Combofiend on Street Fighter V: “We don’t want players to fight the game, we want them to fight the other person.”

By on July 22, 2015 at 12:26 pm
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This interview was conducted by M’Ellis and Ian “iantothemax” Walker.

While Evo 2015 this past weekend was filled to the brim with amazing competition, a very different sort of learning process was going on at the Capcom booth. With playable Street Fighter V demos open to the public, fighting game fans of all stripes were hopping on to learn as much as they could in a quick match before being booted to the back of the line.

In order to get an idea of the future they are planning for this upcoming title and some of the development philosophies behind its creation, we caught up with Capcom’s Peter “Combofiend” Rosas and Matt Dahlgren, the former fresh off a promotion to associate producer on Street Fighter V, to pick their brains.

Editor’s note: This interview took place before Necalli’s reveal on Sunday, and as such does not include any information on the Street Fighter V newcomer.

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We’d like to start out with a question from Eric “Juicebox” Albino. He believes that Street Fighter IV is a heavily matchup-centered game with very character-specific techniques and strategies that you need to learn to compete at a high level. He’s more in favor of other games that have universal concepts that allow you focus on the game engine over the characters. In what direction do you think Street Fighter V may be leaning?

Peter “Combofiend” Rosas: I agree. In Ultra, because you have to learn how certain combos function on certain characters and things like that, it does end up becoming character matchup specific; that’s a by-product of it. All fighting games, however, are, in my eyes, matchup specific. Some characters just do better than others. Projectile characters do better against grapplers, etc. The concept for Street Fighter V, actually, is to make sure the game is all about the characters and that there are mechanics that fit them and their style.

In Street Fighter IV, you had characters who couldn’t use the Focus system well, you had characters whose Ultras weren’t very good. So, for this game, we’re going back to the drawing board and making sure that everything that’s given to the character functions properly and makes sense in the grand scheme of things. In that way, whenever you approach a matchup, of course you’re gonna have to learn the nuances of the character you’re fighting–you have to know what they’re doing to fight them properly–but there shouldn’t be any inherent losses. You should be able to overcome “bad matchups,” and it should be more on the player than on the characters.

Because right now, Ultra Street Fighter IV is very counterpick heavy, so there’s a little concern over the direction.

PR: Us on the devevelopment team, we totally look at that. We know where the game is, we talk about that all the time and compare that to where we want Street Fighter V to go. It’s something we’re paying close attention to.

sfv-birdie-chain-tallIn Street Fighter V, you’ve integrated a lot of systems to deal with things like throw option selects, knockdown, vortex, the more “unpopular” aspects of Street Fighter IV. What lessons did you particulary take from Street Fighter IV moving into Street Fighter V that you wanted to deal with right away?

PR: Those are the things you just mentioned. It was the option selects; we wanted to minimize those because that becomes a specialist-only type thing. We wanted to take away people being able to confirm links off lights. We think that makes the game too light heavy. People are just concentrating on pressing that button. What we want instead is people to use all their character’s attacks and really explore the character. And the other thing we wanted to lessen was just random things like backdash invincibility. We thought that that really created the need for option selects, so we wanted to do away with that. We think backdashing is important, we like people to have movement options, but we don’t think that things like random invincibility on stuff is necessary.

For context, it was necessary in Street Fighter IV because there was no way to get away from a level three focus, which was unblockable, so that’s why it was built in. Since we don’t have anything like that in Street Fighter V, the need for it isn’t there.

Proximity guard hitboxes in Street Fighter IV are very large and it impacts the footsie game in a way that most people aren’t really a fan of. Have you thought about that at all in Street Fighter V?

