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Dengeki Online End of the Year Interview with Seiji Aoki

Discussion in 'News' started by akai, Jan 15, 2022.

By akai on Jan 15, 2022 at 1:39 AM
  1. akai

    akai Moderator Staff Member Bronze Supporter

    Akai JC
    Kurita and kbj had a lengthy Dengeki Online interview with Seiji Aoki, producer of VF5US (VFes in Japan). This was posted at the end of last year, December 28, 2021. It covers a wide range of topics related to Virtua Fighter. The original article is in Japanese, but there is also a good twitter thread translation by GSK. Below is a full translation of the interview:

    Half a year in a blink of an eye!
    6 months have passed since the game was released on June 1, so how's it been?
    - I am surprised it's been 6 months. Maybe it is because I've been running at full speed that time went by so quickly. After releasing the game, we have added new modes, fixed bugs, and made adjustments based on players' requests. This is something we naturally do for service game titles. For the amount of updates we have made within the short time span, VFes feels like it is a service game title.​

    Is it a different feeling compared to Border Break, a game you were involved with in the past?
    - PS4 version of Border Break is a free-to-play service game title, so VFes is different in that sense. However, for VFes, I am always thinking of ways to make the game exciting such as regularly preparing DLC, regularly hosting tournaments, and running official and player-organized events. Because of that, I think VFes currently is very similar to a service game title.
    Does that mean the current handling of VFes like a service game was not the original intention?
    - VFes was released as part of the Sega 60th Anniversary Project. There was a time early in development where I thought of the game as a one-off title. But during development, there were more things I wanted to implement and consider. So I wanted to make the VF project into a game service. Also, after seeing more people playing the game than expected, I did not want to just release additional content and end support. Due to some unfinished development of the game and players' request, I became strongly aware of the game as a service.
    Were you surprised by the voice of the players and the reaction of the community when the game was actually released?
    - Simply, I'm happy the response from the players were great. As was expected after the game's release, many requests were made such as items from previous VF series and adding semi-transparent walls to the game. Unfortunately, there were some elements that we were not able to initially add to the game in time for Sega's 60th anniversary. However, I had planned to add these elements in a later update. For example, in room match mode there were some inconveniences to players. So while adding the team battle option, we implemented additional improvements. At present, I think we can respond to requests from our players to a certain extent. I am happy and encouraged that if we add an additional element to the game, we will be able to release it immediately.​

    You watch VF streams, don't you?
    - Of course. I don't comment much, but I've seen a lot. The development team has a big monitor that is just used for playing replays. After the second DLC was released, I was watching replay videos with players using the new items. I also quite often check out the streams on YouTube and so on. In addition, many people are actively hosting online tournaments. Not only by individuals, but even eSports organizations and local governments has contacted us about organizing events. I'm glad to see this type of response for the latest release of Virtua Fighter.
    The story goes back a little, about the semi-transparent walls, I think it is different from the arcade?
    - Yes, it's difficult to make the semi-transparent walls to be exactly the same because the hardware and engine used are different. There were various opinions about this during development. In the end, we decided to prioritize player's ability to battle with a semi-transparent wall display, and implemented the display as it is currently. We also had to consider the performance difference between the normal and pro version of PS4 pertaining to connection environment and so on.​

    What is a project that does not consider profits?
    Again, can you tell us the decision to make the game free for PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now?
    - As you know, the VF series has been dormant for a long time. Because of that, there is a lot of people who may not be aware of the series or has ever played one of the games. So the purpose of the reboot (restart) was, firstly, to get the game known all over the world again.

    - We wanted as many people as possible to play the game. So to remove possible obstacles that may prevent people from trying the game, we tried to lower the price as much as possible. Initially, we thought "How about 60 yen for the 60th anniversary?" as the price point. An inspiration for that was that we immediately offered Puyo Puyo eSports for just 500 yen making it a hot topic (laughs). Anyways, we wanted to make sure the price to play the game would not be a burden for players to try it out.

