Peter Rosas, designer
Until 2012, Peter ‘The Combo-Fiend’ Rosas was just another Street Fighter tournament player. But when Seth Killian left Capcom, Rosas stepped in as community manager. He was given a dual brief: communicating both with seasoned fighting game players and a wider audience. Ultra Street Fighter IV’s community focus meant his role evolved first into collating player feedback, and then into development of the battle system and character balance, leading to a design credit on the final game. Here, he reflects on a very modern development process and the perils of trying to please all of the people all of the time. What was your approach to rebalancing characters? I know that there are tools that every character has to succeed. It’s just that some characters have more tools than others, and the ones that have the most generally do the best. So we tried to give characters more options. In the beginning, I went too hard in that direction. I gave them some really strong things. You’re trying to appeal to everybody. At the first location test, all the characters were just obnoxious. I gave everybody what they wanted and conservative players were at a loss, because characters were generally overpowered. And those that were overpowered [in Super Street Fighter IV:
Arcade Edition], a lot of people clamoured for them to be weakened, so we did that as well. When did you realise that you’d gone too far? Certain high-level players whose characters were deemed weak in the previous iteration would come up to me and be like, “Peter, I just feel like my character is too strong. I’m so sorry that I asked for all these buffs, because the character’s too good and I don’t want to win this easily. It’s boring.” And how did you ultimately strike the right balance? I tried to dial them back, but using the initial requests as a baseline. When something was truly obnoxious, we took it away. If it was beneficial to the character, but was implemented in a very strong manner, then we [toned it down] so they had new tools that weren’t overpowered but were useful and necessary. One of the more controversial changes was Dhalsim’s two-hit medium kick, a huge help to his keepaway style, which you put in and then took out. You have these characters that people have been playing, then you show them new changes and they’re like, “OK, I haven’t played with it yet. I don’t know how strong it is. I’m just watching videos.” Then it’s taken away before they can play with it and suddenly they feel like they’re entitled to it. We were trying something out
“If you make the proper read, you should be rewarded. That’s definitely still here; it’s just the reads are a lot harder”
– it was deemed for the greater good of the game that the character shouldn’t have it. Dhalsim players told us that he has a hard time fighting opponents when they get in close. That medium kick only made his good match-ups better; it didn’t address the different issues that Dhalsim players wanted to see addressed. The pace of Ultra feels slower. Is that the intent, or will things pick up once players adjust to it? The game definitely has a little bit of a slower approach, in that when you knock the opponent down, it isn’t an automatic win [because of Delayed Standing]. What players were experiencing was that one knockdown equalled a big burst of damage they couldn’t stop. So even though the pacing was the same, if I swept you once with Akuma, the match was over. Now if I sweep you with Akuma, I don’t get that easy victory unless I take into account Delayed Standing.
I’m not seeing, as yet, players really understanding how to use the new tools given to them. But that’s fine; the game just came out. I was watching Wednesday Night Fights and one player was adjusting his jump-ins based on if he thought the opponent would use Delayed Standing or not. If you make the proper read in Street Fighter, you should be rewarded. That’s definitely still here; it’s just that the reads are a lot harder and they’re all 50/50 instead of 100 per cent in your favour. Why did you launch a non-final build of the game in Japanese arcades in April? We wanted to get the game out, and had every intention of it being the final build, but the feedback we were getting was that some things seemed a little off. At the location tests out here in the US, everyone had three days or so to play, and you can only collect so much feedback in that time. But the Japanese players were really going in on the game, and the feedback we were getting led us to believe that a few things were needed to bring the game to that shine Capcom is known for. As a former tournament player, do you fear that head start means Japanese players will have an advantage over westerners at the Evolution Championships? I don’t think so. With YouTube and live streams, those guys are showing off everything they can do. If you see everything, the second you get [the game], you go into Practice mode and go nuts. In Japanese arcades, they don’t have that; they’re spending a dollar a game to play. With a dollar on the line, you’re not going to try fun stuff. If a player is really good, he’s playing to win and only practising serious stuff; he’s not exploring the character… American players can sit in Practice mode, learn new tricks, and keep them to themselves.