PR: We’re aware of the whole proximity thing. It’s the way you approach it, right? If you’re always just holding back, then you’re gonna go into guard. But if you walk and you’re confident in how you move the character and let the stick go back to neutral, then that doesn’t really happen. It’s only for those who are constantly holding back. They want [to have] their cake and eat it too; they want to be able to block but they want to be able to play footsies. There has to be some sort of trade-off there, otherwise a guy would never get hit. He would always walk into the sweet spot and you could never touch him. So, I mean, we are looking into it, but at the same time we don’t want to make it overpowered. It has to exist.

So you’re looking into making it less prevalent maybe?

PR: The length of the proximity boxes in Street Fighter IV was rather long, so we are looking at that. But we’re also looking at it to see if it’s a way that people approach the game and how they play footsies or if the boxes are too long. We’re analyzing it.

Speaking of option selects, at E3 2015, Josh “NerdJosh” Jodoin discovered a way to crouch tech by holding down-back, inputting light punch, and then plinking to light kick. If you get put in throw state you tech the grab, if you’re left in neutral you get light punch and then light kick in quick succession. Do you guys have any intentions to fix that?

PR: I actually asked about that. It just seemed to be this thing that could work but wasn’t 100%. It was working once every four tries or something. If you’re not getting it 100%, or like not even 50%, then that’s not something that really comes to my attention. I mean, we’re trying to minimize any types of option selects–crouch teching, all that junk–we prefer it not to be in the game. But it’s not something that’s replicated every single time, whereas you can always replicate an option select, you can always replicate a throw tech select.

The fact of the matter is…if it’s in the game, it’s concerning. But another question is, how often can people replicate that? So, case in point, in Ultra, there was that proximity guard stuff that Alioune found and it was supposedly gamebreaking. It’s concerning that it exists, but you have to take the human element into account. How often can this be replicated? We look at things like that to make sure that we’re not going in and just patching because people have kneejerk reactions. It’s not as critical as people like to make it out to be.

NerdJosh supposedly found an unblockable as well, and I’m not aware of that. We haven’t been able to replicate it. He told me it’s on one of the stages. I’ve tried it and I haven’t really had it happen to me. It could be the case that they weren’t blocking correctly or they were blocking too soon, I don’t know. I just need to see it concretely replicated and then that’s when it becomes something that we’ll address and really take into account. But right now, I mean, the game’s not out. Of course we’re still monitoring what people find out at these locations. We’re also doing our own tests internally and when the final product comes out, it should be devoid of anything that doesn’t reward the one-on-one aspect. We’re not trying to have it be about the systems, it’s about the characters and the players.

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Street Fighter IV is a game where there’s some linear options that are much stronger than other characters’ options, and then certain buttons become “useless” at high-level play. Are you looking into characters’ options as a full set in Street Fighter V, because we don’t want to end up with another Cammy close standing heavy kick that you never really see?

PR: If you look at the characters’ moves right now, they don’t have close and far attacks, they just have one attack. One attack when they’re standing, one attack when they’re crouching. They may have a proximity attack like Cammy’s back heavy punch, which is really good for her combos. We’re trying to make sure that in this game there aren’t useless buttons because that was a heavy critique of Street Fighter IV, and we’re ensuring that every attack that’s put in for the characters has value and has meaning.

In Street Fighter IV and a bunch of other games, you can input 6231 (an SRK motion ending in down-back) and then hit a punch button, and your uppercut will still come out. Is that something that you know is possible in the Street Fighter V engine with the current buffer system?

PR: A lot of what’s carried over from IV, in terms of lenient inputs, is still present. Shortcuts and stuff like that still exists, so we’re looking at whether we need to think it out. We want to make the game more open to those who may not be as hardcore, and sometimes they need a little assistance. We’re looking at how much that may mess with pro players, things like that. It’s still not 100% locked down.

On the subject of inputs, you have a two-frame buffer going both ways on normal attacks, is that correct?

PR: Actually, sorry, that was incorrect before. It’s a three-framer, so it’s two frames before the attack. We’re always looking at it to make it feel natural. We want to make sure that when players are doing the combos, they are able to do them but they also take timing. We’re trying to see what that sweet spot is. It’s always changing. At one time we actually had it where we thought it was too lenient–before it was an even larger window, and then you were just dialing in combos.

