The makers of Rising Thunder want to widen appeal of fighting games.
Seth Killian has been working in and out of the fighting game for years. Between organising EVO and helping to improve fighting game franchises, he’s seen his fair share of the business. But now, he’s working on a new project with Radiant Entertainment.
It’s still in the genre he’s familiar with but Killian is taking a different approach. “Why don’t more people play fighting games?” he asked. “For a lot of people, they’re a way of life. But others, they look at fighting games as this weird area. The execution barrier is high. In some cases, it takes weeks or months to be competent with a character.”
But he and Radiant are working to change those problems with Rising Thunder, a new PC title that pits giant robots in an epic one-on-one brawl. It seems conventional but the big twist is that this fighting game is built from the ground up to be played online.
Barriers to entry
The way Killian explained it fighting games have so much potential to be something more, but the genre is closed off from the masses because of three problems.
The first issue is that the moves are difficult to pull off. He’s referring to half-circle and quarter-circle motions that are often used to toss out fireballs or other special moves. For novices, learning those moves and executing them takes a discouraging amount of practice.
The second obstacle is that online play isn’t seen as a serious platform for competition. The fighting game is a genre that relies on split-second timing and lag often makes fair head-to-head play difficult. It’s hard to show off true skill when the lag throws off the reaction for a move. It’s like trying to play basketball on gravel.
The third issue is the cost and investment. Some people don’t have US$400 (RM1,500) to invest in a console or US$200 (RM750) on an arcade fighting stick. Add the US$60 (RM220) per title and the price of delving into the genre is too much for some.
Rising Thunder tackles these issues in several ways. First off, the controls are simplified. Instead of rolling joysticks into a complicated motion, those special moves are performed with a press of a key.
The game has six buttons: Three are the quick, medium and strong attacks and the other three are the three special moves for the characters. That means no remembering the list of moves.
Players can fight on instinct and cunning. The moves also show a cool-down period, so players know how long they’ll have to recover before they toss out another fireball attack. They also have dedicated throw and Super attack buttons.
“You’re spending brain cycles” on how to do moves, said Tom Cannon, chief executive officer of Radiant Entertainment. The new scheme “lets players think about strategy.”
Because it’s an online game, Rising Thunder faces a second issue – lag. But that’s mitigated because Cannon’s brother happens to be Tony Cannon, the developer behind GGPO. The middleware allows for near-lagless play using a technique called “rollback.”
The game also takes advantage of being online and on two screens. It creates some asynchronous moments in the match that couldn’t happen on a shared screen.
For example, a character can go completely invisible and not be seen on his opponents monitor. Meanwhile, the person who performed the move will see his character clear as day. When calling in fireballs from the sky, there can be more convincing bluffs with parts of the screen marked.
A bit of both
From what I heard, it sounds as though Killian and Cannon are following the League of Legends model for monetising Rising Thunder.
The game is free-to-play and the business will be built around cosmetics. That gives the project a broad audience but what opens it up even more is the preferred interface.
Cannon and Killian say the keyboard is the primary controller because everyone has one of those. The fact that players don’t have to do quarter circles and dragon punch motions means that it’s a viable scheme.
The concept actually works. As for those who are used to the Xbox 360 or arcade sticks, don’t worry. The game will support those as well.
Although there’s a League of Legends vibe going on with the cosmetics, Rising Thunder seems to have a Hearthstone element to it.
The game rewards players who constantly fight in matches by giving them alternative special moves called variants. Yes, this is a fighting game that lets players customise a loadout for their characters before a brawl. They can switch out three special moves for other variations.
It slightly changes up how a robot plays, but doesn’t alter the fundamental concepts behind the character. A zone fighter will have variation moves that focus on controlling the space between fighters but the variants let them do it in other ways.
A grappling character will have special moves designed to get it close to the target that could be leaping in the air or rushing on the ground. It’s up to the players to decide which variants they want to use.
Rising Thunder lets players put these moves in three predefined slots. That means players can’t go crazy and make a fighter with three different fireballs or three anti-air moves. This could be a game-changing concept, which adds a wildcard to a fight because opponents don’t know what loadout their foe has coming into a match. They’ll discover it on the fly.
It creates an opportunity for players to get creative with the robots they master. It reminds me of how players can pick a hero in Hearthstone but assemble different decks that take advantage of the cards and powers available to that character. It adds a new twist that the genre desperately needs.
As for other elements of the fighting system, players will be able to dash toward and away from enemies. The juggling system is more open with a hard limit of five hits before a player lands. There’s also a metered ability called Kinetic, which can be used offensively or defensively. It allows players to cancel out of a move so they can escape an attack of extend a combo. Expect damage scaling and dizzy scaling in the system, and lastly, there’s no comeback mechanic. Don’t expect any ultra-centric combos.
What the Radiant team is trying to do is widen the appeal of fighting games by lowering the barrier of entry and expanding the strategy so players can have more ownership in how they develop their fighters. If it manages to catch on, it can be a open up the genre to a bigger audience. — San Jose Mercury News/Tribune News Service
Did you find this article insightful?