There's a game called Skullgirls under development in the US. The style of that game looks a little similar to Arc's stuff -- a 2D game with an anime feel.
DI: I like that look at lot. I met the makers before, and while the game system is what it is, the design and characters are something I really like.
Have you played it?
DI: I have.
What did you think of the gameplay?
DI: The control response is a lot like what you see in Japanese games, but the fine-tuning and balancing isn't really there yet.
It's still a work in progress, though.
DI: Right. So seeing a game like this being developed overseas is something that excites and even worries me a little. We need to make games that won't leave us left behind in the business, I think.
Skullgirls' system doesn't allow for combos that go on forever.
DI: I don't know if it's still the case now, but when I played it, it was set up so that you could escape after 15 hits, I think.
Most fighting games have infinite combos. In Skullgirls, you can do it, but the damage goes further and further down. What do you think of that?
DI: Well, it's too early to say how Skullgirls will turn out, but I don't think infinite combos are a bad thing at all. If it's something that players can accept and work with, that I don't see any harm in having them there. Of course, it'd be a boring game if anyone could do them easily.
Serious fighter players all tend to use the same character, whichever one is seen as the best. That's kind of boring too, don't you think?
DI: It is. It's poor game balance. You can't have every character be equally strong, but if the strongest character is always the strongest no matter who's controlling them, I think that's a balance problem.
That can be fixed in BlazBlue with patches.
DI: Right. You can release downloadable patches, which makes fine-tuning the balance easier than before. Before the PS3 and 360, there were patches released for PC games all the time, but not on consoles. You can do it now, though, and that allows that sort of thing to be possible.
Do you think it's good to try and make low tier characters more popular with a patch?
DI: I think that happens, yes. If the weakness wasn't something we designed in, then we'll fix that. There are characters that're deliberately weaker, though, like Dan in Street Fighter Alpha 2. It wouldn't be fun if he were stronger. You fine-tune the balance to match the character, but we make our games such that you have the chance of winning with any character you choose.
Each character has a specific purpose in your games.
DI: We have individual purposes for each of the characters, yes, although it's impossible to predict what gamers will do with them after the game comes out. Sometimes our balancing can have results we couldn't have even imagined, and therefore we have to fix it without disappointing gamers along the way.
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend
What do you make patches for -- in response to user requests, or for bug fixing, or...?
DI: Well, we fix game-crash bugs and things like that first, but rebalancing patches are made in response to users' voices and opinions. We refer to those extensively. That's a really important thing. their opinions.
Mobile and social gaming is experiencing a boom right now. What do you think of that?
DI: To be honest, we aren't making games on mobile or other small devices, so in a way, it's troubling us. That stuff is really popular. Digital download is the same way, too, in the way the market is rapidly going in that direction.
I think people who get into those sorts of games won't be playing heavier genres like fighters or RPGs. Regular gamers used to play fighters a little more often, but nowadays they stick to mobile devices and don't touch the genre. That is trouble for us, certainly. We are thinking that perhaps making some kind app for Android or whatever that links up with our games could be one way to attract attention from that sort of audience.
What do you think of the PlayStation Vita's chances?
DI: I think the Vita's hardware is just wonderful. It's very high-spec, and the touch panel is really neat. The cost of going on the network is pretty high, though, and I wonder if it'll find nothing but a pretty hardcore audience. That's my personal opinion. I also wonder if people will feel like buying it if they're already satisfied enough with their iPhones.
The iPhone isn't as powerful as the Vita, but I imagine that the iPhones of the future will outclass it within the next two or three years.
DI: I don't think many users worry all that much about specs in the first place. Angry Birds is enough for them. (laughs) Everyone likes playing that, and they're satisfied with ten-minute bursts of it.
There are more realistic games on iOS too, though.
DI: Right. We try to follow what gamers want, but the more realistic a game, the more it costs to develop. There's also the question of how much of an audience there really is, too. That's what we're in the midst of researching right now. Are our games best suited for dedicated systems? Would it be a good idea to target gamers who primarily play on mobile devices right now?
Developing on iOS or Android platforms would immediately give you a worldwide audience. Do you have an interest in that?
DI: I do, yeah.
Publishing is easier on those platforms than on the DS or Vita, too.
DI: Right. I certainly have ideas along those lines, but we're a game company in the end, so we haven't really decided whether we want to go in that direction yet.
What do you think about the 3DS, meanwhile?
DI: I think that both the Vita and 3DS aren't getting advertised in the best way possible. It'd be better if they could communicate the charms of the system and its games in more coherent ways. Both of them are more than decent game systems, I think. In this realm, specs don't matter a great deal since non-hardcore users will just play what they want anyway, so in the end, it's a marketing battle.
The PSP really became the number-one hardcore platform in Japan. Do you think the Vita will go the same way?
DI: I really don't know yet. The hardware is really, really good, but networking costs a lot -- like 4000 yen for 100 hours. I don't think a lot of parents would be patient enough to pay that every month for their children. That's why I think only the hardcores will really adopt it en masse.
The PSP has had a lot of problems overseas, such as with piracy. Sales of games in general haven't been good for the past three or so years. It's a really different situation from the one in Japan.
DI: The PSP isn't selling? Is the DS doing better, then? That's largely the same case in Japan, but the PSP has a major hit in Monster Hunter, so sales have exploded in Japan.
Monster Hunter didn't do as well in America, though.
DI: It wasn't very popular? I don't like it much, either. (laughs)
You don't have much interest in it?
DI: Not really. I purchased it, but essentially I didn't like it.
But you like Diablo.
DI: I love it.
You think that's comparatively a much better game?
DI: To me, it's not a matter of good versus bad so much as whether I like it or not.