John Tobias Tao Feng Interview

Patrick McCarron - March 19, 2003

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Why did you feel the need to remove the round based system of fighting games in Tao Feng? Is there an option to enable rounds or at least a timer?

Tobias: Coincidentally, when we were starting Tao Feng, we looked at reasons behind why certain elements existed within fighting games. The round system and the counter was more of a product of their arcade origin. Certaintly with Mortal Kombat it was about getting the guy on and then getting him off. It was all about chucking the next token in. We felt that that's not really necessary in a home game because nobody's counting quarters. We decided, let's base it off more of the health of the characters. That's what drove that decision. In the options, you can turn on rounds and the counter. When I said coincidentally I'm referring to the fact that if online play becomes more prevalent then probably it makes sense to have the rounds and the timer because you have people waiting to play.

Main entrance to Studio Gigante's offices located just a half-mile from Oprah Winfrey's studio.

Do you guys feel that you pushed the limits of the Xbox hardware, or do you think that there is still much you guys have to learn about the graphics power of the Xbox?

Tobias: I think looking at Tao Feng, if we lagged in anything I think it would be our animation system. We are still investigating that. In terms of our lighting scheme and shadows and polygonal make up of our characters I think we are pushing the Xbox pretty good. Our characters are composed of 10-15 thousand polygons each and we try to do things like… we wanted the player to look at the characters and not see boxy edges or pinches when joints would flex. That was important to us, we wanted our characters to look as real a possible and I think we did that fairly well. I think in terms of our lighting there were probably things to improve, but I felt we did a pretty good job of putting the characters within the environments and how we lit them. We're pretty satisfied with that. I think it looks great, I think there are things that look really good about it and there are areas of improvement. This being our first game. This is our first iteration of this engine and there is a lot of work left for us to do, but we're happy with it.

Who did the music for Tao Feng? And what type of mood music wise were you guys going for?

Tobias: The music was composed by a guy named Daniel Meyer who's a European artist from Germany. He has a different name he goes by, Haujobb. What we wanted from the music in Tao Feng was that we didn't want to over do it. I think that there was a tendency in fighting games do kind of this 80's guitar rock. We wanted the music to exist in the background and the fight sounds are what we want to really come across. And so the music we wanted to really exist but not overwhelm the player. We think Daniel did a good job of that. There is a lot of Asian influence to some of the tunes, and if you listen to the music that he puts together outside of what he did for our game I think it is a good fit for a fighting game. I think some of it is more subdued than I think you are used to hearing in fighting games. But like I said, our goal was to have it exist in the background. One thing that we actually do that is pretty cool in our game is that we are really conscience of the sounds of the environment and if you turn down the music and just listen to the ambient environmental sounds that are in the game, it's pretty cool. Especially if you have a 3D surround system you can hear if there is a fountain in back of you, the water going off in it, and all the sounds of the environment that really help put you there. We've got the pier out by the ocean and you can hear the waves and the birds flocking by and stuff. It's new and hasn't really been done in a fighting game before and it's really subtle.

Does Tao Feng support any of the specialized Xbox audio features as far as Digital Surround Sound and/or custom soundtracks?

Tobias: It does do 5.1 [Dolby Digital Surround Sound], but does not support custom soundtracks. The 5.1 is what I was talking about with the ambient environmental sounds. The depressing thing is that most fighting games if you turn off the music there is nothing, there are no sounds other than footsteps and the fight sounds. So we thought having that was kind of cool, and then you can mix your music level with the ambient environmental sounds.

Gigante animators and artists hard at work on the next Studio Gigante production.

Looking forward, what do you see Studio Gigante going in the future?

Tobias: I don't know, as I mentioned before we are kind of in a transitional period. I think that we, at some point, would like to expand as a developer, multiplatform development is something we want to investigate. Because of our size we want to do that slowly. We're a group of 25 guys and I think that that's barely enough to do one project now a days. We've looked and talked to other developers who have been in the industry for a long time developing independently, and are trying to really be careful with the decisions that we make. So in terms of our future, we'd at some point like to expand in terms of our size. We just want to do that in a real methodical way.

Do you think your next game will be a sequel to Tao Feng or another game in a different genre?

It could be another sequel to Tao Feng. I think that we're actually working on it already. We would like to investigate other genres. Obviously, all of us have other ideas for other games we'd like to investigate. Our ability to do that is dependant on our ability to start another project. And I think that's one of my reasons for not necessarily leaving Midway but one of my reasons of wanting to start up an actual company is at some point, create and own the intellectual property that comes from us. That's a difficult thing to do because of the structure that developer/publisher relations take. But at some point in the future, I don't know whether it's four or eight years in the future or what. But at some point we would like to be able to do that, and I think that is our ultimate goal as a developer.

We would like to thank Microsoft and the entire development team at Studio Gigante for their hospitality during our visit. Especially, we appreciate John Tobias for taking the time out for this interview.

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