Virtua Fighter 5 Xbox 360: AM2 Interview
We talk to SEGA AM2's Tohru Murayama, Hitoshi Iizawa & Nobuyuki Minato for the most extensive discussion on the online-enabled Xbox 360 version of VF5.
By Adam Doree
Our coverage for Virtua Fighter fans continues today with our latest exclusive interview with Sega's AM2 department and full lowdown on the Xbox 360 version of Virtua Fighter 5, which takes the series playable online for the first time ever.
Previously, we met with AM2 boss Hiroshi Kataoka and producers Norikuki Shimoda and Hiroshi Masui, followed by an extensive chat with development guru Makoto Osaki and console versions manager Tohru Murayama. This time, Mr Murayama meets with us again, joined by his colleagues Hitoshi Iizawa (who does technical things) and Nobuyuki Minato who does product support and also doubles up as our translator.
These affable chaps know we're 'down' with the VF series, and got prepared for the lengthiest interview for VF5 360 anywhere... before accepting a few challenges from us playing the online version of the game, which works surprisingly well, incidentally.
Kikizo: So, you remember the last interview we did? This is the 'original' list of questions we had for you before Sega told us there were too many! So we have plenty to go through!
Minato: Yes I remember, that is OK! [Laughs]
Kikizo: The online play works better than we expected based on what we have played. We have looked into the technical difficulties with this - latency and server response - and are interested in how you have achieved a high standard.
Murayama: First, you should know that you have experienced online play in the game under the best of the best circumstances! But it is a realistic online circumstance, that you will be able to experience, if you buy the Xbox 360 version when it is released. If you play with friends living close to you for example in your city, you will get an experience like this. As to how to achieve this good online circumstance, it is because of AM's effort, but you know we just can't really share the details too much.
Kikizo: But there are certain limitations that in theory are technically impossible to get past in terms of delay. Then again, there are certain situations in the game where the game system knows something is guaranteed to happen, if 'crumple' a player into a wall, then for about one second they're open to attack - was this relevant to creating online play that works well?
Murayama: The issue is that when the player first hits a button, that reaction has to be on the other monitor. When player A presses the button it takes some time lag to show what is going on for player B, so if we show too prompt a reaction on the other monitor, maybe the other guy doesn't understand what happened, because the animation speed can't get there that fast. So we have to 'manage', to find what kind of time lag and how prompt a reaction must match it. But this is the best of the best online circumstances; if you do have the same online circumstance and in the same city, you can have this same experience you have played, we hope.
Kikizo: What you should do is give us a copy of the 360 version now, and we will help you to test it for international play to Japan!
Minato: Haha! Well this development version uses Partnernet though [this is the 'debug' equivalent of Xbox Live for developers and game reviewers].
Kikizo: That's fine, we have Partnernet...
Minato: You do? In Japan it is rare for online website to have this. Can we have your username? [We actually nearly did go on to blag a copy of the disc from them, but somebody from Sega PR noticed and stopped them!]
Murayama: We have done a test to the AM2 development team from Europe, and we have found that there is a kind of lag intermittently, maybe every five seconds, so it is not perfect, but that is from between Europe and Japan. But with good online connection and if you invite a friend to play who is in the same city or same country it will be much better. Actually even in this version you have played there IS some lag, but it is extremely difficult to notice.
Kikizo: So to control the user experience, will you decide to limit the game so that you can only play people from your own country, like some other games are doing?
Minato: No, it will be open. But actually what the program is doing is to search for a good online connection to match up for a good console circumstance.
Kikizo: Actually we wanted to ask, will there be a Japanese release for this version of the game?