At Capcom’s recent Gamer’s Day event in London I got the chance to sit down with Seth Killian – a Street Fighter pro who Capcom invited to become their full time ‘Special Combat Advisor’ for fighting games during the production of Street Fighter IV. Since then he’s held an instrumental role in the entire Street Fighter IV series, Marvel vs Capcom 3, the revival of Street Fighter III: Third Strike and now Street Fighter X Tekken – as well as being the top Community man for the company.
We sat down with him to talk Street Fighter X Tekken, dream projects and the future of fighting games in general.
Strategy Informer:That was obviously developed as an arcade title with an eye to porting it to the console later. Street Fighter X Tekken is being developed for the console specifically first. Is the process any different now the arcade machine has been cut out of the picture for this game?
Seth Killian: Effectively - in terms of the details, not really. We still try and make great games that are - well, the basic format of a fighting game is at home in an arcade because it's fun, and somebody's winning and somebody's losing - you're out of there pretty quick, which is good for the arcades to help them make money - but even on the console it's fun.
One of the key differences with X Tekken is that it's opened the door to some of the DLC options we're talking about. Thinking about features for online modes and such is much easier if you have that infrastructure there from day one built into the console. They have online arcade machines now, but it's much more complicated to make some of those modes work effectively. Up to four players at one time, for instance - you can do it, but it's usually a big investment in terms of hardware and things like that for the arcade - so I do think it gave us a bit more space to play around.
Strategy Informer:Was getting the cross-over with Namco going a particularly hard deal to strike?
Seth Killian: Eerily, no. It should've been. For any sort of regular company I think it'd be a very difficult process - you take two big brands from two big companies and then they're going to be very guarded about it and provincial and the like. Not here, because the two producers knew each other and they said 'let's do this.'
That sort of very old-school business deal is still possible in Japan, and so they'd already actually begun development on the project before they really bought it to the upper guys and said 'hey, we're doing this thing, it's going to be really cool' - and the upper guys agreed and said 'Alright, we guess that's going to happen now.' It was really just a deal between two guys who knew each other and both love fighting games, so it's pretty cool.
Strategy Informer:Those guys are obviously very busy with their core Tekken games, but have you seen anything from them or are they keeping it completely secret?
Seth Killian: I've seen just a very little bit, and I think they've moved on from the last time I saw it. All I saw was really very early wire frames and concept stuff, though, so it has a long way to go.
Strategy Informer: The game already has a ton of characters, and I’m wondering how much to temper my expectations for certain people I want to see. Can we expect many more?
Seth Killian: There will be a lot. Y'know, I understand the concern over the gems, but nobody will have any concerns over character count. It will be a lot - a lot of characters. We definitely want to represent other parts of Street Fighter history. There will be people who haven't seen some of their Street Fighter favourites in a while who I think will be happy about our future announcements.
Strategy Informer: The game is out in March - how far out are you guys from a lock on things like the balance of the game’s characters, gem system Pandora mode and so on?
Seth Killian: It's something we can work on later, towards the end, because the core systems are already in place, so it's one of those things that - you wanna have the game completely finished when it goes to pressing, but it's also the kind of thing where because it's not an overall game thing it's something we could do as a day-one adjustment if we wanted to, so it's not - well, there's always a ticking clock, but it's not at a point where we're worried about not having time to think about these things and find a solution.
Strategy Informer:Can you talk a little about the story? You've released the trailer which introduces the concept of Pandora that seems a little story-driven, but can you talk about if this will be traditional Street Fighter in terms of story or something different? Ono-san mentioned he'd been playing and enjoying Mortal Kombat's story mode on Twitter.
Seth Killian: Well, yeah, there's this mysterious Pandora box that has crashed to earth and seems to cause some interesting effects in the people around it and also seems to really like fighting. I don't know if that's Charles Dickens kind of stuff, but it's really interesting and it's one of the stories I've found more interesting in the Street Fighter world in quite a while.
I'm the worst person for story concerns - I know the story, but only by having it slowly beaten into my head over time. I probably played a few thousand games of Street Fighter II, the original arcade game, before I knew what the story was. I'd walk away from the ending! I wasn't even concerned! I'm a bad guy on that front, but it looks quite interesting to me from where I'm at.
Strategy Informer:Now the series is at this massive point of popularity again, how do you feel about non-traditional entries in the franchise? There's rumours going around that Netherrealm are again looking at doing a story-based non-fighter with MK characters as they did before with Shaolin Monks - could that work for Street Fighter?
