Interview with Yohei Shimbori, Producer on Dead or Alive 6
I had the chance to meet Shimbori-san, Dead or Alive 6 producer at Koch Media in Paris.
It was the opportunity to ask him questions about the licence and future of DOA6, his vision of fighting games. I hope you’ll enjoy the long interview !
K. : Shimbori-san, I wanted to ask you about the state of DOA 5 now. Are you happy with it ? Was it successful for you ?
Y. S. : Until DOA 4, someone else produced the game. The franchise was kinda dead for a while.
So from this dead franchise, I started making small games and then we released DOA 5 and then the free-to-play version and we managed with that to get 10 million users to play this game, which to me is a pretty big success !
K. : What do you think about the free-to-play model when it comes to fighting games ?
Street Fighter V was quite interested in doing a model where you buy the game, then you can unlock characters with the money game, though the system was so unbalanced that it became a failure free-to-play wise. But what about DOA 5 ? Do you think that kind of model is worth it for fighting games ?
Y. S. : You did mention Street Fighter V, but I personnally don’t consider it a free-to-play game because you still have to buy the game first to access the free content. Our idea of free-to-play is that people who don’t have money can still be able to play the game without spending a yen or a euro, so that’s the biggest difference.
So to give an answer, the DOA 5 free-to-play version was successful, though to be honest, we know DOA doesn’t sell as much physical copies as Tekken or Street Fighter. They may sell 3 or 4 million copies, but we’re happy when we reach the one million mark. You have a different position on how to challenge yourself and the market and you’re more willing to do so when going free-to-play for example, as there’s more potential. And one of DOA’s biggest assets are its characters, obviously. Not only the characters themselves, but also their stylings. With the free-to-play model, we were able to create something tapping that edge we have and that’s what made that version successful.
K. : Do you think about making a free-to-play model for DOA 6 in the future ?
Y. S. : We’re definitely think about making it international ! Actually, we have cofirmed it for the East at Tokyo Game Show, but we’re still in the early stages, so you’ll have to wait for more details once it’s ready.
K. : Oh that’s nice !
Y. S. : We’ll first be launching the physical version and then you’ll get more details on the free-to-play version. The timing isn’t clearly defined, as we don’t know if we’ll announce it near launch or the day of launch. It’s still being discussed.
K. : What will the free-to-play version be like ? With a few playable characters every week or… ?
Y. S. : We’re still discussing that, actually. We’re still working on the Steam version, so we’ll focus on that first and then settle on the definitive model for the free-to-play version.
K. : DOA 5 had a Steam version. DOA6 is coming to PS4, Xbox One and Steam.
It’s a relatively new trend to have a fighting game releasing both on consoles and PC at the same time. The genre was really centered on arcades, then on consoles, but now we also have PC gamers joining in. What are your thoughts on the PC community ? Are they really interested in fighting games ? Have you seen a lot of DOA 5 players on PC ?
Y. S. : It actually sold pretty well on PC ! The times seem to be changing, to the point it’s something fighting games developers can’t ignore anymore.
K. : Players were sad not having the DOA6 beta on PC !
Y. S. : Oooooooh. Well the problem was that if the beta had been out on PC, people could’ve easily accessed the files and cracked the code, so that’s why we didn’t do it.
K. : You didn’t want to take any risks. I see !
K. : Are you thinking about having a season pass, like what Tekken 7 and Street Fighter V are doing ?
They are timed according to major e-sports events, like the Tekken World Tour and the Capcom Pro Tour. Are you thinking about doing something similar with DOA ?
Y. S. : So we’re not going to do something like Capcom does, but we’re definitely thinking about doing something on our own terms. Like Tekken and Street Fighter are the kings of the fighting game market and DOA’s more of a challenger, so you cannot win by doing the same thing that they do, by copying them. You have to come up with your own solution. An approach that seems cooler and that will appeal to gamers and make us catch up with the kings.
K. : By bringing something…
Y. S. : More awesome !
Y. S. : Yeah, maybe that sounded a bit too presumptuous, but the main idea is that we can’t just copy what they do and hope to succeed like them, so we need to come up with our own solution.
K. : I’ve seen in the game that you have an Esport mode. Can you tell me more about it ?
Y. S. : So in Esport tournaments, if you pause the game, you generally automatically lose the round. So in this mode, we disabled the menu button to avoid any accidents and you need to press the menu button much longer if you want it to really pop up. This is the first step. We’ll analyze over time what Esport requires and what sets it apart from private matches to add features later down the line.
K. : I was wondering if stage interactions could and should stay in the Esport mode. What is your opinion about that ?
Y. S. : So the stage interactions is part of the DOA DNA, and I think that’s one of the features the best players will keep in mind to get the uper hand. I’d be against removing them, even in a competition. Still, there are some stages with no interactions, so Esport officials could pick them for tournaments, but personnally, I’d greatly enjoy it if all the stages could be chosen. It’d create more variety in tournaments and make matches more fun to watch for spectators. Make them more spectacular.
K. : Are you planning on working on organizing tournaments in the future ?
I remember that around 10-15 years ago, DOA was part of big Esports leagues like World Cyber Games or even Championship Gaming Series with a lot of cash prize and also players belonging to Esport professional teams. At that time, it was nearly impossible to make a living from Esport, but some DOA talented players were able to do so thanks to the sponsorships.
Y. S. : We’d have to work together with the leagues, because working on our own from scratch would prove to be pretty hard. Someone in the company was a pretty big Esport player at the time, and he’s already in the talks with the leagues, as he’d really love to have DOA back on the scene, so we’re really looking forward to how that develops.