    - Meanwhile, in discussions with Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE), the option to put VFes as a PS Plus free game was given. So I decided to make the game free. To be honest, we didn't think about making a profit from VFes. This work was positioned as a tool for rebooting the Virtua Fighter series.​

    I am surprised there are projects that do not consider profits.
    - At least for projects I was involved in, this is probably the first project that the entire company did not consider sales as part of the decision to make the game. It was a dynamic decision made "because it is the 60th anniversary of Sega. Let's just get excited!" Thus, the project was allowed to proceed immediately. However, a project that does not consider profit is something I never had past experience with, so it was a difficult adjustment for me.
    How was the number of downloads and retention rate for Japan and overseas?
    - Retention rate is high in Japan. After all, the title was born in Japan and was a big title in the past. In the largely populated areas, Asia and western countries, many people are playing. The number of downloads was more than expected. Actually, the number of downloads was quite close to the target numbers predicted by the SIE "forecast team". The development team, including myself, thought of the forecast team's prediction: "I would like to reach those target numbers, but we won't reach it." When I was told of the number of actual downloads, I was a little disappointed for doubting (laugh). Still, it is a fact that I am glad I was wrong about and exceeded my expectations.
    Did you find it difficult to revive the series?
    - Yes it was difficult. I think the fact that no new work has been released for more than 10 years it was expected by us to not be easy. One of the purposes of this work was to measure the title's potential. As I mentioned earlier, the results show that more people than expected were interested. With this knowledge, it is now our job to think about what to do with this series in the future.
    Several DLCs have been released, how are the sales for those add-ons?
    - DLC #2 was released on December 8 and we only have preliminary figures for that. But the initial number of downloads for the main game and the number of active players is close to our expectations.
    The 2nd DLC were Yakuza themed costumes. What criteria did you use to decide on which character gets what costumes?
    - The selection was decided by considering a combination of factors such as fighting style, body shape, and voice characteristics. For example, three popular Yakuza characters costume we included: Kiryu, Majima, and Kasuga. In regards to Goro Majima, there were proposals to make his outfit for Brad or Goh. Based on the factors I mentioned earlier. I decided to make Goro Majima outfit for Lion. Of course, the choice was made also with the supervision and approval of the Yakuza development team.
    Sarah's Goromi outfit was a hot topic.
    - When releasing the preview, it was crazy. I was wondering if we should make it and decided we should for the impact. I think it is important to release some things that would be a surprise for fans. So I hope you enjoyed it.​

    I want to take measures that excite the community
    Pertaining to the handling of tournaments, are there any relationship to Puyo Puyo eSports?
    - Sega's 60th anniversary was the last factor that gave us the go ahead to make VFes. Going back to that time, Hideki Okamura-chairman of the Sega group and also chairman of the Japan eSports Union (JeSU), said, "In addition to Puyo Puyo, I want another Sega title for eSports". Certainly, fighting games and Puyo Puyo are easy to understand, and it is more efficient to develop two eSport titles than with just one. Still, as I've talked about it several times, it wasn't easy to make a new game. The desire for a second eSport title coincided with Sega's 60th anniversary project, which had been moving along on a separate axis. That is why I put "eSports" in the Virtua Fighter game title.

    - Returning to the main point of the question, the tournament management team of Puyo Puyo eSports also manages the tournaments of Virtua Fighter eSports mainly for the sake of efficiency. For two days in row, the team works on Puyo Puyo for the first day, then Virtua Fighter on the second day. As announced the other day, players can get a professional license through Virtua Fighter. I hope this will enliven the community even more.​

    What type of interaction will you have with the community in the future?
    - Amusement and game centers are places people can naturally gather together and a community can form from there. Since Virtua Fighter is an arcade-born game, I think it is essential to create a community based on its origin. That is the reason we released both an arcade version and PS4 version of VFes at the same time.

    - Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the timing was not good . The original plan was to invigorate the community through the arcades, to host tournaments with spectators at the events. It may be an old idea, but I think it is a prerequisite for the community to get together in a real way. There are things you can do online, but....
    Get together and talk about things that don't matter. Dinner together after playing the game...
    - That is the best part, isn't it? When I was in charge of Border Break, I attended an event at a store. Afterwards, we go together to a dinner party reserved by the store; and a player, who had been drinking, hit me with his true intentions (laughs). Without that opportunity, I don't think I would have heard the raw opinions of the players and provide feedback to the development team. I think that this is the role I am expected to play. Depends on the situation, but I want to do what I can. Because of the current Covid-19 situation, I feel a bit bad.​

    I would like to get your opinion about the sense of community and that brief time allotted at the end of each round to the winning player. There are various opinions within the player base about it. What do you think?
    - Is this about the so-called "corpse kicking"? It may be controversial for me to say this, but I am personally okay with that. After winning a round, the player can act freely and it is up to that player to determine what he or she does with that time. Of course, I do not recommend players to corpse kick at the end of a round; but it seems a little strange for the development team to tell players "don't do anything at this time".

