On remaking old games…
One of the reasons people start with developing games is because they want to create something similar to their favorite game. I entered game development myself with the desire to make a game Sacrifice. Everyone I met with experience in game development warned me not to do that. They said “this is not a good idea” or “you are putting yourself between a rock and a hard place”. And today, it is more clear to me why this is true.
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Die by the Blade, which is the project that we are working on, is supposed to be some sort of spiritual successor to Bushido Blade. Bushido is old samurai sword fighting game released on Playstation 1. When this was first pitched to me, I must admit, I have not heard of the game before. When PlayStation 1 was out, I was still in grade school and my parents did not even want to hear about spending few thousands for some kind of game console. Naturally, not having played the game when I was younger made me devoid of any nostalgia. Great right? I can approach developing this old school game with clear sight!
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I tried to play Bushido, before I got on designing Die By The Blade. My first experience was overwhelmingly negative. Putting aside the old graphics I did not understand the appeal of the game. Stiffly animations of Fighters and delayed controls. There is no tutorial, you are thrown directly into the game and I could not understand why sometimes my enemies parried my attacks and sometimes not. It was a frustrating experience. The combat system had lots of special attacks and each character even had their own exclusive weapon which would unlock special combos. Something you would never know if you do not Google it up! Maybe this information used to be in some manual but my version of the game did not have any manual…
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I beat the campaigns for both of the Bushido Blade titles several times, each time learning new combos and the way how each character shapes the fighting style you can utilize. Still wondering how such games could ever have fans! Fear swept over me. I was desperately trying to find fun in very old game that has thousands of fans worldwide!!! Moreover, I am supposed to capture the feeling they enjoyed with these games. Was this what the older developers were warning me about?
I then called a few of my friends to join the project and the situation began to change. We studied the game together and started to realize how far games have evolved since then. First of all, “onboarding” has improved greatly over the years! It means, how difficult it is to take controller and start playing the game without any previous experience with the game title and its specifics. Even if you don't know how to play a game yet, developers are working hard now on how to explain it to you in the best possible way. Second of all, animating characters is not hand done anymore. Bushido Blade feels very old if you pick it up today.
When we identified the faulty parts of the game, then we could start to focus on the most important aspect, the gameplay. My colleague showed me how to control the game better, teaching me some essential combos, and we began enjoying ourselves. The “One Hit Kill” system has something in it after all! Instead of hacking and slashing your way to victory, you have to pay attention and plan your moves wisely to attack at the right time. When you deliver the precise blow to your enemy, you start to feel really good. It only takes one hit, but it has to be the right one.
This was IT! We discovered the “soul” of the game. It was exactly this careful ‘’dancing’’ around your opponent, planning your moves and executing your enemy with one precise move while tensions for both of you are high.
We began working on delivering this feeling to our Die By The Blade players. According to the feedback we received at conferences in Japan and Canada, we have achieved that tension. Like one of the players said: “This feels like Bushido Blade!”.