What goes into making a Tekken character? And more importantly, what goes into making sure your favorites make the cut when a new game is introduced?
Tekken Project Producer Michael Murray spoke about this and more in a pre-TGS briefing on Tekken 8, as well as how the Peru Tekken scene was indirectly responsible for series newcomer Azucena. Naoya Yasuda, Chief Producer on the same title also provided answers pertaining to the esports side of the game.
This follows the recent news of a Closed Beta Test for Tekken 8, which comes with a whole host of features like a Ghost Battle mode, avatar customization and more.
Choosing The Roster For Tekken 8
Michael: The way we balance it is there’s several aspects: One is story, which is very important for Tekken and our fans. So which characters are necessary to propel the story forward? Obviously they have them in the game.
Then there’s also what do people expect from the play styles? So some of them can very technical like Mishimas where the inputs are difficult to perform, etc. Some are easier like Paul, where even you have a very destructive moves with a single inputs or sometimes there’s more timing based ones like Lucky Chloe. So we tried it to look at the different game play styles and provide a good coverage of that.
And then there’s also obviously popularity. So ever since Tekken was in the arcade, we could pull data from character usage and obviously on the consoles as well, we could pull to see who’s the most popular. We try to bring back or at least start the core roster with more fan favorites and try to even update it with people who are still missing. So that’s the running joke with Harada. “I don’t know if Ganryu is gonna make it this time”, etc.
So obviously popularity is a big thing and then also with the new gameplay mechanics, [we have to ask] ‘is there a character that really meshes well that would represent what we’re trying to do?’
So several of these elements just come together with trying to decide this roster so obviously we can’t please everyone, but we try to cover as many as we can because it’s not just the people who are playing him. There’s people who fans of the character’s backstories or maybe like the cosplay a certain character or etc. There’s just so many facets of the character in the setting that people like that we have to take into account. But that’s how we do it in general.
When you think of Tekken a lot of people might think of Tekken 3. You think of Capoeira with Eddie the first time you’ve seen this martial art or Hwaorang with Taekwondo, it’s always kind of associated with real martial arts, and Tekken 7 kind of brought that back with Lydia and Okinawa Karate, my favorite Muay Thai with Fahkumram. we saw people really love that. So one thing is there a cool martial art that’s real that we can represent in the game?. And then another like I said is a certain community with us, Middle East or South America, etc.
Another is just the total look of the character like I’m gonna use Alisa as an example. It is one that Harada came off but he just wanted a girl with a jetpack and chain saws on her hands. And the visual look of the character started it and we fleshed it out from there. Sometimes it’s like Lars where the battle team has a certain candidate they want to make the focus of a certain character. So I’d say roughly those are the different approaches we have, that we start with and then we kind of tap on elements of those different categories.
When it comes to characters like Azucena, how do you decide to include her?
Michael: So basically we were we have a new character slot that we have to fill and then we have various ways to go back. Sometimes there’s a special martial arts like for Lydia we wanted to do OKR kind of into that or sometimes it’s a special area like Shaheen for the Middle East in this case, I would say it’s Peru. They’ve always had a very vibrant Tekken scene down there. They have a very big tournament every year and they’re even part of the World Tour now. So we want to kind of recognize the fans, give them a character to identify with.
And at the same time, for me, another way we choose a new character is to be like, what’s the gameplay like? Is it speedy and fluid like Lars? Is it very powerful or technical? But this time we never wanted to do something tricky, which she’s also called a trickster.
So you see her dodging stuff when she’s from certain stance adoption, all kinds of techniques. So that was another kind of gameplay element that our game designer, it’s not tacked on to that original concept.
And then also, we’ve never actually had an MMA fighter. I mean we had Craig Marduk who’s kind of similar right but we’ve never had anyone it fights like a typical or current UFC or Bellator fighter, which is what she is she’s a a striker in MMA actually so it started off is trying to respect the fan base aof Peru, but then we took a few of these concepts in our other teams had battle teams or design team etc and kind of varied things together on top of that.
But it’s really just a interesting location and Brad and I’ve been to Peru several times and we’re able to interact with. Fans and get some ideas about what they would like to see in the game as well, which influence the location where they are, the coffee setting.
It seems like so far the people from Latin America really like her. So far they were happy to see a character from Peru. I’ve seen on Twitter at least, so many people glad to see something different.
Are you guys ever worried about playing too much into stereotypes?
Michael: Definitely. There’s a lot of stuff we don’t know. Obviously if you don’t live there, like Shaheen, we found out the hard way hardware through. I think if you’re Muslim, you can’t have gold jewelry. So we have to change some accessories.
