With Marvel vs. Capcom 3 nearing its February launch, Eurogamer sat down with director and producer Ryota Niitsuma to get some last-minute details on one of 2011's most exciting fighting games. Read on for the latest on character balance, netcode and rejected superheroes, and discover how the game will pit rage quitters against each other.
Eurogamer: The game is out soon, so you must be finished balancing the characters. Which character proved to be the most challenging to balance? Any regrets?
Ryota Niitsuma: The most difficult character to balance and tune was Arthur. Arthur's original appearance in Ghost n' Goblins had so many perks that made the game what it was. The way he jumps, the way he moves, those had to be retained. But in order to fit all of those elements into a fighting game that works with other characters, there was a lot of work involved.
In terms of regrets? There are no regrets at all. Everything I wanted to do has been realised in this game. The only thing I could wish for is more time. Games like this – it's applicable to all fighting games – the more time you spend on testing and balancing the better the game becomes. There's pretty much no end to it. In an ideal world a fighting game is in production forever because it needs to be tested forever.
But it has got to a very good point already and I'm all in all very happy with the product.
Eurogamer: Arthur is an interesting one. Why did you include him in the game? How did you make sure he worked in Marvel vs. Capcom 3?
Ryota Niitsuma: One difficult point with Arthur was although he has to be a character of Marvel vs. Capcom 3, we had to retain the original franchise, Ghosts n' Goblins. To bring the character and everything that makes that character what it is, we had to almost port the atmosphere from the original game into Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
We have managed to bring up and realise the character himself in the game, but it also helped us by bringing the background, the Ghosts n' Goblins stage. With all these little things going on in the background it makes it more valid for Arthur's existence in Marvel vs. Capcom 3. I hope we didn't just take a character out from a game and shove it in, but really brought and recreated a franchise in Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
Eurogamer: Marvel vs. Capcom 3 will match rage quitters against rage quitters online. Can you tell me more about this system and how you determine who is a rage quitter?
Ryota Niitsuma: On network mode, most of the time you'll be playing with people who you've never met. Although there are rules, spoken and unspoken, some will stick to rules and some people just do what they want. Although we don't want to penalise anyone, we felt it was important that people who are playing as expected are not disturbed by those who don't stick to the rules. We felt those people with similar tendencies should be put together so they understand what this rule of online network playing is about.
If you're going to misbehave then expect to be treated the same way. But there's obviously a way out. If you repent and increase your non-disconnection rate, you will be back to the normal pool. It's not a penalty, just a warning and a reminder not to misbehave.
Eurogamer: How does the netcode compare with Super Street Fighter IV's? What modes will feature? Will there be lobby support? Tournaments?
Ryota Niitsuma: In terms of the network code, our concept was about repeatability. People are going to play again and again and again. We had to make sure it's comfortable playing it. Because I'm not on the Super Street Fighter IV team I don't know exactly what their netcode is like. But I know we have a lot more information, or we have more data transfer due to more characters and more effects. And actual game flow is a lot faster than in Super Street Fighter IV.
But other than geographical lags, I don't see any problem in our current system. It's speed of light, and maybe a little bit of influence from infrastructure depending on where you are. So, if you're playing from Japan against someone in Sweden there will be some lag due to the distance. But it's all quite satisfactory.
In terms of online modes, we haven't actually announced all the modes yet. But, again, it's about repeatability. That's our motto this time. We have three characters to pick and then you have to pick three different assist modes. We gather people who play 400-500 matches a day don't want to do this 400-500 times a day. So we've implemented a type of profile. You create your own deck and then you pre-select your characters and pre-select your assists – alpha, beta and gamma – and you can just have that as a slot. So you can just pick your combination when you want.
Eurogamer: Tell me about the meetings you had with Marvel to discuss which characters would be in the game. Did Marvel dictate to you which were to be included?
Ryota Niitsuma: When selecting for characters Capcom and Marvel both have different priorities. Capcom's priority is all about playability as a fighting game. So, no matter what the character looks like or what the character is, if the character doesn't fit in this fighting genre platform, we don't want it. That's our stance.
For Marvel, it's all about popularity. They want their prime characters to appear and boast their popularity even more than they have at the moment. So, we would have our wish-list, mainly for technical reasons, and Marvel would have their wish-list, with the exposure.
Those two lists will clash. There were a lot of discussions going on between them. Sometimes Capcom has to categorise all the characters into different play style. We categorised Marvel vs. Capcom 3 characters into four. One is a speed type, technical type, power type and standard type.
We tried to slot them into these and balance them out so we don't have too many of one, because then the game becomes a bit lopsided. Also, we had to take into account gender, because we don't want too many male characters or too many female characters.
We had a lot of factors we had to take into consideration as well as Marvel's wishes and Capcom's wishes. There's a lot of coordination going on and we had to be very diplomatic as well.
Eurogamer: Were there any Marvel characters they wanted in the game that you said no way to?
Ryota Niitsuma: In general Marvel was never top down. There were never times when Marvel said this had to be in the game. They were always up for a proper discussion before getting to any decision. It was often where Capcom suggested some characters and then they would counter suggest, and then we would counter suggest those suggestions.
One character we had to reject due to fundamental problems of the character's abilities. There was a Marvel character that controls time. If that character were to be in the game it would destroy the whole game.
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Tableaus of famous faces from both licenses battling each other. Each appears to be winning. Tremendous.
Eurogamer: Which character was that?
Ryota Niitsuma: I'd rather not say. That would mess up the whole balance of the game. Also, there were some characters that Marvel wanted, but we couldn't really approve because of overlap in types. There's a character in Fantastic Four called Thing. He is basically another Hulk to our eyes when it comes to this game, so we couldn't really have both of them in it. Also, Punisher overlapped with Chris in terms of their role and the atmosphere.
Because Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is all about variety, be it characters, effects, moves, we didn't want to have something that was too similar. For those reasons some characters couldn't quite make it into the game.
Eurogamer: You plan to release Jill Valentine and Shuma Gorath as downloadable content. Do you plan to add more characters as DLC? More costumes, new stages?
Ryota Niitsuma: We haven't made plans for future downloadable content.
Eurogamer: If there are two players, one who is a newcomer to fighting games and one who is experienced, which team of three characters would you recommend to both?
Ryota Niitsuma: For beginners, they would have to be non-technical. So, Dante, Super Skrull and Mega Man Zero. They're quite direct characters. You just input commands and they do things. They don't have things they could do or they might do.
As for experts, it's probably all of them. If you're an expert you probably know better than I do about what combination of what characters are the best. So even Dante, Super Skrull and Zero can be used in a different way when played by an expert. All the characters, I presume.
Eurogamer: Okay, then which team do you favour?
Ryota Niitsuma: My favourite team is Ameterasu, Dante and Wolverine. They're all speed types, and when you play these speed type characters a lot of things go on on the screen, and it makes me look really good, like a pro.
Ryota Niistuma is director and producer of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 at Capcom.