GamesBeat: You keep saying yourself that if somebody told you about this, you would be skeptical of it. Is that a concern of yours, that the fighting game community is sometimes a bit traditionalist and this might be a hard sell for them?
Killian: Absolutely it’s a hard sell for them. Traditionalist is the nicest possible way to put it. As a fighting game guy for a long time, I appreciate your very politic description of that worry. But yeah, that directly is a big part of why — there’s a lot of things that everybody has told us are really bad ideas about this game. Maybe they’re right. But so far our playtests have borne it out. Another thing people have told us is it’s a really bad idea to announce the game and then release it a week after that. The reason I wanted to do that is, one, I’m confident that it’s fun and that there’s a real game there.
Anybody who builds fighting games will tell you, being honest, that you don’t always know. You can tell whether it’s fun, whether there’s something basically there, but you can’t see how it’s going to develop until you start getting it into people’s hands. For us, you’re right, the immediate Internet reaction to this I expect to be very broadly negative. “It’ll never work, this is the stupidest idea I ever heard.” I actually enjoy arguing with people on the Internet, as many people know. So rather than argue with people on the Internet, I’d rather just say, hey, here’s my game. Please play it. Everything you think might be true, but you can find out for yourself. You don’t have to take my word for it.
Also, as far as tearing down the barriers for competition, that’s also why the game is free. We have a free game, a game where we’ve worked hard on the online, trying to make it as amazing as we can. We’re really happy with where that’s at. We’ve also got a game where you’re not going to have to spend months practicing just to be able to play the basic game. You’ll be playing the game very quickly. Whether you actually win at the game is a separate question, but you’re not going to be missing moves left and right. You’ll be making bad decisions left and right.
GamesBeat: It’s a free game. What are people paying for? Are they paying for characters?
Killian: Right now you pay for absolutely nothing. Everything is free. We’re not even going to have a store. I don’t know. It depends when we finish it. For the first six months, I would guess, we won’t have anything to sell at all. But when we look at games we were inspired by, things like Dota — when you say free-to-play, it has such a wide range, and it’s been crapped on by so many terrible practices with games. I don’t even want to say those words. I say, let’s just talk about the people who are doing it right.
Our business is going to be basically cosmetic. Lipstick on robots, obviously, but you get the idea. Games like Dota have shown us that if you build a fun game that attracts a community, you can have a real business doing it that way. If you don’t, well, people don’t like your game. That’s what separates you. You’re not owed a business. That’s on us. But that’s what we want to do. You’ll never have to pay to play.
GamesBeat: You say there will be no in-game shop for six months. How are you guys going to make any money?
Killian: We won’t.
GamesBeat: That sounds like a horrible business plan.
Killian: We’ll put up a Patreon page or something like that. (laughs) But no, the first six months we’re really going to spend — we want to get feedback from people on their experience with the game and make sure the online works. Online has been great for us, but as you add people, you need to make sure that scales. We have some super talented engineers who we’re extremely lucky to have. Some straight from Google, who we really can’t afford to pay what they’re worth, but they want to make games. So we’re lucky to have world-class network engineers. But the way to build those systems is to let people in to start playing with it and fix things as they come up. We’re confident in what we have now, but you never really know until you turn it on.
We just want to get the game in people’s hands and convince them that it’s not just some bullshit alpha. We know the game’s not done. We’ll be sending the game out, and only two of the characters have finished textures. For a major studio, someone would get fired for leaking something that looked like this. But we’re cool with it. We just want people to play and tell us what they think and try to make the game and the online experience as good as we can. At that point, if we feel like we’ve got enough here for people, then we’ll turn on a store with cosmetics and things like that. Until that point, we don’t want to ask anybody for their money. Even then, we’ll let you pay us money, but you don’t have to. You can play free forever. I just want people to play the game and have a chance to have that kind of experience that’s been so important to me.