The Makers 5:
Designing Kung Fu Chaos, Part Three
When you get into the guts of a game like Kung Fu Chaos, you're talking about the combat system. Tameem Antoniades, design director at Just Add Monsters, Inc. (JAM), gave me some insight into what his goals were for his innovative combat system.
Kung Fu Fighting
Antoniades says that not only did he consider the combat system to be the most important mechanic in Kung Fu Chaos, but it was also the toughest to design. He explains, "Nobody, to my mind, has ever created a multi-opponent, 3-D combat system that has any level of depth. At 2002's E3 (Electronic Entertainment Exposition), there were many games that were trying, but they were all stumbling across the same problems."
Among these challenges, Antoniades listed how hard it is to set up your game so the player can lock onto an opponent when surrounded by multiple attackers. He also said, "Using control-stick movement during combo presses is another no-no that can only really work intuitively in a 2-D fighting game." In his quest for a cutting-edge combat system, Antoniades did an in-depth analysis of more than 30 fighting games. He then incorporated what he had learned into the design of Kung Fu Chaos, avoiding the pitfalls and adding unique elements to the game.
Antoniades knew he had his work cut out for him. He and his team devised "a combat editor that runs in real-time over the game engine." This combat editor allows the choice of parameters to remain more varied. Antoniades told me, "Each attack move in the game now has more than 100 different parameters that can be tweaked! Each attack is unique to every character and can be linked in dozens of ways to form different combos."
All good game designers seek to add something to their games that no one else has ever done. It's like a signature of sorts. And, in harmony with the game's irreverent humor and satirical pizzazz, the signature of the game is the taunt system. Antoniades describes the system: "Not only can you knock out [your opponents] in Kung Fu Chaos, but you can utterly humiliate them by taunting them as you do so. Do this right, and you can add damage to your attacks. Do this several times, and you can launch super attacks. It is really fun! No other game has done this."
During the final months of production, the team worked closely together, playing, critiquing, breaking, fixing, and tweaking all aspects of the game. They recorded the voices and added the finishing touches to the animation. They played it and played it and played it some more.
"Playing your own game is strange," Antoniades shared. "You live and breathe it for so long, that you forget how people who have never played it perceive it. It can be both exciting and demoralizing—exciting when you get a new feature in, demoralizing when you realize it doesn't work that well, and then exciting again when you find a way to make it work! It can be a real rollercoaster."
Thank you, Tameem Antoniades!
I want to thank Tameem Antoniades for taking time out of his very busy schedule to talk to me, so I could share his experiences with you. I look forward to seeing his new company develop other great games for us.
I'll let Antoniades close this three-part series with his final comments:
"I really, really hope that the people out there enjoy what we have collectively created! Making a game like Kung Fu Chaosinvolves so many creative people, including programmers, artists, musicians, planners, writers, testers, and more. It has been a real honor to work with such dedicated and talented people, both at JAM and at Microsoft, and I think everyone involved will look back and be proud of their work on Kung Fu Chaos. This is the way things should be! I may even get time to go on a holiday soon!"
By Martyn Rose