Ever since the Tekken 8 Gameplay Introduction video was released, fans of the hugely popular series have been making comments about how defensive tactics may have decreased effectiveness due to the newly implemented Heat System. With how the recoverable gauge works and how chip damage enables players to pile on the pressure, calculated offense certainly seems to be the best type of defense this time around.
With questions swirling about how the Heat System from Tekken 8 will change the overall dynamic of matches, we got a chance to ask Tekken Project Director Katsuhiro Harada and Producer Michael Murray their thoughts on how much the lengthy round times of high-level Tekken 7 matches (looking at you, 2019 EVO finals) played a factor in designing the aggressive nature of the Heat System and how they intend to balance it out.
*Interview answers by Harada and Murray have been slightly edited for clarity.
If you’ve been following EVO, you may know that the grand finals match between Arslan Ash and Knee during the EVO 2019 grand finals became a shining example of how defensive play can reliably overcome relentless aggression. With round times running long, it certainly made for a spectator sport that could use a fresh injection of flair and excitement.
Harada and Murray gave a brief background of the business model of fighting games before talking about how round times will be affected in Tekken 8 compared to past installments.
“It started as a business model. With 1 coin in Japan, that’s 100 Yen, which is like a Dollar. How long do you allow one person to play with that amount,” Murray prefaced. “It just evolved that fighting games become based around that 3-5 minute time cycle. It’s not just about money, but it’s also exciting to feel that time pressure.”
“In the past, we had the arcade iterations but I just want to make it clear that this time we’re starting off on console, so we’re not stuck with that model, it’s just what tends to make fighting games exciting – the current time slot. It’s still balanced around what makes it feel exciting, so we’re not gonna change it that much from past installments.”
Murray goes on to say that Tekken 8 round times and, consequently, time outs, will still largely depend on playstyles and the characters chosen, as some players may still be more proficient with certain aspects over others.
“It might seem like time is the most important element, but you also have to think about attacks and how much damage they do, how much life gauge the player has. There are many factors that go into the overall experience and how you ‘feel’ time during a match.”
The newly introduced Heat System in Tekken 8 certainly favors aggression for more exhilarating matches, with big shifts in momentum that are easily distinguishable by the visual language of the game, making for an exciting spectator experience.
One element is the Heat Engager, which is a standalone move that activates the Heat Gauge. During our hands-on with Tekken 8, we noticed that Heat Engagers cannot be activated during combos, and Murray says that this is a design choice not just to avoid overpowering beginners but to balance out “limits” to keep the tension and exhilaration throughout the game.
“The Heat System can do many things. It can do the Heat Smash or you can cancel into other moves. In one way, it’s kind of taking off limits that were there in the gameplay originally, but if you take off all of the limits, then there are certain areas where it’ll break the game,” says Murray. “We can’t just think of out in the open, not in the air, just back and forth, and neutral. We also have to think about when they’re in the air, or by the wall and in the air.”
“There’s all these different situations that, maybe it makes the game really fun in this instance, but it makes it not fun at all in this instance, so we have to take that all into consideration and take some limits but keep some so that the overall experience maintains that little tension and exhilaration in all areas of the game. It’s a very fine balance.”
The development team is certainly looking into all aspects of the game to ensure that players will get the most enjoyable experience out of it when it launches.
Tekken 8 is currently in development for the PS5, Xbox Series, and PC.