RotI

When I first heard about Namco Bandai’s free to play arena fighting game, I was extremely skeptical of its quality. After all, here was a major league publisher readying a brand new intellectual property in the F2P market (never a good sign) as well as on the PC (even though Namco Bandai had previously ignored the platform in the past). So imagine my surprise when I discovered that Rise of the Incarnates had key members of top tier Namco Bandai fighting titles (such as Soulcalibur and Tekken) working on it. And whilst I still had my doubts when walking into the interview, Michael Murray (Producer) and Ryuichiro Baba (Director) were able to put a lot of them to bed, as well as answer a lot of my questions. Enjoy!

Obviously the development team has its roots in Soulcalibur, Tekken and Gundam.  Even though Soulcalibur and Tekken are fighting games, they’re remarkably different in terms of fighting style to anything that’s being show in Rise of the Incarnates.  What did the team hope to achieve by doing something that was so remarkably different?  And that’s not extending to different IP, but just in terms of different fighting styles…
(Michael Murray translates question to Japanese)
(Ryuichiro Baba responds in Japanese)
Michael Murray:  It isn’t really a fighting game, as I think you’ve noticed.  The roots lie more in the Gundam teams, which I guess isn’t that well known outside of Japan.  Although this isn’t Gundam it does share the 2-on-2 – which is the game play mechanic in which all the characters can do melee and shooting.  Plus it’s you and a teammate against two other people.  The main focus was to take that game, because it’s interesting, and try to pair it with an IP that appeals to Western gamers, because the Gundam license isn’t that popular outside of Japan.  Then the Tekken and Soulcalibur staff being involved is more about the quality of the game, the character design, the animation and such are things that they are able to contribute to the project.

Namco Bandai is a Japanese company.  Traditionally Japanese companies have always shied away from even touching the PC with a barge-pole.  Why has Namco Bandai changed its approach with regards to the development platform on this occasion?  And why do you think the PC is suitable even though the infrastructure is already there for existing consoles?
Michael Murray:  The time that the project started up was right when the PS3 and 360 were kind of trailing off, but PS4 and XBox One weren’t really adopted yet.  Since this is a brand new IP, it’s not like a Tekken or Soulcalibur where everyone knows it and will give it a try, we have to try very hard to get a large audience to pick up our game and find out what it’s about.  Obviously at that time Steam was a logical choice because there were so many people on the platform, plus making free-to-play eliminates that barrier even more.  So really that was the reasoning behind choosing PC and that platform.

Considering the fact that PC’s as gaming machines aren’t very popular in Japan, and also considering that games like Tekken and Soulcalibur have come out on Microsoft and Sony platforms in the past…
Michael Murray:  This game isn’t actually [being] released in Japan and Asia.  It’s just for the Western market.  It really wasn’t an issue because the PC, although not so popular in Japan, is quite popular [in other places] and especially in Europe.

RotI-screenshot

With the fights taking place in a post-apocalyptic setting, do the stages have destructible environments?
(Michael Murray translates question to Japanese)
(Ryuichiro Baba responds in Japanese)
Michael Murray:  There is a lot of destruction in some of the objects and things in the stage, not everything is destroy-able.  That’s not just done for cosmetic reasons effects, because it’s actually part of the strategy as some characters are very good at shooting and long range attacks, they’ll be hiding behind these obstacles.  If you’re more of an in-fighter then you’re going to want to destroy those objects to take away that option from your opponent.

RotI-Mireia Valentin

Rise of the Incarnates is a game that, as you’ve stated before, is coming out in the West.  Recently there’s been a bit of a Western kickback with regards to the over-sexualization of certain characters?  The way Mireia Valentin is portrayed would obviously be OK in Japan, but as far as the West is concerned, everyone is getting very politically correct, especially with the PC model being the way it is.  How is the game going to translate?
(Michael Murray translates question to Japanese)
(Ryuichiro Baba responds in Japanese)
Michael Murray:  Baba was just saying that there is a high level of customization so if people are attracted to the character but don’t like the outfit they can change that.  She did prove to be one of the most popular characters in the Alpha version actually, and you know personally for me that is kind of a Japanese take on the design I think.  Some people will like it, maybe some people won’t.  Then as you see with Brynhildr, one of the other characters, she’s female but she’s very boyish, not hardly any sexual attire at all so I think that’s just one character rather than the whole lineup.

RotI-Brynhildr

Going with the Mireia Valentin character…  Some people, especially with Assassin’s Creed, have argued that characters like Mireia Valentin are very off putting to females in terms of the expectations that people have on females in general.  With that being said, is the game being targeted to females and males, or is it a game to be targeted predominantly to males?  Because if that’s the case then what you’re essentially doing, and I couldn’t care less to be honest, but by having someone who is so over-sexualized you’re excluding part of the market because of what you’re depicting on screen…
(Michael Murray translates question to Japanese)
(Ryuichiro Baba responds in Japanese)
Michael Murray:  The main audience is actually in fact probably going to be early 20s male gamers.  That’s probably going to make up the largest audience just because of the nature of the game play.  However the game is going to be updated so there is a lot of chance that we can add new costumes for those type of characters if they prove to be unpopular with certain groups.  That was Ryuichiro Baba’s answer.