    - This is a competitive game with winners and losers, so I don't think it's necessary to get along with each other after the match. In boxing before the actual match, the boxers bump and threaten each other. But when it comes down to the actual competition, they behave in a very sportsmanly manner. It seems a bit strange to me, but I understand the reasoning for that behavior.

    - Even in eSports, there is frequently a requirement for players to behave as a sportsman. I also understand the reason for that; but, I wonder if it would be different if the game makers forcibly regulate sportsmanly conduct.
    I see. What are your thoughts on the current fighting game market and titles?
    - When we started working on VFes, I researched various things about the eSports scenes of other companies' fighting games. Mortal Kombat is famous and popular overseas and we made VFes for the oversea markets (as VF5US). We want to be competitive for that share of the market. There is a history that fighting games originated in Japan, and Virtua Fighter is also the world's first 3D fighting game. I want to appeal to the world that VF is a true fighting game.

    - By the way, I think that the fighting game market is in an environment where it is difficult for new players to enter. This is true not just for fighting games, but for other long-running game series. This is an issue that all game companies need to deal with. It is difficult to make changes or adjustments to a game series' foundation. This is especially the case for fighting games when comparing it to other genres such as action games. We always want to make sure new games are easy for newcomers to enter. However, if we focus too much on getting new players into the game series, we can alienate the veterans of the game series...it's an annoying act to balance.​

    When the game series got more complex with VF3, we saw a return to the foundation of the game with VF4. What would you adjust or touch on in a future title?
    - As I said earlier, we need to get new people to try the game. So I don't think we can go in a more maniac (hardcore) direction. However, if we remake everything new, the veterans may feel "this is not what I wanted". I think it is important to have a balance between what to keep and what to change.

    - One point we want to consider is the game's theme. If the the percentage of veteran players is small, we will obviously tune the game to new players, and vice versa. Ideally, we will have a cycle of new players always coming in and gradually become veterans.​

    When making VFes, did you thought about making changes such as for the purpose of game balance?
    - There wasn't time for that. As I said earlier, the proposition was to release the game by June 1st. VFes project started after March 2020 around the beginning of the corona disaster. We really only had one year to make the game. So the truth is a remake was the only option we had. Yet, because it was only a remake, there were definitely some parts that was difficult to tamper with...I do want to make something new with game adjustments.
    And since it is a remake, people who have played the previous game can use that knowledge to their advantage.
    - That is true. I mentioned it earlier as an issue. From the perspective of the new user, it may be difficult for new players to match with the veterans. If you make the game completely new, everyone can start in an equal situation, so it will be easier for new players to enter. This is the strength and weakness of a long-running game series.
    If you have an opinion, don't hesitate to tell me!
    Are there any plans to release a Steam version?
    - It's often asked for...of course, we are considering it. The arcade version is PC-based, so it's technically possible. However, if the Steam version is to be released and the players are dispersed to different platforms, we need to think about cross-play. In order to realize cross-play, which have already been done for games of other companies, a mechanism is needed to prevent delay between platforms. There is a general demand to create an environment that will make it easy to compete on any platform. I think it is very difficult to achieve this though with game remakes.
    To what extent is future support expected for VFes?
    - Currently, we have a roadmap for both product and eSports development up to next year (2022) laid out completely. I would like to continue to liven up VF in 2022.
    Is it okay to expect that a new game will be made?
    - We were able to confirm the potential for releasing a new game. If we do make a new game, we need to think carefully about what kind of game we will make. If we make a new game it will take several years. So it is important to anticipate and develop a game based on the latest trends and the fighting game scene at the time the game will be completed. From now on, it will be essential to make something that is appealing worldwide, to consider not only the preferences of Japan but each country overseas. The things to think about are endless and complicated. It will no doubt be a thorny road.

    - Nevertheless, as I thoroughly investigate and analyze the situation for the new work, I am seriously thinking about its production. I am starting to have a vision of what I want in a new game. The basis for the next game are for the players who like Virtua Fighter and are enjoying playing it. We can't think ahead without the players. Therefore, I hope you will continue to enjoy playing VFes; and if we make a new game, it will be a game that meets the players' expectations.​

    Can you comment on the professionalization you mentioned earlier?
    - In the past, we have featured players as "iron men" (tetsujins) and "legends". This is the first time for Virtua Fighter to have official "pro players". I want players to participate with the aim of becoming the first pro players.

