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4Gamer goes No Holds Barred with KOFXIV Devs

Posted Jun 25 2017 at 16:01 (Sat)

The developers behind KOFXIV have a lot to talk about, and they certainly did in a recent interview with Japanese news site 4Gamer.

Here's a synopsis of the interview with four of the core development staff: producer Yasukuyi Oda, artist Eisuke Ogura, battle designer Hayato Watanabe, and the legendary Neo_G who was still in Capcom until earlier this year..

Developer Profiles

- Producer Oda left SNK and moved to Dimps in the early stages of Garou:MOTW2's development.

- SNK artist Eisuke Ogura joined SNK in 1996 and worked on fighting games in the FF team. His first title was RBS and Oda was his senpai. He did pixel art starting from Dominated Mind, helped on RB2, LB2, then left SNK and came back to SNKP in 2001. During KOF12 and 13 he was in the PR department but he moved back to R&D for 14. He currently work on visuals for both character design and PR.

- KOF14's battle design was done by a guy named Hayato Watanabe who doesn't have a professional fighting game development history like Oda or Neo_G. He was an arcade gamer and joined the gaming industry around 2007 to port fighting games onto fliptop cell phones. He also worked on the launch of 13's smartphone port. He joined SNKP after hearing that they're making 14 and he's been involved from its planning stages.

- Neo_G joined SNKP recently and he's been helping Watanabe, giving advices on character concepts, game system, and also assisting in development and promotions.

- SNKP's Pachi division wasn't doing good and its income was domestic Japan only so they turned all their resources to consumer and smartphone games. Given that games are all online now and they can be sold worldwide, things are really looking good for SNK because they're strong in the Asian and Central / South American regions.

- SNK returning to its old logo and motto was for showing that they're going back to their videogames roots. It was actually decided from votes by all their employees.

- The 'O' in SNKPlaymore's logo was the shape of a pachislot medal and not an earth globe or basketball. Even Ogura didn't know this.

Development Decisions on KOFXIV

- They decided to go 3D on KOF14 after considering the current market and what things will be like 5-10 years into the future. Their staff all agreed that things would be best if they challenged in 3D right now and started building up experience, knowledge and libraries in their company.

- The game engine was internally developed by SNK. They were considering Unreal Engine earlier in development but decided not to go with it because the version at the time didn't match well with SNK's situations including their knowledge, budget, and potential risks. As a result it was inevitable that they were going to be bad with lighting and shadings, but given that they need to build up their knowledge, they went with their decision.

- They didn't go with cell-shaded graphics because Oda and Kuroki's visual image of the KOF series is that of KOF94. (Note: The original KOF94 had an almost metallic gloss to its graphics because Irem's Mitsuo Kodama (R-Type, Last Resort) worked on it after moving to SNK. He's now the president of K2.) Neo_G agrees that Neo Geo games back then had a look that tried to imitate reality through pixels. According to Oda, the KOF series always had tall un-SD'ed characters up until 13, which was more anime-style. But because KOF13's been played for 6 years, there were people saying that the next KOF would be better if it looked anime.

- KOF14 originally had a more realistic look in its earlier stages but that ended up making things weird for characters like Kula or Athena that have blue or pink/purple hair. So they tweaked things and ended up with the current graphics.

- Hitboxes/hurtboxes are added manually in 2D.

- Tweening is used in the game but not for very visually important parts. It's been particularly helpful in animating some moves like Kim's bicycle kick since it automatically draws the motion of him crouching; if done by hand they would've needed to hand-draw multiple situations depending on Kim's situation before he squatted.

- Ogura has no remorse in leaving behind pixel art since it was a method to bring out the best in low-resolution graphics. Now that times have changed, even if doing 2D he'd rather take a different approach than pixel art.

- The Neo Geo's pixel graphics were fine tuned to look their best on the CRT in MVS cabs. So on other cabs, it didn't look as good. Another example given by Neo_G, Capcom's CPS was 384 x 224 so the pixels they drew were horizontally longer.

Character Stuff

- The game has 50 characters and 19 of them are new. The developers don't think that's too many considering it's only a third of the roster (in an average game a third of a roster is like 6 characters).

- Oda: "Nowadays 6 new characters might be considered huge, but in the old days we used to swap out the whole cast. Maybe we're old-school, but we wanted an impact and it (the game's roster) ended up like this"

- Oda says that the old developers in the Neo Geo era kept saying they had no plans to add Nakoruru in KOF because she doesn't match into the game too well, but they probably wanted to add her in... if they could.

- Oda on Nakoruru: "KOF94 was being developed simultaneously as Samurai Shodown and nobody imagined that Nakoruru would be such a hit character. So in the root of the KOF game engine, there was no way to place (player controllable) sprite objects other than the main character, like the weapons and the hawk. The core engine was inherited into the sequels even after 95 and beyond, so I think the truth is that they couldn't add Nakoruru even if they wanted to"

- Ogura insists that King Of Dinosaurs is not Tizoc. They originally had an empty roster spot for a new wrestler character, then Oda came by one day with a drawing of the Dino-wrestler and it was just too astounding not to use.

