Interview with Motohiro Okubo, Producer on Soul Calibur VI and Tekken 7
Kayane : Thank you Okubo-san for your time !
I have a few questions about the solo mode. The Soul Calibur series have been really focused on story and every character has a beautiful story. We saw them growing up and achieve their goals. Do you plan on having to develop a story mode similar to Soul Calibur I, or II or… Which Soul Calibur are you basing your story mode on ?
Motohiro Okubo : We wanted to go back to the era between Soul Calibur I et II with this new game… Well, it will not be specifically between, but it’ll be around that era.Wewant to go back to the concept of the clash between the Soul Edge and the Soul Calibur. And we can’t exactly say what will be in the game in terms of offline or solo content as we don’t know yet. It’s still in development, but what’s sure it’s that the game will take place during that time frame.
K : What kind of story modes would you do ? Because for example, Soul Calibur V had a two-hour long adventure and in Soul Calibur III, every character had its own story mode. Do you have any idea about what you would like to do ?
M.O. : As far as ideas go, we already have lots of them as well as finalized concepts, but we can’t talk about them yet. But we can already tell you that fans will love them !
K : The Story Mode is already finished ?
M.O. : *Silence*
K : *smile* Okay. So there are many, many Siegfried fans asking if the character will appear in this game, especially since Nightmare is Siegfried. I know you can’t reply to this, but can you say something to the fans. They’re harassing me, chanting « Siegfried ! Siegfried ! » *laughs*
M.O. : *laughs* I know, I know ! I’m really sorry, but I can’t say anything yet ! Though I will say that now that a few new characters have been revealed, we’ll continue revealing new characters, in time, so please look forward to it.
K : There’s only 20 characters at launch. I was wondering how it’d go with the balance in power between good and evil.
M.O : We cannot yet say it’d be 20 characters. We’re still working on that. Discussing it and trying to find new ideas. So no, it’s probably not going to be 20 characters.
K : I see. There were 20 slots, but I guess it’s not final, then. Will there be DLC characters ?
M.O. : *huge hesitation*
K & M.O. : *laughs*
M.O. : No comment ! But I will say that when we add new characters, we think about how they relate to the others. We take some real and careful consideration into balancing them so that the fights may be fair.
Since we’re going back to the time around Soul Calibur I and IIand the clash between the Soul Edge and the Soul Calibur, we already know most of the characters that can be included here. It’s also one of the deciding factors in our choice. There will also be new characters, like Grøh, who will play in integral part in this Soul Calibur’s storyline.
K : So Grøh won’t be the only new character ?
M.O. : *silence* You’ll need to wait to find that out ! *laughs*
K : I’ve seen the two new stages and they are very big. It’s pretty hard to Ring Out, even near the Ring Out zones… Did you limit them or is it just the stages there that don’t allow it ?
M.O. : I don’t know if I should say that, but aside from the two stages presented in the demo, there will obviously be smaller stages.
I know it doesn’t fully answer your question, but when we design stages, we think about things like Ring Out, breakable parts and things that could change the setting. And it’s also really important that players know just by glancing at them where the Ring Out zones are or whan can be smashed. We take great consideration into the visual cues and, like the characters, we’ll reveal more stages as time goes by.
K : So will this game have a stage per character ?
M.O : I can’t answer that, unfortunately.
K : You know that Noctis is in Tekken 7…
M.O. : I’ve already beaten him a fair few times ! I’m Tekken 7’s producer after all ! *laughs*
K : Oh yes, that’s true ! So yeah, when we saw Noctis, we saw that he had a sword and he fights like a Soul Calibur character… So how come he’s not there too ?
M.O. : *long pause* It might be a bit of an excuse, but the Tekken and Soul Calibur teams aren’t the same. And the problem lying with that is that, at the time, we didn’t think Square Enix would allow us to use Noctis. We too were surprised ! And so during the negociations part of development, we obviously couldn’t share any information with the Soul Calibur team, so even them didn’t know about it. Development on Tekken 7 began much earlier than Soul Calibur VI, so I guess that’s a bit of an excuse. Also, I must admit that I do think that Noctis would’ve fitted more in Soul Calibur VI, but that’s something we can’t change, unfortunately.
In the office, now that we have a playable version of Noctis, we take a look at the videos and the builds. The Soul Calibur team did think « Yeah, we really would’ve loved having him », but yeah, Tekken happened earlier, so that’s that. In hindsight, we do think he would’ve fitted better in Soul Calibur, but it still makes for a nice surprise for Tekken fans, who’ll love him.
