Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike – 1999 Developer Interviews

The Making of Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike

These three Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike interviews were originally featured in Gamest magazine and the Capcom Secret File. They cover the origins of the 3rd Strike development, the design of the new characters, changes from 2nd Impact, and much more. The third interview with producer Noritaka Funamizu features his comments on the contemporary arcade and FTG scene, alternating between pointed criticism of the industry and heartfelt declarations of support for the genre and community.

—At long last, SFIII: 3rd Strike is almost here—just one month left! I’d like to start with some general questions about the game. How long has the development been going on?

Capcom: We started it around the time we finished 2nd Impact, so almost a year and a half.

—How about the staff?

Capcom: We had just added a bunch of new staff, but it was mostly the same team from 2nd Impact.

—The official title for the game is “Street Fighter III: 3rd STRIKE Fight for the Future”. The title is very… long. (laughs) What was the reason for that?

Capcom: We started conceptualizing 3rd Strike during the development of 2nd Impact, when it was still called by its provisional title “Second Edition.” The numbering is a remnant from that. As for “STRIKE”, we decided we wanted to use a word with more immediate force than “Impact”. The subtitle “Fight for the Future” has a couple things going on: first, it’s a call-back to the first game, New Generation, and the idea that these are the next generation of fighters; second, we wanted to signal to players that this was a game you could only play at game centers, and convey our hope that the tradition of live arcade FTG matches will continue for a long time to come.

—Ah, so it wasn’t just about length then. (laughs) There’s a lot of deep associations there.

Capcom: Of course! (laughs)

—Capcom has many other 2D FTG franchises, including Darkstalkers, X-men, Street Fighter Zero… where does the Street Fighter III series fit in among these?

Capcom: The other series are all related in one way or another to Street Fighter II, either as developments, refinements, or offshoots of that style of gameplay. However, from the start SFIII was designed as a game that would take the core concept of SFII, but adapt it for today’s generation and technology.

—And where does 3rd Strike fit amongst the other Street Fighter III games, then?

Capcom: Good question. We really took things to the limit in terms of volume, with the number of characters and such. In that sense I think you can probably call 3rd Strike the culmination of the SFIII series.

—Being a culmination of the series, as you say, I imagine the development must have been very challenging.

Capcom: Yes, definitely. We took what we learned from 2nd Impact and re-examined the whole SFIII system. Also, we really wanted to create beautiful backgrounds this time; visuals that you could take time to slow down and appreciate when you were playing single player. The entire staff really put their heart and soul into the graphics for 3rd Strike. I want to specially point out the car in the bonus game—it’s a must-see… please refrain from destroying it right away! (laughs)

—I felt like the sound has really changed for 3rd Strike, too. There’s rap, hip-hop—it’s a very different feel from what we’ve seen in FTG games up to now.

Capcom: Yeah. We really wanted to challenge ourselves to try and do something new with the sound, too. It was very important to us. We used the Canada hip-hop artist infinite for the opening track. I think they came up with something really cool. You know, the whole sound staff really tried to capture the essence of those words “Fight for the Future” with their music. If they had only followed the story alone, I don’t think the same feeling would have been conveyed.

Capcom developers in the recording studio with infinite.

—Well then, I’d like to get to what everyone is dying to know more about: the game mechanics…

Capcom: Uh oh… (laughs) We’re still in the fine-tuning stage, so I won’t be able to give a final answer to everything, but I’ll do my best!

—I wanted to start off by asking about the version you had on display at the AOU show earlier this week. I was able to play it, and I noticed that you’d changed the leap attack and throws: you now have to press medium punch and medium kick simultaneously to execute them. What were you trying to accomplish with that change?

Capcom: We wanted to avoid the command inputs overlapping (especially when you consider the addition of parrying), so it was done to simplify things, actually.

—I’ve heard about about a new “Grade Judge” system in SFIII. Were you trying to send a message to the FTG scene with the inclusion of this system?

Capcom: I used to go to local events and see these beautiful, graceful performances from highly-skilled players of 2nd Impact. It was then that I thought something was missing if players were judged simply on their win percentage or their score. I wanted to try adding something that would be able to judge the aesthetic aspects of a fight…

However, it’s difficult to objectively judge a thing like “beauty”, so I’m sure there will be times when players think the rating is off. I hope players see it as just one approach to the possibility of seeing matches as something more than just win/lose. I want players to try and get a good grade!

