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Kung Fu Indie Style – Part 1
by Jon F on 03/21/12 01:40:00 pm

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Preview Trailer

This is part one of our developer diary for our Kung Fu game “One Finger Death Punch”.  My brother and I at Silver Dollar Games are trying to make a kick ass kung fu game for all those kung fu fans out there.  We want to create a game in the spirit of the martial art films we loved in our youth such as Enter the Dragon, Blood Sport and Drunken Master.  We hope this game will turn out special and in keeping it special we’re trying to avoid recreating/updating the classic kung fu games already out there.  The last thing we want to do is make another Kung-Fu Master or Yie Ar KUNG-FU.  We’re hoping to separate ourselves from these classics by providing a fast and furious combat system unlike most fighting games out there.  We know we won’t be able to make anything as visually pleasing as Invincible Tiger, Kung Fu High Impact, or Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior’s Rise but for an indie game, we’re hoping to provide enough entertainment to justify a dollar.  Not to mention a pickup and play style that will make causal gamers applause.  More importantly we want to make a game that every kung fu fan can be excited about.

One Finger Death Punch work in progress 

Being indie means making games with little to no money.  For this game we have a whopping budget of exactly $0 dollars.  One of the biggest challenges we’re facing with no money is creating the animations.  Our vision for this kung fu game involves cool looking moves.  How are we to translate these moves from our heads onto the screen?  We don’t have the skills to do the animations ourselves and can’t afford an animator.  To overcome this obstacle we decided to use a stickman style of animation.  This allowed us to create many frames of animations ourselves without the need of an animator, simply because it’s affordable.  It’s not as cool as having custom drawn animations with a unique artistic style but we do the best we can with the resources available.  We also felt this stickman style separates this game from the many cute but kid like games featuring avatars.   The last thing we would want in this game is a smiling blinking avatar waving at you.

Another challenge of the game was to make a uniform art design for the backgrounds and UI.  This is especially difficult when all your artwork is MacGyvered together, as you can probably tell from the preview trailer.  With our stickman graphics being mono coloured we wanted to make sure the rest of the game was anything but mono colour.  We know there are plenty of gorgeous indie games out there like Chu’s Dynasty, Oozi: Earth Adventure and T.E.C. 3001. We really wish we could make this game look as beautiful as those, but it’s just not possible for us at the moment.  With that in mind, we’re doing everything in our power to help this game rise above the standards people have for Xbox Indie Games.  As limited as our skills are, we’re going to throw in every trick we have to make this game look cool.

Our game was originally called Your Kung Fu Is Not Strong.  The game was more about cool fight sequences and complex interactions between the enemies and the player.  The concept of our game at that time revolved around difficult combinations of enemies coupled with a kung fu vibe.  The initial play tests with our friends and family were a disaster.  It was too hard for anyone to play and simply not enjoyable.  The game was so complex that it completely excluded the casual gamer.  All our friend’s reactions were underwhelming.  They felt it was neat, but wasn’t a game they would want to play.  Who would blame them, the game at that time, required hours of experience to get to a level of skill that made the game enjoyable.  It’s a mistake we’ve made in the past with games like Ranger and Blazing Birds.

We knew the game was going in the wrong direction.  We set out to make a game that shows off awesome kung fu like the film Drunken Master 2.  What we created was a game play nightmare that showcased nothing but frustration.  Our game featured many complex mini games.  The player only had one hit before they lost. Finally, the learning curve was longer than most AAA games.  So what do you do when your game goes off the rails?  Some would tweak game play mechanics until their game was playable and fun.  We took a more extreme approach and stripped the game down to its core and started over.  We took apart the entire code base and basically rebuilt the game from scratch.  The animations remained, but not much else.  What was the result?  A game that plays more like the final fight from the film The One.  It’s a much more furious and intense combat system.  After looking at the rebirth of this game, we realised the title Your Kung Fu Is Not Strong was no longer appropriate for the game.  So we renamed it One Finger Death Punch.

Like every developers tries to do, we’re hoping One Finger Death Punch will be easy to learn but hard to master, which we failed to do on our first try.  This time around we think we’re closer, but still not there yet.  We’re furiously trying to make every aspect of this game intuitive to the player even though they’re faced with concepts and game play mechanics they’ve never seen before.  To aid with the transition into these new game mechanics we’re building three levels of difficult, Student, Master and Grand Master, or better put “A”, “XB” and “Master”.  Each level of difficulty will feel slightly different from each other and will feature subtle differences in the game play.  Not like some games that simply modify health or damage to make it easier or harder.  More importantly, the “A” mode can be played with just one button, very similar to games like The Impossible Game.  With only the A button you’ll get a sense of dominating your opponents while being extremely challenged.  For the more skilled players they can always try “XB” mode which vastly increases the difficulty by using both the X and the B buttons to give you a greater sense of accomplishment.  What we’re hoping to achieve is to make the combat simplistic but avoid making it boring or repetitive.  I personally feel in its current state, if you give it at least three tries it will have you hooked.  We need to get that down to one try If we’re going to compete with the many mining/avatar games currently available on XBLIG.

The game will have a few different “Bonus Rounds” that will give you a chance to fight in new cool ways and take on various bosses throughout the game.  The one bonus round we’re showcasing in this trailer features a laser sword that effortlessly ends the lives of many of your foes.  It’s definitely satisfying to chop your opponents in half.  More importantly it adds a level of violence which separates our game from other fighting games with avatars.

One Finger Death Punch work in progress bonus stage 1 

After looking at the game in depth I said to my brother, “So One Finger Death Punch really comes down to pressing buttons at the right time.”  He replied, “Don’t most games?”  The game play fundamentally at its core is about pressing the right buttons at the right time.  We’re hoping while doing that, the player will enjoy crushing their enemies.  It’s not a game where making tactical choices will help advance your character.  But believe me, when the game reaches higher levels of difficulty my reflexes experienced a level of Zen I haven’t felt since I got a perfect race in Wipe Out HD (Not my video).  Personally I feel it’s one of the best games we’ve made.  When you get a chance to try it I hope you find it as enjoyable as I do.  Many of our other more complex titles like Ranger and Jump Hero remain unnoticed and forgotten.  We’re hoping this game can stand out amongst others, if not on a professional level, then at least on an indie level.

Additionally we want this game to stand out for its playability and replay value.  That being said it will feature a full level based campaign mode and a survival mode.  The campaign mode gives a great sense of accomplishment as you advance your way through the levels, but it’s the survival mode that will have you on the edge of your seat.  Although there’s no Xbox Live leader boards for Indie Games I’m sure YouTube will be full of survival mode high score videos once the game is released.

The game’s concept is nearing completion but the game play and mechanics are still in the works.  The game is many months from completion because we have plenty of cool things to add in like customizable special abilities that unlock as you advance through the campaign and additional bonus stages.  We want to ask everyone out there to help us make this something you want to play.  Let us know what you want to see in the game.  What kung fu clichés are a must?  Are there any classic kung fu lines we should include?  What’s your favourite thing about kung fu?  Tweet us at @sdgames or write us at  Kung Fu Indie Style – Part 2 coming soon.

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