    - The entry for Season_0 (2nd) has just started. In addition to the FREE division, which has no age restrictions, we also have a new division for players between the age of 12 and 22 (U22). Furthermore, we have removed the previous system of hosting a lottery for the right to participate in the events--the infamous "0th round". This was an issue in the first Challenge Cup events and the new rule is that anyone can participate as long as they make an entry. Also we adjust the finals to be first to 3 instead of first to 2. We will host a tournament that more people can enjoy, wiping off the times where there appears to be lack of content.
    What do you expect from a pro? What kind of work will they have?
    - I can't tell you the details yet, but you can look at how Puyo Puyo is handled to imagine what the plans are for Virtua Fighter. Only two people will get a pro license this time in Season_0 Challenge Cup (2nd). After many tournament, we can hold a pro tournament with prize money and decide who is the top player.​

    In other companies' games, you can see league games where pros form teams and compete. Are you considering hosting such team battles?
    - That is a different kind of fun compared to individual competition. So, of course I would like to do it if possible. The team battle mechanism is already in the game.​

    Finally, is there anything you would like to say?
    - Pertaining to the feedback we received, we intend to respond to those requests gradually. If you feel different, please do not hesitate to tell us. You can do this through SNS (social network services like twitter) or through streams. Of course, we cannot respond to all the feedback we received. The development team will consider whether the request can be done. I think it is very important to convey what the players think to the development team and have a common understanding between them. It would be great if you could give us constructive opinions and suggestions for improvement and not just negativity (laughs).​

    Thank you.
    joanot, VFhayato, Chanchai and 10 others like this.


Discussion in 'News' started by akai, Jan 15, 2022.

    1. beanboy
      Wow! Good interview.
    2. MadeManG74
      I really think it's not that big a deal. They kind of solved this with VF4Evo already. Great single player mode and great challenge/tutorials.
      I don't think the key is trying to change the fundamentals of the game, especially with a game that can be as intuitive as VF, but if you want more casual and new players, you need to give them content beyond 'Go online and get smashed by hardcore players' or 'play a really bad arcade mode'.

      I'm worried they are going to go down the same path as every other misguided developer and just try to throw in lots of fluff, when they could keep the gameplay that people really enjoy and give great quality of life features and content that keep less hardcore players interested.
      joanot and masterpo like this.
    3. masterpo
      This is a "Business Model" statement. This really has to do with:

      • Selling VF as a Service (instead of a finished game)
      • Microtransactions
      • NFTs (Play to Earn) instead of (Play to have fun)
      • Battle Pass
      • DLCs
      • Simplifying / Streamlining Gameplay/Movelists in preparation for e-sports scene
      • Making the User Interface of VF similar to other fighting game in preparation for e-sports competition this means ( hit flashes, meters, etc)

      Yea VF is a skills based game. It really does take considerable time to master. Yes its easy to play, but requires time and dedication to master. So of course players that have been with the game for 5, 10, 15 years will have considerable more "VF Skill" than a new player. There is no way around that. Unless the game is watered down so much that previous experience, and pre-existing VF skill is no longer a factor in who wins or loses. This is where Seiji Aoki would like to see VFes go as an e-sport. So that anyone could get good enough to win at a tournament within a relatively short period of time.

      The trend for e-sports fighting game is to simplify and streamline the game by:

      • Either physically cutting down on the number or characters , or a have duplicate characters with just different skins. There may be a lot of characters to choose from but only a dozen or so fighting styles.

      • Reduce the number of moves per character. E-sports rely on a core set of moves that are common to all characters. Reduce and get rid of exotic, unique, weird moves for characters and replace it with a standard set of options

      • E-sports fighting games will tend to have similar on screen indicators (hit sparks, flashes, colors) that identify counter hit, block, damage, extra damage, side counter hit etc. They will have comeback mechanics, power up meters, and special move meters.

      The Business Model will allow the game publishers to monetize and squeeze money are the players through , seasons, new characters, character customization, stages NFT's

      Seiji Aoki's Virtua Fighter 6.0 will probably only barely resemble Virtua Fighter 5, or previous version VF.

