Dragon Quest XI does something almost no other modern-day game does. Fans of older Dragon Quest games could play Dragon Quest XI from a completely 2D perspective. This made it extremely close to what players got from the franchise back in the 16-bit days. Along with that, Square-Enix also created the same gameplay experience in a completely 3D setting.
Obviously this took a ton of work, and seeing it actually come together into something playable is really impressive. While the initial work started with various sketches, the team actually turned to creating the 3D settings first, and then recreated those in 2D. 3D Art Director Yoshiko Hiyama explained the process in a Square-Enix internal interview.
“The staff had an understanding for the general framework and image the director hoped to achieve through visual references and blueprint designs. Using those references, we built out the town with temporary models and walked through it to repeatedly check and adjust aspects such as the scenery, playability, and comprehensibility. When the overall structure was solidified using the temporary model, the detailed buildout was able to start. At this stage, we finally saw detailed models and textures being applied, as well as adjustments being made to the lighting in earnest.”
Director Takeshi Uchikawa followed up by discussing some of the challenges adapting 3D settings into 2D presented.
“There was a need to devise methods to showcase certain things in a way that was unique to 2D,” says Uchikawa. “Take the interior structure of a building as an example - even if the structure didn’t pose any issues in 3D, there could be limitations when it was depicted on a flat plane. For example, having several floors that overlap in complex ways isn’t any particular issue in 3D - as long as the direction of travel is clear. But when converted into 2D, there were unforeseen areas that were either difficult to see or comprehend.”