Hello everyone !!!
I hope you’re doing well and you had a great time watching EVO JAPAN 2020 !
I had the chance to be there and have a long time discussing with Motohiro Okubo (SoulCalibur VI Producer) and Yoshinori Takahashi (Game Director).
Just like my previous interviews with them, i’m writing the exact whole discussion that we had, and not a formal questions/answers form that you find in most interviews. SOOOOO…yes it’s gonna be very long because the discussion lasts around 1h30. They really took a lot from their time at EVO to give details and explanations for the community. I’m very grateful for that !
So let’s begin the long discussion !!!
Kayane : Hello Okubo-san and Takahashi-san. Thank you for answering my questions once again !
Motohiro Okubo & Yoshinori Takahashi : Our pleasure !
K. : It’s been two years since we first met ! How do you feel about the game and the community ?
M.O. : So Tekken 7 came out three years ago and the community never stopped growing. It surprised us a lot ! As for Soul Calibur VI, the community grew all around the world, to the point we have more than 500 competitors today at EVO Japan, which felt surprising to me ! Still, we are really grateful for both communities and how they support us, showing us how they mastered the games’ mechanics ! We’re hoping they’ll continue to grow and thrive !
K. : Soul Calibur has many players in the U.S, Japan and France and they make most of the international scene, and I’ve seen that the World Tour will also cover events like in the Philippines and the Rev Major. Do you expect expanding to other Asian countries, like with Tekken ?
M.O. : We’re aiming to have tournaments that can gather a minimal set of players. As you can see on the tour’s website, we decided to have an equal number of events around the world. In Asia, aside from today’s event at EVO Japan, we’ll have events in the Philippines and Australia. In any case, we want to have as many tournaments around the world as possible over the coming years !
K. : So it won’t just be a one-season tour ?
M.O. : If we can, we want to have tournaments over a second and third year. Nothing’s been decided yet, as it’ll also depend on how many players join each event this year.
K. : So if people worldwide show up to the same extent as EVO Japan, then you’ll continune supporting the game. And so is the number of contestants a factor in the game’s success ? Like what do you hope for, for the game ? Like making it enjoyable to watch enough so that people watch it on streams ? Does Bandai Namco have certain expectations to keep supporting the game, like viewership, number of participants, sponsors, kinda like Astro Gaming supports Tekken 7 ?
M.O. : The viewership and tournament participation numbers are very important to us, indeed. They keep our eSports division going, though the most crucial element is of course the active player base. The tournaments help bring people in to get the active user number to grow, but we also need the tournaments to engage with the community so as for the numbers to either stay stable at worst, grow further at the very best. The numbers also tell if the game is still enjoyable to play and we hope the tournaments are fun enough to watch so that people then feel inclined to play the game !
K. : And is there any way for Bandai Namco to help and support streamers to make content ?
M.O. : Any example ?
K. : Oh, like Riot with League of Legends or any game from Blizzard. They keep in touch with streamers and professionnal players and help them with ressources to create content.
Does Bandai Namco think about making a Content Creators’ Program of some sort to help the game grow ?
M.O. : Many thinks are discussed internally within the company. It’s actually quite hard knowing exactly who to reach for.
K. : You’d need to have some good reasons to pick somebody over someone else, I guess.
M.O. : Well, I am being interviewed by you, who can reach out to a French audience and we can give out informations to players thanks to that interview. The fact you’re a pro player also makes the questions more pertinent, though I wonder if it’s fair to other players…
K. : Well the fact you nerfed 2B is proof you’re fair to all players ! *laughs*
2B NERFS AND NEW MOVES DISCUSSION
M.O. : *laughs* You really wanted to say that !
K. : *laughs* Yes! All 2B players ask me to ask you to rebuff her otherwise they’d quit playing. They ask me to blackmail you ! *laughs*
M.O. : I see ! Well, I’m shifting the blame to you *points at Yoshinori Takahashi*
Yoshinori Takahashi : Well we wanted to have 2B playable, but we realized a bit too late we made her Aggression Shift too strong.
