Old School Gamer Magazine chats with Super Combat Fighter developers Richard James Cook (Creative Director, Critical Depth Games) and Jose Pablo Monge Chacon (Technical Director, Headless Chicken Games), who let us know how their love of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, as well as WWF Wrestlemania, No Mercy and SNK fighting games played a role in their new retro fighter currently in development.
About Super Combat Fighter:
Super Combat Fighter is an over-the-top, content-packed amalgamation of every fighting game from the ‘90s – including the Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter series. Pick your fighter from a pool of 7 digitized characters across 10 interactive stages in local two-player, head-to-head matches. Experiment with match modifiers, enter cheat codes, uncover unlockables, and string together punishing moves to deliver perfect combos in deadly succession. If all stretch goals are reached, the fighting roster will eventually be expanded to 10 characters. The finished game will also include an extensive single-player story mode with multiple endings.
Super Combat Fighter’s notable celebrity lineup includes actor and martial artist Ernie Reyes Jr. – known for his work on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Surf Ninjas, The Rundown (with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), and Uncharted: Live Action Fan Film (with Nathan Fillion). Also, the multi-talented actor recently directed the music video for Wiz Khalifa’s “Rolling Papers 2.”
The game’s blood-pumping soundtrack will include music composed in part by Andrew Hulshult – whose tracks were recently featured in Quake Champions, Brutal Doom, Dusk, Rise of the Triad, and Amid Evil. Other exciting artists will also be contributing to the soundtrack and will be announced at a later date.
OSGM:How was Super Combat Fighter born?
Richard James Cook (RJC): Long story short, in 2013 I was demoing a game at a convention and took a break from my booth to play some games in the arcade area. I fired up the original Killer Instinct on the multi-cade they had and played a few rounds against the CPU – after which I was approached by an attendee who wanted to join in a few matches. They stepped in – and then proceeded to completely wreck me in a way that gave off a hard tell that they were a pro/competitive type.
It wasn’t that I was bad at the game – just that I was out of my element. I stepped back after a couple matches and said to myself, ‘I’m not having fun’ – and then walked off. That was the seed moment for Super Combat Fighter. I wanted to go back to playing fighting games with my friends – laughing, yelling, and just taking in the fun.
It wasn’t about the steep learning curve and complex mechanics of some of today’s fighting game titles. It was that I wanted to make something everyone could pick up and mash buttons, too. Just for the fun of it.
OSGM: How important were Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat to you as a kid?
Jose Pablo Monge (JPM): Mortal Kombat was the first fighting game I got on the SNES. I spent countless hours playing it, and I loved every second. Mortal Kombat made me feel like I was entering into a different world. Sure, I was far from a pro – but that changed when I started playing Street Fighter. Damn, was that competitive!
RJC: Street Fighter II was the first fighting game I ever played, but only on console. I used to have to go over to a friend’s house to play it, since I still only had an NES at that point. I loved trying to figure out the moves to it. Dhalsim and Blanka were probably the more entertaining fighters to me. But MK was a life changer. That was one I vividly remember playing in the arcades and at home – despite being so young. I had to be sneaky, too – since my parents, like many other adults, weren’t keen on the gore. But I became obsessed. I loved the lore, the characters, and the visceral style. It spoke to me. I held onto that all the way into my adult years.
OSGM: Have you reached out to Ed Boon or John Tobias on this?
RJC: I get around to gaming events a lot, so I’ve gotten to meet Ed a few times. I first showed him a trailer for the game a long time ago (and just this past E3, most recently). He loved the homage to his work and chuckled through it. That’s all I could ask for. As far Tobias goes: I’ve never met him myself – but I just recently met and conversed with Josh Tsui, who was an executive producer at Midway and EA Chicago and had a large hand in the making of MK. He loved our game and told me he discussed it with Tobias as well. We have yet to see how that will pan out, but I’m already on Cloud Nine with what’s transpired from our conversations.
OSGM: What was development like?
JPM: It’s been fun! We’ve been working on all kinds of games for the last five years (mobile, console, platformers, VR – you name it). This one has been really particularly enjoyable because it gave us the chance to create a “fighting” engine from scratch – making it easier for us to create DLC and new content for Super Combat Fighter and any other upcoming fighting games we work on.
