Street Fighter X Tekken Interview – We Exchange Fighting Words With Capcom's Seth Killian
Written Friday, November 04, 2011 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Having been fans of Street Fighter and the Marvel vs. Capcom series since the early days, the chance to chew the fat with a Capcom legend, Community Manager Seth Killian, and talk all things fighting genre related, was one not to be missed.
We grilled Killian on Street Fighter x Tekken, getting some clarity on the balancing of characters, the new 'Gem System', the difficulties in pleasing all of the fans all of the time, and a lot more besides.
So, read on to find out who Killian's favourite new UMvC3 character is, how Capcom has gone about balancing Street Fighter x Tekken and whether he fancies Capcom's chances in starting up a new fighting franchise, assuming that were to happen...
Which of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3's new characters is your personal favourite?
It's very hard for me to not say Phoenix Wright. He's the epitome of ridiculous, but he's actually a really good character and we managed to squeeze everything from the Ace Attorney series, including things like investigation mode where you're looking for evidence. So, he's a zany character, but he's actually quite strong with all his things from the courtroom and investigative modes, shouting 'guilty!' and stuff like that... It's hard not to love all that, but as far as straightforward characters go, on the Capcom side my favourite is probably Strider, as he's one of my old favourites and I'm very happy to see him back. On the Marvel side, I quite like Ghost Rider and Hawkeye, so those guys are my favourite new characters.
Moving onto Street Fighter X Tekken, having both Street Fighter and Tekken characters and balancing them must have been tough. How has it worked out in terms of the control system?
With the controls, we've kind of made a small nod to the Tekken side, but overall it's still more of a Street Fighter game. We've got all of the Street Fighter models for the Street Fighter characters, but for the Tekken characters, we had to give them Street Fighter-style combos, but in the Tekken style. But in terms of overall balance, almost every Tekken character has some ability to dodge, essentially moving into the third dimension, whether it's some sort of dash or rush enabling them to pass through projectiles. I think only Raven on the Tekken side has any kind of projectile, but clearly Tekken fighters don't have any range, so we gave them a way of passing around the projectiles to get inside, but it requires a certain level of commitment to pull off. That's where the dichotomy comes in with the Street Fighter characters having stronger projectiles while the Tekken guys have a stronger mixed-up game. Once they do get inside, you'll be left guessing whether they're going to attack high or low.
What kind of input have the Tekken team had on Street Fighter x Tekken?
We did tell them which characters we were going to put in the game, just to make sure that they weren't going to hate that, but apart from that, absolutely zero. None whatsoever, and we're doing the same thing with them when they make Tekken x Street Fighter. It's one of these rare situations that I'm sure is possible somewhere else, but it's mostly one of those Japanese things where the goals are clear and so they trust us with one of their biggest brands. We don't send them any approvals, review builds or anything like that. Harada-san (Tekken Producer, Katsuhiro Harada) might come by and check out the progress, but if he doesn't like it, tough. He'll just have to take revenge when he comes round to making his own game. But we're respectful of the franchise and so we want to get it right for the Tekken fans as well. But yeah, the Tekken guys have zero input.
How did the idea come about to do two separate games then, with one on the Street Fighter side and one on the Tekken side?
Well, Street Fighter historically... without it there would have been no Tekken. Sorry, I know that's not what you're getting at, but I had to get that in there! I'll get my digs at the Tekken guys where I can!
It was really just Ono-san (Street Fighter Producer, Yoshinori Ono) and Harada-san on the Street Fighter and Tekken side, and they'd known each other for a while. Before Ono was a producer on Street Fighter, he worked with Harada-san and some other guys, keeping the fighting genre going, during the dark days of the early-mid 2000's when there wasn't really much action for fighting games. Harada-san joined Namco and did Tekken, then Ono-san became producer on Street Fighter, and they bonded quickly, so we decided we had the time to do our game first, then as payback they had the rights to do Tekken x Street Fighter as well.
There's a new Gem System that we've heard about in Street Fighter x Tekken, which we understand are kind of modifiers. Beyond that, we don't really know much more about it, so could you explain more about what it is?
It's kind of a mouthful, but the nitty-gritty details and then the overall idea is that they're a series of customisable power-ups. From the list of gems, you can select a few to give you different kinds of power-ups. There are two basic classes of gems: ones that are active throughout the whole round and ones that will only activate under certain conditions. Those conditions might be to perform certain special moves, and then the gem activates. You might have a gem that activates when you're hit by something. Some gems are activated offensively, some are activated defensively, so there's a lot of variety and they'll do different things like boosting power, speed or defence. They're relatively modest buffs but they can stack up too, so if you get three and your opponent only gets one, that can be pretty significant.
Then there's what we call the 'assist gems', which are more system-wide things intended more for new players, although I'm sure seasoned players will find something nasty to do with them. Stuff like 'auto-block', which sounds really, really powerful - like it's the ability to just block automatically - it sounds like a great ability, but it's really just for beginner players and it still burns up your super meter, so if you haven't got any super meter, the gem won't work at all. If you do get some super meter, it goes away very quickly because you're forced to use auto-block, so if there's a player who's never mastered throwing or getting out of throws, and they get frustrated by being thrown, they can use a gem to get a feel for that and help them get some feedback, but a gem will never enable you to beat a player who's massively better than you. It's a good way to balance out your abilities, or if you're all about offence but your defence is weak, you might use a gem to power-up your defence a bit... whatever it might be. So they're customisable and help you to play to your strengths and augment your weaknesses.