K. : But now it’s… Eh. *sad face*
Y.T. : We wanted to make her playable without having to resort to Aggression Shift. We wanted to balance her more evenly.
M.O. : The thing is we try to have every character’s moveset to be as balanced as possible. If they have a move that’s much stronger than any other, people will only ever use that move and we don’t want that. 2B’s Aggression Shift was a bit too strong and she fell into that trap, so we decided to balance things out.
K. : I understand. Still, I think her new moves are very difficult to use in matches.
The commands are 11 / 77 B+K and the other version, we have to hold the command.
It’s very hard to use in matches because the moves are so slow and the one that’s very long range is too slow compared to 4BB.
So that’s why you don’t see them much used. If a character whiffs, we can just do 4BB as it’s faster and has enough of a long range, but doing 11 B+K takes way too long to react.
I feel that some new moves really changed the game for some characters and players’ style. But for us 2B players, because the new moves are too hard to use, it feels as if we didn’t really change our playstyle and we have a weaker AGS.
M.O. : We know other characters have the same problem and we’re working on rebalancing it all.
K. : I see. Well, coming back to 2B, for example her Lethal Hit is a bit too hard to pull off and very unsafe to use in competitive-level matches. I feel players won’t use it for tournaments, as we can’t use it as a standalone move. Only as a combo finisher.
Y.T. : We’re thinking about that !
M.O. : We understand it might be hard to execute.
K. : Well the combo that was in the trailer is not here, you know ? *laughs*
Y.T. : When Season 2 just started out and was being teased, balance was something we aimed for, but couldn’t truly achieve, and the combo you saw in the trailer was much harder to pull off.
M.O. : During the final phase of development, we had to take it out, as it was also too dangerous and unbalanced. It happens.
IS AZWEL STILL TOO STRONG ?
K. : I understand. So please do that to Azwel too !
M.O. : *laughs*
K. : He has too many good moves ! *laughs*
M.O. : Bluegod is very strong !
K. : Yes, he’s very strong ! Buuut…
M.O. : Let’s respect Bluegod *laughs*
K. : Nooooo, don’t say that ! *laughs* Bluegod is REALLY STRONG. But remember we saw Shen Chan earlier, he said the same thing as well as many others ! Azwel’s too strong !
M.O. : Well, I feel we made him less mild. Remember when we last met at E3 ? You said « Azwel ! Azwel ! »
K. : Well it’s what the community thinks * laughs* , there were a lot of recommandations to balance Azwel from top players !
M.O. : Before and after we met there, I talked to the battle team and we understood people think he’s too strong. But we didn’t want to change him too dramatically, as we think there are other characters that can fight as well as him and counter him. And so when we worked on Season 2, we still aimed to make him milder.
K. : Huuuuum…
M.O. : You don’t think so ?
K. : Nyeeeeah…
Y.T. : Our overall goal was to make every character more up to par to Azwel rather than just making him weaker.
M.O. : And of course, we’ll keep analyzing the players’ playstyles, including at today’s EVO Japan in order to improve the game.
SEASON 2 CHANGES, PATCHS TO COME
K. : When you released Season 2, it was nice seeing all these changes, and then you said a patch fixing bugs and tweaking a few things was coming. And then it released and changed so much things, it felt like a whole new season 3 !
How did you manage to change so many things in so little time ?
M.O. : I don’t really know how the French community felt after the release of Season 2, but when we released it, we saw some unexpected bugs and moves that felt like very easy mistakes for us. We realized the game’s balance was broken and wanted to very quickly readjust that. For us, it didn’t feel like doing a Season 3-style overhaul and rather just fixing Season 2’s bugs and balance. Still, I understand that you felt like the changes were really drastic.
