Hello again to those of you who know me. And nice to meet you to those of you who don’t. I’m the Director/Producer of “Phantom Breaker: Omnia,” most commonly known as Sakari “P.”
It’s been a little while since our last episode, but I’d like to take this opportunity to return to the normal format of our Dev Diaries.
Until this point, I’ve said Phantom Breaker’s battle mechanics are quite unique, which is true, but I want to point out that it was never our goal to recreate the fighting game genre.
Starting with the fighting game boom in the ’90s until today, several fighting game developers have shown us their take on the genre, but the fundamentals will always remain the same: two characters facing each other on a single plane that fight. History has proven that ideas that are too drastic make the game hard to understand or even unplayable, resulting in a sub-par user experience. Certain aspects of the genre must be preserved.
I was also developing fighting games for arcades in the ’90s and gave up trying to revolutionize the genre from its core, so I pay my respects to games that even attempt a massive change to the formula.
We got a little bit off-topic, but for the aforementioned reasons there are only so many areas developers can try to innovate when it comes to fighting games: graphical expression, characters, playability and battle mechanics, gauges, etc. Those aspects serve as the “spice” that each fighting game developer will bring to the table and add to their experience.
Meanwhile, MAGES. was a relatively new game company, being founded in 2005. We created mainly text-based adventure games, and our most famous work is “Steins;Gate,” which has a certain amount of recognition around the world. The action and shmup games that come from MAGES. only exist because I really like and want to make them. It’s a much smaller business compared to the adventure games the company produces. Saying our experience is “limited” would be an understatement. And our spice? Non-existent at best.
When it came time for said company to create a fighting game, we thought we might not be able to do something completely revolutionary, but that didn’t mean we could just copy what the other companies were doing, either. As I mentioned in Episode 3 of this series, because we were going through the trouble of building a completely new IP, the game couldn’t simply be a “regular” fighting game or a “reskin” of anything out there. It then became my mission to collect all of my gripes with past fighting games and present some kind of answer to each one.
Take for example, the inputs. I know we’ve covered this in previous episodes, but the old response to “Should we simplify inputs?” would have been “Practice your execution more.” What about all the really smart or strategic people who have a little trouble with inputs? Should we simply abandon them, writing off their dedication to the genre as insufficient?
At the same time, I didn’t feel that creating an “Easy Mode” for inputs as an alternate option for players was a very elegant solution, either. Everyone should be able to play the game on equal footing, which is what makes it competitive.
Another topic was the time spent being combo-ed. This was a formidable challenge. There are few more satisfying moments in games than landing massive combos and dealing tons of damage to your opponents. One might even call that the greatest payoff for fighting games. But what about the person on the receiving end of the combos? It’s not easy to sit there watching your character take a massive beating. Even worse, the players could become bored and disengaged from the experience. So where does that leave us? Do we remove combos? Should we jeopardize that exhilarating experience of landing combos? The answer to this question was not as simple as the command inputs.
We did, however, come up with a few smaller solutions at which we arrived to improve the experience:
- First, to create a style that doesn’t rely on extended combos but bigger single hits.
- Second, give the players an “emergency escape” in order to free themselves from massive combos.
- And third, allow players to recover in the middle of combos by giving them brief moments to interrupt it.
Nonetheless, even all of the aforementioned improvements did not solve the problem.
Lastly, this is not necessarily a shortcoming of the genre, but I wanted players to feel like they really played the game after a match. Even if the player button-mashes or loses a match, I want them to walk away from that controller feeling like they accomplished something and really played the game.
That’s why players will be able to execute specials and supers even through button-mashing, and if two moves “collide,” it gives a very satisfying clash-like feeling through the characters’ performances and on-screen effects. Even if the player loses a given match, if they are left feeling like they “made something happen” on screen, I believe it should still feel quite satisfying for them.
It was these kinds of thoughts that ultimately gave birth to “Phantom Breaker.” I won’t try to claim that this is the only solution to my gripes with the genre, and perhaps there are more elegant answers to the problems I’ve posed. I may even go so far as to say, if you’re reading these developer diaries, then you may already enjoy fighting games so much that you don’t feel any shortcomings with the genre.
However, if you’ve felt this weird itching sensation that you want a slightly different experience from your fighting games, I encourage you to pick up “Phantom Breaker: Omnia” and see the adjustments we’ve made first-hand. It might be the answer to some of your dissatisfactions with the genre.
And on that note, I will wrap up the episode for today. Thank you very much for tuning in, and until next time.