Dark Souls: Remastered may have taken its sweet time in getting to the Switch, but the port was more than worth the wait. Lordran looks just as grim and foreboding on Nintendo's handheld as it does on other platforms, and the fact that you can now play the game on the move is a real bonus.
Porting duties for this version were handled not by FromSoftware itself, but Chinese studio Virtuos, which has also worked on the Switch versions of LA Noire and Starlink: Battle for Atlas. Keen to learn more about the process, we spoke to Dark Souls: Remastered executive producer Lukas Codr and Dark Souls: Remastered producer Tang Mengjia.
Nintendo Life: How did you come to work on the Switch port of Dark Souls?
Lukas Codr: Virtuos has a lot of experience working on big brand names with both Western and Japanese publishers, so we have many contacts in the industry. We were one of the first developers on the Nintendo Switch platform, and we are always looking for more Switch projects as we love working on the console. By chance, when the idea to bring Dark Souls to Nintendo Switch was discussed, our name came up as a candidate to take care of the adaptation.
How long did it take to port the game, from start to finish?
LC: A bit more than a year. As expected, it took us several months to get a stable playable version running, as we had to make sure that both code and data were fully compatible with the 64-bit format. We've also spent quite a lot of time on polish, enhancements and performance optimisation.
What's the Switch like to work on?
Tang Mengjia: To be honest, we thought it would be more difficult than it actually was. Regarding hardware-specific challenges, we had great support from Nintendo when we were solving technical issues and things like performance improvement. Personally, I found developing for Switch really comfortable and straightforward.
What kind of feedback have you had from FromSoftware on your work? Was the company hands-on during the porting process?
TM: Yes, they were hands-on and we got a lot of help and regular, useful feedback from them.
Was there ever any discussion about altering elements of the gameplay or making improvements, or was the brief simply to port the original as faithfully as possible?
TM: From the beginning, we were told that we needed to include 6-player multiplayer together with some other simple gameplay improvements. Ultimately, the goal was to ensure the game was faithful to the original. One of the aspects we were particularly proud of was our ability to include the 1080p mode when playing on the dock.
What aspect did you find the most challenging to replicate on the Switch?
TM: For us, the most challenging thing was making sure that the game runs smoothly from start to finish. Some areas in the original version had a few framerate challenges. We were confident we could address this, and after some testing and optimization, we reached the target framerate.
Was it difficult to factor in the Switch's hybrid nature - such as portable play in a game that relies so much on online?
TM: We had done our homework, for sure, and had many discussions with all parties involved to smooth the process. Making sure the game ran on all types of Wi-Fi networks was a tough one to fix. Initially, we had issues with lag in multiplayer, but although we can’t share how, we did find solutions to these bandwidth issues. Gameplay-wise, the hybrid nature of Switch was not a problem - we barely noticed the differences between switching modes.
Amiibo support was an unexpected surprise; was this your idea, or did Nintendo suggest it?
TM: At the beginning of every Switch project, our design team considers how to include all potential features of the console, such as amiibo support, from a technical perspective. Then, we share our solutions with our partners. I am not sure if this had any impact on their decision, but FromSoftware and Bandai Namco later decided to include an amiibo feature in the Switch version.
LC: Even some of my friends who don’t own a Switch yet told me they want to buy this amiibo!
You're becoming experts when it comes to porting games to Switch, with LA Noire being your other notable work. Could we see more high-profile ports from you in the future? Dark Souls 2, perhaps?
LC: For obvious reasons, we cannot say what exactly we're working on, but we will definitely have some exciting high-profile Switch games coming out very soon. By porting Dark Souls we have proven that we can take on any Switch project, so we are confident we will get more projects in the future. As you might have seen in the last few weeks, we’ve also worked on Ubisoft’s Starlink: Battle for Atlas, which has received critical acclaim.
Do you guys have any original projects in development right now?
LC: Apart from ports and remasters, we are also focusing on co-development, where we develop a game in parallel with brand owner's team - sometimes we're responsible for a SKU or a certain feature (such as multiplayer), other times we are designing and producing levels and gameplay. We have been working on a mobile battle-royale prototype, that we’re testing in partnership with mobile games publishers.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider, with Eidos Montreal – was a great example of where we built whole levels and we have projects in the works where we are pretty much building the whole game for clients – but more on that next time!
