Aztez – A Game of Conquest and Brutality

Combat Analysis: DMC

Before I say anything at all, just know that this combat analysis is primarily based on its independent merits, and only partially based on the merits of the old games. A comparison would be unfair since (as far as I know) this was not even touched by the Japanese developers of the first four games, but it's not completely avoidable since it became clear very quickly that Ninja Theory is trying to preserve the mechanical spirit of the previous entries. With that being said, I am joyously, delightfully, enthusiastically, proudly declaring that Ninja Theory has finally made some great combat. I was shocked and disturbed when it was announced that Capcom had given them the reigns, as their previous games (Kung Fu Chaos, Heavenly Sword and Enslaved) were generic combat experiences at best and awkward drunken haphazard combat experiences at worst. But they finally grew up and delivered. Keep in mind this is also based on the downloaded 360 marketplace demo! As of this writing, the full game isn't out yet. Anyway, here it goes:


A Combat Accessibility Fork

An amazing thing happened in the last stretch of our Mexico work trip! We released a Friends and Family build and the feedback was hugely positive and also very thorough! Now I have a very liberal approach to feedback; if it can be implemented, played with, and marinated on without disrupting the flow of the project I will do it on principle, provided I haven't already explored the issue previously. There have been many minor (and major) pieces of feedback that have improved the game and I think it's a good, albeit authorially uncomfortable policy. Not every piece of feedback is valuable and is worth investigating, but in my experience, MOST are. I wanted to write about this fascinating fork I'm standing at right now with the appeal of the scrappers on one side and the appeal of the masters on the other.


October 9th To December 20th

We wanted to let you know what was happening over at Team Colorblind with Aztez. Right now (and until Dec. 20th) Matthew and I are in Sayulita, Mexico. It's in a beach town on the west coast and it's beautiful. Why are we there? Because as you know, we don't shy away from contract work over here at Colorblind because it means we'll have that much more time/money to make Aztez the best game it can possibly be. But it is also the reason there is occasional deceleration. Not for now! We realized we have an unusual window free of external obligations and decided to go into isolation paradise and really slam the axe down on Aztez. It's very exciting and I just wanted to share it with you. By the time we get back we'll have some very exciting things to show off and I'm squirming over here thinking about it.


Thoughts On Steam Greenlight

Steam Greenlight recently launched! What a great idea from a great company who made a great service! But it hit a strange snag in its first couple days and the response made the independent game developer community blow up. The fact that they're freaking out about this right now is making me a little bit sick so I had to puke up my two cents before I could get back to work making games. But first, some context:


Read Me, Game Industry Layman!

Steam is an online store for PC games. It was created and is run by a company in Bellevue, Washington called Valve, who created the service years ago to digitally distribute their own games. When that was massively successful, they opened it up to the rest of the AAA industry. When that was massively successful, they opened it up to the indies. When that was massively successful, they decided it was too difficult (even for their highly competent and dedicated staff) to filter through all of the games that were submitted every day for placement on the service. Greenlight was their solution.

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The History Of Beat ‘Em Ups

I was compelled to put this timeline together after someone told me that they were under the impression that a specific beat 'em up was more seminal than it actually is. So instead of offering a lengthy explanation I put together the chronological facts. As it stands, it's the cursory data that is easily available on Wikipedia (all of the timeline's articles link to the corresponding Wikipedia entry) but I may supplement it with more interesting information about mechanical evolution if enough people show interest.



The Skill Divisions Of Beat ‘Em Up Players

There are three strata of individuals that play beat 'em ups in distinct ways at specific skill levels. What's interesting about these skill divisions is that they're based on a hierarchy of requirements. Because of this, I've come to realize that it's not only possible to please them all, but it's highly advisable! This article explains the nature of these divisions, why you want to please their members, and how to go about doing it.

Division 1: "The Scrappers"

The scrappers are the the lowest level player in terms of skill, but this is not a condemnation! They are playing beat 'em ups for what is arguably the purest reason; just to have fun being violent. They simply enjoy pushing buttons and experiencing a sense of power and impact when they do. Their zone is the quick feedback loop of aggressive burst > defend > move > aggressive burst > defend > move > etc. Essentially, they are the button mashers.


“Watch ‘Em Ups”: Sucking The Meaning Out Of Action Games

Watch 'em ups are a newly emerged genre of game that appear to bear the key properties of beat 'em ups, but are actually far less interactive. Their existence is entirely due to the popularization of Quick Time Events. A watch 'em up looks like the type of experience arcade born gamers love and cherish, but they are actually hollow and unsatisfying experiences in comparison. The reason they feel like this is because they are comprised primarily of what I call "low interaction mechanics".


