Archive for May, 2013

Fightback is Ninja Theory’s homage to 80s action films

Posted in Fightback, Ninja Theory with tags , , , , , , , on May 30, 2013 by HeavenlyNariko


Ninja Theory’s upcoming side-scrolling brawler for iOS and Android devices, Fightback, is both an homage to 1980s action films and an opportunity for the studio to challenge itself by developing for platforms it has never worked on before, according to creative director Luis Gigliotti.

Speaking to Polygon, Gigliotti said that after completing DMC: Devil May Cry, the studio wanted to challenge itself with something completely different, which is why Gigliotti signed himself up to work with a small team within the studio to make Fightback.

“As a designer, I love challenges,” he said. “These touchscreen devices are fairly new for these types of games, and there’s a massive design challenge there which made me think, ‘What better way to push yourself than to really challenge yourself?’

“I also saw this opportunity to do something that could really have some depth and impact in this space.”

According to Gigliotti, one of the most important things for the studio to achieve was to make the game experience appropriate for the devices on which they would be played. He said that part of the challenge for developers who have traditionally made games for PC and consoles is respecting the touchscreen device and the experience it can offer. “They’re inherently different things,” he said, “and as a designer, as soon as you remove a D-Pad or a mouse and keyboard from people, you have to respect that.”

“I also saw this opportunity to do something that could really have some depth and impact in this space.

Fightback achieves Ninja Theory’s goals by optimizing all its controls for the touch-based interface. The game is a brawler where players control a hulking character who has to ascend through levels in a skyscraper to rescue his kidnapped sister. Players have to fight off waves of thugs by controlling the angle of the characters kicks, swiping to punch and chaining together combos to knock back each wave of enemies. The game’s design also uses predictive behavior, so the game anticipates what a player wants to do based on how they swipe the screen. In a demo of the game Polygon played, the touch controls were responsive, allowing us to dodge attacks by swiping down and countering attacks by swiping up with no frustration.

The game’s theme draws inspiration from 1980s action films, and Gigliotti says Fightback is an homage to the period, as opposed to a parody.

“You could look at a character and go, ‘I get them.”

“When you look back at those movies, they seem kind of silly in retrospect, but if you really analyze the character development in those films, they were actually really well-developed and they didn’t need dialog to explain everything about them,” he said. “You could look at a character and go, ‘I get them.’

“The anti-hero was born in the 80s, and that concept of the anti-hero wasn’t done through clever dialog — it was done through costuming and relational positioning within a scene and lighting. It was more theatrical.”

The team at Ninja Theory has adopted elements of films from the 80s so that when players pick up the game, the visual cues in the environtal designs, the character’s costuming and the way the game is lit and presented tells them what they need to know without bombarding them with a screen full of text.

Fightback will be Ninja Theory’s first mobile game. It will release this summer on iOS and Android devices as a free-to-play title.



Ninja Theory’s Fightback: A touch-screen brawler that actually kicks ass (preview)

Posted in Fightback, Ninja Theory with tags , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2013 by HeavenlyNariko


Something about Fightback just didn’t want me to take it seriously. Maybe it was the dark-haired Duke Nukem-type alpha male sporting tattoos and man cleavage on the title screen. It could’ve been his gold-plated assault rifle with a sniper scope and two laser sights. Or the fact that the game is a beat-em-up played on a tablet with touch-screen controls.

Then Fightback (due this summer on iOS and Android platforms) won me over. It’s not complex — it’s the opposite of complex — but it works far better than a touch-screen brawler has any right to.

That’s exactly what I’d expect from developer Ninja Theory (DmC: Devil May Cry, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West) and its creative director, Lu Gigliotti. This might be his company’s first free-to-play mobile game, but it carries a lot of the familiar Ninja Theory touches.

“We didn’t take [mobile game development] seriously until a big group of us went to this free-to-play summit,” says Gigliotti. “It really opened our eyes. We came out of there saying there’s a massive challenge and a massive opportunity here. After that, we decided to challenge ourselves professionally.”


