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A Fight'N Rage post-mortem. The story behind the first Uruguayan game to be published on a home console

This is the story of how Uruguayan developer Sebastian Garcia started developing games and ended up launching his first commercial game, Fight'N Rage. A title considered by many critics and players as one of the best beat'em ups of the last 20 years.

Back in 2017, Uruguayan developer Sebastian Garcia was about to press the publish button on the Steam developer console for his latest (and very much unknown to the public) game project, Fight'N Rage (FNR). What we do know now, about two years after, is that Sebastian (a.k.a. Seba), can afford to plan his next project without any financial pressure. But curiously, that financial pressure was the trigger that made him strive to create the best possible game in his favorite genre. He had the strong conviction that he could make a living out of his own craft.

 


                                                                 Fight’N Rage (2017)                                                              

Behind many indie successes, even if they are modest ones, there is sometimes a bit of a myth, the feeling that they could be easy to replicate, that is why, for reality check reasons, it is worth to know more about the process and the story behind a project and its creator. So here starts the story behind the crafting of 90s retro-styled beat'em up Fight'N Rage.

 

The emotional side of developing a 90s styled beat em up in the 2010s

 

Seba developed Fight'N Rage because of sentimental reasons, making it was an end in itself, after that came the financial reasons, as he said, “if it had been only for the money, I would have dedicated myself to something else. Coincidentally, I did this the best I could, and it turned out to be profitable. My intention was to make games... and my responsibility was to make money. I could have mixed it, but I could have earned money by giving up game development too, who knows...”.

 

The uniqueness of Fight'N Rage

 

There are genres considered classics that are almost forgotten by the big public, this is the case of the beat'em up. However, its influences can be seen in more recent titles both 2D ( Scott Pilgrim vs The World or Castle Crashers) and 3D (the PS2 classic God Hand, or the Batman Arkham, Devil May Cry and Dynasty Warriors sagas). Fight’N Rage, has been considered by critics and press as one of the greatest modern exponents of the beat'em up since its launch, at the end of 2017. The greatest innovation in Fight’N Rage could be considered to be the lack of innovation itself, as its creator said, “as a developer, I tried to gather the characteristics of the best games of the genre that were launched during the 80s and 90s, integrated and implemented them in the most elegant way that I could possible make”.

 

                               

 

The replayability is considerable, due to the multiple paths that allow access to a lot of content and unlockable game modes. It is also worth to remark that the player has total control on the character most of the time during the game, the massive fights against enemies which have their own combat styles, where combos, parries, special movements and white weapons provide a high variety and dynamism.

Along diverse levels full of details, each character will be able to do combos of dozens of hits and the players need to study their technique from the first moment, since there is no progression (this is the evolution of the player's own ability in the game). In addition, each movement has a unique and irreplaceable utility.

On the narrative layer, Seba wanted to make the player feel as immersed and participant as possible in the plot and universe of the game, to achieve this, the story line is developed only in the places where the player is present, and can change depending on which character is in each situation.

 

The gameplay

 

Seba chose to develop a beat'em up because he has always been a big fan of the genre, as well as of fighting games; in Fight'N Rage he went for a mix of both. “The goal was to offer the experience that I usually enjoy in video games, I like when the player has to constantly evaluate what is the best decision to take… while considering risks and rewards based on his own skills”, he says.

“A perfect run in FnR can last less than an hour or even less if you play well, constantly keeping the attention at the maximum level it can be quite exhausting. Then the player has to start economizing attention resources, rest a little bit making safe decisions, and save energy for the moments when they have to be at the highest level. That happens while people play... I can perceive it and that's the experience I want. I don't like games that are based on repeating routines over and over. In Fight’N Rage, randomness has a big impact, and forces the player to constantly pay attention to anything that can come up at each moment.”

 

                                

 

As a developer, Seba is aware that players follow their own micro-routines... so to speak, so wanted to create changes in the environment and this way, force them to modify them, at least a bit. Challenging their evaluation and forcing them to mix the physical part (which follows routines) with the rational part that uses strategy in real time, so they have to analyze the context. “That is the gaming experience (although it is not the only one) that I find most compelling”, he reaffirms.


The story of a self-made game developer.

 

Seba has played games for about 25 years, his hunger of knowledge, driven by passion to create and take out the best out of the technology he had at hand, is what brought him to develop Fight’N Rage. I was very curious to know more about that path, so asked him to tell us his story in his own words:

“I started with an Apple IIGS, programming games in Basic and doing the art in Mouse Paint at a time where almost everyone was already using Windows. My dad bought a rather outdated computer (didn't even have a hard drive) but luckily we had access to the Basic language by command line and it came with a programming book in Spanish”.

