We recently had a chance to ask some questions to Capcom’s Chris Svensson, probing his brain on such topics as Steam, Capcom’s upcoming PC titles (like Resident Evil 5), MT Framework 2.0, and more. How did the probing go? Let’s find out in our exclusive interview!
Buttonbasher: Hi Christian, thanks for taking the time to chat with Buttonbasher!
Can you touch on some of the changes we can expect from the move to MT Framework 2.0? Will the changes be noticeable to the average gamer, or will it be ‘behind the scenes’ work to ensure better performance?
Chris Svensson: There’s a number of performance improvements that will allow for even better looking titles and more advanced effects (both on consoles and especially on PC). We’re not ready to detail those just yet, but as Lost Planet 2 (our first game built on MT Framework 2.0) nears release, we’ll be shedding more light on precisely what some of those improvements are. Many will be plainly clear to users.
BB: Has Capcom seen enough success with the Game’s For Windows Live based cross-platform play in Lost Planet: Colonies to implement it in future titles?
CS: I think I view cross-platform play as a “nice to have” not must have feature of GFWL. There’s also considerable overhead in post-launch product support plans that need to be considered when planning cross platform play (unless you never plan on patching any of the platforms with updates/new content). There are other features of GFWL such as achievements, messaging/friends systems and access to marketplace that are more widely used and of perceived higher value to consumers in our research/experience. That said, if it’s the right product for cross-platform play, we’ll certainly be exploring our options in future titles. It’s really case-by-case.
BB: Can you say anything else about Resident Evil 5 PC that hasn’t been mentioned thus far? Perhaps an idea of what to expect performance wise (more or less demanding than Lost Planet and Devil May Cry4 ?) and in terms of DRM (SecuROM or perhaps DRM-free?)
CS: There will be “something” specific to RE5 PC. I’m not able to provide details at this time. We’re still in the optimization process but I would expect similar performance/hardware requirements to Devil May Cry 4. Our DRM policy for RE5 isn’t finalized, but I suspect it will be similar to what we’ve done with SFIV (which is to say, disc-based SecuROM for retail requiring disc-in-tray for play). Digital DRM, I can’t speak to yet.
BB: In a recent Rock Paper Shotgun interview you were depicted as a strong supporter of digital distribution. Can you talk about your ongoing relationship with Valve and their Steam digital distribution service? Was there some kind of conflict or argument that has caused such a huge delay with your higher profile PC games like Lost Planet: Colonies and DMC4 arriving on Steam? Will there be such a delay with future titles like Bionic Commando, Resident Evil 5, Dark Void, Lost Planet 2 and Dead Rising 2?
CS: Valve has been a great partner for us and we continue to put content on Steam (Flock! Will soon have Steam achievements and new content pushed via Steam, Neopets Puzzle Adventure, Age of Booty and MotoGP 08 are all up there). People forget but we were the first non-Valve company to do a full Steam integration in a game years before Steamworks ever existed (Lost Planet: Extreme Condition). In the cases of Lost Planet: Colonies and DMC4, you’re right, they’re not on Steam. They’re not on any digital distribution service actually, not even the Capcom E-Store (and you’re also right that they should be). It’s internal issues that have kept that from happening and it’s something I’m continuing to work on. For the future, I can say with confidence, Dark Void and Bionic Commando will be on Steam day and date with their retail releases, just as Street Fighter IV will be. Beyond those two titles, I really can’t say yet. I’d also just like to call out that we work with a number of digital distribution partners in addition to Valve: Direct2Drive, Impulse, GamersGate, Metaboli, Gametap, Nvidia, Digital River (which powers the Capcom Store and BestBuy.com among other sites) and several others are pending. Particularly in our Western offices, we take digital distribution very seriously.
BB: While on the topic of Steam, do you see a possibility in releasing classic Capcom titles such as Resident Evil 1-3, Mega Man Legends 1+2, etc. via their service? And if not Steam, perhaps GOG.com or other outlets?
