Skeletons are pretty cool. They protect our organs, allow us to move, and look stylish when dancing in old cartoons. But, sometimes, skeletons need a good punch in the face. Enter FIGHT KNIGHT, an upcoming first-person dungeon crawler starring a very punch-happy knight. Naturally, being a fan of both skeletons and punches, I got in contact with Thomas LeBlanc, the developer of FIGHT KNIGHT, to discuss dungeon design, special attacks, and more!
TechRaptor: What gave you the idea for FIGHT KNIGHT?
Thomas: FIGHT KNIGHT has been stewing in the heads of my good friend/ex-roomie Zeke James and myself for at least a few years now. We've just been busy doing other stuff.. but 2017 felt like the right time. Basically it started with Zeke pulling out a bin full of hilarious and awesome childhood doodles of knights and castles and dragons. The phrase 'FRIGHT KNIGHT' scrawled on one of them was too funny for us to forget. Over time, that joke merged together with silly Dark Souls builds involving a face covering helmet, no torso armor, and fist weapons, to eventually become the FIGHT KNIGHT we're now so excited to be making!
The game itself is a conglomeration of a bunch of different titles Zeke and I have a strong affinity towards. On the gameplay front there's the obvious Punch-Out!!! influence, but the excellent Capcom title God Hand is another big one, with its thoughtfully designed and fast-paced combat system. The other main piece of influence is Atlus titles such as The Dark Spire and the Shin Megami Tensei series, incredibly atmospheric dungeon crawlers.
TechRaptor: What sort of story mode, if any, will FIGHT KNIGHT have?
Thomas: FIGHT KNIGHT will hopefully have a complete story mode in the fullest sense of the phrase, with a hand-made world to explore, a goal to work towards, and characters to get to know along the way. Being we're still so early into actually making the game there's still a lot to figure out but it's important to me that we make something memorable and timeless, at least to our best ability. As I mentioned earlier we loved Dark Souls so you could imagine some kind of cross between Souls series storytelling and The Dark Spire to get something of an idea of how the story will present itself. I want to keep things as interactive as possible, and something I love about the Souls series is how your player character is never prevented from attacking or simply walking away from an NPC.
TechRaptor: What about Fight Knight himself? What's his story? Why is he so good at fighting?
Thomas: While he's a bit of an enigma in terms of the WHY, FIGHT KNIGHT is essentially a forgotten agent on a path to reclaim the most important thing to him, which are his more traditional means of combat. But as the story is more of a setup for the various elements of the game that we wanted to have, I wouldn't read too much into the character himself. The overall goal is to create something entertaining and silly without being cheeky or bringing in sarcasm.
TechRaptor: What sort of enemies can we expect to fight in FIGHT KNIGHT?
Thomas: Basically whatever we can come up with! But of course, all your traditional western fantasy fauna will feature, Everything from the skeletons you've surely seen to minotaurs and wizards and rogues and knights and dragons. The center piece of the setting for the game is a giant tower that's basically stacked slices of places from all over the world, so really anything goes, as long as we can make it fun to fight in our system.
TechRaptor: You've shown off a radial dial for special attacks. Can you explain how these special attacks function?
Thomas: Sure! One main thing the game will have in terms of progression is the discovery and unlocking of various special moves, and the player will have to decide on which ones to equip as they venture deeper into the game. This is what the number dial represents in its early form. The special moves depletes a kind of meter that builds up from fighting enemies, and each one has its own particular ideal situation, so the idea is they'll be a slightly limited resource that you'll want to consider before using. This brings up God Hand. There's a lot of things about that game that we're almost using as a model for our own game, but probably the most obvious takeaway from it is the 'roulette wheel' special move system. In God Hand, you just pick your special move and it plays out in front of you --which works great-- but for FIGHT KNIGHT we took that basic structure and we're sprinkling in 'timed hit' type minigames to keep the player feeling engaged as well as allowing for more creative control over the actual outcome of the attack. Of course at this point I've only programmed a single special attack, but we're planning on adding at least a dozen different ones if not more than that. One of the nice things about the way I've set up the art style and game systems is it'll be really easy to create and add new features & content.
TechRaptor: Will levels be pre-designed or randomly generated?
Thomas: Completely pre-designed (or hand crafted as I'd rather say). I've spent dozens more hours playing Spelunky and Towerclimb than I'd care to admit but for this game, dungeon crawler style logic and navigational puzzles seem to require the levels being specifically designed. And as someone with a background in TF2 and Portal mapping, that's something I'm happy to accomodate. That's for the main bulk of the game, anyways. There will also be a small endurance-style mode where you fight progressively tougher groups of enemies for as long as you can, which will likely have random elements.
TechRaptor: Do you have plans for multiplayer of any sort?
Thomas: I honestly can't even imagine how multiplayer would work in the game, haha! Definitely a singleplayer experience through and through.
TechRaptor: At the time of writing, you've been working on FIGHT KNIGHT for only a little under a month. What have you learned during this early development process?
Thomas: I think the biggest takeaway so far from the project has come from my contrasting it with what I was working on before starting on FIGHT KNIGHT full-time. It was a very arduous, painstaking project that I was taking no shortcuts for, and I think there is a lot of value in that approach but at the same time FIGHT KNIGHT has made it apparent to me how the volume of what you can get done in a given period of time is just as important as the quality. So I've been setting things up to make it as easy as possible to create the game itself to allow for us to focus on what really matters, which to me is the entertaining, exciting feel of the game and the interesting quality of the systems you inhabit by playing it. For example, of course the characters are all 2d but the assets themselves are entirely in grayscale, which is then colored & dithered by a screen shader to give the game its unique pixelated-palette-crushed look. This means the assets could be reused to fit into wildly different environments with no additional work. And that's only one example, I'm doing lots of stuff behind the scenes in terms of enemy behaviors to allow for things to interact with each other in generic ways... of course, this is hardly a new concept. But I'm not a programmer by trade, so It's been very eye opening to see the potential speed at which you can develop a game be unleashed in front of me like it has with FIGHT KNIGHT.
TechRaptor: Finally, are there any shout-outs you'd like to make?
Thomas: I definitely wanna give a huge thanks to you, Perry, for taking an interest in this project at such an early stage! It means a lot. But of course I've gotta give a shout-out to my partner who's given us plenty of help with character design, and the toads in our friend group. And the dev team itself of Zeke (who the project wouldn't exist without) and SilkerSoft, our composer! Silker came out of the blue and he's been doing AMAZING music work for us. AND a big thank you to anyone else who's been following the game!
TechRaptor: Thank you for your time!