PlayStation 3

French Bread On Designing Characters And Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late’s Fighting Systems


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French Bread, the makers of Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late, spoke with SIliconera about creating their latest fighting game, how they balanced it, and why their fighting games stories have occult themes. The PlayStation 3 fighting game has systems designed to make it accessible to players who want to see the supernatural story and also depth for fans of the genre.


Melty Blood and Under Night In-Birth both have supernatural elements in the story. How does this change the design of a fighting game?


The "occult motif" makes it easier to give characters reasons to fight, so we feel that it works well with a fighting game. It was difficult with Melty Blood, keeping in consideration the line where players that are fans of the original works would be satisfied, making it necessary to insert components that conformed to the source material while also put in fighting game components that weren’t present in the original source material (making Hisui and Kohaku fight in a comical way). Conversely, Under Night In-Birth’s setting and characters were intended to be for a fighting game from the very beginning, and did not have much effect on the creation of the game. Other than Waldstein’s large body, it was a very straightforward game to design.


Can you tell us about the future of the Melty Blood series? Is there a chance any of the titles will come to the West?


Future plans for Melty Blood are currently undecided. We will speak on this matter if the opportunity arises.


How do you design characters? Do you have ideas for different attacks in mind first or do you start with a sketch of a character and imagine attacks from there? Byakuya’s claws are unique and Waldstein is humongous on the screen compared to other fighters.


First of all, we think of the general type the character will be in terms of an average fighting game character (balanced, power-based, ranged-attack focused, etc.) and from there the designers create a basic full-bodied sketch. The next stage involves deciding on what motifs should be present. Waldstein for example, has "a huge body and claws", Yuzuriha has a "long Japanese sword". We consider what sort of image to push with the character, and after that we think of what kinds of attacks and animations to use.


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With so many fighting games available these days, how did French Bread want to differentiate the Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late?


About the setting and characters, we saw how there weren’t many original fighting games that had the feeling of the Japanese light novels popular with youth audiences. BlazBlue is all-out fantasy. Arcana Heart is a game with only female characters and is targeted toward male gamers. We thought about highlighting this title’s uniqueness and originality by aiming for the middle of these ideas.


The distinctions of this game from BlazBlue, is the game’s emphasis on simplicity by focusing on the two options of strikes and throws, as well as the intensity of players reading each other by keeping tabs on each other’s gauges and the other player’s situation. In addition to this, by fusing the stylishness from connecting speedy combos with the fundamental Grind Grid system, we like to think a sense of uniqueness was achieved.


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The Grind Grid is an interesting addition. It feels like it’s a tug of war, designed to favor attackers and get players to engage with each other faster to get to Vorpal State faster. Can you tell us about how you designed the Grind Grid and how it changed during development?


The Grind Grid gauge is a visualization of who has the upper hand in a fight. As to how it came about, we wanted to create a novel system in which whoever is winning the guessing game is rewarded with an additional advantage.


In games where combos can be freely strung together, even if you survive an opponent’s attack after you make a correct read or successfully break an opponent’s guard, just by falling behind in proficiency of executing combos, you lose in the race for damage and can still end up being defeated. Because of this, it becomes very important for players to practice fundamentals as well as learning how to read opponents correctly in order to execute combos.


While practicing combos can be entertaining, we wanted to stress the importance of players being able to accurately read the intentions of their opponents. That’s why we created the Grind Grid system, which increases when a player makes a correct read and decreases when they make an incorrect read. Through effective play, the character with the fuller Grind Grid will be strengthened.


As for how the system evolved throughout development, there were ideas like triggering a Grind Grid Break with every block of the gauge, or be able to perform a special action by consuming a block that were considered, but they were all too detailed and complicated and would include too many factors other than being able to make correct reads, causing them to be rejected.


Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late has a couple of different defense options like Shield and Guard Thrust instead of a basic block. Can you tell us about these and why you wanted to give players more tools to defend?


Guard Thrust is a guard cancel attack that can be executed by inputting 214+D while blocking. In order for it to be successful, players need to interrupt their opponent’s attacks while charging their Grind Grid. However, because it is initially triggered by good defense, the mechanic can be seen as a present to those who made a number of good reads, where they can perform an invincible reset from a guarded state.


Shields are executed by pressing D while guarding. This also is not a system intended just to compensate for a guard’s weaknesses. To explain, if damage is taken because of an incorrect read during a shield, your Grind Grid will go into the Break state and you will be unable to use various actions for a fixed amount of time. Of course, if you succeed in using your shield, there are benefits, such as your guard recovery becoming shorter than regular guards, and big increases in your Grind Grid. Essentially, it is a system to be used when you can successfully read your opponent’s actions, knowing "my opponent will definitely attack here, so I can guard".


When on defense, we’ve included several different tools outside of straight blocking, but we did not create these systems with the intention for them to be used when the player can’t guard. The Shield mechanic is really meant to be used when a player is confident enough in their blocking skills to successfully rebuff their opponent’s combo, and the Guard Thrust is to be used only after you’ve increased your Grind Grid by making successful reads. These tools were included in order to emphasize the importance of making good reads.


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At the same time, Under Night In Birth has systems that make it easier for new players to get into a game like Smart Steer. How else did French Bread make the game welcoming to newcomers and how did you decide which combos to make Smart Steer combos?


In order to make the game easier to play for beginners, we increased the freedom to use moves that have a chance of inflicting damage. For example, instead of just limiting players to the Passing Link string of A>B>C, you can connect moves through strings of your choice, and even keep enemies up in the air with air combos strung to your liking, causing damage with attacks you like.


As for the core of the game, we have made adjustments so that players can inflict high levels of damage even without using the difficult, highly technical combos performed by high level players. Also, throw damage is higher than most games nowadays, and because you generally can’t pursue an opponent after a throw, there are no combos initiated from throws. Because of these elements, novice players can do the same amount of damage that expert players can. In order to reduce the number of techniques and mechanics new players need to learn, we boiled things down to the fighting game basics of "rock, paper, scissors" using strikes, guards, and throws.


As for the Smart Steer combo system, we put a lot of thought not only into making them practical and easy to pull off, but also to make players new to the game think "That was cool!" when they do them for the first time.


What was the toughest part when balancing the game for beginning fighting game players and making the systems deep enough for hardcore players to master?


We felt it was important for those new to the fighting game genre as well as veteran players begin from the same starting point, especially for a brand new fighting game. For this game, with the unique Grind Grid system, and the creation of the core systems, we made it difficult to win only by using knowledge and experience gained in past games. It was a lot of work delving deep into the system and balancing characters to ensure veterans would enjoy the title for a long time, but it was even more difficult to balance the components that keep new players thinking, "even if I lose, I’ll still do my best". If beginners could quickly defeat veterans, it would feel like luck is too much of a factor, so we thought to balance the game’s system so that players could focus on "what points to improve on for the next time" when they lose.

Siliconera Staff
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