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Dark Souls II director Yui Tanimura says he has to make sure his game does two things: provides satisfying challenges for stalwart players to overcome, and compels novel connections between those players. In this Namco Bandai interview he discusses how he's balancing those tenets with creating a new and improved game.
Tanimura said control in combat was one of the areas he was most willing to revisit; each animation was recreated and inputs were adjusted to make sure players felt in control of their characters. You'll still get impaled and/or dive off of buildings, but now you'll know it was definitely your fault.
Allowing players to interact with each other briefly and anonymously online, like two potentially murderous ships passing in the night, has become a trend thanks to Demon's Souls and Dark Souls, and Tanimura said he'd like to expand on that. He's particularly interested in the fellowship players develop as they struggle through the game together.
The closed beta scheduled for October is largely designed to test those network features in the wild, before Dark Souls II releases on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 in March 2014.