K. : I see. It did feel really different. For example I really had to relearn 2B from scratch. When the Season 2 has been released, there were about 3 weeks where we all started to find new combos, setups and get used to them.
But then the new patch arrived, and some moves effects changed, also the damages, so the combos also change, Soul Attacks setups too…
I think that a lot of players, including myself, had to relearn combos and thus felt like they wasted some time learning stuff that became obsolete very fastly. I made a few combos videos for 2B on twitter for example but then they are not valid anymore.
I feel like it’s difficult to follow when the game can change so much, isn’t there a way to avoid that ?
M.O. : We apologize for these big changes so soon. I did mention this to the Japanese community one week ago, but the reason we released Season 2 in November was because of EVO Japan. We wanted people to be prepared for the tournament, as it’s the first one in the World Tour. On the other hand, we also really wanted to make a lot of changes to Season 2… But as a result, it amounted to too many changes in very little time. As part of management, I feel it’s my personnal reponsability and we should’ve set a date where we’d have to time to check everything more thoroughly. And so I understand that you’re a 2B player and you had to relearn…
K. : To be honest, I wish the development team is fixed about where they want to go with the game so that the changes are not too drastic anymore. I think it’s also important for something that is : Content Creation.
For example, I wanted to make character guides on YouTube but I had to wait for patches with fixed dates. I made a combo video for Xianghua in Season 1, but 3 months after, the whole combos’ effects and damages had changed. And even today I receive comments saying « This combo’s not working anymore ! » And so I feel that the effects of combos can change with any patch and then, i don’t want to put the time to create contents whereas i’m thinking it may change very soon.
M.O. : It’s really interesting ! We do not intend to make a lot of big changes now, but on the other hand, the beginning of Season 2 was the moment to make the biggest changes possible. And so with the deadlines for EVO Japan that were quite close, the time to check everything was pretty short. And now that it’s done, we know we won’t be doing any drastic changes throughout Season 2. Only fixing minor problems, like with whiffs and such.
K. : And so no drastic changes about Reversal Edges or Soul Charges or anything like this? Would the mechanics stay the same ?
M.O. : There won’t be big changes. As for now, we don’t have plans to change any of those things, but of course if they give way to unexpected things that could break the game, we’d intervene as soon as possible to fix it. We took a lot of time to balance it, and so we think there’s no need to make big changes now.
K. : I think it’s fine now, yeah. It’s less damaging than before, so that’s nice.
And so will there be any rebalancing with upcoming patches or just minor fixes ?
Y.T. : Maybe a few readjustments in Spring, but we’re not thinking about doing any big changes in the near future.
M.O. : I don’t think we’ll have no patches coming, but I’m sure we won’t have a lot of them.
K. : I feel Project Soul is so passionnate that even though you’d say there wouldn’t be a lot, they’ll still have huge patch notes *laughs*
M.O. : That takes a loooooooooooong time to make *laughs* I always say a small number, but still, we do have deadlines to take into account, like with the translations we need to check ourselves !
K. : Did you know the community always loses a whole day trying to translate the patch notes when they come first in Japanese ? Like, people join on Discord and spend the day trying to figure out what kanji means what *laughs* !
It’s really funny to me, like I read them, and people react saying things like « Xianghua got this ? It’s awesome ! » but then five minutes later we realize it wasn’t that. And so for that one day people go through all emotions ! And so people who can read and translate Japanese become revered on these types of days, it’s so funny !
M.O. : You can believe me when I say I try to make the information available in full in English as soon as possible. But since we’re Japanese in a Japanese studio, communicating that kind of information takes a bit more time and we get so excited to release the information to the community we don’t always have the time to mobilize ressources to get it translated on day one.
K. : I actually think the English patch notes arrive fast enough, but this whole day where the community gets riled up and speculates based on the Japanese notes is so funny ! You can see and feel the passion of the players !
