Level 5

A day or two ago, Famitsu published new pictures of DragonQuest VIII, which have been faithfully reproduced here: The Magic Box (along with about 5000 popup ads unfortunately).

Looks rather good doesn't it, or does it look familiar?

Take a look at True Fantasy Live Online. They are both made by a relative newcomer on the block called Level 5 Software.

Level 5 formed in 1998 and made the Dark Cloud/Dark Chronicle series on the PS2, which to be honest, just weren't that hot. And now they are heavily funded by Sony, Square/Enix and Microsoft. They must be doing something right, eh?

Looking at their corporate page, they have recently grown to 73 employees. That's quite a size for a relatively (as yet) unheard of game studio, and they are about to release two massively anticipated games one after the other. One of which (Dragonquest) will sell millions, the other "True Fantasy" *might* create an online market for the Xbox here in Japan, but otherwise it should sell in decent quantities in the West depending on how good it is to actually play.

Its going to be interesting to see what they do with the significant extra income - will they turn to publishing, becoming a publisher themselves? Or will they double their workforce and the no. of games they can make? Then again, they might just sit steady and pay decent bonuses to the staff who have obviously worked pretty damn hard on these products over the years.

The step from a 50-something employee "studio" to a 200-employee "company" is fraught with problems, I just hope they don't move too hastily.

My personal opinion regarding their games so far (Dark Cloud/Chronicle) is that they have a pretty good technical skill (especially for a Japanese studio) but no finesse when it comes to player controls, camera and that all important thing we call gameplay. Of course, that might have been caused by Sony's market-driven development approach where they set strict deadlines and even make major game design decisions based on what the people in the marketing department say. The people of marketing (who don't actually play games themselves) are the rulers of the roost at Sony, but that's another article in the making...

I'm very interested to see how they've fared under Microsoft's and Square's guiding hand.

Posted by PixelJunk at 05:40 PM on Sat, 02 August 2003