Players right now, they seem to be able to do all the combos that are technically one-frame links (and I know which ones they are because I actually look at the frame data in my office). They’re not having a hard time doing it. That, to me, seems like it’s fine, because at the end of the day we want people to access damage, combos, things like that so that they can concentrate more on how they approach the matchup against a person versus how they approach the character. We don’t want them to fight the game, we want them to fight the other person.

Moving away from gameplay, one thing that people brought up to is that they are interested in if you guys are going to include any sort of Steam Workshop support in the PC version. With how popular modding was in Street Fighter IV, are you looking into that with Street Fighter V?

Matt Dahlgren: It is something that we have discussed internally. We can’t confirm that something like that is going to be happening, but we have had discussions and are paying attention to that type of model.

sfv-bison-armscrossed-tallAre you building anything specifically into Street Fighter V that will integrate with tournaments?

MD: Street Fighter V was built with eSports in mind, so we will be doing things to integrate Capcom Pro Tour into the game, so you should be able to find out information about the latest tournament and use that as a news source. We will have other exciting updates of how the game is going to integrate directly with the Capcom Pro Tour but we’re gonna be talking about that at a later date.

You guys mentioned Fight Money during the panel, saying that it can be used to purchase characters, but can it also be put towards other, more cosmetic stuff like costumes, colors, etc.?

MD: We’re still refining the system, so we don’t have a complete list. One of the rules that we have for Street Fighter V is that if anything affects the outcome of a match, then it needs to be earnable with Fight Money. So, the promise stays that if you are a player and you continually play the game, you should be able to get all the gameplay-related content just from playing. We will have cosmetic options, some of those will be grindable with Fight Money and I think some of those will be for pay. We’re still striking that balance and figuring out exactly how to manage it.

You also said that you will be paying attention to how fast Fight Money is accrued in the beta; is that something that we’re going to be able to see or is it more of a background thing for the developers?

MD: You won’t be able to see it into beta one, it’s something we’re trying to get implemented into our second beta.

Whatever economy we have in that beta is not going to be the final version. It’s specifically there to test about how long it takes, and then we’ll figure out the right balance. We want to make sure that players are able to play the game enough to be able to get the characters as they come out.

Can you share any additional details on the second beta?

MD: It’s coming out this fall. That’s going to be the beta that has PlayStation 4 and PC. We don’t have specific dates locked down just yet, we’re really focused on closed beta one, but we’ll have more details to share soon. If you did pre-order and get beta access and download the client, you’re good to go for the rest of the campaign. The same client is used for all of the beta phases, so you only need to redeem one code and you’re set up for the entire event.

Will the second beta have any support for local play?

MD: The beta serves a very strong development purpose, and the primary purpose of the beta is to test our online infrastructure. If we were to put it offline, a very large percentage of people would just play offline, and then that doesn’t necessarily give us the data that we need. We do understand that some peopel want to play local versus. I can’t confirm if it’s in another beta, but we have heard those requests.

Do you have any updates on PlayStation 3 controller support?

MD: We are looking into it, but we don’t have a deal finalized yet. It is something that we know players want, so we are in discussion with Lab Zero.

We know it’s pretty far off, but will your Capcom Pro Tour support focus entirely on Street Fighter V, or do you plan to keep supporting whoever wants to continue playing Street Fighter IV with those tournaments?

MD: Capcom Pro Tour will definitely focus on Street Fighter V. I don’t know if we’ve figured out whether or not we’re still going to have a component for Ultra Street Fighter IV. I have a feeling it’s going to just be Street Fighter V, but we would expect Ultra to still continue to go on in the fans’ hands.

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We would like to thank Peter and Matt for taking the time to speak with us. Feel free to drop your own thoughts in the comments below.