Seth Killian on joining Sony, PlayStation All-Stars, and Divekick

Capcom's former special combat adviser Seth Killian talks about his new position at Sony Santa Monica and his future in game development.

Sony announced today that former Capcom community manager and special combat adviser Seth Killian is joining their Santa Monica team as lead game designer. Apart from promoting Capcom's many fighters, Killian is also the co-founder of the Evolution Championship Series (or EVO), a yearly fighting game tournament held in Las Vegas, Nevada. We had the opportunity to speak with him about his new position, his thoughts on the upcoming PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royal, and indie fighter Divekick.

Seth Killian, Lead Game Designer, Sony Santa Monica

What is your new, official title within Sony Santa Monica Studio? What are your new responsibilities?

I'm the lead game designer for Sony Santa Monica's external group. That means I work on design with Sony's outside studios, which includes groups like Giant Sparrow (The Unfinished Swan), ThatGameCompany (Journey), SuperBot (PlayStation All-Stars), Queasy (Sound Shapes), and many more. The games I'll be working on are themselves very different, so I expect the responsibilities to change correspondingly between, for example, a fighting game and a platformer, but overall I'll be working with the teams on all design and creative aspects of the projects.

What prompted your decision to leave Capcom? After devoting so many years of life to that company I'm sure it was not something you settled upon lightly.

Capcom was (and is) very close to my heart. The teams there have been extremely gracious with me, and showed a great deal of trust in me to work on the fighting titles specifically. Towards the end of my time, that trust extended to titles even outside of the fighting genre, but to focus purely on the design side at Capcom would have required that I move to Japan full time, which wasn't a path for me (also, my Japanese is really, really bad).

Why did you decide to join Sony Santa Monica? Had you considered other developers?

I've been lucky enough to have a variety of interesting opportunities, but the decision to join Sony Santa Monica came down to the people and the projects. Frankly, I think they're one of the best-kept secrets in the industry--everyone knows their work from AAA giants like God of War to more personal games like The Unfinished Swan, but I don't think people realize so many of these great projects are coming through the same studio. Also, between the internal group working on God of War and externals like SuperBot, they're loaded with fantastic combat designers, who make me feel right at home. They speak my language.

What lessons from Capcom will you be bringing into your new role at Sony Santa Monica?

One of my key takeaways was that attention to detail--right down to individual frames, a super-crisp responsive feeling, or a piece of key music--is what can elevate a good or decent game to real greatness that people will remember or play for years. If you think about why Facebook paid a billion dollars for Instagram with so many other similar photo-sharing apps around, even if that's an extreme example, it's a very clear illustration of how important the little differences in products are to people who use them a lot. I'd like to apply that same level of craft in my future Santa Monica Studio games.

Why did you decide to stay in the video game industry? Do you think you'll ever return to your life as a teacher?

I've given a lot of talks at game design programs at different colleges and even had some invitations to teach game courses, and while it's something I'd love to do someday, I still feel there's a lot to do in making games directly. With more and different kinds of people getting into development, and easier access to the relevant tools, I actually think that right now is the most exciting time in the history of games.

Who do you see as the greatest competition for Sony PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royal?

Frankly, it's greatest competition is itself. There's inspiration from games like Smash Bros. and Marvel vs. Capcom, but it's a fundamentally different kind of experience. The core is definitely there, and it's got that infectiously fun quality that makes you want to play again immediately after a match ends (I haven't mashed so hard on the countdown timer since SF2!), so I think its success will come down to people giving it a chance to win their hearts.

You would obviously be missing out on a lot if you dismissed, say, a King of Fighters or a Mortal Kombat as "just Street Fighter with some different stuff," so I'm hopeful that people will take a second to really understand all the amazing stuff the SuperBot team has poured into All-Stars so far. It's got a fundamentally different approach to the genre in some respects, but one that creates a ton of interesting situations and new ways to think.

