Everyone wants to know what’s going to be new and different in the upcoming Ultra Street Fighter IV update, but aside from a few key event announcements and a slow-but-steady drip of Twitter tidbits, Capcom hasn’t said a whole lot about what they’re changing. I got a chance to chat with Capcom’s senior community specialist and longtime fighting game competitor Peter “Combofiend” Rosas about his opinion on what USFIV needs to do differently from AE 2012 — with the caveat that he wasn’t allowed to answer questions about specific character or system changes.
So read on to learn more about Capcom’s process for fine-tuning the Street Fighter IV series, bringing new people into the game, and what it’s like working on the developer’s side instead of the player’s.
Patrick Miller: What’s your take on the current value of a knockdown in SFIV? Personally, I’m not a huge fan of how defenders seem to have exceptionally poor options; it seems that one knockdown routinely costs you 80% of your health in vortex mixups, and I’d love to know if that is considered an intentional part of the Street Fighter IV design philosophy or something that should be fixed.
Combofiend: I think the importance of the knockdown is at the heart of Street Fighter. When you look at any of the classic Street Fighters (ST, Alpha, CvS2), players had to learn footsies to avoid knockdowns due to the high damage (and possible KO) associated with it. In Street Fighter IV, you actually have quite a few options at your disposal on your wake-up such as: focus attacks, anti-airs, ultras, and supers, not to mention a larger window to input said moves in. The vortex mixups you see today are derived from players who put in the time to create them. I personally think that they’re fine, as it does require a bit of a time investment and solid timing to pull off said vortexes.
PM: Related to above: Is changing wakeup time a tool you’re employing in USFIV, or are these parameters fixed? (I played Adon in Super and felt the pain from that nerf.)
Combofiend: At this moment in time, we’re not doing anything to wakeup timing as it wasn’t really brought up during our feedback collection. In Adon’s case , people complained quite a bit (during Super) about how much faster he got up and that it gave him too much an advantage, hence why it was changed.
PM: It seems to me that Capcom has been significantly more open and encouraging about soliciting feedback (and making fun of the weird suggestions). How do you turn that feedback into an actual game change?
Combofiend: As it stands, we currently have all the changes needed at this moment in time. The information for the changes was gathered from the 20,000+ comments on Capcom-Unity and over 12,000 Japanese respondents, as well as feedback information from top players in Europe, Japan, Brazil, and the United States. These changes requests were then sifted through and discussed internally in regards to what the effects of said changes would have to a character’s balance and ultimately their standing. Currently the changes are being checked for their implementation. Also, in an effort to make sure that changes aren’t too overpowered, I will be monitoring location tests and taking feedback from those as well.
PM: Since its release, SFIV has been repeatedly criticized for its emphasis on links as the primary mode for combos — usually because they’re very hard for new players to learn, and advanced tech like plinking simply isn’t intuitive. Can we expect any notable changes to USFIV’s combo system?
Combofiend: No, those will also stay. I haven’t really heard people complain about links in combos, but I have heard many people mention how they felt that certain character’s links were too difficult to perform consistently. Those issues have been addressed. As for linking in general, it definitely takes practice. My recommendation would be to approach it like a rhythm game, due to the specific timing. Once one gets a feel for it, it’s surprising how natural links become.
PM: Capcom producer Tomoaki Ayano recently said that Street Fighter V wouldn’t be due out for a long time (and jokingly dropped a 2018 mention). How do you feel about the SFIV playerbase’s rate of technique burnthrough? Do you think there are five years left of new tech discovery? Are there any characters or matchups in AE that you think players haven’t adequately explored (and want to encourage in USFIV)?
Combofiend: I’ll have to pass on this question.
PM: More generally speaking, Street Fighter is a hard game to pick up. Is any of your current work on USFIV intended to lower the barriers to entry at all?
Combofiend: Street Fighter, much like anything else you are unfamiliar with, may seem hard at first and will take time to learn. Haunts and I have every intention of putting out informative videos on our Capcom Fighters channel to try and help new players overcome the challenges they’ll face when first picking up Street Fighter; but at the end of the day it truly falls on the person on whether they want to keep playing or not. New players should realize that at the heart of Street Fighter lies a psychological battle between two individuals. Everything one learns (attack distances, combos, option selects, etc) are tools to support you in overthrowing your adversary. If this sounds appealing, then I’m sure that person will stick around.
PM: You’re planning on doing training videos with Haunts? What kind of videos are you planning to do? Do you have a sample list of topics you can share with our readers? What level of experience will you be aiming at?
Combofiend: Currently the specifics are still being worked out. We have some topics in mind, but the focal point will be to help new players overcome the challenges one faces when first starting with Street Fighter IV.
PM: What’s your take on the viability of fireball heavy zoning? Not just for Akuma but for other strong fireball characters like Ryu and Sagat. Are they where you want them to be?
Combofiend: I feel that the fireball characters are in a good place right now. They all have their own strengths and weakness that their projectiles either add to or subtract from. Using projectiles properly does take a lot of work due to the high risk associated with them, so kudos to those who have become proficient at using them properly.
PM: Street Fighter has a significant presence on live video streaming communities — communities that didn’t exist when SFIV was released in 2008. Are you designing with “watchability” in mind? Is there any baggage left over from SFIV’s core design that makes it harder for your team to design a viewer-friendly game?
Combofiend: I’ll have to pass on this question.
PM: You’ve only been working at Capcom since late 2012; what’s it like approaching the game-design process from the perspective of a developer, rather than a player? Have you had to learn, change, or adjust to this different perspective?
Combofiend: Well, I’ve found it interesting that all the “small” things I took for granted as a player (i.e. hit stun, block stun, invincibility, etc.) are so genius in their design, and it’s these little things that differentiate fighters from one another immensely. Approaching the game from under the hood and seeing how the hitboxes, hurtboxes, and throwboxes all interact, and studying frame data the game is another thing I’ve had to learn as I’ve always been a person that’s played by feel.
I’ve also had to come to terms with a lot of the misconceptions I had with development in general; particularly in regards to how much time goes into everything. Before, I used to think a developer was dragging their feet when there was a delay in a game coming out or changes being made. But now being behind the scenes, it’s amazing to see just how many pieces of the puzzle there are and how tight schedules really are on a title.