Furi and creating memorable moments

Posted by on 07.22.16
 

Emeric Thoa is Creative Director and Co-Founder at The Game Bakers. Follow The Game Bakers: @TheGameBakers / @EmericThoa

Furi is a character action game in which you fight only bosses. You can get an idea of what the game is about with this trailer: Furi Trailer.

*****

We launched Furi and received a truly incredible response from some players: they are crazy about the game, they love it more than I could have ever dreamt. In the meantime, other players, some reviewers didn’t enjoy the game or felt rejected by it. And they criticized the game for that. That’s pretty fair, but here is a thing. Not every game is for you. That’s what is called diversity. That’s a good thing (Ken Wong explains it better than I would ever do).

Of course, there are games that are bad or average. They missed something and very few people actually love them. But I don’t think it’s the case for Furi. As it was very well summed up in some reviews, Furi is a love-hate kind of game. And believe it or not: it’s by design. It’s a game that was designed to create intense satisfaction, and it succeeded in doing so, even if it frustrated some along the way.

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Furi is a Love-Hate game

In this article, I’ll explain how we came up with this intention, and how we made it happen.

Part one: On making a game that doesn’t try to please everyone.

After we made Combo Crew on mobile, my partner Audrey and myself started thinking about what our next game could be. We were in 2013. Indie gaming was already big, but we knew it would grow bigger. We knew the market would be even more saturated, even more fragmented. We knew that, by 2016, iOS and Google Play would be nothing like in 2010. Steam would be flooded by releases every day, and even the very young new consoles (PS4 and Xbox One) would have their stores full of games and sales of any kind.

We realized that, in order to be in the top 10 of the indie devs, we needed to make something « outstanding ». A game that stands out, in every possible way. A game with an edge. A game that I call a « Triple i » or “iii”.

Tiplei_GamesEdgeThis picture was in the very first document for Furi

Triple AAA games have the budget, the talents, the teams to achieve greatness with a huge scope. Story, visuals, characters, gameplay features, game modes, game length… they try to have everything in order to please everybody. Their aim is mass audience.

We believed that, in order to be competitive, smaller studios must go the opposite way. We are too small to be the best at everything, but we can aim to be the best at one thing. We can make something edgy. We can choose not to please everybody. We can choose to make something that most would actually dislike, in order to make sure a niche of gamers will find it truly memorable.

This was the foundation of our strategy for the three years to come.

keytosuccess

Every decision in Furi was made in order to make it memorable for a niche of gamers who were somewhat starved: the Japanese character action game fans. Every decision was made in order to make the game outstanding, unique and focused.

The art direction stands out, with colourful and surrealistic environments.

Furi path

The character design is stylish and unique, as we can expect from Afro Samurai’s creator Takashi Okazaki.

Furi The Strap

The combat is (very) fast paced, inspired by Japanese game design.

Furi_01_TheChain

Its use of both shoot’em up and beat’em up mechanics is totally unique.

Furi_07_TheBurst2

The soundtrack is made up of original compositions from amazing electro and synthwave musicians.

Furi_digitalcover_Steam

If we compare with the direction taken by a recent mainstream beat’em up like God of War, it’s clear to see we just went the opposite way. They go for realism, we opted for surrealism. They went for an orchestral soundtrack, we decided on electro. Let’s not fight head to head with these guys, right?

God-of-War-8

They aimed for mass appeal, we didn’t. No compromises. No consensus. We developed a game for a niche audience, but with the intention on casting a spell on our fans forever.

Part two: On fighting half-measures. On making strong choices.

This is a bold strategy to start with, but it’s even harder to make it actually happen. Especially during two years of production where as a creative director you are constantly challenged, by the team, by the playtesters, by the press in previews, by trailers comments… by anyone who is slightly involved in the game really.

I remember, during the heat of the production, tweeting this:

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Any designer who reads me knows what I’m talking about. This fight against consensus, against half-measures, was the key to succeeding with this initial strategy of not trying to please everyone. If you go soft, you lose the edge, and then it’s over.

