Power Stone – 1999 Developer Interview

Power Stone – 1999 Developer Interview

In this short-but-sweet Power Stone interview from Dreamcast Magazine, producer Takeshi Tezuka discusses the making of Capcom's beloved arcade/console 3D fighter. The conversation largely revolves around Tezuka's efforts to ensure Power Stone had mass appeal, and how that was reflected in various aspects of the game design, from the characters to the control layout.

―How did the Power Stone development get started?

Tezuka: There were several motivating factors. One thing is that I'd always felt that so-called "3D-fighting games" are, at their essence, really just 2D games. And I thought that we've finally reached the point with the hardware technology that a proper, real "three-dimensional" game could be realized. Also, over time the fighting game scene has unfortunately evolved further and further into something for maniac-level experts; with Power Stone I wanted to once more try and return fighting games to the masses and create an open game with that appeal.

As for the staff, our development team is composed of people who worked on the X-MEN games and Rival Schools.

―I think you've been asked this question over and over, but the gameplay and visuals for Power Stone resemble a certain game on the PlayStation, don't they...? 1

Tezuka: Well, in terms of the 3D visuals, I suspect many companies in the gaming industry simultaneously had the same idea to do something like this. But the actual content of our game is completely different, I think.

Takeshi Tezuka (1999)

―Was the "grab 3 gems to transform" concept something you decided on from the start?

Tezuka: We decided early on that competing over the gems, with players stealing them from each other, would be a core part of the gameplay. Then we experimented a lot with some of the details, like whether you will automatically transform after collecting them, or whether players would need to input a command to transform, or whether the number of gems you'd collected should affect the amount of time you stay transformed… but ultimately we went with what would be easiest for players to understand, and settled on the current system.

―How about the controls? It's impressive that you can do so much with a simple 3-button Punch-Kick-Jump button layout.

Tezuka: Getting the controls right all came down to a lot of trial and error. For awhile we had a 6-button layout, then at one point we only had Attack and Jump―just 2 buttons! But the reason we finally settled on this 3-button layout is that "Punch" and "Kick" are very intuitive for players, and rather than having a single attack button, having two attacks lets players feel like they have choices. We see Power Stone's controls as not merely a variation on existing fighting games, but really a whole new genre in and of itself. It was the removal of a guard/block button, however, that most decisively broke us free from the "fighting game" mold. If we'd left blocking in, I think Power Stone would just be seen as yet another also-ran in the lineage of versus fighting games.

―How did you go about incorporating and fine-tuning the tactical elements of Power Stone, a must in any competitive game?

Tezuka: The gameplay in versus fighting games today basically boils down to whether to block standing or block crouching, and when to drop your guard and attack. I know that's something of an oversimplification, but that is pretty much what the gameplay revolves around. But in Power Stone, you can move freely within a 3D environment, and the tactics are a bit different from the "to guard or not to guard" style of other fighting games.

That being the case, for Power Stone to be strategically satisfying I knew we would need to include interesting stage design and terrain features. The way I describe it is that our game revolves around macro-level tactical gameplay rather than micro-level. Nevertheless, being a new style of gameplay, we did struggle a bit there and sometimes lost our sense of direction. It reminded me once again how important the fine-tuning stage is in game development.

Akiman's concept art for Power Stone. His designs seem to have been adopted with little alteration, excluding the large Viking/Mongol middle character (the Japanese text reads, "How's this for the boss?")

―Has anyone complained that once you get the stones it's an automatic win, or that the super moves are too strong?

Tezuka: Well, to a certain extent we intentionally made it that way. We want players to feel like the super transformations are strong, or no one will bother to collect the stones! If normal attacks alone did the same damage then I don't think Power Stone would feel much different from the current crop of fighting games, either. But making the stones very powerful has a positive effect too: it adds a second strategic layer to the game, of trying to stop your opponent from collecting them, and also makes you think "how can I survive this?" if your opponent does get them all.

However, even when you're transformed you're not invincible, and every super move has a weakness, and they can be avoided too. We've worked hard to get a good balance in that regard, and it's my hope that the more players get into Power Stone, they'll realize it's not just a simple race to see who grabs the stones first―this is a Capcom game, which means it has depth and strategy to it.

―What can you tell us about how the characters were created?

Tezuka: Some of the characters may resemble characters from other games or media, but when you aim for something with mass appeal, that is inevitable. When people imagine a "hero", for example, there's certain traits that we all tend to imagine in common.

As for the anime designs… that stylistic touch was again part of the mass appeal factor, but also, this being a new game and world that we're starting from scratch here, we thought it would be nice to have the option to explore it in anime and manga form concurrently.

―How is it working with the NAOMI boards, by the way?

Tezuka: It's good. It's got so many nice features, you rarely feel like "oh, I can't do this." Up to now, there's usually been a lot of things we've had to cut back from our initial plans once we get down to it, but that hasn't been the case with the NAOMI. Almost nothing feels impossible with it.

The opening of the Power Stone anime. The less ostentatious (by Capcom standards) character designs of Power Stone were partly motivated by its multi-pronged media approach.

―Since the NAOMI and the Dreamcast have the same capabilities, was Power Stone developed with the possibility of a future console port in mind...?

Tezuka: Yeah. We talked about wanting to release it for the Dreamcast as quickly as possible, but I never imagined we'd manage to release them at the same time! (laughs)2 To be honest, the development schedule was extremely tight. The port wasn't a straight conversion, unfortunately. There were a lot of small inconsistencies and differences we had to iron out, and fixing all that was very tough.

―Do you have any future plans to share?

Tezuka: I'm an arcade guy, so I hope we can make another game for the NAOMI. And I think that in the future we'll need to be mindful of console releases, too, so Dreamcast users should have a lot to look forward to.

―Thank you for your time today.

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  1. I'm not certain what game he is referring to, but it seemed like something popular enough to not need specifying...

  2. The arcade and console port of Power Stone both released in February 1999 in Japan; in the US, there was a six month gap between the arcade and console release.

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