- No plans for DLC characters yet. No time to even think about that. They threw all their development resources into the 50 characters, so even if they make additional characters, it'll be after they see everyone's reactions when the game comes out.

- The Orochi clan characters are popular but they're also dead. If they decide to bring them back, they'll need to think about their storylines. It's certainly a possibility in the future as the developers know they're popular.

In-game Details

- The online lobby (Free Match) has 3 modes: Team VS, Single VS, Party VS. Up to 12 people can enter and also spectate

- The user can play games while waiting for opponents in Ranked match.

- Ranked Match has about 30 ranks and you can earn titles in the higher ranks. Also at the beginning, you can chose to jump to the higher ranks if you're an experienced player; the game will score you in your first 10 matches and jump you to an appropriate rank. That way you can skip time climbing up the ladder and avoid killing noobs.

- KOF14 is intended to be like a collection of the best parts of KOF98, 02, and 13. 98 was simple and easy to learn but its system is too outdated. 02 had an interesting Quick Max system but the game speed was too fast. 13 had an interesting balance where offense could chip guard meter but blocking gave meter, but its combos and command techniques were too high. So KOFXIV adopted 98's simplicity, 02's Quick Max, and 13's meter management.

- The jump speed is loose on purpose. Previous KOFs were designed for the arcades, but 14 will be mainly played online and the game was specifically designed to accommodate that. Speaking in detail, the game was designed so that with 2-4 frames of lag it'll feel very much like 02 or 13.

- It's also a design decision to make the game easier for new players. Which can also be seen from the fact that KOF14 has the one-button Rush Combo system.

- But actually the Rush Combo might be more of a system useful for old farts to get back into the series. The system was intended to make the game easier for new players, but then the developers realized that the elders like Oda and Neo_G were more prone to rely on it.

- Oda: "Huh me? No way! But Neo_G's been screaming 'I can't do the combos! I can't do the combos!' "

- Neo_G: "Well, we're the generation that's been playing fighters since the SF2 and FFSpecial days, so we can do space controls, neutral games and whatnot. But as you age your mind can't go as far as thinking about the combos, so in situations like that, the Rush Combo can be really useful"

- Oda: "... Truth is, it's seriously easier for me to just do Rush combos after a jump-in (laughs)"

- Oda: "Also, given that you need to use 3 characters in KOF, there's going to be players that can't get around to learning their second and third character. For them, the Rush combo will be helpful"

- However they didn't mess with the special commands like Ryuuko Ranbu because they've been a series tradition.

- That said, they changed Geese's Raging Storm command to a motion. They understand that old fans will cry about it, but they wanted to make it accessible to pad users considering there's quite a number of them.

- On a side note, the old moves from FFSpecial were so complicated because they were originally too easy and everyone discovered them during the loketests. So they changed them right before the game was done. Back then, supers were supposed to be like top-secret moves. Oda recalls riding on the Bullet train to get to a Game Show where he appeared on stage as a Fatal Fury master, and he was told to memorize Laurence's Bloody Splash motion written on the edge of a notebook by the time they got there. He couldn't do it.

- So aside from and , Iori's would be about the hardest command in KOF14. Also like in other KOFs, you can hold on the button to extend the move's buffer, making it easier for reversals and whatnot.

- The Just Defense system (which the developers don't want to give any official system name to in KOF14) is a low-risk, low-return system. The only thing it does is give the player a small bonus: reduced guard meter chip and additional power meter gain. It doesn't do other things like reduce blockstun, slow down time, etc.

Future things that the Developers want to do

- Oda keeps getting told by fans everywhere for a MOTW sequel so he feels obligated to make it one day. (Note: 4gamer has a photo of characters that were designed for the original Neo Geo). In addition, he also wants to make a new AOF since the series never got far enough to find its answer as a fighting game. He also wants to make an Athena and Metal Slug.

- The first company that Neo_G want for after graduating from school was SNK. He failed after applying for planner position because the test told him to draw Nakoruru, and he could only do stick figures. He played Samurai Shodown all the time and wants to make a seriously bloody Samurai Shodown for grown-ups, almost like an MK but with a traditional Japanese samurai drama taste. He also wouldn't mind making another Wind Jammers but it has licensing issues, so he'll settle with Paddle Mania.

- Ogura wants to make a new World Heroes because noone will complain no matter how crazy he goes on it.

- Watanabe wants to make a new Buriki-One, now that consoles come with two analog sticks. He thinks the game can be refined for more fun. But what he truely wants to do is a new fighter or a new action game series.

Last Words

- Ogura on KOF14: "All of us staff gave it everything we have, so it should be a volume that's quite satisfying. Especially the story mode. If you want to check everything from the opening to the endings, that alone will be plenty of playing time. And this is just the starting chapter of the new saga, so we hope that even fans of the characters will look forward to the new storyline. We can't say that we'll release a sequel every year, but the storyline will keep going. please look forward."

- Neo_G on KOF14: "We made KOF14 with everything we've got without giving a second thought into the future, but... personally, I couldn't be happier that I can make games in that sort of enviornment. If fighting game fans touch it, there should be some points that are clearly like 'oh, this was by Neo_G', and I'll be delighted if people can enjoy that sort of stuff too. We're planning to bring back SNK with this game, and we hope fans will support us!"

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