What can you tell us about the net code for the game? Obviously it’s always a key concern of any fighting game but with this it’s tag tag, with arguably twice as many characters on screen at a time? Has it been tricky to get it to the standard you want from day one?
Katsuhiro Hirada: It is difficult, as you mention for a fighting game, we were talking about this a lot as even compared to Street Fighter, the key data and sets that we have to transmit because of the number of characters and just because of the game system is roughly three to five times more than other fighting games which makes it very difficult but as you’re aware, Soul Calibur V came out recently and I think everyone was pretty surprised and happy with that so we’re basically borrowing that system and our technology staff have really done a good job of doing more data compression techniques, so I think people will be pleasantly surprised.
Do you think with 44+ characters…
KH: (interrupts) We’re up to 50 now!
…that you’re approaching kind of a critical mass of how many viable characters you can include? At one point does it become too many characters to handle?
KH: Good question. We’re probably OK up until about 60 I think (laughs). Realistically, people only use maybe four or five of their favourite charcters but since Tekken is so popular around the world popular characters tend to vary depending on region or the particular gamers, so it’s not about the overall volume, it’s just whether those characters that you like are in the game or not, so, yeah, we’re probably good until 60.
You mentioned earlier when you were talking about tag versus solo play, that in the arcades it had been roughly 50/50 in terms of who was coming out on top – do you still use how a game is doing in the arcades as a reference for how you create a home console version. Is that quite dangerous because arcade gamers are quite different from home gamers?
KH: Yes we do use the arcade data as a reference a lot of times but we don’t see it as a problem because it’s a good reference point and it’s empirical that when you have hardcore gamers in the arcade, you’re not going to get somebody’s grandmother playing it against a tournament level player (laughs).
They usually know what they’re doing with regards to Tekken so it’s good to know when this character faces this character this many times, this is the kind of outcome we can expect. It’s a good place to get data like that. That’s what we base the framework on in the kind of top of the pyramid of game structure but as far as light users are concerned, we go about that differently. Once the core gameplay is there, what kind of modes do we put in there for more novice players, what kind of characters do we want to add or maybe balance existing players so it’s easier to play for a certain group, so it all spreads downwards from that core base. It’s very useful data and there’s nothing wrong with using that to help balance the console versions.
There’s a lot of talk in general about making games more accessible to a wider audience, but to go to the other end of the spectrum, tournament play is becoming perhaps more popular than it’s ever been, almost a spectator sport in its own right. Does that level of tournament play feed into development at all?
KH: It’s a very difficult question to answer because we do place a lot of value on hardcore gamers and value their input into the game. That could be construed as a problem for some people, but if we say we don’t value it as much then we get slammed on the internet and spammed on twitter (laughs) so it’s very difficult.
The core opinions are important but when you’re developing a game, not even necessarily a fighting game, but maybe an FPS game as well, you automatically shift towards the opinions of the hardcore yourself, as you understand it and you actually have to be careful that you don’t go too far and leave all the other mid and lower level players behind when you’re developing your game.
Since we understand what the core players are saying we can really feel the same way about a lot of the issues, we have to make a point of listening to the lighter audience, or people who don’t currently play our game but look like they might – maybe they’d be attracted to it if we added this kind of mode or gameplay feature, and we have to try to make an effort to implement content that they would find attractive to the game. So it is an important balance.
Another example is, and I’m a big FPS fan, is it really irks me that a headshot is an automatic kill, so if I was talking to the development team of an FPS I’d say ‘Don’t make characters die unless it’s a vital area’, and they would probably be interested and understand why I say that. They might even want to use that as a chance to try out some new technology or something. But then if they did that, they’d leave other people behind. The more casual audience would be saying ‘Hey I hit the guy, that should be a win, right?’ You’d leave all of them out, and your game would not probably sell as well. (laughs) so it’s difficult.
Now that it’s been out for a couple of months, are you happy with the movie, Tekken Blood Vengeance? Do you think it reflects Tekken well?
KH: Well if you look back at the original Japanese animation series, or the Hollywood movie – now that we don’t really want to talk about (laughs loudly) – out of all previous incarnations I think they did pretty well and a lot of Tekken fans seemed to enjoy the movie and we even gained quite a few new fans that hadn’t played the game until they watched the movie, so in that regard I think it was a success. But once you do make something like that, you’re never really satisfied as it is, and everyone around me also had many ideas about what you could do to make it even cooler and even ideas from people who haven’t played Tekken but liked the movie saying ‘You should try this out’ so yes, we would try something like that again but something different.
Just to sneak in another question before we go: Tekken X Streetfighter, how’s your response to Capcom’s effort coming along?
KH: We’ve made some progress, a lot actually, not quite 10% but almost!