DWC talks to Kung-Fu Superstar game developer

First, tell me a little bit about you, your role and about the company.

I am Kostas Zarifis and I am the Managing Director of Kinesthetic Games. I’m a programmer by trade so that’s what I tell people I am actually good at, although we’re a small team at Kinesthetic Games so I have to do a bit of everything including design, production, animation, level design etc. It’s all good though as wearing different hats is what I enjoy the most! The same goes for everyone on the team. Everyone contributes in more than just one ways to the project which keeps things fresh and interesting. We’re a small team of multitalented, experienced, passionate people which is the best sort of environment in which to cultivate projects like ours.

Kinesthetic Games was formed in the Summer of 2011 just after I left my job at Lionhead Studios. I was working on a Kinect game called Fable: The Journey at the time and before that I had worked on Fable 2 and Fable 3. I was also joined by my friends Alasdair Martin (programmer at Codemasters – Dirt, Grid, Bodycount) and Anish Antony (scripter/designer at Lionhead/EA/Climax – Fable, Harry Potter, EyePet and others).

Tell me about the concept of the game.

Kung Fu Superstar is a game about learning martial arts through experiencing the epic rags-to-riches story of Danny Cheng, a martial arts enthusiast turned international film star. Danny starts the game as a young kid with a casual interest in martial arts and by the end of the game he has effectively become the next Bruce Lee. Through this journey the players themselves develop their own martial arts skills and they use these skills to take part in dramatic fight choreographies across a multitude of movie settings and movie plots.

Our goal is to provide players who actually want to learn real martial arts in the comfort of their living room within a fun and engaging context all the tools to do so. If however you are simply interested in playing the next best fighting game using your controller or favourite motion control platform without necessarily getting too stuck on the authenticity of the martial arts aspect of it, then Kung Fu Superstar will still allow you to do that. The idea is that if you have even a casual interest in martial arts and action movies you’re going to love this game. If you’re a martial arts nut…well then you are going to adore it.

Who did you consult in regards to the Wing Chun?

This is a game developed by a rare breed of people who are experienced martial artists as well as experienced game developers. If you’re wondering why a game like this hasn’t come about all this time, well, we like to think it is because there’s no other games development studio that combines our martial arts and games development expertise with our strong passion to make the best ever fighting game.

My love for martial arts started at a very young age when I started training in Taekwondo. More recently (about 8 years ago) I discovered Wing Chun and completely fell in love with it. I trained in the William Cheung style/lineage. I’ve also fooled around with other systems like Aikido, BJJ and Jeet Kune Do although Wing Chun is definitely my favourite. Other members of the team are also experienced martial artists (Anish our senior designer is an avid kick boxer and practitioner of various styles of Kung Fu).

Moreover we’re in constant contact with members of both the martial arts community as well as the stunt artists community for that extra level of authenticity. Currently these collaborations are informal but stay tuned as we’ll be announcing some interesting partnerships in this area in the near future.

However it is important to note that it takes more than attaching a celebrity to a game to actually make it any good. I could name quite a few franchises which have been less than “inconsistent” in terms of quality even though they always had recognisable, trustworthy names attached to them.

Our simple belief on that matter is that in order to make a good game you need to be good at making games first and foremost. If the game is good then having a name that everyone loves and trusts attached with it on top of that is obviously even better.

Why did you decide to go with Wing Chun as a Kung-Fu style with so many others to choose from?

Wing Chun is just one of the many styles that the game will teach you and you will be using whilst fighting in the game. We don’t want to spoil the surprise so we’ll be slowly unveiling additional Kung Fu styles as well as completely different (as in, non-Chinese) martial arts that will be available through the game. The idea is that players will be able to shape Danny into the fighter they want him to be. If you value say speed over power or kicks over punches you may decide you want to train into a system that reflects that and so on and so forth.

It’s like the ultimate RPG where you shape your in-game character not by how you decide to assign some numbers when you get a level up screen, but through what you as a person decide to physically do in the physical world. We are very excited about such concepts and it’s the kind of thing we’ve set out to explore.

Wing Chun was one of the styles unveiled in the announcement trailer. To answer your question about the inclusion of Wing Chun there were various reasons for that. Wing Chun is one of the more popular styles of Kung Fu. It also doesn’t have extremely high requirements in terms of physical fitness so it’s easy for people to jump into and discover if they like martial arts enough to proceed to a more physically demanding style from there. Lastly, like I said before it is my personal favourite style so as the instigator of the project I thought I was within my rights to favour that over anything else – at least as the beginning system as I say anyway.

What’s the next step in game development for you in order to get the game out to the public?  How can fans of the game help you out?

We are currently hard at work developing some of the exciting and innovative core tech behind the game which we can’t wait to share with you in the next months. We really believe we are taking motion control gaming as well as the fighting games genre to exciting new places so we are really looking forward to gamers’ reaction to that.

In tandem we’re talking to various interested potential partners as part of seeking help with getting the final product to market. While there is lots of interest surrounding the project, we want to make sure Kung Fu Superstar has the appropriate support to fulfil its full potential so it’s important we find the right partner for that.

With regards to how fans of the game can help us out with all this, it’s really simple actually: Tell everyone you know about the game and join us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/kungfusuperstar) so you can tell us what you love and what you hate about the game and what you’d like to see. We are making this game for *you* so hearing what *you* think about it is the single most important thing to us.

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