Here’s Part 2 of our two-part interview with Ignition’s Shane Bettenhausen, where we talk at length about the recently released King of Fighters XII. If you are yet to read Part 1, check it out here.
MyGamer: Something with Street Fighter IV that has been talked about is giving it an update. Way back when, Street Fighter II had World Warrior and Championship Edition and Hyper Fighting. Something that has been kicked around the internet is something like a King of Fighters 12.5, where it would do something like add some characters, bring back Kyo’s punching combos or Ryo’s flying karate chop and add new levels. Would something like that be more feasible than something like releasing downloadable characters?
Shane Bettenhausen: I think both paths are possible. They could release things piece-by-piece and release one character or update a moveset or they could release a Version B that has new things, or they could do both and release some things while they have a sequel down the line. I think there are some options and hopefully we can announce what SNK’s plans for the future are, whether it is downloadable content or a big update pack or a new game down the road. I think it would be great for fans to weigh in on that on our boards, whether they would rather get a pack of four characters and some new moves, or would you rather have a whole new game with new characters. I think different people would want different things. Me personally, I might want to do something like just buying that one character I really, really, really, really want and not have to get some guys I don’t like. As a fighting game fan, I wonder what the future holds for this game, whether it will get numerical sequels or more content. I think the future is really unwritten and I’m curious what the fans might want.
MG: For Ignition, how has it been working with SNK? Especially with the netcode, they’ve been totally hit or miss, with poorly-done ports of King of Fighters ’98 and Garou: Mark of the Wolves, a “pretty good” Fatal Fury Special and a really good King of Fighters Neowave back on the original Xbox. Is SNK really capable of making a good online experience?
SB: I think overall, the experience of working with SNK has been really cool and interesting. I am an old school fan of SNK and even though they aren’t quite the same company who made the Neo-Geo, they still keep the spirit alive. They really do believe in King of Fighters and they poured their hearts into this. I’ve only been on board with Ignition for six months, and the game was already in the making for a really long time. I really wish that somebody early on would’ve said “hey, let’s use this GGPO.” Blazblue is really the first major release to use that netcode and it is so strong. It’s the strongest netcode anyone has ever seen for a fighting game. But hindsight is twenty-twenty, and we probably wouldn’t have had the same lag issues if they had went with that. It was really their decision and, moving forward, I think we can advise them that “hey, maybe you should use this GGPO thing.” I think, as I said, Japanese developers tend to think of the Japanese arcade market and Japanese internet connections and it’s a bit of give-and-take to make them understand the situation in America. Luckily, they’ve been willing to listen and together, we’re collaborating with them on solutions. I think moving forward and being able to be involved earlier and earlier is going to be able to help everyone.
MG: One of the bigger complaints from gamers has been with the sprites, and how they actually do look like sprites. Kids look at Blazblue and they see a game that almost looks like a cartoon. They look at King of Fighters XII and the see that Kyo has some really sharp corners on his pants. Could we see something like a patch that tweaks some of the graphics filters to make it look better people who don’t want to notice they’re playing a 2D game?
SB: I personally usually play on filter one or two, and I know people who like the looks of the raw pixels, even if they look jaggy. But I think that since the native resolution of the Blazblue and KOF sprites are different, it automatically makes them look different, and since the backgrounds are partly 3D it makes the characters stand out more. But outside of doing less blur or more blur, I don’t know what kind of other filter options would be available. But there are just some people who can’t get over how there is a little bit of pixel to these characters, which is unfortunate. There are just people who aren’t used to it and don’t know what a sprite is and how it’s made. It’s the nature of the beast. Those are sprites and you have to celebrate them. Personally, I think the sprites look good, even though when you do a critical counter, the characters may look a little chunky because the game zooms way in. People who didn’t grow up playing 2D games may be a little surprised by it.
MG: What has been the situation with the Critical Counters? How have people reacted to them and have there been many glitches discovered? Any balance issues?
SB: Surprisingly no, and that’s actually been a bit of a complaint because some people were expecting them to be like Street Fighter Alpha 2 counters where you could just kind of throw them out there for reliable big damage, and it’s not like that. They’re very situational and yeah, there aren’t too many naysayers. I think it’s a great addition to the game and it hasn’t really broken anything. The only glitch has been that Elisabeth versus Raiden glitch and a couple infinite combos. Those are a concern and we’ve been telling SNK-Playmore about them and that’s something we’re trying to get them to take out in a balancing patch. So for all the fans who find those things, make sure to upload your replays and we’ll pass them along. I think the game is going to continue to evolve.
