Recently, Siliconera caught up with Ultra Street Fighter IV assistant producer Tomoaki Ayano to ask him a few questions about the game, and one the topics I brought up was how complicated Street Fighter IV has gotten over its many iterations.
The new Red Focus attack, I suggested, almost serves as this game’s equivalent of Street Fighter III’s parrying mechanic, while the delayed wake-up system adds a further layer of complexity in terms of defensive manoeuvres. Was the game maybe getting a little too complex, given that the original idea behind Street Fighter IV was to adopt a back-to-basics approach?
“I don’t really view the Red Focus system as being all that similar to parrying,” Ayano replied. “It was conceived as a technique to deal with incoming multi-hit attacks via simple button input. We see it as a way to bring more casual users into the fold and reignite interest among players who may have been sitting out of the Street Fighter IV series until now. It might bring the same kind of excitement to matches that parrying did, but we view it as a different beast since it is much simpler to pull off.”
“Now, delayed standing is most certainly intended for a more hardcore crowd,” Ayano admitted. “High level players had noticed some situations in previous iterations of the game in which their options were cut off, so we wanted to open things up a bit and allow them to have some control over their stand timing.”
He added, “I don’t see it as overcomplicating the game so much as offering a nod to both the casual audience and the more hardcore. It feels like we’ve achieved a nice balance between the two with these systems. I’m not actually against complicated systems that deepen a game, but I don’t think that’s what we’ve done here.”
I asked Ayano why the Street Fighter IV series has refrained from implementing an in-depth tutorial that covers the basics of fighting games. Even now, there are so many techniques and concepts—like zoning, for example—that are completely alien to amateur players, and a tutorial could help bridge that gap.
“We’ve taken a different approach with Ultra Street Fighter IV,” Ayano said. “Rather than implementing a traditional tutorial, we’ve added online training mode. You can explore the offline Challenge Mode to see how different moves are performed, but online training is best for practice. The way fighting games are played changes a great deal as the audience figures things out and play styles evolve. By allowing users to train with one another, they can learn about the most up-to-date techniques.”
Finally, another topic we discussed was that of Ryu. Over the years, Ryu has played an important role in helping newcomers accustom themselves with the intricacies of Street Fighter, and perhaps fighting games in general. One of the advantages Ryu has in Street Fighter IV is that his combos are incredibly simple to string together and even his normal moves are great at dealing damage. This makes it very simple for someone that plays Ryu to get better at the game. I asked Ayano why more characters aren’t given similar ease-of-use. Here’s what he said:
“In the West, you call these characters ‘Shotos,’ but we in Japan call them ‘Dougi wearers’ as they generally wear karate gis. Characters like Ryu, Ken, Dan, Akuma, Sakura and Sagat fit the paradigm, even though their costumes differ. Even Poison would fall into this territory as she has a projectile, a forward momentum move, and an anti-air attack (Ryu players will feel right at home with her).
“These types of characters, with an easy to grasp move set and the other qualities you mention make them an integral part of the game, but there’s room for much more variety in the character line up. We try to cater to a varied audience, and the characters themselves cover a lot of thematic territory—the whole concept of the game is to present a diverse cast of characters from around the globe, each with their own style and quirks. So, it’s always been important to us to maintain a stable of many different character types.”
Regarding Ryu himself, Ayano explained, “We have some users who have ideas on how to make Ryu stronger and a contingent of users who have ideas on how to weaken him. Obviously, we can’t go in both directions at once. This is when we return to the main design concept driving this game, which is to achieve an overall game balance that puts all of the characters on an even playing field. We can’t look at each character in a vacuum as they all link up in an intricate web.”