With Street Fighter and Marvel vs. Capcom becoming such dominant forces as far as Capcom's fighting games go, do you think it's possible for Capcom to start up a brand new fighting franchise that can compare?
I think it is. Certainly we have the talent and the ideas to do it. Whether fans of our past franchises that are not currently active would ever forgive that... I don't know if they'd ever accept a new franchise from us without saying, “you could have brought back Star Gladiator!” And 400 Star Gladiator fans would all rally and be bitter at us, reading about what we've done and criticise the new characters for how far off Star Gladiator they were. We're sort of challenged by our own success in that regard, where we have such strong characters with such a long legacy that people don't want to move away from them. Sometimes we try introducing new fighters into existing franchises, but I think we have the ideas as far as mechanics and so on are concerned.
Even with Street Fighter x Tekken, we're going a little outside of what we've done before, so it's definitely not a Tekken game and it's also not really a Street Fighter game. It's totally like Street Fighter for sure, but it's a little off in terms of direction and new mechanics, so we get some of our new ideas in that way without moving in a brand new direction. But I think we could start a new franchise if we wanted to.
We've seen in the most recent fighting games that all of the characters are given to you at the very beginning. Do you think that the days of having to work to unlock all of the characters might be over?
We started with that in Street Fighter IV. When we brought that back we had... I think there were nine characters that you had to unlock right out of the gates, so it took quite a long time – including for me - to unlock all those characters and go through that. That's sort of a Japanese way of looking at things and our fans in the west very much like that approach, but I would say on average, it's not popular. They're like, “I don't want to have to work to unlock this. I just want to play with it.” And you know, attitudes vary and some people just don't like having to unlock characters. But then if you're playing Call of Duty and you're waiting to unlock a perk or something like that, players don't generally have a problem with that.
I think the mindset is a little different across different kinds of games and player bases, but personally, I don't like unlocking characters. I enjoy playing through the game, but my third or fourth, or rather for me, my 800th time, I didn't need that on the day of release when all I wanted to do was play with my friends, but I've got to unlock all of that stuff. I think for now, we'll tend to be on the side of available rather than having to unlock.
There are quite a few iconic characters that haven't yet made it into the Street Fighter x Tekken roster. We know it's not complete yet, but are there DLC plans for more fighters or anything like that?
We have a good few months left until release and we plan to keep announcing characters right up until that time. The way I'm describing it is, if you see that meteorite right there (Street Fighter x Tekken's character select screen), that'll be covered. There's quite a lot of characters still to come, and although you can see only two blank spaces, and people naturally assume there's only two more to come, there are a lot more, including some from Street Fighter history that haven't been in a Street Fighter game for quite some time. We hope that'll make the fans happy, and the Tekken fans as well of course.
Do you have a final character count yet?
I do, but I'm not going to announce it here today! I'd say it'd be almost impossible to be disappointed with the overall number for the roster. I'd say this is the most robust roster we've had in a Street Fighter game... I don't want to say “ever”. I don't know. I'll be screwed by something if I say “ever”, but it's a lot of characters. We were helped a bit by having the Street Fighter IV character's model data, but we rebuilt the engine for SF x Tekken. We had that model data already so we were able to rework it, which gave us time to work on a lot of new characters, both on the Tekken side, which is new to us and an entirely new system, and new Street Fighter characters that have never been crafted as 3D models before.
Is it a constant battle trying to please everyone with character selections? No matter how many characters end up on that roster, you're going to have people complaining that you've left out their favourite.
Yeah, you're one hundred percent right. I look at it as 'disappointment minimisation', because you're never going to be able to make everybody happy. Internally, it's something we look at if there's very strong fan requests, but that was very present in Marvel vs. Capcom. I mean Marvel vs. Capcom is even worse, because the Marvel universe is massive, as well as the Capcom catalogue which is pretty big. You're going to disappoint people with that game, but we've tried to bring in high profile characters in Street Fighter x Tekken that you'd expect, and we've gone into some areas that people might not be expecting with some more obscure characters. That's certainly easier to do on the Marvel side, but we've tried to do it for SF x Tekken as well with some obscure characters that are a bit of fan service for those who are less represented. You're not going to get everybody in, but we do some characters that people on the team get excited about too, with loads of cool ideas for what they can do.
You can have your hand guided by fans, but you want to have that same passion, so if you're just making characters that other people are passionate about and you're not passionate about, that's not ideal. I like to say that the fans have a voice at the table, so there's a demand for the brand and we learnt our lesson with Street Fighter III. Don't cut all of the fan-favourite characters out of the game! Leave those guys in there! So, there's the demand for the brand, then there's the team's internal favourites and ideas, and there's the voice of the fans as well, with what they want to see. We try and balance that all out, and ultimately make a game that's fun. If you have everybody's favourite character in the game and it's not any fun, then you're nowhere.
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is out on November 15th in North America, November 17th in Japan and November 18th in Europe. Street Fighter x Tekken is out on March 6th, 2012 in North America and March 9th, 2012 in Europe.