Interview: Tekken’s Katsuhiro Harada and Michael Murray talks about being misquoted, online pass, and more
We managed to speak with Tekken Project Team’s leader Katsuhiro Harada (center left in the picture above) and senior game designer Michael Murray (center right) when they were here in Singapore to promote the impending release of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
The Tekken Project oyabun spoke at length about being misquoted in interviews, why an “online pass” system is necessary for fighting games (it’s free for all brand new copies, by the way), future DLC plans, and why he’s tickled by gamers’ (and games media’s) obsession and use of the word “netcode”.
Full transcript as follows:
— It’s been almost three years since a Tekken game was released on consoles (sorry, Tekken Hybrid doesn’t count).
How has gamers’ response to the new title been so far?
Michael (interpreting for Harada): You know, each time we show off a new build of the game at a different trade show, there’s just been more and more overwhelming feedback and anticipation for the title. It’s almost kind-of unusual really, but it seems like people are really hyped about the game, more than we even expected, which we’re grateful for.
This time we’ve tried to include as much content as possible to please not only fans, but also reach out to players new to the series, and also reach out to past players who may not have bought a Tekken title since 3 or the original Tag Tournament
So a lot of the content that’s been included – such as the return of many characters that have not appeared in a Tekken game in a while [characters like Kunimitsu, Angel, etc] – are geared especially for these returning players.
And of course, we have plenty of stuff planned for fans who buy every installment of the series as well.
As for complete newcomers to the series, Harada-san recommends that they check out the Fight Lab mode. Playing through Fight Lab they’ll pick up the fundamentals to Tekken, and learn the strategy involved in playing with another person. But it’s not strictly meant as a tutorial mode; whie they’re doing so, it’s not just studying. The mini-games used to teach players these fundamentals are actually pretty fun and enjoyable.
— As Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is meant as a “matsuri” or “festival” game, I’m guessing the story elements will mostly be told through ending cut-scenes?
Yes, so most people have always been looking forward to the ending and pre-rendered movies in Tekken. This time’s no exception either. In fact, the length of the movies will be even longer, plus there will be many more characters here than in past Tekken games.
Not only that, this time around we’ve taken a few interesting approaches to the way some of the movies are rendered. For instance, some of the movies will deploy shader effects similar to the ones you’ve seen Capcom use in Street Fighter X Tekken.
Apart from ending movies, Fight Lab also has a separate little storyline in itself.
— Let’s talk about the characters you’ve most recently revealed.
A lot of folks probably think that these are just alternate “skins” for existing characters, but they’re not completely the same. That said, how different is, say, Tiger Jackson from Eddy?
Some of the techniques are different – for instance, [for all the Capoeira characters] Tiger Jackson, Eddy, and Christina – so the strategy and the aerial juggles are a little different.
But that’s not the whole point of it. The whole point of these characters is for people who only know one character to more easily pick up a character to pair them with.
So for example if you play Roger Jr, up until now there weren’t any characters that were very similar to him. Although King had some moves that were in common with Roger Jr., they weren’t that close [in terms of play style]. But now if you pick up Alex, he’s much more easier to use since his control scheme is pretty similar, although some of the moves are different.
And the same can be said for Michelle to JC, and Forest to Marshall Law.
— Previously when Harada-san talked to 4Gamer about Tekken Unlimited (the arcade incarnation of Tag Tournament 2 that the forthcoming console version is based on), he said that the inspiration for Unlimited came from players’ feedback that having to learn move lists for two different characters is pretty tough.
And that’s why you introduced Solo mode. But now you’re also adding characters who are similar to existing ones – is that something that people requested, so that they can play two similar-styled fighters and use the tag features?
Adding solo was not just to help out people who could only use one character. That’s one reason. But it’s also that there were some people who could use more than one character, but simply preferred to play solo mode, simply because that was how past Tekken games were like.
From a game system perspective it was also quite interesting to see solo versus tag. So those were the several reasons for adding Solo in Unlimited.
And then, adding these characters we just mentioned was, yes, for players who only know one character and stick to solo mode normally, now if they want to go to the next step and try out the tag system, it’s much easier if they have these types of characters to choose from.
— At Comic-Con you gave little hints on two more characters that have yet to be revealed for…
Two types of characters.
People don’t understand fully when they’re writing it, but Harada-san didn’t say “two characters”. He said “there are several characters we haven’t announced yet, and they generally belong to two different categories.” That’s what he’s talking about.
[The two categories for yet-to-be-revealed fighters are: A) characters whose return fans have often requested for, and B) “surprise” characters that nobody would ever see coming, that you wouldn’t expect.]
And they even wrote that in Australia. Even after we corrected them on it, they still wrote it like that. I don’t know why.