So the little things that you don’t know that luckily we have some contacts in the community to tell us, hey, this is authentic. This is just a stereotype.
So we try to reach out and see if we know we can to trust the people in the community to give us some guidance, what we should and shouldn’t do. So I think hopefully we’ve done a pretty good job in avoiding stereotype.
Given Tekken 8 is sporting 32 characters at launch, what was it like developing them?
Michael: So our studio had a hard time trying to create all the characters in time for the game launch, but it just meant that we had to lock in the choices early on. So we gave them enough time. And also it’s not just about creating the characters and assets involved, it’s about balancing once you have it, right?
So before we had the arcade, which allowed us to do that, so we had to put in times since we don’t have arcade release this time, like the CNT and then the CBT, I mention being at EVO and ComboBreaker and events outside of that. So we have to give ourselves opportunities to balance the game at the same time we’re creating it.
So we knew we needed 32 or so because that’s what fans expect from Tekken. In other fighting games might get a pass, but our fans expected at least that. Right. So that was the number we set early on and just had to make the schedule work to achieve that.
What can you tell us about the plans for Tekken 8 Esports?
Naoya Yasuda: Of course, Tekken 7 has been quite strong with the Tekken World Tour and all the participants who turned up for EVO and these other events. And we went to continue this for Tekken 8 after.
One of the excellent things about Tekken is outside of the game all the stories that we have with the characters, etc there’s stories with players and as you’re seeing people from Pakistan or a Peru or some of these areas that people hadn’t focused on, yet come to the forefront through esports and be really strong there’s someone for example moved from Madagascar recently that you didn’t know about.
So we’re continually seeing new areas of the globe where we have these strong Tekken players and we want to keep giving them the opportunities to to be noticed like that. For Tekken 8, the next Tekken World tour is gonna be completely offline. But that said, we still wanna give many opportunities to players. So hopefully if there’s some way to do something else online.
That said, that’s just kind of the thinking at the moment. We still have we’re still in the middle of 2023 season for Tekken World Tour. I would still have the finals look forward to. As far as details regarding esports after launch, that’ll be another day.
What kind of Balance Patch schedule can we expect with Tekken 8?
Michael: Updating too frequently can invalidate your players because they can’t possibly always be up the speed on the latest balance patches, etc. So there’s a cadence I think people expect from the get that if you’re a main esports title. So it’s hard to say and we’ll just have to see how it goes when we release.
But I think that a track record with Tekken 7 should speak to that just somewhere we had balance patches that weren’t that frequent compared to maybe some other titles but there wasn’t anything really broken about the game and that’s because we have people to be on the title for twenty years, the battle director for example many famous former players and it’s very important for us to we have the Tekken World tour to to achieve. Right so I think that’s just something that we’re gonna have to wait to see, but if you can just trust us based on our track record.
Will We Be Seeing Balance Patches Mid-Season Of The Tekken World Tour?
Michael: Nothing said currently, but from past experience, I could say that could possibly happen. But we have a very strong team that is very closely working together, not just the Dev, the production, but also the sports people are working closely together.
So in the event that we did need to do anything like that, obviously a little bit proper time, we’ve always avoided or we’ve always tried to target Windows where it didn’t hurt players as muchin their Competitive season. So I think we have a lot of knowledge in doing that and we have very good teamwork in that regard. So I’m not concerned.
There were also changes to Special Style shown, it looks like your tools are going to get more varied. Could you talk a bit about that?
Michael: So arcade style is what we call the typical conventional controls scheme we have and then special style is the more accessible option when we’re talking about so up until then you had. Just special moves on the square button you had some low attacks on cross ends so you basically only had I would say maybe eight moves if you have those and they were designed to be the most accessible for a certain character cuz obviously each character is gonna have their different desktop five moves
So in trying to make it simple and accessible we made it a bit limiting, I think if it’s just that control scheme so that we don’t want just people who pick the game up for five minutes to play special style and move on. We want special style to be something that you can continue to use up until intermediate or whatever so we just wanted.
To give it a little bit more flexibility for really newcomers who were just day one on Tekken, they can still display like they used to you don’t have to do a directional but just the face buttons alone will give you pretty good results. For Intermediate players, they’re gonna enjoy a little bit more on have different options. So we would have four different options right if you say square and then the three different directional combinations. So it’s mainly more just more options for innovative players who still wanna use special style later into the game set
Tekken 8 is one of many games on display by Bandai Namco Entertainment at TGS, with a special program set this weekend to introduce more of the new features coming to the game. Our thanks to Michael and Yasuda-San for talking all things Tekken with us, ahead of the game’s launch on 26th January 2024.