Tekken 8: Exclusive first interview with Katsuhiro Harada — “Turning Point”

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In a room high above the center of Tokyo, Bandai Namco Entertainment general manager Katsuhiro Harada is preparing to demonstrate Tekken 8. He has changed his usual sunglasses for a face mask when the debut trailer of the game is shown next to him on TV.

Describing the trailer that plays in the loop, Harada explains how the scene in which the characters of the series Kazuya and Jin fight in the rain, lightning and crashing waves sets the mood for another climax in the long series.

“Tekken 7 seemed to demonstrate the confrontation of two Mishima, but it was Heihachi Mishima and his son Kazuya. Now we’ve sort of moved down the timeline, so you see the father—son confrontation again, but with different characters: Jin Kazama versus his father, Kazuya Mishima,” Harada says.

Announced earlier this week, Tekken 8 picks up one of the longest-running gaming soap operas for next-gen consoles. Fans speculate about the nature of the images scattered throughout the trailer, and Harada is happy to give some answers, keeping silent about others.

“You can see the chain effect where it then breaks and then turns into a Tekken 8 — 8 piece for the logo. We did it not only because it looks cool, but actually there are very strong elements of the story that are associated with it,” explains Harada. “This kind of chain motif has been seen in the past, for example, in Devil Jin. This is because Jin is really conflicted not only because of his Mishima roots in the bloodline, but also because of the devil gene inside him and how he takes control of his life. Thus, the demonstration of breaking the chains is a kind of demonstration of how the Genie is freed from all these things that limit him. He has to sort of face these elements of himself, but at the same time face a part of what is his father in this kind of showdown.”

But most of all, Harada was excited about the transition of Tekken 8 to Unreal Engine 5. For Harada, the most successful games have always been those that most contributed to the development of the console’s hardware. He talks in detail about how “all the models and everything that was in Tekken 7 was completely discarded,” leaving everything that needed to be rebuilt in Unreal Engine 5 from scratch. He points to the rain and sweat rolling down Jin and Kazuya’s faces and describes how he differs from his predecessor.

“There was something similar in Tekken 7; that when a character was falling or during a battle, he looked sweaty or something like that. But it was just a parameter in the game, how it was displayed. In fact, this is the first time that we take rain and external effects and create a rolling effect of character models. And not only that, but when they fall to the ground, their clothes get dirty as a result. So you can see the results of the battle on character models,” Harada says.

During a 90-minute exclusive interview with IGN, Harada talks about working with Unreal Engine 5; discusses pressing issues about accessibility options and mechanics (although not about the network rollback code, which, in his opinion, it’s too early to talk about) and what will come of it. He also talks about the state of fighting games in general and why, in his opinion, they are in a better position than many people think.

Keep reading the full interview with Harada, as well as two new exclusive screenshots for Tekken 8.

IGN: You’ve talked a lot about how Tekken 8 uses next-generation technologies. Can you tell me about what it was like to use Unreal Engine 5 for the first time, deal with it? You’ve talked about real-time reflections, pouring rain, and everything else, but tell me about some of the finer aspects of working with Unreal Engine 5.

Katsuhiro Harada: This is a very difficult question. From a developer’s point of view, not only for us, but for developers in the industry as a whole, it’s different from the end-user experience when the iPhone 4 was used up to a certain date, and then: “OK, now the iPhone 5 is out, it’s awesome, it’s brand new, everything works much better.” This is the impression the average user gets when this new Unreal Engine 5 comes out. But in fact, it’s not like that at all. It’s like it’s a continuous process. Obviously, we didn’t just start developing a game on UE5. UE5 was announced quite a while ago, but we haven’t seen any games for it yet.

So, we started with UE4 and gradually started porting some elements of the game to UE5, as well as confirming the results. Like, “Okay, wow, the level of graphics in this particular area has improved significantly.” And also other areas — things that are important for fighting games: response time… such things are things that we transfer into the game and then figure out what to expect in this area. And we worked closely with Epic to figure out how to optimize some of these processes for input.

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