Harada-san says he’s always trying his best in interviews to explain clearly and inform people about these things. So he hopes that people who write about it will get it right too.
He was really just trying to be nice when people were asking for hints, when he wasn’t even planning on talking about it [the unannounced characters] at all. So it’s very trying for him that they got the info wrong.
— Is there a number you’re shooting for?
Like for example, “once we hit XX, then that’s it. That’s the cut-off number. We have other things to make now”? How many more fighters can fans expect?
In terms of how many fighters he wants to or needs to make, Harada-san says he doesn’t feel that he needs to make anymore. Because we already have a lot of characters; he’s making all these additional fighters not because it’s necessary but really it’s all to please the fans.
There will be at least two more characters to be revealed. More than two characters.
— Let’s shift gears and talk about online play for a bit.
Now, the game is weeks away from its release, but we haven’t really heard a lot about online pair play. Will the game support A) two players on one machine versus two players on another, and B) four players on four separate machines doing two-on-two?
So the one thing that we’re definitely going to include is, for example, if myself and Harada-san are playing on one machine, against the two of you on another machine somewhere else. That won’t be so much of a problem for lag, so that will be included.
But as far as four people being in four different locations? At this moment we don’t have plans to include that.
Well, we could have four people at different locations playing against each other for pair play. But if we did that, and we have 3 people from Singapore in a game, and the fourth player is someone from, for example, the UK. That’s quite far away, and if they have a bad connection in particular, it’ll make the game bad for everyone.
For online matches, Tekken’s key input data is such that it already needs three to four times as much [bandwidth] as other fighting games, so that itself makes it difficult to implement.
But beyond that, the thing that’s most enjoyable about pair play is really being in that same space, in that same location playing with another person and communicating with your teammate, so it’s not nearly as much fun as playing across the Internet with someone whom you can’t see.
Ideally, Harada-san would prefer that all four players are playing at the same location, on the same screen because then when you’re playing, when there are instances where your teamwork isn’t going so smoothly, or when you’re doing really well together and everything works out perfectly, you’re talking about it and communicating while you’re playing – that’s all of the things that make it really fun.
— Okay, but will online pair play (two players on one console online) work on both Xbox 360 and PS3? That wasn’t the case with the X360 version of Street Fighter X Tekken, and a lot of fans in the fighting games community were quite unhappy about it.
The game’s still under development, but we do believe that you’ll be able to.
— What about an online training mode where I could just jump in with a friend, and we could spar endlessly with our health bars regenerating?
We’re thinking of adding that kind of feature where you could go online with a friend and have the health bars regenerate so you can practice and such, so yes.
Not only that, but we’re also planning on implementing this special practice rig (Warm-Up Space) we showed at Comic-Con for online ranked match where before your match with an opponent, while you’re waiting, you could do a special version of practice online. It may be for several seconds or several minutes, depending on how long it takes for you to get matched. During that time you can practice.
— We’ve heard a lot about the Tekken Tag Tournament 2 netcode being based on the SoulCalibur V netcode. Does this mean everything we’ve seen in SCV will carry over, in terms of online?
First of all, with regards to SoulCalibur V being the basis for the netcode, Harada-san says that he thinks people are misunderstanding. It’s not so much SoulCalibur V’s netcode per se – it’s the company’s netcode, so obviously, depending on the product at the time, it’s whichever game’s netcode.
At one point the “netcode” was Tekken’s code, and then it became SoulCalibur V’s code for when it was released. And now the code has been reworked further for Tekken Tag Tournament 2. So it’s not like we’re taking Calibur code or anything – it’s the company’s base code.
In the first place, Harada-san doesn’t understand why everyone gets hung up on the word “netcode”. It’s really not something as simple as a plug-in piece.
It’s just one piece of the core program. To put it in another context, he’s never heard anyone talk about which sound libraries or sound plug-ins are being used and thus belong to a particular game [like Persona 4 Arena using Persona 4 Golden or Persona 3’s BGM library], so… it’s just funny that the media likes throwing around the word “netcode” a lot.
I think it’s probably because people really like SCV’s online infrastructure. In my opinion SCV’s online is simply the best for any fighting game out there, bar none.
(Seriously, folks, those of you who pretty much buy every single fighting game on consoles will know what I’m talking about.)
So for convenience’s sake, they’ve sort of taken “based on SoulCalibur V’s netcode” to be short-hand for “similar to the SoulCalibur V online experience”.
— Speaking of SoulCalibur V, players of that game has been able to download Tekken-inspired DLC for their custom characters. Will you be doing something similar, like SoulCalibur-inspired items for Tekken Tag Tournament 2?
It all depends on if the fans really want it. So far we haven’t heard a lot of requests on that, so most probably not. We do hear the opposite from people a lot though, wanting to see Tekken items in Calibur.
