With the release King of Fighters 15SNK has stepped out into the world again in one of the gaming industry’s oldest fighting game series – and one I like quite a lot! It’s nice to sit down, in a tense month full of fun games flying out in all directions and play a classic fighting game.
However, to simply stack KoF 15 above the stack of other titles that make up the series would lack much of what makes the game so special! On a surface level, the game features a lot of new additions to the series, including new characters and an overall netcode overhaul. But if you look deeper into the context surrounding the game’s development and release, you know it’s creating in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdowns – a tumultuous time for any developer – but especially for a game maker whose roots in games and social events revolve around face-to-face meeting.
So I had the chance to chat with creative director Eisuke Ogura, project supervisor Nobuyuki Kuroki, and KoF series production director Yasuyuki Oda about all of this, and more, to find out. on their thoughts on KoF 15 development, some of the game’s new installments, and what we can expect in the future.
Q. What was your inspiration for Isla? It’s clear that she has a distinct style with graffiti and modern art as a key feature – could any particular person or artist be a reference?
Isla does not belong to an organization or cause. She is free. What she does for her is that she has a lot of little things in her heart. That’s the character I want to be. Compared to the world, these problems are not many but for Isla, they represent a huge cause for struggle. We took these personality abstractions and were able to make Isla designs out of them. She is not based on any particular person.
Q. Another addition to Team Rival – Dolores – is another eye-catching new character. What was the inspiration for this character, and how did their African background play into their design?
For starters, Dolores is deeply involved with Kukri in terms of plot, and so her design has to suit him. You can see how she controls holy ground similar to Kukri’s control of sand. We didn’t have a specific traditional outfit in mind when designing her, but we wanted her to be fresh, cool, and pretty enough to set herself apart from the other characters.
Q. As a longtime KoF fan, I’m glad to see Krohnen resemble some of the characters from the past. Tell me about how the team created this different look for the series’ new shapeshifting arm character?
Krohnen, descended from NESTS, is being hunted for just surviving its fall. Interestingly, he finds joy in life hunting down other NESTS survivors. He’s grown his hair now, and his special gauntlet is in dire need of repair. We designed Krohnen while wondering what one would look like after countless days on the run, living in solitude. His armor acts as a restraint to suppress the overwhelming power radiating from his robotic arms. In addition, his robotic arm can freely transform into a variety of weapons. With these details in mind, we aim for Krohnen to be the embodiment of the word ‘power’.
Q. As a creative director, how has Covid-19 made your job more difficult? What challenges did you and your team have to overcome?
Because everyone is working from home, things like gathering people for meetings or going to someone’s desk to chat are gone. Honestly it’s a bit stressful not being at a desk or around the actual hardware. Additionally, the companies we enlist help with have changed a lot, so things don’t exactly go according to schedule.
Q. With the migration of KoF to 3D in KoF 14, in interviews it was said that the team needed to work more with 3D to achieve the quality they wanted. KoF 15 looks better – so has the game now reached a level of visual quality that the team is happy with?
Thanks for that. Graphically, we were able to overcome various problems and achieve the impossible with KoF 14, so KoF 15 has a more impressive look. There’s still a lot we can improve on, but I have to commend my team for overcoming so many obstacles to get to where we are now.
Q. When playing KoF 15, which character in Eisuke Ogura’s team?
Of course, new characters in KoF 15 – Team Rival! End story mode with both Team Rival and Team Hero for me, even just once!
Q. In previous interviews for KoF 14, the team is still learning how to work with 3D and as you said in the interviews this will get better over time. Are you satisfied with how KoF looks in 3D now?
You can see a huge graphical shift continuing from SNK Heroines, to SAMURAI SHODOWN, to where we are now with KoF 15. I think visually KoF 15 is in a good place, but After development, there are always things we need to reflect on. So I’ve never been 100% satisfied with any game that I develop. I also don’t think this will change in the future.
Q. Covid-19 has of course led to many serious problems during game development. In Japan, with Arcades closed, it probably wouldn’t be possible to do a spot check for KoF 15. How has the development changed in light of the Covid restrictions?
To be honest, I felt blindsided when I had to work from home for the first time. Reaching employees online is a pain, and explaining visual things like text or voice art is just as hard work. However, like all things, we can learn to adapt to our surroundings, and now, growth isn’t necessarily hindered much by change. Maybe our staff also learned a thing or two about good writing, so that’s it.
Q. With many great games sadly ended due to Covid, and even now physical events cannot be safely attended, do you see SNK making games like KoF 15 and future titles with home/online players as the primary audience?
I first became interested in SNK through playing at video game centers, so hearing they closed recently really broke my heart. I’m completely focused on KoF 15 at the moment and so I can’t say for sure about everything ahead of time, but I’d really like to try and do something new for a change. Can’t say what, though. Just will have to wait and find out!
Q. Is there or is there a specific video game that the SNK team will come and play? Is it still around? Are you excited to go there when it feels safe to do so?
Unfortunately, the video game I used to regularly shut down. Once things with Covid-19 stabilize, I want to go to Namba and play in the games there.
Q. While other fighting game series have received simplified inputs and other features meant to help new players get into the game, I was happy to see the classic inputs as I played the original. beta! Why did the team at SNK decide to take the gun rather than obey?
This is a sequel to the series, and we were concerned that if we changed the controls too much, it would be seen as a different game – something like a spinoff. We also think it wouldn’t be a good idea to drastically reduce a player’s move/attack options in combat. However, besides that, beginners can use the combo system with just a quick tap of the attack buttons, so they can enjoy the game as well.
Q. When playing KoF 15, which character in the team Nobuyuki Kuroki?
Only one team? Damn, this is hard… I have to say Terry, Iori and B. Jennet.
Q. This is the first KOF game to have open betas worldwide before launch! How was your reaction when people all over the world tried KoF 15 early?
I think the reception has been very positive. There were some issues with the previous online modes, but we were able to fix them with the second beta test. I hope everyone will enjoy the game when it comes out.
Q. Fans all over the world have of course been asking for netcode improvements for their fighting games, which KoF 15 has added! What do you hope for KoF 15 now when multiplayer will experience the best online game?
I hope the game will be a hit with players both online and offline, and with more tournaments coming back.
Q. The SNK World Championship was unfortunately canceled in 2019 due to COVID. Do you see a similar event happening for KoF 15 in the near term? Or did Covid also prevent that from happening?
Our hands are still tied due to Covid concerns, but that is something I would like to consider moving forward.
Q. How has Covid affected the development of KoF 15? In what ways has it made your job more difficult, and how has development changed to accommodate?
We had some difficulty adjusting to working from home, but everything is fine now. I think we will operate on a hybrid system in the future.
Q. In many ways, KoF 15 is like a classic fighting game. With so many other developers looking to dramatically change their series for new players (Guilty Gear: Strive), why are SNK and KOF so important to their console roots?
Each title has its own goals, and I think it’s good to always be diverse on this front. KoF, out of all the other SNK fighters out there, is very combo-oriented. (Compared to say, SAMURAI SHODOWN or FATAL FURY)
Q. When playing KOF XV, which character in team Yasuyuki Oda?
At the age of 15, I used to play the roles of Shun’ei and Meitenkun.
https://www.vg247.com/kof-15-interview-ogura-kuroki-oda The developers of King of Fighters 15 talk about the difficulties of making the latest game – and their favorite characters