K. : It’s really cool that you’re already thinking about the Esport scene ! So I guess you’re already thinking about rebalancing the game whenever the community figures the game’s insides and outs ?
Y. S. : Yes, indeed ! If the players find something wrong, we will fix it as fast as we can, though listening to the community’s feedback will take some time, as they don’t know all of the game’s features yet. But if they find the game unbalanced, we will do everything to fix that, obviously. Then again, this will apply to things that are really unbalanced and not just complaints about things that can be countered by something that the player didn’t know about or figure out. It’s really difficult to find the correct feedback. It’s a constant investigation.
K. : Even if it’s great that development team and producers listen to the community, it’s quite hard to balance what is really right or not in these feedbacks.
And I think it can be wrong if we rely too much on the online community. Some of online players complain a lot without trying to find any solutions, sometimes they just don’t want to practice.
Something that happened recently that is unpopular towards the community, it’s that the Soul Calibur VI developers are balancing the game depending on the Online. If a move is too hard to block or escape online, then they would nerf it in a patch so the online players are happier. For example, Nightmare/Siegfried crouch throw that used to ring out, it doesn’t ring out anymore because too many online players complained they couldn’t tech throw that. Now, it doesn’t ring out anymore whereas offline players never complained about this for 20 years, it’s part of these characters movement.
It kinda made a lot of offline competitors in the community quite upset that the dev team listened to people that simply didn’t bother trying to learn how to counter these moves.
Y. S. : We’re very eager to get feedback from both online casual players and pro players, though we know we have some stuff even seasoned players will take time to figure out. Still, unless we hear about a huge bug that everybody complains about, we’ll always investigate before making any big changes to the game.
K. : I see. I just wanted to warn you about patching stuff based on complaints online, as they’re not always the most relevant ones.
Y. S. : Ah, thank you !
K. : And I saw that you have hired Master on your team ! He was such a great DOA Champion ! How did this happen and what is it like to work very closely with a member of the community ?
Y. S. : So Koei Tecmo has a very special structure in Japan, but not a big one internationally. And if you want to make it big in the fighting games genre, you need to have a pretty big structure in North America, but we didn’t have that, unfortunately. What we needed was someone that could speak easily to the pro community and negociate with the leagues and league officials. Someone that knows his stuff and that’s why we hired Master We’re really happy to work with him and are looking forward continuing that.
K. : That’s such a good idea ! I like Master’s personality and play ! (…)
So we’ve seen the roster and nearly everybody’s here, but what about Ein and Leon ?
Y. S. : We planned the story mode and all the characters that could fit within that story are here.
K. : But why were these two singled out, though ? Nearly everybody’s here !
Y. S. : Well, there’s another one missing. Gen Fu.
K. : Oh, I had completely forgotten him.
Y. S. : So Eliot will learn Gen Fu’s techniques in the story, so that’s why he isn’t there. As for Leon, his fight is over, so when he appears, it’s more as a guest than anything else. Personally, I would’ve liked Leon as a character, but, dot dot dot…
K. : As DLC ?
Y. S. : Maybe ? Maybe not ?
K. : Ein has this personality and fighting style and I don’t think Hitomi can replace him !
Y. S. : Well, when you’ll watch the story, you’ll see why Ein wouldn’t be there anymore and why Hayate’s there. It wouldn’t make sense from a stroyline perspective to have them both.
K. : Maybe as DLC, then ?
Y. S. : Maybe ?
K. : But there are some characters that don’t necessarily need to be in the story.
Y. S. : Well, some things might happen, you never know. It’s kinda hard to justify that. If it were set in a different world, you could have Hayate practising and have Ein come in and say “Hey, let’s fight !”, but that’s not possible in the main story. Right now, you only have the main story characters . We’re still thinking about adding new characters as DLC, though nothing’s quite set in stone yet.
K. : And what about a season pass ?
Y. S. : There will probably be a season pass later. Eventually.
K. : What’s funny is that like, in Mortal Kombat XI, the final roster is far from being announced, that they already confirmed a season pass with details given, which isn’t logical to me !
Y. S. : The thing is that Team Ninja isn’t that big. We develop what we can first with what we have, and so we can’t just announce a season pass out of the blue with content we didn’t even figure out. It’s all real time building and releasing ! Like, with Tekken 7, they announced Noctis from Final Fantasy XV quite quickly, but it took quite a while before they finally released him. I don’t know how or why the Tekken team managed to announce it that fast, but they can. We will first finish what we’ve started and then make announcements based on what we’ve decided afterwards.
K : So there’s a final thing I wanted to get clarification on, about an interview where a journalist didn’t understand what you meant and accidentally created controversy recently.
Y. S. : Oh, I see. In an interview that was published, they said that I say the game would be less sexy in consideration of the female players, which is totally wrong, because we know that female players in the DOA fanbase like to play strong and sexy women.
K : I do !
Y. S. : Thank you ! So yeah, there was a clear misunderstanding about any form of censorship or whatnot. It was also mentionned that Sony imposed some form of censorship on the PS4 version, which is totally untrue. All versions will be the same and it was a huge misunderstanding.
Coming back to the sexyness of the game, it’s on the same level as DOA 5, and there are some adjustments possible. We’ll take the community’s feedback to patch the game and making it more or less… Excessive, if need be. Like the extent of the deterioration of the clothes, that we can adjust fairly easily. What I’m saying is that we didn’t censor ourselves and stuck to DOA 5’s level, but the door’s open to adjustments if the community dislikes something. Please trust us !
K. : I do trust you ! Thank you Shimbori-san !
Y.S. : Thank you !