—Parrying is one of the key features of the SFIII series. How has it been adjusted for 3rd Strike?

Capcom: We’re still fine-tuning the parrying, so I can’t say anything for certain yet, but compared with 2nd Impact, the feel is a little different. For mid-air parries you now push the lever in the same direction as ground parries, for example.

—I often heard people complain that the input timing for parries was very difficult in the previous games. What are your thoughts about that?

Capcom: Any element of gameplay ultimately comes down to a question of how it affects the weight and balancing of the overall game. Difficulty and Ease are two sides of the same coin.

Concept art for Ken. Developer comment: “We had planned to add more moves for Ken, but his Shoryuken was so strong, he kind of became a one-trick pony character. Even if you suck, he’s strong enough to bury many of the other characters…”

—I think the ability to combo after parrying is a big part of what makes the SFIII series so fun and refreshing to play. I got the impression that the damage on such attacks was set relatively high, which I think accounts for making it so fun. Were you thinking along those lines when you set it up?

Capcom: Regarding the strength of the attacks, more than combo damage per se, we were thinking about the tempo of the game. On the one hand, we figured that most of the players for Street Fighter III were older. And if the damage was set too low, then fights would always be determined by the relative skill difference between players. I guess what I’m trying to say is that we wanted to bring back that sense of tension and excitement from the early days of fighting games, you know?

—Finally, I’d like to ask about the characters. I’ve always felt like the characters in SFIII have a ton of personality. Each one really stands out. There’s almost no “color swap” characters, and I love how each one has a distinct fighting style that really justifies their existence in the roster. When you’re creating a new character, what comes first: the fighting style concept, or their look/appearance?

Capcom: When we make characters, even if we have a really cool visual motif, if we can’t think of a matching set of movements and fighting style to go along with it, usually that character never gets made. In contrast, if we do have a solid idea for a fighting style first, then the moment we find a visual design to match, it’s an almost immediate greenlight for that character. That happened a lot, actually.

—Could you say a word or two about the 4 new characters: their design, fighting concept, etc.

Capcom: For Makoto, we were asked to make a character based on ikken hissatsu: simple, direct, and powerful. Ryu and Ken have a more American style of Karate, so we wanted Makoto to have a more Japanese style. And of course we tried to make her moveset and controls reflect that, too.

For Twelve, we were thinking about how to make a character who was more deliberately weird and atypical. His design was basically all about “breaking the rules”…

—Twelve seems to be a character with a lot of secrets. How about Q?

Capcom: Q isn’t associated with the main storyline, so we had more freedom in designing him. His fighting concept was simple, direct charging attacks with a little extra “je ne sais quoi” thrown in.

Remi, on the other hand, was designed as a hardcore martial artist like Alex or Ryu—and a rival to them, with characteristics that would counter their abilities. We also wanted to flesh out the backstory of SFIII with Remi. He was the last of the new characters we created—in fact, we didn’t even get started on him until well after the others were done, so he took a long time to finish. For his fighting style, we took a frank look at what styles were missing from the SFIII line-up, and developed it from there.

—3rd Strike is also the first SFIII game to feature Chun Li. Was she added in response to fans?

Capcom: That was definitely part of it, but as developers we also wanted to see her added to the mix.

—Of all the new characters, who was the hardest to create?

Capcom: In terms of his design, Remi. The one who took the most work and time, though, was Chun Li.

—As developers, do you have any favorite characters?

Capcom: All of the new characters are popular, but I would probably say Makoto or Twelve. Of the older characters, Dudley and Necro are very popular.

—This is obviously a hypothetical question, but if you were to continue the SFIII series, what characters would you like to see added from the previous (ZERO etc) series?

Capcom: I’d have to say Sagat or Zangief.

Concept art for Necro and Dudley, who were favorites among the development staff.
Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike – Roundtable Interview

originally featured in the Capcom Secret File

Hidetoshi Ishizawa – Main Planner
Tomonori Onuma – Planner
Yasunori Ichinose – Planner
Haruo Murata – Events/Text, Grade Judge system

Ichinose: Let’s start off with the location test. How did it go?

