Capcom's Seth Killian On Street Fighter X Tekken 'Gems' Controversy

Capcom community manager Seth Killian talks to Gamasutra about the challenge of talking to fans in the wake of controversy over Street Fighter X Tekken's planned "gem" system.
At New York Comic Con, Street Fighter X Tekken producer Yoshinori Ono gave a presentation which included the announcement of a "gem" system -- a new feature that allows players to equip special gems to boost character statistics and abilities. Controversy quickly erupted, with gamers decrying the gem system as unfair and worrying about whether the premium-priced console game was going to also sell gems as microtransactions. "It has gone in the way I was worried it might, with a lot of confusion," Capcom community manager Seth Killian tells Gamasutra, adding that he's had reservations since he saw Ono's presentation. "The original presentation, by opening the door, left more questions unanswered." Gamasutra got a chance to speak to Killian in San Francisco last week at a Capcom event about its upcoming games. The Truth About Gems At a San Francisco promotional event, Killian said the truth about the gem system is that "it's just a series of customizable power-ups that you can choose." Each character can have its own gems equipped -- but most importantly, he says, the team has been "planning for them to be part of the core game" for a long time. "Ultimately, this is one of those things, as a concept, that we were talking about maybe two or three years ago, and I was excited by it. And when we got more into the implementation, I was like, 'I dunno about this.' And then once we got hands on with the actual systems, and it tickled me with what I call the 'nerd feather' of theory fighting and stuff, where I started to see the possibilities, it became instantly exciting," Killian said. The Balance Controversy The system breaks down into Assist Gems, which offer options like auto-block to help weaker players compete, and Boost Gems, which power up a character. This, in itself, was controversial. In Ono's original presentation, there was a slide that said the gems would "help narrow the gap between strong players and weak players," says Killian. "I don't think there's any combination of gems which will help a weak player beat someone who's much stronger than them," he says. Auto-block has, in particular, "sent people into a tizzy," says Killian, "because it's like, can't you just block everything? Well, yes, but it requires meter from your bar." In other words, the gems have activation conditions. A Boost Gem might require being hit a certain number of times to activate. An Assist Gem will "almost always" be active only as long as you have energy in your meter, which you must build up by fighting. Assist Gems are "a way of keying in on your weaknesses or your strengths," says Killian, a very different message from the one Ono delivered. "You have the option to not choose any gems, if you want," says Killian. However, "the entire game is built around the gems," and there will be no "No Gem" mode in the game. The Money Specter How players will be able to get gems has also been a major topic of player discussion, with rumors suggesting microtransactions or grinding will be necessary. "At this point we're still sort of figuring that stuff out," says Killian. "The game comes with some gems, some of them will be available as preorder bonuses and things like that." Some may be available packaged with DLC, as well. "There's also worry about this guy [that] has more money and buys the special edition -- will he have an advantage over me?" The answer, says Killian, is no. "The gems, in the way we've approached them, are balanced against each other." "If one gem has a bigger damage bonus, it has harder activation conditions." Banned From Tournaments? Hyper Street Fighter HD Remix designer and tournament player David Sirlin wrote a blog post last week about the possibility that the gems will need to be banned in tournaments. This could be a major image problem for Capcom, as tournaments such as EVO rise in popularity along with the e-sports movement. "We'll see how the tournament organizers go with it," says Killian. Many tournaments have no-DLC policies, which is "in part logistical, sometimes philosophical," he says. "Where you want to draw that line as far as you want to draw that line, understandable, but we've got them in mind, so we're going to try and find some balance that makes them happy as well, because those are very much my people," says Killian, who got into Capcom community management in the first place by participating in the tournament scene. Dealing With the Controversy "It's always tough," says Killian, when controversies arise. In this case, "it's one of those things where we're talking about things in sort of a measured way, and I want to be able to give people the full picture as soon as possible, and try and explain and answer everything -- whereas internally, we're on a different schedule," he says. While the original presentation left a lot of questions unanswered, "what filled the gap around some of those questions has been not good," he admits. "It shows the value of when you have something to say, say it as completely and clearly as you can, especially if you're going in a new direction that hasn't been seen," Killian says. "The video game community is very astute, and detail-oriented with this kind of thing, and fighting gamers are right at the top of the pile," he says.

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