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Skullgirls' net code is 'pretty awesome'

9 April 2012

With Skullgirls slated for release tomorrow, PSU had a chance to go one-on-two with Alex Ahad, creative director, and Mike Zaimont, lead designer and programmer for this fighting game. Check out what they had to say below.

Q: Your announcer, who is he? Did you tailor the music around him, or did you find a voice actor to fit around the music?
Mike: Our announcer is Joshua Tomar, also known online as Tomamato or Mr. Pez. You may have heard him in Metal Gear Awesome and other NewsGrounds animations, or the Persona 4 Hiimdaisy comic dubs.

He’s a friend of mine, and he initially was trying out for the role of Samson. But we thought his voice really fit the game’s overall 40’s art deco vibe, so we made him the announcer.

It didn’t really have anything to do with the music, except that Ms. Yamane’s music was similarly influenced by the game’s art direction.

Q: How difficult was it to design Double's move set? You've mentioned there was a bit of tweaking to frame data and damage, but how much tweaking did it take?
Mike: I wouldn’t say it was “difficult,” but it was a creative challenge to come up with interesting ways to use all of the other character’s animations to create a character with a unified playstyle. Some were automatic, because we wanted to use attacks that were cut from other characters, while others we all came up with together.

Alex: I think a lot of people assume that we saved a lot of time and money because we reused some animation frames, but that’s really not the case. Most of a character’s animation is the general movement and hit animations, and Double’s are particularly detailed and complicated, so it ended up evening out.

Mike: And I tuned every attack individually, and tried to come up with new ways to use the same attack frames, so in the end her actual implementation was about as long as any other character’s. She has the animations from most characters’ best attacks, because that’s what you’d do if you were a shapeshifter, right? But obviously that would be pretty broken, so they all function a little differently than the character they’re copying.


Q: Why an all female cast? Does this lead to the obvious follow-up of Skulldudes?
Alex: I guess a lot of it has to do with the game’s story, which centers around a wish-granting artifact that only works for women. With that setup, it made sense that the initial cast of, but men will come to play a more prominent role in the story as it develops.

So, yeah, there are definitely male characters in the game’s future. In the game’s longer-term vision, I imagine it having the gender ratio of other fighting games, just reversed.

Q: What was the most time consuming part of development? I would assume it was drawing the animations. (It looks amazing)
Mike: Definitely the animation, but implementing the characters was a close second because they’re pretty tightly intertwined.

Alex: Yeah, there’s a lot of back-and-forth between art and design when the characters are being made. It’s pretty organic.

The art team brainstorms like 150 to 250 attack concepts of the characters online using PaintChat, and Mike slots them into the character’s design. Once Mike has selected all the attacks he wants, we start doing the keyframe animation. Mike put those into the game to determine their timing and feel, and based on that we determine the number of frames for each animation. And then we send them out to our contractors to do the between frames and clean-up.


Q: How awesome is your net code?
Mike: I dunno... pretty awesome? It’s GGPO, which I think is basically as close as you can get to a real, in-person match on an internet connection. And I think the fact that it can be tuned for a more accurate fight or a smoother fight is a really important feature for the fighting game. After seeing some of the reactions to 3rd Strike Online’s multiplayer, which also used GGPO, we tried to be a little smarter and make it easier for people to have a good experience online.

When you connect to another player, we give you a numerical ping, and based on that ping the game suggests a GGPO delay setting to help you make your match smoother. What’s important is that it’s a choice. If you’re like me and want the most accurate controls and are willing to put up with rollbacks, you can always set it to 0. But if you just want a smooth play, you can use our recommendation to set it higher.


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