— Well, okay. So for the fans who really want it, how should they communicate it to you? Through your Twitter account (@Harada_TEKKEN)?
Even if they tell us right now, it’s obviously not going to make it onto the disc because we’re at the gold master.
Maybe as DLC, it might be possible. But even so, we already have a lot of DLC that we’re working on that we haven’t even announced – and most of it free. So it’ll be hard to create all of it.
— Moving on, there’s been quite a bit of talk lately about the possibility of an online pass being implemented in Tekken Tag Tournament 2, as a means to combat second-hand sales and piracy (the online pass will come packed-in free with all new copies of the game).
That’s fine and good, but a lot of people who have multiple user accounts on PS3 and Xbox 360 are concerned about if they will be able to go online with every single account, or just the one that the online pass is associated with.
We didn’t actually announce that yet though. Where did you hear about it?
When you guys were giving interviews in Australia?
Oh, on the stream, huh?
Yep. And also on Twitter.
Since this has not been officially announced yet, with full details on what exactly the online pass would be, I think a lot of people are confused as to what this actually means.
A lot of people on Twitter think that this online pass thing is something we made up, just to stop them from playing online. But that’s not the case. The online pass isn’t even our invention. It’s something that’s been around already, the specifications of which are decided by the first-parties.
If you have a PS3 with multiple user accounts, and you have the online pass for TTT2 you’ll be able to play with all your accounts – but that’s not because we made it like that; that’s how Sony made it.
As for Microsoft, Harada-san isn’t sure how it’ll work on their console [Harada has since said on Twitter that all Xbox Live Gold user accounts on the Xbox 360 will be able to play online on one online pass; the pass is tied to the console, not to an account] but that’s because they decide on it. It’s not like we change anything. All the specs are decided by the first party so if someone has questions about it they should be asking them, not us.
The reason why Harada-san said he’s considering doing an online pass is to keep people from just buying used games only, because we don’t make any money on it – and when I say we don’t make any money on it, it’s not like we’re trying to earn a massive profit. Fact of the matter is, at the end of the day, if we don’t generate enough revenue from the game, then we don’t get to make a sequel to Tekken either.
And so we’re not trying to say that buying used is wrong, or anything like that. We just want to keep used sales to a minimum [because each used copy sold results in $0 for the developer], and also combat piracy at the same time.
The online pass is not something that you will have to pay for, or buy as DLC. It will be included with all new copies of the game, and we really don’t want people to be distracted by the online pass so much that they look over the fact that we’re giving them free DLC characters, stages, techniques, and more.
— “And more”? Even though most of the DLC is free, you have plans for making more DLC?
Characters, stages, and techniques will be free for DLC. Swimsuits are going to be free to people who pre-order the game.
Not just that, but we have other plans as well, and the more people who pre-order the game, the more we’ll be able to do in terms of free DLC. I’m not talking characters, stages, or techniques – but other DLC.
But that’ll depend really on how many people pre-order the game. So if everyone pre-orders the game, then Harada-san will be able to offer more for free.
As far as paid DLC goes, one thing that Harada-san would like to try is soundtracks – the music from past Tekkens, 1, 2, 3 up till 6. Some of these are available on iTunes, some of them aren’t, and it’s hard to get your hands on a lot of the music, so he hopes to be able to offer that as paid DLC. So that you can easily purchase it, if you want to listen to it.
Another example is the CG movies from past games. A lot of people have been asking for that. Even for people who already own the original copies [of past Tekken games], they might not be able to play them on their PS3s, if you have one of the newer versions that doesn’t play PS1 or 2 games, it’s much more convenient if we could offer the movies.
— Expect to hear more about about Tekken Tag Tournament 2’s DLC plans – in particular, Tekken Tunes – later this week as Europe’s Gamescom 2012 kicks off.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Pre-order Information
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 will be available in Singapore on September 11. Pre-order your copy at your favourite video games retailer today.
All Southeast Asian gamers who pre-order a copy will be entitled to:
- Four extra DLC characters (Angel, Julia Chang, Ancient Ogre, and Kunimitsu)
- A “Snoop Dogg” battle arena which features a track (Knocc ‘Em Down) from the Grammy-nominated artiste
- Over 150 swimming costumes, in total, for the game’s fighters
- An “interlocking code” that will allow you to link your progress in the arcade version of the game with the console one, unlocking exclusive first-press fight titles and bonus in-game fight money (1,000,000G).
In addition to a regular edition, Southeast Asia is also privy to a special Prestige edition of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 that will include, on top of all the goodies listed above for gamers who pre-order:
- A 256-page “Art of Tekken” artbook
- Original in-game soundtrack disc and remix disc
- “Making of Tekken Tag Tournament 2” DVD
- A special Tekken wall-sticker illustrated and autographed by producer Katsuhiro Harada.