Imagine being the first to play Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice for five months straight before anyone else, drawing up maps of every area, figuring out optimal boss takedown strategies, and assembling a strategy guide worthy to carry the Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice name. We spoke to Frank Glaser, Managing Director of Future Press, about the will and determination it takes to successfully create a guide to satisfy even the most demanding hardcore player.
Part 1: Inception and Preparation
Activision Games Blog (AGB): When did work first start on the guide, and how long did the book take to complete?
Future Press – Frank Glaser (FG): Work began in early December, and we finished early April which was a few weeks after our initial deadline. We always try to launch our books day and date with the game, but it’s our policy to only release books that are accurate and complete, so we aim for the earliest date at which that’s possible. The changes made to the game between the disc version and update 1.02 impacted many of our strategies and data, so we kept going for many more days (and nights) to rework sections and add additional information. Ultimately, it’s important for us that our books cover the games that players end up playing.
AGB: How many people worked on the guide? How many hours did you think it took to create the book?
FG: We had a core team of six people working on the writing and creating in-game maps. There were easily 10,000 hours of work involved when the designers are also included. That sounds crazy, but with almost 600 pages to create and carefully check as the game evolved, we were all working non-stop until we were satisfied.
AGB: How many guides has Future Press done, and how was the experience writing the Sekiro™: Shadows Die Twice guide?
FG: We’ve been making guide for over 20 years, and have worked on a few FromSoftware books before, including Dark Souls™ and Bloodborne™. We’ve always had a preference for combat-focused games, which in the past drew us to make guides for some of our favorite action games. Naturally, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice’s combat instantly grabbed us and has made working on the book a real pleasure.
It’s quite a challenge making guides for FromSoftware games due to the multi-layered and complex world and systems they create, especially when the schedule is so tight. But we love their games and appreciate their unique approach to creating these fantastic worlds and challenging combat. It’s very rewarding for us to get so much positive feedback from the communities, and even from FromSoftware themselves.
AGB: Did the guide require a visit to FromSoftware?
FG: We have visited FromSoftware in the past. While working on Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, though, we didn’t need to. Activision made the process of communicating with the developers as smooth as possible. We were amazed to see how much detailed knowledge our contacts at Activision had about the game; that really went a long way. And FromSoftware’s support was amazing, too.
Part 2: 592 Pages and 250,000+ Words of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Strategy
AGB: What are some of the main sections of the guide, and can you talk more about them?
FG: The guide starts out covering the basics of the game and making sure that all elements of its combat and stealth gameplay are fully explained, then goes into detail on each Skill and Prosthetic Tool, explaining their many possible uses. After that there’s a full walkthrough of every area, presented in our recommended order. Our format takes the reader through the entire area, marking optional parts and shortcuts along the way, and uses stealth kills whenever possible. Next, we cover all enemies and bosses in their own 140-page chapter. We not only show how to beat them efficiently, but also in style.
Then there’s a progression guide, where the key points of each area are shown on maps to help players plan optimal routes, and our recommended route for going through the game without missing anything important is listed in a step-by-step format. Finally, there’s the Sensitive Information chapter, where you’ll find all NPC interactions, eavesdropping opportunities and more. And in case you missed anything, you can also refer to the Index at the end of the book to get you back on track.
AGB: The book is crammed with amazing artwork and incredible tactics. How did all of this come together?
FG: We don’t generally work to a page count: we give the content as much space as is needed to properly explain and present everything, For Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, that meant that the book ended up at 592 pages with around 250,000 words. Each author focused on a different chapter and would spend hundreds of hours playing the game gathering knowledge about their particular subject, be it bosses, Prosthetic Tools or NPCs. The people working on our guides are always highly skilled players who enjoy digging into games and uncovering how each mechanic really works, since we want to make sure that everyone who reads the book can learn something new.
AGB: What were your team’s favorite memories from their time on the guide?
FG: Every guide we’ve ever worked on has led to some crazy stories, and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice was no different in that regard. In Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice specifically, enemy names changed a lot and routes that we used were blocked off. We usually avoid getting too specific with such tales!
