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Aaron Leiby (our Lead programmer) discusses fighting in CLANG
April 7, 2013 - Subutai Corporation
This is not your Soul Calibur
.. or Street Fighter or Mortal Combat for that matter.
I came into this project with a pretty strong notion of what a fighting game
should be. I’m used to having two characters facing off playing idle animations
with weapons held out front. Each attack then consists of a wind up, a cut and
a recover. The game becomes one of recognizing frames of animations and
reacting appropriately - player A presses button to attack, player B presses
button to respond; results all come down to timings encoded in the animations
themselves. This has provided endless hours of fun.
With CLANG, we want to support fighting styles that have not yet been
implemented or perhaps even imagined. This means we cannot simply encode
animations with typical cancel windows, priorities, etc. Instead, we are
letting arbitration fall to physics. This allows us to do lots of neat stuff
like making the location you get hit important, knocking off armor pieces, etc.,
but ultimately it creates an even playing field for all manner of future
It also turns out that holding your sword out in front of you in a typical
fighter game idle stance makes it real easy for your opponent to snipe your
hands causing you to drop your sword. In real life, if you have to wind up for
your attack, you’re already dead!
The first fighting style we are tackling is Fiore’s longsword, which identifies
several stances or “guards” where you’re basically already wound up to attack.
A typical starting point is with the sword up over your shoulder like you’re
winding up to swing a bat, but there are others where you start with the sword
low and pointed at the ground to swing up like a golf club. In the story-game,
we will have trainers (think Ra’s al Ghul or Obi-wan) that you’ll have to travel
to learn and unlock these guards and their associated set of attacks for a
specific fighting style.
However, what this all does for the game, is instead of exchanging button press
for button press, combat becomes more of a dance; it becomes strategic. Player
A settles into a guard, player B adopts a good defensive guard in response.
Player B shifts around to the left requiring player A to shift stances. Player
B takes this opportunity to attack.
In a typical fighter, you start with three basic attacks: low punch, high punch
and kick (or some similar set), and the explosion of complexity comes from
chaining one attack to another (often modified by movement). When we switch
away from the gamepad to motion controls, we leave behind its limited set of
face buttons opening up the physical space around us for selecting guards (we
have seven that we’ve started with). From most guards, you can perform a low,
medium or high attack, but through the magic of animation blending and inverse
kinematics you can perform anything in between as well - discrete attacks become
continuous analog motion. If you want to get extra fancy, perform a “reverso”
attack behind your head and down the other side.
But this is just the opening salvo. The complexity explosion instead happens
when sword connects with sword. Fiore calls this “incrosada” - the crossing of
the swords. From here, there are many options based on the physics of the
situation - mostly involving who has leverage over whom (where the swords are
touching relative to each other, if swords connected to your left vs your right,
etc.). Options include stuff like grabbing the sword with your (gauntleted)
off-hand, and doing some crazy arm-bar maneuver that I’ve never been able to
follow, but results in the other dude dropping their sword. We might get to
this, but in the initial tech demo we are only providing three basic options: a
pommel strike to the face, a cover and cut, and the most typical response: a
simple thrust to the face/chest. These are all triggered and controlled using a
combination of movement and hydra input.
Hopefully this gives you a little bit better idea of the direction we are taking
things. It’s easy to look at what we have right now and only see it as a
simulator. We’re starting from grounded techniques that we know work in order
to support a common playground rooted in physics for disparate fighting styles
to interoperate. We feel we need to get this right before layering on the more
traditional trappings of a game, but our ultimate goal still is to craft a fun
and compelling experience to share with all of you.