John Tobias Tao Feng Interview

Patrick McCarron - March 19, 2003

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Where did the title "Tao Feng" come from?

Tobias: Tao Feng actually means -- I always mess this up -- but Tao Feng means basically spirit way or spirit energy. Feng roughly translates into energy, it depends on who you talk to. And Tao means 'The Way'. Both of those things basically fit well into our game. The name was kind of created in combination of Microsoft and Studio Gigante, but Microsoft is big on doing a bunch of focus grouping and all those sorts of things. Throw a bunch of names out, and ask "What do you like, what don't you like?" Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't. What was important for us was that the name had some kind of meaning.

Promotional sketch of the cast of Fighter X, Microsoft's code name for what is now known as Tao Feng.

How did the storyline involving New China and the two Sects, the Black Mantis and the Pale Lotus, come about?

Tobias: The storyline actually involves an alternate universe in a way. We wanted the environments to be urban but yet Asian themed, and we didn't want it to be Hong Kong. So we kind of devised this alternate universe that our characters exist in. It's slightly in the near future, and I think it provided a good launching point behind the ideas of some of our environments. And that is primarily what drove that storyline. The idea behind the two different sects, or clans, was kind of taken from events in China. In real history there were events in China at the turn of the century involving sort of a rebellious nature in terms of foreign elements that were influencing the direction that their country was taking. So we thought it would be an i nteresting spin to what would have happened if somebody, or some segment of the population, before that, had broke off and moved sort of to a new world. Coincidentally, I had been reading about this theory that the Chinese may have landed in America before the Europeans did. And there is actually a book on the topic called 1421 that has just come out. But we kind of asked ourselves what if the Chinese broke away from the country and discovered America and populated it from the west coast as opposed to the Europeans who landed on the east coast. We just thought that it was an interesting thing in terms of our alternate universe. It's pretty in-depth but it's more just about establishing that premise that there is this 'New China'. And then a lot of the other elements that were taken out of Chinese mythology, like the myth of the immortal who lives in the southern pole who is protected by a guardian, that [is where we got] our boss's name. The boss that you fight is named Shao Yen, his master is a guy named Shou Hsing. That's all kind of taken out of Chinese mythology. That has always played a big part in what influences me a lot, and has carried over to Tao Feng.

The women of Tao Feng. Divinity, Jade Dragon, Geist, Fierce Tiger

Given what you learned over the many years working on the Mortal Kombat storyline, did you do anything different this time around with Tao Feng?

Tobias: What I tried with Tao Feng was that I didn't want any sort of end of the world kind of theme. In our story there is no 'the end of the world is at risk'. It is really just these two warring clans and how they fit within the mythological limits of the story. So where as with Mortal Kombat was about the fate of the world, and that's not really what's at stake here. It's a little bit more personalized between each one of the characters. I think that's how the two stories differ a lot.

Last year at E3 you guys showed Tao Feng off only in private meetings. How was for you to finally get to show the game off at E3 and gauge the reaction of the media and players who got to see it? And do you feel that you benefited from private showings of the game versus a big public showing of the incomplete game?

Tobias: Right, yea the game at the time was not ready to be shown on the floor of the show. That decision was made by Microsoft and ourselves. Microsoft just wanted to show the game because they were happy with its progress, and it was fairly early in its development at the time. So, I don't know whether we benefited or not from it, but it just seemed like the right way to show the game. It's always good to get feedback, especially from people who play games a lot.

Page 2: The beginning of a new era
Page 4: Tao Feng Continued
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