AGB: How were the maps created for this book?
FG: The maps were created from scratch by our team in Adobe Illustrator. The debug functions such as a free camera mode made their creation easier, but it was still a painstaking process of getting to know every inch of every area and making decisions about how to most clearly show these highly complex and vertical areas. We went with a not quite top-down approach for this reason.
AGB: What was the most difficult aspect of the guide to complete?
FG: As in all FromSoftware games, the most difficult part was probably figuring out all of the NPC interactions. Even with information from the developers, pinpointing the exact conditions can be very tricky. Another example would be accurately covering all of the game’s mechanics. That was a real challenge, since so many are linked to each other that it’s hard to describe any without assuming knowledge of others.
AGB: Guides by Future Press are synonymous with quality, ensuring accuracy while limiting spoilers. What steps did you take to ensure this occurred in this book?
FG: Oh, thank you! We’ve kept the first chapter as spoiler-free as we could, and whenever possible, spoiler-heavy information is highlighted in a red-shaded box. There are always some parts where it’s a fine line between completeness and spoilers, such as listing all enemies that can cause each status ailment. In this case, since the list appears in the first chapter, we faded out some enemies in a red tone, and chose to omit a secret boss from the list. Some readers may see such a list as incomplete, but we hope they’ll understand our intentions. Later in the book spoilers take a back seat to completeness, though; the NPC Interactions simply can’t be listed without spoilers, for example.
Part 3: Aiming to be the Ultimate Resource for Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
AGB: Buyers of the book can also expect video strategies for free; how would someone go about watching these videos?
FG: We’ll be uploading videos to our YouTube channel once we’ve had a short break to recover from the intense work on the guide. Anyone who owns the book can also scan the QR Codes it contains to instantly bring up relevant strategy videos that aren’t publicly available.
AGB: What information does this book have for a gamer who is having trouble completing the game, or a particular area or boss? How is this information imparted?
FG: We’ve given a lot of thought to making help easy to find in this book. We cover each aspect of the game separately; bosses for example, have 4-8 pages each, filled with detailed strategies, attack tables and preparation notes. Areas are similarly separated, with each one given between 4 and 24(!) pages, to make sure nothing is missed. For ease of use, there’s some overlap, such as following NPCs through the area walkthrough pages or in their own dedicated section, but the index lists all such instances, so it’s easy to find all of the information on a particular topic.
AGB: What information does this book have for a gamer who thinks they know all about the game? Is this for expert Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice players as well as newcomers?
FG: The book is absolutely for the most hardcore fans of the game: we always aim to publish the kind of information that we as fans would want to see. This means that we’ve gone into extreme detail on how the combat really works, using the debug functions available to us to explain hidden mechanics such as Super Armor, and swordplay reactions. For those who really want to know how everything works, there genuinely won’t be any comparable source.
AGB: What introductory tips would you give to a newcomer thinking about picking up the game and guide that hasn’t a familiarity with FromSoftware’s previous games?
FG: As long as you’re willing to learn and don’t expect to chop down enemies just by repeatedly pressing the attack button, then the game shouldn’t be too daunting. Use stealth as much as possible, and don’t be afraid to use the buff items you find; you’ll always be able to get more.
AGB: Finally, what expert-level tips would you point to, in order for New Game+ or more seasoned gamers to fully unlock their potential?
FG: The game is designed for players to really get to know its enemies; watching their attacks and learning when they can use each one is the key to reliably killing them. Paying close attention to attack animations is crucial to master deflecting, and it’s generally better to time your deflect early rather than late.
AGB: Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.
Bloodborne is a trademark of Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC. Dark Souls is a trademark of BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Inc. Sony and Bandai Namco are not the publisher of SEKIRO: SHADOWS DIE TWICE. Activision has no affiliation with Bloodborne or Dark Souls.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is available now for PlayStation®4, Xbox One, and PC. Take Revenge. Restore your Honor. Kill Ingeniously.