I thought people might want to hear about some of the hijinks and zany things which happen during the development of a game, so I'm starting a series of posts detailing some of my more memorable experiences in development. I don't intend to write these at any sort of regular intervals - but I'll try to get at least one up a month.
For my first story, I want to talk about an attack I designed for the original Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee. In that first game, every character had 10 or 11 special attacks. I believe only a few characters had the maximum of 12. We were figuring out how to make a fighting game, and it was a bit difficult just coming up with good-looking attack animations for each character.
One of the principle Godzilla characters is Anguirus - who basically looks like an Ankylosaurus. I thought that he could roll into a ball and charge his enemies (like Blanka) for one of his attacks. He rolled into a ball, zoomed forward, and then bounced back on impact.
This was the first of what became known as the "dash attacks" - because it required some special code. Basic attacks simply turn on hit collision for some part of the body, and then we check to see whether or not that collision connects with any opponents. If an opponent is hit, the impacted character plays a reaction animation. But dash attacks are different, because they cause a reaction in BOTH the attacker and the opponent on impact. Specifically, Anguirus has to stop rolling and bounce back.
I named this attack "Thunderball" - as you can read in the Prima guide I wrote for that first game. (Disclaimer - many of my names were really dumb that first time around.) Toho - the IP holder for Godzilla, had lots of very tiny specific comments on all aspects of the game, but they never mentioned anything about the Thunderball specifically.
Fast forward a few years, and now Pipeworks is creating the second Godzilla game - Godzilla: Save the Earth. Many of the attacks are the same between the two games, though we've added enough such that every character has at least 14 attacks now. (Plus the number of characters expanded from 11 to 18!) The Thunderball has survived just as it was. But this time, Toho complains that Anguirus never does anything like rolling into a ball in the films, and so we need to change the move.
This is quite a blow to me - because I think the Thunderball is awesome. Plus, we already shipped one game with it, so it seems too late to close the barn door on that issue. Toho is adamant however, and so we eventually reach a resolution - I change the Thunderball into a Super Thunderball, and use that as Anguirus's Rage Attack (a special move which can only be triggered every few matches.) We actually put some proceedural jumping onto this Super Thunderball, which is awesome. Then at the last minute Anguirus's original Thunderball comes back into his basic moveset, and because Toho is now satisfied, we ship the game with both versions.
One other move Toho complains about is Gigan's "Shotgun Eye" attack - a laser burst he fires from his head. I came up with this move as a secondary weapon attack for Gigan, because it made sense with the buttons we had available. Gigan never actually uses a laser in the films, but he has one in a poster, so Toho let the attack ship.
A few years pass after we ship Godzilla: Save the Earth, and Toho releases their "final" Godzilla film - Godzilla Final Wars. This film got a lot of press for making the monster fights much more like wire-fu combat from classic Hong Kong action films - less ponderous motion and beam attacks, more claw-to-claw combat. The film also feature a large cast of monsters - most of the monsters from Godzilla: Save the Earth show up in it. Anguirus has a good fight - and in the film Anguirus does almost no attacks except ROLLING INTO A BALL AND ZOOMING AT GODZILLA. It's the Thunderball! Because of the negotiation with Toho about this very move, everyone remembers that this was an original creation of ours, so we sort of congratulate ourselves for adding a new move into the cannon of Godzilla monsters. I'm not actually certain that our games inspired the attack (honestly, rolling into a ball seems like a pretty obvious thing for Anguirus to do), but I enjoy the speculation.
Later on, however, I notice that Gigan also uses a "Shotgun Eye" attack several times in the film. It's pretty identical to the effect I made for the game (Mark Crowe made most of the weapon effects for the second and third game, but that's one that I specifically made - notice how it's all one color? That's how you can tell it was me. Mark's effects are much prettier.) So between that and Anguirus rolling up - and the fast-paced combat in general, I think it's quite likely that our games inspired some of the combat in Final Wars.
A few years pass, and now Pipeworks is working on a third Godzilla game (we did a few other projects in between the second and third one), this time for the Wii. Because of the new control scheme and new monster creation technology, (and the new expanded animation team!) we're rebuilding everything from the ground up. While expanding the roster to 26 monsters! A paper design is sent to Toho for early review, and part of that includes a description of some attacks for each monster. One of the attacks I list for Anguirus is the Thunder Ball. I mean, we (eventually) got it officially approved last time, right? And it even appeared in the most recent movie!
But the document came back with a few objections, including the Thunderball. This time, we were informed that the official name for the move was "Anguirus Ball (tm)." Well, putting a trademark symbol into our attack names was sort of tricky, and frankly I didn't think that name was very interesting (by this time, I had pretty good names for all our attacks) so I cheated once more - I made the Anguirus Ball into Anguirus's Rush Attack. Since Rush Attacks don't have names (other than "Rush Attack" were were able to use the move without putting up the "Anguirus Ball (tm)" name on the screen.
Our third Godzilla game had more than 5,000 unique animations, and this story was about just one of them. If this sounds like a lot of bother and headache for nothing, just imagine how frustrating it is for the poor animators who actually have to make all of the changes for all of the invested parties.