Between Persona 4 Arena, Injustice, SFXT, Smash Bros., and PlayStation All-Stars, many developers are turning to existing IPs to support their fighting games. Do you see this as a continuing trend, and what is preventing more completely original fighters?

A great IP is always helpful in the marketplace, and iconic characters can even inspire designers, but to me it's really the mechanics that define a fighter. From that perspective, some of the mechanics in original IP fighting games are actually more conservative than the sequels or the games using licenses. All-Stars definitely has a lot of fan-service IP from the Sony universe, but it's core gameplay is something we haven't seen anywhere before.

Harada-san recently responded to some very vocal fans through Twitter about their concerns with the Tekken voice actors. As someone who has worked closely with the community, where do you draw the line between what the community wants and what is best for the game?

You'll never be able to please 100 percent of everyone, but ideally those things are very close. The community in my mind are your biggest and smartest fans, so if you're doing something they really dislike, you should reconsider your position as a developer. If you still feel an unpopular direction is the best one for the game, ideally you could explain those choices to the people they affect, but you are responsible to do what you believe in your heart is best for the product. It's a relationship that requires trust in both directions, but as long as both sides are working with the best interests of the game in mind, something good always comes out of the dialogue.

What are your plans for EVO this year--both as a part of Sony Santa Monica and for you personally? Any potential matchups you're especially hyped for?

Justin Wong has been looking stronger than I've seen him in years and actually beat Daigo at CEO's recent Street Fighter finals. I'm a romantic when it comes to this stuff, so I'd love to see Justin face down one of the all-time greats in the final match and come out on top. It may be a long shot, but I'd love to see it, and it would be an amazing cap to Street Fighter's 25th anniversary.

So, Divekick, what do you think?

Great mix of simple controls, deep gameplay, conceptual elegance, and just plain fun. I think it's got a bright future.

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Discussion

0 comments
JudgementEden
JudgementEden

Ugh, why? I'm sure Killian is one of the reasons MvC3 was as unbalanced as it was. I really dont like that guy.

Mugiwara-Kitten
Mugiwara-Kitten

Where the hell is Crash Bandicoot and Spyro? They better be in there. If not, how the hell can you make a game called Playstation All-Stars and not have some of the biggest stars in PS history? And besides that, when will the people behind these clones see that you just can't steal the glory from the original (of course, I'm talking about SSB -_-)? "Different experience", my ass. 

FinalDuo1886
FinalDuo1886

I'm pretty sure the transition from Capcom to Sony was seamless, and of coarse  involve more money XD.

megakick
megakick

PS All-Stars? What a blatant knock off of SSB D:

Neosz-v2
Neosz-v2

Seth's gonna be working on PS All-Stars? Great, now every characters gonna have a teleport or dive kick of some sort

bongsyas_23
bongsyas_23

wong beat daigo? what planet was this in?

cjimrun
cjimrun

This is a huge win for Sony. While I'd have rather seen Seth remain focused on the FGC, at least he has found another place in the industry that he can do some good.

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

Seems Sony's picking up it's game.

 

Good to know that Seth chose Sony out of a multitude of job offers anyway, everyone is entitled to move on with their lives, and hopefully his new job role will be worthwhile to him.

 

Looking forward to see what the big man can do, from acorns come oak trees and all that :)

servb0ts
servb0ts

Sony now has an Escape Goat called Seth once Sony PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royal doesn't reach its expected sales mark. :P

SolidTy
SolidTy

Great pick up by Sony! :P

SadPSPAddict
SadPSPAddict

Good for Seth - hope to see his influence in some of those upcoming titles especially All-Stars Battle Royal!

Pete5506
Pete5506

Good Luck Seth, always been a fan 

firehawk998
firehawk998

Good for Seth. I hope he enjoys his time their. There are some people in the games industry that really loves working there, they dont see it as job. Judging from past interviews you can see how much Seth enjoys doing this. Sonys gain is Capcoms loss.

YEPEE00
YEPEE00

 seth bring back tohshinden.

