David Sirlin has a hell of a lot of responsibility - it's his job to sort out the Xbox LIVE and PSN re-imagining of one of the greatest games ever - Super Street Fighter II. Not only is he making sure everything from the new HD lick of paint to the character rebalancing turns out perfectly, he has to keep the famously loyal and vocal Street Fighter following sweet. Here, Sirlin answers his critics in one of his most honest and frank interviews ever.
VideoGamer.com: Thanks for giving us the opportunity to ask you some questions regarding Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix. Let's begin with some background - could you explain your role on the development of the game and how you came to be involved in the project?
David Sirlin: Even during 2005 when I was Backbone's producer on Capcom Classics Collection Volume 1, I suggested several future projects to Capcom, big and small. Among them were redrawn versions of Puzzle Fighter and Street Fighter. I don't know how much my suggestions influenced Capcom's eventual decision to do both those projects, but once they were approved, it was only natural that I oversee design on the development side.
On this project, my role is directing the design of SSF2T:HD Remix. This mainly includes the carefully considered balanced changes to the new game, but there's quite a bit more as well. For example, I've really tried to sniff out any differences between the original arcade version and our HD Classic Arcade mode and get them fixed.
I've also managed to carve out a role for myself that allows me an agile, birds-eye-view of things. On this game (and on Puzzle Fighter) my goal is to somehow improve the game each day, doing either what seems most important that day or is the biggest bang for the buck that day. At one point this was making sure the button config screen was as quick and easy as possible. At another point it was working on an in-game command list that I think will help beginners a lot. Another was figuring out which network options we needed to support. I've investigated differences in speeds between the arcade version and our version. I've also pushed hard for a couple of little features that we can't commit to talking about yet, but I really want them. So although balancing the game is my main concern, I help in other areas and I do a lot of complaining until other people fix whatever my top annoyance is, ha.
VideoGamer.com: What's your take on the reaction from die-hard fans of the series to the changes you are implementing with SSF2THDRemix?
DS: It's been interesting to watch. At first, the reaction was pretty overwhelmingly negative. I was told more than 100 times from all sorts of people (and I mean that literally) that a rebalanced ST could not improve on the original. I think that was the knee-jerk reaction of a lot of die-hard fans, yet I just continued working on it during that time because I could picture these improvements in my mind's eye.
There was also a phase of misinformation where a lot of people didn't realize that they are getting BOTH the HD Classic Arcade game as well as the HD Remix game in one package. That calmed almost everybody down, but I see the HD Classic Arcade game as a bit of a Trojan horse. The 13 year-old game is awesome, and greater still with new HD graphics, but its existence is what allowed us to take some chances on the new HD Remix gameplay. As time has gone by and we've released more information about the game, I see that the fans are warming up, and even reaching genuine levels of hype about this new game.
The best indicators I have of what the "die-hard fans" will think is the playtest feedback I get from the Evolution tournament players who have actually played the game. Of course they have found problems here and there (which we've addressed), but so far every one of them has really enjoyed the new game. As it stands now, and I know it's very early to say, it appears to have even more of a fun factor and fewer mismatched fights than the original game. Considering how happy these tournament players are, I expect the hardcore fans in general to get even more excited as they learn more about the game. (And of course the beginners will be happier with things like Cammy's new Hooligan throw command.)
VideoGamer.com: What's your opinion on accusations of dumbing down?
DS: I think people who call a bigger timing window on executing a Dragon Punch "dumbing down" have vastly misunderstood what fighting games are about. I see Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo played at the very highest levels. I see it at the Evolution Fighting Game Championships which I help run in the US. I saw it in Japan at the Super Battle Opera tournament, and these days we have DVDs and online videos of high level play, too. So I can say with great authority that when top players are able to execute their moves all the time, the game still holds up well. I think people less connected with the hardcore scene think that if only Cammy could do that Hooligan throw every time she wanted, she'd be #1.
So the first myth to dispel is that giving more players access to doing special moves somehow imbalances things. Quite the contrary as it gets one of the barriers of entry for beginners out of the way sooner, and gets them to the real part of the game: the strategy.
The second myth to dispel is that fighting games are all about dexterity, so reducing the difficulty of some special moves means there's less to the game. Not so. Fighting games are about making a series of good decisions, tempered by your ability to execute. While the average player might think a fighting game is 95% dexterity and 5% strategy, that is hardly the case. Unfortunately, if you don't have *some* level of dexterity, you can't compete (and we've tried to relax that requirement), but after you reach a certain level of basic proficiency, strategy, knowledge, and reading the opponent are far more important than dexterity.
The third myth to dispel is that making special moves easier to execute leaves players with no nuance, and no ability to show off their execution skills. Your ability to manoeuvre to just the right distances for your moves (sweet spots) is no different now than ever. Your ability to use expert timing is no less important (for example, doing your Dragon Punch one frame after the opponent's so his invulnerability runs out first and you hit him). And there are still plenty of difficult combos in the game, tons of which I can't even perform. So accusations of "dumbing down" are as far off-base as you can get, because this game has plenty of nuance, is more inclusive, and puts more focus on strategy than ever before, not less.