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Geek Interview: ‘Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent’ Development Team Adapts JRPG Magic For Mobile Gaming

In a landscape where mobile role-playing games (RPGs) like Genshin Impact and Fire Emblem Heroes have set high standards, Square Enix’s latest venture, Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent emerges as a noteworthy entrant. Skillfully bridging the gap between traditional, classic Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) elements and the nuances of mobile gaming, Champions of the Continent excels at keeping the nostalgia and adorable pixel art style alive.

Octopath Traveler emerged as a distinctive series in the role-playing game genre, captivating players with its unique blend of retro and modern aesthetics. This series, known for its engaging turn-based gameplay, falls under the Japanese Role Playing Game (JRPG) category. It stands out with its ‘HD-2D’ style, combining classic 2D sprites with lush 3D backgrounds. The series offers deep narratives, each centered around different characters with their own compelling stories. 

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Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent, a mobile prequel to the original, continues this tradition. It delivers the quintessential JRPG experience, complete with strategic turn-based battles and rich, multi-faceted storylines, tailored for on-the-go gaming.

In an interview with Geek Culture, Hirohito Suzuki, the producer and scenario director of  Champions of the Continent delves into the challenges and triumphs of adapting this storied franchise, known for its rich narrative and strategic gameplay, to a platform dominated by titles that have redefined mobile gaming expectations. 

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By balancing innovative mechanics, such as the revised battle system, with the essence of what made the original Octopath Traveler a beloved classic on Nintendo Switch, Suzuki has crafted an experience that stands shoulder to shoulder with its contemporaries, offering both a nod to the past and a bold step into the future of mobile RPGs.

“Both Final Fantasy XI and Champions of the Continent follow the GaaS (Games as a Service) model,” Suzuki explains, drawing from his rich experience with Final Fantasy XI and approaching Champions of the Continent with a similar system. GaaS is a business model where video games are provided or updated on an ongoing basis, allowing developers to generate more revenue and keep players engaged. This approach values player feedback highly, even in a single-player RPG setting. The team is constantly adjusting and improving the content based on player feedback, emphasising the importance of player interaction in shaping the game’s evolution.

A key highlight of Champions of the Continent is its battle system, tailored for mobile gaming. Suzuki aims for fluidity and user-friendliness, leading to the innovative eight-person team formation where players can control an eight-character team, four in the front and four at the back line. “When we were designing this game, our aim was to make combat more fluid and user-friendly for mobile gamers,” Suzuki shares, highlighting his commitment to adapting the game for a new platform. This formation introduces a strategic layer to combat, complemented by the Boost Point mechanic, which allows for powerful Boost Attacks. 

Transitioning Octopath Traveler from console and PC to mobile presented its unique set of challenges and opportunities. The shift from a one-time purchase model to a profit model based on characters was a significant change, as Suzuki had to adopt a reasonable mobile game monetisation model. “We looked to other successful games and adopted a model where profits are made through characters,” he discloses, revealing the adaptive strategy. 

Champions of the Continent incorporates a gacha system, a popular feature in many mobile games. In this system, players can ‘roll’ to obtain new characters, each with unique abilities and storylines. However, the game is designed to be player-friendly; it’s not necessary to acquire all characters to progress. Players can complete the game without spending real money, as the core gameplay and narrative are accessible without needing to engage heavily in the gacha aspect.

In a gaming world where mobile games often face criticism for their monetisation practices, the Champions of the Continent team took deliberate measures to ensure an enjoyable gaming experience without relying heavily on in-game purchases. “Our belief is that those who genuinely enjoy the game will support it voluntarily,” Suzuki remarked, emphasising his dedication to fair play and player satisfaction. Unlike most mobile games today, the game’s design ensures that players can complete the 60-hour campaign with characters of any rarity, promoting a balanced gameplay experience. This approach ensures a balanced experience, catering to both free-to-play gamers and those who choose to invest in the gacha system.

Living up to the high expectations set by the Octopath Traveler series for rich narrative and world-building was one of the team’s biggest challenges. “Make sure to keep an eye out for the villains who have achieved ultimate Wealth, Power, and Fame,” Suzuki teased, hinting at the intricate and engaging narrative that awaits players. This focus on villains in Champions of the Continent introduces a fresh perspective to the game’s storytelling, promising a captivating journey.

Incorporating player feedback into the ongoing development is also another delicate balance. While the team constantly adjusts the game based on feedback using the GaaS model, Suzuki chooses not to incorporate player feedback into the story, as he wishes for players to fully appreciate the creativity of the development team and scriptwriters. “In a way, we view releasing content that we’re personally proud of as a gesture of respect and sincerity toward our players,” he explains, highlighting their respect for the game’s narrative integrity.”

Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent stands as a testament to the team’s dedication to pushing the boundaries of mobile RPGs. Seamlessly blending the charm and depth of traditional JRPGs with the accessibility and ongoing engagement of mobile gaming, the team has set a new benchmark in the genre. Their dedication to preserving the game’s narrative integrity, while injecting fresh gameplay elements and respecting player feedback, creates a harmonious balance that resonates with fans.

As Champions of the Continent charts its course in the competitive mobile gaming landscape, it stands as a testament to the possibilities of bringing console-quality storytelling and gameplay to the palms of players’ hands, promising to be a beacon for future adaptations in the ever-evolving mobile RPG space.