Dragon Quest Builders Truly is the Dragon Quest of Minecraft Clones

Dragon Quest Builders Truly is the Dragon Quest of Minecraft Clones

Not just in appearance, but in terms of its fundamental design philosophy.

We're at E3 this week, covering the year's biggest gaming event. Be sure to check out all our coverage on our E3 2016 hub!

Yes, it's true. Dragon Quest Builders, the upcoming spinoff of the long-running RPG series that's always such a big deal in Japan, looks a lot like Minecraft. It's a game about building structures in a world made of big cubes, full of gathering and crafting and a bit of combat.

The game's influences shouldn't leave anyone in doubt, and even its creators are completely open admit how much they were inspired by Minecraft. That might seem a surprise to those who assume game designers pride themselves on originality and hate to be open about ideas that originate from others, but in listening to the team behind Builders — that is, executive producer Yu Miyake and producer Noriyoshi Fujimoto — talk about the project, I realized they're approaching it from a different angle than you might expect. Rather than view Minecraft as a competing game, they seem to regard the entire sandbox construction format that Minecraft invented as a genre unto itself. And therein lies the entire vision behind the game.

"The original Dragon Quest was really created at a time when core users enjoyed RPGs," says Miyake, "but there wasn't really anything that general users who had never played games like this could enjoy. Dragon Quest was the game that introduced everything great about RPGs to those players. That's what we wanted to do with Builders, too. Core users enjoy games like Minecraft and sandbox building games, but Builders takes this to a different level where anyone can drop in and enjoy it.

In other words, with Builders the Dragon Quest team hopes to do for sandbox games what the original Dragon Quest did for role-playing games. It's not a perfect parallel, of course, because the original Dragon Quest made a huge splash in large part because there were no true RPGs on consoles back in 1986. On the other hand, Minecraft and many of its clones have already been on consoles for years. But it's worth noting that Miyake and Fujimoto are approaching this problem from the perspective of pleasing a Japanese audience — a demographic that, Fujimoto says, typically prefers a guided experience to a truly open one like Minecraft. That's precisely what Builders offers, and according to Miyake, it's been received with warmth.

"It's something we really felt resonated with fans after the release of the game in Japan," says Miyake. "They responded quite well to it."

Miyake admits to being curious as to how American Minecraft fans will regard the game. I am, too — a big part of my interest in Dragon Quest (besides my love for that series in general) comes from the fact that my young nephew has been obsessed with Minecraft for the better part of a year and constantly asks me to play it with him. Now, I'll have a game to share with him. And who knows — maybe he'll fall in love with Dragon Quest in the process, too.

Expect the full text of our interview with Fujimoto and Miyake, and more details on the game and the creative process behind it, once the furor of E3 has settled down somewhat.

We're at E3 this week, covering the year's biggest gaming event. Be sure to check out all our coverage on our E3 2016 hub!

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