A Chat With Tekken Series Director Katsuhiro Harada: Part 1

ttt3interview

With Tekken Tag Tournament 2 months away from release, the one and only Katsuhiro Harada (Director of the Tekken series) paid a visit to the Aussie Namco Bandai office. We gained the chance to have a chat with Harada to get the low down on all things Tag 2, working with the Wii U and why you shouldn’t skip on the latest iteration on a fan series favourite.

It’s been over a decade since the original Tekken Tag Tournament hit arcades. Why Tekken Tag Tournament 2 now as opposed to direct sequel to 6?

Well the original Tag Tournament was something that wasn’t planned. The sales team asked for another Tekken right away (after Tekken 3), and it was an idea that I came up with in about 5 minutes. So I was quite surprised it turned out to be so popular. Ever since then, a sequel was something the fans had been asking for. And even during Tekken 6 when we were developing that, some people said “It’s going to be Tag 2. Definitely, definitely.” And it wasn’t. Also the tag system itself is quite difficult to develop, especially this time, they wanted not just four characters, but four characters that could be on screen simultaneously. So that required twice as much memory and twice as much graphical performance. This took a lot of resources, especially programmers and such. We really needed 4, 5, and 6 to innovate the gameplay, add characters and improve the game mechanics before we were ready to come back to visit Tag. It just happened to be 12 – 13 years after.

tttintereviewpic2 A Chat With Tekken Series Director Katsuhiro Harada: Part 1

Time to get our Tekken on.

Now you’ve been quite firm on the whole topic of paid-DLC, going on record saying that DLC for Tag 2 (mainly additional characters) will be completely free, regardless if it’s on-disk or not. With that said, companies are obviously in the business to make money, so has there been a lot of pressure internally to implement a paid-DLC model?

This is a point that people often get confused about. I’ve gone on record about not charging for DLC, but specifically that it’s for characters, stages and techniques – these elements that are necessary to fighting games. And I’ve been saying this for about four years, even before Tekken 6. It’s not that I’m opposed to DLC as a whole or paid-DLC, as there are some instances where it might be a good idea. And you know for the essential items that I just mentioned, that probably won’t change in the future either. But there are some items for example, like music from past Tekken’s, similar to how you can buy your favourite songs on iTunes. We might make that available so that fans can purchase soundtracks at an additional cost. And also recently with people playing on the PS3, a lot of the newer PS3 models can’t play past PS1 and PS2 games. So there’s been also of requests from fans that they want to see the CG movies from past games. So perhaps to make those available for paid-DLC are some options that people probably wouldn’t mind too much for.

But as far if there’s pressure or not, maybe there might be. I don’t really receive anything directly because I’ve always made it clear that Tekken, if you take each installment, it’s always been very profitable for Namco Bandai. There’s no other title in our company that can really compare to Tekken. So if any of the executives or higher ups has a problem with this business plan, I make it very clear, that well “Are there any other titles that sell more than Tekken that do paid DLC?” And if Tekken had a lower profitability then other titles, then ok I might think about changing my business model. But as long as I’m making a very profitable game I don’t see any reason to change the way I make it.

For example if Idol Master or Tales, two games that do charge for DLC, sell to 3-4 million copies in one instalment and make a lot more money than Tekken, then maybe we’ll think about changing the plan (laughs).

Tag 2 has a new mode called Fight Lab which helps introduce the basic mechanics and techniques of Tekken to beginners of the series. Do you feel fighting games of late are concentrating purely on the hardcore scene and neglecting the ‘newcomer’ market by not including something similar to Fight Lab?

Other games in other genres, perhaps it’s not so necessary to have some kind of mode like Fight Lab because they focus more on the atmosphere, the story driven elements and what not. For example if you pick up Call of Duty, you really don’t have a problem picking it up and getting into it as there’s not that much of a barrier. But for fighting games it’s kind of interesting because a lot of journalists will say “Fighting games haven’t evolved for quite some time.” But then if that’s the case, you should be able to just pick one up and play right away without a tutorial or anything, but obviously that’s not the case. You still need to learn all these different mechanics. For example in a story based game in another genre, although you’ll need that for the mechanics, you might want to have something that gives you background on the story if it’s a sequel to a series.

But for fighting games, since the game system itself is evolving with each installment, you do need something to introduce you to some of the newer mechanics which is why we included Fight Lab. Whether other fighting games have a tutorial sort of mode or not, I haven’t seen so many, but I would like to, especially for a game like Marvel vs Capcom. If you just try and jump in you’ll get destroyed by your opponent. It looks quite interesting if you are good at it, but to get there is another thing. That’s one reason why we included Fight Lab, the strategy involved whether it’s high level or not, there is a strategic element there unique to fighting games. So in order to enjoy that you do need to have a basic skill set and we wanted the player to gain that through Fight Lab. Not as being strictly taught to but enjoying this mode and naturally pick it up as they go on.

Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for Part 2 of our interview as Harada talks Tag 2 on the Wii U, Namco Bandai developing the next Smash Bros. and much more.

Many thanks to Shadowloo for the awesome photos of the event!

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