PC, free-to-play, powered by GGPO3
If you were one of the many watching the EVO 2015 livestreams over the weekend, then you no doubt saw a trailer for Rising Thunder, a brand new fighting game featuring battling robots. While viewers didn’t get much info about it, they were treated to a pretty stylish title that will be in players’ hands very soon. Fortunately, we were lucky enough to have been given a crash course in what this new title aims to achieve.
Just two weeks prior to EVO 2015, Radiant Entertainment, the same developers of the recent Stonehearth, and along with former Capcom developer Seth Killian, invited Destructoid out to get some hands-on time with their new new fighter that aims to mix things up with the modern fighting game genre. Taking a pretty unique approach to things, this new fighter will launch on PC, be free-to-play, and feature a strong focus on community feedback and testing. Launching next week for in playable alpha, fighting fans will be able to dive in and learn just what their new fighter has to offer.
During my chat with the creative lead Seth Killian, he expressed interest in re-examining what the fighting game genre is all about, all while making a brand new game for one of the most dedicated and vocal fanbases out there.
The developers at Radiant Entertainment have quite a history with the Fighting Game Community — particularly Tom Cannon, who not only was the co-founder of the development studio, but is also one of the founders of Evolution Championship Series — and after Seth Killian joined the studio, who’s been a key figure within the FGC for many years and has worked on several fighting games during his time at Capcom (the final boss of Street Fighter IV was named after him), they figured it was time they try to bring their own desires for what a fighting game can be into reality.
“For me, a big part of my history with fighting games has been trying to show them to people, talk to people about them, and try to get people excited about them and give them a chance,” said creative lead Seth Killian while discussing his history with genre. “And while I’ve been doing that for a lot of years, and while I love it and I think fighting games are one of the greatest genres and one of the proudest achievements in gaming period, it’s exciting and a little sad to see that of the twenty people I talk about fighting games, only one will have the same experience that I have. Fighting games are really hard, and often times the core game is buried behind this very tall executional wall. And it’s not about making it easier so we can all be Justin Wong, but I’m saying the basic moves and mechanics can take a long time to get a handle of. Once you do, then you can start learning the intricacies of player strategy.”
Set in the far-future, players control a select group of battling robots from different areas of the world and duke it out for supremacy. Each of the six starting characters have their own unique skills and abilities, and special combos used from the variety of weak, medium, and heavy attacks. In addition to that, super moves called Overdrives are activated when the super meter is filled to unleash devastating attacks. Moreover, they can take advantage of kinetic abilities that range from breaking enemy combos and dash cancels. The developers wanted to allow for a great level of customization, and players will be able to select loadouts for their favorite characters, which determine what special moves they bring into battle.
The minds behind this title have some ideas on how to make this new fighter more accessible to players who aren’t as well-versed in the classic formula of fighting games. On the surface, Rising Thunder looks very similar to titles like Street Fighter IV or Mortal Kombat X. Action is on the 2D plane, with two fighters duking it out until their enemy’s health is depleted. Using special moves and strategies unique to each character, players will have to equally overpower and outsmart their opponents to claim victory. Sounds familiar, right? Well, the formula is largely as is, which is a testament to how timeless the setup is. However, the developers saw an opportunity to alter certain parts of the formula in order to remove the initial anxiety and awkwardness from new players seeking to break into competitive play.
“We were really excited to build a game that could open the door to what’s glorious about these games to more people, and to try and let everybody understand what’s exciting about these game and kept us excited about them for most of our lives. We basically ended up making a list of all the things that kept most people out of fighting games. For one, Online Sucks, it’s terrible and you can’t have a serious competitive experience with others. And even if you like fighting games, you also need to be in a place where you happen to be around twenty or so friends that are willing to play with you all the time.”
Given that it’s a PC exclusive fighter, and how candid Killian was about the state of online fighters, the developers wanted to ensure they didn’t drop the ball in that regard. Not only is the game completely playable with the keyboard (which feels great, by the way), and they even consider it the default setup, they also have the means to update the title quickly when needed. But course, online play is the make or break point for online fighters. Thankfully, the other founder of Radiant Entertainment, Tony Cannon, is also the creator of the famous GGPO (Good Game, Peace Out) netcode, which started out as a fan-made solution to poorly designed netcode for online fighters, but has since been implemented into retail releases. With Rising Thunder, the creators are bringing in their new GGPO3 netcode, which ensures even more sophisticated tech powering online play. Even during its alpha state, my time online was rock solid and ran at a smooth 60 frames-per-second.
