I absolutely love fighting games. Behind rhythm games, it is my favorite genre of video games and if you mix the two genres, with games such as Slap Happy Rhythm Busters or Draglade, I find the results to be euphoric. The magic about fighting games, though, is that legions of gamers share the same love for the genre, resulting in tight, competitive communities and even in the industry, there are fighting fans hard at work spreading the love for game publishers such as Capcom.
At Capcom, competitive digital pugilist Seth Killian sits as the senior manager of community for the company. Killian is responsible for much of what gamers see on the Capcom Unity community site, but that doesn’t keep him from getting his hands dirty with a little bit of game development for select titles. When it comes down to it, though, he also isn’t afraid to step down from his office chair and lay beat downs on Street Fighter players. An accomplished competitive Street Fighter player and long-time EVO supporter, Killian is just as crazy about the series and fighting games as any other fan of the genre.
Seth Killian was kind enough to accept an interview with us, so please read on as we reach into the deepest annals of the fighting game community and Killian details what got him into fighting games, the competitive fighting game scene, some of Capcom’s more obscure fighters and having the final boss of Street Fighter IV named after him.
Diehard GameFAN: You’re quite known for your competitive play, EVO presence, Capcom-Unity leadership and, of course, being involved with the Capcom company itself. They say every story has its humble beginnings, so what was it that originally pulled you into video games, fighting games and the competitive scene?
Seth Killian: I grew up playing games in arcades. I liked a lot of games, and was really good at a few, but with Street Fighter II, you weren’t just fighting for your quarter against the machine, you were fighting against another human – fighting for your quarter, for honor, for respect. Just like that, games became instant drama. I guess the magic of “winner stays, loser pays” was what drew me into the scene. I didn’t have that much money, so I had to win if I wanted to keep playing. The competitive SF scene was also taking off at the same time as the internet, so we basically used forums as a way of trash-talking other kids and then working out a place to fight – EVO grew directly out of that. I still have a picture on my desk of the arcade where I learned to play – it’s now a discount textbook warehouse.
DHGF: We see a lot of people still claim U.S. arcades aren’t dead, even though a few comments from Capcom execs seem to prove otherwise (and keep us from having legal Street Fighter IV cabinets). What are your thoughts on the issue and what do you feel that arcades could offer that the console experience does not (or even vice versa)?
SK: I don’t think the life or death of arcades is up to Capcom, but there’s no question there aren’t as many as there once were. I still love arcades, and go to as many live events as I can. Arcades have an electric atmosphere that you just don’t get online, no matter how good the connection. For anyone that plays competitive games, there’s nothing like it. Capturing that arcade atmosphere was a big part of the reason we started organizing events and one of the core aspects of EVO. Online is great, but staring down the opponent, cheering, having to skulk away if you lose, etc. — that’s really what bonds people and makes them play with their whole heart. Playing in a live event is like nothing else in gaming.
DHGF: Obviously, with the success of Street Fighter II, there had to be an original Street Fighter title. What are your thoughts on the original title that only put players in the gi of Ryu or Ken? Do you ever pull this one out on occasion? There’s got be one of these cabinets floating around the office somewhere.
SK: Honestly, I was not a fan of Street Fighter. It opened the door to Street Fighter II, but when I do play SF1, I’m usually not happy that I did. It’s got a lot of great concepts, but the controls are terrible and controls mean a lot.
DHGF: It always seems like a no-brainer that it would be sweet to play video games competitively and earn cash for doing so. What advice would you give to someone who is considering playing Street Fighter or other fighting games on a serious, competitive level?
SK: Play for the love and you’ll be happy. If you’re in it to make money, my advice would be to finish school and get your degree. Even the successful top competitive gamers make less than most game industry professionals, and they probably work harder doing it. I am a huge advocate of competitive gaming and earning money for playing is well-deserved, but it may not be a smart life plan overall. Even if the dream comes true and competitive gaming replaces the NBA, you personally may not stick around long enough to see it or maybe nobody will care about the games you happen to be great at. The people who tell you otherwise usually have their own agendas, so think very carefully about what they’re saying.
DHGF: And with that, EVO2K9 is set to take place from July 17-19. The tournament has come a long way and has seen a number of famous battles and mighty competitors and includes a number of Capcom products. What is your thought on this competition? Would you like to see more competitions like this pop up in the U.S. or is there only room for one “big one?” Lastly, will we see Capcom step up on tournament support in the future?
