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How do you decide when it's too much stuff on the screen? There are lots of gauges and so forth that must be demonstrated, but it could easily become too visually complicated.
TI: There are times when there are limits to what the programmers can do with the art team's requests, but most times they work around it, coming up with special shaders for the gauges and so on. People praised the UI parts of the first game, as well, and implementing all of that was really a major challenge for the program side, but it's something we provide for in the schedule. We try to do whatever we can do, and even if it takes a little more time, we like to see the artists' wishes take physical form without making compromises.
I think one of the things that may intimidate new players is the fact you have so much onscreen to pay attention to besides the actual characters fighting. A newbie could look at that and have no idea what it all means.
TI: I think it's true that you run the risk of making things too complex on the programming level, but on the other hand, if you cut out too much of that, you may wind up making the game less fun as a result. It's true that our game is definitely noted for having a lot of gauges, but I think the prevailing attitude here is that we'd like light users to try their best here. (laughs)
If we got rid of them, then we would get comments from series veterans about how much less data is at their disposal. I do think we're at about the upper limit with the current system, though, so if we add anything else, then something will have to be cut out.
My favorite fighting game ever only has two gauges, Asuka 120%. The life and power gauges.
TI: (laughs) That is a simpler fighter, that's for sure.
Out of all the fighter developers, you seem to be the most interested in creating a story. Why do you put so much story in the games?
TI: Well, one thing we try to aim for in our games is to make the characters as interesting and engaging for players to control as possible, and one way we try to achieve that is by providing a solid background for them. We start with a world setting, create interesting characters to populate that world with, and then we get to designing how they will work in battle. We try to make story mode seem like a sort of adventure game-within-the-game, so that's what led to having so much volume in it and introducing voice acting and so on.
I notice not many people complain about your netcode, unlike with other fighters. How much attention do you pay to this? Is it a plug-and-play system, or does it get coded separately?
TI: With regards to the netcode, we really haven't touched it very much since it was originally developed for Calamity Trigger. We've been able to use that code pretty much verbatim in CS; Arcana Heart uses the same system as well. We spent the time way back then to create a really solid system, and it was our aim from the start for it to be as flexible with different types of fighters as we could make it.
Nurarihyon no Mago
Do you think you'd ever try another four-player simultaneous title?
HM: Like with Nurarihyon no Mago, which we put out on the 360?
TI: Indeed; that's a fighting game that runs on the same basic code as our others. As a result, there's no technical reason why we can't make a 2-on-2 game like that, even though BlazBlue hasn't gone that way yet...
HM: "Coming Soon". (laughs)
[Ed. note: Nurarihyon no Mago is a licensed game published by Konami, and is based on a manga franchise known as Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan in the U.S.]
When a character changes position in a four-player game, will you do auto-facing, or do you have to do it manually?
TI: Well, with Guilty Gear Isuka, which we released a while ago, there was a button you had to press to manually change your facing. That approach was not particularly well-received (laughs), which shows how important an issue this becomes in a four-player fighting game -- it's much less intuitive than if you only have one opponent.
How has publishing been going for you guys? Do you want to do more of it?
HM: In terms of Nintendo systems, or digital downloads, that's something we try to manage entirely from the Japan office. For Sony systems, there needs to be a local company branch for whichever region you want to sell a game in, which is something we can't do directly. XBLA games can be published directly by us, but the retail software situation is a lot more complex than that.
If it were possible we'd like to be able to directly handle all forms of publishing from the Japan office, but the worldwide console scene is still built out of individual regions, so that's why publishing is instead divided between three companies.
Do you foresee a lot fewer packaged games and much more download stuff in the future?
HM: Yes. I think that's what we'll see, and I think... Well, my fighting game skill has been at the "mid-punch/mid-kick" level for about 20 years or so now (laughs), but I think especially when it comes to the simpler fighters or music games we've been making, the shift is already very prevalent, and that's only going to proceed further.