This past week has been quite a chaotic one for those in the Fighting Game Community (FGC), particularly from the anime side of it.
On Tuesday, someone on Twitter put out a, now deleted, video featuring Naoto Shirogane from “Persona 4 Arena” in French Bread’s 2015 video game, “Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st]” (UNIST).
What then followed from a mostly harmless act of modifying a game’s PC port on Steam, was a storm of anger and disappointment from the developers and players of said game.
Kamone, the battle director of UNIST, expressed his distaste in his native Japanese on his Twitter account, telling fans of the game not to retweet or spread the use of modifications in the game, mostly because he finds it “discouraging.”
Now, that’s understandable, of course – “UNIST” is one of the finest fighting games of this past decade and I think it’s perfect as it is, and if I were in Kamone’s position, I’d say the same, too.
There is a problem with that logic, though, and it comes down to the concept of ownership.
When you purchase a game, you have the right to do whatever you want with it – just so long as what you do isn’t illegal, malicious, or harmful to the developers and the game’s community. For example, it’s cool if you add a color-editing mode to a game, but producing a copy of it with the intent of angering the developers is a bad idea.
That latter point is especially true for French Bread, a team that since 1995 has been considered an “indie” developer of sorts, containing no more than 12 people on staff.
With that in consideration, I can understand why Kamone and the French Bread crew is angry.
A company that puts out world-class fighting games, despite being small, is truly incredible in an ecosystem of triple-A game developers and companies, but what Kamone doesn’t get is that this is what he signed up for.
The moment he and the rest of the team put the game on Steam’s marketplace, they should’ve known this was inevitable.
“Modding,” the act of modifying a game with new content that wasn’t originally there, has been a staple of computer gaming since the ’80s, and in 2019, the market for mods hasn’t slowed down.
Sure, there are less harmful ways you can play as Naoto Shirogane in other games, namely Arc System Works’ “BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle” from 2018, but if someone wanted to put her into another 2D fighter, they have the right to do just that.
However, there’s the bad part behind all this: modding a game that a Japanese “indie” studio made with thousands of hours of passion and drive behind it is, to put it in Kamone’s words, discouraging – especially with Japanese labor culture weighing them down at every moment.
Sure, the modded content fans have added in, such as custom colors and frame data viewers, should have been included in the game to keep up with the other popular fighting games of the day. But, at the very least, those same fans should just keep their modifying under wraps.
As for Kamone and the French Bread crew, whining is not going to get them anywhere. They should find a way to block out mods from the PC ports of their games if that’s how they truly feel.
Or, better yet, hire those modders to ensure the next version of “Under Night” is as perfect as French Bread wants it to be. Give the FGC a “Sonic Mania” scenario and all it entails.