Interview with Shane Bettenhausen

May 19, 2009

With credits to cHuCo from the Ignition Entertainment USA forum, here’s an excerpt of an interview by GameInformer with Shane Bettenhausen, Director of New Business Development on KOF XII:

Game Informer: In the build of King of Fighters XII that we played, the d-pad was the only movement control option. Can players use the analog stick in the final game?
Shane Bettenhausen: Yes, you will be able to use the analog stick for movement in KOF XII, but given The King of Fighters’ venerated arcade heritage, you may find that the d-pad’s digital input feels “tighter”. This is a strictly 2D fighting game after all, so you really want the precise “up is up” and “right is right” reliability offered by a d-pad. Do you think hardcore players would want to even attempt quarter-circles and charge moves on a slippery analog stick? And to be honest, neither the PS3 nor Xbox 360 controller accurately duplicates the real arcade feel—you’ll have to spring for an arcade stick if you want to play like the big boys. Most everyone around our office here at Ignition Entertainment and over in Osaka at SNK PLAYMORE plays KOF like a man—with a joystick.

GI: How will online multiplayer work? What’s the clan system all about?
Bettenhausen: Online Versus gameplay in KOFXII attempts to mimic that awesome feeling of playing in a crowded arcade, where you’re engaged in a tense match with an opponent while a crowd of bystanders fervently cheers you on towards victory. Unlike some other recent fighters plagued by lonely, 2-person lobbies, KOFXII allows for eight players to be in the same lobby—only two players can fight at one time, but everyone else can watch the brutality and chat during the bout.

The PlayStation 3 version of The King of Fighters XII ships with a special bonus option that sweetens the online experience: clan play. In this mode, players can forge alliances with friends and square off in a kind of organized gang warfare—three clan players each choose their favorite character, strategize before the match via voice chat, and then square off against a rival team online. A separate Clan Leaderboard will let everyone know which squad reigns supreme at any given time.

GI: Will there be any matchmaking to pair up players of similar skill? Any online leaderboards?
Bettenhausen: The King of Fighters XII will utilize a matchmaking system to pair players up with others of a similar skill level, and this system’s calculations actually get rather deep. Every time you fight through a round, the game is judging your skills and awarding you a letter grade based on your mastery. It wouldn’t be fair to force a D-level newbie player to go up against an A-tier KOF veteran, right? And of course you’ll be able to watch your progress on international leaderboards.

The Xbox 360 version also utilizes the TrueSkill ranking system, which offers even more comprehensive matchmaking tools and leaderboards to guarantee fair and balanced match-ups.

GI: I understand there will be an option to turn anti-aliasing on or off depending on your visual preference. True?
Bettenhausen: We’ve discovered that while some love the pure pixel-art look of the arcade game, many others would prefer that the home version of The King of Fighters XII feature a softer, more refined style. So SNK PLAYMORE has implemented an optional “Soft Filter” that offers four levels of graphical effects intended to make the game look smoother on home televisions. From our experience, old-timers tend to prefer the unadulterated image while youngsters glom onto the snazzier filtered style.

GI: How will the record, replay, and upload video system work?
Bettenhausen: In The King of Fighters XII, it’s easy to record a fight, upload the video, and then share the replay with the entire community. Shooters, racing games, and sports titles have made great use of this type of feature in the past, and it’s even more satisfying to document and brag about a particularly brutal beatdown—especially when you’re embarrassing a boastful co-worker with Ash Crimson’s fruity French fighting maneuvers.

GI: Can you explain the overall fighting styles of the new console exclusive characters Elisabeth and Mature? What kind of players will be interested in using these characters?
Bettenhausen: Some fans have criticized the standard KOFXII roster for being a bit of a sausage fest, and they’re right—lovely ladies are definitely in short supply. Luckily, the game’s two console-exclusive characters will help to balance out the gender war. Elisabeth Blanctorche, a sultry Frenchwoman who fights with a riding crop, first appeared in the previous installment, The King of Fighters XI. Intended as a rival of sorts for Ash Crimson, she returns in KOFXII with a minimalist move set that focuses on agility (via dashing moves and teleportation) and powerful riding-crop combos. Mature’s comeback definitely feels more mysterious, what with her sexy new pantsuit and unexplained (and also sexy?) eye injury. She’s been all mixed up in Iori’s business ever since her debut in KOF ’96, and now her gameplay feels even closer to his—lots of dashing in and slashing strikes. She also possesses some powerful anti-air flip kicks and one of the game’s most punishing Super Special moves.