 

                                

 

Developed my first games along with my brother, he was more technical than me, and helped me to conceptualize many programming concepts that I had a harder time understanding. Then, much later, my father got a PC, and I remember that I found a version of Game Maker in a CD of an anime magazine. There I began to make tests by modifying the examples that were there.

As I had already developed certain skills as pixel artist in Paint-like programs, I began to import more graphics and to do technical tests. And there began what continues to this day, a guy at home doing technical tests in different languages, which sometimes become games. From all my game-making learnings, 99% was given through analyzing emulated games. I spent a lot of time studying all their details, taking captures, analyzing the pixelart, the mechanics, using the advantages of emulation, to deactivate visual layers, using save states to pause and analyze what was happening in them frame by frame. I did all that for pure pleasure. I always fantasized a lot about creating my games, long before I had access to a computer.

 

                               

                                        Sebastian working on a Pentium I (circa 2001)

 

Later came the professional period of my life, after meeting Giselle, a wonderful girl that I became good friends with, and, in a year, we fell in love. By then I found my first job as security guard, on my first day I spent a whole night in the rain, without even being able to stay indoors. Then I was left me in a place I didn't know and had to find my way back home at 4am, then I had to go back on the next day at 3pm, take 2 buses one way, and 2 to return home, all for a really low salary.
On the next day, I told Giselle how it went, and she insisted that I should quit, she was convinced I could get a job making games. So I resigned that terrible job and started looking for a way to enter the game industry.

Shortly after, in 2005, I saw an ad in the newspaper telling that Batovi Games (which by then it was a young company, but today it is the most veteran studio still in active in Uruguay) was looking for a pixel artist, I send my CV and they hired me (and ended working there for 7 years), that job allowed me to rent a small apartment where I lived together with Giselle. After a few years working there, I start to made my way to be considered as a programmer. At the time, I only knew Basic and Game Maker Language, but I had the foundations on how the game mechanics were built. What was more difficult was to prove to my colleagues that I knew how to structure and build full games, and that I could learn another language if necessary. So what I did was to finish my tasks in a timely manner, and take advantage of my spare time in the company to prototype games in Game Maker.

I started prototyping a simple fighting game for cell phones, I made a tool to put collision boxes and Fernando, my boss, was surprised with the quality of the results. He showed me Java and gave me the opportunity to try to port my Game Maker prototype to that language. So I did that, and worked out great, although my programming skills were very low at that time. My efforts to improve my skills in game development overall paid off, as in 2007 I won the 2nd edition of the Uruguayan National Video Game contest with the arcade game “Satt-Elite”, that fact helped me to get my first job as a programmer in Batoví, something I was really looking forward to. 

 

                 
                                                              Satt-Elite (2007)                                                          

 

Then the possibility of making a beat em up called "El Tigre: Fight for Frida" came up, for that game I used the previous experience from creating "Revenge of the Wolves". El Tigre had to be developed in Flash, and I insisted to learn ActionScript and do it on the fly meanwhile I was learning (it was hard to convince the team that I could do that, back then). As I always had practical solutions for design problems, they took me into account and accepted my proposal.

Afterwards, I learned a lot about object oriented programming while making El Tigre thanks to a very good colleague I had at Batoví (Juan Fornos) and then everything started to follow the course it has nowadays. Decided to study C# at home because I was curious about how XNA worked, although it wasn’t a popular language, I found it very flexible and compiling was pretty fast. Just after that I started programming a framework to build games with more agility and that is the framework that I am currently tuning. As a consequence of those studies, I worked on two games that  were important for the later creation of Fight N Rage (which was developed totally from scratch), those were Master Ninja Fighter (developed independently by me in XNA), and  Super Vampire Ninja Zero (SVNZ), which I developed with two colleagues at Batovi: Federico Medina (a.k.a. Pardo) and our colleague Juan Fornós did the music, Pardo programmed a new engine using the foundational concepts I had established from Master Ninja Fighter’s engine to build the engine for SVNZ:

 

              
                                                  Super Vampire Ninja Zero (2007)                                                 


Fight'N Rage can be considered a spiritual sequel from these ones in some way, gameplay (chained combos, parries, juggles, in SVNZ you can play with an ally controlled by the CPU) and visual wise, especially considering that it was never released due to other projects we had from several clients that were prioritized. In summary, all the four beat em up titles could be considered as learning steps in my evolution as a game developer in the beat em up genre, as they that allowed me to perfection my techniques and learn many tricks that I put in practice in Fight'N Rage.

