Dengeki PS Magazine Vol.686 SAO Lycoris Interview Summary

On 28 March, 2020, the final issue of the Dengeki PlayStation magazine had a featured article on Sword Art Online Alicization Lycoris, which also included an interview with three of the most important members of the SAO staff: Kawahara Reki (the author), Miki Kazuma (his editor), and Futami Yousuke (the chief producer for the SAO games). Since this interview was 7 or 8 pages long, it would have taken me several days to properly translate it and I don't have the time for that right now. However, the information in the interview is only relevant until the game is released, so there's only a point to covering it if it's done now while the information is fresh (and it would have been a shame to waste the chance to inform the fans about the game ahead of its release). So, I decided to compromise. Instead of making a full translation where I had to fuss about every single word in the interview to keep it faithful, I decided to instead opt for a summary, which would allow me to only focus on the notable details and in my own words, ignoring the usual smalltalk and hard-to-translate phrases that slow down the translation process. The summary itself took me around 4 hours to write, so you can imagine how much effort an actual translation would have taken me X_X

I posted the original summary on Twitter, but decided that some people might prefer a blog post format, where all of it is in one place and not restricted by Twitter's character limit.

The opinions expressed in the summary are from the interview itself, not my own. I had originally posted some of my own remarks while summarising, but I cut those parts out from the compiled version. Everything you see here are points that were mentioned in the interview itself. Do note, however, that: 1) the phrasings aren't exact, as I retold what was said in the interview in my own words (i.e., some statements might be simplified or made more funny than they were in the interview itself, but the main points of each tidbit remains unchanged); 2) I didn't cover every single detail in the interview, so just because I didn't mention something in the summary doesn't mean it doesn't exist in the interview; all it means is that I didn't deem it to be worth mentioning (or was too lazy to figure out what their point was and didn't want to misinform people). All the "(lol)" were in the original text as "(笑)" (laugh/smile). And since I've been asked on Twitter about this, references to any series or company come from the interview itself (though most names have one character in the name censored because Japanese avoid using full propriety names... and yes, the character that's being censored is different in other instances). So yes, Kawahara DID mention Bethesda specifically (the interview even commented that Bethesda's the studio behind games like Fallout).

P.S. A standard thank you to all of those who contributed to the SAO Scans project for helping us get the raws.