Onuma: There were a lot of 2nd Impact players there.

Ichinose: Yeah, lots of very passionate fans.

Ishizawa: Some of them had their own homepages online, which they would update everyday with new info from the location test.

Onuma: I’m very thankful for them.

Ishizawa: I was reading their pages and it was very helpful. It was like, “Oh shit, a bug!” or “hmm, maybe that move is overpowered…” (laughs)

Onuma: As I said, we’re very thankful. (laughs)

Ishizawa: We always listen to the feedback from players. Truly. Even when it’s just flattery. (laughs)

Murata: 3rd Strike had a really long location test, didn’t it? Almost a month?

Ishizawa: Yeah, when you compare the version of the game at the beginning of the location test, and what we ended up with—it’s like two entirely different games!

Murata: And 70% of those changes were made in the last 3 days. (laughs) It’s crazy… it almost feels like the entire game was made in one week. (laughs)

Ichinose: I was really impressed at everyone’s ability to focus and concentrate in that short period.

Ishizawa: Yeah, but management knows that and relies on it, so they never give us enough time. (crying laugh)

Murata: Was it always the plan to do the location test right after the AOU show? I remember at the AOU, we only had one Super Arts completed…! It seemed insane.

Ishizawa: I remember coming up with the 2nd and 3rd Super Arts during one of the events at AOU, like literally during the presentation I was giving.

Murata: People were asking all these different questions, and all I could say was “It’s still in development. It’s still in development.” Really, hardly anything had been finalized. (laughs)

Grade Judge

Ichinose: The Grade Judge system was much more strict at first, wasn’t it?

Murata: It was. At the location test, you were doing well if you could get a D! It was even harder during the AOU show before that… there, people were only getting F and G ratings.

Ishizawa: Yeah, I saw someone get a B and everyone went crazy. People thought the highest score possible was an A.

Murata: And an A is only halfway on the scale. (laughs)

Ichinose: What?! Really?

Ishizawa: In the very final stages of the development, we invited a few expert players to the game center for some all-day playtesting session, to try and ferret out any bugs. Even those guys couldn’t reach an A ranking. It was like, uh oh, aren’t these supposed to be the best players around? (laughs)

Murata: Yeah, in order to finish in time for the AOU show, the requirements I programmed for the higher ranks were just stupid. “Finish with more than 99 seconds, with 99 combos, 99 parries”, etc. (laughs maniacally)

Early concept art for Twelve. Developer comment: “This is a very early design. We had planned to add camouflage to his skin, too.

Ichinose: Impossible, even for a god.

Murata: For the final version, I made them more reasonable, of course. (laughs)

Ichinose: I imagine that you had to take a crazy number of variables into account to make the Grade Judge system.

Murata: The programmer in charge really put his heart into it. He was tinkering with it and adding things up to the very last minute.

Game Mechanics

Ishizawa: In the beginning, we wanted to add another new mechanic to 3rd Strike, something on par with the importance of parrying. Unfortunately, we realized that adding another mechanic like that would really change the gameplay we’d established in the SFIII series, so we abandoned the idea.

Onuma: There were still a lot of possibilities left to exploit in parrying, we realized. And if you aren’t extremely careful with new mechanics, they can easily become either overwhelmingly powerful, or totally useless.

Ichinose: What were some of the ideas you had…?

Ishizawa: Ah… there was the “bomb” idea, if I recall.

Ichinose: A bomb…?!

Ishizawa: Yeah, just like it sounds. A bomb like in a STG game, something where you press one button and everything gets destroyed! It would have been usable only once per match. We were thinking seriously about how to include it in a balanced way.

Murata: Wow.

Ishizawa: If we define parrying as “a technique that can defend against any and all attacks”, then we wanted to counterpose something to that with a bomb, as something that could break any and all defenses. It was a simplistic conception. But ultimately, of course, people were like, “Nah, there’s no BOMBS in Street Fighter!”, and we dropped the idea. What a shame, I say!

