The day before I met Yoshinori Ono, producer of Street Fighter x Tekken, he stood in front of fans that waited hours for his panel and the first slide he showed the fervent Comic-Con crowd read "Darkstalkers are not dead." That’s where our interview began, but we quickly shifted to Street Fighter x Tekken… well after talking about Rival Schools.
At the Street Fighter x Tekken panel, you said "Darkstalkers are not dead."
Yoshinori Ono, Producer: [Laughs] The media always asks this as their first question!
Yeah, I’m not surprised. I think fans are fired up about the idea of a new Darkstalkers game.
This has become the thing I do at the beginning of panels at Comic-Con. Maybe next year I’ll ask for $20s and the following year I’ll ask for $100 bills. While they’re holding them up, I’ll go through the aisles with a bucket and collect all of them and quit Capcom and retire rich. [Laughs]
Are Rival Schools "not dead" too?
There are a lot of games I would love to resurrect at Capcom. Right now, we need to build up a nice solid base to get the fighting game genre strong again. Street Fighter was the obvious first step for this. Marvel [vs. Capcom] has gotten us to a point where at a good level. I’d love to do Darkstalkers next. Rival Schools is a possibility. Power Stone is a possibility, we get a lot of requests for that. Right now, we’re still in the process of making sure the ground work is laid, then we can begin on bringing the lesser known fighting game titles back.
That Street Fighter x Tekken panel was packed and this year you had a huge room. Just a few years ago, when you started working on Street Fighter IV, a fighting game may have been placed in one of the small rooms in the convention center. Perhaps, next year you’ll have a ballroom. However, are you worried about oversaturation? Other companies like Namco, Arc System Works, and Examu are also creating fighting games too.
Yeah, you can say that about a lot of genres too. For first person shooters, you have Call of Duty, Battlefield, Medal of Honor, and other games. It would be awesome to get fighting games that big. I don’t think it will ever get quite that far, but I think it is possible for fighting games to thrive, you can see how long the FPS genre sustained itself without collapsing, and I think we can do the same this time.
The key is not just attracting new fans, but keeping current fans satisfied, keeping them plugged in, and interacting with the community through Capcom-unity and events like this. We need to make sure the player’s voices are heard and they feel cared for. As long as we treat the fans right and cater to them, I think they will stick with us for the long haul. I don’t think we will see the bubble burst like the way did in the ’90s.
And you’re going to expand the fanbase with Hello Kitty cosplaying as Chun-Li? (This was a reference to a collaboration between Sanrio and Street Fighter.)
[Laughs] The great thing about this kind of collaboration is we’re rapidly approaching the 25th anniversary of Street Fighter and essentially the 25th anniversary of the genre. There are a lot of people who were into fighting games back then and have kids now. They might even have grandkids now!
This kind of collaboration is great because it allows grandparents to talk about fighting games and to give fighting game related presents to their children or grandchildren. I think this can expand the market. It’s kind of a generational thing, everyone wants their kids to be into the things they were into and I think we can expand the market with these kinds of collaborations.
Speaking of generations, have you thought about rewinding the clock and making a purely 2D Street Fighter or other fighting game. Arc System Works are known for this, maybe you can collaborate with them again?
We have worked with Arc System Works in the past on Sengoku Basara Cross for arcades four or five years ago. It wasn’t a tremendous success, which is not to speak poorly about our partners, it just didn’t get the market that it needed. So, it is not impossible since we have an established relationship with Arc System Works.
At the same time, I’m the kind of guy that wants to look forward, rather than backwards. I think when we do go back and resurrect older titles like we’re doing with Street Fighter III, the key is adding a lot of features like GGPO, YouTube uploads, and other features that people are interested in now. Even when we go back to revive old titles, it’s about refreshing them and adding new features to modernize them. If we could do something in the 2D space that is new, fresh, and advances things, and doesn’t take a step back I’d be open to that. I just want to make sure we’re moving forward, not backwards or sideways.
You mentioned GGPO. Is Street Fighter x Tekken also using that netcode?
There are still some kinks that we’re working out with the netcode. I can tell you officially were not using the actual GGPO netcode that you know and love in its current form.
I can also say it is not using the Street Fighter IV netcode as is. There are going to be distinct changes and improvements. I can’t talk about those improvements or the system right now. Think of this as I’m throwing a worm on a hook and I’m going to reel you back in so you’ll come back and talk to us again!
Maybe you can make GGPO x SFIV, I suppose. Let’s talk more about Street Fighter x Tekken. How did you translate the Tekken characters who have moves that took up 3D space into a 2D fighting game?
[Laughs] The process went through some trial and error and we had lots of discussions with the Tekken guys on the Namco Bandai side. Unlike games like Virtua Fighter while Tekken has always allowed players to move in 3D space with double taps to dodge in and out of the screen, at the end of the day, it essentially takes place on a 2D plane. Harada-san himself has been very open about saying the original Tekken was influenced by Street Fighter II. I think there is a 3D element [to Tekken], but the core gameplay is relatively 2D based. So, the hurdle to overcome wasn’t very high. The new build, if you get a chance to play it, should feel Tekken-y even though it is limited to the 2D plane. It wasn’t necessarily as difficult a task as you may think.
What’s been more difficult to implement is less about the change from 3D to 2D and more about the change of the general fighting styles in the two series. Tekken has been much more aggressive with long sustained combos and players getting into each other’s face. Street Fighter is generally played more cautiously with players judging the distance between their opponent and trying to gauge what it is they’re going to do next and how to react based on that. That’s been the hardest part and it continues to be a challenge. We actually have members of the development team on the Comic-Con floor watching how people play, taking notes, and paying attention so we can make further adjustments. It’s going pretty well, but that’s been a bigger challenge than the dimensional change.
Our interview continues here where Ono-san digs into Street Fighter x Tekken’s mechanics and talks about the possibility of ports to PC and Nintendo 3DS.