Fighting game fans have always had a lot to say about Street Fighter, but only now has their input fundamentally shaped the future of the series.
Street Fighter 4 may have revitalised the fighting game genre, but in truth it was never completely gone. Even after the turn of the millennium, when the craze faded, small communities formed around crowded living rooms, small almost-forgotten arcades and - occasionally - auditoriums to battle for supremacy; friendships thrived and new rivalries were forged.
These small communities taken together are called the Fighting Game Community (don't be fooled, it's more like the United Nations than the United States). The FGC is a demanding group that, no matter the beef of the day, loathes to see a pillar like Street Fighter lose an ounce of depth even for a pound of accessibility. For some, trading Street Fighter 3's exacting parry system for Street Fighter 4's forgiving focus attacks is a wound that still stings.
Capcom's solution to apprehension is to work even closer with the FGC on Ultra Street Fighter IV. Not only has it invited general players to submit feedback and ideas through online social channels, but it has canvassed high-level professional players for their opinions on balance changes and tweaks.
To ensure that the company maintains a strong relationship with the community that is the lifeblood for Street Fighter IV, Capcom has even gone so far as to recruit well known players and FGC faces. One such person is Peter 'Combofiend' Rosas, an accomplished Capcom Vs. SNK 2, Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 and Street Fighter IV player.
We spoke to Rosas, who serves as online community specialist, to ask how Capcom's working with fans and critics alike to build a better Street Fighter IV.
How would you describe the relationship between the team creating USF4 and the Fighting Game Community?
I'd say it's good. Many of the team members behind Ultra Street Fighter IV have more or less been a part of the fighting game community, surprisingly enough. Additionally, both David Hinds (Dawgtanian) and myself have been at each of the location tests in the US and Europe and have been getting feedback from the players directly.
It's this direct interaction with the community and the implementation of what players have wanted that has increased our relationship with the community overall.
Do you have a formal point of contact with the community? How do you keep in touch?
There's not just one person that I consult with, as no one person can speak for the entire community. I tend to see what the community as a whole is saying by checking various fighting game sites, in addition to Capcom Unity, to get a feel for their overall mood.
The way I keep in touch with the community is through Capcom Unity mainly. I try to answer questions in the "Ask Capcom" forum and through blogs as regularly as possible. I also use Twitter occasionally and attend events, where I get to talk to players in the community directly.
What makes the relationship Street Fighter has with its fan base unique - both in terms of fighting games and games as a whole?
I'd say it's the passion. The more hardcore players have a passion for their character and tie them to their identity. The less hardcore players have a passion for the character designs and for each of the world warrior's stories and use those as a means to relate.
Lastly, Capcom has a passion to provide players with the most fun, visually appealing, yet highly rewarding fighter out there. It's that mutual appreciation and passion that makes the Street Fighter bond so strong.
'Players, for the first time ever, will see they've had a noticeable effect on the gameplay and balance of Street Fighter'
How would you compare Street Fighter's relationship with its players now to ten years ago? Twenty years ago?
I feel that the relationship is at an all time high. When Street Fighter first came out 26 years ago, no one knew what to expect, so there was no relationship. Ten years ago, Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike was being played, but that game was developed internally, with very minimal, if any, feedback taken from the players.
With Ultra Street Fighter IV, we've taken player feedback from all over the world and integrated it into the game. Players, for the first time ever, will see that they've had a noticeable effect on the gameplay and balance of a Street Fighter game.
Can you provide any specific examples of design decisions that were made with community feedback in mind?
There have been quite a few adjustments. One, in particular, is Chun-Li's vitality. Although players weren't happy with her low vitality before, they kind of accepted it due to her strong defensive capabilities.
Ever since those capabilities were reduced in Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, it no longer seemed justified. We agreed and increased her vitality by 50 to put her more in line with the rest of the cast.
What's the biggest design decision you can think of that was influenced by the community? How about the most minuscule?
The community told us time and time again that the biggest issue from Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition Version 2012 was the advent of unblockables. To fix that, we added delayed wake up.
This feature now allows players to control how they want to get up after being knocked down. Those who were applying pressure now have to take the opponent's actions into account to maintain offense, whereas the set wake up times allowed for a one player game type element.
As for the most miniscule design decision, I can't point anything out as each of the changes that has been made to the characters and/or system resulted in a significant change for how players will have to approach Ultra Street Fighter IV.
How do you balance catering to the FGC versus welcoming more casual players?
The Street Fighter IV series has done a good job of welcoming in casual players. Ultra combos allow for a comeback factor as well as a cool cinematic, when used properly. Additionally, we've added fan favorite characters such as Rolento and Elena, who were both highly requested.
For the more hardcore players, we've made tweaks on attacks and frame data for all of the characters based on the feedback we've received thus far. It's ultimately those changes that the more hardcore crowd will notice as they compete for victory at the highest level.