CS: No plans at this time. It seems like a brainlessly easy thing to do but there are other considerations like outstanding licensing agreements for voice overwork, musical scores, middleware or other components that could have lapsed. Titles need to be recleared legally, new contracts struck in some cases. On top of that there’s support costs for games that were never made to run on Vista or Windows 7 that we need to consider.
As titles are created today, obviously these issues are taken into consideration. But 10 years ago, unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
BB: Many PC gamers seem to take issue with anti-piracy measures such as SecuROM and limited activations, which Capcom includes in PC releases. While piracy is a great concern these days, do you see Capcom either using less notorious software, or adapting different tactics in the future?
CS: I think SecuROM in some form will be a part of most of the games we make for the foreseeable future. They’ve been a valued partner for us. I still think they get a bum rap for how some companies have implemented their technology, not because the technology itself is bad.
On a slightly different note (and I can’t get into details right now) but I don’t foresee the issue of limited activations being one we need to worry about in the long term though. At the same time, we’ve taken a few steps with some of the projects coming out of Japan that will provide other options for people. So for example, the SFIV release uses disc-based DRM for retail. We’ll use our traditional SecuROM DRM implementation (some number of concurrent installs, with autorevoke on uninstall/revoke tool always available, no phone home after install) on most digital distribution partners. On Steam and Impulse, we’ll be using their respective DRM solutions for those people who prefer them.
BB: Capcom seems to be approaching more and more titles from the Western perspective. What’s your opinion on this? Do you see this happening more or less as time goes on? Will we ever see a return to Japanese styled games?
CS: I’d put some caveats on that. I think we’re making games that are increasingly appealing to a global market. I’m not sure that the titles our guys in Japan have directly developed are necessarily made from the Western perspective, more with consideration for Western tastes. So it’s flavor being added rather than completely supplanting the Japanese design considerations. For example Lost Planet 2, Resident Evil (be it 5 or Darkside Chronicles), Street Fighter IV, Monster Hunter and Devil May Cry 4 are globally appealing but I’m not sure they’d be confused for Western-developed games. While Western feedback is brought into the development process, these games still retain significant elements of Japanese flavor and that’s part of what distinguishes our products from those created by Western developers (or one might say, even Japanese developers who aren’t embracing the West to the same extent we have).
So alongside that increased consideration for Western tastes, what you are seeing is an expansion in Western-lead development. From the titles being managed out of our office in San Mateo (many of which aren’t yet announced) and titles being developed in the West but managed by Japan (Dead Rising 2 and Bionic Commando), these new titles are largely additive, not cannibalistic of what Capcom has always done. We’re hoping to create new classics like Dark Void, while at the same time expanding classic and loved Capcom brands in ways that might not have been possible. My hope is that we’re successful in expanding our business in this fashion and that these projects become an increasing part of our product portfolio.
BB: As an iPhone owner, I couldn’t help but notice Capcoms presence in the App-Store. Can you talk about the success of such high-profile titles as Mega Man 2 and Resident Evil: Degeneration? Any plans for other franchises making appearances on the iPhone/iTouch?
CS: Our mobile group is always doing new and interesting things. Unfortunately, I honestly would have to defer to our mobile group for any details of existing title performance or future plans. Don’t want to trump their announcements.
BB: Will the downloadable multiplayer add-on be the last time we see Resident Evil 5 DLC? Can we expect any new weapons, costumes or Mercenaries maps down the road?
CS: We haven’t ruled out more content for RE5 as DLC. In fact, on Capcom-Unity.com last week, someone asked the same question and I asked fans what they wanted to see if we were to make some more. The result was a thread on our boards that is hundreds of posts long, tens of thousands of views and I’ll be “interpreting” that feedback and making recommendations to Takeuchi-san based on it. There’s nothing to announce by any stretch, but I think it’s worth noting that we’re considering it.
BB: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions!
Very interesting. It’s good to know that even though Bionic Commando and Dark Void aren’t yet listed as ‘Coming Soon’ in the Steam Store, they are in fact coming to Steam the same day as retail. And suggestions that Resident Evil 5 will perform as well as Devil May Cry 4 amazes me considering how gorgeous RE5 is.
Thanks again to Chris Svensson, and Chris Kramer for granting us this interview!