Today at the Games 15 event in Dubai, Capcom revealed the next character for Street Fighter V: Rashid. Rashid ("of the Turbulent Wind" in his own words) is a suitable character for reveal during an event taking place in the United Arab Emirates, as Rashid hails from the Arab world himself. This makes Rashid one of the few Middle Eastern characters in the Street Fighter mythos, with the exception of Pullum Purna from Street Fighter EX.
According to IGN Middle East, Capcom worked closely with its Middle Eastern distributor Pluto Games to create Rashid, hoping to avoid any issues of representation for that slice of the fighting game community. This is similar to the team behind Namco Bandai's Tekken releasing concept art of Shaheen, a proposed character from Saudi Arabia, in the hopes that feedback would provide a character design Middle Eastern fans could enjoy. The final version of the character was largely the same as the concept art, with only a few tweaks made due to feedback from Arab fans.
When it comes to issues of representation, some worry that developers will lose their creative drive and freedom by listening to the occasional fan feedback. Yes, when creating characters outside of your own experience, there is potential to screw it up. When you do, you may experience fan pushback, but that's not a reason not to do it at all. Consumer feedback is a part of the game development process, regardless of if you're talking character design or user interface design. Capcom and Bandai Namco highlight different ways to shore up a lack of experience or understanding on the developer's part, either by reaching out to someone within the company or outright eliciting fan feedback.
Rashid is the eleventh character in Capcom's surprisingly varied roster for Street Fighter V. To date, the company has revealed Ryu, Chun-Li, Ken, Nash, M. Bison, Cammy, Birdie, Vega, R. Mika, and Necalli. Of those characters, Ken, R. Mika, Nash, Vega, Birdie, and M. Bison have received changes that make them play differently from previous versions and Necalli is all-new. As an example of the changes, Vega is a motion input character now instead of the charge character he once was. We're only missing five more characters from Street Fighter V's initial roster of sixteen, two of which will be completely new according to Capcom senior product manager Matt Dahlgren.
"Coming up with the roster is probably the largest discussion that happens internally," Dahlgren told me when I asked about this diverse roster. "We know there's a lot of people out there that need to be pleased. We did it through a variety of sources: eight of them are fan-favorite core characters you'd expect in any Street Fighter, four are going to be returning characters you haven't seen in awhile, and four are brand-new. That's going to be a diverse roster, which is different from what you saw in [Street Fighter IV]."
"We did this huge poll with the community. We went through that and picked certain characters that were well-requested from fans. Sometimes we followed the poll, sometimes we didn't. Birdie wasn't well-requested, but we had a really cool redesign for him, so I think he made a very good addition to the cast."
That idea of character redesign is strong in Street Fighter V. A redesign allows Capcom to fill a hole in the roster, while also bringing back a classic character. Some of these were solid characters from a concept standpoint, but they simply didn't play all that well in earlier incarnations; Capcom set out to fix that.
"To be frank, the Alpha version of R. Mika was not very impressive, but she was fan-requested," said Dahlgren. "We wanted to bring her back in a way that fans recognized her, but we completely redesigned her gameplay to make it much more inspired by professional wrestling.
That said, you shouldn't worry if one of your favorites isn't a part of the core sixteen. Capcom will be releasing characters at a steady clip after launch. The company found that releasing packs of new characters and costumes wasn't helping build a strong, ongoing community.
"If your character doesn't make it, don't fret," said Dahlgren. "Characters are going to be dropping continuously after launch, so we'll get there over time."
"We haven't finalized the cadence, but we'll have more details to share as to the exact cadence and how many characters you can expect in a year," added Dahlgren. "If you look at the way we handled things in the past - waiting a year and dropping everything at once - it doesn't allow for that anticipation. Doing things this way, there's always something to look forward to in the short term."