Divekick Interview: Design Challenges, Inspiration And The Upcoming PS4 Version

Iron Galaxy Studios’ CEO Dave Lang on what makes this ‘two button’ fighter unique.

Divekick is different from other fighters out there. Iron Galaxy Studios, the development team behind Divekick claims that it is the world’s first two-button fighting game. It is rather unique to have a game which depends only on a few combinations to get the job done.

Feeling intrigued with got in touch with Iron Galaxy Studios’ CEO Dave Lang to find out the inspiration behind the game, the design challenges the team faced and how the upcoming PS4 version of the game is shaping up.

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Making any game 100% balanced is more or less impossible because you have to account for a wide range of player skills and abilities. I think a credible definition for “balanced” in a fighting game is that players of similar (moderate) skill should have a shot at victory regardless of whom they choose.

Pramath Parijat: So, first, tell us about yourselves. How big of a studio are you? What kind of experience do you have in game development?

Dave Lang: We’ve got two studios. One in Chicago with about 45 people and another in Orlando with around 25. We’ve been around for five years, and have done a little bit of everything, from outsource help, to ports, to original titles like Divekick.

Pramath Parijat: Okay, so Divekick. A two button fighter, not even any directional movement. How did that idea come about?

Dave Lang: Adam Heart (producer/designer here) and his friends came up with the idea after a long night of playing Marvel v. Capcom 3 when it first launched. That game has some notoriously overpowered Divekicks in it, and as the story goes one of them pipes up and says “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a game call Divekick, that only had two move—Dive and Kick, and two characters named Dive and Kick.” And thus the game was born.

Pramath Parijat:  Obviously, making sure that the game had enough depth, and that it was balanced, with just those two inputs must have been very difficult!

Dave Lang: Yeah making any game 100% balanced is more or less impossible because you have to account for a wide range of player skills and abilities. I think a credible definition for “balanced” in a fighting game is that players of similar (moderate) skill should have a shot at victory regardless of whom they choose. Achieving this required a long cycle of play testing, tweaking values, and play testing yet again.

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When you’re working on a game with so few knobs to dial, so to speak, you have to get really ingenious about what you do with them, and because of this you quickly get a deep understanding of what each tweak to the game you make can and will do.

Pramath Parijat: Would you say that imposing restrictions on yourself like that enhanced your creativity? Led to better, more ingenuous game making design decisions when you had more limited resources to work with, so to speak?

Dave Lang: It certainly provides a focus, that’s for sure. When you’re working on a game with so few knobs to dial, so to speak, you have to get really ingenious about what you do with them, and because of this you quickly get a deep understanding of what each tweak to the game you make can and will do.

Pramath Parijat: Okay, so in spite of the obviously limited range of inputs that you left for yourself, this seems to be a game that otherwise in no way seems to restrict itself. When was the decision made to have so much content for the game?

Dave Lang: Adam just ended up having a lot of great ideas for characters, special moves, etc., and the team ended up loving just about all of them. We’re the biggest fans of the game in the world over here, and as fans we wanted to see it be as feature-packed as possible.

Pramath Parijat: Were you ever afraid that Divekick, because of its very nature, would be met with some resistance in the fighting game community? Especially considering how picky those guys generally seem to be: a series as big as Super Smash Bros. hasn’t been able to escape any controversy there!

Dave Lang: We knew it would see some resistance, and to a certain degree I understand it. The first time Adam explained the idea behind Divekick to me I instantly dismissed it as some gimmick, but then the first time I played it I got why it’s so special. This is why we ended up taking it to all the FGC tournaments we did this year…unless you play the game it’s hard to understand why it’s so awesome.

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We ended up pulling out of the [PS4] launch lineup a bit ago. We were just too rushed to make all the changes we want to make to the game, so we decided to take our time and do it right.

Pramath Parijat: So the reception for Divekick has been incredibly positive so far! Did you expect it to be received that well?

Dave Lang: I’m actually surprised it didn’t get a better reception to be honest. I think fans love it, and enthusiast or niche sites really click with it, but many of the main stream websites kind of dismissed it, which really shocked me. I can’t really imagine two people sitting down and playing some versus matches and not having fun, but I guess they are out there somewhere.

Rashid Sayed: Divekick is a launch title for the PlayStation 4. Delivering a title for one of the biggest console launches must be pretty stressful.

Dave Lang: We ended up pulling out of the launch lineup a bit ago. We were just too rushed to make all the changes we want to make to the game, so we decided to take our time and do it right.

Pramath Parijat: Talking about the PlayStation 4, there has been a lot of talk about how the PS4’s GPU is pretty powerful. What has been your experience working on it?

Dave Lang: We’re working on several PS4 games right now, and the machine is legit awesome. Personally I can’t wait to see what some of the AAA devs like Naughty Dog will be able to do with it.

Rashid Sayed: Given the increase in RAM when compared to the PS3, do you think the amount of RAM allocated to games in the PS4 will be enough to stand the test of times in the next few years?

Dave Lang: Yeah I think there’s enough “stuff” in that box to give it a long, long life. Every generation people look at the launch games and go “meh” but then 3 years later we get something like Uncharted 2 comes out and resets everyone’s’ expectations of what that little black box on their TV stand can do.

[We asked Dave for clarification on what he meant by enough 'stuff' to which he replied with the following ] 

I mean enough CPU performance, GPU performance, RAM, etc., the whole package seems to be in balance, and I think there’s enough headroom where this generation will last as long as we’ve come to expect.

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Framerate matters much more than resolution IMO. Also, I think it’s a bit early to think of the XB1 as the 720p machine and PS4 as the 1080p machine.

Rashid Sayed: What are your thoughts on the resolution matter between the PS4 and Xbox One? Do you think there is a noticeable difference between 1080p/60fps and 720p/60fps?

Dave Lang: No, I think it’s pretty much a red herring. Most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Framerate matters much more than resolution IMO. Also, I think it’s a bit early to think of the XB1 as the 720p machine and PS4 as the 1080p machine.

Rashid Sayed: What resolution and fps will Divekick work on the PlayStation 4?

Dave Lang: 1080p, 60fps.

Rashid Sayed: Will we see DiveKick on the Xbox One? If not, why?

Dave Lang: We’re exploring using the ID@Xbox program to get onto the platform, but nothing to announce yet.

Pramath Parijat: So what can we look ahead from you guys after Divekick?

Dave Lang: Right now we’re working on Borderlands 2 for VITA and a bunch of other stuff I can’t talk about yet!


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