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Capcom's Seth Killian On  Street Fighter X Tekken  'Gems' Controversy
Capcom's Seth Killian On Street Fighter X Tekken 'Gems' Controversy Exclusive
October 31, 2011 | By Christian Nutt

At New York Comic Con, Street Fighter X Tekken producer Yoshinori Ono gave a presentation which included the announcement of a "gem" system -- a new feature that allows players to equip special gems to boost character statistics and abilities.

Controversy quickly erupted, with gamers decrying the gem system as unfair and worrying about whether the premium-priced console game was going to also sell gems as microtransactions.

"It has gone in the way I was worried it might, with a lot of confusion," Capcom community manager Seth Killian tells Gamasutra, adding that he's had reservations since he saw Ono's presentation. "The original presentation, by opening the door, left more questions unanswered."

Gamasutra got a chance to speak to Killian in San Francisco last week at a Capcom event about its upcoming games.

The Truth About Gems

At a San Francisco promotional event, Killian said the truth about the gem system is that "it's just a series of customizable power-ups that you can choose."

Each character can have its own gems equipped -- but most importantly, he says, the team has been "planning for them to be part of the core game" for a long time.

"Ultimately, this is one of those things, as a concept, that we were talking about maybe two or three years ago, and I was excited by it. And when we got more into the implementation, I was like, 'I dunno about this.' And then once we got hands on with the actual systems, and it tickled me with what I call the 'nerd feather' of theory fighting and stuff, where I started to see the possibilities, it became instantly exciting," Killian said.

The Balance Controversy

The system breaks down into Assist Gems, which offer options like auto-block to help weaker players compete, and Boost Gems, which power up a character. This, in itself, was controversial.

In Ono's original presentation, there was a slide that said the gems would "help narrow the gap between strong players and weak players," says Killian.

"I don't think there's any combination of gems which will help a weak player beat someone who's much stronger than them," he says. Auto-block has, in particular, "sent people into a tizzy," says Killian, "because it's like, can't you just block everything? Well, yes, but it requires meter from your bar."

In other words, the gems have activation conditions. A Boost Gem might require being hit a certain number of times to activate. An Assist Gem will "almost always" be active only as long as you have energy in your meter, which you must build up by fighting.

Assist Gems are "a way of keying in on your weaknesses or your strengths," says Killian, a very different message from the one Ono delivered.

"You have the option to not choose any gems, if you want," says Killian. However, "the entire game is built around the gems," and there will be no "No Gem" mode in the game.

The Money Specter

How players will be able to get gems has also been a major topic of player discussion, with rumors suggesting microtransactions or grinding will be necessary.

"At this point we're still sort of figuring that stuff out," says Killian. "The game comes with some gems, some of them will be available as preorder bonuses and things like that." Some may be available packaged with DLC, as well.

"There's also worry about this guy [that] has more money and buys the special edition -- will he have an advantage over me?" The answer, says Killian, is no. "The gems, in the way we've approached them, are balanced against each other."

"If one gem has a bigger damage bonus, it has harder activation conditions."

Banned From Tournaments?

Hyper Street Fighter HD Remix designer and tournament player David Sirlin wrote a blog post last week about the possibility that the gems will need to be banned in tournaments.

This could be a major image problem for Capcom, as tournaments such as EVO rise in popularity along with the e-sports movement.

"We'll see how the tournament organizers go with it," says Killian. Many tournaments have no-DLC policies, which is "in part logistical, sometimes philosophical," he says.

"Where you want to draw that line as far as you want to draw that line, understandable, but we've got them in mind, so we're going to try and find some balance that makes them happy as well, because those are very much my people," says Killian, who got into Capcom community management in the first place by participating in the tournament scene.

Dealing With the Controversy

"It's always tough," says Killian, when controversies arise. In this case, "it's one of those things where we're talking about things in sort of a measured way, and I want to be able to give people the full picture as soon as possible, and try and explain and answer everything -- whereas internally, we're on a different schedule," he says.

While the original presentation left a lot of questions unanswered, "what filled the gap around some of those questions has been not good," he admits.

"It shows the value of when you have something to say, say it as completely and clearly as you can, especially if you're going in a new direction that hasn't been seen," Killian says.

"The video game community is very astute, and detail-oriented with this kind of thing, and fighting gamers are right at the top of the pile," he says.

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Cary Chichester
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I think a lot of the controversy could be mitigated if there was simply the option to turn gems off. It's an absolute pain for tournament organizers to make sure every machine has all the gems available, especially if some of the gems are bonuses and hence not sold as DLC. It's cool if gems add a nice spin to the game, but the system should still be playable in tournaments without them, at least that seems to be what the community thinks of the system so far.

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You mean if they said something like "there will be no "No Gem" mode in the game."?

Ujn Hunter
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I don't think people are upset about a "gem attribute system" game play feature... I think the problem given Capcom's track record with milking DLC is that people are going to have to pay extra to get the fighter they'd want.

Ali Afshari
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Along those same lines, they'll probably release Super Street Fighter x Tekken in another year, with 8 new fighters for the same price as regular SFxT.

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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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""There's also worry about this guy [that] has more money and buys the special edition -- will he have an advantage over me?" The answer, says Killian, is no. "The gems, in the way we've approached them, are balanced against each other.""

Bull. The only true balance is equal options. If you release a DLC with, say, a gem that increases character movement speed but decreases their health (let's say it's done with perfect balance for some definition of perfect balance, such as not affecting that character's tournament ranking as measured by an omniscient being or whatever), then I will still be at a disadvantage when I fight them not expecting their speed, not having committed motions to muscle memory to defend against their particular quirks. I will still need to train against their character's uniqueness (and not against the player's uniqueness, which is what fighting games are about) before I can be on even grounds with them. Not necessarily a problem if customers know what they are getting into, just don't candy-coat DLC manufactured-exclusion money-grabbing as balanced game design; it insults the artform.