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Something I wanted to talk about is the balance you have to maintain. Games like BlazBlue, Guilty Gear, and Battle Fantasia have to have a lot of depth to retain their audience. But the core concept of a fighting game is super simple. It's just two people fighting; anyone can understand it. Look at the shooting genre, it's completely lost all its popularity, and only the otaku can play the latest games. How do you avoid that kind of situation with fighting games?
DI: Well, for starters, I think fighting games are fundamentally different from shooters in the sort of communication that occurs between players. That unique sort of culture fighting games have, of squaring off against another human opponent, is what's kept them alive this long, and I don't see that changing in the near future. It's sort of like the popularity of chess in that way.
I still think there could be some problems, though. Guilty Gear and most of the others are fun games to play, but I still think that to really understand the games is pretty difficult. So, in this day and age of making games easier to play, do you think about that, or are you happy with the way that you create the games? And I don't think the way you make games is bad; I've always liked them, but it's something to think about.
DI: For the original Guilty Gear, and I think this is true for any person playing any game really, there comes a time when you hit a wall in terms of difficulty, and you have to decide whether you'll keep at it, or stop playing. In designing games, you have to decide when the player is going to hit that wall, early on, or later. I prefer it to be later, so that even beginners can enjoy themselves.
And it's a bit subjective for us as designers, as we're the ones who have to control the difficulty and complexity. We have to be very careful that this "wall" doesn't just turn people away, no matter how bad at or uninterested in the game they might be.
That said, we also want to cater to our core audience by implementing solid and more complex gameplay that rewards those who really delve into it. It's sort of difficult to explain. In my own opinion, no matter what the game, it's important to make sure that beginners and non-gamers can pick it up, and have fun just mashing the buttons.
Arc System Works' BlazBlue
What do you think of the health of the genre right now, because actually, I think 2008 is the best year fighting games have had in a long time. Obviously there's Street Fighter IV, but also Soulcalibur. You have multiple development lines going. Battle Fantasia just came out, and as we head into 2009, BlazBlue is on the way, and KOF is coming out with a new one, too. What do you think about how things are going right now?
EI: I think the way people play fighting games is in the process of changing right now. More and more people are going online to find others to play with, which leads to a lot of information being exchanged, and people socializing in forums outside the game itself. I don't think the way things are now will continue forever, but that the genre will change to meet the evolving needs of its user base.
But the basic appeal of fighting games has always been strategic competition, like chess or shogi. They provide almost endless entertainment to those who really get into them, and that's something I don't see changing.
DI: I think both 3D and 2D fighting games are approaching a dead end of sorts. Increasing the appeal of new fighters these days comes down to things like perfecting game balance, or improving graphics. I feel like the genre is limited to growth in those types of ways, at this point. That's not to say I think the fighting game scene will just end if those type of improvements stop being made.
I also don't think it's fair to compare whatever happens to be the newest, flashiest game of the moment to an older fighter and say, "Well, I guess we've reached our peak." I hope that gamers will go on being able to enjoy the best 2D and 3D fighters of the past, to appreciate them like wine.
I do think there is a definite shift going on right now, with the arcade market shrinking and more people playing at home. The network problems I mentioned earlier are still a factor on the consoles though, and so far, the technology that would equal the zero lag environment of an arcade just doesn't exist yet. At any rate, I think the genre has proven its worth, and it should be exciting to watch it evolve over the coming years.
TM: To tell the truth, I'm a skeptic about making fighting games work online on the consoles. When you're playing against someone, I think the best communication comes from the fact that you have to share a physical space with your opponent and face off against them.
I worry that if we develop a method of fighting that doesn't require you to face your opponent, this important communication between players will eventually be lost. That's why I most want to involve myself with games that encourage this face-to-face interaction. As things stand now, I think this lack of communication is quickly becoming a reality, even in arcades, people are keeping more to themselves, but I'm not giving up. It's sort of a personal mission of mine.
Or take, the PSP, which can do online play. Monster Hunter has been a huge hit here, and it's common for people to actually hang out together when they play it. It's important that we keep that, that sense of physical community. The arcades offer it, and as long as people keep going, I think the fighting genre will last.