Da4biddenOne
Da4biddenOne

We got Seth Killian, awesome. I will watch Seth's and Sony fighting developments with x-ray vision.

Alucard_Prime
Alucard_Prime

Good for him. He has done so much for Street Fighter and Sony is lucky to have him. 

painpas
painpas

This was a good to great hire for Sony. This is a just in time type move to make sure aswell that all stars ends up a really good game. Knowing that he has said that there are tournament players on the superbot team that he recognizes says it all. I can rest easy with all stars now. 

MetalxHealthx
MetalxHealthx

Shout outs to Maxwell McGee and Seth Killian, hope he does work with Playstation Allstars that would be sick. Evo Championships July 6-8th check out the live streams.

dr_jashugan
dr_jashugan

Good luck Seth! Hope to see you at EVO 2012. 8-)

ChiefFreeman
ChiefFreeman

glad he's with Sony now.  I rembember him demoing Resident Evil 5 on "On the Spot".

Pyro77
Pyro77

That's awesome news.  Seth has done so many great things in the fighting game community.  I was first saddened at first to hear of his departure from Capcom but this is certainly a turn for the better.  I wish him luck.  With all the fighting game talent gracing this game I can't help but become a believer as well.

tommyd79
tommyd79

i came for the rappa... thought maybe but no.

 

i know, i know.. I GOTTA BELIEVE!!!

monster637
monster637

Lets just say he is a really good dude and if higher up will let them he will do what he can to fight the good fight for the gamers, he tried at capcom usa , but capcom japan does not give 0 funks on what the usa division has to say, to bad jaffee aint there no more , them two together would make a insane team

TheArcade
TheArcade

Seth Killian is "too punchy" for Sony Playstation.

Paulf001
Paulf001

He must be happy now he doesn't have to hear it from all the angry fans and interviewers about on disc DLC in Capcom's games.

TheCyborgNinja
TheCyborgNinja

At long last, he can stop getting threatened by Mega Man nerds.

d3chu
d3chu

Nice get by Sony.

lmaocarrots
lmaocarrots

I'm glad to see some more people on this team. The connection to Sony Santa Monica may lead to some interesting character choices, and a guy who worked on Journey I can put all my trust into. Before they announce more characters for Playstation All Stars, I want an official release date and a roster count (knowing how many characters are in will make or break the anticipation for me).

gatsbythepig
gatsbythepig

"Capcom's former special combat adviser Seth Killian" -

2 questions

Seth who?

 

What is a 'special combat adviser'?

dogman7
dogman7

Sigh, Nathan Drake just became $5 DLC.

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

 @servb0ts If All-Stars is on PSN at a good price I personally think it may sell rather well.  Providing there's enough content there anyway!

King9999
King9999

 @gatsbythepig Seth is a former top Street Fighter tournament player, and is well-respected in the community.  SF4's final boss is named after him.

 

His role as special combat advisor is to provide insight on how to make fighting game mechanics better. He was also the community manager for Capcom Unity.

monster637
monster637

 @gatsbythepig Its the guy that knows fightng games on its highest level and trys to stop weird jap developers from putting in weird mechanics that angers there core base, kinda like them adding tripping in smash brother games

tilroy
tilroy

 @dogman7 you are stupid as hell and not funny"OH THIS GUY HAD SOMETHING TO DO WITH CAPCOM THAT MEANS DLC"

Elec_Man
Elec_Man

 @dogman7 Can't you read a job description? He didn't set pricing.

servb0ts
servb0ts

 @warhawk-geeby Well True, but Don't be surprised to see All-Star have Online Pass,  Disc Locked DLC, DLC characters, DLC Levels,DLC Costume/Colorswap & DLC Music. Milking this S*** out of this Generic Copy & Paste Nintendo SSB game.

 

 

King9999
King9999

 @gatsbythepig Also, I should add that he was behind the creation of the MadCatz TE stick, which basically legitimized that company.