Combat Analysis: Lollipop Chainsaw

The best way to describe the game Lollipop Chainsaw is this; Bayonetta's awkward, underdeveloped, squeaky voiced, ambitious little sister. Personally, this isn't very surprising as it's a Suda 51 game. In my opinion, he makes interesting things, not fun things, and the game experience is very much a reflection of this.


Aztez Showing At EVO 2012

This weekend I took a current build of Aztez to the EVO fighting game tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada. For those of you unfamiliar with EVO, it is the world's largest fighting game tournament. Highly skilled players fly in from all over the globe to compete in various one-on-one fighting games like Street Fighter, Marvel Vs. Capcom, Mortal Kombat, and more. But it's also an exhibition of all things of interest to the fighting game community. This year, the event organizers tried something really cool; they set up a showcase of 7 indie games they felt the community would enjoy. Aztez was one of those games and the experience was fascinating. I'd like to share the insights I received by having the game up and running, for anyone to play, from roughly 9am to 5pm, for the first two days of the event.


The Amalur Problem

While Kingdom Of Amalur's combat wasn't compelling enough in either direction (good or bad) to dedicate an entire combat analysis post to it, I wanted to address one major mistake the game made that prevented it from feeling a whole lot better than it did. It's frustrating to me personally because it's so easy to correct! The issue I'm about to elaborate on is a perfect example of how one simple nuance can make or break the feel of entire systems.

When you swing a weapon in Amalur and you do NOT cancel it with the next attack in the combo sequence (or it's simply the last attack in the sequence), the attack animation finishes. Now in many situations you want animations to finish playing because interrupted animations can look really bad. But the game's attack animations have a significant amount of follow-through at the end of them. While this is good application of animation principles (most character animations, especially attack animations, should have this follow-through to add weight to the movement), the problem here is that the player's movement input does not cancel this follow-through and it feels super sluggish as a result.


The Ratio Of Sex To Story

We're getting ready to fuse the fun beat 'em up we've made with the fun turn-based strategy game we've made and concern is growing about whether this fusion will be fun or not. The reason I came up with this fusion in the first place is because I desperately wanted to try something new and shake things up in the hopes that this type of game can be way more fun. Since there's never really been a game like this before (there's been games very similar in concept but not in execution) we don't really have a way of knowing if it's going to work. In the wake of this concern I've been thinking about porn, and the ratio of sex to story.


Beat ‘Em Up Sales Numbers

I've studied these numbers across the year, developer, and even climate. I'm starting with Devil May Cry 1 because I believe that's when the third and most recent age of beat 'em ups began, marked by their migration to consoles after their presence in arcades ended in 1997 after the release of Capcom's Battle Circuit.

Devil May Cry

  • Developer/Director: Capcom/Hideki Kamiya
  • Released: October 2001
  • Units Sold: 2.7 Million (PS2 exclusive)
  • Why: DMC was a hugely publicized launch-era title (end of the first year) for the PS2, as it should have been. It essentially ushered in the new age of the genre by introducing so many innovations and novelties it changed the face of the action game completely and its influence is still felt today. Its success was no marketing phenomenon though; it's an incredibly solid product.

Devil May Cry 2

  • Developer/Director: Capcom/Hideaki Itsuno
  • Released: January 2003
  • Units Sold: 1.8 Million (PS2 exclusive)
  • Why: DMC2 was taken from Kamiya and given to Itsuno, a then newcomer to combat. The game just wasn't very solid as either a game or a combat experience (I think it somehow got worse) but it had the already all-powerful DMC brand attached to it and that got it into the hands of a lot of people. For what it's worth, Itsuno would eventually prove himself as a remarkable action game director.

Welcome To The Aztez Development Blog!

Hi! This is the development website for our game Aztez, a hybrid of two distinct game types: sidescrolling real-time beat 'em up gameplay (the deep and expressive kind) and turn-based strategy gameplay (like a board game). This website serves two purposes; a technical journal on the analysis and creation of combat heavy beat 'em up games (table of contents here), and a news source for development and progress of Aztez.

VIDEO UPDATED ON March 4th, 2013!

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What Happens When Struck

What exactly happens to the entities in a combat play space when they get struck by an attack is important for two reasons: because the player needs to be punished for making a mistake and allowing themselves to get struck, and also because the player needs to feel a certain way when they successfully strike enemies. But there are a lot of factors involved in a struck event both on the player and enemy entity side of the equation, and these properties can be mixed up in various ways to control EXACTLY where the player lands on the emotional spectrum when entities get struck.


Timelapse Of The Construction Of Chapultepec

I asked followers of the Aztez twitter account and fans of the Aztez facebook page which environment they wanted me to build next and they voted for Chapultepec! I also promised a timelapse of the construction. Here it is!

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