Behind the Scenes: Adding a Kickstarter Backer to Fist Puncher
This Friday Fist Puncher comes out on Steam. For those who don’t remember, we Kickstarted Fist Puncher back in Spring of 2012. One of our higher level incentive tiers allowed backers to pay $1000 and we would add them to Fist Puncher as a playable character. To this day, we’re still hit with questions about the playable Kickstarter characters. How did the characters come out? How much time went into adding each character? Would you ever consider doing another round and adding more user-backed characters? We thought it might be fun (and informative) to talk a little bit about what the process was like. What exactly DOES go into adding a character into Fist Puncher? Let’s pull back the curtain and take a look.
One of our Kickstarter backers was Steven Dengler. Steven is kind of an all-around impressive guy: he founded XE.com, stars in a web comic called Megacynics, has his own damn Wikipedia page, and funds everything from Double Fine games to brawlers like Fist Puncher under the banner of his company Dracogen. Steven pledged to have 2 characters added to Fist Puncher. One of those would, of course, be based on himself.
The first step was simple. We spent some time chatting with Steven (and Googling him) to get a better sense of who he was and how we would portray him in the Fist Puncher world. We wanted to be true to his real life self while finding things that we could exaggerate or accentuate to fit the tone of Fist Puncher. Once we had a basic sense of the character, we began developing prototype sprites to get a feel for how he might actually look in the game. In Fist Puncher, each character is contained within a 40 x 40 sprite. Working withing these guidelines we assembled some basic character mock-ups. There’s no tricks or shortcuts here. This is pure pixel pushing in Paint.NET to create a “Fist Puncher version” of Steven.
After deciding on the look that we liked, we then had to assemble a full sprite sheet. In Fist Puncher, each character has dozens of moves and actions. All of a character’s actions are defined by roughly 70 sprites which are stored in a single sprite sheet. This meant another round of editing in Paint.NET to put together a full version of Steven’s sprite sheet.
Once the sprite sheet was completed, we began integrating Steven’s character into Fist Puncher and making him playable. This is the point that we really had to start diving into our C#/XNA code base to get things working. However, adding a character isn’t quite as easy as just dropping in a sprite sheet and adding another index into a few arrays. It takes a little more planning. In Fist Puncher, each character has unique attacks, skills, and attributes. Every one of these areas is independently crafted for each character and changes over time as you level a character up. As a result, you end up performing a careful balancing act to ensure that the new character plays well from start to finish (or to put it bluntly, lots and lots of testing).
Just to dig a little deeper, let’s take a closer look at character attacks. Each character in Fist Puncher has around 25 different attacks. Each one of these attacks has a minimum and maximum damage range which changes over time as the character is leveled up. This has to be carefully thought out to ensure that a character is neither too strong nor too weak at any point as the player pushes through over 50 levels of gameplay. This boils down to an extended cycle of testing and tweaking. We need to run through the game (about a 6-8 hour minimum playthrough) with each new character until we hit that sweet spot where they feel just right. Each character also has unique attacks that help define their “gameplay personality.” In the case of Steven, we gave his character a lucite gun – a projectile weapon that shoots glowing blue plasma bursts that encapsulate enemies in a translucent encasing (think Han Solo in carbonite). Adding this special attack meant creating additional art and sound and reworking the code base to handle the new lucite effects. Adding the lucite gun created new gameplay paths which required additional work and refinement. When an enemy is frozen in lucite they can then be picked up, carried around, and even thrown at other enemies. Nothing else in the game behaved in this manner so we had to spend a good chunk of time getting this all to work. The lucite also proved tricky for other reasons. Before beginning each level we created pre-rendered graphical objects that made up the lucite encapsulation effect. However, some of the levels in Fist Puncher contain upwards of 100 enemies. We found the lucite rendering was slowing down level load times. We reworked the lucite code several times so that the game would load levels without any noticeable slowdown. It was definitely a fair amount of work, but in the end, we were happy with how it turned out.
Once we had Steven’s character defined and working, we then began sewing him more deeply into the game world. Each character has a “boardroom cutscene” (as we call them) that explains their backstory and gives a clearer sense of what they’re doing in the Fist Puncher world. We created one of these boardroom cutscene for Steven’s character. To do this, we had to create cutscene images, write Steven’s cutscene backstory, and then integrate it into the game (back to C#/XNA for more coding). After several revisions, we settled on something we were happy with.
Next, we created an achievement trading card. Fist Puncher contains 99 achievement cards, and each character has at least one that is obtained when you defeat a level using that character. Once again, back to Paint.NET to put together the card and then more coding in C#/XNA to hook the card up so that it would correctly unlock and display. For the Steam release, we also created a Steam achievement based on Steven’s achievement trading card and integrated this into the game for those who purchase the game on Steam.
