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Skullgirls: Kickin' Ass and Takin' Hearts

Skullgirls_ActionShot_Parasoul.jpg

At New York Comic Con, we got the chance to test out "Skullgirls," a 2-D animated fighting game coming out next year. We talked to Peter Bartholow, Community Designer and Manager at Reverge Labs (the producers of Skullgirls.) After the jump we have a sneak peek at the game, its storyline, and our interview with Bartholow.

Skullgirls takes place in the Canopy Kingdom. Hanging over the kingdom is the legend of the Skull Heart: this ancient artifact is said to be able to grant a wish to a young woman, but if her heart isn’t pure her wish will be twisted and she’ll be transformed into a living nightmare known as the “Skullgirl.” As the game begins, a new Skullgirl, Marie, is terrorizing the kingdom, and so people are lining up to save the country from this menace and claim the Skull Heart for themselves.
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Tell us a little about the game!

Peter Bartholow: The lead designer is Mike "Mike Z" Zaimont, a noted tournament fighter. His goal with the game is to take the gameplay of Marvel vs Capcom 2 and improve it for competitive play. We have a lot of stuff in the game like an anti-infinite combo system, and some blocking protection, stuff like that to eliminate the balance problems that ruin a lot of competitive fighting games.

There's a lot that sets the game apart from other games. We have the most frames of animation per character of any 2-D fighting game. It's also the highest resolution. The animation process is actually really intricate. We have three layers to it: a line layer, a shading layer, and a color layer. We have a shader that puts them all together to make the characters look fluid and pop like they do.

Is that not normally how a 2-D game is put together? It sounds like how a comic is put together.

Usually those are static and there's just a palette so when you change the color, you're just changing all the reds to blue. Ours is more like color sectors, so you can actually color different parts of the character in different ways. Parasol's dress [The character in our header graphic] is all black by default, but if you look at a color map, there are actually different parts. So you can add sleeves to her arms, you can add colored lines to her dress, you can even put glasses on her.

The game is running on a 3-D engine, so we have real time lighting on the characters, per pixel lighting. Glowing objects and hit sparks in the environment will actually light the characters. We also have an amazing soundtrack by Castlevania composer Michiru Yamane, which, as far as I know, is the first time a Japanese composer has worked with an American developer. There are a lot of weird firsts in this game. We're going all out. It's an indie title but we're not trying to make it indie-budget quality.

Even though we're really trying to make it a hard-core competitive fighter, we don't think that's mutually exclusive to making an accessible game. Our inputs are actually easier to do than a lot of other games. We have really robust tutorials to try and teach you how to play fighting games. Every genre of video game teaches you how to play it now, except for fighting games. We're trying to rectify that by having real tutorials that will teach you basics: not only how to block but why it's good to block. We'll show you how to do it and counter common situations in fighting games.

So would you say this is a better game for people who want to get in to gaming and fighting games?

I think we're tackling it from both ends. We definitely want it to be good enough for the hard-core, but we don't want it to be off-putting to casual people, either. Hopefully we do a good enough job with the tutorials that the casual people that come in because they like the characters and the art will learn how to play fighting games, and will go online and become better players.

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