Supremacy MMA interview: Why Kung Fu Factory could be on to a winner
We chat to Ricci Rukavina, founder and CEO of Kung Fu Factory, to find out why Supremacy MMA is being designed the way it is and why its arcade/sim crossover could be a contender. In the interview Ricci talks about the team’s extensive fighting game experience, why Kung Fu Factory is shunning simulation and why not being beholden to a license is actually a very good thing.
Why Kung Fu Factory has the experience to make a great fighting game
We’ve been in business for about eight years. We have a lot of fighting experience, a lot of people on the team with combat experience, great game experience. My partner Daryl produced the first UFC game for the Dreamcast. We’ve actually still got a bunch of people who worked on that Dreamcast game. Felix, our lead combat designer, has done a lot of fighting games and wrestling games; he worked on The Warriors combat system. One of our lead designers, who helps with all the tuning, Inomata-san; he’s a world champion Tekken player. He’s written strategy guides and is pretty well-known for his Tekken playing and fighting game expertise.
The studio itself has worked on Mortal Kombat; we worked on Elite XC, which was an MMA franchise that went bankrupt before being purchased by Strikeforce, so that game never came out, but that allowed us to make some good tools and tech. We then worked on UFC Undisputed 2009, and then right after that we moved on to Supremacy MMA.
Why Kung Fu Factory shunned simulation
There’s a lot of thought that’s been put into it… The studio itself really follows MMA — knows a lot about the sport, the history of the sport, the origins of the sport — and getting the details right is really important in a game like this. We also worked on a simulation game before and we didn’t want to do another pure simulation game. We thought that was a bad idea, and didn’t really add anything to gaming… We got influenced by arcade fighters, and the arcade fighting games we really liked, games like Virtua Fighter, Tekken, Street Fighter, Garouden and wrestling games — all the wrestling games. But we didn’t want to be purely influenced by those either. So we really wanted to be in the middle of simulation and arcade fighter and sort of create our own sort of space to do something a little different.
Why not being beholden to a license is a good thing
MMA has kind of gone through lots of different cycles as it has grown and, for us, we’re not beholden to any sort of brand or organisation; we’re here to make all of our decisions and at the top of the list is great gameplay. That’s what drives our decisions, versus, you know, some organisation, which, you know, is fine; a brand always has to have their objectives purely in mind, but for us [we think:] what are the best decisions we can make for a great game. So for example, we wanted to have some of the venues that are a bit more underground, in addition to arenas, because we thought it would be cool to fight in those places, especially in a game. We wanted to have more brutal moves, things that might be illegal in one organisation but not illegal in, say, Brazil or underground. We wanted to have things that we’ve seen happen before, whether on YouTube or elsewhere, like arm breaks, leg breaks, ankle breaks… We thought that would be kind of fun and we could build great gameplay around that. So a lot of that kind of, you know, influenced how we went about the game.
Why Supremacy MMA’s presentation is more GTA than ESPN
From the menus and everything, we’re definitely going for not quite a TV simulation feel. We wanted a bit more edge to it and a bit more style. The presentation is a bit more Rockstar, Grand Theft Auto kind of thing.
Why Fighting Now is top of the menu list
And for the menu itself, the things that are important are first: fighting now — it’s a fighting game; it’s a social game; it’s you and me fighting together. That’s the most important aspect of any fighting game, and nothing comes before that. So getting into a match right away is first — top of the list. After that, it’s online. A great fighting online experience is really important.
We have different modes and tournaments, different ladders you’ll go through — survival ladders are pretty easy to figure out, which is your damage persists over time over to the next match versus being replenished every single match. We’ve got story modes. We’ve also got girls, which is a big deal. They haven’t been in MMA games before for some crazy reason, and they’re great; they’re great fighters… The training gym is your kind of traditional arcade staple where you play against the CPU and learn how to do some of those combos. Last is tutorials. It’s there to make a point: we want to make a pick up and play, easy to get into, game. You don’t need to wade through a tutorial to learn how to play.
Why Kung Fu Factory doesn’t want a 100 different fighters
We have a bunch of different fighters. One of the first fighters we announced was Jens Pulver. He’s a former UFC champion. [We ask if he’s on the cover]. He’s actually not. The way we’re doing it is not like your typical simulation, where you have a 100 different fighters, but you know, they all kind of play the same. We’re really treating it more like an arcade game, where certain styles and certain fighters are associated with each other and you need to master that style and master that fighter, just like in Tekken and games like that… We have ten different styles in the game, and each play very differently against each other. If we were to switch controllers the game would be completely different.
