Dodging, Striking, Winning: The Arc System Works Interview
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  Dodging, Striking, Winning: The Arc System Works Interview
by Christian Nutt
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January 13, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

I want to talk about Guilty Gear 2 Overture, because it was such a surprise. It's completely different as it's a 3D adventure game. I wanted to find out where the idea came from originally. I heard that it was something you'd been wanting to do, but I wanted to hear a little bit more about it.

DI: Well, we were involved directly with the series up through Guilty Gear XX #Reload, which were the 2D fighting games we'd been wanting to make. At that point we felt like we'd done what we'd set out to, and were wondering what step the series should take next.


Until that time, I'd been playing games at the arcade and on my PS2, but when I started playing games on the PC, I discovered how fascinating FPS and RTS games could be.

For me it was like "Wow. There are these entirely other venues for making competitive games that are really interesting." So when it came time to move forward, we thought we should try to take a totally new approach and move in a new direction.

This is a tough question, I don't know if you can answer it, but there have been some rumors on the net about Guilty Gear and Sega getting the rights, which is why [Arc System Works' Dynasty Warriors-style action title] Guilty Gear 2: Overture didn't feature too many older characters -- and stuff that I don't really understand.  Though you might not be able to provide any answers...

DI: Right, I might not be able to provide answers there.

You know, rumors... on the Internet...

DI: Yeah, I can't really talk about it much... except to say that they're basically true. (laughs)

Arc System Works' Guilty Gear 2: Overture

I don't know if Battle Fantasia will have a sequel or not, but was your intention to start multiple series within the same company, because they could expand your audience?  I think of the Guilty Gear audience as an existing number of people who like Guilty Gear. I would assume most of them would be interested in BlazBlue and Battle Fantasia, but I don't know if that's your intention, or if it's to develop multiple games with their own style and audience. Could you talk about that?

DI: Our company basically functions in a way that allows people to make the games they want, and these two [Iwasaki and Mori] are prime examples of that.

JM: It's not like we had a grand plan for doing all the different series, but their respective creators said, "Hey, I want to do this," and they just pushed the development forward with all their energy. Some of the ideas don't end up making it, and some do. As for making games into a series, it just depends on how well the title does.

When you were making Battle Fantasia for example, did you think, "Guilty Gear fans will probably like this," or did you try to make a game that could stand totally on its own? 

EI: Well, we were asked to make certain aspects of the game keeping Guilty Gear fans in mind.

TM: Yeah, but they did want you to pursue your own vision.

EI: I know, but they still asked me to consider that sort of thing.

TM: With BlazBlue, we're basically begging the Guilty Gear fans to play it. I'd be lying if I said we didn't have them in mind when we were working on the game. We wanted it to be something Guilty Gear fans would be comfortable with both visually, and in terms of controls. But we also wanted it to be something people would want to play if it was their first experience with one of our games.

JM: Yeah, BlazBlue was made more explicitly with fans of Guilty Gear in mind, but Battle Fantasia was more of an attempt at expanding our audience. It has a different type of game world, and the controls are a little simpler.

Yeah, could you explain about what went into designing Battle Fantasia? That was really the first game outside the Guilty Gear series in the genre from Arc, so I want to talk about where the idea came from, and how you decided on the audience and the gameplay style, as it is a little bit simpler.

EI: We were interested in bringing in people new to fighting games, and also female players.

If the target was female players, was it just the art style that changed, or was it gameplay? Because ultimately, it's still an arcade fighting game, and as far as I'm aware, that audience isn't as involved in that. What changed in making this game, different from say, Guilty Gear or BlazBlue to appeal to that audience?

EI: Well, I go to game centers... (laughs)

Mainly, we tried to make things a little simpler. For example, the instruction card on the machine is easier to understand. Also, with the characters and the game atmosphere, because RPGs are so popular in Japan we took some cues from that genre.

As for gameplay, if you're faced with a ton of confusing moves and combos right off the bat it can be frustrating, so we simplified that a bit as well. But, in making it easier to get started, we didn't want the game itself to be shallow, so we tried to strike a balance between a game that looks easy on the surface, but also really draws you in the more you play it, and has some depth to it as well.

Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

Jesus Alonso
13 Jan 2009 at 12:24 pm PST
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As a fighting genre fan, I find this interview really interesting, with a big load of ideas to think about for a while :)

Blake Nicholas
13 Jan 2009 at 12:51 pm PST
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The part of the interview about how Capcom sold SFIV as more user friendly brings up something I had been thinking about for awhile. At one point they say if they really wanted to make it friendly to new players of fighting games they would have made a single button press do a move like a hadouken.

I was thinking this exact thing the other day about how if a fighting game only had easy to do moves like that then it would be more about the thinking part of the game than the reflex part of the game. I consider myself a very good strategic thinker while playing fighting games, but my reflexes are kind of rusty since I went a long time without playing a fighter. I recently bought SF HD Remix and was shocked at how bad I was at performing some of the moves, primarily the shoryuken. I could do it okay, but not on a consistent basis which often times would leave me open to be attacked if I did the move and nothing came out. It took away my defensive game because I couldn't do much against opponents that pressured me to turn the momentum back in my favor. Now I realize with practice I will most likely get back to how I used to be able to perform the moves. Question I have is why not just put everyone on an even footing from the get-go to allow that fair play from the get-go? If nearly everyone could perform the moves consistently it would put the emphasis on the thinking game. The reflex game would still be there as well because the top players would still have to learn certain frame data to know when to perform various moves, and the frame data could even be more strict than normal because of the ease of performing moves.

As it is now there are many tiers of fighting game skill levels which usually leads to a lot of matches that are quick and no fun for either party. The higher tiered player has an easy win, but they don't have to think or do anything other than pressure the lower skilled player, and the lower skilled player just gets dominated until they quit the game. If you ask a higher tiered player what they want out of competition their answer would most likely be something to the effect of, "worthy opponents" because fighting games are at their best when two people are going against each other that understand the system and thinking game.

So what do you guys think of a system that would strip down the emphasis on move complexity to allow players to start off on near even footing? I think it would allow for high level play right off the bat. The spacing, baiting, and overall thinking strategy of the fighter would be the primary gameplay. All of which are the top gameplay mechanics present in high level play among current gen (and past gen) fighting pros.

Bartosz Oczujda
14 Jan 2009 at 2:06 am PST
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To answer your question, I'll tell you the system you're writing about already exists. It's used in PSX version of Marvel vs. Capcom and in GC and Xbox versions of Capcom vs. SNK (it's optional in both games, you don't have to use it if you don't want to). To cut a long story short � 99% of advanced players hate it. I don' know why. I'm a fighting game fanatic myself, and I don't care if someone uses it or not. I'll tell you why.

Fighting games are not about execution of special moves. Fighting games are about using your brain and knowledge to out think your opponent.

Let's assume a hypothetical situation that in a certain game it is utterly easy to make a special move, or super move, or... even a damaging combo on a press of a button. A weak player will say "Cool! I can take 70% of your health bar with a single button press" but there is a little problem... he actually has to hit his opponent to damage him. What distinguishes advanced player from a newbie is not only his execution of moves, it's the usage of moves. Pro player knows when to attack, and when to block, he knows frame data, he knows combos, traps, tricks... He knows the GAME! He spent his personal time to learn all this. And he doesn't care about how easy or how hard the special moves are, cause in fact they are not that important as some people might think they are. Besides special moves, you've got normal moves, throws and game specific command moves, they are much more important than specials.

What I'm aiming at is, by providing players with a way to easily perform complicated moves, we don't make it easier for them to compete with advanced players, we only reduce their frustration of not being able to perform special moves. It's pure marketing ;-)

Jonathon Walsh
14 Jan 2009 at 1:22 pm PST
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That's an arguement I've heard time and time again across many genres that have a competitive aspect (FPS and RTS Mostly as I'm not really a fighter fan).

My response/counter argument is the same, the reasoning behind having to do the complex action isn't for the challenge of the action itself. Rather you create these thought consuming actions to pressure and challenge the player to complete the other actions. It's a similar concept to the game show Distraction: where players are forced to answer questions while being distracted.

