Interview with Mitsu Hirakawa, producer of Reality Fighters
You can now virtually take the fight to streets.
It’s easy to look at launch titles with a good bout of cynicism, especially if it’s for a gizmo-overflowing system like that the PlayStation Vita is. What are they but a demo showcase of the bells and whistles to impress us? But Novarama’s Reality Fighter actually quite beats the notion. Yes, it does use the various tinkers of the Vita, but it’s implementation is quite clever, execution quite well, and the result insanely fun.
Reality Fighters allows players to map their mugs as one of the ‘fighters’ in the game, doll them up with various costumes and colors (and weapons), and take the fight not in just some static background with stock animated characters cheering for god knows who, but anywhere - be it on the streets, on the dinner table, in the car. It’s one of the finest use of Augmented Reality we have seen and has us excited for it’s launch on Feb 22.
We had the opportunity to chat with producer Mitsu Hirakawa, who talked us through the various features of the game and also answered our question about Bradley Cooper.
Reality Fighters is a beat-em-up with a difference thanks to your superb use of augmented reality. Can you talk a little bit about this for those who aren’t familiar with the game?
In conventional fighting games, the characters and the location where you fight is already decided. Reality Fighters is completely opposite. The fighter is going to be you – you are going to be the star of the show, you are going to be the one whooping butt. Also, where you fight is what you see in real life, so maybe if you go somewhere interesting, you take a picture with your Vita, you can use that to host your fight. So that’s one of the key features.
The other big difference is using the Gyro scope. You can actually use the whole Vita to navigate the view of your fight. So it is quite a unique fighting experience.
The game makes heavy use of the cameras, and one of the things you can do is scan in portraits for your fighters – what do players get to do after they’ve scanned themselves in?
Once you have captured your face, you can actually customize a lot of things, such as your hair, your body size and equip yourself with 400 costumes who’s color can also be changed. You can also use your voice – so as you enter the ring, you want to be really, really viscous, and sounding menacing, you can do that. And also once you win, you want to really show off your to your opponent, you can do that as well. The player you make is going to look like you, it’s going to sound like you, and it’s going to fight like you. The whole premise is pitting yourself in the game completely. You fight where you want to fight, you be who you want to be, so it gives you that little bit of escapism from the real world.
So then technically I can scan in a photo of Bradley Cooper and duke it out against him?
Absolutely. So the camera technology…isn’t really a “camera”, it’s actually a video scanning software that we have. It recognizes facial features from anything like magazines, photographs, and of course, actual people. So you can actually scan celebrities, politicians, etc. I scanned a picture of one of the developers and beat him online – he wasn’t very happy about it.
Traditional fighting games would use a plethora of button combos to fight, so how does Reality Fighters use the Vita’s other input systems and sensors?
We cater for both the hardcore fighting fans as well as causal gamers. Obviously the hardcore gamers would want to use the traditional control scheme of D-pad and analogue sticks, which is fine. But we also want to cater to the causal gamers. So during a fight, you can choose to use Vita’s touch controls to pull off some special moves. For example, one of the special move has you multi-tapping and sliding to pull it off. It really depends on how you want to play the game.
What was it like developing on the Vita platform?
To be honest, it has really been, kind of not easy but we had so much help from Sony. In our game, we use a lot of camera technology, so we have been able to speak to the camera R&D team which we have never been able to because it’s a completely different division.
The Sony R&D team who writes the SDK tools for us, they have been asking game developers for input when they were writing the libraries. So instead of a group of engineers writing tools that nobody really wants, they come and ask us – many of third party and first party developers around the world – saying “Hey, what would you like to do in the game? What would you want to realize?” And we would give them ideas, and they would come back and say “Yeah, we can do that, we write some of the tools for you.” So Sony, instead of focusing on the tools only, has focused on the needs of the game and the different gameplay mechanics. Because in the end of the day, it’s the great games that we all want to play.
Now I’ve heard that there’s a ridiculous amount of fighting styles available – can you elaborate a bit more on them?
Reality Fighters will currently support 16 styles. We have good mixtures of conventional fighting styles such as karate, kung-fu, and boxing. Whereas we also have a unique blend of unorthodox fight styles such as disco style, ballerina, break dancer, etc. All fight style has an equal chance of winning against each other. So it’s not like ballerina is a weaker style against boxing. Each of the fight styles have about 45 animations style and about 12 special moves where you have to use complicated button and touch combos. So in terms of game depth, the fighting mechanism is quite deep and pretty comparable to conventional fighting games.
One of the interesting features is the ability to ‘win’ other characters when you beat players – what made you decide to implement that feature in the game?
When you fight people online and beat them, you win their fighters and their costumes as well. Because as you progress through the game, you have to actually win your costumes, weapons, hair styles, etc. So playing online will be a new experience because every time you go online, you will be fighting a different fighter, who will be unique to that user, and in that sense it will be pretty refreshing.
What would you say to people who might make the grievous error and club Reality Fighters as just a ‘beat em up’ game? Apart from scanning their face in and beating the crap out of them…
Obviously the big unique feature is using augmented reality technology. The game does support AR cards, which is fine if you are in your home. But Reality Fighters also work without them, so you and I could be fighting in the streets, so that flexibility gives a benefit to the game.
Another key difference, which I think, is the level of customizations. With traditional fighting games, you have to fight with what you are given with. It gets a little bit monotonous, a bit boring. But with this game, I can be really personal, it’s about me, I want to be the one, in the game, fighting. In that way you can relive some of your fantasies , or maybe you can create an alter ego of yourself.
Also, one of our engineers in our team is one of the best the Street Fighter player. He is probably no. 3 in Europe. And he is been helping us a lot with the design, the fighting mechanics, etc. So it is still a really credible fighting experience. So if you like the new technology we are using, if you like fighting games, if you like customization and you want to share this with your friends on Facebook or with Near, I think you are really going to enjoy this game.