This question is for Iwasaki-san. I don't know if you saw, but we did an interview with Ono-san from Capcom about Street Fighter IV, and he said that they weren't sure they could make a 2D fighting game in 3D until they played Battle Fantasia and they saw how you guys had made it work first. Had you heard that? It's true, Ono told us.
TM: [To Iwasaki] Nice! You totally influenced Street Fighter IV!
Could you talk a little bit about how you made that work? I would say that usually 3D graphics with 2D gameplay doesn't work very well, so could you talk about that process a little bit?
Emiko Iwasaki: Well, we were told from the start that Battle Fantasia "needed" to be in 3D, so... (laughter) And at the time, I had zero experience working on games using 3D graphics.
Actually, no one on the entire team knew how to do 3D, so Motomura-san was nice enough to train one of our interns from the ground up. I think the game looks the way it does because we had a group of people with backgrounds in 2D fighters making one in 3D for the first time.
If there was no one on the team who could do 3D graphics, why did you decide to proceed with that?
DI: Those were the company orders.
Arc System Works' Battle Fantasia
Was it an experiment to see if you could make it work, or did the company think the game would be more popular in the West, or something, because of the graphics?
EI: I think the company wanted to develop their 3D talent a bit more.
Junya Motomura: Yeah, one part is that we wanted to build up our 3D skills, and it was also our first fighting game using the Type X2 arcade technology. In order to use the hardware efficiently, obviously it needed to be 3D.
BlazBlue uses the Type X2 technology as well, but it does 2D graphics in high definition. It must be really difficult to make high-resolution 2D sprites. Most companies have completely abandoned that sort of thing. For example, Igarashi at Konami said they thought about making a hi-res 2D Castlevania game, but they decided they couldn't do it...
TM: SNK Playmore had something they were working on, but...
DI: Actually, I heard that was shelved...
TM: Ahh, right... So, what was the question?
JM: I think he was saying it's cool that we're doing it.
DI: Oh, heh, [in English] Thank you!
Why are you doing it?
TM: Precisely because nobody else is doing it! (laughs) Usually, people sort of turn up their noses at the idea of wasting the effort it takes to make a game in HD on a 2D fighter. In business terms, it costs more money and time, and needs people that can use the most recent technology.
So it might not be the wisest strategy, but it's something we've really been wanting to do. And the higher-ups were supportive of the idea, so we went ahead with it.
I also heard that the King of Fighters XII team at SNK made 3D models for the animation, and then they're tracing them. Are you using the same tactic or are you actually doing hand animation?
JM: Yeah, we're doing almost the same thing.
Had you done that with other games, or is this a first time thing for BlazBlue?
JM: Yes, actually I did something similar on a Dragon Ball game for the Game Boy Advance, and then for Basara as well. We used it in those cases to make sure the quality would be even throughout the game.
DI: One difference between BlazBlue and KOF is that after we have the animators design things like the shadows, we go in and make corrections ourselves.
JM: Yeah, compared to KOF, the BlazBlue sprites are closer to being hand-drawn, because we only use the 3D graphics as an outline. In KOF, they do all the shadows and shading in 3D, and then convert them into 2D sprites, but in Blaz Blue, we redraw the sprites by hand.
Did you have to make special tools to be able to do that, like new tools made within the company?
TM: Actually, no. We were able to use techniques we had in the past.
Do you just export the animations and then pull them into a 2D artwork program, so you can see how the poses are? It seems like that must be really hard to do.
TM: Well, when making a 2D fighting game these days, people tend to do almost all the work using 3D models, which usually ends with them saying, "Well, why don't we make the whole game 3D, then?"
For me, the graphics in a 2D fighter have to retain that hand-drawn feel, no matter what technology is being used. So, even if we're starting out with 3D models, we have to go back over them by hand, and make them come alive that way.