Today is the 28th February 2018 and today is a very sad day. It’s the day that the Demon’s Souls server(s) officially shuts down. The unsuspecting phenomenon that not only created a sub-genre but changed the landscape of gaming forever. Once a niche title, now a more popular than ever series – it wasn’t always like that.
R.I.P. Demon’s Souls Servers
Demon’s Souls was developed by From Software and is a spiritual successor to their King’s Field series. Development started in 2006 but word got around the office that the project was turning into a failure, one coder got wind of this, and that coder was none other than Hidetaka Miyazaki.
With little experience working on games and with From Software already deeming the project a failure, the company was happy for Miyazaki to have creative control over the project. In an interview with The Guardian back in 2015, Miyazaki had this to say:
“The project had problems and the team had been unable to create a compelling prototype. But when I heard it was a fantasy-action role-playing game, I was excited. I figured if I could find a way to take control of the game, I could turn it into anything I wanted.
Best of all, if my ideas failed, nobody would care – it was already a failure.”
With no one at From Software caring and Miyazaki heading the project, this ‘failure’ would turn out to be one of the most original titles of the Seventh Generation. It’s a fine example of ‘Videogames as Art’.
The game is bold, uncompromising and took decades of game design, scrunched it up and threw it at a wall. With dynamic difficulty being introduced to more and more games around this time, Demon’s Souls took that concept, but instead of the game getting easier when you die, the game got harder.
The title features some of the best boss battles in any game: the Fool’s Idle being more of a puzzle, Maiden Astraea committing suicide, False King Allant having a move that de-levels your character and King Allant, the final boss being a sorrowful blob. Messages left by other players either helping you or sending you to death. Vendors being murdered by an NPC when you are not within the Nexus (the hub). The ability to aide, invade or be invaded by other players. A story that’s ambiguous, told through snippets of dialogue and item descriptions; all these ideas and mechanics cement a sense of dread and a forbidding atmosphere.
Servers come and go, so why is it a big deal that the Demon’s Souls one is getting shut down?
The game is single-player with online components within it, but the online component is actually integral to the experience. Hitting a sword on a random wall because a message told you it was an illusion. The fear when someone invades your game. The scattered Red Blood signs showing you other players’ demise or the ghostly glimpses of other players that fade in and out of view. Memories.
The World Tendencies will no longer function that change events within the game either. Finally, there is The Old Monk Boss, which forces you in a PVP match; now it will just be a Black Phantom instead. The game is still enjoyable without the above sure, but it will now be like a flower without petals.
It’s not just the experience though, it feels like the end of the beginning. The end of the start of something new, something original and something now that’s been imitated.
So, goodbye Demon’s Souls server; the game is there, but your soul has gone.