[In one of the company's first-ever Western interviews, Gamasutra talks to Guilty Gear creators Arc System Works on the state of the fighting game genre, their new projects, and their opinions on the Soulcalibur and Street Fighter franchises.]
Best known for its freaky and stylish Guilty Gear 2D fighting series, Arc System Works has built itself up the most prolific purveyor of 2D fighting games of the last several years -- beyond its own series, it has done contract work for Sega and Capcom.
The company has done this while maintaining a fiercely independent, idiosyncratic vision, while still managing to dip its toes into the waters of 3D. Arc's work with the overlooked Battle Fantasia, released last year on Xbox 360 in North America via publisher Aksys, provided inspiration for the 3D turn of Capcom's Street Fighter IV before that game entered development, according to SFIV's director Yoshi Ono.
In this interview, Gamasutra was able to sit down with four of the company's creative talents at its Yokohama headquarters: Guilty Gear creator and the company's chief designer, Daisuke Ishiwatari; Battle Fantasia director Emiko Iwasaki, one of the few women to rise to that level in the Japanese game industry; Junya Motomura, the company's U.S.-educated, English-speaking graphics designer; and Toshimichi Mori, the director of the company's upcoming HD Guilty Gear replacement, BlazBlue.
Guilty Gear replacement? As more or less confirmed by Ishiwatari in the below interview, rights issues with Sega have, as net rumors have suggested, caused the developers trouble with what was once their own original IP -- and as Mori admits, the company is "basically begging" Guilty Gear fans to play BlazBlue.
With a body of intriguing work behind them and a future set on bringing 2D fighters dazzlingly into the HD era with BlazBlue, Arc System Works seems to be at the most vital it has ever been. We tackle the company's present, future, and philosophy in the following questions.
Arc makes games that appear both in arcades and on consoles, like the Guilty Gear series. Do you feel arcade fans and console fans want different features from your games? Do they have different expectations?
Daisuke Ishiwatari: In my experience, the biggest difference between arcades and games made expressly for home consoles, like Guilty Gear 2, is that solid online play is tricky to arrange for the latter format. The console games I'm most interested in making are highly competitive, and their quality depends on whether you can get a reliable network up and running or not.
In arcades, or game centers, two people can battle on different machines without even a single frame of lag. In trying to bring games like these to the home machines, we have to tackle these network related issues as well, which makes the production process for the two formats fundamentally different.
With ports of arcade games to consoles, you're forced to do what you can to preserve the original. It's also really important to increase the game volume by adding new content and features. Not that I'm really qualified to talk about that though, as I haven't done much porting work. My experience is more with original titles made expressly for the consoles.
So, it's tough to speak about porting issues as I haven't done it much myself, but I think the main goal with home ports should be to add volume to the originals by enriching the game world and adding content that gives fans new incentive to play at home.
Arc System Works' Guilty Gear XX: Accent Core
Toshimichi Mori: I've been involved in porting Guilty Gear to the consoles a bit, and also in working on the arcade versions. With arcade games, people insert a coin, and generally play them for a short period of time. When you play at home, though, you can take your time, and explore all aspects of a game.
We want our arcade games to provide quick bursts of enjoyment, and then when the same game goes to a console, the goal becomes creating a play experience the user can really sink their teeth into. People don't just beat a fighting game once at home, they play through it numerous times, so we add things like a story mode to flesh out back story for each of the characters, things that will expand the game world.
Are there a lot of female players of Arc System Works games?
DI: As far as the fighting game genre goes, yeah, I think we have quite a few.