      From this Interview there is no mention of:

      • Single Player modes (e.g Quest Mode, Event Square, etc)
      • Offline Tournament or Team Battle Modes
      • Remaining True to the original Virtua Fighter concept

      Once VF becomes basically indistinguishable from Tekken, why not just play Tekken. :confused:

      Those hit sparks added to VF5US, were the first step away from the classic Virtua Fighter presentation,:mad: I fear its just going to get worse from here:cautious:
      Last edited: Jan 16, 2022
    4. Adam Gibson
      Adam Gibson
      He said absolutely nothing of the sort, you are projecting.

      There's so much wrong here that I don't even know where to start. I don't have the time to go point-for-point but you obviously have a fundamental misunderstanding of what e-sports are, how certain games become e-sports and why people watch/participate in them. All of the most popular e-sports have had *extremely* high skill ceilings and a game that anybody could win tournaments in with little effort simply would not have reached e-sport status in the first place.

      Additionally, I read the article twice and didn't see NFT's mentioned anywhere so if you could stick to discussing things that are actually in the article, that would be great.
      Last edited: Jan 17, 2022
      masterpo, Blessy and MadeManG74 like this.
    5. masterpo
      @Adam Gibson

      In this instance I truly , sincerely , really hope that you are right and I am wrong. I so want to be wrong here. My post reflect my worse fears about the trajectory of the Virtua Fighter. But only time will tell. If we are very very very lucky then I will be proven to be wrong and you will be right. The best case scenario is I'm wrong.
      Adam Gibson likes this.
    6. Adam Gibson
      Adam Gibson
      It's not even that you're 100% wrong. For example:

      Will VF6 have hit sparks? Likely.

      Will VF6 have a season pass? Again, likely.

      Hell, I'll even give up some ground on super moves considering that they were introduced to soul calibur, and VF already has some form of meter management with shun-di. (I *strongly* doubt this will happen.)

      However, all the hyperventilating about how *Seiji Aoki is out to destroy VF with NFTs, and he's plotting to hold back old characters for DLC and the new characters will be palate swaps, and also the game will be simplified and all characters will play the same for e-sports balancing purposes* is just really unnecessary. If you read the interview, it clearly states that Sega won't go out of their way to make VF *more* hardcore, but are showing deference to series veterans which I think is pretty smart.

      Any new VF won't be here until four years from now at minimum, so please just take a deep breath and when VF6 comes out featuring un-techable 0-frame throws that you have to buy an NFT to use, I promise I'll be here on VFDC next to you making 1500 word posts about how VF sucks now too.
      Last edited: Jan 19, 2022
      masterpo likes this.
    7. masterpo
      @Adam Gibson :ROTFL:

      Well here is one of the triggering statements that I am hyperventilating about

      "a game based on the latest trends....."

      Now., if we're being honest, the phrase "the latest trends" coming from a game producer usually refers to either business model trends, or game architecture/presentation trends. From my perspective both renditions are bad news.

      For many VF players they would be perfectly happy to have VF6 be representative of the latest trends for fighting games 4 years from now:whistle: They would be excited for more exaggerated hit sparks, meters, come back mechanics etc. That would suit a big chunk of VF players just fine:oops:

      However many VF players adopted VF precisely because it was extraordinarily unique in comparison to other fighting games. And not only did it not follow the trends for other fighting games it set the trends that other games followed;)

      So I would have been much happier to hear Seiji Aoki say that: "we're going to innovate and take VF to another level and bring something new that sets VF beyond the other fighting games".

      The fact that he feels its important to "develop a game based on the latest trends" is extremely triggering and troubling for me and shows that he does not believe( and maybe never believed) that Virtua Fighter should be the leader, innovator, trail blazer, pioneer that it once was, but rather engage in the run-of-the-mill-monkey-see-monkey-do:( Seiji Aoki was on the AM2 team for VF4EVO, and other versions, maybe he alway wanted to add Hit Sparks to VF and was out voted because he was a junior member. Now that he's in charge.... well....:sneaky:

      And from a game content point of view.

      VF5FS had less content and was watered down from VF5. VF5 had less content and was watered down from VF4EVO. VF5US has considerably less content than VF5FS and to top it off it adds a poor man's version of Tekken Hit Sparks which literally ruin and is a significant and negative departure from the visual presentation and realism slant of the Virtua Fighter franchise. So when Seiji Aoki says:

      My fear is that VF6 will only resemble the game that we have come to know as Virtua Fighter.

      And under those circumstances I would rather just have RGG release a new fighting game and call it something else, and leave the Virtua Fighter legacy intact.:cautious:
    8. masterpo




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