Interview Summary

đź’ Kawahara didn't think it was possible to turn Alicization into a game originally
đź’ In an old interview, Futami stated his desire to adapt all the arcs from the web novel into games. Ordinal Scale doesn't count since it's not from the novel.
Miki: But Asuka Empire is from the novel though.
đź’ Since the April cour of WoU is marketed as "the final chapter", Futami believes the gameverse saga should end at Lycoris for the time being
đź’ Futami had planned to step down from actively working on SAO at some point, but in the end he's still here. Miki claims partial credit for stopping him.
đź’ Futami was in charge of the Fatal Bullet project at first, but passed it on to Minami midway through. He also planned to pass on Lycoris to him too, but FB turned out to be more popular than he had expected.
💠Kawahara admits that he came up with the Bullet Line and Bullet Circle mechanics in GGO to make Kirito unparalleled (無双), so he's surprised that the two systems turned out to be fun in Fatal Bullet.
đź’ At first, they were doing (just?) a proper adaptation of Alicization from v9 to v14, but all of that alone translated to around 10 hours of content... and that's only the prologue of the story.
đź’ Futami: I realised that Alicization really is fun... but at the same time, I want to cry at the great amount of content I have to work on. (lol)
đź’ Matsuoka's voice lines in Lycoris add up to 15k words (till now, the highest was 8,000 with Hollow Realization). Matsuoka had to use every free moment of his time for Lycoris recordings for awhile. Even when he got a break from voice recording for the anime during its break, his schedule was still basically packed.
đź’ Interviewer: Is the adaptation of the content up to the Central Cathedral faithful? The anime had omitted scenes.
Kawahara: Like the Zakkaria tournament.
Futami: We'd never be done if we didn't cut down on what we could... so we made it into a digest form.
đź’ Futami: Though, the game features an arc for returning to the Northern Empire and Zakkaria will be visited during it, so I believe you'll get to see Zakkaria in a different light from the novel.
đź’ Futami confirms that each empire will have one main town, in addition to places like Rulid
đź’ Miki brings up "magic beasts" as one of the things in which Lycoris strays from Alicization canon, where Quinella made sure to get rid of monsters to not allow others to level up. After all, if you take out monsters out of Lycoris, then it'd basically just end up like another "Story of Seasons".
đź’ Futami's team came up with "the magic beasts can use mimicry/camouflage so that's why people can't find them that easily" excuse to get around the setting conflict.
đź’ Another game-original story point will be Kirito and Eugeo meeting Medina after leaving Rulid village and then meeting again at the academy
đź’ The academy arc will have quite a lot of content
đź’ Futami wanted Kirito and Eugeo to meet Medina early on. Making Medina an Integrity Knight would've made that difficult.
đź’ Miki reveals that one of Futami's sticking points was Medina's inferiority complex and Renly's already got that gimmick among the knights, which is just another reason why they couldn't make her an Integrity Knight. They decided that having Medina be a trainee and depicting how she moves up from there would be a good way to portray her inferiority complex. So that's how they ended up with planning out Medina's position in the story.
đź’ Another theme for Medina is "need for recognition"
đź’ Medina was designed as a less marketable character in appearance to stand out from Alice
đź’ Most game-original heroines have short hair to stand out from Asuna
đź’ Kawahara is supervising Lycoris's story as a whole, but due to the huge amount of content, he's mainly only read the central part of the story. Also, Kawahara doesn't want to spoil everything ahead of playing the game himself
đź’ Asuna logs in at a different point of the story than in canon. And they have her log in with a regular account, rather than a super account, or she'd break the game balance with her ability to just modify the map itself at will.
đź’ Asuna logs in with a Human Empire account, rather than converting her account. They picked out an account with a Calling compatible with her.
đź’ Why did they go back to having Kirito the protagonist? Because it was difficult to come up with a protagonist that could take Kirito's place in Alicization... or they'd have to go for a completely original story. The Alicization arc exists because of Kirito. If it weren't for Kirito, pretty much all the AI would have just lived their lives like in Story of Seasons... until they were eventually killed off by the Dark Territory army.
đź’ Interviewer: Have you not even considered adapting WoU?
Futami: Give 3 more years pls (lol)
Also, the Dark Territory is a big place and the cast more than doubles in WoU... so, basically, just watch the anime for WoU.
đź’ The fact that there will be DLCs is already announced, but whether or not they'll have the Dark Territory is still in the air, though Futami guarantees that Lycoris's story will continue for quite some time.
đź’ Lycoris's map is twice the size of FB. It will have fast travel points though. Since UW is too big, Lycoris will only have parts of the entire map included in the game.
đź’ Kawahara shared unpublished details/settings about the four empires with Futami, who then used these as the foundation for further development.
đź’ Futami's team had created an ocean/beach... but were then told that those don't exist in UW... oops, er, it's just a lake then!
đź’ Despite UW not being a VRMMO game, Lycoris will have small quests and stuff... seeing as Lycoris itself is a game and it needs to be played like one.
đź’ Lycoris will also have RPG elements to prevent people from getting lost.
đź’ UW people won't talk about real world stuff
đź’ Your avatar in Lycoris may appear in another player's game as an NPC. The system will also make friends (people from your friend list) more likely to be encountered. Kirito is customisable and people who don't customise their Kirito and don't change his name will not appear in other peoples' game
đź’ Companion AI action customisation system (Technical Recording System, I assume) similar to Final Fantasy XII's. Players can send their AI settings to other people. Not all settings will be available from the start. They're obtained through levelling and communication. Basically, you can't improve a character without using them. There are default settings for those who don't want to bother with the details
đź’ Some people in Japan got their avatars to be permanent additions to the game
đź’ Futami has also considered making a system where if someone else employs your avatar, you get item drops from their playthrough
đź’ Interviewer: You said you wanted to enjoy Lycoris as a user. Any concerns you have from the user's perspective?
Kawahara: Administrator wearing clothes.
Futami: That hurts. (lol) We won't get past overseas game content rating systems if she doesn't
Kawahara: At least Selka is playable.
Futami: Currently, Selka can't attack directly; she can only use Sacred Arts. Whether we give her regular attacks depends on fan response
đź’ Kawahara thinks that Selka is an unfortunate girl, which is why he's glad that she got more opportunities this time
đź’ Kawahara: Are Fizel and Linel considered a two-in-one?
Futami: No, they're separate characters
đź’ Fizel and Linel both use daggers, but each have their own quirks.
đź’ Futami's surprised how well-received Eugeo's survival was. Miki compared it to Frieza's revival in Dragon Ball.
Futami: Maybe I should have kept it a secret longer...
đź’ Eugeo's survival doubled or tripled the female fan population at their game events. Male:female ratio used to be 9:1, but now females are at 20-30%. Eugeo Effect is strong.
đź’ Apparently, Kawahara is the one who pulled the strings to get a "true ending" in Fatal Bullet
đź’ Interviewer: Have any requests for the novel/anime/game teams?
Futami: Nothing. I've got great expectations for SAO's future.
Miki: What he really wanted to say was 'As usual, yet another setting hard to adapt to a game...... please give me more!". That's what he's always saying (lol)
Futami: True (lol). Unital Ring is just impossible! How many years would it take for it!
Interviewer: There's always Asuka Empire and Ordinal Scale. (lol)
Futami: Ordinal Scale's impossible too! Please have mercy (lol)
đź’ Since SAO is a novel about games, Kawahara was more overjoyed that SAO got a game adaptation than an anime adaptation.
đź’ Lycoris coming out during the anime's 4th cour is a coincidence. Mostly because Futami was a bit behind schedule with his work.
đź’ Kawahara: Maybe I should write a game that would be so difficult to adapt that it would force Futami to move over to Bethesda to actually have a chance of adapting it (lol)

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