From Fighting Games to Making Games Part 4: Seth “s-kill” Killian, Sony Santa Monica

By on August 6, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Fighting games can be a great way to meet people and develop new skills, but unless you’re good enough to go pro, it’s not going to pay your rent or put food on the table. Right?

Maybe not. As it turns out, the detail-oriented, play-to-win mentality that is so important for a good fighting game competitor also comes in handy when you’re making video games in general. I was personally surprised by how many ardent fighting game enthusiasts I’ve come across in the games industry, so I chatted them up to see how they felt fighting games could help prepare you for a real job in the business of game development.

This is the final installment of a four-part series of interviews designed to highlight individuals who turned their love of breaking down fighting games into careers on the development end. Be sure to check out our previous spotlights on Derek “omni” DanielsNathan Vella, and Mike “Mike Z” Zaimont and let us know what you think in the comments.

Seth “s-kill” Killian (Lead Game Designer, Sony Santa Monica)

The last dev in this lineup shouldn’t be a stranger to anyone here. I couldn’t discuss fighting game players in the games industry without talking to Seth “s-kill” Killian, lead game designer for Sony Santa Monica and former strategic director of online community for Capcom.


PM: What skills from fighting games come in handy for making games?

Seth Killian: I think fighting gamers are much smarter about games than they realize. Playing fighters for thousands of hours gives you a very good intuitive sense about what feels good. If you take the next step and think carefully about why some things feel good or don’t, and can explain that in ways that other people on the team can understand, you’re instantly an asset to a huge number of projects. Think back about the last five games you played. Did the movement, the jumps, the hits all feel good? Probably not. And if they did, you’ll very likely find some serious fighting gamers on that team — as I’ve gotten to know teams from around the industry over the years, I’ve been amazed to see how true this is.

Because they take their favorite games so seriously, I also think fighting gamers can also be good at keeping the player’s experience first and foremost. From things like intuitive controls to quick and easy menus, etc.– they don’t care about fancy designer-y stuff for it’s own sake and tend to approach things as a player would approach them, and that can also be a very valuable perspective. Not every game has competitive multiplayer, but they all benefit from controls that feel good and intuitive, player-facing features.

That said, just being good at something — even very, very good — is not enough. You have to understand how and why things work the way they do, and that isn’t strictly necessary just to win, so it’s up to the player to take the next steps to get to the heart of games.

PM: Got any advice for fighting game enthusiasts looking to break into game development?

SK: These days, easily the best advice for anyone looking to break into games is “just do it.” If you have an idea, find a way to make it a reality. Whether it’s a game, a level mod, or just something cool in Minecraft — if you can show them something cool, nobody cares what your resume looks like. The biggest story in games for at least the last five years has been the rise of indies, who are people doing exactly that. Some of them can program, some of them can’t, but they find the people and resources they need to get their vision across, and get it done. There are hundreds if not thousands of success stories, including people from the FGC. It’s not easy, but with the cheap tools and a lot of talented people interested in doing things, it’s never been easier.

(Images courtesy of Eric Zhang)