The result — “it’s Donkey Kong,” says Gigliotti — takes a throwback ’80s action-movie premise and shotgun-weds it to a throwback ’80s brawler using some of the tightest touch controls I’ve seen lately. You play a hulking bruiser ascending skyscrapers floor by floor to rescue your kidnapped sister. Each floor breaks down into three stages where waves of thugs come at you from both sides. Tapping the screen greets them with a knuckle sandwich. Swiping launches kicks. If you run into a particularly tough wave, pull out your upgradable gun, tap-tag every enemy you can in the second you have to aim, and mow everybody down in the ensuing cutscene.

Oh, but here’s where it gets interesting.

You control the angle of your kicks, and launching an opponent into the air with an upward swipe to the jaw turns him into your personal punching bag. Keep whaling on him to your heart’s delight; let him drop when you’re done. That gave me a surprisingly deep combo system to play with, nailing all comers with a blindingly fast mix of attacks and tactics. The touch controls are completely intuitive and surprisingly responsive thanks to some code that uses predictive behavior.

“If you even start moving your finger across the screen, [the game] anticipates it. ‘Oh, he’s swiping up; therefore, it’s a kick,’” says Gigliotti.fightback1

Once you reach the roof, Mr. Big drops a few taunts and flies off in his helicopter. Then it’s time to pick another building and work your way to the top again. Two districts were open in the demo, each with six or seven high-rises to conquer. You can also take that time to refill ammo and buy more upgrades with in-game cash (which you can purchase with real-world cash). Those increase punch/kick power, up the kill ratio on your guns, or even turn you invincible for the low-low price of 10 gold bars.

But the real fun begins when Fightback starts throwing different enemy types at you, some of which require dodging with down or up-swipes before slo-mo countering with an insane amount of whoop-ass.

“We created a base of more than 15 types of enemies,” says Gigliotti. “It’s like a bunch of ingredients in a recipe. We can adjust everything about them — spawn rate, speed, accuracy, damage, defense, and their special attributes on top of that. Mix that all together, and you have quite an extensive palette to play with.”

That’s a formula that Ninja Theory exploited to great effect in the past. Gigliotti added that boss characters also come into the equation later on, and some of them just keep turning up even after you defeat them. He almost made it sound like the last few buildings will be wall-to-wall bosses on every floor.


I enjoyed the small dose of carnage I got out of Fightback. Even with its bite-sized stages, Fightback looks like a fairly large game with dozens of levels, and it’ll take quite a lot of carefully-mixed challenges to sustain it all the way through. The opening moments, however, pulled me right in.

If anything, some of the enemies died too fast — I wanted to keep beating on them. In particular, I wanted the option to keep pounding on the last thug on each stage ad infinitum, working him over for as long as I could keep him juggling in the air. Gigliotti assured me that feature would be in the final game.

Let’s just say Ninja Theory knows its audience.

Tameem’s Edge Diary – Part One

Posted in Heavenly Sword, Ninja Theory with tags , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2013 by HeavenlyNariko

It’s March 2003 and I’m sat with some colleagues ready to hear Bungie talk Halo at GDC. Ed Fries, head of Microsoft Games Studios, comes up to us. “We’ve just had our first week sales for Kung Fu Chaos. It’s done 10,000 units.” 10,000 units sounds shit to me. Ed sensing our disdain continues, “That’s good for a week”.

I look at my colleagues. They all have a 10,000-units-sounds-shit expression on their faces.

Rewind to January 2003. We’ve just wrapped up Kung Fu Chaos, our first game at JAM. It was a smooth ride. The best development experience I’ve ever had. Nina, Mike and I founded JAM, scaling up from 3 people working from Mike’s bedroom to 22 people, delivering the game on time and on budget while exceeding all of the quality benchmarks set out by Microsoft. We didn’t even have a crunch period. Contrary to popular opinion everyone we worked with at MS were passionate gamers who really knew what they were doing. The same couldn’t be said for their marketing and PR people who were a bunch of…well, you get the idea.


