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KOF14 developers interview by Famitsu, Pt.1

Posted Aug 22 2017 at 16:41 (Mon)

KOFXIV is coming out today in varous regions of the world, and the developers have been hard at work to promote their new game. Famitsu has posted up a 4-page interview with the game's developers; producer Yasuyuki Oda, art director Nobuyuki Kuroki, motion artist Youichiro Soeda, and programmer Seiji Andou.

A quick glimpse of these core staff working on KOFXIV will show something particular-- leave aside the programmer they're all old, pretty old. That's because they've been working on fighting games since the golden era in the 1990s, and they've returned to make SNK great again.

The following is a synopsis of the first half of the interview, courtesy of MMCafe.

- Art director Nobuyuki Kuroki joined SNK as a designer together with his schoolmate Oda. He worked on both the FF and AOF series and his last job at SNK was Garou:MOTW as a motion designer. He then moved to Dimps and he's now returned to SNKP as the art director for KOF14.

- Motion artist Youichiro Soeda joined SNK on the year that he NeoGeo came out and his first work was Fatal Fury 1. Two years later Oda and Kuroki joined the company and they've pretty much worked in the same team up til MOTW. Soeda also joined Dimps after that and worked on 3D character motions for fighting games. After returning to SNKP, he's been working on character animations for KOF14.

- KOF14's battle programmer Seiji Andou is the youngest in this interview and he was a gradeschooler back when KOF94 came out. Before coming to SNKP he worked on cellphone and smartphone apps. But since the boss of his company came from SNK, Andou used to work on fighting game stuff for the mobile a lot.

- Andou joined KOF14's dev team around September 2014 and started working on the battle programs. He was scared since he only had about 18 months to work on it and he needed to support a cast of 50 characters. That's roughly just 11 days per character.

- Every time the devs make an update, they need to check it for 50 characters. The checking process is semi-automated but still a lot of work since they need to make sure of stuff manually as well.

- They only had 3-4 designers but Oda decided to have 50 characters in the game. Kuroki was like "That's so wrong!"

- The KOF series used to come out every year which sounds pretty tough on the devs, but KOF14 had a lot more to work on in just two years since everything including the various game modes and net code was made from scratch.

- Oda: "Make sure you write this: Localization is a much tougher job than anyone might imagine"

- None of the assets from KOF13 were usable for this project.
Oda: "If they were usable we'd sure would've loved it"

-That and the fact that SNKP didn't have the development environment to do any 3D graphics makes Kuroki look back and still be amazed that they've got the game done.

- Doing the facial expressions for all the characters was going to be a pain. So out of kindness to his staff, Oda decided to have three characters without facial expressions, like hiding them with a mask and whatnot.

- In reality, the project got off the ground around the time the game made its debut at California's PSX expo in Dec 2015. They received a lot of "responses" back then; it was because the game was barely even done.

- Oda notes that with larger companies, they can develop games using a method called a "Vertical Slice" where they complete a stage and a character or two and show it off for promotion. But when it comes to fighting games, using a Vertical Slice process takes up unneeded development time and SNKP isn't that big a company to begin with. So the devs worked on KOF14 using the traditional development method: when the game is fully done, it's fully done. So what was shown in the initial stages were.. actually what was being produced at the time.

- The trailers showing gradual graphical improvement over each release was exactly just that: the devs were working on them with trial and errors.

- Kuroki, looking back at the debut trailer from September 2015: "Honestly, I knew we were going to get complaints [on the graphics]. As I said right now, we didn't have environment to do 3D graphics yet, so it was inevidable. I think we can still improve the quality, but we've done the best we could for now."

- Oda thinks that "KOF" is different for everyone depending on which release the player is into. For example XIII players think XIII is KOF, while 98 players and 02 players think that their games are KOF. So he tried to make a game that takes the best parts of all three games so that all the players would say "this is KOF!" when they touched XIV, albeit also adding elements as a new game.

- One of those new elements is the refined blowback system, which in XIV blows the opponent all the way to the wall and for allows for new potentials in gameplay.

- The devs made sure the RUSH combo was balanced in a way that hardcore players couldn't abuse it.

- Doing the hitboxes were a pain. In sprite-based/tween-less 2D fighters, hitboxes can be set by each frame of animation which lasts for a few frames, but with KOFXIV the animation is smooth. If the hitboxes were to move just like the smooth animation, it would've caused issues, like it'd miss certain characters. For similar reasons, setting the axis for the charcters were also problematic.

- Also, the artists couldn't cheat the same way as they could with 2D graphics. For example Chang and Choi looked fine in sprites, but in 3D their size differences would end up looking too realistic. Same thing with tall characters; for example when they'd kick, their legs would look too long in XIV when compared to hand-drawn sprites from previous KOFs. So the devs needed to tweak a lot of things for all the characters.

- Nelson actually has two model datas; for the 1P side and 2P side, since his bionic arm needs to always face towards the same side (for gameplay reasons).

- Making the game run in full 60FPS was a true pain and as a result, the flashier looking graphics and effects got cut out. Of course there was the option of going variable in framerate, but the devs decided to go consistant.

- One of the reasons why the dev team decided to prioritize framerate consistency over flashier graphics is for online play. Oda explains that for each frame that gets skipped, it places a lot of bottleneck over the network communication. And especially with KOFXIV which is designed to allow up to 12 players to join and text chat and whatnot, that simply wasn't acceptable.

- Oda: "Online is something we can't be completely sure of until the game launches, but as far was we've checked it's better than KOFXIII on Steam, so it should be at standard quality."

- Of course the online can be very different depending on the user's enviornment, so the devs plan to update when needed.

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