“The other thing was — we didn’t really know, but it was our suspicion, so we built a prototype to test it — but when you look at a fighting game match you never go ‘Wow, that guy did all his moves. He didn’t mess up any fireballs, what a champion.’ When you look at the great history of fighting game matches, it’s all about the great decisions, reads, an in-genius play, using moves in ways that you would never thought of before — no one cares about the guy who can do the moves, that’s the basic bottom layer of skill,” Killian explained. “My thinking was basically, what if we were to make these moves not a problem? What if we were to remove special move inputs?”
You might have done a double-take after reading, and I kinda did mentally when he first explained it to me. Accessibility was a major focus for Rising Thunder. Though while many fans may cringe at the thought of moving or adjusting the bar to make things easier for the common player, the developers wanted to think up of ways to allow players who aren’t as skilled or knowledgeable as many other players to get into the core gameplay of the fighter much faster. But in doing so, you’d have to go against an established and accustomed idea. In Rising Thunder, all core specials moves, along with the Overdrive moves, are executable with a single button and don’t require directional inputs. Every character brings in three special moves, which are activated by three special buttons, and each move works on a cooldown.
Initially, I was a bit taken aback. As directional inputs for special moves are pretty synonymous with the genre itself. However, this idea works much better in practice, and Rising Thunder makes great use of the mechanics. I was able to jump into the game pretty quickly, and with much of the initial awkwardness of having to get a feel of the character’s inputs and moves correctly, I got over the awkward character introduction phase and started to think about how to utilize their moves within minutes of play. It sort of gave me some callbacks to MOBA titles that emphasizes setups and pick-up and play mechanics, but of course, it’s still a deeply refined fighter at its core.
“Well, all the theorists on the internet will tell you you’ll destroy fighting game, it wouldn’t make sense anymore, it wouldn’t be a fighting game, and if you would’ve asked me five years ago I probably would’ve agreed that it wouldn’t work,” said Killian. “But the way we decided to try it was to build it, and to test it. And not only did the game work, but I started to see things happen in a game ever in my twenty years of talking about fighting games. One guy went from total scrub, to started playing mind-games with me. Like for real. It opened a lot of interesting match-ups. […] That’s where fighting games to me really shine, it’s where they can show off people’s minds and the way they work in relation to one another.”
In addition to these tweaks and modifications to the classic fighting game formula, the developers also added in a number of interesting visual and gameplay changes to accommodate the focus on online gameplay. Certain character utilize moves that are telegraphed and use visuals that can used for strategies, For instance, the character “Crow” is able to drop a dome barrier that makes him invisible while inside of it. While the player using Crow is invisible (which is still somewhat visible on their screen), the opponent will not be able to see them during invisibility on their screen. This is to add a layer of unpredictability. With opposing players using their own screens, they’ll be able to hide the more nuanced aspects of their moves from their enemies to surprise them.
Radiant Entertainment is certainly confident in their new fighter, and given that they’re allowing the FGC and newcomers full access to their game very soon (early alpha beginning on the 28th), they’re looking forward to hearing their feedback. As with their other title Stonehearth, the community will have a major impact on the state and feel of the game. While Rising Thunder does a lot of things that may go against the more iconic aspects of the genre, there’s a lot of thought that went into the intricacies of this fighter. As this title is still in fairly early stages, many features and visuals are not in place quite yet, but the developers are confident enough in releasing it as the true heart of the game is in place. They also plan to actively update the game, introducing new content, updates, and other additions to keep things interesting.
“We love fighting games, we’ve loved them for a long time. We’ve seen a ton of games come and go, there’s plenty of great fighting games out right now, but — at least in our view — they’re not focusing on the real sources of the trouble [accessibility],” he said. “Don’t charge people to try your game, don’t ask them to spend six months practicing the game before they can actually start having a real game, and make the online good god dammit.”
If anything, Rising Thunder will prove to be a pretty interesting experiment. During my time with it, it was clear that a lot of love and passion went into the game, and the folks behind this title are putting a lot of trust into the FGC to be as honest and vocal about the game as possible. Which certainly won’t be hard for them. In recent years, the fighting game genre has evolved significantly, and with more players mindful of the true core gameplay with every fighter, Rising Thunder aims to get players to the nitty-gritty of what fighters are all about right from the get-go.
Rising Thunder [Alpha Sign-Up]