Rune Factory 5 Interview: Director Shiro Maekawa on Romance, Influences, and Hopes for the Series
It’s been nearly a decade since the Rune Factory series saw its last release, which makes Rune Factory 5 a high-stakes entry for fan hopes after a long stint looking forward to it. With the fifth game, Rune Factory once again takes you on a fantasy farm adventure, but it feels quite different from what series veterans might expect.
Instead of its traditional static 2D backgrounds, Rune Factory 5 fully embraced the transition to an open 3D world with the series’ jump to Switch. Many beloved pieces are still in place for the latest entry, but the changes made make the tiny village of Rigbarth a markedly different experience than you might be used to in the past.
In the wake of its launch, we had the opportunity to ask Rune Factory 5 director Shiro Maekawa a few questions about his work on the series’ return. Our Q&A with Maekawa-san is available below, posted along with another interview with the game’s localization team, and even our own review summarizing our time in Rigbarth.
Q: Games like Rune Factory 5 that focus on life simulation, romance and time management, often have a long list of daily or weekly tasks – sometimes overwhelming. Are there any design philosophies that you find most important in balancing task priorities and keeping players engaged?
Shiro Maekawa: Players can spend their days doing whatever they want. We’ve created a game that appeals to people who only like to go on adventures, people who like to focus on the romantic elements, and people who just want to farm. You could say that giving players the freedom to play the way they want is our core design philosophy.
Q: The Rune Factory series is well regarded as being a good mix of life simulation and farming simulation, while being a story driven action RPG. Often bound together as adventuring to tame monsters. How does the team find the balance between the two? Has there ever been any desire to focus on one aspect more than the other?
Shiro Maekawa: Farming, romance, and adventure are the main pillars of Rune Factory. You wouldn’t have a Rune Factory game without all three.
We spend a lot of time balancing each element, but we don’t have a specific methodology to do so. Still, when we look at the game as a whole, we create a big timeline based on how we expect players to progress, then figure out their approximate level as well as what they’ve likely grown and equipped. We set difficulty levels and make minor changes accordingly.
Q: In recent years farm games have exploded in popularity with many entering the indie scene, do these outside examples influence your work?
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Shiro Maekawa: Among other things, I play Stardew Valley, which I think is a wonderful game. Some of our team members are Farming Simulator fans, so I would say all of these titles have influenced us in some way.
Q: What’s it like to bring the show back to life, so to speak? After the original release of Rune Factory 4, it was thought to be the last game in the series.
Shiro Maekawa: I’m a big fan of the show myself, so I’m glad we managed to bring it back to life.
However, given how well received our previous titles have been, I’m still a little worried about whether we can live up to fan expectations.
Q: There seems to be a little joke with the fanbase that it’s a “bug” that you can’t romance some popular Rune Factory series NPCs. In 5 it seems that Misasagi and a few others are quite popular – were there any characters you would have liked to see added as a romance option?
Shiro Maekawa: Yes. Terry is actually quite popular among developers. His detective work makes him an interesting person, so he could easily have been a candidate for marriage.
Q: In Bokujo Monogatari, from which Rune Factory was born, it’s quite common to see less serious marriage candidates as options. Is there potential in the future to add “less serious” candidates?
Shiro Maekawa: Yes, I hope we can continue to surprise players by adding unique romance characters in the future.
Q: Often Earthmates are part of the community but do a lot of the work themselves. Besides their overall place in the story, was the Seed organization seen as a way to make the player feel more involved with the other characters?
Shiro Maekawa: SEED is a peacekeeping organization that keeps rural communities safe and even helps them solve their problems. I hope working as one of their rangers helps players feel like a local Rigbarth.
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Q: Were there any comments you saw from Rune Factory 5 that you would like to implement in future titles?
Shiro Maekawa: We get a lot of feedback from players, so we have a lot of ideas that we would like to try to implement. Don’t hesitate to let us know your good ideas for future titles after playing Rune Factory 5!