Tim McDonald explores the mind of Tomo Ohno, development director at Arc Systems Europe, to discover what what the BlazBlue franchise is all about. In this interview Ohno discusses development of the game, its reception in Europe and taking the franchise forward.BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger has been a hit across the globe. Did you expect the level of acclaim the game has received? We do not develop the game thinking solely about commercial success. That is what our bosses are there to think about! In Japan we attracted female players and anime fans which are new for us – and we’re very glad we did. It’s really quite exciting to see all of those positive reviews from the press in the west too, and we’re especially pleased that hardcore players are finding details of the games satisfying. The art is one of the most unique things about the game. Regardless of the 2D gameplay, why did you decide to have characters represented with 2D art rather than 3D models, as many other fighting games have done? We wanted each character to come alive with a certain level of detail and have a certain warmth. 2D is still the better way to do that. It is not so much of 2D against 3D, but rather the best possible way to make characters come alive. Unlike other 2D fighters’ games, the characters were developed and animated using 3D model first, then later rendered into 2D to add extra detail, and to exaggerate certain movements. BlazBlue also has an extremely varied cast. How did you approach designing the characters and making them individual?We didn’t approach the cast as just ‘fighting’ characters. They are the inhabitants of the world of BlazBlue. When you go through the Story mode, you will see the depth of the world and the role each character has in the story. They are not simply 12 characters, for example one is the prototype of another, yet another is alter ego of another, etc. All of the background to the characters will not be revealed in Calamity Trigger; the story will develop and continue with Continuum Shift.Are there any particular favourite characters in the office?
Each character has his/her followers, sure. Producer Toshimichi Mori’s fantasy girl is Noel, Hakumen is his pet character since his young days. Tagger was designed by a body building fanatic. Each character was a labour of love for their designers. Arc System Works has a history of doing things differently with fighting games – in particular, your fighting games tend to have an in-depth story. How important is this to a fighting game, and why do you think we rarely see them in other fighting games?
For us, the Story is a way to make characters alive – not just an obligation to make the single player experience longer. The Story helps make you connect with each of the fighters. Of course you can enjoy the fighting without story as well, but once you experience the story mode, you will feel closer to the cast. One of the major problems with fighting games is drawing in new players. BlazBlue has made plenty of concessions to players new to fighting games, but do you think it’s enough to pull new players in?
We have been developing fighting games since the beginning of the studio, and that is what we do – not purely because it is a popular genre. The definition of ‘fighting game’ is very wide and there’s plenty more space to explore within, and outside of the genre. We have to continue listening to the market, how we can make better games, with broader appeal in Japan, Europe and America. Do you think that fighting games will need to change to attract newcomers? Are they in danger of becoming niche? Do you think there’s any genre of game does not require change?We do not think the fighting genre (or any other genre) is fully explored yet. The important things is to continue being creative. Continue innovating! How important is game balance to the team? Do you think there’s such a thing as a “perfectly-balanced” fighting game, and is this something the team attempts?One of the important aspects of fighting game is vs. play; you do not play with just the computer but with other person. Depending on the strategy each player applies, balance will change, of course.