Here are some examples of the controversial decisions I took. Even some players who loved the game still disagree with them. I hear them. I’m not saying it couldn’t have been done otherwise or better. If I could, I would improve lots of things in the game, like the tutorials or the promenade mode. But I would probably stick with some of the controversial decisions I took, they are part of what makes Furi what it is.

Spoilers ahead.

Paths

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In Furi, in between each fight, there are walking sequences where you just get backstory and coaching by your rabbit-masked mysterious buddy. You discover a visually unique environment teasing the upcoming boss personality, and listen to the music. These sequences are important because they give a meaning to the game through the story, they build the tension, and they force the player to take a break in between two intense boss fights. I knew the most arcade-hardcore players wouldn’t like it, but for most of our audience, it took Furi from “a great game” to “a meaningful experience”. As a designer, we stood strong with the idea of having the player “walk” and even “autowalk” (there’s a button for that) for 3-4 minutes. No minions to fight. No experience points to grind. No loot. I bet you can imagine this was a tough call to keep for two years of development.

02_Furi_pathtonextguardian

 

The secret ending that resets your save

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At one point in the game, there is a disguised choice. You can basically stop fighting. Stop killing. Reach a status quo. There is no good ending in the game, they all are good and bad in some ways. There is no happy end. But at least, you can choose why you fight for, or if you want to fight at all.
It was important to me to make it “a true ending”. Otherwise it would have been a simple “easter egg”. Another trophy to the list. So I stood with the decision to reset the save after the players get that ending. Some people are annoyed because it makes them replay half of the game. Some people are annoyed because they triggered the ending accidentally (they are right to be annoyed, they are collateral damage of a strong design choice).
But this kind of moment:
– “I found a hidden event”.
– “Oh it’s an ending, a peaceful one in a game about duels”.
– “F*** my save is erased, they are not kidding, it’s actually over”.
It’s part of what Furi tries to deliver. Surprise, adrenalin, intense emotions. Some people ranted about it, but some understood and loved it.

Furi Song Ending

No come back from promenade difficulty mode

The game has three difficulty levels. The default one (Furi level) is demanding, requires a lot of patience and perseverance, and delivers a great deal of satisfaction when beaten. The hard one (Furier) is an extremely difficult game mode with the patterns and boss fights redesigned. We know that players who finish this game mode love the game and understood it, otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to beat it. We actually thank them for that.

creditsFurier

The last one (Promenade) is an extremely easy and shorter difficulty level for players who just don’t want to invest as much effort in the gameplay. Some players complain they can’t switch to Promenade for one fight and then come back to Furi mode. The reason we don’t allow this is not to punish players, it’s the opposite. If we did allow that, players would be tempted to switch to Promenade as soon as they encounter a difficulty peak. They would be tempted to go back and forth between the difficulty levels and they would lose all the satisfaction they’d get of eventually overcoming a big challenge.

Dashing on the “release”, a.k.a. the false perception of delay

In the game, there is a very fast, satisfying dodge ability, that makes you basically invincible. Some players have complained it was laggy or they felt a delay. There is no delay at all, but the dash starts when you “release” the button, not when you “press”. The reason for that is that you can charge the dash to go further. Press and hold, you charge. Release, you dash. This charging dash gives tons of depth to the patterns we can create. The boss fights get a lot of variety from this feature. But even within the team, this decision was considered very controversial. We could have split the dash ability on two buttons (quick dash/charged dash), but it felt too complex. Once you are used to a quick press & release for a dash (and most players are after one or two bosses), you get both the simplicity of the controls AND the gameplay depth.

05_Furi_Demo_BulletHell

These are only a few of the decisions that were controversial but that I decided to stick with instead of looking for a compromise. Of course, I DID change a lot of the design when I got complaints or relevant comments. I’m not saying it’s good to be narrow-minded. But it’s good to take some risks in order to keep your edge. I’m very grateful to Audrey and the core team at The Game Bakers and our partners at Sony for understanding that. They all committed to this vision from the start of the project.

