s Dogma featured a “pawn” system, where players could customize an NPC assistant that would follow the player around the world, fight alongside them, and assist with quests. They could then flesh out their party with two additional pawns borrowed from other people playing online who would arrive with their own skills, personalities, and knowledge of quests they’d done in their respective games. When not in the player’s party, these pawns would fill out the world of Dragon’s Dogma, wandering the roads and towns available to be recruited at any time. It was a strange and unique system that helped the world feel full, if occasionally a bit robotic.
In Dragon’s Dogma 2, that system is back, says Itsuno. But Capcom has had a lot of time and tech to improve on the system since then. Itsuno says he wanted to create “properly detailed NPCs” and ended up with a “ridiculous number of people” in the world, and he’s been trying to build systems where characters behave as if they have goals and are making decisions in the world regardless of what the player is doing. One notable improvement is that now not only can NPCs have affinity for the player as they did in the previous game, they can also feel attached to other NPCs.
“For example, if you find a pair of friends, hitting one will cause the other to get mad at you too. Or if you do something nice for a child, the parent might thank you and like you more as well. That’s what I mean by relationships between NPCs.”
But the relationships between NPCs and players may also be enhanced. Itsuno notes that while the team is still finalizing this feature, it may be possible in Dragon’s Dogma 2 for NPCs to get into fights over the player if they perceive another NPC as a threat.
“A character who grows close to you might come over to your house to play, but if they meet another character there who’s done the same thing, a fight might break out,” he explains. “Personally, we just made the system because we wanted to be able to say, ‘Stop, don’t fight over me!’ It might be best if your readers play through the game while trying to avoid that kind of outcome.”
Along those same lines, we should also expect improvements in character creation and character customization, both for the player and the appearances of NPCs themselves. Itsuno tells us that the game’s character creator has been improved to allow for extremely ridiculous levels of detail and customization, thanks to improved hardware performance since the previous game.
“It’s something I was thinking even when we made the first game,” Itsuno says. “I thought that there aren’t any action RPGs that allow for proper character creation, so my initial goal was to make one that could at least allow you to create the kind of character you wanted to see. While the first game’s character creator is actually limited in a lot of different ways, and I know this might get cut, but we did go so far as to allow for profiles with extreme settings, to the point where you could make something like a character from the popular series Kaiji. Doing that ruins the character though, and so we didn’t make that available to users, but there was enough freedom in the settings to basically allow you to recreate manga characters as-is.
“It’s something we put a lot of work into for the first game, but with better hardware performance this time around, we could add as much freedom to the system as we wanted. The problem is that this means that the act of creating a cool character, or the character that you want to see, becomes no different from doing so with clay. It becomes impossible if you don’t have an understanding of art. You could have your ideal character in mind, but you’d basically need to be an artist to form that character with your own hands, so that’s where we had to begin when deciding how character creation would work.”
Itsuno goes on to talk about improvements in photogrammetry technology, which allows for scanning of real objects in 3D and then creation of in-game graphics that look real, such as with a human face. The team wanted to make use of this, allowing for heavy customization while also letting players who were less artistic make faces that looked good. Here’s the solution they came up with:
“The first idea we had was to scan nearly a hundred human faces, then use those as a base for creating characters. This real-life data acting as our base meant that it would be easy to create realistic faces so long as you don’t apply absolutely ridiculous values to them. The other thing we did was to make it easy to create the base face that you would directly edit. By picking the face that seems the most acceptable among the ones that come up, you’re then given other possibilities based around that face. By repeating this process of picking the best out of a group, you’re able to get pretty close to the kind of face that you like. From there, you can make the final adjustments yourself, which gave us a system where you can do whatever you want while not requiring everyone to be an artist. If you’re able to control truly detailed settings, a perfectionist like myself could spend hours upon hours and still not finish creating a character.”
We have tons more new information about Dragon’s Dogma 2 from our month-long IGN First on the game, including a feature on how pawns specifically are being improved, more on the character creator, and a detailed look at the new Trickster vocation. Dragon’s Dogma 2 debuts on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC on March 22, 2024.
Rebekah Valentine is a senior reporter for IGN. Got a story tip? Send it to [email protected].