(The December 28th issue of Famitsu came with a 2-page interview with Fukuhara Tetsuya, the creative director of Granblue Fantasy. Famitsu usually posts extended versions of these interviews online, and we’ll add to this article in the event that they do!)
How is Rising improved from its predecessor?
Famitsu: Let’s start by asking how you decided to make Granblue Fantasy Versus Rising (GBVSR) as a whole new title.
FKHR: The primary motivation was the online experience. GBVS had an increased emphasis on its network systems due to the coronavirus pandemic, and after the game released we received a large number of requests to add rollback netcode to the game. We looked into it, but the costs would have been close to the expense of making a new game, so we weren’t able to deliver for GBVS.
Along with that, there were plenty of features and stories that we at Cygames wanted to do in GBVS that we didn’t get to do, so with those and other factors in mind we decided “Let’s make a whole new game!” and started development on GBVSR.
Famitsu: We don’t often hear developers say that rollback was a primary reason to release a new title.
FKHR: Recently, there are plenty of examples of game series that have updated their older titles with rollback netcode, but every title has different internal workings and situations, so we couldn’t just say “We’ll do that too!”
That said, we knew it was absolutely vital to implement it, and in order to justify the cost we would need to really amp up the quality, so… that’s how the plan moved forward.
Famitsu: You also delayed the release of GBVSR by two weeks. Was this two-week extension a critical period in the game’s development?
FKHR: We were very close to delivering on time, but there were ripple effects from changing parts of the combat system, so we moved the release date back slightly. I apologize for making our players wait. The amount of debugging and QA that can be done in 2 weeks is an immeasurable boost to the quality of the product, and I think it was incredibly important.
Famitsu: Got it. So GBVSR is the sequel to GBVS, but why did you decide to add the “Rising” to the title?
FKHR: “Rising” means upward movement and growth, and we used it to indicate how the title was both growing and evolving in every direction. It also refers to what happens in the story.
Famitsu: Hmm, okay. I wonder what that reference to the story means.
Famitsu: So unlike the previous game, Rising is a downl0ad-only title and there is no physical release. Why is that?
FKHR: It’s based on our sales strategy and the unique nature of the fighting game genre. Many factors were part of the decision: the way fighting games are designed to be played over their lifespan, how multiple game modes require being online, and we had the existence of the Free Edition to consider as well. On top of all that, we also have the PC version as a primary platform now. We’ve received feedback from people who want a physical edition, and personally I want one myself, but… digital downloads are extremely convenient.
Famitsu: We were surprised when we heard about the Free Edition. Why did you make a version of the game free to play?
FKHR: Fighting games are more fun the more people are available to play. We actually wanted to do this for the previous game. So we’ve made big parts of the fighting experience free, as well as things that give you a taste of Granblue Fantasy like online lobbies, parts of story mode, and more.
Famitsu: 4 characters are free at any given time, and you can even play Grand Bruise! mode. It’s a lot for a free version.
FKHR: Fighting games are really all about your experiences with other players, and you can potentially fight forever without even needing as many as 4 characters. Grand Bruise! is another mode that is better with lots of players at a time, so we want our lobbies to stay lively with lots of players and don’t mind making that part free.
However, when you play the Free Edition, the only available lobby avatar is Gran in a t-shirt. If you want to play with the other avatars, we hope you’ll think about picking up the full version of the game. It’s a pretty common joke for free games to start your character off with just a t-shirt on, but our dev team actually thought that the G logo on the shirt was cool, and wanted to play with it themselves (laughs).
Famitsu: That’s a really fun behind-the-scenes look (laughs). Speaking of avatars, we were surprised that the Umamusume showed up. Will we be seeing more collab avatars over the course of Rising?
FKHR: Lobby avatars are much less time and work than playable fighting game characters, so we’re hoping we can do a lot with avatars.
Famitsu: We’d love to see more! We were also surprised by how much you’d added to the online lobby experience.
FKHR: Our online lobby system was well received in the previous version, so it was our goal to keep improving them. You can use your avatar to jump around and explore a huge lobby, and we have little games here and there too. We wanted it to feel like the hub town in an MMORPG, where just hanging out there was still fun.
We also got requests for a game mode that used the lobby avatars, and Grand Bruise! was born from that request. The main reason we gave them a punch animation in the first place was because of the stress of fighting games – we wanted to give players the ability to let out some salt after a loss.
One suggestion was “What if we let them slam their sticks?” We actually thought about putting that one in, but decided that we didn’t want to encourage old and bad habits in the modern era, and we didn’t put that in. So in the end product, balloons are the only things you can punch in the lobby. If you really need to let off some steam, go ahead and take out your frustration on the punching bags.
Famitsu: The ones at the back of the arcade in the lobby, right? (laughs)
FKHR: We were very particular about the look of that arcade. We wanted to cut out a piece of the GBF world and turn it into an arcade from the 1990s. When we asked Arc System Works to do it, they were very excited and had fun making the change machine and the vending machines. As for those arcade machines that are hidden away in the houses and the tiny islands, we wanted those to look like the arcade machines that used to stand outside of candy stores back in the ’90s.
(translator’s note: if you want to know what the candy store arcade scene was like in the ’90s, we really recommend watching Hi-Score Girl, since it’s a love song to the ’90s fighting game boom)
Famitsu: Oh, we remember those little machines by the candy store (laughs). So how do you want the hype to build for GBVSR from here?
FKHR: The fighting game genre is doing really well right now, and I really hope that GBVSR can contribute to that hype. This version of the game is made as a good entry point for people who want to learn about GBF, so if you’re curious about the game, we hope you pick up the Free Edition and give it a try.
Overseas, we’ve seen a good number of people become GBF fans through GBVS, and I hope that holds true in Rising as well.
We have the action RPG Granblue Fantasy Relink coming out on February 1st, 2024, and if players want to know more about the story and world of GBF, I hope they play that as well. I want each title to tie together and show the broad appeal and grand potential of GBF.