By distracting players who are trying to compete (in this case with complex move inputs) you make the tactical and thinking challenging more difficult and harder to get right. It provides extra depth for players as they must have a really good mental capacity (in the scope of video games at least) to both master the distraction, the immediate strategic choices (which move to do), and the meta/mind games.

Another thing that I firmly believe in is that every game is solvable. No game (even chess) is perfectly balanced, there's always a bias and a set of 'perfect' inputs to result in a win when facing you opponent. However for a time-sensitive game such as a fighter or RTS the perfect input is near impossible to achieve. Response times and complexity of games assures this. The 'distraction' though magnifies this effect and makes sure that even top players make enough minor mistakes to keep the game interesting. If players are allowed to play too close to the perfect line of play then the game at the top will become shallow. By adding distraction and keeping players further away from this perfect line due to slower reactions and reduced mental ability towards tactical and strategic memory choices you open up more room for meta and mind games to form to create an exciting competitive atmosphere.

So while things like complex moves, unit queuing, or any other simplification may seem like a trivial complication that serves just to annihilate new users to the game may actually play a key role in keeping the depth of the game for high level play.

On another note I love this article. While I don't play fighter games as mentioned earlier I absolutely love any discussion on competitive gaming. Great read.

brandon sheffield
14 Jan 2009 at 8:22 pm PST
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Bartosz - the system also exists in tatsunoko vs capcom. takes some getting used to, but it can level the playing field in a way - but also encourages special move spamming a bit.

Bartosz Oczujda
17 Jan 2009 at 2:35 am PST
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@Jonathon Walsh
While the notion of distraction is interesting, and true, I have to disagree with the rest of your concept. A game doesn't necessarily have to be shallow when special moves are not complex. Real life example? Tekken. 95% of moves in this game are very easy to do, even bread and butter combos are very easy, for example (explanation 1=square, 2=circle, 3=X, 4=triangle, d=down, f=forward, u=up, b=back):


more advanced

d/f+2, b,f+2,1,2, f,f+2
d/f+3, d+2, d+2, d/f+3
u/f+4 d/f+1, f, 1,2,1,2

these are v.hard
u/f+4, 4, f,f+4
f,d,df+2, 1, 1, 1, 1,2
d/f+3+4, 1, 1, d/f+3+4

You see? The motions you have to perform are easier than in Street Fighter or Guilty Gear, where you have half circles, quarter circles, double quarter circles, 360's, or even 720's to perform in every combo. And I wouldn't call Tekken a shallow game.

I'm sure that Capcom or Arc System Works guys won't abandon their love to quarter circles and similar motions, but there are two things they could to, to make the game more accessible to new players.

1. Prepare tutorials about the game, and every character in it. (I know that SF4 will have something like that, so that's a big plus).

2. Make the moves easier to perform by increasing the margin for error.

Thanks for the info I didn't know about this.

Tyler Doak
26 Jan 2009 at 9:44 pm PST
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Thank you SO much for this interview! Fighting games are indeed becoming a BIT more mainstream recently, but we'll have to see if it actually helps. Bottom line--I'm thankful for Arc System Works. Seriously the new Tekken and Soul Calibur are utter garbage and there is ZERO depth going on in SFIV. The past is chock full of great fighters and the future is bright with Blazblue, Battle Fantasia, and the rise of Doujin Fighters, who also have a love of the genre and hardcore fans. Capcom and Namco have totally lost that. Capcom has the scratch to hire top shelf designers and instead hand it over to a bunch of jokers for SFIV. Namco has AMAZING asset talents. Take a gander at the new Naruto, Soul Calibur, and Tekken. These games are gorgeous in the rendering, characterization, AND animation. Gameplay? Good luck finding any there. You'll find 'cool' customization of character looks instead.
Fighting games are THE greatest games ever. It's unfortunate that these companies with such great potential (and pocketbooks) are setting everyone up for failure.
Long live Arc System Works!
Go out and play Blazblue!

ASW, if you guys read this, I wanna be an intern.

