For anyone who has worked on something for years, it can be hard to find new inspiration or breakthroughs. Yet, in the gaming industry, that is simply the expectation for developers, even for those working on storied franchises that have been around for decades. Thankfully, for Bandai Namco‘s Katsuhiro Harada and Michael Murray, the upcoming Tekken 8 provides a great opportunity to reinvent the fighting game once more.
Once the domain of hardcore players that have invested hours upon hours honing their craft, the advent of esports has given audiences around the world a closer look at the intricacies of competitive titles, and the Tekken series is no exception. With Tekken 8, the core element of aggressiveness plays a huge part.
“If you look at boxing or MMA, maybe at first you see the people circling each other or jabbing and then there’s some kind of instant where it changes drastically, maybe a counter punch or something lands and then the match just totally goes in a different direction. And that seems to be the most exciting moment in watching sports,” Murray said about the new battle system and the emphasis in Tekken 8 on pressing the advantage.
“Creating instances where it’s easy for stuff like that to happen, we’re hoping that it’s more exciting for the players but also obviously for the people who are spectating the game as well.”
A Different Beast
This new focus on aggressive play comes with its benefits, as detailed by our gameplay preview with Tekken 8, and for Harada and his team, it was always going to be a natural progression.
“Fighting games are unique and different, like if you have a shooter, you can’t block your opponent’s attacks. So what makes it different, it’s already kind of skewed towards a defensive game just because of the nature of the game itself. So all we did was to kind of bring it a little bit back so that people are more rewarded, or maybe you’re the defending player and you’ll see a chance to go to turn the tide,” he added.
“So it’s not like defensive players are not going to be able to enjoy the game. It’s just that we’re trying to make the game more entertaining and to kind of guide players into having more fun with it by doing these attacks. And also to make the game more entertaining to watch.”
The return of the Recoverable Gauge in Tekken 8 reiterates the point of having a good defence, a skill players will still need to master to stay in the fight, but only effective if you can mount an offensive of your own in order to recover the loss of health. This back-and-forth becomes more engaging, more involved, and tensions raised are evident even to the fresh eye of a newcomer.
Obviously, Tekken 8 is going to boast a roster of new and familiar faces, and as the gameplay front experiences a revolution of sorts, it was also important to make sure the characters themselves are being taken care of.
For Harada and Murray, each instalment has allowed the team to continue to iterate on beloved fighters, fleshing out their background and story, and tweaking them for the next battle to come, and the new cinematic presentation and graphical fidelity made possible working on Unreal Engine 5 are definitely helpful.
“It’s more about fine details about the characters and what makes them unique. Is it the spoken lines that they do to each other? Or the animations that they do before the fights? It sounds simple, but for Tekken 8, we have a lot of characters, so to not just gloss over it but actually focus very fine detail on each one, give them their spotlight and think, ‘okay, this is the kind of fans we’ve seen so far that really love this particular character. What can we do to make it even more appealing to that group?’ Because at the end of the day, this is a fighting game. It’s all about characters, and it revolves around characters and that’s our main building blocks of a game,” explained Harada.
The new coats of paint on the 10 fighters we got to use during the Tekken 8 preview are evidence of that labour of love, whether it be new looks or the unique characteristics that make them who they are, and this process of satisfying fans will only continue.
“Rather than making it photorealistic and then saying it’s pretty, it’s more about, and I thought the same thing making the game, was that you have to figure out what your fan base wants it to look like. And then you have to kind of translate that into how you portray the game. For a lot of people to feel it’s pretty, it’s really a lot more difficult than people think. And so obviously, you’re not going to get something that’s perfect for everyone but you try to cover as many people as you can,” added Murray.
Pressure to Deliver
Despite all of the success of the franchise, with Tekken 7 breaking the record with over 10 million copies sold bringing the entire series up to 54 million overall, the team is still not sitting on its laurels. The decisions to “redo all the models in the game” and to switch up the battle system were all meant to create a better experience for players, even if convention dictates that you don’t change a winning formula.
The addition of the Special Style control scheme is also another way the team is hoping to grow its audience, paving the way for even casual players to buy into the awesomeness of Tekken 8 and the fighting game genre in general.
“It’s mainly thought of to be more accessible for new players. But also, when you’re picking up a new character, even if you’re a very good player, it’s much easier to use. Since you can switch on the fly, pro players, often in a tournament, when they don’t want to make a mistake, rather than doing the exact command for a Rage Art, they might want to use R1, just to decrease the amount of error, right? So it could be that maybe they switch in a certain instance when they don’t want to mess up a certain command or technique in a certain situation. So there’s definitely that possibility,” the pair shared.
“But mainly we’re thinking it’s for if you want to check out a new character, or if you’re online and you’re losing to a certain character over and over. It cuts down on the learning time. But then again, like other things, once players get their hands on it, sometimes they find interesting ways of using it that we haven’t envisioned. So who knows, right?”
Indeed, what Tekken 8 is promising is a good time, and with its many enhancements and changes made for the better of the player and viewer, it could very well be the best Tekken game ever made. We can only wait and see, with the game currently slated for release on PS5, Xbox Series X|S and Steam.