MG: I’m going to go in a totally separate direction for the next few questions. I really, really love the King of Fighters XII Facebook page. Social media marketing is becoming a big thing not just in the game industry, but across all business in America. Are you going to do this for future games? Will we see this for the upcoming Samurai Showdown game?
SB: Yeah, King of Fighters XII was actually our test for that and we tried to see if we could keep the fan page and Twitter going. We saw that there was a huge KOF community already on Facebook and we wanted to be honest with them, give them information and keep them updated, and the response has been great. So with all our future releases, we want to be able to support fans. This has been a good learning experience, especially for an online game and everything we’re learning right now will help us iron things out with SamSho, so we hopefully won’t have to go through the same launch week jitters. But the response has made it so Facebook pages and Twitter will be even more common.
MG: In regards to this social media trend, especially in fighting games, direct publisher-fan interaction is on the rise of late. We saw Seth Killian on Capcom-Unity and Sirlin.net helping to hype the release of Street Fighter 2 HD Remix and Ignition did a lot to hype King of Fighters XII. Will this sort of openness become standard for fighting games?
SB: I think so. With no more arcades in America for the most part, a lot of fighting games lost the social aspect that should be a part of games that, by definition, put people against each other. These pages let gamers get together, talk about the game, and usually if you like one fighting game, you’re going to like more. You can meet people, trade stories and moves. Also, I’m a long-time fighting game and I’ve got to give it up for Street Fighter IV, because that really helped bring this Renaissance for fighting games. These kids who are twelve, thirteen years old now never had that arcade experience and we’re offering them a place to find people to play against and once the netcode issues are ironed out, we could offer tournaments to keep these games alive for a long time. It’s only going to get better, and the fear here is that people will buy the game, have a laggy experience online and get turned off. So we need to keep moving the community moving forward. We’re all fighting game fans here at Ignition so we know how important these things are, and we want to help the fan base grow for everyone from the hardcore players to the cosplayers.
MG: One of the best ways to gain repute with fighting gamers is to hold or sponsor tournaments, and we saw that happen with King of Fighters XII right before E3. Could we see that sort of thing for Samurai Showdown?
SB: Yeah, we really wanted to be a part of Evo this year but by the time I got on board, the official games were already announced and instead of holding an exhibition, we held our own tournament here in Los Angeles. It had a huge turnout and you can watch the videos online and the winner got an arcade cabinet. The tournament was actually organized by the Evo people and it was really cool to work with them. Next year for Evo, depending what games are on the docket for 2010, we would really love to be there. With SamSho looking to come out fourth quarter of this year, there’s not going to be an Evo before that, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we couldn’t have some sort of tournament for it. But since it’s an Xbox 360-exclusive Microsoft could help us organize official online tournaments where you play against Ignition or you play against the developers. So there definitely will be some SamSho tournaments either for real or online, and we definitely want to keep the community going for all these games.
MG: One of the bigger things thrown around lately is the idea of the “fan-friendly” company. For example, at Evo, they specifically called out Aksys, who published Blazblue, as a fan-friendly company. Is SNK actually going to step up themselves or are we going to get all our love through Ignition?
SB: That’s a good question. It’s hard for SNK-Playmore because they don’t really have their own United States representation, and we will be publishing these games for them. The fans might sometimes wonder “oh, does SNK care about us?” but I think here at Ignition, we’ve come really far with the community, trying to talk to them, showing transparency, talking to them as fighting game fans, letting them know that their say matters and listening to their feedback. We’re happy to help SNK-Playmore reach their fans and gain a global consensus. I have a background as a fan, playing Street Fighter II and all the old SNK fighting games, and playing on the Sega Saturn, all while working on the editorial side of the business, seeing how things work, andgiving me some good perspective. I think, in the next year, you should keep an eye on Ignition. We’re really open with the fans and we’re serious about building a fanbase. We really care about the fans, we want to make every game better than the last and we want to hear fan feedback. We’re open to suggestions and we’re learning from our mistakes, and we just hope the fans will be patient and bare with us.
MG: Anything else to say to the public at large?
SB: Thanks to everyone who has been supporting King of Fighters XII. It hasn’t been an easy first week, it’s been touch and go, but we’re listening to everything that’s being said and trying to get everything addressed. Keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter. We’re updating it every day as details come available and I look forward to fighting people online with my Ash.
And there you have it, folks. Once again, stick with MyGamer for your gaming news, and keep an eye out on Ignition’s upcoming titles, Samurai Showdown Edge of Destiny on the Xbox 360 and Muramasa: The Demon Blade on the Nintendo Wii.