The 2020 Game Developers Conference will feature an exhibition called Alt.Ctrl.GDC dedicated to games that use alternative control schemes and interactions. Gamasutra will be talking to the developers of each of the games that have been selected for the showcase.
Ready? Set. Haiya! has players striking a martial arts dummy in just the right places, attacking in rhythm-based combat to beat their opponents.
Gamasutra spoke with Rewant Verma of Geeky Panda Studios, developers of Ready? Set. Haiya!, to talk about the challenges that come up when you make a controller players are supposed to hit, the appeal of tying rhythm to a fighting game, and what inspired them to turn a Kung Fu dummy into a controller.
My name is Rewant Verma, and I was on Geeky Panda Studios as a Producer/Designer for our project: Ready? Set. Haiya!.
As a team of 13, many of us were wearing multiple hats, and hence, taking care of a number of things. I was responsible mainly for hosting frequent brainstorming sessions to discuss various mechanics in-game, how the controller would be designed, and for keeping a track of our backlog of tasks, maintaining it, setting deadlines for the tasks, assigning it to our team, and making sure we completed our tasks on time. I also designed some of the on-screen command sequences and made sure that they were synced with the beats of the music tracks provided by our music composers.
Although I have been playing games since a very young age, my professional background in games started 3 years ago in my Undergraduate program when I decided to follow a career in video games. I delved into the world of game development, educated myself with software such as Unreal Engine and Unity, and started to learn about the various production pipelines for games.
After I was done with my Undergraduate program, I decided to pursue a Graduate degree in Entertainment Arts and Engineering at the University of Utah, where I’m still in my final semester. Throughout my time here, I’ve learned a lot about video games, and what people do to make them. I worked on multiple other prototypes and projects before Ready? Set. Haiya! to understand how a team functions when developing a game. I am currently working on my thesis game, Strange Creatures, at the Therapeutic Games and Apps Lab on our campus.
Rhythm and martial arts
It’s pretty simple: You’re basically hitting an actual Kung-Fu wooden dummy similar to those that are famous in Chinese Kung-Fu films. The only difference is you’re looking at on-screen commands and mimicking them on the controller, similar to a rhythm game.
Inspired by Kung Fu movies
As part of a semester-long project during our Master’s program, everybody was supposed to come up with an alternate controller game idea. Boson HUANG, who’s the vision holder for the project, originally pitched the idea. He gained inspiration from Chinese Kung-Fu movies, like the Ip Man series and The 36th Chamber of Shaolin. It was a fascinating idea to experience what it felt like to be a Kung-Fu pro, and everybody voted for it to be greenlit. That’s when we got on board, grew our team, designed a prototype, and polished it for a duration of 4 months.
On the tools & supplies used to create Ready? Set. Haiya!
The core of our software, or the actual game, was developed in Unity. Our hardware, or the controller, was programed and developed in Arduino UNO. For our in-game art assets and UI, we used Zbrush, Autodesk Maya, Substance Painter, Substance Designer, and Adobe Photoshop.
The controller’s main body was built using PVC pipes as the base, epoxy to join the parts together, and foam to keep the controller soft and not hard on hitting it. The controller is placed on a plywood base that players can stand on. The sensors were home-made using copper tape, neoprene, velostat and some yarn.
We had a costume designer, Brice Baird, take measurements of the controller and stitch out a cover for the entire controller using vinyl fabric of different colors. Finally, there is an Arduino placed inside the controller, and wires going from the sensors are plugged into the Arduino, which has a cord that we can connect to any CPU.
The challenges of a controller you're supposed to hit
After our first prototype, which was merely a proof-of-concept made out of cardboard boxes and empty Pringles cans, we realized that people love to hit something that is stable and durable. We spent the next 4 months designing a controller using PVC pipes and made sure that it was as durable as it could be. However, we performed a playtesting session which made us realize that our controller had to be even stronger.
Thereafter, we decided to incorporate a metal base that made sure the controller would be resistant to slight movement, and that it wouldn’t crack or break easily.
A striking rhythm game
This was initially a pretty simple idea that comprised of the player watching out for on-screen commands, similar to rhythm games such as Just Dance, DDR, or even Guitar Hero. The player would then strike the dummy wherever they are instructed to based on the on-screen command.
But, after some basic playtesting, we realized that our game needed a lot of work to clearly provide players the information they required to hit the dummy on the right spots. Through trial and error, we even decreased the number of spots on the entire dummy and redesigned our entire game from 2D to 3D. We also made sure to spend a considerable amount of time modeling, rigging, and animating our characters appropriately, adding visual effects to the players during fight scenes and texturing our environment.
Why add rhythm to combat?
During our early design stage, we recognized that fighting games are popular among competitive players because of how satisfying they could be, especially when you pulled off long combos. However, developing a fighting game using an alternate controller would be a challenging task, as it would be difficult to determine how players won, and also because we would need a much sturdier controller.
So, instead, we realized that, by adding in a rhythm element, we could not only decrease some of the design challenges, but also include a wider audience. We included the fighting-styled visuals in our game so that the player experiences that they are in a fighting game setting, but we also included the rhythm element as it was a great way to determine how well a player was doing and blended the two styles into a unique and innovative game that perfectly complemented our controller.
Also, as our game utilizes an alternate controller, spectatorship is an important factor that draws audiences towards it. Just the sight of a wacky dummy being pounded by someone was exciting enough to draw people’s attention. We realized how important this was to our game, and made sure to cater to audiences by making our in-game graphics look visually appealing, and our controller eye-catching enough.