RJC: I’ve personally been developing the game on and off since I first had the idea in 2013. Since I’m not a programmer, all I could really do without that skill is to build up the design documentation and art. Also, until just recently, it was all running on fumes – no funding at all. So that meant me and the other artist had to put ourselves in the game as stand-ins, since we couldn’t yet afford actors. There was a lot of trial-and-error with the green screen as well – so many nuances you would never think of to get the look right. I still want to reshoot the characters again to this day!
As far as the gameplay goes, I shelved the idea several times, knowing I wouldn’t have the programming skills necessary to make all the art “come to life.” I picked it back up in 2015 when I was studying under Warren Spector at the University of Texas at Austin. I went through several programmers who would come on for a week or two – and then leave. I almost gave up completely on it. During this time, I finished work on my third documentary – Surviving Indie with Devolver Digital, which chronicles some few years of “development hell” in trying to make Super Combat Fighter a reality. Six months later, I came upon Jose Pablo Monge (JP), who had seen my movie and tweeted at me – asking if we needed help with the game. The rest is history.
OSGM: What makes Super Combat Fighter special?
JPM: Super Combat Fighter takes everything that was already over-the-top from ‘90s fighting games and kicks it up a notch!
RJC: A lot of people look at the game like it’s just a send up – a clone. I understand why that is. Hell, I often wonder what the game industry would be like if people still called first-person shooters “Doom clones”! But the disconnect is between seeing our game and playing it. When we demoed at PAX West, a lot of people were hooked by “Oh, it looks like old school MK.” Then they play it, and go “Oh, this is different!” That’s how we differentiate them – how they play.
If I only had the chance to explain it, though, I would say that what makes SCF special is in its content. We pulled ideas from every retro fighting game – not just MK. And we even threw in some of our own. The full game will have lots of match modifiers that you can turn on and off at will and create your own match types with. We have things like Giant Mode – where two players can face off as giant versions of themselves and beat the hell out of each other. We borrow inspiration from Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game and let people go outside the ring and smash through the announce tables, throw folding chairs… It’s crazy! It’s basically a retro fighting game lovers Pandora’s Box. We love content. We love cheat codes. We love unlockables. It’s about things you don’t see in games much anymore – all in one place. We’re not just pulling from one game; we’re pulling from a whole decade.
OSGM: What other games influenced this one the most?
RJC: Well, I think the MK influence is obvious. But the rest of the inspirations span the whole spectrum – from Street Fighter to the SNK games, KOF – and all the way to the somewhat recent Divekick and Skull-Girls. Our boss character was even influenced in part by Calypso from the Twisted Metal series. Every character, level, gameplay ideal, etc. – all pull from something in the realm of the ‘90s and fighting games in general.
OSGM: What’s your favorite memory as a gamer?
JPM: The first time I played on my own SNES, I was like eight years old? And we only had one of those small black-and-white portable TVs, so I hooked it there and played for hours. That’s something I can’t forget.
RJC: It took me a while to trace back to it, but I’d say it was playing triple ladder matches in WWF No Mercy on N64 with my friends. We were so competitive with it. Setting up and climbing the ladder was hard in that game! Some of our matches lasted a couple of hours. It was amazing to pull off a victory in one of those.
OSGM: Who will enjoy Super Combat Fighter the most?
JPM: All the people who like to have fun and laugh with their friends.
RJC: My main goal with Super Combat Fighter is to get people who would usually not play fighting games to try this one. It’s not complex. It lends itself to button mashing – but also competitive play. I think people who give it a chance – on a couch one night with their friends, partying and having a good time…. If those people pick it up, they will have a great time kicking the crap out of each other. That’s the group of people I want to enjoy this the most.
OSGM: How do you want this game to be remembered?
JPM: The one that finally got ‘90s nostalgia right.
RJC: Wow, that’s a hefty question… Um – alongside Divekick, Nidhogg, and Gang Beasts – as an indie fighting game that recaptured the fun of OG Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter? No, no … I want it to be shot into space in a time capsule so aliens find it … and then probably start an intergalactic war over losing a match. The ultimate rage-quit.
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the author of the book, “The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews With Cult and Classic Video Game Developers,” from McFarland And Company. Featuring interviews with the creators of 36 popular video games–including Deus Ex, NHLPA 93, Night Trap, Mortal Kombat, Wasteland and NBA Jam–the book gives a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of some of the most influential and iconic (and sometimes forgotten) games of all time. Recounting endless hours of painstaking development, the challenges of working with mega-publishers and the uncertainties of public reception, the interviewees reveal the creative processes that produced some of gaming’s classic titles.