Capcom's Seth Killian Talks Super Street Fighter 4

Taking a break from the action of the GDC 2010 Super Street Fighter IV fight club, I spoke with Mr. Seth Killian, special advisor to Capcom and fighting game expert. We talked about Super SFIV and Seth revealed some interesting things, especially with regards to the skill of Capcom's QA team and why we haven't seen SFIV on the Wii.

Shack: For Super Street Fighter IV, a lot of characters that people thought would get buffs didn't get them. What was the strategy for rebalancing the game?

Seth Killian: For rebalancing Super Street Fighter IV, the overall approach was to try and improve everybody. We didn't want anybody that played a character in SF4 to play them again in Super and find that he or she is crappy now. We wanted everybody to be better.

Everybody has more stuff than they had in SF4. All of their core techniques still work. Most of the combos will work in 98% of the cases. Any combo that you loved in SF4 will still be present in Super. From there, we tried to give characters a choice in how to play. A lot of thought went into the new ultra combos.

A lot of characters got grapple ultras, which they didn't have before to complement their playstyle. In the original, almost all of the ultras were a larger damage version of a special move. Now, in Super, they're damaging moves, but they represent distinct playstyles. Chun-Li is the obvious example. She plays totally different now if you play with Kikosho, her ultra #2, versus her ultra #1.

There's a bunch of smaller changes to the characters. Priorities have been changed on a few moves. A lot of emphasis went into the new characters to make sure they were competitive. Hopefully not too good, but good enough to be fun.

That was really the idea: focus on the fun and not taking things away from the characters.

Shack: Why does Guile still suck?

Seth Killian: Guile is a tough one. Guile's had a long run at the top in the Street Fighter series, I'll say that. I don't feel too bad for the Guile players of the world. There are some amazing Guile players out there that do some incredible stuff with him, but I agree. All the charge characters have a hard time with the Focus-Cancel system. It's not necessarily their friend.

As you know, if you've played a lot online or otherwise: a good turtle-style Guile can still be successful. Guile's not a rush-down character so he can't get in your face and do the same stuff that other characters can do. A good turtle Guile is really going to wear you down. It's a mental game with him. In some of the previous Street Fighter games, he's been a dominant character. His techniques don't transfer as powerfully to the SF4 engine, but he's still a force to be reckoned with.

Shack: Did Capcom and the developers pay attention to character tier-lists when developing Super?

Seth Killian: They are very aware of those lists. Let me just say, for anyone that doesn't know this, the people at Capcom QA are killer. People are like, "Capcom QA didn't even know about this." Capcom QA knows about almost everything. Not absolutely everything because a million great players playing together will discover things that QA didn't know about. But the QA guys are no joke.

This guy Raoh, who is a Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike player, made a name for himself on the competitive circuit and did very well in Japan. He did very well in EVO here in America. He used to work at Capcom QA and wasn't even in the top 20 players on the QA team.

The QA guys don't enter tournaments so that's why they don't have reputations on the street, but they are unbelievably good at the game. If there was a tournament of all of Capcom QA against players around the world - I don't know how many top players would survive to the finals against the QA guys. It would be a bloodbath.

These guys are extremely good. They are very smart, strong players. So we know Sagat is stronger than a lot of the other characters. There's always going to be winners and losers in any balance chart. Nobody likes to hear that, but that's part of what makes Street Fighter interesting.

Difference in character strength is part of the nature of a SF game. It's something we don't try to avoid. Ultimately, in the current ranking charts, there are a few mismatches, but for the most part I think you'd be hard-pressed to find any other competitive fighting game with a closer balance across all the characters.

Shack: Have there been any netcode improvements to Super?

Seth Killian: So the netcode for Super SFIV operates on the same principles of the original. I think some improvements have been made to the netcode when the team went in and added the new online modes. The major improvement is that the search and sorting will allow you find better quality matches: those 5-bar matches that you couldn't find before or rarely found will be a lot more common. You're able to find really good connections and find good matches at a higher frequency.

Shack: Moving past Super, do you know what your next project is at Capcom?

Seth Killian: There are other projects, I'll say that. We're not ready to announce them yet. It won't be as long as you think and there's some exciting stuff coming. As far as SF goes, our focus is on Super right now. You don't have worry about another game in that series right around the corner. We definitely intend Super to have some staying power and stick with us for a while. It will have its time in the competitive sun. Capcom is reinvigorated on the fighting game front.

Shack: Does that involve new titles or remakes for say, Xbox Live Arcade or PlayStation Network?

Seth Killian: Oh, you're baiting me now. Too soon to talk about any of that, but I'll say this - there's never been a better time to be a fighting game fan. I hope Capcom really stays at the top of the pile. I'm really confident in the stuff we have coming up. It's extremely exciting to me and I hope its exciting to everyone else when they get to see it.

Shack: SF4 just came out on the iPhone. Are we going to see SF go to any more platforms? It's been a while since there's been a PSP release. The Wii had some success with Tatsunoko vs. Capcom.

Seth Killian: Honestly, the answer from any of the developers would be, 'We want to get Street Fighter 4 and Super Street Fighter 4 on as many platforms as we possibly can.' We know there are fans out there on the different mobile platforms. Certainly on the Wii, we tried to touch that audience with Tatsunoko, but to get SF there would be fantastic. The decisions aren't left to the producers. It comes from a strategy group that does analysis on market data and other things in that vein.

We have to make sure that the money is there in terms of development costs and what we think we'll be able to make on a project. We'd hate is to have a string of failures in the fighting game market and have to back away and do something else. I would hate that. I feel confident in the strategy so far. I know fans of some platforms feel we're being too conservative and I respect that. I would love to see SF there, but we'll see what the future holds.

Super Street Fighter IV will be released on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on April 27, 2010 in the United States for an MSRP of $39.99.

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