M.O. : If you look at the history of the patch notes, you’d see we got more and more expansive. And at the earlier days, we’d see a lot of mistranslations and misinformation. We try to avoid that as much as possible now by having the information be the same between the Japanese text and English translation. Still, I’m sorry we don’t have the notes in any other language…
K. : It’s okay. Translating in a language other than English could lead to more misinfomation.
M.O. : And I think as a result we would shorten the information overall.
K. : The French translation for some games is terrible. Especially when it’s about fighting games tutorials for example.
M.O. : You know Oosaka (Balance Director) team, they want the patch notes to cover as much ground as possible and so they can get pretty long.
K. : They’re right, though.
M.O. : And I think that’s a good thing for the player as it also avoids misunderstandings. It’s interesting that people know what we want to do with the game, but if we had to translate it in other languages, we’d have to make it short.
Frame Data in the game ?
K. : So I’ve seen that they finally released frame data in Tekken 7’s Season 3 !
M.O. : Oooooooh ! *laughs* I knew you’d ask me that !
K. : You know me now !
M.O. : You’re like the Italian mafia ! *laughs*
K. : Well if I’m like the Italian mafia, you know I’d want it by the end of next week ! *laughs*
M.O. : *laughs* Okay ! And you want to know the stance of…
K. : So it’s possible ? Because I remember asking you about that in our first or second interview.
M.O. : At EVO, yeah.
K. : I remember you said it wouldn’t feel fair for some players, as it’d feel too difficult to play fighting games with all these numbers appearing, that it would feel intimidating for newcomers. But It seems that it’s more common for recent fighting games to include a frame data now and players who play competitively are now used to see it.
M.O. : It’s the first time I say that outside, but we had decided to include frame date early on during Tekken 7’s Season 3’s development. We had been discussing about it’s inclusion for a while within the company. And yet, we’re still apprehensive about disclosing our frame data, as it can feel intimidating for new players to know that they’ll have to study such things. That’s also the reason we made it part of the DLC. In the case of Soul Calibur, we’re not thinking about releasing the frame data yet, it’s still too early. We still have a lot of things to do with Season 2 before that, mainly expanding the game’s audience.
K. : So it might happen in the future.
M.O. : It might happen, but I can’t guarantee nor commit to that yet. Though one thing’s for sure : it won’t happen this season.
K. : So basically, you’re facing a dilemma where you want to make the game appealing to new players by not including it, and maybe put it out as DLC for players who are serious about its competitive aspect ?
M.O. : That’s one of the approaches thought about, yes.
THE NEW GUEST CHARACTER : HAOHMARU !
K. : Let’s discuss about Season 2 new guest character : Haohmaru, from Samurai Shodown !
Can you tell us anything about his gameplay ? Because Samurai Shodown is a 2D fighting game, with like 10 moves per character, but Soul Calibur has around 70. How are you going to make all these moves ?
Y.T. : Obviously, we got most of his moves from Samurai Shodown, but we also created a whole set of new moves.
K. : So is it tightly monitored by SNK or did you have some leeway to create the new moves ?
M.O. : How it happens, is that we make some plans and submit them to SNK to see if it’s good for them or not.
Y.T. : It’s not only moves from the newest Samurai Shodown, but also from previous entries.
K. : I see. And how different is he in style from Mitsurugi ?
Some players are afraid he might turn out to be a clone character, though I’m sure you made them quite different. I saw how Cassandra and Sophitia differ, to the point they’re unique.
M.O. : That’s a very good question !
Y.T. : Personnally, I think Mitsurugi is a pretty standard character, while Haohmaru is more of a Power character, though we tried to make him as balanced as possible.
K. : Will he do crazy damage, like in Samurai Shodown or more standard damage like in Soul Calibur ?
Y.T. : His moves are Samurai Shodown, but his damage output is Soul Calibur-like.
K. : Will he have some quarter-circle moves, like in 2D fighting games ?
M.O. : Yes !
