“Fan”-ning the Flames: “Mega Man” in Street Fighter x Tekken

27 01 2012

I do enjoy a good troll once in a while and the particularly epic series of trolling from Capcom over the still-recent Megaman hullabaloo has been good for several chuckles and shakes of the head. However the latest development in this series of trolling has perhaps gouged a little too deep, even for the amused observer, and unearthed a lot of interesting questions about how companies should handle their own intellectual property.

For those who have not been following the Megaman fallout closely, I will give you a brief, abridged timeline of the key events that lead up to the current debacle:

1987-2009: Megaman, a.k.a. Rockman, is one of the most well known and beloved franchises in the history of video games, selling around 29 million copies over the life of the franchise worldwide. The iconic “blue bomber” has starred in a long running series of games, side series, spinoff games, and even his own animated series. Fans eagerly await the upcoming Megaman Legends 3, the anticipated new entry in a highly popular spinoff series.

2010: Keiji Inafune, lead producer of the Megaman series for over 22 years, announces his departure from Capcom due to what is speculated to be “creative differences.”

2011: Trolling begins. Development on Megaman Legends 3 is suspended indefinitely. The long awaited Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is released, with the iconic Megaman being conspicuously absent from the cast, although his partner Zero is included, as well as Tron Bonne from the Legends line of games.

Late 2011: Despite huge volume of fan requests, Megaman is still absent from the follow up Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, which introduced 12 new characters to the roster. DLC costumes for various characters are teasing acknowledgements and “tributes” to Megaman.

2012: 25th anniversary of the franchise. Proclaiming that “this is my destiny!”, “Mega Man” is announced for the upcoming crossover fighting game Street Fighter x Tekken and he looks like this:

This is my destiny!

At this point I think it is apparent to anyone what Capcom is up to. Petty revenge certainly comes to mind as a way of getting back at Inafune for bailing on the company by way of mistreating his beloved creation. But it is also a pretty flagrant F U to the fans, who have been clamoring for the inclusion of the classic character in some of the more significant releases by the company which are meant to showcase their “mascot” characters. What is baffling is how a company can blatantly snub one of its most enduring fanbases in such a backhanded way. It makes one wonder who calls the shots in the higher tiers at Capcom and what exactly is going through their mind when they sign off on such things.
The interesting question that ultimately emerges is this: How much respect does a company owe to their own intellectual property? Some companies will often make a mockery of their less successful or unpopular experiments as a way of sweeping them under the rug or “apologizing,” but that is clearly not the case in this instance; Megaman is one of the flagship franchises that put Capcom where it is today, even before the heyday of Street Fighter and the like. What they are doing is effectively holding their own character hostage and further alienating a disenchanted fanbase that represents a sizable amount of their support over the years. Is it permissible? Is it ethical? Is it business smart? We see that you know what you are doing Capcom, but with what end in mind? What will become of the Blue Bomber?

Big questions: If you create a something successful that millions of people love, how beholden are you to the IP and to your fans?

Resident Evil 6: Preview Trailer Impressions

26 01 2012

Just within this week Capcom has rolled out a trailer for the next numbered entry in the Resident Evil franchise, RE6. After some of the problematic and more criticized aspects of RE5, it seems like a golden opportunity to renew the faith in this enduring franchise. Could a return to Leon, hero of RE4 – the best game in the series to date – be a return to form?

As covered in my video of some of the criticisms of RE5, there were several elements of the previous title that seemed to be out of step with the expectations and traditions of the franchise. The following are my biggest points of contention and how I hope RE6 will address these issues:

Genre Identity Crisis
What put me off about RE5 the most was that it didn’t seem to know what game it was trying to be. It was clear that Capcom was trying to take the game in a much more action-adventure oriented direction but seemed to only go halfway on some aspects and overcompensating in others. Gameplay conventions were adjusted to make the game more akin to an action-saturated first person shooter type experience but were not up to snuff compared to other entries of that genre. There were welcome improvements to the formula of the immensely successful RE4, but nothing seemed to mesh together in RE5. RE4 did certainly have a noticable diversion from the series into more action-based gameplay, but at it’s core it was still firmly based as a survival horror game.
The trailer for RE6 has me very hopeful that there will be a return to form in this entry. The trailer was very atmospheric and from the onset sold the entire package as a decisively “horror” game. The foes were suitably grotesque and unsettling, and there was an overarching sense of panic and dread. And yet at the same time, there was a showcase of breakneck action and John Woo-esque maneuvers that the heros can unleash on the shambling hordes. I think that it is possible for these elements to coexist, as RE4 demonstrated, but having all elements of the game mesh together will be what makes or breaks the experience. Altogether, what I’m hoping for is Capcom to cook up the authentically “Resident Evil” experience I’ve been craving and let the actiony spicyness complement the dish rather than overwhelm it.

Underdeveloped Co-op Gameplay
There were whisperings that the co-operative gameplay of RE5 was shoehorned into development to be in keeping with the then-current trends of action games, which RE5 seemed to so badly want to imitate. The result was a somewhat awkward hybrid of current gaming fads and enduring franchise tropes that did neither a great service. However, after the “experiment” of RE5, the franchise has a chance to step up to the plate once again, older and wiser, to take a swing with the experience of the past beneath it’s belt. Indeed, there have been rumors flying around that RE6 will support not two, but SIX PLAYER cooperative play (I see what you did there Capcom). Whether that represents the entire story mode of the game or a separate game mode remains to be seen, but either way RE6 has a better chance of integrating such elements in a more thoughtful way.

Novelty Setting and Exoticism
Speculation on racism aside, the previous two Resident Evils seemed to want to cash in on the horror derived from the unknown, the unfamiliar; to evoke the mystery of the “other” and the feeling of isolation in a place far away from home. It was also probably no mistake since various action games demand faraway locales for their backdrop of wonder and adventure. However, there were a few pitfalls to the approach that was taken, sometimes it felt forced or arbitrary, other times it seemed accessory to the actual events taking place, and other times it became just a tad bit topical. RE6 seems to break away from that direction and bring things back closer to home. The game appears to take place stateside in the town of Tall Oaks, which is a stand in for urban America. Indeed, some of the most effective tropes of horror are derived from the familiar, but twisted and dehumanized, made into something terrible yet recognizable. To echo Leon in the trailer, “it’s Raccoon City all over again,” and this choice may be just what was needed for the direction of the series seeing that the first 3 games, which set the groundwork for the most enduring tropes of the franchise and survival horror in general, all took place there.

After watching the trailer I am very excited for this new game and I have high hopes that it will vault over the bar set by the prodigious RE4 and be a new standard in survival horror and for Resident Evil as a whole.

Back from GDC ’10

18 03 2010

This was the first Game Developer Conference I have attended and I have to say that it was quite an experience! I was able to attend many interesting talks from the likes of Sid Meier, Wil Wright, and the Naughty Dog team, just to name a few. The speakers were very insightful and had a lot of great advice for both beginners and veterans alike for improving their technique in crafting games.

Also of interest was the career fair that had a multitude of companies and studios present. Many of them recommended or often insisted that applicants have an online portfolio or website.

I took them up on that, and here it is. Check back frequently for updates/new content!