It’s been one heck of a year! We’re now on our second Tekken World Tour – continually witnessing “some good a** Tekken”, Redbull has joined the party with Redbull Conquest, Noctis came out in March – culminating all of the promised Season Pass DLC, Tekken 7 sales have been through the roof, and now we’re coming up on the one year anniversary of its release.
So what’s left or around the corner for Tekken 7?
Who better to ask than Tekken Gamer Director, Katsuhiro Harada, the fearless leader of the worldwide Tekken community. I threw a number of few questions at him, and he didn’t shy away from them. Tekken fans should be quite pleased, as his responses show that he and his team are not quite done with the game we love.
Interview with Katsuhiro Harada
Noctis Lucis Caelum of Final Fantasy XV joined Tekken 7 back in March, and unlike Akuma and Geese, who both came from fighting games, Noctis comes from a role-playing game. How and why exactly was he selected for Tekken 7?
The objective is quite different from that of Akuma and Geese. With those two, we wanted hardcore fighting fans across different age groups to be really excited for their arrival in Tekken. Some people mistakenly think that the objective was to steal fans from other games, but that rarely occurs anyways, and that wasn’t the intent, really. If it were, neither Capcom or SNK would have agreed to work with us in the first place. We chose them because we all strongly believed the FGC as a whole would be quite excited about the collaboration (and I believe we have seen good results!). However, Noctis is a different case. Tekken has sold the most copies to date of any fighting game franchise, and an important reason for this is the support of the casual fans, which is evident in the data we’ve seen. And we can also tell from this data that a lot of fans from the days when polygon-based games were starting to emerge were also fans of the Final Fantasy series, and we knew this for quite some time. So Noctis was a good way to appeal to this group, and at the same time is a character that wasn’t expected, so would have a good chance to create a lot of buzz around the game.
How did you come up with Noctis’ move list? Some appear to be from other characters. For example, there is a move Noctis has that comes from Armor King. And the moves he performed in his trailer, are all of those adapted from Final Fantasy XV, or did you create them from scratch?
He has no moves from Armor King, or any other character. However, I think I know what you are referring to, probably a move that is similar to Armor King’s drop kick. However, people that have played Final Fantasy XV will recognize this is a move that Noctis actually uses, and we used this for reference, but created our own animation. Or maybe you are thinking of the low sweep, but that is also a Noctis original move. The move in which the timing of the frames seems like Demolition Man is also visibly different upon further inspection. There is one move similar to Lars’ Lightning Screw, and was based off that move, but this is because of the setting that he is a close friend of Lars. So, in general, all of the moves were based on Noctis’ moves in FFXV, although we created the animations from scratch. We didn’t borrow any of the data from Square Enix. We did receive the base model for the character from them, and rearranged it for Tekken 7. For Geese and Akuma, we created everything from scratch, including the 2D gauges and 3D character models.
Interesting. I could’ve sworn his “Shield Smash” move was inspired by Armor King’s “Hammer Impact” move, both having a parry and a very similar animation. Armor King uses his right hand instead of left though. Noctis’ movelist and commands are very simple. Was the goal to make him easier to use as far as inputs and execution for the newcomers and RPG players? Or is this just the goal overall, to make Tekken easier from here on out?
In general, one of the goals is to make Tekken more accessible. However, making everything about the game too simple will decrease the freedom of gameplay. In order to avoid this, we try to divide this by character concepts, rather than make everyone easy to use just for the sake of it. As for Noctis, he was intentionally created to be more accessible to newcomers.
When Noctis first came out there were varying thoughts and feelings about him. I know a popular pro player who stated that Noctis was the “best character in the game,” while at the same time another pro player emphatically said Noctis was “trash.” What’s your take on those widely different opinions, and where would you personally place Noctis on a tier list?
First off, you can’t really discuss a character’s strength or weakness in such absolute terms. I have a degree in Psychology and have done research for many years, so I have some experience in this matter, and have applied this to observing this particular topic as well. When looking at win/loss rates for characters, for players, and also for a variety of skill levels, it is actually quite interesting what you find out. I’ll give you an example that shows how difficult it truly is to talk about fighting games’ balance.
For example, discussion on balance is quite different depending on which player group you are talking to. Tekken fans vary greatly in age, and also skill level. Kids that are of a more novice skill level will all say that Kuma/Panda, and also Jack, are extremely strong just because of their reach. Looking at data for their matches shows they actually have a hard time against these characters. However, when you look at the age group of high-school to university players of the same novice skill level, they will say that Eddy and the Capos are quite strong, and that Kuma/Panda/Jack are not so much. On the other hand, although they don’t take part in tournaments, a group that has played Tekken for many years and is roughly intermediate skill level (this is actually a pretty large group) would say that Steve is very strong. However, when looking at their play data you see that they lose often to King and Paul, and not so much to Steve. Even so, they still say Steve is really strong. When looking into this discrepancy you notice this is also a group that watches tournament streams, and also high-level play of Steve players, and this affects their impressions.
