Arc System Works has hit a homerun with Guilty Gear Strive. The studio bided its time, listened to fans, pushed the game back as necessary, and ensured that when it arrived on a proper Day One launch, it was as amazing as it could reasonably be. They pulled it off. With a simultaneous PS4, PS5, and PC launch on June 11, 2021, Guilty Gear Strive is experiencing one of the biggest successes ever seen in the franchise.
With that in mind, we recently got in touch with Arc System Works’ team to talk about various aspects of the game, including decisions that went into its Day One release, the character roster, Day One characters vs DLC characters, console priority, cross-play, and so much more as part of Shacknews E5 and the Summer of Doing Our Jobs. Guilty Gear Strive Director Akira Katano and Producer Takeshi Yamanaka were willing to oblige us and you can see the answer to ours and possibly your own burning questions below.
Shacknews: From the very beginning of Strive’s development, it seemed like a core priority of the game was to make it something altogether different from what has been done before. We’ve seen major changes in the flow of combat, wall-breaking, comboing, and more. Do you feel like you’ve achieved an acceptable separation from previous entries with Guilty Gear Strive?
Akira Katano: There is a culture among fighting game fans where it is normal to continue to enjoy prior titles in a series, so I do feel it is possible to achieve separation. However, because of the series' rich history, our ideal outcome we had in mind as we worked on the game was to create an environment where fans of the series can enjoy the same title as newcomers and communicate with one another.
Shacknews: For the longtime fan as opposed to the Guilty Gear newcomer, how much effort has gone into satisfying and catering to veterans versus making sure the game is as understandable and inviting as can be?
Katano: This may have been the most difficult challenge we have faced as a development team. We believe that the most important way to satisfy both new players and existing fans is by implementing an accurate ranking system. It is not our intention to have new players and veterans play the game in similar ways or to help new players stand a chance against experienced ones. We place value on providing different, yet fun experiences for players at all levels.
Shacknews: Looking at the roster, it kind of feels like a situation where you have so many characters and players have so many favorites that you were never going to appease them all with the starting lineup, but how do you approach that challenge and criticism? What distinguishes a character as an inclusion in the Day One roster versus one the team might use in-season passes and DLC after launch or one the team decides not to use altogether?
Katano: When trying to come up with the best lineup of characters, we considered how we can maintain excitement for the game for the longest time possible. As this project has always been intended for long-term support, we are planning on continuously adding more playable characters. For the launch roster, we first determined the total number of characters based on the development costs and time needed, and then chose the nine characters from the original Guilty Gear roster. We then decided on the remaining characters while taking their battle concepts, visuals, fan base, and their involvement in the Story Mode into consideration. Rather than the popularity of a character on their own, we valued the overall balance when you look at the entire lineup. This also stands for the DLC, which includes totally new characters - we always have the overall balance in mind.
Shacknews: Online lobbies have been a very contentious subject among players for this game. Will we see further extensive changes on how lobbies work after the release date or is this still a moving target for the team in further updates?
Katano: We implemented bug fixes and minor adjustments to improve usability for the release date, with the version from the Open Beta Test #2 as a base for the overall system. Further changes will be implemented via updates post-release, as we continue to observe the situation.
Shacknews: On the matter of character balance, even early, we saw some characters change up beta to beta to make moves or capabilities either stronger or less so. Has there been anything in particular that stood out to the team about a character in beta that demanded some of the changes we’ve seen? What in particular pushes a character across a line from having a surprising use or tactic to being broken, overpowered, or underpowered to the team? Were there any stand-out surprises that the developers discovered through offering the game to players through these beta cycles?
Katano: Because we made this title as completely "new", rather than a re-balance of a prior game, our priority when making these decisions is not so much balance as it is making sure that the characters' abilities match their new concepts as characters. We held the Open Beta Tests with this in mind and then adjusted the characters whose fighting styles and impressions didn't match our understanding of them. Also, for all of our titles, we have team members who used to be top-level players playing the game every day. The battle planners work on the game design based on the contents of their matches. However, as this goes on they get used to countering moves that are generally difficult to deal with. This creates a gap between them and players who only have experienced the game for a brief time, such as with the Open Beta Tests, which in turn often creates a barrier in communication with the players. We feel it was valuable to hold multiple beta tests in that it also helps minimize such miscommunication.
Shacknews: Guilty Gear really has been at the cutting-edge of fighting and visuals for years, but for a long time, we’ve continued to see Street Fighter and Tekken at the center of FGC conversation. Did it ever occur to the team that they were matching or even exceeding the standards set by those games with a new Guilty Gear? Is there competition at all amongst the team or does the effort to make something bigger or better than the go-to fighting games ever dawn on them?
Takeshi Yamanaka: While paying respect to titles such as Street Fighter and Tekken, we approach development with the goal to create games to a standard of fun gameplay, beautiful graphics, and innovation that surpass the other titles out on the market. However, we realize that there are many aspects of our work that cannot compare to those two major titles. There is not really a sense of competition within the team. The effort to make something better than prior fighting games is something all of the staff have in mind. I think that it can be seen that we are constantly challenging ourselves to new heights if you look at the evolution our fighting games have made over the past 10 years.
Shacknews: As the world becomes more connected globally, we see a lot more players on PC than we used to see. GGST also came to PC, but it could be argued that much of the game is prioritized towards consoles (the PS4 and PS5 specifically). Do you foresee a shift or balance of priority down the line as PC players continue to make their voices and presence heard or will Guilty Gear always remain a console-first franchise?
Yamanaka: We expect that there will be more PC players in the future. In general, I also believe our priorities and balance will change. As a company, we are hoping to provide our games on as many platforms as we can, in addition to crossplay between platforms, so that as many players as possible can play our games. Just as rollback netcode became a necessity for us with Strive, we foresee that crossplay will also become an absolute must.
Shacknews: When you look at where gaming technology has come from and where it is going in relation to how far Guilty Gear has evolved over the years and the consoles that are out now, where do you think you go from here? Does the new technology of next-gen systems present any opportunities you'd like to explore in future entries, updates, or content?
Yamanaka: First of all, I foresee that resolutions and refresh rates will increase, without a doubt. The standard is currently 1080p/60fps. However, in the future after 4K/60fps, I think that the standard will shift to 4K/120fps. With next-gen systems, we are now able to load a large number of assets due to the increase in main memory and VRAM, as well as achieve virtually non-existent loading times when switching characters thanks to the fast SSD. These improvements have also caused major benefits to Guilty Gear as a fighting game. It seems plausible that we could create something like a battle mode featuring fights between multiple players with almost no loading time.
Guilty Gear Strive recently launched and has already achieved an incredible open week, crossing over 300,000 units shipped globally - an amazing milestone for the franchise. With a full Season Pass of DLC characters already in the works and a mix of free post-launch content beside it in the form of things like the Combo Maker system, it’s arguably a better time than ever to be a Guilty Gear Strive player.
Stay tuned for further content like this Guilty Gear Strive interview during our Shacknews E5 Summer of Doing Our Jobs. You can find it all here at Shacknews, as well as premiering exclusive content, interviews, and features over on our Shacknews Twitch channel and on the Shacknews and GamerHubTV YouTube channels.
TJ Denzer posted a new article, Shacknews E5 - Arc System Works on Guilty Gear Strive, DLC vs Day 1, & platform priority
We've been playing Strive every night since it came out. Its just such an excellent game, easily one of the best this year and I game I can see myself playing for a long time