September 1 marks nine years since the release of Rage of Bahamut (hereafter abbreviated as RoB), Cygames’ first title.
Forming the starting point in Cygames’ history, RoB boasts not only an original fantasy adventure story, but also a host of colorful and unique characters for players to engage with along the way.
To celebrate the 9th anniversary of RoB’s release, we interviewed the scenario team responsible for bringing all of these characters to life.
We chatted with the team to find out how they create the game’s characters and develop their distinctive personalities, as well as to get a peek behind the scenes at the production process and hear more about the idea behind the surprising 9th anniversary celebration, which exclusively featured all-new characters.
What’s the secret behind the diverse array of characters?
How the world of RoB allows for creative freedom
Today we’re going to be talking about the characters of RoB, but it’s not going to be easy to fit them all in. Quite a large cast of characters have made an appearance over the years, haven’t they?
I’ve pretty much lost count at this point! The most well-known characters would probably be Orchis, Nelcha, Grimnir, Orthrus, and Olivia. These are the fan favorites that I think most people are familiar with, since they appear in Cygames’ other titles, like Granblue Fantasy and Shadowverse.
All of those characters have huge fan bases, don’t they? Can you tell me what the process of creating a character for RoB looks like?
There actually isn’t a fixed process or set of rules we follow when creating characters for RoB. Sometimes characters will come out of discussions we have as a team, other times a writer will develop a character on their own, and sometimes they’re created in collaboration with our illustrators.
So in reality there are many different ways in which characters are developed?
Exactly. Even among Cygames’ titles, I think RoB is probably the game that gives us the most creative freedom.
This isn’t just true for the creative process, but for all of RoB. For example, most games usually have a distinct worldview, and the art and script and everything else will be created to mesh with it seamlessly. But RoB allows its illustrators to really showcase their own individual styles, and there’s a huge range in the kinds of stories told, from the serious to the much more comical.
There’s no sense that “this is RoB, so it has to be done this way,” and in a sense, that might be what makes the game so unique. I also think this is the reason why we’ve been able to develop such a wide array of really distinctive and eclectic characters and stories.
Just how eclectic would you say RoB’s cast of characters are?
Well, for example, take Orchis. She has quite a serious backstory. She’s a puppet, but sometimes she betrays the player, and she carries a real sense of heaviness with her. Then, on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, you have more outrageous, comical characters, like Nelcha.
Having such a huge variety of characters must make it easier to conceptualize stories and characters to appeal to a wider player base.
I’d like to think so! Everything from the characters to the stories are created with the mindset of wanting to make something that players can truly enjoy. The fact that we can play around with different styles to find out what really works for players is probably RoB’s greatest strength.
Characteristics and speech patterns:
Allowing each character’s depth and individuality to shine through
Thinking about all the characters you have created so far, is there anyone in particular who has left a deep impression on you?
So many different characters come to mind, but I think I’d have to say Grimnir.
He’s a fan favorite, so when I’m writing scenes for him, the need to write something that meets the expectations of his fans is always at the forefront of my mind. As a result, Grimnir’s probably the character who makes me push myself the most as a creator.
Because his speaking style is so unique, it can be difficult to write something that really feels like Grimnir. But I think the more a character challenges you, the more you grow to love them, you know? For me, Grimnir’s the number-one character I just can’t get enough of writing.
On the flip side, is there a character who you find much easier to write?
There are some characters who are just pure fun to write, like the three heralds: Vesha, Izalue, and Jotet. Especially when it comes to Jotet—her creation was really a team effort, so I have a kind of special attachment to her and she’s a bit easier to write for than other characters.
The Lux knights who appear in the main story are also very memorable for me. And Shin, who was the final boss, is particularly fun to write.
It sounds like there’s an interesting backstory behind the creation of just about every character! To take it back to the very beginning, when you’re creating a character, how does the idea come to you in the first place?
It does depend on the writer, but I think the most common approach is to first think of each character as a collection of characteristics and then dig deeper. First you think of the major characteristics—like are they a tsundere, are they stubborn, are they combative? Then, from those major characteristics, you start to think about the minor characteristics that can go along with them. From there, you ask yourself questions like, “What would a character with this kind of personality be into?” and “What would they say in this kind of situation?”, and then gradually a more fully fleshed-out image of the character starts to form in your mind. In this way, you can create a character who is just as rich as their visual design.