When looking at the data, you’ll notice that when about the top 1% of all Tekken players that use Steve in a tournament, he can be really effective, but for that mass of intermediate players who can’t yet use him to his full potential, he is not really a character that is easy to win with, in fact, the data shows they lose quite often with him. As such, the discussion of character balance that takes place among top level players, and the results of top-level tournament play, in reality isn’t very applicable to the masses that play the game. When this is the case it is difficult to decide the truth of a balance discussion when you don’t know who is saying such, and also whether data backs up their claims. This has been the problem with this discussion for quite some time.
The evaluation of a character’s balance that are different than actual data in some instances isn’t necessarily the same as your reality. Also, a novice player’s evaluation might be quite different than what actual data suggests. Often the case is that the large group of intermediate players’ impression of balance is heavily influenced by top players, but it actually conflicts with many data points. So, which tier list do you take as fact? Now I hope you understand how difficult it is to speak in absolute terms of character balance.
That makes complete sense. Lastly on Noctis, what about his costumes? Were all of them from Final Fantasy XV, and was limited customization one of the stipulations for allowing him in Tekken 7?
The hooded costume is actually an original costume for Tekken 7. The other costumes are ones approved by Square Enix.
Not long ago it was reported that Yakuza producer Daisuke Sato said that it’s up to you if fans get to see Kazuma Kiryu in Tekken 7. Think that will ever happen? And why do you think Tekken fans want him in the game so bad?
Regarding Yakuza, even before Tekken 7, there was a group of hardcore fans that were asking for a collaboration (there are even some fans of the Yakuza series on our team!). However, we have not yet done the research on whether this is something our audience as a whole are interested in, and also if it would be a big topic among the community. We were actually surprised that there was a group of fans on the Yakuza side that were asking for a collaboration with Tekken. Maybe there is a crossover among the fan bases?
In an interview some time ago, you and Michael said that getting guest characters into Tekken 7 was harder than you had imagined. What made that difficult for you? And can you share any other characters you strongly considered, or tried to get into the game?
For collaborations, sometimes they can come together quite easily, while other times they might not work out, even if both sides want it to. There is always another party in a collaboration, so it must line up with their promotion schedule, or there might be a 3rd title that is already in discussions, that makes it difficult, etc. So it isn’t the case that a collaboration can happen solely because the fans want it.
There is also the problem that even if a collaboration moves forward, Tekken most definitely has the highest cost of development for one character in the genre (someone with development experience will recognize this right away because of the complexity in the rigging of the character models, the volume of animation data and scripting needed, since each character has several times the moves of other fighting game characters). This is true for existing characters, but even more so for collaboration characters since everything needs to be made from zero, thus increasing the cost even more. So, in that meaning, yes, it is more difficult.
Are there any characters strongly considered? I think Taylor Swift would be good!
That would be pretty cool actually. Tekken has had dancers, animals, aliens and more, but never a character that sings, harmonizes, or uses any kind of instrument.
Now that we’ve reached the end of all things promised in the Season Pass, is there a possibility of more DLC with new stages and characters? Is there a Season Pass 2 around the corner?
Tekken 7 sales have met expectations of both management and shareholders, so I believe we have enough good will to ask for further investment from them. So, yes, I think it is safe to expect more to come!
That’s good enough for me! Tekken fans have also made a lot of feature requests since the games release. Are there plans there as well?
There is probably more information coming out when this interview drops…
As you are well aware, Tekken 7 is coming up on its one year anniversary. As you look over the past year, or even before that with development, are there some things you would change or do differently?
Tough question. Of course, there are a lot of things that we aren’t content with, but as far as major decisions made, I think if it were the wrong choice, our game could have suffered the same fate as many other fighting games that have disappeared or haven’t seen an update in quite some time. That didn’t happen to Tekken. In fact, we still have the top position with the most copies sold to date, so I wouldn’t want to change that outcome.
Could we ever see an original Tekken Trilogy HD remaster?
Hmm, I wonder. I don’t really feel that many people are desiring remasters for older 3D fighting games.
Last question. Where do things stand with Tekken X Street Fighter?
It’s still on hold part-way through development. Even now, one can get quite excited when seeing some of the schedules and some of the character models that were already created.
Thank you, Harada-san.
A huge “thank you” goes out to Michael Murray and the Bandai Namco public relations team who were instrumental in pulling this interview together.