Producer James Vance enlightens us on various aspects of the reboot.
In the beginning, there was Strider and all was good. Over the years though, Strider had disappeared while other icons like Ryu Hayabusa took center stage. Strider is making his return though and this time he’ll be in full 3D, wrecking shop with his trademark Cypher blade and red scarf. GamingBolt recently had a chance to speak Capcom Japan producer James Vance about various aspects of the game, including implementation of the older games’ feel, taking advantage of the PS4 and Xbox One, and much more.
Rashid Sayed: Was there are a particular reason you guys retained the feel and look of the older games? You could have built a third person Strider instead.
James Vance: One key motivation behind the project was to create a game that first and foremost delivered the core Strider experience gamers hold in their hearts. An integral component to the core experience is, of course, 2D side-scrolling gameplay. A 2D side-scrolling design is also the natural platform for the Strider hallmarks of high speed, intense action and instantly responsive controller input. It is our hope that delivering these core series hallmarks will ensure a great gameplay experience for long-time fans and newcomers alike.
Rashid Sayed: How are you making sure that Strider Hiryu retains his personality from the previous games?
James Vance: Visually, the Capcom Japan art director, who has previous franchise experience designing the enemy characters for Strider 2, led the design of Strider Hiryu as well as the majority of the enemy characters in this latest game. The art director ensured character design authenticity through first-hand knowledge of everything from the style of Hiryu’s hair, to the intricate mechanical workings of his climb sickle and plasma scarf.
Hiryu’s character has been updated to match the game’s visual themes and HD fidelity, but remains instantly recognizable thanks to great care taken to maintain the color palette and silhouette used in the most recent Marvel vs. Capcom games.
From a gameplay perspective, the Capcom Japan team’s past experience on Strider and other side-scrolling action-adventure games, such as Super Ghouls ’n Ghosts, proved invaluable. The team at Double Helix, are also huge fans of Strider 1&2 and Marvel vs. Capcom, and their passion and expertise proved instrumental in ensuring that Hiryu moved, animated, responded and felt like the Hiryu gamers know and love.
"The next-gen versions also include additional graphical upgrades, such as vastly increased character model fidelity, SSAO (Screen Space Ambient Occlusion), improved shadow filtering and lighting, as well as larger and more expressive particle effects thanks to GPU acceleration."
Rashid Sayed: What can you tell us about the differences between the current and next gen versions?
James Vance: The PS4 and Xbox One provide an increase in resolution and frame-rate over the PS3 and Xbox 360 of 720P to 1080P and 30FPS to 60FPS respectively. The next-gen versions also include additional graphical upgrades, such as vastly increased character model fidelity, SSAO (Screen Space Ambient Occlusion), improved shadow filtering and lighting, as well as larger and more expressive particle effects thanks to GPU acceleration.
Rashid Sayed: Do you have any plans to bring the extra content i.e. Strider 1 and 2 to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One?
James Vance: At this time, there are no plans to bring additional (exclusive) content to any North American version of this new Strider game.
Rashid Sayed: The PlayStation 4 version of Strider is confirmed to run at 1080p resolution and 60 fps. Can you please confirm the resolution and fps of the Xbox One version?
James Vance: Both the PS4 and Xbox One versions run a native 1080P resolution and 60FPS.
Rashid Sayed: How many hours of gameplay are we roughly looking at in Strider?
James Vance: The average player will likely defeat the last boss at around the 6 to 8 hour mark. However, unlocking all of the game’s secrets, exploring the entire map and finding every item and power-up will certainly take much longer. Additional unlockable gameplay modes and online leaderboards provide extra challenges and incentive to continue to play or re-play the game.
"The goal has been to deliver not only on the gameplay experience of Strider 1 and 2 and Marvel vs. Capcom, but take that experience a step further by considering the sometimes gilded memory or ideal image gamers have of previous Strider games and making it a reality."
Rashid Sayed: What can you tell us about the story in the game? Furthermore how do you plan to use it to get players more involved with the gameplay?
James Vance: The story is a re-imagining of Strider Hiryu’s epic mission to eliminate his arch nemesis and world dictator Grand Master Meio. The scale and scope of the game provide a great opportunity to dive deeper into the truly unique and mesmerizing Strider universe. Character and enemy interactions draw the player into the world, propel the action forward and help guide them through the vastly expansive game world. A host of truly insane boss characters are, in their personalities, rivaled only by the epic scale of their encounters, and are sure to provide an entertaining and exciting challenge players won’t soon forget.
Rashid Sayed: You have already revealed a couple of bosses in the game. Can you tell us who else is returning? Furthermore what can players expect from some of the new bosses in the game?
