Google Maps Platform
Square Enix and Colopl Bring the Real World to Dragon Quest Walk
Editor’s note: Today’s post comes from Takamasa Shiba, Producer at Square Enix, one of Japan's leading video game developers, publishers, and distributors and Ko Sato, who is in charge of development on the server-side at Colopl. The Dragon Quest franchise, which has sold over 81 million copies (as of 2019) worldwide across all platforms, launched the mobile location-based game Dragon Quest Walk in Japan using the Google Maps Platform gaming solution.
Why did you decide to turn Dragon Quest into a location-based game?
Takamasa Shiba: The Dragon Quest franchise first launched in Japan in 1986. Since then, the game has been ported and remade for multiple gaming formats and is considered one of the most successful gaming franchises in Japan. We launched the location-based version of Dragon Quest Walk in September, 2019. Since the launch, the game has been a big hit, reaching ten million downloads during the first two months of release. The Google Maps Platform Gaming solution provides the foundation for the game’s map information.
Why did you select Google Maps Platform to build Dragon Quest Walk?
Ko Sato: We initially thought about using a map information service other than Google Maps Platform at the start of development. But when we were worried about the map information’s lack of accuracy, we heard that Google was developing a Google Maps Platform solution for games that could be integrated with Unity. We didn’t want players getting lost due to the poor location information accuracy, and end up having less fun. Of course, we were also considering several other choices concurrently, but after about a year of repeated tests, we decided to use Google Maps Platform, which stood out for its data accuracy and stability. We also had high expectations that it would further evolve in the future.
What were some of your biggest challenges in creating a location based game?
Takamasa Shiba: We worked closely with the Google team to determine the types of data the game required. For example, the game is designed to have monsters pop up where people gather. If we did that in a busy place like Shinjuku Station, it would create absolute chaos, so we asked the Google team to provide us with the information to help us avoid stations and other busy points of interest. We also asked them to add other functionality over time to optimize our game.
Ko Sato: We worked on the basic system for directing players to destinations and it took us a while to get this right. We ultimately settled on a system that enabled the players to select their destination, with those choices utilizing Google Maps Platform’s Playable Locations API scores. We wanted to direct players to places that people knew about and places where people gathered. Another aim of ours was to get users who are within the same proximity of each other to meet up or cooperate in the same place as much as possible.
Takamasa Shiba: We aimed to create something new that was a departure from existing location-based games, by incorporating ingenuity. Still, the most challenging aspect of location-based games is that we can’t see how a game plays outside until it’s been developed to a certain point. We are able to try the game for the first time when it’s finished to a certain level, and we might find it unexpectedly dull to play, or it might stress us out. So, we spent a lot of time making adjustments as to how we should combine concepts such as movement, recovery, and growth.
Did Google Maps Platform help you achieve your vision for Dragon Quest Walk?
Takamasa Shiba: This crossover with reality is unique to location-based games. It helps us facilitate interactions that are a bit more concrete to connect players with something in real life. Dragon Quest Walk does not get a lot of complaints from users in provincial areas because the POIs are so rich with the maps provided by the Google Maps Platform being so accurate. I was surprised to find monsters popping up in the least expected places during my travels. I think that’s one of the biggest advantages Google Maps Platform has to offer.