We'd like to thank Lukas and Tang for their time. Dark Souls: Remastered is available now on Switch.
Keep them coming please! A lot of these games I never got a chance to play when they came out.
Playing dark souls now. It's painful...
These guys and Panic Button seem to have the system nailed down! Keep feeding them 3rd parties!
Dark souls and all its imperfections was my most played ps3 game. Now I have a switch version, which in superior is every way, I’ll never need another game ever.
Great interview, loved Starlinks.
Any word on them fixing any of the bugs, such as the very bad audio glitches? The hitbox on the female winged creatures in Painted World is also off. They have a hitbox behind them, apparently!
These guys really are the new Panic Button, it seems. I'm glad to see there's a few options for getting games on Switch. Though it's a shame the interview didn't ask about the reasoning behind fixing the a/b buttons without being able to adjust them. (I understand the reason to make it match muscle memory on other DS games, but the lockout of the mapping for them seems a little odd.
Otherwise, great interview, great port.
@Belatarr Agreed. The sound is not awesome on the PS3 version either, but the insane level of compression takes away some of the atmosphere. Before I played it, I thought people were exaggerating, but it's actually really bad. Doesn't stop me from loving this version of the game, but it's mildly annoying. If they fix it, I'll do another playthrough. This game takes game design seriously, mainly in the department of trusting the players to actually try to understand the game themselves. I would love for Nintendo to take some notes from this, which they have to some extent in Breath of the Wild.
Just fix the audio, please.
Borderlands 2 please!
I think that people who expect Switch to get a plethora of high profile exclusives/day one releases are being profoundly unrealistic. Not every company is Bethesda, who are supposedly releasing Doom Eternal AND the upcoming Wolfenstein Youngbloods (or whatever it's called) day to date with the other consoles. Honestly, I'll believe that when I see it.
The Switch has already amassed a respectable library of exclusive titles: Mario Odyssey, Xenoblade 2, Octopath, Mario+Rabbids, Kirby, Mario Tennis Aces, Golf Story, Snipperclips, Arms, Super Mario Party, the Labo kits, etc. The fact that those who only game on Nintendo hardware finally get to experience some of the amazing games from this generation (Doom, Wolfenstein II, Inside, South Park: FBW) and last (Dark Souls, Saints Row III, Diablo III, South Park: SoT) is pretty awesome.
@NEStalgia Here's hoping they're NOT the next Panic Button, but simply another company just as good as Panic Button...
After all: can't have enough of these porting wizards bringing all the third party triple A goodness to the Switch...
I think they did a great job with LA Noire. Hope they get a chance to do GTA V or Red Dead Redemption
The first Virtuos port I remember was Motorstorm Arctic Edge for PS2.
They've been at this for a good while.
Well when the new Switch system comes out in 2020 at least we know there will be competent companies that can port games over to it.
"We'd like to thank Lukas and Tang for their time."
Not that it really matters, but it should be "We'd like to thank Lukas and Mengjia for their time.", because Tang is the family name and Mengjia the given name. The Chinese just do it the other way around
But anyway, nice insight in this project, even I have not the slightest interest in this game (was never a fan of Elders Scroll).
Absolutely loving dark souls. Never played before
Awesome read. TY, Nintendo Life 👍
This is how you do a remastered on Switch. Good effort and price. Not trying to milk the FromSoftware or Nintendo fan base.
Well said @BanjoPickles There is a point where you need to have real expectations and real understanding of what the Switch truly is. It's basically the best parts of the Nvidia Shield Tablet and Microconsole whittled into a Nintendo framed hybrid system. Yes the Nvidia specs base are higher, but not so much when you account for the android and especially the forced Nvidia tools and apps bloat forced to load as it really hits the system. Yet despite how good the hardware is, it's not quite a PS4 and definitely not a PS3 in power either, and most extremely so not a PS4 pro either. It is its own beast, and all those are consoles, this isn't.
The fact that we already have two known factors out there with Virtuos and Panic Button who can seemingly make things happen beyond what people figured the hardware was capable of is nothing short of amazing. Even more so is the fact these people can still find more to squeeze out of their work to up the ante if you take LA Noire to Dark Souls and Doom to Wolf2 or Doom Eternal as they up the bar again within the same constraints.
