Dead or Alive 4 Q&A - The Big Postmortem

Tecmo development whiz Tomonobu Itagaki chimes in with his thoughts on the outcome of his first Xbox 360 game.

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With beautiful, high-quality games like Dead or Alive Ultimate and Ninja Gaiden, Tecmo and its star designer, Tomonobu Itagaki, were among the original Xbox's biggest supporters. The company has now continued that support by throwing its weight behind the Xbox 360 with the late-December release of Dead or Alive 4, the prettiest and most feature-rich entry in the long-running fighting series. We caught up with Itagaki recently to get his thoughts on the outcome of his first 360 project, as well as on the recent updates that have been rolled out for the game via Xbox Live.

GameSpot: How do you feel about the way Dead or Alive 4 turned out?

Tomonobu Itagaki: Everything generally turned out as I expected, but I am surprised at the high percentage of people who are playing online over Xbox Live.

After playing hundreds of online matches, Itagaki came up with new ideas for DOA4 that went into the game's first big update.
After playing hundreds of online matches, Itagaki came up with new ideas for DOA4 that went into the game's first big update.

GS: Did you accomplish everything you wanted to with the game?

TI: I won't say that I was able to completely realize everything that I dreamed of at the beginning of 2005. However, I did the best that anyone could within the limits of human understanding, so that will have to be enough.

GS: Was there anything you wanted to include but just couldn't due to lack of time?

TI: No. Considering the stir that I caused around the world by delaying this title, saying that I still lacked time wouldn't be very funny at all (laughs).

GS: How do you feel about the way it was received? Do you think people have appreciated the fighting system?

TI: I feel it has been received quite well. I think that DOA4's versus combat is flourishing, more so than any other 3D fighting game in the world. I hope that it will stay that way for the rest of the year, and to that end, I want to continue releasing any online version revisions that are deemed necessary.

GS: What did you learn from the experience?

TI: To treat important things importantly.

GS: Did you get the reaction you expected? Did the lobby system get the reaction you had hoped for?

The lobby has made for an interesting addition to DOA4's online infrastructure.
The lobby has made for an interesting addition to DOA4's online infrastructure.

TI: So, what avatar do you guys like best? The original concept avatar was the alligator, and the original concept lobby was the jungle, but it doesn't seem as though either of these are actually very popular (laughs). This is unrelated to your question, but I originally wanted the avatars to be able to punch and kick each other even when they are still in the lobby. After all, this is a fighting game (laughs). However, once you go that far then you no longer know what the hell kind of game you were trying to make in the first place, and so in the end I decided to go with the current system. People are going to end up beating on each other anyway; I hope they'll at least be friendly in the lobby.

GS: What have you learned from seeing people play online?

TI: I've already played about 500 online matches at home. This is the first time since DOA2 that I've played my own game so much. It's really quite a fun game (laughs). Now, of course, what happens when I do this is I start to get ideas on how to make the game even more fun. This is the reason why I designed the structure of DOA4 so that any new data can be imported into the game as needed. However, the more I play, the more work I end up having to do, so if you think about it that way it's pretty awful (laughs).

GS: So that information you've picked up has influenced the recent updates for the game?

TI: Yes. My own thoughts as a player, plus the suggestions of a group of Japanese semi-pro gamers called the "Tetsujin," allowed me to refine the game.

GS: Why did you release the updates? What issues did you address in them?

TI: If you are a genuine gamer, you will know instantly when you play the new online version.

GS: How would you respond to people who say the game wasn't finished when it shipped and that these updates are "patches" designed to fix it?

TI: You must know that there are people out there who will say misguided things about whatever they choose to.

Coming as a surprise to absolutely no one, Spartan-458 has proven to be a popular character in online matches.
Coming as a surprise to absolutely no one, Spartan-458 has proven to be a popular character in online matches.

GS: Do you see the Xbox 360 and its online functionality as a way to keep games like DOA4 fresh? By introducing new content or balance tweaks?

TI: Of course; just look at what we have actually done.

GS: Will there be more in the future?

TI: There is a chance that we will continue managing the balance of online play if such a need arrives. I will also spend even more time with the game. By the way, the characters I use are Kasumi and Spartan-458.

In the US, Ryu Hayabusa is the most popular character. As the team that brought Hayabusa back to life in this world, there is no greater joy for us. Spartan-458 has been welcomed with open arms by both Halo and DOA fans. Last week I visited Bungie's new offices, and everyone involved on both sides were so incredibly happy that the collaboration worked out so well. It would be interesting to do a reverse collaboration next time around. How about shurikens vs. an SMG? (laughs)

GS: We'd like to see that. Thanks for your time.

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