Interview with Kingdom Conquest IIís Service Director, Kazutaka Karashima
One of the keys to the success of the Kingdom Conquest series is the card art. As such, the KC Community Team is thrilled to have the opportunity to get some time with Kazutaka Karashima, the Service Director on Kingdom Conquest II, who is in charge of the art direction and creation of all Monsters and Commanders. Our conversation with him is quite illuminating, and should be fascinating for anyone interested in KCII or game art in general.
1. Thanks for taking some time to chat with us. Could you define your role here at SEGA?
My name is Kazutaka Karashima, one of the Service Directors on KCII. I am the middleman between managing and developing the game. Specifically speaking, my job involves deciding campaign details, preparing monster illustrations, and ironing out skills and parameters with the development staff.
2. How did you get into the video game industry? Was it always something you wanted to do, or did it come about unexpectedly?
I joined SEGA as a Game Designer during the Dreamcast era as a developer. Albeit some, I have worked in the game industry since the beginning. I have always wanted to work alongside new technology and create things, so you can say this was a type of job that I wanted to do.
3. What other games or notable projects have you worked on?
Eternal Arcadia [Skies of Arcadia] (DC)
Sakura Taisen 3 [Sakura Wars 3] (DC)
Phantasy Star Universe (PS2/Xbox/PC)
Kingdom Conquest (iOS/Android)
4. What do you like best about your work on Kingdom Conquest II?
I heard from Sega of America’s forums that that the Giants Race artwork was well received, so I was very happy to hear this.
5. How has the art direction evolved from Kingdom Conquest to Kingdom Conquest II?
I believe that featuring the L Size Monsters was a big change.
6. Where do you gain inspiration when creating new Monsters and Commanders?
The monsters itself are influenced from European/Egyptian/Middle Eastern folklore and legends. Examples include orthodox fantasy creatures (Minotaur) and its variants (Minotaur “Colonel”). Others include references from classic fictions like Lewis Carroll (Borogove, Carmilla), and UMAs (Yeti).
Since KC1, I’ve always tried to keep the visual taste of monsters to resemble those before the rise of Japanese video game culture like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. Before the concept of “RPG” video games were popular in Japan, much of the visuals drawn by “foreign artists” were imported to Japan in the form of D&D style story books, tabletop RPG art, and miniature game figures. KC tries to incorporate this kind of artwork. For a more recent comparison, the visual taste matches those in trading card games.
This kind of visual feel could be nostalgic to those in their 30s to 40s who are early iPhone adopters, but perhaps slightly surreal to the younger generations. In the end, the visual taste was made to appeal not only Japanese but all users across the globe.
7. Do you have any general guidelines that each Monster of a particular Race has to follow? Are there recurring features?
Recent RPGs tend to follow a Light Fantasy trend with “shiny” fine art. The KC series takes the opposite, Dark Fantasy approach with visual cues of blood and stenches of mud. There are signs of weapon scars, bruises, and wrinkles on the monsters themselves. While the weapons have blood, rust, and chipped blades, and the armors have damaged wear and tear in their looks.
Creating cards with a background makes it easier for to convey the atmosphere in standard card game apps. KC cards do not have any background artwork and tries to tell the story of “What is the monster trying to do?” through the monster’s posing and silhouette itself.
The Bug and Beast races exist in the world of Magna without any established culture and tend to move in swarms. For the recently featured giant boar “Ysgithyrwyn”, at one point this creature had tusks large enough to shave a giant. To further emphasize this point, we considered real-life boars that grind their tusks against trees and boulders. The visual result of Ysgithyrwyn’s tusk was not a polished blade, but more like a primitive blade made from an obsidian chipping tool.
The Demi-human race has the power of speech with a social hierarchy. Goblins have a self-appointed lord, but the struggle for influence and power led them to chaos. Lizard Men are known for their high quality blacksmithing skills and strict imperial rule. Werewolves travel in small packs without any unification, and lead a matriarchal society. Orcs are a tribal society, ruled by a chief. Centaurs are an equestrian tribe with a government in place with the basis of militarism. We gave these kinds of themes for each of the races. Along with the naming, the equipment, weapons, and its visual look was determined by referring to said themes.
In reality, trying to convey this kind of message and quality is very difficult unless you are really into these kinds of details. Mass producing good-looking males or overly sexy female cards would be the easy choice if we wanted to just focus on sales, but there are abundant of these apps. I believe that KC’s own “personality” speaks to the direction, quality, and complexity that it strives for. We really hope that players will be awed when they see the monsters for what they are – bloodthirsty and ruthless tools of war.
8. If you could be one of the Commanders you’ve created for Kingdom Conquest II, which would it be? Why?
Commanders that are to be featured in the 2nd Season would likely be “visually cool in the KC universe”. In terms of being a Commander… this is something I really don’t want to be. Looks painful. (laughs)
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