As the latest game in the Sword Art Online franchise, Fatal Bullet has the player assume their own avatar in the world of Gun Gale Online, where they get to explore devastated lands and “experience an original story supervised by series creator Reki Kawahara that unfolds and changes based on the players’ choices and interaction“.
However, with the latest title eschewing the series gameplay traditions of incorporating MMO-inspired JRPG mechanics, Fatal Bullet plays more like a third person action RPG shooter. With this in mind, I sat down with the game’s Producer, Yosuke Futami, and got to ask him as to what inspired such a change. Enjoy!
The previous Sword Art Online games were more like conventional RPGs. Fatal Bullet however is a third person shooter with RPG elements. What made you have a change of direction for Fatal Bullet in comparison to what came before?
The Sword Art Online world is about a game inside a story. The first was about double swords, and the second was about magic and flying, and after that there was an episode in the anime – so all of those three games were MMORPGs. The first two games had been released already as RPG games in our world. This time however, the setting is about shooting and involves gun and steel, so to realise Fatal Bullet‘s world, it needed to be envisaged as a third person shooter.
In other words, Fatal Bullet had to be a third person shooter in order to be more faithful to the anime?
The main advantage of the main character in the anime is that they get to play several types of games. So on this occasion, they are playing a gun game.
Fatal Bullet is being developed by Dimps (of recent Street Fighter fame). What made you decide to go with that developer, and in your opinion, what made them the best choice for the game?
Dimps are also responsible for the Dragon Ball Xenoverse series of games, and the speciality of the company is how they depict characters. Dimps also have experience in making a third person shooter. They were the only company who could do the necessary character creation and meld it with third person shooter mechanics.
Dimps are the company behind Street Fighter V, and that game was plagued with issues upon its release, whereby certain notable features were missing, which lead many to argue that it was released in an incomplete state. With many of Dimps personnel having been devoted towards Street Fighter V since its release so as to ensure that its myriad of issues are ironed out, what impact did their absence have on Fatal Bullet‘s development? How were you able to ensure that Fatal Bullet would not suffer the same fate as Street Fighter V, and go on to live up to Bandai Namco’s expectations?
Since I am not part of Dimps, I cannot speculate as to how many of the studio’s personnel have been allocated towards Fatal Bullet. But Dimps are excellent with the handling of characters, as can be seen by Street Fighter V. But to answer your question, Bandai Namco won’t allow Fatal Bullet to be released in an incomplete state. As Producer of the project, it my duty to ensure that the game will be completed, and that it will live up to player expectations.
Fatal Bullet is being released on PS4, XBox One and PC. Bandai Namco has a very strong Japanese heritage. Dimps are also a Japanese developer. Sword Art Online, for the simple reason that many of its gameplay mechanics are inherently JRPG oriented, is viewed as having more of an appeal in Japan. The XBox One however is primarily a console that appeals to the West, yet the Nintendo Switch is doing really well, and because of its Japanese parent company’s lineage, should appeal more to people in Japan – if only because it also acts as a handheld. My question therefore centres on whether Fatal Bullet will ever be released on the Switch?
The Switch has done phenomenally well in Japan, but Sword Art Online‘s anime has a lot of fans across the world. The last game in the series was released on the PS4, and there were a lot of users who wanted the series on PC and XBox One. Regarding the Switch, we didn’t have any information on the console when development of the game first started, so that’s why we didn’t consider making Fatal Bullet for the Switch.
Fatal Bullet is described as being a lot more darker, and more “Western”, than previous Sword Art Online games. Was it a conscientious choice so as to make the game appeal to a wider audience (outside of Japan and across the globe)? What ultimately led to your decision to make Fatal Bullet have a different feel to previous games?
Fatal Bullet is based on the anime of Gun Gale Online, which has a darker and more depressed atmosphere, and this is reflected in the game. And because the market is for Japan and the West, that is why we chose Fatal Bullet‘s feel and atmosphere.
The game has the UFG grappling hook gun. What other artistic deviations have Bandai Namco implemented so as to ensure that Fatal Bullet goes above and beyond its anime inspired source material, where these changes will allow it to be a better “game”?
When you see the anime, you see really cool gun shooting elements. But in the game, you need more action elements. That is why we introduced the UFG so as to make three dimensional movement possible. There are also other elements which aren’t in the anime – regarding story and characters.
What advantages did Unreal Engine 4 allow for the development of Fatal Bullet in comparison to other engines on the market?
The advantages of Unreal Engine 4 is that you can create a huge battlefield where you can put several elements easily, and to also make the environments realistic. So the engine is a perfect match for this title.
I know that development duties for Fatal Bullet were outsourced to Dimps. For future Sword Art Online games however, how will you go about determining software development partnerships that ensure that the look and feel of the games remain intact, whilst ensuring that the quality also remains high?
So the most important part is that the developer has to create a game that has the same feeling as the Sword Art Online games. They have to create cool characters, but the game systems also need to be correct at the same time. Sword Art Online has great feedback from many people across the world. As a result, companies would need to create really good high-end games.
What do you see as being the future for the Sword Art Online series of games?
We’d like to create more high-end games. The Sword Art Online games are related to the topic of VR MMO, so we’d like to introduce more online MMO elements gradually. In maybe 5-10 years, we’d like to create a VR MMO version of the game.
I assume that you will be looking to create something similar to Final Fantasy XIV?
Final Fantasy XIV is a really popular MMO in Japan, but we would like to create an even higher quality MMO than that. We don’t know about the timing, but it would challenging.
The MMO market is quite congested. Even Final Fantasy XIV suffered, despite its strong lineage and brand name recognition, to the extent that Square Enix had to remake and relaunch the game. What difficulties do you envisage in making an MMO that would be as good as Final Fantasy XIV, whilst also ensuring that it would get sufficient players so as to make the whole endeavour worthwhile?
The most important thing when making such a game is that the developer needs to create a world where people feel inclined to stay. You need an original story which allows such a setting where people feel comfortable. The development of the Sword Art Online MMO hasn’t started yet, but a few things need to be considered beforehand – such as its financial plan and how we will go about running the online game. It is however a dream of mine to create an MMO in future…
Square Enix have created a few “All Star” RPG games in the past. Is there any possibility of Bandai Namco making an “All Star” RPG in future which incorporates characters from its Sword Art Online and Tales Of… games, and maybe also include a crossover such as the Kingdom Hearts and Marvel Vs Capcom series?
It is possible, but there are so many hurdles to overcome – whether they be technical or even the depiction of the characters. We would also need to deal with the different games underlying mechanics. But if we are able to make a really good concept that excites everyone and which makes sense for the game characters to come together, then we might do it.