With a boardroom cutscene and achievement card in place, we then shifted our focus to creating a level where Steven would be unlocked. For Steven’s character we created the “Dracogen Lab” level, a science lab overrun by renegade robots that self destructs if you can’t make it to the end of the level in time. If you beat the level, you’re greeted with a “dialog cutscene” where Steven joins the Fist Puncher team (dialog cutscenes are moments in the game where characters interact and have a discussion of some sort). Adding the level meant creating new background and in-level art assets, creating new enemy classes (the robots were added specifically for his level) with new behaviors and attacks (we gave them laser rifles), adding new sound effects, writing character dialog, and then integrating it all into the game and ensuring it ran smoothly and without error. As usual, lots of art, coding, and testing. We also created an original music track for Steven’s level so that it would stand out just a little more from the other levels.
Fist Puncher is also heavy on foreshadowing. We wanted to do this with Steven and the Dracogen Lab as well. We peppered the game with Dracogen signage and created an additional Dracogen-themed level (a hijacked Dracogen truck) that more deeply integrated Steven’s character into the fictional world of Fist Puncher. And, of course, this again meant more art assets and more level and art integration.
Once we were happy with how Steven played and how he fit into the story world, we had one more job to do. We took the achievement cards for each of the characters, converted them to a printer-friendly format and made real-life trading cards for all of the Fist Puncher cast. One last project to make the Kickstarter characters really feel like they were part of Fist Puncher.
Overall, we estimate that we put no less than 100 hours into each Kickstarter character (in fact it’s much more if we actually added up testing time). That’s a pretty damn good deal for a thousand bucks. In some ways we definitely underestimated how much time and effort each character would require. If we ever did it again, we would certainly have to charge more. However, we’re happy with the end result. Our number one priority was always making sure that each Kickstarter character was fun. That was the bottom line. They had to be fun. If not, then back to the drawing board. Luckily with a little bit of elbow grease we think we accomplished just that. We added some nifty characters that really enhance the Fist Puncher world.
June 14, 2013
Apparently someone had enough awesome (and probably a little crazy) to make a Fist Puncher parody game. You guessed it: Fish Puncher. I know I for one will feel safer knowing the world contains at least one vigilante with the courage to beat the holy hell out of the ocean’s fish. Seriously, whoever did this is rad, and if we ever meet ‘em we’re gonna all go out for sushi (or something equally fitting). Click here for more on Fish Puncher. Or check out the trailer below:
June 12, 2013
Fist Puncher on Steam
After a long, long journey we’re proud to announce that Fist Puncher is now available on Steam for pre-order! 3 years in the making, Fist Puncher features 16 playable characters, over 50 levels, and is packed with achievements, leaderboards, unlockables, and tons surprises. We have even better news though. We teamed up with Adult Swim and created special Steam exclusive DLC that let’s you play as Robot Unicorn from the hit Adult Swim game Robot Unicorn Attack. Yup, Dr. Karate and a Robot Unicorn battling through waves of thugs and villains. Plus, if you pre-order Fist Puncher now, you not only get 10% off, you also get the Robot Unicorn DLC for free! The official release is June 21st, but there’s no reason to twiddle your thumbs and waste time. Roll over to Steam and check out the pre-order deal. We’ll have more news in the coming days, but for now we’re just ecstatic to finally get Fist Puncher out to the world in a wide release. Thanks again to everyone that cheered for us on IGN’s the Next Game Boss, everyone that backed our Kickstarter to help fund the project, and everyone that encouraged and supported us during the past few years. We couldn’t have done it without all of you!
If the interview below wasn’t enough, all 2 of Team2Bit made a little time at GDC 2013 to chat with the good people at Design3 about all things videogame. You can check out the interview here. Or, if you’re too lazy to watch the entire interview, you can check out a snippet here:
April 30, 2013
Design3 Interview from GDC 2013
Didn’t get enough GDC 2013 coverage? If you didn’t, here’s one more interview that Jake did with the good people of Design3 on the show floor. Jake talks about development tools, game inspiration, and getting in fights while playing Gauntlet and crappy Atari 7800 games. There’s lots of other great interviews and content over at Design3 so give ‘em a look if you have a space cycle.
April 8, 2013
Post-GDC Press Update
For anyone that missed GDC or didn’t have time to swing by and play Fist Puncher, here’s a few links to some media coverage from the show.
Fist Puncher makes the Paste list of the 10 best games at GDC! We’re pretty proud of this. Lots of time and effort went into Fist Puncher so getting a little recognition is always a great feeling.
