Unstoppable Fist Interview With Ragtag Studio
Founders Matt Carter and Chris Cobb pull back the curtain on giant bloodsucking mosquitoes, the art of kung-fu and mullets.
Playing video games in the 90s often involved beating the virtual snot out of thugs in titles like Streets of Rage, Final Fight and Super Double Dragon, classic beat-em-ups that served as a means to take out our frustrations on homework, dating woes and missing episodes of DuckTales (stupid Key Club). That said, our retro sense tingled for Unstoppable Fist, a 2D brawler from the talented folks at Ragtag Studio. Featuring a mullet-wearing hero named Fist and plenty of chickens to kill, this upcoming iPhone and iPad title made its way onto our gaming radar. In fact, we had no qualms putting Unstoppable Fist on Modojo's Summer 2012 Most Wanted iOS Games list.
Unable to contain our enthusiasm, we tracked down Ragtag founders Matt Carter and Chris Cobb to learn more about the game, and how it differs from those aforementioned side-scrolling adventures.
Upon seeing Unstoppable Fist, it reminded us of Streets of Rage and Final Fight, yet the game has a pulse all its own. How does it differ from those traditional 2D beat-em-ups?
Matt: Unstoppable Fist is quite different from those classics but at the same time very similar. When you play the game, you definitely can tell that we were inspired by those games and other classics like them. It has their focus on simple action oriented play. The obvious difference is that unlike those brawlers, in Unstoppable Fist, you don't move. The bad guys come to you in a very Steven Seagal bar room brawl kind of way. By simplifying the controls and focusing the action, we allowed for more interesting interaction with the six different touch zones. You have similar reactive style attacks, but with more depth and a more visceral "I'm in there" feel.
Chris Fist also has more of a focus on precision. Similar to games like Geometry Wars and Tilt to Live, we have a big emphasis on getting and keeping your multiplier. Climbing the Game Center leaderboards and doing better than your friends is one of the most compelling aspects of the game. I still have never been able to beat Matt. [Clenches fist in frustration.] So for the casual gamer, it's simple fun to kick and punch all of the crazy things coming at you and try to last as long as you can, but for the hardcore gamer, you can take it to the next level by going for the high score. Of course the leaderboards are just the start, we have created a ton of really fun and challenging Achievements that first help you learn the game and then master it.
Where did the concept come from?
Matt: I think the original game concept came from Chris. We got together and were tossing around a bunch of ideas for games that we thought we would love to play as well as make great use of the touch screen controls. I think Kung-Fu was the first game that came to us when we started discussing the idea. Kung-Fu was one of the first games that I ever remember playing. I would stay up late at night at my friend's house (they lived next door) playing his NES, and Kung-Fu was this delicious challenge to me. It was deceptively simple and used that hi low attack combo that was so cool.
Chris: Yes Kung-Fu was definitely the primary inspiration. I loved the clarity: you see something flying toward your head, you kick high. Something close to the ground, kick low. Not many games have that simple intuitive clarity. It wasn't just a "slam on all of the buttons as fast as you can" kind of game. If you tried that in Kung-Fu, you would have some fun, but you wouldn't get very far. Also, to this day, I still remember how satisfying it felt to snap off a quick punch to take out your enemy. We put a lot of effort into bringing that same sense of satisfaction to Unstoppable Fist through audio, animation and some ridiculous particle effects.
iOS seems like a great fit for a touch-based game such as this, but so does 3DS. Any plans to bring it to Nintendo's platform?
Matt: Although we have always been big fans of Nintendo's portable platforms, we currently have no plans to bring Fist to 3DS.
You're giving away the soundtrack free of charge. What led to this decision?
Matt: Our philosophy of game development is that we want to draw the player into the game world through every sound and pixel. Even a game with such a simple premise as Unstoppable Fist can have a unique story to tell. From the teaser trailer to the trailer and the game intro, all the way to the game over and even to the credit screen, the player is experiencing the story of Unstoppable Fist. We worked very closely with a couple of very talented artists to craft a soundtrack that would accomplish the auditory portion of this philosophy. We think that we succeeded, and wanted to celebrate those artists that helped us do so by making the soundtrack available as widely as possible. Of course, fans are more than welcome to show their appreciation of the work by leaving a donation.
With the App Store so crowded with games on a weekly basis, how tough will it be promoting this title to make sure it receives maximum exposure?
Matt: It's incredibly difficult these days to promote a game without a strong word of mouth buzz. Getting exposure on the App Store is the Holy Grail of game development right now. I'm not sure that we have that nut cracked, but we are doing our best learn what works and what doesn't. We worked really hard to create a trailer for the game that embodies the kind of experience you can have with it. Judging by the enthusiastic reception it received, I think we're doing something right.
Chris: We do have an ace up our sleeve, though. As an incentive to anyone on the fence, we would like to announce that if we hit 500,000 downloads, we'll release the photo of Matt with a mullet that started it all. And let me tell you, it is sweet. I made sure to grab a copy of it many years ago for blackmail purposes. I'm glad I did.
Speaking of hair, Fist has some impressive blonde locks. Is that a mullet we see?
Matt: You know what? I find that the mullet is the most under worn hair style of this millennium. I knew when I was creating the character of Fist that he should be this incredibly over the top guy. I thought back to some of our favorite kung-fu movies of the 70s and how decked out everyone was. Big collars, big hair, big everything. I knew someone with such amazing fighting skills also needed the most over the top hair to go with it. The ladies swoon over it and the men kill for it.
Aside from chickens, what enemies must he deal with?
Matt: You say "aside from chickens" as if there should be other enemies? I mean, how else is the Colonel going to provide buckets of tasty fried crispy spicy deliciousness? The people of the south need to be fed! Okay, so Chris told me to tell you that we do indeed have other enemies. In fact, there are eight enemy types and over 20 beasties for you to punch into punch. A couple of those being giant bloodsucking mosquitoes and creepy little Fist voodoo dolls.
Chris: I also want to make sure to let everyone know, we are only showing one of the environments in the trailer and screenshots, but there are more, and they have their own unique enemies.
How was Ragtag formed, and what is your gaming background?
Chris: Well Matt and I have both been in the industry for over 13 years each. We've worked at larger studios including Activision, Ion Storm Austin and Wideload Disney, to name a few. For the majority of that time, we've worked together on the same projects. As seems to be the natural course of events these days, after making games for so long, the desire to break out on your own and make the games that you really want to make struck both of us in a big way. So a couple of years ago, we began to form a plan to start our own studio, and Ragtag was born.
Matt: I'd like to point out that while Chris and I are the core of Ragtag, there are also a lot of others that make our games possible, people like Shelby Allen, programmer extraordinaire, the sound smiths at Audio Aggregate and a host of others. In that way we truly live up to our name.
[Editor's Note: Unstoppable Fist will debut this summer on both iPhone and iPad.]