Onuma: No, I think it was the right choice. (laughs)

Progressive Hit Frame

Murata: Uh, what the hell was this, in the end? (laughs)

Ishizawa: (painful laughter) Um yeah, the name isn’t particularly illuminating. We were all trying to come up with an easy way to explain it for the AOU show…

Ichinose: I remember receiving a fax with “What is the Progressive Frame system?” and an explanation written, but I confess I didn’t understand any of it. (laughs)

Murata: That was probably by design. (laughs)

Ichinose: It’s nickname was the “analogue hitbox”. If I recall, it was a different way of calculating the hitbox compared with the previous games…?

Ishizawa: Yeah, excluding certain moves. (laughs) The easiest example is probably Elena, I think? Her basic footwork (her stances), the movement of her feet is calculated in an analogue way.

Murata: It’s really something added for the hardcore player. We’re talking the difference of a pixel or two…

Onuma: It’s a fun system to try and figure out. Hardcore players, please enjoy the challenge!

New Characters

Ichinose: We should probably talk about the new characters too.

Ishizawa: Let’s start with Chun Li. Her main designer, Akira “Akiman” Yasuda, was really busy with other things this development, and had a hard time of it.

Ichinose: The feel of her standard attacks changed a lot.

Ishizawa: I guess you could say she’s the Chun Li of Street Fighter III. And we didn’t use her background info/notes from SFII either.

Murata: Everyone was really curious about her age and background. We decided to determine all that for ourselves; whatever the official canon might be, we wanted to make her our own. Now that’s what you call real love for a character!

Ichinose: I can feel the passion.

Concept art for Chun Li in 3rd Strike. The developers say she took the most time and effort to complete.

Murata: And remember, age is nothing but a number! You don’t start being old until the moment you say “I’m old”…!

Onuma: …I’m not gonna ask.

Ichinose: Next up is Makoto, who was very popular at the AOU show.

Ishizawa: Alright, I’ll tell you guys a little secret. We actually finished Makoto’s design during 2nd Impact’s development. But for various reasons, we ran out of time to include her there, and resolved to include her next time. And so we did!

Murata: That happens a lot actually. Like Hugo, in the first SFIII game.

Ishizawa: Yeah, almost every development has its thousand and one “next times”… (laughs)

Ichinose: Next is Remi. His image somehow feels un-Capcom.

Onuma: He wasn’t there in the beginning of the development.

Ishizawa: When we looked at the other 4 newcomers, we felt there was something lacking from the roster. Then it hit us: “Ah hah! There’s no bikei character!” (laughs)1

Murata: I wonder why we didn’t realize that during 2nd Impact. (laughs) There was clearly something missing.

Ishizawa: The design for Remi started not from our game design team, but from the character designer. His concept was for a delicate bikei-type.

Onuma: He came up with 40-50 different designs, didn’t he?

Ishizawa: There were a lot, yeah. There was the bikei doctor, the bikei priest, the bikei prince, bikei monster…

Onuma: Some of those don’t sound very bikei, no matter how delicate their limbs may be. (laughs)

Ishizawa: The “bikei priest” was one of the final contenders, I remember.

Ichinose: Next is Q.

Ishizawa: He’s a mystery. I’ll say no more.

Ichinose: That’s it?!

Ishizawa: That’s it. That’s what “mystery” means!

Concept art for Q. Developer comment: “His combination attack is supposed to look like someone who’s drunkenly stumbling down the street and singing in high spirits.”

Onuma: Ok then, moving on to Twelve.

Ishizawa: He was originally just a face-swap of Necro. We wanted to keep his coloring simple and really focus on making the movement and animation interesting.

Onuma: He ended up being completely different from Necro. Rather than a mere “face-swap” he became an “everything-swap.” (laughs) Our little scheme failed. (laughs)

Murata: He was an easy character to tie into the Secret Society, Necro, and Gill, and coming up with all those backstory connections was a lot of fun too.

Ichinose: I heard Abigail was also suggested as a face-swap of Hugo?

Murata: We’ll have to do that one next time. (laughs)

Ishizawa: Oh god, it’s way too soon to be talking about “next times”… (laughs)

In Closing

Onuma: Well, shall we wrap this up? Any closing thoughts?

Ishizawa: There was a lot of stuff we weren’t able to do in 2nd Impact, so this is kind of like a refined, improved version. In that sense 3rd Strike was a total overhaul of the SFIII system, a chance to get the fundamentals right. I mean, we’re always trying to do that, but.

