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Creating A Game: MUGEN

I love a cross over. I love seeing characters from other stories or universes come together. And even more so I love thinking up the stories that could be told between two characters who have never crossed paths. Personality clashes, powers put to new tests. These are dreams of every fan boy, whether across video games, comic books, and even sports! Why do you think they have All-Star Games?

After Marvel and Capcom got together and birthed several, life altering 2D fighting games featuring superheroes battling it out against some of the most popular video game characters – we hit the pinnacle of such a major cross over with 2000’s Marvel vs. Capcom 2 for the Sega Dreamcast. In the time between, gamers were treated to a whole lot of nothing as far as whole sale crossover madness. I believe the demand for more crossover fighting games pushed MUGEN to its popular fame today, and we are treated to such with amazing creators who are coming with great characters, and even greater games.

MUGEN itself is a 2D fighting game engine. The engine itself is free to download, and allows users to install their own created characters, music, and backgrounds into the game. This highly configurable game is difficult to build, as any creator, or even casual downloader who starts out in MUGEN will surely tell you that you need extreme patience. Whether you are creating your own background, graphics, character or waiting for a creator to complete these things so you can download them yourself and play with them, you have to wait for the hard work to come to fruition.

The Original Title Screen For MUGEN

To find out how difficult this work can be, I’ve asked a MUGEN creator – Gary Fisher to take some time to answer a few questions for me about his own MUGEN, how he found and learned the engine, and the community itself.

How were you introduced to MUGEN?

Gary Fisher: Actually, I found it by accident. I didn’t own my first PC until somewhere around ’01 – ’02, around the same time when MUGEN came out. I had been looking for Mortal Kombat computer games and I found a website that had MUGEN characters on it. I downloaded them and had no clue what to do with them. I deleted them thinking “well that was a waste of a download”. Then in 2005, I stumbled upon MUGEN yet again, but this time I did some research on it and was hooked after finding out what it could do.

With MUGEN, being such a popular engine now and free to download, do you find issues with the community as far as character leaks, and warehousing issues [for our readers, a warehouse is where characters, screenpacks, and downloads are compiled to a website for download]?

GF: Oh yeah, they are [warehousers who take credit for other people’s work] definitely a real problem and have been as long as its existed, and will continue to be. I actually quit some of my projects a couple of years back because of that. It really sucks to make a release only to have it ripped off by someone else. I personally don’t mind as long as it’s just the basic sprites that you can get anywhere, but all the custom ones that I work hard on is another story. I actually found that a guy rip off a MK screenpack I was working on. He had used screenshots and videos that I had uploaded. Not a very pleasant experience when I found out.

Have you had any issues with people stealing your characters?

GF: In a way, yes and no. I’ve had people take sprites and pieces of code, but I don’t think anyone has swiped any of full MK characters of mine that I’m aware of anyways. I know there are a few Red Power Ranger edits out there. He was my first character and was HORRIBLE but for some reason, people still want him…and hes not hard to find thanks to WAREHOUSES!

Seeing 2D fighters from the past such as Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter, you can definitely see the work put in. What’s the creative and working process like for you when starting a new game or character?

GF: I used to be the first to complain about games taking so long to make. “Two years until the next Mortal Kombat? WTF?!” But after working on MUGEN I have a new found respect for game developers. It takes them years with huge teams of people to create these amazing games. I’m only one guy doing all that so its taking twice as long for me. The creative process depends on a lot and for me, it usually comes from other sources. I’ll play a game, or see a special move and get an idea, then bring it to life. My Scorpion character has an armbar move, which was inspired from watching wrestling. I even got one of my project names from a band’s (Trivium) song. So inspiration comes from everywhere. Sometimes where you least expect it.

Scorpion's New Armbar Special

Once I have some good ideas for a character and know the basics of where I want to take the character, I’ll start adding the sprites and create the animations for them. Then work on coding such as basic moves (high punch, low kick, etc) and then it’s onto specials, and I usually do combos last.

Is there a particular part of creating your games that you hate working on?

GF: Yeah, the multiple fighting styles I’ve been doing have been a pain. I’d say the worst for me is coming up with stories and finishing moves. You are so limited in MUGEN to what you can do, so you gotta get really creative with what you have. Bug fixes can also be a nightmare!

What keeps you interested to continue creating through MUGEN?

GF: It’s because I love doing it. I get a release and I’m also in control of everything you know? From how the characters act, how they fight, the A.I. tactics. Everything. For instance if I’m playing Ultimate MK3 and I don’t like something about Ermac, I’m just stuck with it. But in MUGEN, I can do anything. I can change anything. I also love the response that I get when I show people my work and they say “this is better then the real MK!”, things like that make all the time and effort well worth it.

What can we expect to see from you in the future and where can we find more information about your current projects?

GF: You can find my projects on http://dvmugen.webs.com and I update regularly on www.twitter.com/shinnox. My original project was going to be based on Mortal Kombat Shaolin Monks but I stopped that project to move onto Mortal Kombat: Rebirth, a massive game which I was working on it until 2008. Around that time I left MUGEN for a while.

What happened?

GF: Well, I wanted to do more ambitious things with the fighting engine. I wanted to push it and input things like multiple fighting styles, and things found in more technical fighting games. Things that I couldn’t do for MK:R, thus the reason I’m making (my current project) Ninja Kombat: Kirisute Gomen. Some MUGEN users might downplay Ninja Kombat because of Mortal Kombat’s constant palette swapping, but using those characters allowed more sprites and enabled me to do things I couldn’t do in the other project. I wanted the gameplay to shine rather than have 500 crap characters like in 98% of the MK MUGEN projects out there.

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