In an interview with DenFamiNicoGamer, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate director Masahiro Sakurai talked about how in contrast to the previous games, he wasn’t involved in balancing characters at all this time around.
Here are the highlights:
Speaking on how Smash Bros. keeps improving and adding more content, we can imagine that most of the time was probably spent adjusting character balance.
Masahiro Sakurai, director: “Well, it’s not just that. Actually, for Ultimate the system was changed so that I don’t directly work with the character parameters myself.”
Wait, really?! We actually really wanted to know whether you were handling all the new characters’ abilities and balancing yourself or not.
Sakurai: “Well, it was abnormal up until now. (laughs) In fighting games, multiple project leads split the balancing work by characters between themselves. But if you do that, you can have problems where “only the characters balanced by this person are strong”, and the opposite can happen to “weak” characters. In the first place, for Smash Bros., there was nobody who could do those adjustments, so I’d end up working on the parameters myself.”
“From Brawl and onwards, I made a monitoring team to collect battle results, and used that data and proposed options to adjust character data. For Brawl, the team was made of around 4 people, and they’d basically finish at 4-player battles, so there would be a bias towards that. There was also a team like that for Smash Bros. for 3DS/Wii U, but it seems they weren’t experienced enough.”
“For Ultimate, we greatly increased the scale of this system for both the planning and monitoring sides. We also added a certain amount of people who were good at battling… No, even before, there were good people, but this time, it was done in a more organized fashion. Of course, I would look for any points to change every day, and make comments if there were problems.”
Still, 74 + 1 + 5 fighters…
Sakurai: “Although I didn’t balance the parameters myself, the staff would suggest things like, “I want to make it this way,” and I’d end up watching over the entire process. That said, even doing this, I still think that “a game is no fun if it’s fair”.
“To make things fair, you have to standardize many things. And when you do, every character ends up feeling the same… Although in the first place, I decide when character attack frames begin at the very beginning.”
Can you detail how you pinpoint something as precise as that?
Sakurai: “I take pictures and other stuff of the motions I want, then decide, “Using this pose and composition, the attack begins in this frame and ends in this frame.” I add these to the project plan at the very beginning. If it’s too strong or too weak, the startup frames are changed bit by bit… So while to a certain extent the balancing is left to others, the work before that regarding the image of the attack is my work.”
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is available on Nintendo Switch.