Well, not really. It’s actually pretty tame and generally overflowing with sweaty men and sometimes-amazing facial hair. Here we are one week after GDC, and I’m still recovering from this damn sinus plague (never should have shaken hands with that Somali pirate). But, body malfunctions aside, GDC was, as expected, terrific. Tiring, but terrific. For us, GDC started with the IGN Indie Press Mixer. First, let me just say that Happy Fisting is a real game. I’m not proud of that. That’s simply a fact. But, moving on, the mixer was packed with press, developers and, most importantly, games. Highlights? For me it would have to be Aztez, a visually stunning brawler, and Soundodger, a high octane music-meets-bullet-storm game. Be on the lookout for both of these neat little titles (shout out to Team Bean!).
AZTEZ AT THE INDIE PRESS MIXER:
SOUNDODGER AT THE INDIE PRESS MIXER:
HANGING WITH THE GREAT INDIESTATIK AT THE INDIE PRESS MIXER:
The Press Mixer was just the calm before the storm. We spent the next 3 days exhibiting Fist Puncher as part of GDC Play. Yeah, it was draining, we both lost our voices, and all the standing probably inched us a little closer towards needing to use canes to get around, BUT overall the Play exhibition was a huge success. We had tons of traffic, talked to boatloads of media, met all sorts of great developers and artists, got amazing feedback on the game, and even got a GDC Play “Best in Play” honorable mention. Hurrah! There were also some amazing games besides Fist Puncher in the GDC Play exhibit. Too many to name, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Chasm and Dungeon Dashers. Both of these titles are going to make many a gamer very happy.
FIST PUNCHER AT GDC PLAY:
But, what about the parties, you ask? I’ll be honest, we skipped Pow Pow… and we skipped the Minecraft party… and we skipped the Venus Patrol party… I guess we’re just too cool for school? No, we were just exhausted (but we’re glad we found people to gift our tickets to). However, we did roll to the Adult Swim party where low brow goofs like us were able to mingle with high brow creative types all while watching Aqua Teen Hunger Force. For me, this was possibly the best night of the conference. So many great people attended this one, and the vibe was low-key and relaxed.
ADULT SWIM PARTY:
Although we did cross paths with Misfits Attic, our arch enemies. We went to blows later that night (sorry about the fat lip, Tim!).
MISFITS ATTIC AND TEAM2BIT PREPARE FOR BATTLE:
We also made it out to the Ouya unveiling party. This was also a blast (who can complain about free pizza, vegetarian tacos, and It’s It ice cream?), and getting a chance to actually sit and play some bad ass Ouya titles like Canabalt and Saturday Morning RPG made us believers in the potential of this cool little console.
SATURDAY MORNING RPG AT THE OUYA PARTY:
PLAYING CANABALT AT THE OUYA PARTY:
Some might also know that I used to be an avid classic game collector (Good Luck Charlie Brown! – we owned that!). At the Ouya party we ran into Greg Pabich. Greg owns the rights to Cheetahmen, one of the rarest NES titles ever. This definitely put a smile on my face.
GREG PABICH MEETS TEAM2BIT AT THE OUYA PARTY:
What about loot? Well, I did my best to gather as many stickers, buttons, and t-shirts as possible. No idea what I’ll do with all this junk, but it’s all sort of irrelevant since we scored the crown jewel of GDC swag: a Runner 2 action figure!
RUNNER 2 ACTION FIGURE:
In summary, GDC left us with a little bit of sickness, lots of freebies, and a sweet amount of exposure for Fist Puncher. We’ll be back next year and hopefully Jake will approve the Fist Puncher capes that I want to wear so badly. Onward!
FIST PUNCHER AT GDC:
March 12, 2013
Fist Puncher at GDC
We’re happy to announce that we will be exhibiting Fist Puncher at this month’s Game Developers Conference (GDC) in sunny San Francisco. The exhibition hall will be open March 27-29 and Fist Puncher will be on display as part of the GDC Play exhibition in Kiosk 24. We’re also happy to announce that we were given an honorable mention in the GDC Best in Play competition. We’ll be giving out stickers and trading cards so stop by to grab some swag and knock in some pixelated teeth. With the Fist Puncher release on the horizon, this is THE best chance to play the most up-to-date version of our retro-styled, side-scrolling beat ‘em up. We’ll see you there!
We're proud members of IGN's Indie Open House 2012 graduating class. A program that helped support and nurture indie game developers.
Thanks to everyone who donated to our Kickstarter campaign. The final pledge total was far beyond our funding goal. We're excited to get back to working on Fist Puncher and making it the best game possible.
Watch us compete as TEAM FIST PUNCHER on Season 1 of the IGN .START network program THE NEXT GAME BOSS