But in any case, you can be sure that we’ll have a lot of surprises of the same caliber in Soul Calibur VI ! We can’t say anything more yet, but you’ll have some really cool characters !
And yes, this question kind of broke my heart ! *laughs*
K : *laughs* It’s fine, because you work with Square Enix and there exists a much more interesting character… 2B, from NieR Automata ! Please think about it !
K & M.O. : *laughs*
K : I really like NieR Automata ! Have you played it ?
M.O. : Yes yes. I liked it a lot too !
K : You know Yoko Taro ?
M.O. : I know him… But I won’t say anything more. *laughs* Nice try, though !
K & M.O. : *laughs*
K : Some fans are asking about Star Wars characters, again. But I’m pretty sure it’s impossible now, since Disney owns it, so the licence must be expensive. Before it was possible, but now… Can you imagine Star Wars characters in Soul Calibur ?
M.O. : *silence*
K : *laughs* I prefer 2B anyway !
M.O. : I’ll keep that in mind.
K : For the music, is Junichi Nakatsuru still on board ?
M.O. : Yes !
K : I really love his music !
M.O. : Yes, they’re beautiful !
K : We could hear some old Soul Calibur music, so are they going to be rearranged in the game, or will there be new tracks ?
M.O. : There are some new tracks, obviously, but I myself don’t have the final versions of the tracks present in the game… We’re still working on it, so whatever happens, you don’t need to worry. Nakatsuru-san is a genius !
K : I know, I know ! I’ve met him once !
M.O. : Oh, really ?
K : Yes, and I really love his music.
Some people are asking if there will be cross-platform. I know Tekken and Dragon Ball FighterZ don’t have it, but why is that ? Is it impossible on a technical level ?
M.O. : One of the reasons is that, even if it’s possible on a technical level, there are problems that cannot be solved by our studios alone. Sony and Microsoft, for example, would need to help us out.
K : So it’s technically possible, but it’s all about contract negociations ?
And second, it is technically feasible, but it isn’t easy. When you look at the frames on the platforms’ servers, they have a different rhythm to them. Depending on the platform, there can be a delay. And with games like Tekken, you need to make games locked at 60FPS, so it gets really tricky, really fast. If we make the slightest mistake, then the animations could become awkward and then you’ll be in huge trouble.
K : Soul Calibur VI will be available on PC as well. And you know that there is a frame difference in Soul Calibur and Tekken. The game is faster on PC. Is this something you’d like to correct for Soul Calibur, since in Street Fighter, there’s input lag on PS4 ? I know Tekken got corrected with patches. Will Soul Calibur benefit from the experience on Tekken to have better input lag ?
M.O. : We taught the Soul Calibur team everything we learned during Tekken’s development so that they may not repeat the same mistakes.
We use in both games the same engine : Unreal Engine 4. And during Tekken 7’s development, we tried reducing its imput lag to the barest minimum. Then again, we did encounter a few problems on the Unreal side of things that needed to be corrected.
Epic Games understood this problem coming from their engine and, after the game launched, they helped us a lot to find a solution and make a patch. Once it was finished, we had to implement it into the game and that took a lot of time, hence the fact it came out late last year.
Thanks to this patch, we managed to nearly fully eradicate this problem on the PS4 version of Tekken 7, to the point it’s now one of the fastest fighting games out there. As for Soul Calibur VI, it’s still in develoment. And since the patch for Tekken 7 already came out, we can use it as a framework to create an even better patch that can be incorporated into Soul Calibur VI.
K : So there are rumours abour Soul Calibur on Nintendo Switch… Do you think it’s a game that could fit on it ?
M.O. : So… When we started development on Soul Calibur three years ago, we didn’t have any information about the Nintendo Switch. This means we’re not actively involved into making anything for it as of now, but one day… Maybe…
To elaborate, we’re not actively working on it, but since the Switch is performing really well and its innovations can lead to new ways to play fighting games… We have some ideas about what to do, but we can’t do anything right now. But, maybe, if we get the opportunity to work on it in the future… We’ll see.
Also, the Unreal Engine 4 is compatible with the Nintendo Switch. Obviously, we’d need to make a few changes for the console to be able to make the games run properly, so we’ll need to work hard on that alongside Epic so that they can make the necessary adjustments. So, if we ever do a port, know that it won’t be an easy affair.
K : Is it possible to make a 60 FPS fighting game on Switch ?
M.O. : If we lower the resolution, then yes, it can be possible.
K : So there’s Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection coming to Nintendo Switch… Do you think about doing the same thing with Soul Calibur for it’s 20th anniversary ?
