Ever since its limited arcade release in February of this year, Tekken 7 has been inching ever closer to its console debut. During Jump Festa 2016, PlayStation LifeStyle spoke to Michael Murray and Kousuke Waki — Senior Game Designer and Visual Design Manager, respectively — about the current state of the sequel and how it’s harnessing the power of Unreal Engine 4.
Like all of our interviews that will be rolling out from Jump Festa, our all-too-brief discussion with Murray and Waki was held in conjunction with the lovely folks over at Geek Culture.
As you mentioned before, Tekken 7 will mark the franchise’s debut using Unreal Engine 4, how has the been for the development team? Has there been any unforeseen problems? And, on the other hand, how has the sequel harnessed the engine’s capabilities?
Murray: Just to clarify, different than a lot of games, we are using the Unreal Engine just for the graphics part of the game. This means that the underlying scripting that handles the game itself is still our internal architecture, so that kind of stuff was very familiar to work with. But this time round we wanted to have a bigger graphical leap than people have seen on the past, because that was one of the things people mentioned about [Tekken Tag Tournament 2]. So, it has mainly gave us design perspective.
Waki: So, once you know how to use it effectively, the Unreal Engine is very convenient and it makes the production much quicker as you already have the post-processing effects. However, it’s quite different from what we were used to before, from the way we create the textures to modelling the characters, so at first it was quite difficult before we learned the most effective way to use [the game engine].
With the release of Mortal Kombat X and the upcoming Street Fighter V, the genre is witnessing something of a renaissance, how has it been for you to continue such a classic franchise on PlayStation 4?
Murray: So, we still haven’t really got to the PlayStation 4 yet because we’re still working on the arcade version. We released Tekken 7 earlier this year, and we just announced the Fated Retribution update, which will hit arcades later — we haven’t announced a date yet. But after, that content will see its way onto console.
With that said, with Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat releasing, it is a good time for the fighting genre, and there is a lot of attention there. As such, it means that fighting events and tournaments will be able to draw a more wider audience. For us, it’s kinda tough because we’re still quite arcade-centric, though it’s good because we can continue to test ideas, polish the game and add content before we port it.
Waki: I feel the same. [Laughs].
Debuting the sequel in the arcade allows you to introduce Tekken 7 to an audience who is perhaps slightly more hardcore than the console audience, how has the player feedback been?
Murray: I wouldn’t necessarily say that the audience is more hardcore. I mean, there is that core Tekken fan that will come to the arcade with each passing installment, but not everyone is a Tekken fan from the beginning. This time round, we envisioned that a lot of people would return off the back of Tekken 6 in order to find out what happens in the canon story along with their favorite characters. We’ve laid out characters that suit particular play styles, and the rage arts and power crush moves make it easier for people to not only return to the Tekken series, but also for people who are new to the series. Now is as good a time as any to pick up Tekken.
What’s new for Tekken 7 in comparison to older entires in the franchise? What can existing fans of the series look forward to and also for newcomers, what features in particular would you like to highlight?
Waki: Because we envisioned that we would have some returning players, considering that it’s been maybe eight years since the release of Tekken 6. So, it’s a big gap, but you want to make sure that when people return that the recognise their favorite characters instantly. There were a few characters who were updated — Lars, for example. But once we achieved that and we got the returning players on board, we wanted the Fated Retribution expansion to introduce some of the smaller changes and costumes, and we’re confident that people won’t be thrown off because they’ve played [Tekken 7] already.
Also some of the team, particularly the visual department, have really got more experience with the Unreal Engine 4. They’ve started to change up different elements of the environment and post-processing effects, so you’ll notice subtle graphic updates and subtle design tweaks to the old and new stages.
Another big thing was having Akuma in the latest trailer, and I think that’s quite exciting having a crossover with Capcom. Will that also find its way into the console version eventually? And do you have plans for more crossovers in the future?
Murray: Before we go to console we have the release of Tekken: FR (Fated Retribution), and people who are familiar with the series will know that we’ve had Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection, Tekken 6: Bloodline Rebellion and such, so people will know that we’ve had updates where we add characters. [Fated Retribution] is this kind of expansion for Tekken 7, and like in the past, these features will also make their way to the console release as well — plus some more.
And as far as more charters goes, right now, Akuma is the only one we have planned. Harada [Game Producer Katsuhiro Harada] and I have always been against guest characters because it kinda throws off the Tekken world and setting. But Akuma fits the bill, and we wanted to tie him into the story so that the crossover is not some cheesy gimmick. The feedback is really positive. But no plans at the moment for additional crossovers, though we are open to the possibility in the future.
A special thanks to Bandai Namco and in particular Michael Murray and Kousuke Waki for answering some of our questions. Tekken 7 is in development for PS4 and will even feature PlayStation VR support. Currently, the publisher is yet to reveal a console release window.