Seth Killian: I don't want to say no, but it's not something that's immediately exciting to me. We've done a bit outside of the range before, and it's not a bad thing - it's just a lot of what people are particularly fond of is not just the characters but also the moves. Then we've got to find a way to make these moves work outside of the Street Fighter context...
It's certainly possible. I think my brain is hard-wired to think of Street Fighter and the Street Fighter characters as a fighting game, but I think something like that could work - they'd just need to get somebody more clever than me to come up with the concept. The last one I remember was Street Fighter 2010, the side-scroller, which was... yeah. Not a champion. Final Fight is a great game, though, and that's very Street Fighter.
Strategy Informer:You guys seem like you have - since Street Fighter IV at least - had a game plan for where Capcom's fighting games are going. You obviously can't tell me everything you're working on as much as I'd like you to, but can you give us an idea how far you've thought this through?
Seth Killian: I, well... we have plans. There are always plans on the corporate side, and then there are realities when things change in the video game world - if there's new hardware, or new developments on the internet or whatever it might be. We have plans several years out. We've had meetings about 5-year plans and whatnot. The degree to which those plans then become reality is shifting sand.
I've been wrong before where there's something I will say that is actually true at the time that becomes not true! Things change internally a year later, which is why we try not to announce things too early until we're pretty solid and pretty far along in the plan, just because we don't want to create that kind of disappointment.
That said, we have a lot of plans for fighting games and some vision about where they could go. We're lucky enough to have different successful fighting franchises where we can explore different ideas and where the future might be and gauge consumer reaction and see what the fans are saying, what they like and don't like.
Strategy Informer:I'm guessing you've worked on your dream project in Street Fighter IV, but if you now had a chance to say to Capcom - or any other company - I want to do this - what would it be?
Seth Killian: Well, I have to say... I have some ideas that I'm not sure would work with Capcom. I get a little guarded about this, not because I'm so precious with my ideas but because I'm constantly worried that another person in this space... I see ideas that I had and would like to see in a game picked up by other people and I'm like 'No! No!' (Laughs)
They haven't ripped me off or anything - they come to it through fair thinking, but I'm very jealous of the fact they got it out of the door before I did. My dream projects unquestionably were Street Fighter IV and Marvel vs. Capcom 3. From there I had other projects I wanted to see - like Third Strike coming back.
I've actually gone down the list of maybe my top ten things I wanted to see happen in fighting games and crossed a huge number of those off the list successfully, which I'm very pleased about. I have a few other ideas I might like to see - but that's my concern - the more I talk about them the more scared I am they won't become a reality or others might beat me to it.
I'm sorry to be coy - I don't know if my ideas are the best in the world, but I'm going to be coy. I think there's still a lot of exciting possibilities in the fighting and or broader combat space. The one thing I've been happy to see is that a lot of other games which are not traditional fighting games have been getting much smarter about combat mechanics. I call those the children of Street Fighter.
When I dig into the teams, I find that a great number of people on the dev teams even at other studios that are not making fighting games play fighting games and a lot of Street Fighter.
Strategy Informer: I know the guys at Bungie have a cabinet, yeah.
Seth Killian: Oh yeah. Those guys are old friends of mine, they're great guys. Just watching people in general get smarter about fighting mechanics thanks to the influence of fighting games is great. There seems to be a high incidence of Street Fighter fans at those studios - and that's been very gratifying. I think overall the world is going in a smart combat direction and I think I have a couple of good ideas for the future!
Strategy Informer:I saw a great interview with you where you talked about some of the rejected character concepts for Street Fighter IV. As a last question, I'm wondering if you can throw up any other cool - or embarrassing - dropped ideas.
Seth Killian: Well, I got into a bit of hot water over that! They said 'We rejected it because we didn't want people to see it, then you told them!' Yeah - I mean, the other thing is later these concepts can come back, so I don't want to potentially reveal something which will show up later.
I remember there was an early take on Juri - she's not exactly the most modestly dressed fighter in Capcom history, but there was one that really was - to quote Street Fighter X Tekken - crossing the line. It was sort of an S&M, Spider-webby, lingerie Juri with err... yeah.
Definitely some S&M overtones. That's for my private files! No, I was like I didn't think we'd get it past the ESRB or PEGI or whatever other ratings people - some of the designers were clearly very excited about Juri.