Questions by Ben Lamb, Onrpg writer
Answered by Hiroaki Ikeda, from Splash Fighters International
Hello avid readers! This month I have had the exceptional pleasure of chatting with Hiroaki Ikeda from the SplashFighters team. For any of you who have been living under a rock for the past few years, SplashFighters is one of the hottest action MMOs around, featuring real-time 8-player brawls with weekly updates and fully customisable player skins. With a huge fanbase in many eastern territories, it's finally headed for the great US, and I was lucky enough to catch up with Mr Ikeda to pick his brains about his great takeover of America.
Onrpg: Hi Hiroaki, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. I guess I'll start with your own experiences. What inspired you to make this style of game? What games would you say were your inspirations?
Hiroaki Ikeda: Well we all grew up in the generation of NES (the original Nintendo Entertainment System), and we wanted to create something real-time and also something interactive. We took NES, added the internet, and the result was what we call the Action-Fighting Online game.
Onrpg: SplashFighters is certainly a fairly unique game. Would you say it is just a blend of different ideas, or are there particular areas where you feel you have innovated into new territory?
Ikeda: We wanted to develop something new. Games, either online or consumer, allow you to do something you cant usually do in real life, such as fighting with others. In addition, the internet was just starting to spread when this game was in development, so it is a blend of different ideas in that way.
Onrpg: Indeed. In fact the beat-em-up and MMO genres are not often associated at all. How difficult have you found it to bring these areas together?
Ikeda: Since that was a challenge that only a few people tried before, everything was difficult. However, as we mentioned above, we wanted to create something new and we tried our best to achieve it. The result of that is what we have now, SplashFighters.
Onrpg: Traditionally, mastering a fighting game meant learning complex combos. With a fairly limited basic move-set is there still room for this level of expertise?
Ikeda: In SplashFighters, one of the hardest things is learning combos; however, it is not enough to survive. Since the battles are usually held with multiple players, you also need some strategy to survive. In fact, this game is developed for many people to play, so combos are not as hard as most fighting games.
Onrpg: I'm sure a lot of our readers will be glad to hear that. As with many free-to-play games, you sell additional content through your website. Due to the strong PvP nature of a fighting game, is there not a danger that the players who cannot (or will not) pay for items, will simply be outmatched by those who pay for strong weapons?
Ikeda: Players who have paid for weapons dont have an advantage, they just have more varieties of ways to enjoy SplashFighters. Your skills and the way you play are the important factors in this game, so non-billing users can still enjoy it a lot once they get used to the game.
Onrpg: And to help them get used to the game, you include a large amount of single-player content. What made you include this element in what is very much a multi-player game? Do you find many players take advantage of it?
Ikeda: One of the single-player sections is for players to practice. Sometimes, however, players dont know how to practice, so players can follow the story, working out how to clear those stages. After finishing the story, players will know how to fight, and theyll know the joy of SplashFighters.
Onrpg: SplashFighter's twin sister (GetAmped) has a very large international following but many English speaking users have reported severely underpopulated servers. Is this a widely reported problem and are you taking steps to avoid it?
Ikeda: Usually online games get the highest population at the start of their service and slowly decrease over time. GetAmped tended to increase the population slowly. GetAmped is now running in more than 10 territories and some of them are still growing.
Onrpg: Unlike most online games, SplashFighters has fully customisable character skins. Is this something you find many players make use of.
Ikeda: The character skins is one of the functions we want all players to try. Character skins allow you to increase the ways you enjoy SplashFighers with the number of skins you have.
Onrpg: In addition to the release of new content, the SplashFighters team are constantly running events and tournaments. Do you find there is a large uptake of these events? Do you think they are important in maintaining the community?
Ikeda: Yes, we think having events is quite important. One of the important events for fighting games is the battle tournament. Players practice their skills in single-player content or multi-player battles, but some people want to prove their skills officially. Thats why we keep holding the battle tournament.
In 2007 and 2008, GetAmped held the world battle tournament (GetAmped World Festival(GWF) 2007 and 2008) to determine the best player in the world, and that is something that all players can challenge.
Onrpg: Sounds exciting! You also release new items and stages on a weekly basis. Do you think that you can keep up this pace of new content indefinitely? Is there not a worry of 'sameness' with this pace of releases?
Ikeda: It is actually a very hard thing to keep updating every week without this sameness, but we never give up on creating new things and satisfying players because we want to see the players enjoying what we create.
Onrpg: Here at Onrpg, we bring together players from many different fields of MMOs. Are there any other major games that members of the SplashFighters team like to play? Anywhere our members might bump into one of you?
Ikeda: An MMORPG we're making named HolyBeast Online is coming soon. Its now in the stage of closed beta, so we mostly spend all our time there. You can check our HBO website (http://www.holybeast.com) or wait for open beta to come and join us.
Onrpg: I'll be sure to check it out. For now though, can you offer us a sneak peek at any of the new items, stages or events that you have in the pipeline?
Ikeda: Right now, we are preparing for a new item called Lucky Draw. In addition, we keep improving our game itself, website, and everything that relates to the players comfort.
Onrpg: Apart from these regular updates of items and stages, do you see yourself ever branching out further or do you think that the core of the game will always stay with this winning formula?
Ikeda: Actually the core of the game will stay the same; however, we don't want to let players feel too much sameness. We try everything we can to keep things fresh, and the players appreciate all the new things we bring to the game over time. This is the biggest reason why GetAmped is the one of the longest running online games in the world (since 2002).
Onrpg: Finally, what would you say to all those people out there who have never played a game like this and are now thinking of trying SplashFighters?
Ikeda: Maybe you feel some fear because the other people are already well trained, but there are Game Masters who can guide you and there are also many friendly players who can help you and play with you. There are so many ways to play this game, and theres definitely a way to satisfy you!
Onrpg: Thank you very much for your time Mr Ikeda.
Well there you have it! For those of you previously unfamiliar with SplashFighters, I hope this has piqued your interest and I look forward to kicking all of your arses in this years international battle tourney!