So that’s how the characters from RoB are born! But—I have to ask—with such a huge cast of characters, there must be times when you accidentally find yourselves with two characters that have similar personalities, right?
We try to avoid doing that as much as possible, but when you have as many characters as we do, sometimes a bit of overlap is unavoidable. However, going back to what I was saying about characteristics, just as no two humans have identical DNA, no two characters are created to share all of the exact same characteristics. So I think that, while there may sometimes be points of resemblance, each character truly is distinct.
When you do have similar characters, do you have any strategies for writing their dialogue differently?
We are very careful to give each character their own unique speech pattern. I think Forte and Olivia are a good example of this. Both are women in their early twenties with a sort of dark design. They’re also both warriors, and they can both fly.
However, if you compare the two, Olivia is a much more calm, level-headed character, which we emphasize by having her talk about things like order and natural law. Forte, on the other hand, has a real fighting spirit, and she loves being in battle, so she’s a lot more focused on duels, war, and the battlefield. By having characters use words that really reflect the core of their personalities, you can make them stand out as individuals.
I see! By the way, Grimnir is just one example, but there are many characters in RoB who have their basis in mythology, aren’t there? Do you place a lot of importance on that aspect?
It depends on the character. With some characters, we’re quite faithful to the original mythology, but for others we just use it as a point of reference.
One character whose mythological background we referenced in an interesting way is Orthrus, Cerberus’ little sister in RoB. In the original Greek mythology, Orthrus is a two-headed guard dog. In RoB, Orthrus is a girl, who of course only has one head, but we chose to express the two-headed aspect of her mythological background by giving her a split personality—she switches between two personas, depending on whether she’s in battle mode or not.
I think the fact that we’re able to flexibly weave in different character traits like this is one of the key factors that makes RoB such an interesting game to play.
A brand-new challenge for the 9th anniversary
Looking ahead to the 10th anniversary
So, I’ve heard that the special 9th anniversary event, released today, does not feature any of the existing characters we know so well.
That’s right. To celebrate RoB’s 9th anniversary, we’ve created a host of completely original characters to feature in a brand-new story.
What was the thinking behind creating such a drastically different event?
I think this event is also a product of having such an eclectic game—there’s no rule saying that we have to use existing characters just because it’s an anniversary event. So, this time, we decided to create not only new characters, but also an entirely different, original story.
Can you give us any concrete insights into what the event actually is?
I don’t want to spoil anybody, but what I can say is that the main theme for the event is human affirmation. We want players to come away from the event feeling recognized and accepted for who they are. But, as you can tell from the theme, it’s a pretty complex story that is difficult to sum up in a few words, so I really recommend playing the event and experiencing it for yourself! Of course, these new characters were also created with the hope of making a real impact on players, so we believe it’s going to be a very memorable event for everyone.
I’m definitely looking forward to starting on the event later today! Tell me, on the production side of things, was it difficult to create something entirely original?
I guess most people would think that, because RoB has this nine-year history, it would be unrealistic to create something completely new. But our director immediately gave us the go-ahead, and our producer, Yuito Kimura, was also fully on board, and even made suggestions to help make the project more exciting.
After the project was confirmed, the director and project manager played key roles in backing up the writing team to get the event on its feet. Supporting and cheering on team members as they take on new challenges is how we do things at Cygames, and a big part of the culture of the RoB team as well.
I really think that it’s this corporate culture, both within our team and Cygames as a whole, that’s allowed us to keep RoB going for these nine years.
It sounds like this event is an embodiment of the culture at Team Cygames. Well, with the 10th anniversary coming up on the horizon, are there any plans that you can share with us?
The thinking now is that everything depends on the fans’ reaction to the 9th anniversary event. Assuming that they accept and love this new challenge we’ve undertaken, we definitely want to keep working on expanding the world of RoB, both in terms of its characters and the story. Because our main focus so far has been on exploring the depths of our characters, it’d be great to get the chance to work on developing the world around them even further.
On a final note, do you have a message for the fans?
We really hope that you enjoy the special 9th anniversary RoB event! Now that we have our 10th anniversary ahead of us, it really feels like we can keep this game going long into the future. So, while taking on new challenges, the production team is going to keep doing our absolute best so that you can continue to enjoy RoB. Please keep supporting us throughout our tenth year and look forward to more exciting RoB developments in the near future!