James Vance: Several series favorites such as the infamous cyborg bounty hunter Solo, and the giant robotic gorilla Mechapon return powered-up and more deadly than ever. The Strider series is known for fantastic, larger than life bosses and over-the-top battles, and the newest Strider definitely aims to please. For now, though, the remaining boss characters will have to remain a surprise for players until they get their hands on the game.
Rashid Sayed: One feature that immediately caught my eye is Hiryu’s movements are fast, faster than the previous games. As soon as the slide ends, Hiryu keeps on running. I think this is a small but a nice touch. What other improvements is in store for the players?
James Vance: A great deal of effort has been invested to ensure Hiryu’s movement and actions look, feel and play just right. The goal has been to deliver not only on the gameplay experience of Strider 1 and 2 and Marvel vs. Capcom, but take that experience a step further by considering the sometimes gilded memory or ideal image gamers have of previous Strider games and making it a reality.
For example, while Hiryu’s animations in the now 25 year old original arcade Strider were great for the time, the animation is often remembered as more fluid than it actually was. Ensuring that the animation, speed, action and input timing of the latest Strider are on par with the gamer’s memory or ideal, ensures that the experience feels authentic and the gameplay is great.
"The majority of the items and power-ups that can be acquired via exploration or defeating boss characters are an extension of the core Strider gameplay mechanics of close-quarter Cypher (sword) combat, and highly maneuverable acrobatic action."
Rashid Sayed: Hiryu seems to be packed with special moves and abilities this time around. Is there a way players can extend or improve upon? Do you guys plan to provide unlockable skills set?
James Vance: The majority of the items and power-ups that can be acquired via exploration or defeating boss characters are an extension of the core Strider gameplay mechanics of close-quarter Cypher (sword) combat, and highly maneuverable acrobatic action. The Cypher can be switched on the fly between several different types of plasma, such as Explosive, Reflect and Ultra-cold, amongst others.
Each of these can be used to interact with the environment as well as a strategically offensive weapon. A player may freeze a large enemy in place, buying them a short window to take out smaller enemies by reflecting their gunfire back at them, and finally finish of the remaining enemies with heavy hitting explosive attacks. Throughout the course of the game, players will amass a vast arsenal of items and abilities, that when used in combination, provide a gameplay experience that is more expansive and dynamic than previous outings.
Rashid Sayed: Is the multi-directional aerial slash from Strider 2 returning in the game? If not, why?
James Vance: This particular move is not part of the latest Strider move set. Strider 2 was designed around a small collection of moves including the multi-directional aerial slash, while the newest Strider is designed to incorporate a much wider array of items and abilities. Many moves were considered for the latest Strider game, and the final move list is comprised of both classic and new actions based upon those which best matched the enemy and level design as well as the character progression tree.
Rashid Sayed: What can you tell us about the open world approach to stage design in the game and how it present different gameplay mechanics to the player?
James Vance: A non-linear world design is challenging to create because of the scope and number of factors to calculate and consider. The additional challenge is, however, balanced out by the benefit of a lengthy, engaging, robust and rich gameplay experience. The expansive world map serves as a stage for a wide variety of unique combat and traversal challenges, which put the player’s skills to the test.
Conversely, the world map also houses a variety of items, power-ups and secrets that can be acquired through exploration, and open new and powerful combat and traversal possibilities. This unique gameplay loop of challenge, exploration, reward and empowerment engages the player and motivates them to further explore and enjoy the game world.
"The PS4 touchpad button is a convenient means for bringing up the map, given the easy to reach position on the controller."
Rashid Sayed: From a developer perspective what are your thoughts on working on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One? Do you find any differences with them in regards to how their architecture is based with one having unified memory and the other using embedded memory?
James Vance: We are very excited to deliver Strider to PS4 and Xbox One consumers at the very beginnings of this next-generation of gaming. Both machines are extremely powerful, and have allowed us to realize our major next-generation goal of delivering a 1080P, 60FPS enhanced gameplay experience. As the generation proceeds, it will be very interesting and exciting to see how platform specific games utilize their respective architectures in unique ways.
Rashid Sayed: The game does look pretty. Can you please talk a bit about asset creation along with optimization for 1080p resolution on next gen consoles?
James Vance: The PS4 and Xbox One were on the development radar some time before they were announced to the public, and because the PC version of Strider is DirectX 11 compliant it was an easy decision to bring the game to next-gen consoles once the development kits became available. The majority of the next-generation optimization has focused on ensuring the game looks good at 1080P with improved models, lighting and shadows, as well as maintaining a silky 60FPS frame rate.
Rashid Sayed: Last question: Are there any plans to use the Xbox One’s Kinect and PS4’s Touchpad to further improve gameplay mechanics?
James Vance: Several ideas were explored, but the PS4 and Xbox One standard button inputs proved to be the optimum player experience. The PS4 touchpad button is a convenient means for bringing up the map, given the easy to reach position on the controller.