SK: I love EVO. It’s the backbone of the worldwide competitive scene, and all of our greatest SF legends come straight from EVO finals. One of the best things about Shoryuken.com and EVO is that they have inspired so many competitions like this around the country. EVO is the biggest by far, but since it took off, there are now hundreds of similar tournaments around the country, where before there was 1 – maybe 2 – a year. So EVO and SRK are definitely big supporters of more tournaments (all of the other events use SRK to advertise), both in the US and around the world. Capcom is a big supporter of EVO in various capacities, but they are a product-driven company like anyone else. This means they are able to support events like this more directly when they have relevant games. Capcom has tried to support EVO even when they don’t have new games as well, so I have a lot of respect and appreciation for that.
DHGF: You seem to enjoy a span of fighting game products since you feature videos, fan creations and tidbits of Capcom’s fighters on the Unity site. On the other side of the fence, be brutally honest – what fighting games do you absolutely despise and why?
SK: There are very few fighting games I enjoy playing for long periods of time, but as a student of the genre, I learn something from playing even the crummiest fighters. They all have their own ideas, it’s just that most of them are really badly implemented. I also like seeing the fighting-game mechanics that show up in a lot of crossover titles, like the new UFC game, or even in God of War, both of which benefit a lot from Street Fighter-style thinking and designs, even if it doesn’t seem that way on the surface. I did hate Virtua Fighter 3 — just because I could play VF2 pretty well, but could not win at VF3 to save my life.
DHGF: In my recent review of Sunday X Magazine, I stated Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom had too many licensing issues to become a U.S. crossover fighter and it looks like you made me a liar (please start working on bringing Namco X Capcom over). While E3 provided a great feast of news on the game, can you detail why you fought so hard to bring the game over to us? Also, in a short hype blurb, can you tell people why they should be excited about the game?
SK: I fight for the things that I believe in, and I’ve been a big believer in this game since I first saw it. People should be excited about it because it’s the best fighting game on the Wii, it’s one of the prettiest games on the Wii period, and it’s really the next evolution in the “Capcom Versus” style. It’s got amazing amounts of style, attention to little details, love for the characters … exactly the kind of stuff you used to find only in sprite-based fighters, but we’re doing it in fully rendered 3D now. It’s also just a lot of crazy fun. I’m all for top-level intensity on the most serious fighters, but if we only made games for that type of player, the genre would disappear. TvC combines the best of both worlds – easy to pick up and play, but with real depth for the hardcore.
DHGF: Street Fighter II received a super upgrade with HD Remix last year. With a solid chunk of time elapsing after its release, do you think the game achieved its goal of being as balanced as possible? What things would you change or add to the release?
SK: That’s a complicated question – the competitive community hasn’t reached a consensus about it yet. Speaking personally, there’s always more work to do in terms of balancing but HD Remix is a new chapter in the SFII series and gave people a reason to go back and re-engage with a great game and remember what’s so fun about fighting games. As the 5th version of SFII, the original Super Street Fighter II Turbo mechanics were some of the most highly-evolved anywhere in the fighting world, so for me, HD Remix is really a nice dose of icing on a delicious cake. Having 15 *years* of player feedback on SSF2T really helped give a clear picture of what needed to change, and how. I love that so many of the weaker characters like Cammy are now a lot more competitive and easy to play. As for changes, I think Akuma missed the mark in some respects, but Akuma is always a big challenge.
DHGF: When people talk Capcom fighting games, all you tend to hear about is Street Fighter and the Versus series. What games outside of these franchises do you enjoy? Is there any love for series such as Darkstalkers, Cyberbots, Rival Schools and the like and are there any franchises you’d like to see revived?
SK: Personally I’d love to see Cyberbots, just because I was really good at that game. I love Darkstalkers as well, though I got worse at those games as they went on. Although the IP isn’t popular in the West, I’d also love to take a crack at another Jo-Jo’s Bizarre Adventure. From the fans, I hear a lot of love for Rival Schools, and lately there’s been a lot of noise about Power Stone, which I do think has a lot of potential.
DHGF: It’s no secret that Street Fighter IV’s end boss shares a first name with you. Was there a process involved with this? How did this happen? Also, does anyone ever rag on you over the fact you share your name with a naked, blue man (that could wreck said people with spinning pile drivers)? It seems a lot of press outlets didn’t make any sort of correlation and completely ripped on the name.
SK: The original docs (some of which are from before I started at Capcom) talked about a Cane and Abel pairing, but, although “Abel” stayed, “Cane” got replaced with “Seth” after we’d been working together for a while. They did ask me if that was okay, but that wasn’t a very tough decision for a lifelong SF fan. I thought it was especially nice since, as you mention, Seth is not the toughest sounding name, and on top of that, the “th” sound can’t even be pronounced in Japanese at all (they say “Sesu”). Hopefully they are happy with my work, though I don’t think he’s exactly a fan-favorite character.