 

                                
                                                      Master Ninja Fighter (2010)                                                 

 

Some years later, I left Batoví because Giselle offered to support me meanwhile I was trying to make a game that could be commercial, and that is how I ended up starting the development of Fight’N Rage. The salaries in my day job as game developer were being delayed and I had to pay my rent, so it was very complicated for me to pay the bills, and I ended up going to live to my parents place, that was empty as they recently got divorced. Luckily, Giselle had a job as a teacher, so she covered all the costs of living for both of us. I started developing a game called "Dreamnessia", then I met Gonzalo Varela on a mailing list from Uruguay (makinita). I asked him if he was interested in making music for dreamnessia and he ended up joining me, then I abandoned that project because it became unsustainable, it was the perfect example of "feature creep" and Gonzalo released the soundtrack album for free. 

 

                                
                                                           Dreamnessia (2013)                                                         

 

Later on, we continued working together on Fight N Rage. At the beginning of our collaboration I sent Gonzalo references to music from various fighting games that I liked (i.e. Guilty Gear) and from 90’s beat em ups (i.e. Streets of Rage).

 

                
                                                     Gonzalo Varela playing live                                                        

He added a greater emphasis on rock and instrumental metal, which are genres he knows perfectly well and are in total consonance with the aesthetics and energy of the game. After that, even more musical references were added, which helped to transition between styles and gave a break between the more intense tracks, that is why we added pieces with elements of jazz, funk, flamenco, Latin American music, experimental and classical music were included in the game, creating a total of more than 40 compositions. As a curiosity, some levels were developed taking compositions that didn’t make to the final game. I sent Gonzalo a version of the game with a script he used to load the game at a certain point and thus test how the different music pieces fitted while playing the game itself. We always kept a very fluid communication between us, which was great. Also is worth to mention that I tried to make music for the game on my own, before Gonzalo collaborated on the project, but the quality of what I did on my own as newbie was far from what I achieved on the artistic and programming sides, music creation is an art totally on its own, and one that Gonzalo masters perfectly.

 

                                 

 

Leap of Faith

 

After shutting down “Dreamnessia”, I decided to invest all my energies into making the project of my dreams. A mixture of beat’em up with fighting game mechanics. I got into that project and didn't give myself the right to cancel it. Gonzalo did the music and that is how we started working together and also created a good friendship.

Giselle and I never enjoyed to dramatize, but we went through many difficulties, we were always together and knowing that things could be worse. Most of the time I lived in super precarious conditions, in a house with sheet metal roof and many problems (humidity, leaks, etc) to add up, it was in a rather insecure neighborhood. Fight’N Rage was developed there, in a little house with a tiny roof that had leaks everywhere, during the rain you could barely hear your own voice.

 

                                 
      Sebastian and Giselle lived in quite precarious conditions during the Fight N Rage development

 

After launching the game on PC, I was evaluating how to increase its visibility and make it accessible on new platforms, so a friend, Jesús Fabre, recommended me to contact BlitWorks, I had never heard a word about them. I was receiving all kind of proposals to bring the game to consoles. Initially I didn't think BlitWorks could do a good partner, but my lack of trust was much larger about all the other companies interested in the game.

 

                               
                                            From left to right, Tony, Jesús and Jorge                                            

 

Lastly, I told BlitWorks co-Founder and producer, Jorge Cabezas, about the situation. I saw they were very serious and professional people, even more when I checked their track record of previous works and found out they created Unsharper. I give a lot of importance to the technical skills of my partners. In fact, I believe that the love for solving technical problems is the key to flow artistically in video games design, given their logical nature. Technical capacity sets the limits of what can be done and what can’t. In that context, ideas flow naturally, often created from the same concepts that these limitations bring. I created a blind trust in BlitWorks when I saw they were highly technically capable and a compromised studio. In addition, their offer was by far the most tempting I received. I thought it was a deal that I would make if I was in their place. I did not find a gift or a scam.

 

Final words

 

As Guillermo Del Toro said: "Success is screwing up on your own terms". I think with that definition, he hit the spot. So I can proudly say that this project allowed me to make a living from my own products and even have economic stability to bring my first child to the world, which was a dream of ours. 
 

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