My answer is, I can see how that’s more geared toward a male audience, but Hollywood movies you often see women who are portrayed as both sexy but also strong and [audiences] aren’t necessarily turned off to those characters.  I guess it depends on the culture that’s playing the game, and the portrayal of the character itself.  I don’t know, we’ll see what they think.  There’s a lot of options to change the look of the character.  I wish we had some of the customization we could show you because it does change drastically the look of the character.

You’ve announced about five characters.  How many characters will there be in total for the game?
(Michael Murray translates question to Japanese)
(Ryuichiro Baba responds in Japanese)
Michael Murray:  Baba was saying that since it’s a brand new IP, and we do update the game as we go along, that we want to start off slowly to give people a chance to get familiar with the game play and the system itself, and not to be overwhelmed by the roster so it’s easier to find a character to start off with.  That was Ryuichiro Baba’s answer.

Personally, I think that because the characters are all quite different than each other, there is so much variety with the starting lineup that, I think they kind of stand out on their own and we don’t need a huge roster from the start.  And then once people learn to fight as the character, and then when you’re playing against them you want to know their strengths and weaknesses as well.  There’s not a whole huge volume of data to learn before you have to then jump into the game.  I think it’s a good starting point.

Japanese audiences love fighting games, yet this game isn’t coming out in Japan.  The PC isn’t really renowned for fighting games, whether it be open world or “3D environments”.  Even though you’ve mentioned as to how there’s a bigger user base via the PC, the fact of the matter is most PC gamers aren’t really interested in those kind of games, especially from a Western perspective. They love their Call of Duty‘s and what not.  There’s a reason as to why Soulcalibur and such don’t do as well as they used to do, because the market has moved on.  What steps is the development and production team taking in order to overcome those cultural barriers?  Not only from a geographical standpoint but also from a platform standpoint?
(Michael Murray translates question to Japanese)
(Ryuichiro Baba responds in Japanese)
Michael Murray:  The game actually isn’t a fighting game, it is kind of a new genre.

How would you describe it?
Michael Murray:  It’s got elements of both fighting games, but also equally as much shooting elements in third-person and first-person, because of the range that you’re going to fight at, using the landscape to your advantage.  These kind of things lend very well to people who can play shooters but will be able to take that knowledge and apply it equally to this game.  Some people refer to it as an arena-based game because it’s not a fighting game, and it’s not a shooting game, but rather a hybrid of both.  Baba was saying that in Japan people already recognize that because the Gundam franchise is so large, that they see this as the 2-on-2 action game, which is kind a new genre in itself.  It’s already established in Japan, and people will recognize that on the PC as well.  One of the reasons for making it free-to-play is to lower the barrier and to get people to try it out.  That was Ryuichiro Baba’s answer.

Personally, I play Steam games all the time and it isn’t just first person shooters.  I think Steam has a wide variety of different games available and I think people are more than willing to try new games, especially if it’s free-to-play.  They might tend to shy away from free-to-play games if the quality isn’t there, but I think we’re quite confident what we’re offering.

RotI-customisation

People will be able to buy new weapons and there will be customization options [as well as] “in app purchases”…  Will any of these changes have a direct correlation in changing the stats of the character?
(Michael Murray translates question to Japanese)
(Ryuichiro Baba responds in Japanese)
Michael Murray:  Baba was saying that it’s purely just a visual aspect to the customization that you can purchase.  So it just changes the look of your character, even the weapons it’s just a skin, it’s not like a whole new weapon or anything.  There is a skill customization, but it’s more like the perks in a first person shooter, so you power up one area but you weaken another.  A lot of care is taken into making sure there is a progression system there and people can enjoy unlocking stuff, but there is also balance to it– even if you power up one area that you like, say for example melee attacks, that might take away from your shooting ability and so there’s a balance there.  Let me clarify– there’s two types of customization which are skills, visual.  The only ones you can purchase are the visual.  The skill customization pieces come through playing the game and then they just drop as you play.

So they don’t carry over from one match to the next match?
Michael Murray:  They do carry over but you don’t purchase them.  You have to get them from playing, and they don’t make your character stronger they just tune it.  So say you have a character that’s balanced like Jedrek, if you want to make him more of a melee fighter you would just customize that, but that would drop the shooting [ability].

What steps are you taking to ensure that somebody who hasn’t played the game before, versus an experienced player, will have a “fair fight” in terms of match-making modes?  How do you balance the matches in terms of tiers of players?
(Michael Murray translates question to Japanese)
(Ryuichiro Baba responds in Japanese)
Michael Murray:  There is a variety of different game modes available– player match, ranked match, etc. so you can team up with someone who’s better to help you beat your opponent.  If you’re worried about starting off fighting against people who are much more experienced, then you can play the ranked match which matches you with people of equal skill.

Thanks

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