It really comes down to how competent the developer is, how solid their crew are and their willingness to truly do some amazing low level coding and optimizing to really bring out the excellence of the hardware. It had been that way for a long time in cartridge gaming going way back if you compare early to late Nintendo and Sega stuff, even compare some Sony things too from the same developer like FF7 to FF9. Yet here you have the same company Square and their really shoddy not localized DQ Heroes 1+2 at launch that is equally bad as the Vita version if not worse in some ways as they didn't try to learn it or bother to do it right. They're a textbook way to foul it up while Virtuos and Panic Button are everything right in doing the job correctly
I look forward to seeing which other developers decide to grow a pair and do amazing things, and what these two companies can do in the future too. It has been since the first half of the Gamecube era since Nintendo got well managed third party games, SNES before for a life of consistency and it's nice to see a return to that.
Has the A & B button issue been fixed yet?
@Quincy just pretend it’s like PlayStation or Xbox where the bottom button is “accept” and the right button is “cancel”
It’s supposed to be the same control scheme as all the other platforms so you can switch between them all (just like fortnite or some of these other cross-platform games)
I have bought Virtuos port of Sid Meier's Pirates! on Wii and of course L.A. Noire on Switch. Dark Souls Remastered will be my 3rd game once I gain the news that the audio's been fixed.
Nothing is going to ruin having one or my favourite games ever on a handheld, but I am surprised from software allowed their masterpiece and game that put them on the map to be released in the state it's in. The sound issues, hit box problems and ai that results in some enemies running away or into walls endlessly is a shame. I really hope they fix these issues as a matter of pride.
@Old-Red I agree. I'm enjoying my time with this game on the Switch (playing DS in handheld mode is wonderful), but this is probably the worst version of the game.
So Virtuos did LA Noire, Starlink and Dark Souls. Panic Button did Doom, Wolfenstein 2, Rocket League and Warframe. Iron Galaxy did Skyrim and Diablo 3.
Has any major western 3rd party actually ported their own game or are they just always going to outsource it to a porting studio and not really care about the switch themselves.
I agree that at the moment it's probably the worst version, but it has the potential to be the best. If they fix a few issues and keep the original graphics and frame rate it could be the definitive version.
Game plays well, but I wouldn't call them masters with that compression... More like good everywhere else, toddler-level audio.
Here's a future project for you guys: just patch the menu controls issue! I'd really like to start playing now.
Great interview, so glad studios like this exist to handle ports. I'm excited for their future projects.
It's a great port. Feels more faithful in the best way to the original vs the other system remasters.
Here's to hoping they just send out a patch to fix some of the small audio and menu crashes.
... And you didn't ask them about the A&B buttons. How could you.
Love them hope we see more of them
The sounds issues are nothing to do with compression. It's been confirmed that dark souls uses 8GB cart.
Plenty of space to play with
@NEStalgia That and why was it delayed for so long when many thought it looked ready to go back in May.
I’m glad this game is out for everyone who wanted it but I have a hard time when they said it was easier than they expected but the initial release in May turned into an October release.
With Panic Button currently working on Warframe, Doom Eternal and likely the next Wolfenstein on Switch, I’d like to see Virtuos working on something like the other Dark Souls, GTA, Bioshock or Boarderlands for Switch. Then if we could get Iron Galaxy on a mainline Fallout game for Switch, that would be prefect.
@Spoony_Tech don’t forget Iron Galaxy who did Skyrim and Diablo III.
@getyourak interesting. In what ways do you think it's more faithful than the other remaster ports?
@NEStalgia The updated fog wall and other fx elements like quelag's flames look more faithful to the original. Personally, and this is subjective, but I feel them trying to update those fx only made them look worse in the PC, PS4, and XBone versions.
@Belatarr that's what I thought, but then I realized it could just be the game itself. Have you compared the switch version to any other versions? Because I'm pretty sure the original Dark Souls doesn't have the greatest audio either. At first I thought the audio was compressed but then I realized it might just be the sound defects themselves are kind of poor quality as they kind of are and the other Souls games I've played
I want someone to Port Road Remeption to Switch. And yes I mean road redemption not red dead. It's a brilliantly fun game that just came out on ps4 and PC years ago. Would literally be perfect on the switch
Good news dude! It came out yesterday! haha
@Toph6661 I KNOW!!! LOL I found out shortly after and was so hyped. I've been playing it already. It's really awesome. Looks good compared to PC. Doesn't seem to be 60 fps, but it's not sub 30 fps so it plays nicely. So much fun.
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