Y.T. : We’re trying to make him easy to use for 3D fighting games players that are not necessary used to 2D commands !
K. : Will he have a Rage Mode or Lightning Blade, like in Samurai Shodown ?
M.O. : That’s a secret !
K. : And one-hit kills *laughs*
M.O. : That’s impossible ! Not in Soul Calibur. *laughs*
K. : In Samurai Shodown, the less health you have, the more dangerous you become.
Will Haohmaru become more powerful when his life’s under the 30% mark ?
M.O. : *long pause, hesitant* Secret ! We still have a lot of ideas, though some are more concrete than others and we still need validation from SNK, so things can change from now to his release, so we’d rather not commit to concrete answers right now.
Y.T. : We know anger plays a key role in Haohmaru’s character, sooo…
K. : I see. The stage you’ve shown is really beautiful ! I was wondering which music you’d use ? I couldn’t hear it really well during the reveal because of the noise. Is it a remix of his theme ?
M.O. : It was an arrangement of his theme from the very first game.
K. : When will he be released ?
M.O. : Spring !
K. : Is there a month ?
M.O. : Spring is like… When you feel warmer *laughs*
K. : So… In June ?
M.O. : Not quite *laughs* More like when it’s warm enough to feel comfortable, but not quite enough you’d go to the beach !
K. : Around Hanami ? End of March/mid-April ?
M.O. : Oooh, you know Japanese culture and cherry blossoms well !
K. : It’s the perfect timing for a Samurai ! When there’s still sakura, it should be his deadline !
M.O. : *laughs*
WHAT ABOUT SETSUKA ?
K. : What will be Haohmaru’s story ? Will he meet Setsuka ?
M.O. : What ? Why ?
K. : Because she has to get revenge from Mitsurugi and she would need some help !
M.O. : Oooh, interesting ! I’m taking notes ! *laughs*
K. : Well at the end of the trailer, Mitsurugi says something like « This isn’t the end » and people in the crowd said « Setsuka ! »
M.O. : Ooooh ! You know I won’t answer these sorts of questions !
K. : But please don’t make Setsuka like an alpha-Patroklos. We don’t want that.
M.O. : So you don’t want Setsuka ?
K. : I do ! But I want her, not a clone ! She is such a classy character, with her kimono, japanese fighting style…
M.O. : Yeah, she does !
K. : Everything’s perfect with her design and people miss her since Soul Calibur IV.
M.O. : We’re doing our best to release Haohmaru. That’s all I can say. Just so you know, like with 2B there won’t be any Story added to him, but we’ll add more costumes.
K. : Can we customize him ?
M.O. : I can’t confirm it but we’re thinking about it.
Y.T. : We want to have him customized.
M.O. : We want that, but it’s something that done by the end of development, so I don’t want to commit to an answer.
Poor Hwang…What about him and some other characters, and guests ?
K. : Do you have requests for Hwang ? You know Hayate is so sad, I could feel his despair !
M.O. : *laughs* You know I can’t answer these kinds of questions.
Y.T. : And even though we don’t have any kind of story for Haohmaru, we do have something great for the next character !
K. : So there’s some good stories coming ?
M.O. : Indeed !
K. : Are you working on a new character ? Like a new new character ?
M.O. : Can’t answer that, sorry.
K. : At least it’s good, because you’re thinking about doing world tours and doing more seasons will mean more characters, like new characters and new guests.
M.O. : New guests !? Oh no no no, no more guests !
K. : No more guests !?
M.O. : No more for Season 2 !
K. : But you told me you had a very long list of potential guests !
M.O. : We do have a list ! We always have one !
K. : Only video games ?
M.O. : Not just that !
K. : Game of Thrones ! Do you know Game of Thrones ?
M.O. : *laughs* I did see Game of Thrones !
