Every week we shine the spotlight on an XBLIG and the developers behind them. This week we take a look at BwootGames’ Avatar Fighter, a one on one arcade fighter that pays homage to the arcade fighters of the past by pitting your avatar against others in a quest to prove once and for all who is the best. Check out an unofficial extended play through video below, read my conversation with Brian Yee about the studio and the development of Avatar Fighter and then, as always, I give you my perspective on the game. Also, as usual on CBR, reading has rewards as you may even get a chance to win a copy of the game so that you can put your avatar in the way of some angry fist. Add Avatar Fighter to your download queue! First, the very extensive play through video:
First, tell the readers a bit about yourself, who you are and how/why you decided to start getting involved in making games?
Hello, I’m an artist in Canada who enjoys making games in his spare time. I’ve been working in the games/animation industries for a while. Some of the games I’ve worked on include Racing Gears Advance, and Scurge: Hive for the old GameBoy Advance, as well as a movie license game for the PS2 and various phone games. I’ve always been interested in creating games- in high school I used to program BBS games for fun. One of them was a fighting game made completetly with ANSI graphics. It wasn’t until XNA came out many years later, that I was able to learn programing games with actual non-text graphics.
Tell us about Bwoot Games, your history as a game developer, previous efforts, etc.
Bwoot Games is a small XBLIG developer and has previously released a few other XBLIG titles including Graffiti LIVE!, LED Display, and Puzzwords. Before those, I worked on a XNA port of “The Ur-Quan Masters” which I had planned on finishing until Microsoft declared XBOX LIVE Community Games(as it was called then) wouldn’t have an option to release free games.
If you had to pick one specific game to describe as your inspiration for Avatar Fighter, what would it be?
Avatar Fighter takes elements from of a number of fighting games I used to play including Mortal Kombat, Dark Stalkers, Samurai Shodown, and also a tiny bit of Heroes of Newerth.
But above all else it’d have to be Street Fighter 2- back in the day when Street Fighter 2 just arrived in the arcades I was obsessed with the game. I must have logged more hours in SF2 than any other fighting game since. I can still remember the first character I ever played(Dhalsim!)…
Avatar Fighter has obviously been released as a XBLIG and PC, but have you in the past, or do you currently have plans to work in any other platform? What made you decide to develop for XBLIG?
While developing Avatar Fighter, depending on its success I was planning on switching platforms or even give up indie game development altogether. Thankfully the game seems to be doing pretty well, so I think I will keep developing for XBLIG for the time being!
Developing for XBLIG seemed like a great opportunity to get back into game programming, which I enjoyed but have always found really daunting until XNA came along. And of course the potential for making some moneys was nice too.
How long did you spend on development? Can you explain, roughly, how the development process worked for you? What tools and programs did you work with?
I think development time was about 6 months total, with 3 months of full-time. I had actually left my job to try being a full time indie developer with Avatar Fighter being the result. My process went something like this- take bits from my favorite fighting games and smoosh em together. It was my first 3D XNA project so there was some difficulty in that, but it was also my fourth project so I had my development process pretty much ironed out. Using the Xbox Avatars also really helped since it meant I didn’t have to create custom 3D characters which would’ve been very time consuming.
If you had to pick one thing that you would improve or simply do differently in regards the game’s development what would it be?
That would probably be to make it more accessible for people who haven’t played alot of Street Fighter before. I was very surprised when I found out some people didn’t know how to block! I probably would have realized that if I had done more playtesting which I didn’t do much of until the end. Oh, and I should’ve made a proper video trailer for the game!
Many gamers dream of starting to make their own games, and it is obviously easier than ever for them to do so. What advice would you give someone hoping to make the jump from gamer to designer?
Get started by following some simple tutorials, and move onto some small projects that you can finish easily. Keep it realistic, don’t expect to make anything amazing if you are just learning to program. Try learning both art and programming, it makes it easier if you can do things on your own.
Have you found the XBLIG process to be a particularly easy or difficult one?
I’d say the XBLIG process is very easy- no devkit is needed, no publishers to deal with, wonderful support is available from the XNA forums, and the review process is also very transparent since it is all done by the community(opposed to a closed review committee). It really is the easiest way to get your game on a console.
XBLIG have had a mixed result so far, what is one aspect/idea/change you think would better solidify the platform as a contender in the gaming industry? What one thing do you think would improve the service as a whole, from designer to consumer?
Well if you look at the dashboard today, you’re presented with a whole slew of titles. Looking through all the titles looking for something interesting is very time consuming, especially if you’re browsing outside the main lists. In that case all you’d have to go by is the titles (forget clicking on each one, to look at the screenshots).
When they first introduced XNA and they said it would be the YouTube of video games, so they should implement the most obvious feature: keyword searching! Anyone should be able to find whatever they are interested in, whether it be a massage app or racing game, without having to dig through thousands of XBLIG titles. With the ability to search keywords, it’d be about 100x easier than it is right now. So I’d say the big problem is not necessarily about the quality of games right now, but its that there are no good tools to help consumers find what they want.
What is in the cards for Bwoot Games next?
Right now I am looking into doing an online multiplayer follow-up to Avatar Fighter, it was in the plans for the original game but it quickly fell out of the 80MSP game scope. Otherwise, I’ve been really itching to do a nice looking 2D pixel game. There has been alot of inspiring pixelly games coming out recently!