M.O. : That’s an interesting idea ! We’ll think about it ! Though the biggest problem with these kinds of projects come from the many guests from other I.Ps and… Well, okay, it’s a bit of a weak excuse, so you can scratch that answer ! *laughs*
K : We could make without Link, Heihachi or the Star Wars characters. Players love the old Soul Calibur games and really loved Soul Calibur II HD on PS3 and Xbox 360 !
M.O. : Well, it should be fine with Heihachi, since he comes from Tekken !
K & M.O. : *laughs*
K : Well, since Noctis is in Tekken, then maybe… He could be in Soul Calibur ?
M.O. : You really want Noctis, right ? *laughs*
K : I like Noctis. I’m a big Final Fantasy fan, so…
M.O. : Oh really ?
K : Yes ! A veeeeeeery big fan ! I went to the Final Fantasy Exhibition and I bought many Final Fantasy souvenirs, all in one luggage. I’m such a big fan.
M.O. : Okay, I see… *laughs*
K : Speaking of nostalgia, I really love the Music Box in Tekken, which played music from the whole series. And I remember that, in Soul Calibur V, you started to edit the music. In Tekken, the remixes were better… Do you think about doing something similar ?
M.O. : We’re actually still working on that. We’re currently discussing that with our american and european colleagues, trying to figure out the best solution. There’s still quite a lot to do on that front and maybe we’ll sell the soundtrack separately. We’re still thinking about it.
K : What do you mean by « selling the soundtrack separately » ?
M.O. : It’s not set in stone as it’s only just an idea, but we’re thinking about putting the game’s soundtrack on CD and having it sold separately. Then again, that’s something still under consideration.
K : I remember Soul Calibur V had an O.S.T.
M.O. : It’s a whole other business ! We’re working on the game, but, if we wanted to make an O.S.T., we’d need to discuss it with our colleagues. We’ve got some ideas, but nothing’s fully set in stone yet.
K : I remember Soul Calibur V’s was recorded with a live orchestra. Do you think about doing the same with VI ?
M.O. : I cannot say anything on that. Not that I’d want to keep it a secret or whatever. It’s juste that we’ve still got a lot of work to do and we still haven’t fully figured out the path that should take the game’s soundtrack.
K : Customisation is a very popular mode. Even Tekken did it after Soul Calibur’s customisation mode. Do you think about developping more things for the customisation mode ?
M.O. : Please be patient. *smile*
K : Team Battle was a very popular mode in tournaments, as the community worked together to make teams. It felt like the community knew adversity as well as friendship and rivalries, which made for good memories. But there aren’t any Team Battle modes anymore, so I wanted you to know that it’s something players look really forward to.
M.O. : I’m really sorry, but I sadly cannot talk about that. We’re really listening to the fans’ feedback and take notice. If the fans feel like asking for that, then we’d love to hear it from them.
As a producer, I know that Soul Calibur attracts many players from all horizons and each of them has their way of playing our games. Some are really into the character creation tools, while others prefer the solo content, the multiplayer modes or the tournaments… There are many ways to play Soul Calibur and it’s something we need to take into account Even at the start of development it was really hard to find some sort of balance to appeal to all these kinds of players and it’s something we’re striving for.
But, and that’s my opinion, we absolutely shouldn’t take into account all of the players’ opinions, otherwise there would be no balance and it’d become a game for anybody : we’d do a little bit of everything, and thus the overall quality would dip significantly.
K : Yes… But I want you to listen for 2B !
K & M.O. : *laughs*
M.O. : You told me that so many times by now I think it’ll stick to my mind *laughs*
You’ll need to get the other fans to chime in, then ! I’m not the only one to decide on those kinds of things !
K : Yes, I know. You have Grøh, who is the first Norse character in the game. How did you decide to make the character ? What were the ideas and which myths and stories did inspire you to make this character ?
M.O. : During the conception phase, what we take the most into account are the weapons, since every character has one. And we wanted to have a weapon that was never featured in the series at that point, though we wanted it to be tied to an existing culture and set of tales.
The visual aspect is also something that is truly important too. It needs to be a weapon that tugs at the players’ heartstrings and looks cool. That was the starting point of the concept of the dual blades that can be broken into two individual blades or reassembled as one.
At the start of the conception phase, we decided to watch a ton of movies with the team, to get a lot of inspiration. Like « This scene and characters are so cool ! » We picked and chose some bits and pieces here and there, like everything related to slow motion, the way some characters dress or the flying capes… Movies were a big source of inspiration for all of us.