K. : Anime, maybe ? Comics ? (Japanese people often say “Comics” for Anime/manga)
M.O. : It depends on the kind of anime. I can’t say which comic or anime, but some characters target people outside the Soul Calibur community. We have to make sure both audiences match. Like 2B and Geralt were great choices. For Geralt, both game’s worlds were similar, and for 2B, the game shared Soul Calibur’s audience. That’s very important.
K. : Oooh, I thought it was impossible to have anime characters ! Now that i think about, BERSERK would be so perfect !!!
Ah but, Griffith’s style is maybe too close to Raphael, and Guts is too close to Siegfried / Nightmare…
Y.T : Kayane, who do you prefer between Griffith and Guts ?
K. : Ohhhhh it’s a sensitive question…I love Griffith’s beauty ahhhh !
M.O. : *laughs* We have comic book characters in our list, yeah.
K. : And thinking of another game hmm…Lucina from Fire Emb… OOOH FIRE EMBLEM WOULD BE PERFECT !!! I mean, it’s a Nintendo game with many weapons.
Y.T. : I like the Fire Emblem series.
K. : Oooh, and if you like it, then it’s in the game ! (Note : Yoshinori Takahashi is a NieR fan and added 2B in the Guest list whereas she wasn’t planned at all!)
Y.T. : We haven’t released it on a Nintendo platform !
WHAT ABOUT A SWITCH VERSION FOR SOULCALIBUR VI ?
K. : Well when is Soul Calibur VI coming to Nintendo Switch ?
M.O. : If I have to answer seriously, I think I remember telling you previously that we’re not sure we can port the game to Nintendo Switch. I said we have to examine and look into that, and well… When I said that, I didn’t know if we’d have a Season 2 yet and now that we have one, I’ll be totally honest by saying we didn’t have time to look into that. So basically, the situation hasn’t changed much.
NEW CONTENTS TO COME : MINOR PATCH IN FEBRUARY, NEW STAGES, SOUL ATTACK RESET IN TRAINING ETC
K. : I see. Do you think Bandai Namco is happy with the game ?
M.O. : As I’ve said before, Season 2 couldn’t have been made without the community’s support. Thanks to that, the company greenlit the second season. I guess that’s your answer !
K. : If you had a bigger budget, what would you want to add to the game ?
M.O. : If you ask me right now, I think we basically have everything we wanted with Season 2. Still, more characters, stages and customization could be cool ! And I announced it last week live in Japan, but we’re looking forward to making more stages.
K. : DLC or free ?
M.O. : Free. Completely free.
K. : Great ! Right now, I feel the game kinda lacks in stage diversity. Also, can you change the random stage selector ? It happens SO OFTEN that it always picks the same stage after you select random and I don’t know why.
M.O. : The random stage selector has been programmed to be fully random, but making something random is very difficult. We’re gonna have a patch coming out in February to help us collect more data and see the results of how the random stage selector really works.
K. : So this patch is about fixing bugs or rebalance things ?
M.O. : We won’t change anything balance-wise with this patch. It’s more about data collecting, but if we find any bugs out, they’ll be fixed.
K. : Can we have a reset parameter for Soul Attacks in Training mode ? We want to be able to do specific combos, but it’s pretty cumbersome right now.
Y.T. : We want to improve that, but not in February.
K. : Do you have any last words for the community ?
M.O. : I’m really grateful for the community that helped us make Season 2 and I’m really happy we were able to announce the world tour’s dates today. I hope you’ll be able to come over or at least watch them. It really helps us and we’ll do everything to help this growth to keep going on !
K. : Today’s viewership was very good !
M.O. : Indeed.
K. : We reached 100k followers on Twitch for Soul Calibur ! And I think that’s really good, besides very strong fighting games like Smash, Street, DBFZ, Tekken…that has reached more than a million, SoulCalibur is right after them and that’s so impressive knowing we didn’t have a World Tour until now. Keep it up !
M.O. : Thank you very much !
K. : Thank you for your time !