From matchmaking issues to rage-quitting and a lack of content, Street Fighter V has had a rough six months since its launch. The upcoming June update, however, marks a turning point for Capcom's latest fighting game, according to senior product manager Matt Dahlgren.
The update will include the much-requested Story mode and the introduction of a new character. But is this really enough to undo the negative sentiment towards Street Fighter V that has been building since launch? We discussed this with Dahlgren and associate producer Peter Rosas at E3 2016.
GameSpot: Ibuki was delayed a few weeks and is now launching alongside the Story mode. What was the purpose of that delay and what has it achieved?
Matt Dahlgren: I don't think we have complete specifics on what it allowed us to achieve. The character just wasn't ready to deploy at that time frame. We needed to ensure that the quality was going to be as high as possible and felt like the June update timeframe was better timing for our release.
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Capcom's CEO said that Street Fighter Vwas lacking in content and needed more polish. What does delivering on "more polish" mean to the development team?
MD: I think the gameplay itself was actually very polished. In terms of being a triple-A fighting game experience, I think the dev team absolutely nailed that. I think that is the core of what makes a good fighting game and why I believe Street Fighter V will stand the test of time. I do think that we could have had a stronger single-player offering at launch and obviously we ran into some hiccups with our online infrastructure. We've been working as hard as possible to deliver the best possible experience for those.
I believe that after the June update goes live with the cinematic Story mode, [Street Fighter V] will be a complete full offering and people will really see the vision that we had in mind for the game. After that point it's really the product that will live up to expectations.
Do you think that a Story mode and a drip feed of characters is really enough to be a turning point for Street Fighter V?
MD: At minimum the Story mode is going to be a turning point for our single-player offering. It will change the conversation and people will have a better vision for what we had intended for that part of the game. Our previous promise of an ever-growing service that we're constantly working on and delivering new characters as they're completed is still going to be fulfilled. I believe that will extend the lifespan on a competitive level and continue to attract new players.
My worry is that it may be too late for the game to bounce back. There's already a negative sentiment that seems to have solidified. I feel like you need to do something big and bold to sweep all that away and am not convinced Story mode is that. Do you have any plans beyond the June DLC to reverse the tone of conversation around SF5?
MD: We will continue to produce characters. We have a lot of concepts we are discussing in terms of large updates that we have in mind. I can't give specifics as to exactly what those plans are. Our top priority right now is addressing the single-player content and the June update is going to be the most robust update we've had yet. We believe that will breathe a lot of new life into the franchise and we, as a company, are going to have more of an open dialogue as to exactly what our fans want to see next. But we're very flexible on what our next large upgrade can be. It's just a matter of when you go through the creation process, it just takes time.
Has there been any discussions about accelerating content creation and release plans to give the game a shot in the arm as soon as possible?
MD: The dev team is working themselves to the bone, they're working as hard as possible. We're moving at a very fast pace. We would obviously want to get content out and in the hands of our fans as soon as possible, but we want to ensure that we retain the integrity and the quality level of the characters that we have released thus far.
Every character in Street Fighter V is unique and serves a very good purpose. The game is balanced very well and we don't want to rush content out of the gates just to have it out there. We're focused on ensuring the quality level is as high as possible.
I played the first hour or so of the Story mode and I was happy to see it was taking a page from Mortal Kombat's books with these cinematic story moments. I did have a couple of concerns, the first of which was I was watching more than playing. Can you speak to how much active participation people have across the mode, versus watching?
Peter Rosas: You have to take into account that you played the first chapter, which sets up the entire story. There's characters that are missing from that chapter, such as Ken, Laura, and others. They haven't fought their fights yet, so in later chapters they will be doing a lot more fighting. When it comes toward the end, there's a lot of fighting and less talking. I've played all the way through it and it really ramps up.
The other concern was the AI. Arcade mode was criticised for having braindead AI that didn't really fight back and it felt the same for Story mode. Do enemy fighters become more difficult as the mode progresses?
PR: It does get a little harder, but in addition to that, if you want more of a challenge you can replay it in a hard mode once it's unlocked.
I'm not convinced people will want to replay a Story mode a second time. Why wouldn't you have the first time be the most optimal experience that presents a good challenge? Where's the value in playing a second time?
PR: We want everyone to have an enjoyable experience. Going through the story and finding out what happens to all the Street Fighters and what their motivations are is the reward. I feel like that's what people want. The second time you go through it, you earn more Fight Money. You will get a big payout, so there's a lot on the line if you do it again.
MD: As a person brand new to the series, the story also functions as a way of giving the player an understanding of every character in the game. You cycle through the core roster at different intervals and it also serves as a preview of testing out the DLC characters. So the first playthrough isn't necessarily supposed to be a huge challenge; it's a broad overview of the universe. If they want a more significant single-player challenge they can go through it a second time.
Ono-san recently said that the Story mode is designed to lower the barrier to entry and get casual players. For longtime players, they might not understand why it's important to you to pursue this goal, can you explain it?
MD: Fighting games are a difficult genre for players to grasp. It's difficult in the beginning to just hop online, so providing a low barrier of entry with entertaining single-player content is a good way for players to get their feet wet for the first time and and get the confidence to transition to playing online or competitively.
Ono also said that if Story mode doesn't have the desired effect and get new casuals in, the team will come up with a new way to do it.
MD: Yeah, we're fulfilling our promise of a constantly evolving service. And if you look at most competitive platforms that are out there, they continuously grow over time. We're going have a look at more metrics on what our players want, we're not going anywhere soon, we're very committed to this product with future updates.
At what point do you let go of that fixation on getting a casual audience? It feels like Street Fighter V runs the risk of losing its core fanbase while the dev team is chasing a new casual one. In particular as there's Injustice 2, KOF XIV, and Tekken 7 that could steal some of that audience.
MD: I think you can focus on both [audiences] at the same time. I do not think that integrating more casual-oriented modes necessarily alienates hardcore fans. If anything one of the biggest success stories for Street Fighter V this year has been the massive growth that we've been seeing on the Capcom Pro Tour. Just about every tournament has literally doubled in size, including Evo, which has record-breaking attendance this year. That's a good sign of our competitive base being very happy with the product, and we're going to continue to support them.
This is still just the first year of our game. It hasn't even been out for a full six months yet, and we have a very long tail strategy in place. We plan to continuously build this up over time, and hardcore players are the core of our playerbase.
Sony has confirmed it will launch a new iteration of the PS4. You've previously said you're not going to release a Super or Ultra Street Fighter V, but doing so for this new console could be a second chance for the game. Have you reconsidered the idea of re-releasing the game in a more complete package?
MD: So, there's a ton of possibilities of what could happen. What's important is that we retain the promise that we made up front; that this is the only disc that you need to own. We're not necessarily against doing compilation packages or something else in the future, but if you are an early adopter of that first version of Street Fighter V, you can still get all of the content throughout its lifespan without ever having to purchase another disc. That, unequivocally, will remain true throughout the lifecycle of the product.
What would you say to the people out there that have Street Fighter V, but may still be left wanting. Then seeing Injustice 2, a new Guilty Gear, a new King of Fighters, and a new Tekken on the way, and thinking about making the switch? Why should they be confident that you'll be able to turn it around?
MD: First off would be: please check out our cinematic story. I think it is some of the highest-quality content that we've delivered for Street Fighter yet. And then if you're still wanting more on top of that, let your voice be heard. Give us constructive criticism of what you'd like to see next; this is a service we are building for our playerbase and we need to know what you want for the future. Please work with us collaboratively. We know some of you were frustrated up front but if you give us good suggestions we are listening and working as hard as possible to deliver the best possible experience.
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