It started when they first showed an early build of Kung Fu Chaos to the most influential magazines and websites in the US without our knowledge. The game was untextured, had placeholder sound, no effects and the combat was only a rough implementation. From there it just got worse but I’m not going to go through the list of fuck-ups because it drives me nuts just thinking about them. However, as the first reviews come in, things are looking up: 92%; 4 out of 5; 9 out of 10; “One of the best games I’ve ever played” said Penny Arcade; then the US’s biggest print magazine score it 50%. Scratch record. “I want to punch this game in the throat”, they say as they take turns to bash it for being racist. Subsequent reviews also decide to take the moral high ground.

A bunch of gaming magazines, newspapers and radio stations send us mails to offer support and defend the game. The PR guys respond with: “Our goal is to make sure no one talks about this. If we stop them from writing about the game we win”. So only those who think the game is racist are given a voice and the game is left to rot on the shelves with no marketing or PR support. Yet the message we get from MS is that they are interested in a sequel. Ever since we gave them a concept trailer for Kung Fu Chaos, MS have wanted developers to give them trailers to pre-visualise the games they are publishing. We start creating a design doc and a concept trailer for the sequel called Kung Fu Story.

Forward to GDC 2003 again. After hearing the sales figures we know that a sequel isn’t going to happen even though MS is saying otherwise. Our options are looking grim. With no sequel in sight, we have two choices: create a brand new IP or do a work-for-hire gig. Our Kung Fu Chaos engine was really only suited for Kung Fu Chaos and the cost of re-engineering it for a license would mean that we wouldn’t be able to compete with those who specialise in low-cost licenses.

Creating a new IP is looking grim too: our market research shows that sequels and licenses dominate the end of a console cycle. Even if we pull off a new IP, the investment we would have to make on an updated engine would probably only last the one game in the current console lifecycle.


What our research does show is that 3rd person action adventures are big but the first generation games in this genre are always shit. Nina, Mike and I originally came from Sony Cambridge, a studio that specialised in 3rd person action games and so we would be treading familiar ground. If we start now, a full year or two before most developers even think about next-gen development, we would have the time to craft a great game and release it early in the next-gen console cycle. Perhaps we could pull off a Halo.

As expected, several weeks after our presentation to MS, they say no to Kung Fu Story but we are already busy designing a next generation original IP codenamed Heavenly Sword. And so begins this diary of the dreams and nightmares that define next-gen development…

Chillingo and Ninja Theory reveals Fightback!

Posted in Ninja Theory with tags , , , , , on May 24, 2013 by HeavenlyNariko


Chillingo, leading independent mobile games publisher and division of Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: EA), today announced that they are partnering with prominent Cambridge, UK-based independent video game developer Ninja Theory Ltd. to publish the studio’s first mobile game, Fightback for the App Store and Google Play™.

From the award-winning studio behind Heavenly Sword, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West and DmC: Devil May Cry, Ninja Theory’s Fightback is a thrilling free-to-play action game with a striking 80s action movie vibe and a revolutionary touch-based combat system.


“Chillingo is very excited to collaborate with such a talented, critically-acclaimed studio to help shape their first title for the mobile market,” states Ed Rumley, COO, Chillingo. “Our team is working closely with Ninja Theory to ensure Fightback delivers a phenomenal experience for mobile and tablet devices.”

“Mobile and tablet gaming is a phenomenon that we just couldn’t ignore as a studio and we’re very proud to be working with one of the industry’s heavy-weights on bringing Fightback to market. Ninja Theory has always strived for the highest production values and that absolutely remains the case in this exciting new space,” said Dominic Matthews, Product Manager, Ninja Theory Ltd.

Fightback is slated to launch this summer. Hands-on previews will be shared with press at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles.


Ninja Theory Showing New Game Tomorrow!

Posted in Ninja Theory with tags , , , , on May 23, 2013 by HeavenlyNariko