How SOULCALIBUR VI became the best fighting game in the franchise
From the beginning, Bandai Namco set out to develop the best SOULCALIBUR they could, which is no small task considering the franchise has released many beloved iterations over the past several decades. "After SOULCALIBUR V, it took us quite a long time to release another main entry in the series. As a franchise with more than 20 years of history, we had a responsibility to our fans to not only deliver a game that feels like a true SOULCALIBUR game, but also to exceed their expectations content and quality-wise. That was our key goal," the producer stated. To achieve this endeavor, the team set out to fulfill two specific tasks. The first was to deliver "a very responsive weapon-based fighting system." The sixth installment in the mainline series introduces two new fighting mechanics, which include Reverse Edge and Soul Charge. Reversal Edge was designed to equalize the playing field for novices, while Soul Charge was designed to provide more options for players to express themselves. "The Reversal Edge mechanic was our response to the common occurrence in fighting games where a beginner loses to an experienced player without being able to put up a challenge. We felt that occurrences like these tend to intimidate new players, therefore, Reversal Edge was created to address this issue. This mechanic essentially gives the players the opportunity to successfully guard against their opponent’s attack not by having prior knowledge about their high/mid/low attacks, but by reacting quickly. We believe that this way, the battles are much more enjoyable for both parties involved," Okubo stated. In regards to Soul Charge, he said it "was implemented to give players more freedom over their playstyle,” adding, “This mechanic allows the player’s character to enter a special state that gives them access to new attacks and abilities, but it also consumes a certain amount of the Soul Gauge, which is also the bar you need to activate the Critical Edge [special attack]. So, players must choose between dealing a large amount of damage to the opponent quickly or to have access to new attacks and abilities that might affect the outcome of the fight." The producer added, "We wanted to increase these kinds of strategic decisions that will shape a player’s unique play style." Considering gaming site Easy Allies noted in its review that "the fundamental fighting feels great and the new mechanics only enhance what was already excellent" confirms how Bandai Namco nailed the fighting mechanics. The second task Okubo said the studio set out to deliver was "a single-player mode that explores the depth of SOULCALIBUR’s unique world." Considering the franchise's illustrious history, characters, and lore, this was no small feat either. Thankfully, the game features two substantial story-based modes. The first is Soul Chronicles, which follows the individual journey of each fighter and features art coupled with fully-voiced dialogue from characters and NPCs players will meet along the way. The second mode, Libra of Souls, allows players to customize their character with a robust fighter creation tool and embark across an RPG-like world map. Okubo elaborates, "When designing this experience for the latest entry in the franchise, we were inspired by the first SOULCALIBUR’s Mission Battle Mode and SOULCALIBUR II’s Weapon Master Mode. We ended up with the new 'Libra of Soul' mode in which a player 'carves out' his or her destiny while experiencing exhilarating sword-play action. By giving players freedom to experience the world of SOULCALIBUR as they see fit, we felt confident that it would not only be a fresh take that series veterans would enjoy, but also bring new players to the fold." Considering GameSpot said in its review, "those that want to play alone will find SOULCALIBUR VI has some of the most substantial single-player content in any fighting game today" acknowledges that Bandai Namco achieved its second task. Guest fighters have long been a fun addition to the series. SOULCALIBUR VI introduces Geralt of Rivia, known from the long-running Witcher series. Heavily clad in armor coupled with two swords, the “White Wolf” is a natural fit for SOULCALIBUR. The game even features a believable backstory that involves portals, which allows him to enter the SOULCALIBUR universe. Despite this, incorporating the famed witcher wasn't a trivial task, "Although bringing Geralt over to the world of SOULCALIBUR was challenging, things went smoothly," Okubo stated. The producer revealed that the team had worked with developer CD Projekt Red to include him into the game, " we had the amazing support of the people who brought Geralt to life in the first place. Namely, the motion caption actor who performed Geralt’s movements for the Witcher series, who came all the way to Japan to give us his expertise." Bandai Namco did not take the witcher's inclusion lightly and stated, "The implementation process still took a lot of time because we wanted to make sure that our Geralt felt exactly like the one that people know and love. We achieved this by making sure that every single detail, such as his posture and the way his body moved was reproduced accurately."
Geralt wasn't the only character that the studio spent a lot of time with, however. With a fighting franchise as respected and competitive as SOULCALIBUR, the team worked hard to balance out the large roster. Okubo stated, "[This] was achieved by a meticulous process of internally playing the game over and over while fine-tuning various elements that constitute the gameplay." The developer also spent considerable time pouring love into each and every fighter so that no one's fan-favorite felt neglected. "When it comes to characters, the thing that took us the most time to achieve was giving each of the moves a distinct characteristic and unique flavor that would reflect a character’s personality and style." Bandai Namco even incorporated elements and dialogue that would flesh out the relationship between specific individual characters.
At the onset of development, SOULCALIBUR VI faced a big developmental hurdle to overcome. The game had to be developed long distance between Bandai Namco Studios in Tokyo and Dimps Corporation in Osaka, a hurdle that amounted to roughly 500 kilometers, but Okubo stated that Unreal Engine 4’s "data compatibility features more than made up for the distance between the two studios." While there have been numerous installments in the series, SOULCALIBUR VI is the first to use UE4, which Okubo heavily praised, “Developing on Unreal Engine 4 was a truly positive experience for the whole team. Thanks to the wide array of available tools, the project came together very quickly. It was a huge advantage for our artists, designers, and programmers to be able to create something, implement it, and directly see how it would look as a finished product. By having robust tools, we could concentrate on the planning and delivery of what was expected of a brand new SOULCALIBUR title.” The producer specifically highlighted UE4’s ability to help them achieve rapid development iterations, "We felt that being able to modify our project and see the changes implemented instantly while the engine was running was extremely helpful. This was all possible thanks to the Unreal Editor."
Okubo specifically credits UE4 visual scripting system Blueprints for facilitating the title's speedy development, "It would not be an overstatement to say that we used Blueprints for nearly everything. The exception was the core fighting mechanics that is unique to the series for which we did not use Blueprints," adding, "By creating a new build each time, a change or correction was implemented, we were given the opportunity to develop content much more quickly and efficiently than we would have otherwise."
The producer also praised UE4 for helping them achieve their graphical goals, "The artistic vision for the game was in line with the bright colored art direction featured in the first SOULCALIBUR game on the Sega Dreamcast. That is why the wide range of lighting and particle effects provided by Unreal Engine gave us the opportunity to bring to life gorgeously lit lustrous environments."
With the game releasing to rave reviews across PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, the producer also praised UE4 for facilitating the porting process. "Unreal Engine gives us the freedom to develop the best game possible on each platform without having to worry about any compatibility issues because it is a brilliant game engine that very easily adapts and optimizes our content on all systems," he added, "We really enjoyed working with Unreal Engine 4."
For more information on the game, visit the game’s official website.
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