Murata: It was the usual dilemma you have with sequels in a series: the difficulty of balancing newness and familiarity.

Onuma: At its core, it’s a game designed for serious, intense matches.

Ichinose: Yes, and I think games are more interesting and fun when they’re played seriously.

Ishizawa: The commercial release of 3rd Strike is finished now, but how it will play, and how far it can be taken—that’s now in the hands of the players. I want to see the game truly “finished” by the efforts of the community.

Murata: Now that’s a nice way to end this!

Ichinose: Yeah, that seems a fitting end.

Ishizawa: If we talked about the real state of things, we might get in trouble… (laughs) Better to play it defensive.

Murata: Sometimes you must attack! (laughs) Is there anything left you want to say to players…?

Ishizawa: I’m gonna have to crouch guard on that one. Forgive me.

Murata: Grade F. (laughs)

Taken from the Capcom Secret file, this funny picture shows which characters were most popular for the location tests in both Japan (on the left) and America (on the right). The list at the bottom, likewise, shows which Super Arts were most popular.
Noritaka Funamizu – 1999 Developer Interview

originally featured in Gamest magazine

—How was the response to SFIII: 3rd Strike at the AOU show?

Funamizu: It honestly inspired us with a lot of confidence. When you put your game on display there, you finally get a chance to see what the public thinks.

—Both the first SFIII game and 2nd Impact received very good reviews, I believe.

Funamizu: Yeah, 2nd Impact was good in its own right, but I have to say that it was far from ideal for us. It wasn’t very polished, and as developers we realized that a lot of things we wanted to do got left out. That’s why we really gave 3rd Strike our absolute best, on all fronts: graphics, gameplay, and everything. It was our intent to make a game that would be the final word on the SFIII series! That’s why it took us so long to complete, but by the same token, we’re very confident it will be popular with players. We really feel like we’ve finally achieved what we’ve been trying to do all along with the SFIII concept.

—The FTG boom has come and gone. Looking at the offerings on display at the AOU show, we’re seeing more and more music games and large-format arcade machines from developers. With SFIII, Capcom has bucked those trends and released another FTG game, renewing its commitment to this genre… can you speak to that decision?

Funamizu: Well, you know that we declared to the world long ago that “Capcom will never stop making 2D FTGs!” But in the last 10 years, other developers came in and flooded the market with knock-offs, creating a vs. fighting bubble. However, at this AOU show, I couldn’t help but think that those same developers are now abandoning ship and jumping on music games in pursuit of the Next Big Thing.

For us, we’ve always valued FTG games, and we’re even more committed to them now than ever.

—And yet it’s a definite fact that the vs. fighting genre is fast disappearing from game centers. In fact, 3rd Strike will be the only new FTG game released this Spring…

Funamizu: That’s all the better for us—less competition! (laughs)

—Would you say that you feel a deeper obligation than usual with the release of 3rd Strike in this climate, then?

Funamizu: Hmm, I don’t know. I had figured the game industry would have moved more decidedly into 3D by now. Had that happened, I think 2D FTG games would have actually become more esteemed for their rarity…. but the world kind of lagged behind my expectations. We’re just now seeing the NAOMI system, and it feels like “finally…!”

Noritaka Funamizu

—People have been talking for a long time now about the future of small and mid-sized game centers; it was even brought up at the AOU roundtable this year. While it’s unquestionable that music games have captured player’s attention in recent years, for smaller game centers, I think traditional video games remain important to them. The high rankings of 3rd Strike and Giga Wing are no doubt owed to their quality and popularity as games, but I think they also reflect a sentiment from smaller game center operators: “please keep making good video games!” That being the case, do you feel a sense of responsibility as one of the last developers focusing on video games—a sense that if you don’t release quality games, it could be the end of the market itself?

Funamizu: That has been our stance from the very beginning. That is the honest truth. It’s always been our development ethos, to make quality games that are both affordable for operators to purchase, and will return them a steady income.

I also firmly believe that for game centers to continue to exist in the long run, they must continue to have video games. However, I’m sad to say this, but many of the operators who have bought our games—the moment that music and large arcade machines started becoming popular, they abandoned video games and only bought those machines. Despite our long relationship, they turned a cold shoulder to us. And many of those operators still don’t recognize the value of video games, even though buying nothing but those machines for the last 2-3 years hasn’t saved their businesses.

