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You were talking about the era when you could actually draw from SNK and Sega, and all these companies were still actually making fighting games. Now that there are very few companies making fighting games, has it been more difficult to compare yourselves,? Do you feel like there's not quite the competitive development community there that used to be there?
YO: It's definitely a different landscape now than it was in the '90s and '80s. It's kind of a bit lonely making a fighting game now, because not a lot of people are doing it.
But I think the responsibility for that rests with us and all the people who were making fighting games back then, because what happened was that gradually, the games became more and more focused on the hardcore audience, and we really shut the casual players out.
If you think about chess for instance, a kid and a grandfather can play the same game, with the same ruleset, and understand what's going on. I think through our competitive spirit back then we were always out to out-complicate each other, and make our systems deeper and deeper. It was ok then because there was a wide player base who understood how to play these games, but that's not true anymore.
What we're trying to do with Street Fighter IV is bring them back in. There's not a whole lot of other fighting games out there to compare it to, but hopefully, if we play our cards right and get people back in to the genre, we can blossom the genre itself again and spread things out and get it back to the way it was.
I think that chess is a really good analogy for the fighting game genre, because all sorts of moves balance other moves, and it can be very methodical. How much tuning do you do with the new characters, and balancing the new moves against the old moves and that sort of thing?
YO: We spent a lot of time on this. The balancing process for the new characters really was something that went over the course of an entire year, adding special moves, taking special moves away, adjusting strengths and weaknesses.
The chess analogy is very good, because if you look at Resident Evil and the other games we put out, they have a lot more in common with movies. They're big entertainment spectacles, whereas a fighting game is more like a chess game, or a tool.
We're giving users the tool they need to have fun together, but it's less of the entertainment spectacle thing. Balance is absolutely very important, so we took a whole year to get the characters where they are now.
Speaking of tuning, the graphics were altered slightly from location test to location test. What did you base the changes on -- fan reactions?
YO: Absolutely. The visual changes you see throughout the location test versions to the final version, a lot of that is basically based on user opinions and feedback from them. Not just in the gameplay balance itself, but also visually.
Once again, we're not giving them the entertainment spectacle of an ordinary game, but more of a toolset. If you give someone a board game or something and one of the pieces is ugly, they're not going to want to move that piece.
So it's really important to listen to the users' opinions, because it's going to be a tool that they're going to use freely to play the way that they want. We have to make sure that the visuals we give them are in line with their expectations, so we did listen to what they had to say about the visuals.
Rufus in Capcom's Street Fighter IV
[New fighter] Rufus is a very odd character, because he plays completely counter to his visual. He's very fast, but he's got a big rippling stomach and stuff. What was the sensibility behind the visual design of that character?
YO: That disconnect you feel between those visuals and the way he moves was a very deliberate part of his design. It was the basis of his design. There's been a lot of fat characters in fighting games, but until now, they always move slowly, have individual punches and kicks that are very powerful, and they don't move quickly.
So basically, the idea behind Rufus was to take a character that looks visually familiar, but plays in a very different way than you would expect. It has a bit of a Street Fighter essence in it, too.
If you look at all of the characters until now, they all do crazy, unexpected things. They stretch their limbs or they use electricity, and that sort of thing. So we think that Rufus really fits in to the Street Fighter aesthetic pretty well, in that sense.
He reminds me of the days when fighting games would base characters on popular martial artists or things like that. So the inspiration might be Sammo Hung or someone like that.