News about PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale was leaked five months before Sony Computer Entertainment announced the game. More details like the character roster was revealed when fans dug through data in the PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale demo. Do leaks affect a game’s launch? We spoke with Omar Kendall from SuperBot Entertainment about that topic, designing characters, and the game’s single player mode.
Do you feel all of the leaks hurt the game’s publicity or affected the game’s buzz?
Omar Kendall, Director: I do. I think they did. I understand why they occur. Our first leak started out in a focus test, you know. We were really interested in getting fan-feedback for this game, because we feel like fans are the ones that are going to show up day-one to go out and buy this thing.
I tend to think, maybe guys like me, who are just looking for a new fighting game, will show up, but what will really drive this game are the fans. If I like Sly Cooper. If I like Parappa the Rapper. This is their game. And so, we wanted their feedback. And we started talking about the game, we started conducting surveys, we started having playtests.
And it was really out of that conversation about the game with fans that information started leaking out. I understand the enthusiasm, but it did hurt the marketing plan for the game.
You still have a chance to surprise people with DLC.
Yeah, we’ve still got some surprises on the disc, honestly that people haven’t pried out of us just yet. [Laughs] So we look forward to the game coming out and people getting a chance to experience those surprises.
Which character is your favorite one to play as?
I have a lot of fun with Nariko right now. She was one of the last characters to go in—one of the last characters we revealed. We were at a point where we really understood the game and what worked and what was really fun, and she manifests a lot of those elements.
She’s got kind of “gambler” style, I like to call it, where she risks a lot and sometimes she loses, and sometimes she wins. And when she wins, she gets a lot out of those risky situations.
Which character was the hardest one to implement in the game?
I don’t know if there was any one character that was really difficult to get in the game. I think you can almost divide our roster into two camps. Kratos, Nariko, Raiden, Dante, Heihachi—these sort of action-oriented characters who do a lot of punching and kicking and sword-swinging already. What they do in their games lends them to our game well.
And you’ve got characters like Fat Princess, Parappa the Rapper, Cole or Radec who’ve never been in a fighting game like this, but at the same time, have a strong personality. And since I think a lot of the different actions in PlayStation All-Stars aren’t very traditional. We’re very creative in the ways different characters apply their personalities to the action.
It was almost like a fun opportunity, when you have a character like Fat Princess who’s never done anything in a game before, other than sit around and be carried, to create a whole combat style, to three wholly original supers that play into the essence of the character. It can be really fun.
The biggest challenge when designing any character is meeting fan expectations. A character like Sly Cooper has been around for so long. Kratos has been in half-a-dozen games. How do you, out of half-a-dozen games, pull two-dozen moves, and say this is what’s going to represent Kratos as a character, and everyone who loves Kratos is going to play these two-dozen moves and say, “Yes! That’s the Kratos in my mind.”
It feels like Kratos has his moves from God of War III.
We used moves from every God of War almost. We used moves from the PSP versions, God of War III, II, I. That’s what we do when a character has such a wide variety of moves to choose from. We try to do a “greatest hits” version of the character.
I think Jak was another such character. He’s had such varying iterations. He’s gone through such drastic transformations over the course of the games he’s appeared in. You have to take that greatest hits approach so you can hit all the notes you need to hit for his various fans.
What do you think is going to keep players coming back to the game? In Marvel vs. Capcom 2 it was unlocking characters. Smash Brothers had trophies and Persona 4 Arena had a story mode. What’s PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale’s hook aside from playing it when friends come over?
We have a slate of single-player modes, and a lot of them are based on traditional fighting games. So like, arcade mode is very much like Marvel vs. Capcom. You select an individual character. You’ll learn a little bit about their background and what brings them to this crazy PlayStation All-Stars experience. You’ll go through a progression fighting different characters.
We have a rivalry system, which I don’t know if you’ve seen anything about, but each character has a fantasy match-up. Like, what if Ratchet met Jak? That system exists in our arcade mode for every character. You’ll have a cutscene and a fight between you and your rival. Then you’ll fight a boss character and there’s a resolution to our story. That exists for every character.
We’ve got this mode called Combat Trials, which I call “edutainment” where you learn about the combat systems if the game, and you’re going to learn a little bit about your character and how to use them, and you can have some fun with challenges and things like that. There are hundreds and hundreds of hours of gameplay in Combat Trials. You could own the game for a year, and never go anywhere besides Combat Trials, and not see everything. And we’ve got a practice mode and tutorials and things like that, because there is a bit of a proper fighting game underpinning PlayStation All-Stars.
We’ve got a progression system that a lot of people haven’t had exposure to. And this is not just restricted to single-player, but if I like to do tournaments or play arcade mode, or just versus on the couch with my buddies, I’m constantly earning experience and unlocking stuff. You can earn costumes, intros, outros, taunts, theme music, icons, pieces of art, things you can adorn your character with.
At the same time, I’ve been playing Street Fighter IV since 2008 and the heart of any proper fighting game is its gameplay, and we think we have something special with our gameplay. We think a lot of fans are going to stick around just to get to the depth of strategy of what our game is.
I still play Street Fighter IV, too. But, the PlayStation fans who are buying the game for Sly Cooper and Kratos might not get into the nitty-gritty of mastering an air-combo, and just want to see Kratos throwing Parappa the Rapper around. What’s going to keep them coming back?
I think we do have a host of unlocks. It’s hard to [say what they are]. We don’t have a direct analogy to the Smash system, but when you see our goal system, our progression system, our vast array of unlocks, our Combo Trials mode, I think you’ll get an idea that there is a wealth of content that is there for that player. I still think the core fun, the sweet spot of our game, is people getting together for multiplayer. But, I understand that there are players who will want to do a deep dive on single-player content, and we’ve provided a lot of that.
What’s Superbot going to do after this?
I think we’ll see. PlayStation All-Stars doesn’t necessarily directly coincide to battle royale with four players. There are a variety of games we could potentially make to satisfy that “PlayStation All-Stars condition”. Like the capture the flag game I mentioned. It really just depends on what the fans are looking for and conversations with Sony, and how that shakes out. I’m really interested in seeing what fans are saying, and going from there.
What have you learned from fans so far, because you’ve done so many playtests. What have they influenced directly?
That’s a good question… I think [Laughs] My biggest takeaway from the relationship with fans is how insatiable they are. Fans are never satisfied. Maybe this is just a symptom of the Internet. Fans are never satisfied. And at times, it’s liberating or challenging. You can never please everyone.
You can take two paths as a creative. You can shut them off and go your own way, or you’re a maniac like me who reads every message, every forum post, every comment on an article, and is constantly motivated to try to satisfy as many people as possible. And this entire process over the last two years and relationship we’ve had with our fans has definitely convinced me never to stop trying.