—Well, I’m sure it’s not all of them, but even so, I have a hard time believing that any operators would treat Capcom that way!

Funamizu: Yeah, it started getting worse about 2-3 years ago. They’ll still buy certain products, of course, but other things they won’t even consider. To be honest, we’ve discussed getting out of the arcade business entirely. We don’t make a lot of profit on them, and game centers don’t seem to want them anymore. Some at Capcom have suggested shifting our entire business to home console games.

But if we did that, the entire arcade industry would fall apart. I feel I can say that with confidence.

If (hypothetically speaking) we went under, all you would have left are those big, simplistic arcade machines, and video games in arcades would soon die out. Without new video games, many game centers would close, and the market would become absolutely dominated by those big machines. All that would remain of game centers would be “amusement park”-like spaces, and perhaps the corners of bowling alleys… it’s a bleak picture of stagnation.

When I consider that, it actually reinforces our decision to stay in this market. And of course we love arcades, after all…

Concept art for Ibuki. Developer comment: “The start-up pose for Yami Shigure. At first, Yami Shigure was just a normal special attack, but many people complained, so it became a Super Art… bah!

—It seems accurate to say that you’re not only thinking about the future of Capcom, but the health and future of the industry as a whole.

Funamizu: Yeah. We’re always thinking about the industry. That’s why I want to say this to operators today: in these difficult business times we find ourselves in, don’t just focus on short-term gains and what’s immediately in front of you! Please think about the long-term health of this industry.

I should say that I’m not trying to dismiss music games as a genre. I think music games, UFO catchers, purikura photobooths, and other machines which cater to the general public are important to game centers too. However, there’s this clear trend with operators today, a kind of “we don’t need hardcore gamers!” And I have always thought that perspective is very dubious. We absolutely need games that meet the needs of hardcore, dedicated gamers.

—But not every game center is like that, right? There are still places that are supported by regulars and hardcore players.

Funamizu: Yeah, I know that is true. And I hope they continue to do their best. But overall, the vast majority of what we hear from operators is “Make us games that casual players can enjoy!” That attitude just brings out the contrarian in us, though… it’s like, “don’t you want these games for hardcore players?”

—In that sense, it sounds like 3rd Strike was unabashedly targeted at hardcore players.

Funamizu: Yeah. 3rd Strike—even more than usual (laughs)—is especially aimed at the long-time 2D fighting and Capcom game fans. It’s a game designed to completely satisfy the hardcore FTG player, no joke. (laughs)

—I imagine it must be very difficult to make a game like that.

Funamizu: Yeah. And that’s why releasing 3rd Strike is a bit of an antagonistic move for us. It’s our way of saying that we aren’t only concerned with the casual user, and a declaration of intent: Capcom cares about hardcore gamers!

—Yeah, compared with the ZERO series, it does seem like 3rd Strike is aimed at a different class of users.

Funamizu: As you said, they are different. The ZERO series was aimed more broadly, at the general public. However, while 3rd Strike is aimed at a more limited audience, we did strive to make it a little more accessible compared with 2nd Impact. There are people who never played 2nd Impact, who might look at this game and think they’d like to try it out—we did a few things to make it easier for them to get into it. Adding Chun-Li, for instance, was one such attempt to get people interested, a familiar face for new players.

The pressure on us has been huge for this game. (laughs) We’ve been under a major timecrunch in March, and everyone has been scrambling like mad to make the deadline. We’re working around the clock though, doing our very best to fine-tune the game to meet the standards of the FTG community.

We feel a genuine sense of duty to make this game right, and to leave hardcore players with something they can really sink their teeth into and enjoy for years to come.

Concept art for an attack of Twelve’s that was removed before the final version. Developer comment: “This was Twelve’s original jumping roundhouse attack. The designer really liked it, and even animated the wheel. But one day came to his senses and realized something wasn’t right about it, changing it to the attack you see today.”

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  1. “Bikei”, which literally means “beautiful type” is a common character trope. It denotes a “beautiful” character, and can be used for either gender, but often refers to a slim/stylish/feminine man.

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