Despite the deluge of 'Triple-A' announcements, the ID@Xbox scene continues to make headlines. Our ID@Xbox indie spotlight returns this week with a look at Raging Justice, a nostalgic beat 'em up fans of Streets of Rage and Final Fight need to check out.
In this Q&A, we discuss Makin Games' inspirations, how Raging Justice stands apart, their experiences with ID@Xbox and the lost art of punching helicopters.
Jez: First of all, how would you guys describe Raging Justice to the uninitiated?
MG: Raging Justice is a modern take on the 2D scrolling brawler that pulls the classic genre kicking and screaming into the 21st century. In a city held to ransom by a mysterious crime lord, two maverick cops, Nikki Rage and Rick Justice, fight to prove that no one is above the law.
Whether you dare to take on the criminal world alone or enlist a friend in a co-op attack, Raging Justice delivers a multitude of ways to defeat your enemies. As you are smashing through a bar fight with a bar stool, mowing down enemies on a lawnmower, or battling terrifying bosses, you can choose to play as a good cop or bad cop. Will you arrest the criminals, or pummel them to the ground? The path you choose has consequences.
Raging Justice is a modern game born of a classic era. With online multiplayer, stylistic stop-motion effect HD graphics, and bombastic soundtrack, Raging Justice doesn't hold back.
Jez: It's pretty clear that Raging Justice is taking a cue from old school side scrolling beat 'em ups, which games specifically served to inspire you guys?
MG: For me, Final Fight is close to the pinnacle of the side-scrolling brawler. It had amazingly large sprites (for the time) and a fantastic arcade feel (I just love arcade games, 60 frames per second, instant enjoyment). Vendetta, or Crime Fighters 2, is probably the single most influential game for Raging Justice, both in terms of look and feel. It's a lesser known Konami arcade game, but one that has a great feel to it, lots of weapons, lots of grittiness to the locations. It's one of Jays (our artist) all-time favourite games, we've played it a fair few times during development to analyse what made it work so well.
Other than those two, I've sat and played Streets of Rage 2 (and Remake) an awful lot of times over the past couple of years. I've also had a good play of as many of the arcade greats as I could - TMNT, Simpsons, The Punisher, Capt. America and the Avengers, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, the list goes on. I LOVE this genre!
Jez: Raging Justice appears to capture some of that 90s charm with its frame by frame animations. Why did you guys opt for pre-rendered 3D sprites over 16-bit style sprites, or even fully animated 3D models?
MG: Pixel art is a fantastic style, one that we love (the Scott Pilgrim game looks and plays ace), but we felt that had been done before, plenty of times. We could have gone for a latter-day pixel style with plenty of details (like Streetfighter 3 or KoF XIII for instance), but we wanted to have a modern look to the game, and Jay is a fantastic 3D artist, so we went with 3D characters.
Pre-rendering the sprites was a technique we chose for a couple of reasons. It gives Jay full control of the look of every frame, from stance and movement to post-processing-effects. If he wants motion blur on a particular move, he can do it, no technical restrictions, just adds it into the frame. The second reason, which is ultimately why we've kept the style, is that with using sprites (regardless of how they're authored) means we can directly capture the feel of the genre. There have been plenty of attempts to make the scrolling-beat-em-up work with 3D models, but there's something 'missing', a certain Je ne sais quois. I honestly believe it's the difference between 2-D and 3-D that causes this. Look at how Streetfighter EX+Alpha fared when compared to Streetfighter III, the gameplay just works so well, so immediately, when it's sprite based.
Jez: How have you guys found balancing the nostalgia in 80s/90s gameplay mechanics with some of the most modern expectations gamers may have? Have you taken considerations for those sorts of things?
MG: We're great fans of the Golden Era of Arcade games; we've played them a heck of a lot, both now and back in the day. It has shaped how we're making the game, we've sat down and played as many scrolling brawlers as we could and have tried to cherry-pick various elements of each of them, Vendetta had the weapons and the setting, Streets of Rage had the grapples, Final Fight had the instant playability, large sprites, and meaty impacts. Having so much time since there was a great brawler means we don't have to pander to a particular trend, we can take the genre as a whole and try to improve it.
As we're running on modern 'supercomputers' (at least in comparison to the Megadrive), we're able to put more feeling into the character movement, the characters interactions, and the AI of the enemies. It's important that Raging Justice both looks up to date, and plays that way too. Going back and playing some of the classic brawlers just shows how far gaming has come along. Arcades were ultimately designed to extract more coins from the player and were punishing. As a result, home consoles had very little power so used all kinds of tricks to give the impression that more was going on. With the home game, you always imagined it as 'arcade perfect' but it was always the standard-def TV to the IMAX experience of the Arcades.
Now we can create the game to the level and desire the Arcades provided, but with a balanced home-console feel.
Jez: Does Raging Justice have some unique mechanics that help it stand apart from the likes of Streets of Rage and Golden Axe?
- We have introduced a moral element with the arrest move. Will you choose to be a good cop or bad cop? The choice you make has consequences!
- The characters have AI that's beyond what was possible on the 16-bit machines, they can plan their attacks, they can respond to their surroundings, and they're able to prioritise who to attack and what with.
- The number of enemies we can have on screen has increased massively. Now a whole crowd of them can take a bar brawl to a new level.
- We have also had fun deciding on the weapons. Everything can be used as a weapon; from rats and bar stools to lawn-mowers and swords.
Jez: I noted in the trailer it says Raging Justice has some insane boss fights, any chance you'd be willing to reveal your favourite one?
MG: My favourite, well, that'd probably be when we go totally overboard and have the player fight an attack helicopter. Which you can do with YOUR FISTS?! Do games have to be realistic? Nope, never!
Jez: How have you guys found working with the ID@Xbox team?
MG: Just fantastic. For me, going back to Xbox was like coming home, having spent a good 8 or so years working with, or for, Microsoft. The whole process for ID@Xbox is pretty straight forward, and the team have been a great help, Ago Simonetta especially.
Jez: I noted that Raging Justice is targeting Xbox, PC and mobile platforms too. Have you considered targeting the Windows Phone/Tablet app store via ID@Xbox? We need more mobile Xbox goodness!
MG: We're hoping to get Raging Justice working on pretty much every device we can, my thinking is that if someone wants to play Raging Justice, then they should be able to, no matter what device they own. We are certainly going to have Raging Justice working cross-platform across the Windows 10 devices.
Jez: When can we expect to get our hands on Raging Justice?
MG: Soon. Very soon. We're pushing towards the finishing line now; the end is in sight!
A big thanks to Anna and Nic of Makin Games for taking the time to speak to us!
As a huge fan of old school games, I'm glad the indie scene are ready and willing to bring some 90s goodness onto the Xbox One. ID@Xbox continues to be an exciting program for Xbox fans, Considering there's now thousands of devs signed up, there should truly be something for everybody.
If you're an ID@Xbox developer, and you'd like to get in touch, send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org!