Why Kung Fu Factory are digging deeper into their fighters’ stories
We also have some of the stories in the game. These are kind of treated like graphic novels. They’ll give you a background to some of the characters, some of their stories. [Ricci shows us one.] It’s Malaipet, a pretty famous muay Thai fighter. It goes into depth on his real story. All the fighters are pretty true to their background. There’s some dramatic stuff and some real stuff. They’re all told in their native dialect, so this is all in Thai and Japanese stories are all in Japanese. Malaipet’s story, basically, is that he started fighting when he was six, as many Thai kids do. He came to America to fight for money, but not how you’d think about it. Other fighters would see he would win but they would see that he was always broke. It turned out he was sending all of his money back to his father who was about to lose his rice farm. So that was what he was fighting for, and why he came to America: to help his family keep their farm, which had been with the family for years. And, that is where the name supremacy comes from. It’s that a lot of these fighters, like Malaipet and Jens, have these stories where supremacy is actually why they fight, and it’s their highest goal and what they’re looking to obtain.
We found that with most of these fighters, that something is driving them and it’s usually a kind of deeper meaning which doesn’t have anything to do with fame or fortune. We chose to go more that route because that’s kind of interesting to us. You know when you see some of these fights on TV, some of the UFC fights and some of the glitzy fights, they don’t really go into a lot of depth about the fighters themselves, when they’re actually really interesting stories. When you actually know a little more about them, not only do you learn about their techniques, but you find out what’s driven them to make that technique really solid. We found that stuff really interesting.
Why Supremacy MMA isn’t soft
It should feel more aggressive — our moves, punches and strikes. You know, there’s been a lot of criticism about kind of punches and kicks in other games feeling weak, and we didn’t want that at all.
Why you won’t stop until you reach Supremacy
As I perform more activities, my level meter on the left rises. What that does is build up my XP and levels me up. So muay Thai ratings are based on traditional apprentice boxer, smokers, amateurs — and that’s how they level up traditionally. An easier way to think about it, is if you take karate; karate is based on a belt system, so the karate guys will build up through yellow, red, green etc. That unlocks rewards so you can customise your character. In addition, we keep track of different stats in the game and that works into challenges (like an internal trophy system). These are all fighter style specific challenges, whether it is to achieve a 15 hit streak or other things that are a little harder and more challenging to do. This is to extend the singleplayer game, further than the story stuff. You’ve got XP and you’ve got to level up each of the fighters. The ultimate level is the Supremacy ranking for everybody. It’s one of those things that keeps you going and keeps you moving.
Why there’s no ‘create a fighter’ (yet)
Create a fighter, for this game, we’re staying away from, because we really want to get the arcade fighter influence where you’ve built up these characters, and these characters are very specific in terms of how they act and how they get mastered, rather than a create your own character. We really want people to make this association, that we’re much different from the other MMA games; we really have this arcade influence and really embrace every aspect of it, because we think for many reasons it makes for not only a cooler game but a very accessible game, a really fun game — immediately fun.
Why Supremacy caters for both hardcore and casual
You know, I think we’re definitely catering for both, but we’re even catering beyond that. We think the simulation route actually alienates a lot of the MMA fans just as a lot of them embrace it, so we’re looking for both to have a good time with it. The other people who find it’s not really accessible for them and maybe not much fun, we’re targeting those as well. We’ve definitely had lots of people play the game and get into the game and have a really good time just going against each other and feeling it out a bit. whether they are an MMA fan or a fighting game fan or if they’re just purely into games — that’s been our focus. Really for us we really wanted to start creating this area of arcade sim.
Why Jens Pulver is a great asset (and WoW player)
Yes, Jens has been helping us for sure. He’s extremely well-known and kind of a pioneer in the sport; you know, he pioneered the lightweight division. He’s always been fighting for more meaningful things, and he’s a huge gamer. A lot of people say that, but this guy has levelled like five World of Warcraft characters. He is a huge gamer. He plays Call of Duty all of the time. He knows everything about every fighting game. When you get in a room with him and ask him questions, he is pulling things out and you think, “God, how does he know all of this stuff? Where does he find the time?” It is pretty amazing; we couldn’t have found a better person to proof some of the details. He tells us stories about some of the first places he fought in. [He'll tell us] when we’re not getting something right.
Then, of course, there are other people who are just involved in MMA and are part of that community, and we’re always asking them to take a look at what we’re doing. Is this too much? Is this too little? Is this detailed right?
You can find out more about Supremacy MMA by visiting the official Twitter and Facebook pages. Also check out our hands-on preview and interview with female MMA fighters Felice Herrig and Michele Guteirrez.
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