Capcom's Neo-G may have moved to SNK, but it's certainly not for making a new game to compete in the e-Sports market.
The developers at SNK had a lengthy interview with Japanese site 4Gamer, which starts off with Neo-G explaining the reasons behind his departure from his old company, The interview later goes on talk about e-Sports, and it seems that SNK will certainly be moving into a different direction from some other companies in terms of servicing their fans in fighting games. Read below for their views on competitive gaming and e-Sports.
Neo_G: "First of all I want to say that I left my company in good terms (laughs). At my previous workplace (Capcom), I was in management position since I've been around for a long time. But people were making making fighting games and whatnot right on my side, and my urge to make games again gradually started to rise. While I was thinking about taking on a challenge, I had the opportunity to drink with Oda-san, and we really got heated up. (laughs)
Oda: "That was around the end of 2015, like 2AM midnight. All we did was talk about fighting games (laughs)"
Neo_G: "At that time I wasn't committed enough to think about going so far as leaving my company to make games. But then I asked myself, in the 15 years or so before my retirement, how many more games can I make? Nowadays the development span for making a single game is pretty long. I was thinking that maybe it's better if I made games elsewhere or if I decided to go freelance as a planner. A bit later I talked with SNKP again, and I guess I got excited, because we were just talking about recent stuff but one thing lead to another and..."
4Gamer: "You wanted to get back to the development scene, even if it meant leaving your company?"
Neo_G: "Well that too, but there was another reason why I chose SNKPlaymore. KOF14 will be a new start for the company as 'SNK', and I thought that being part of it was going to be a huge opportunity to experience that. I was hoping that I can get back into experiencing the good old days when companies made games with a grinding approach, where each and every development staff created whatever they were doing through tons of trials and errors. I just couldn't miss out on that opportunity.
Oda: "Nowadays you really need a justifiable reason to make a console game. But because of that, there's a lot of members in KOF14's development team that came because they "wanted to keep going hands-on in making games". There's member's like Neo_G who joined from other places as well as seasoned staff from the old Fatal Fury / Art Of Fighting era, but both young and experienced staffs are really pumped up about it.
4Gamer: "One question that's been on our minds is the competitive side of KOF14. In other words, how much thought was given to its game balance during the development process. Especially since the e-sports scene is getting larger and there's a lot of times when the competitive aspect is getting considered to be important."
Oda: "First of all, I don't think there's a single fighting game that was created with its game balance purposely broken. We've seen a lot of unbalanced fighting games that were given birth, but that's due to lack of tweaking or lack of knowledge.
4Gamer: "Certainly. For players, it's definitely better if a game has good balance. But the KOF series kind of started off as an all-stars game without much thought put into game balance."
Oda: "Well although it's not about ignoring balance, my first impression when the original 94' launched was 'This game is [an all-stars] festival! And it's summer vacation time!" And my image of KOF is still like that."
Oda: "We've certainly balanced KOF14 to make its competitive aspect fun as a fighting game. But we need to keep in mind that over 90 percent of the players don't attend tournaments; they're all enjoying their games by having fun mashing at home. The first and foremost important thing is that we make it fun for them to play. The competitive aspect comes after that."
Watanabe: "I agree that we shouldn't tweak things with the competitive scene given the first priority, but do so to make our games easily playable by anyone. If it gets popular in the e-sports scene as a result, that's awesome.
4Gamer: "I think we're starting to see KOF14's development stance here."
Neo_G: "But that's not just with KOF, it's the same with all the fighting games I've been involved with too. Like for example I've received many compliments like "3rdStrike's character balance was a tad off but the system was awesome", or "CVS2 had the RC bug issue but it has a lot of freedom and great balance", but in all honesty, we didn't put too much consideration into the competitive side when making those games.
Oda: "Rather than to think about game balance from the get-go, it's more important to throw in a bunch of new characters and new fun ideas to make the gaming experience refreshing. Especially in the early stages of development."
Neo_G: "Yeah. Of course at the end we take our time balancing the game until we're confident about it, but the most important things are the game system and character concept. And to keep in mind, 'Game Balance' and 'Competitive aspect' are two different things. 'Game Balance' is a broad term that has to do with the overall enjoyment of the videogame, whereas the 'Competitive aspect' is about the fun that two players can have by building strategies around it. In that sense, developing a game for the sake of its competitive aspect is probably not a happy thing for us, the developers.
It has a bit to do with what I mentioned before, but when you think about how many games you can make during your lifetime, personally when I'm done with a game I'd want to immediately move on to making the next game and try new ideas. But if you need to keep tweaking the balance, you need to keep sticking to just that one game."
4Gamer: "That's true. In that sense, the long-term commitment for tweaking balance in fighting games is more like running a management or operation rather than game development."
Neo_G: "Of course it'd certainly be ideal to have a game that runs like that and pursues its way to its final form. If you have the resources to do that it's quite something, and it's something to be envious about. Well, maybe I'm being egotistic (laughs)
Oda: "Neo_G really wants to make all sorts of games."
Neo_G: "Yeah. As Oda-san was just saying, the KOF series used to come out every year, and each year it always had various new systems. It was like enjoying a festival that lasted for just one year, that's my impression of the series. And of course the heatup of its competitive scene was a part of that festival.
Oda; "Certainly so. We love fighting games that get heated up as e-Sports. We think that it's one of the great ways of enjoying fighting games too."
Neo_G: "No matter what path it takes, fighting games are a 'game'. People that enjoy watching fighting games as they get streamed as e-Sports will hopefully rediscover that, and play for their own enjoyment.
Neo_G: "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 this sort of environment. 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!"
A synopsis of the rest of the interview is available here