This edition of the XBLIG Spotlight features BwootGames’ Avatar Fighter, which plays homage to the arcade fighters of the 90’s with some contemporary graphics and full avatar support. You can prove your avatar to be the best by punching all the other avatars in their stupid, smug faces, oh and kicking, can’t forget kicking. Is Avatar Fighter worth the price of admission, or will your avatar not be the only one who feels like they were hit in the face?
Now, I know that both within the indie game’s developer circle and amongst the consumers that “avatar games” are often viewed as simply cash-ins by some developers hoping to capitalize on the novelty of playing a game as your avatar; and in many cases that sentiment is certainly one that is on solid ground, but increasingly games, especially indie-games, are getting better at incorporating avatar support in fun and meaningful ways, fortunately Avatar Fighter is one of those games. The visual presentation here is solid, and impressive for a studios first 3D venture. Unlike many games utilizing avatars, the backgrounds here fit superbly with the visual style of the in-game and player avatars; this is what I imagine an alley in the avatar’s world would look like. The menu’s are simple with an old school flare, and really about the only complaint you are likely to make about how the game looks is that there aren’t more fighting arenas.
This is certainly made up for in the avatar animations. Avatar Fighter simply has some of the best avatar animations I’ve seen in an indie game. If you have ever wanted to see your avatar do more than smile and dance, this game gives you the opportunity. Plus, let’s face it, the Xbox Live avatars are just so damn perky and occasionally smug looking… with their hot dog costumes and remote control Banshee props… who hasn’t wanted to see your significantly cooler avatar punch one of your friend’s avatars in the face? I know I have! The fighting animations are well done in general, and when you apply them to your avatar, the result is a surprisingly good time watching your avatar do flips, high kicks and punch other avatars in the face. Avatar games are supposed to give you a chance to see your “virtual self” doing crazy things you never could, but most haven’t gone much beyond running and jumping (or the occasional rag-dolling) and it was refreshing to see something notably different.
What’s more important though is that unlike many fighter games, the barrier to entry is not super high. The game certainly offers a fair amount of depth, with combos and power-up moves that you could go the entire game without even realizing are there, but you also have a chance of beating the computer by just timely spamming the punch and kick buttons. Blocking is incredibly difficult for you, and frustratingly easy for your computer opponents, and the characters feel a little stiff and slow moving at times, but for the most part you should be able to pick up this game and start kicking some avatar butt pretty quickly. The game comes with several pre-set avatar characters, all with various fighting styles that you can play as, and of course the ability to play as your own avatar (which could certainly allow for some funny match-ups). If you choose to play as your avatar, which you probably will since the pre-set characters don’t offer much in terms of creative design, you can customize your fighting style based on the styles of the other characters. You then fight your way up the ladder in the traditional style, till finally you’ve proven your avatar superior to all others.
The game is lacking an online multiplayer component, but it is still fun for a little human vs AI or better yet a local match between you and a person sitting on the same couch; conveniently close for excessive trash talking after your victory. The game also isn’t particularly challenging to beat, in that there wasn’t any limit on continues, so if you lost you could just keep trying till you finally got a lucky break, but this is also a game clearly intended to be played with other people. Ultimately, Avatar Fighter is a fun time waster on your own but an exceptionally good time with a friend or two. It packs solid fighting mechanics, avoids feeling “cheap” with over powerful AI and of course entertaining avatar animations into a neat little 80 point package.
Final Rating: 8/10
CBR Break Down:
Console Played On: Xbox 360 – XBLIG
Approximate Time to Completion: ~1 Hour
Gamer Score Earned: N/A
Price Bought at: N/A – Review copy furnished by BwootGames
Current Price: 80 Microsoft Points ($1)
Recommend Purchase Price: Literally doesn’t get cheaper.
Add Avatar Fighter to your download queue!
We know how this works by now. BwootGames has been kind enough to give us several download tokens (codes) for Avatar Fighter, and rather than horde them we’ve decided to give them to you. Yeah, we don’t know why either. We will be continueing the recent contest formats, with all three-entry methods!
First entry: Post on this XBLIG Spotlight and tell us your favorite arcade fighter, and go ahead and tell us what system you play(ed) it on too!
Second entry: Follow us on twitter and send the following tweet:
@ClearanceBinRev is giving away 4 copies of the #XBLIG Avatar Fighter! Details: http://bit.ly/gWQJf3
Remember that you have to follow us; any winner we attempt to DM via Twitter who isn’t, automatically forfeits their win. If you enter via Twitter include your twitter name in your post below, winners who have their twitter listed will receive their codes immediately after winning.
Third Entry: Like our Facebook page and then simply like the post on our wall for this article. Simple as that. (Keep in mind the article may be lower on the Facebook page towards the end of the contest and it may take a minute or two to post on FB)
Contest will go until Wednesday at 8pm CST. A pool of all eligible entries will then be randomly selected from and the winners will be notified. CBR reserves the right to disqualify any entry we feel either violated the rules or spirit of the contest, including attempts at duplicate entries. Winner selected with no twitter name provided will be notified by email and have 24 hours to respond. We do not announce the names of contest winners, but do encourage them to post about their win.