We take some fighting game traditions for granted. Why do we require players to put in those sequential inputs for special moves (like Down, Forward, Punch for a fireball)?

That’s a question Seth Killian, who was Street Fighter publisher Capcom’s community manager and an employee at Sony before starting Radiant Entertainment, has asked himself a lot, and you can tell by playing his new game, Rising Thunder (you can visit the site to receive an invite to the July 28 technical alpha). It might look like a Street Fighter clone, but this free-to-play PC game does away with those special move inputs. Instead, you can use them just by pushing a single button. A cooldown timer, not your mastery of button combos, determines when you can use them again.

We talked with Killian about this daring project, how he expects the fighting game community to react to it, and the influence games like Dota 2 has had on it.

The best robots know martial arts and special moves.

Above: The best robots know martial arts and special moves.

Image Credit: Radiant Entertainment

GamesBeat: When I started playing Rising Thunder, I was expecting it to be a lot like Street Fighter IV. And then I put in a hadouken input and realized something had gone horribly wrong.

Seth Killian: Horribly right, you mean! I could build a version of the game for you to put quarter circle-forward back in there.

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GamesBeat: It’s interesting. It gave me this weird moment where I started to question everything. That’s what Street Fighter II, and every fighting game since then, does. It’s interesting to see someone be like, oh, special moves are buttons now.

Killian: I hope I put in enough time in that world to validate the fact that I am from that world, very much. I played Street Fighter for a long time and worked on it for a long time. I had this nagging thought in the back of my mind. Why? Do we have to have this? Hmm. Maybe we don’t need it. It’s an uncomfortable thought, when it first started digging holes in my brain. The entire inspiration for this game came about because — I worked at Capcom for a long time. I got to work on some of my favorite franchises. Those games did well and helped invigorate fighting games. I felt like I was happy, or just done with fighting games. I stayed involved on the competitive side, doing commentary and things like that. I still loved everything about it. But when we got to talking about making a fighting game.

One, I had a job at Sony I really loved, working with people I really loved. Sony was at their highest point of the last 10 years when I decided to leave. Things were great. I wasn’t leaving a sinking ship. Everyone said, hey, you’re stupid, things are going really well here. Everybody likes you. We’re doing fantastic. At the same time, I felt like I was done with fighting games. What drew me back in was not the idea of, I just want to make another fighting game. I don’t just want to make another fighting game. Honestly, there’s a lot of people on the traditional fighting game side that — the quality work is high right now. People are doing good stuff in traditional fighting games. It’s not like the late 90s where people are just crapping out questionable fighting games and hoping to catch the mania again. Those days are done. The people who’ve stuck around are doing good work. But the thing that always killed me — when I talk about fighting games, which is something that’s super important to me — it’s changed my life and opened my mind to this whole different way of interfacing with people through games. So few people have that experience in fighting games. For a while I thought, maybe we’re just crazy, but honestly, to get to that point to be able to play the game — I don’t mean becoming a world-class expert. I just mean playing the game, doing the fireballs and uppercuts that we built the 90s games around. To get those base elements you have to put in months sometimes. Sometimes much longer than months of work. At the end of that work, it’s not like, now you’re a good player. Now you’re just competent. You have the ability to execute the moves we designed the game around. Now you’re basically at the ground floor of being able to play the game.

Rocket punch!

Above: Rocket punch!

Image Credit: Radiant Entertainment

GamesBeat: A lot of us take for granted how easy it is for us to do that rolling motion with a stick or a controller. We’re used to it.

Killian: If you hang out at the kiosk for a fighting game at any convention, you can watch people go up and just hit buttons. They’re failing at that fireball motion. That’s what kills me about fighting games. You want to talk to people who are serious gamers, committed to gaming, very interested in certain types of games. When I talked to those people about fighting games, you could see their faces just glaze over. As much as I love it and I’m happy to talk to people about it, there’s a sadness, because I know most people are never going to have the experience I’m having with fighting games. They’re never going to get to play the game as it’s designed. They might spend a couple of weeks playing around and then drop out, because they can’t execute the moves.

It’s almost more insidious than that. If you can do an uppercut a third of the time, which is not the easiest thing, you’re in a worse position in a lot of ways when you start playing. Now, when you see the guy jumping at you, you think, I know I’m supposed to uppercut, but if I have only one in three chance of hitting him … . You get this weird negative feedback loop. You’d be better off blocking. You’re not going to win a lot of matches sitting back and blocking all the time. But being in that situation, which is a big part of the learning curve for traditional fighting games, you are better off. There are these weird negative loops. You’re penalized for trying to learn the game.

I know that the hard way, because I’ve been talking to a lot of people about fighting games for a very long time. There are people like me who break through to the other side. Maybe there’s something wrong with us. Maybe we just had too much time on our hands at a given moment. Whatever it was. When I decided to come back and try to make another fighting game, I wanted to do something that would let people who didn’t have six months to practice moves — I wanted them to have the same kind of experience.

I’m at EVO, the biggest tournament in the world. When we talk about great matches at an event like this, we’re never talking about, man, that guy sure didn’t miss any uppercuts. Nobody cares about that. That’s the baseline of competition. If you have a guy who can only do an uppercut a third of the time, he’s not even competing. We don’t consider that guy really playing the game. What we’re talking about when we talk about great fighting game action is great decisions, great insight into the mind of your opponent, a great read, a great surprise. That’s the experience that makes fighting games come alive, that gets everybody here on their feet. That’s not the experience most players ever get. They flame out just trying to learn the moves.