Tyler Doak
26 Jan 2009 at 9:47 pm PST
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(sorry double post)
I meant to comment on the article more! (as i should have been)
I thank you so much for this interview, because part of their animation process has FINALLY been revealed to me. I've been asking around forever, but had never been able to find it. It seems the art related questions are always forgotten! Thanks again.

Percival Tiglao
3 Feb 2009 at 9:53 am PST
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@ Bartosz

To me anyway, it seems that Guilty Gear XXAC is indeed somewhat loose with the quarter-circles and such. As long as you get every direction in order in a certain amount of time, it does not matter what comes in between. For example, I occasionally perform Millia's disc by doing quarter-circle forward forward heavy. (2366 H). Despite that quarter-circle forward is all you need, the extra "forward" press does not prevent you from performing the attack.

Anyway, there are very good reason for these "complicated" motions.
* It diversifies characters. Millia plays completely different from Jam, despite both characters being a "rush down" type. Whereas Jam's Dragon Punch is a very useful anti-air and comboing attack, Millia does not have a single Dragon Punch in her entire moveset. (by Dragon Punch, I mean f,d,df, or in GG terms: 623). Also, Iron Tager is the _only_ character with 360s and 720s in his moveset in all of BlazBlue. Character diversity is certainly a good thing methinks.
* It gives the characters far more attacks. Not only are neutral and directional attacks available (forward heavy, neutral heavy, etc. etc.), but every character gets additional attacks in the form of quarter-circles and so forth.
* Orthogonality between attacks. In games such as Soul Calibur, or to take it even further, Naruto... characters "autocombo" as I like to call it. For example, a standard 6-hit combo in Naruto is simply light-light-light-light-light-light. (no need for buttons, just smash the button 6 times and you got a 6-hit combo). For the most part... Guilty Gear characters don't have "auto combos". They are full manual in some sense.

Orthogonality is a double-edged sword of course. It makes characters _much_ more difficult to control, especially for a beginner. It also sharpens the divide between newbies and experts. However, it allows expert players to have absolute control over every action of their character at every point in time.

@ Bartosz
Try Naruto. Unblockable full-tension supers are performed with a single button press and can take out 60%+ of a character's life. (Lee's Hidden Lotus is practically a teleporting OHKO). Overall, a fun game that lacks depth. Too many silly things were added (you can activate a counter _after_ you've been hit with an attack) but certainly a good game to try if you want to see how far "easy fighting games" can go. Soul Calibur and Tekken hit a better balance point compared to Naruto IMO.

@ Walsh
I agree to some extent, although I'd like to add that nearly every string of even "perfect" attacks has a perfect defensive. (high block / low block / jump / backdash, etc. etc.). Therefore, the "perfect" plays will always involve a mixup and a little bit of chance. IE: more like Rock / Paper / Scissors, as opposed to chess. ie: Talim's Wind Charmer can hit medium, high, or grab the opponent, all under the speed of a human's reaction time. Sure, if you grab, they can duck. If they duck, you can hit medium (you must stand to block mediums in SC).

Carl Albright
27 Feb 2009 at 2:23 am PST
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This was a very nice interview. I'm very interested in hearing Arc System Work's views as I respect the company very much. Just from playing one guilty gear title, I could grasp the company's morals and views on gaming and pretty much confirmed it with this interview.

For the part about accessibility to all kinds of players, They make each character different in their games. Some people only adapt 1 character because it speaks to them in a certain way. Some characters in blaz blue can be played with very simple button combination others need more complex and faster ones. Also for complete noobs, random button presses = a decent enough combo so games can be played enjoyably between 2 new players as well.

I think a live arcade scene is important. Think about how people treat each other through the internet. You play someone over the net with a microphone 9 times out of 10 you'll get an annoying person who curses you out (in America) but go to an arcade, you wouldn't treat people like that to their face. You might even make some new friends. Even though you meet more people playing online, the meeting to chances to make friends ratio is MUCH lower. Also if you physically meet someone in the arcade it somehow becomes ok, if that person becomes a friend to treat them like a friend. An online friend, you still aren't too sure about, you certainly wouldn't want to arrange to meet up in a dark alley, lol.

Anyway, I think their views on female gamers was interesting as well.

Can't wait for their next interview! :)



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