K : Have you ever thought about making a collaboration with anime characters ? I really think that Saber from Fate/stay night could fit in a game like Soul Calibur. We only see collaborations between games – Star Wars being the exception – but I’m thinking… Is it possible to do that in the future ?
M.O. : There are a lot of ideas and possibilities with these kinds of collaborations, so don’t mark it as an impossibility.
Even though Tekken and Soul Calibur fans are the same at their cores, what they expect from their games differ. There are a lot of possibilities as far as guests go, but there also need to be a certain sense of cohesion within the Soul Calibur universe for them to make sense. That’s one of the most important aspects, though the possibilities are fairly endless. No leads can be overthrown as long as they make somewhat sense.
K : I have one last question about what you said yesterday. When the characters are low in health, do you think about putting in a Rage Mode, with the possibility to do more damage with some moves ?
M.O. : I think it wouldn’t be a good idea to make the game more complex then it already is right now. Some moves will make more damages when low health, we are still balancing to define which moves for each character.
And as far as Reversal is concerned, we made it so that players may have a way to come back in a way that’s easy to understand. Then again, visually wise, maybe the life bar will sparkle… Or something. We’re thinking about making some modifications or visual tweaks. In any case, I don’t want the game to go overboard with complicated systems.
K : So the fact that the moves will make more damages when it’s low health, it’s not something you’d press a button to activate.
M.O. : No. I don’t want it to be like that.
Personnally, I think that, if you’re very low on health, you need to have a combo that can make more damage than usual.
And since there’s already the Soul Charge, we’re not thinking about doing something akin to Rage Mode. As a player of the game, what do you think about the Soul Charge ?
K : I’ve tried and I’ve seen the moves. They’re good, but I think they’re too safe. Because, when you activate it, you hit your opponent and it pushes it very far, maybe too far, so you can’t punish it and there’s no risk for doing it.
M.O. : Well, I think you noticed it, but time does stop to avoid him from running away.
K : Yes.
M.O. : Though come to think of it, maybe you’re right. The push back might be a bit too powerful, though the base concept made it so that it could be used as a defense mechanism. We wanted the players who get beaten up to have a chance of stopping the carnage and put a bit of distance between him and the opponent.
K : Yes, it’s a very efficient defensive tool. But I’m thinking that if you want to buff it, to make it more aggressive, you’ll need to adapt it for characters that prefer to be closer to the opponent, like Xianghua. She likes to be close, so once she’s close, she doesn’t want to push back the opponent. But characters like Nightmare would be happy to push back by doing it because there would be a perfect distance. And Nightmare is so fast in movement and his distance is very good, so I know that as a player who plays aggressive characters, I would be annoyed that he’d have another option to push me.
M.O. : The guys in charge of combat might think the same thing. I’ll talk to them about that and push even harder now that I’ve listened to the feedback of someone who knows the games so well !
There’s less and less development time, so there are things we can still change and other things that we can’t anymore. Still, I’m taking to heart everyhting everyone here tells me. What they liked and what they didn’t. It really important. Now obviously I won’t be able to follow up or look up on everyhting, but I regularly try to look at what fans think about the game, be it the ones who tried the demo here or the ones who give us feedback on the Web. It really helps us a lot, so please, fans, let us know what you think !
K : Oh they told me ! *laughs*
M.O. : You asked ? You asked them questions for me ? *laughs*
K : Yes, well it’s because they were already asking me « Please, tell the producer this and that », so I was thinking that, okay, I should make a post for people to ask me the questions I’d ask you, because they’re very excited to see all the trailers and all the gameplay and everybody envies me because i’m playing the game and meeting you. So I’m here for them too, because they really wanted to talk to you. And, it’s funny, because we’re like, talking about gameplay. They have some crazy suggestions about the Story Mode. I said that Nightmare is the same character as Siegfried. They saw that and were like « Can Siegfried be in the game too ? He has to be in the game ! » and I said, « Well Nightmare’s in the game, so Siegfried, we’re not sure… » and so they were like « Oh, my heart is broken if he’s not in the game ! »*laughs*
M.O. : As a developper, it’s easy to include characters from previous games, but that’s not really a positive in my mind. Some people won’t like it and, balance-wise, it’d lead up to some problems. Characters are a hard thing to work on.
K : You know, even if the balance isn’t really good, I think that they’d be quite happy to have Siegfried in the game ! *laughs* I’ve seen how passionnate and how much love Siegfried has.
M.O. : You can tell them that you did get your point across for Siegfried and 2B, though I can’t guarantee it’ll lead to anything. *laughs*
K : At least you know ! *laughs*
M.O. : Yes, I know ! *laughs*
K : Thank you so much for this interview !