Part three: On creating intense satisfaction.

The reason I love video games is because they create emotions. Through their gameplay, story, visuals, music, they can deliver any emotion you can think of.

Uncharted 4 delivers great brainless distraction, P.T. freaks you out, Journey creates a bond, Monument Valley makes you feel smart and poetic. Furi creates intense satisfaction. And by necessity, it can also create intense frustration along the way.

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But I believe it succeeded creating intense satisfaction.

Twit_Satisfaction

People say the game is hard. I would argue it’s mostly from another time. It’s anachronic. It requires patience (definitively not a trendy trait) and it’s a game of counter attack (a game where you wait and punish instead of aggressively attacking with combos, as in most games of the 2000’s to current era).

But players who are perseverant will get better each time they play. Furi is like a guitar and each bossfight is like a partition. You start playing and you suck at it, but you get better after each practice. This is not something everyone is willing to do, but it makes it extremely satisfying when you finally beat a boss. This satisfaction is actually proportional to the effort you put into the bossfight. In order to create intense satisfaction, you need to require efforts.

And when the game manages to trigger that into someone, when a player finally overcomes the frustration and pain to turn it into relief and satisfaction, you get this:

Twit_EmotionnalyDrained

The industry has a tendency to reward games that don’t itch.  Metacritic rules us all, and the formula to get a high Metacritic score is to make a game with one good feature and no flaw. We are prompted to make games that don’t displease, games that don’t frustrate. But recently, I have seen more and more games trying to be edgy. Trying to create intense emotions, even if it’s at the risk of segregating themselves from a larger audience.
It’s exciting.
Let’s welcome that.



8 Responses to “Furi and creating memorable moments”

  1. ConkerJak dit :

    Great thoughts and explanations on Triple I design choices. I am really interested in these new kind of productions (Hellblade, Absolver) and I will try to be part of it with my next game: Astre. I have just finished 3rd Furi boss and even if it is hard for me me it really delivers this intense adrenaline during fights and even more when winning. Merci encore pour cet article et pour ce jeu qui j’espère va pousser ce type de production à amener toujours plus de diversité. Congrats to all Game Bakers team 😉

  2. I loved your game, but non for the satisfaction, or the difficulty, but for the story and the meaning of progression. I loved that you put so much effort in creating a story about the player as a killing machine without thoughts, and I love the way you built the contrast between the good feeling of the mechanincs, and the bad sensation of killing a father, a young teenager, a pacific woman.
    Probably no one has loved this game for this kind of particulars, maybe it’s something that you put in it unintentionally, but I have to tell yo that it remindend me Shadow of the Colossus and, overall, Prince of Persia (2008), despite the really difficult combat system.
    Good job, really, good job.

    • Emeric dit :

      Thanks a lot for that comment. It was of course very intentional and we talk less about it because we know most people, especially for this kind of game, look for gameplay first. But the story and the meaning are a huge part of Furi and a lot of people liked it like you did. Thanks for playing Furi!

  3. dan85 dit :

    Great read and a damn great game, fantastic design and story and a rewarding, fast-paced gameplay, I just can´t get enough of it! Got S-Rankings on The Burst and The Star on Practice yesterday, it was exhausting but it was also pure satisfaction. Now I´m going to master the « Furier » mode, it´s gonna be a blast! 😉

    The only thing that bothers me a bit: After hours of playing the game and getting better and better, I still can´t pull of the « Parry while Charging Attack » on the PS4-Controller reliably. It just feels awkward. Custom controls would solve the problem or at least put the parry Circle and L1 or R1. Dash has an alternative button too. This would be a great help, especially on Furier mode, where its often very hard to land a 4 hit combo because the Guardians are so much faster than on furi.

    Thank you, game bakers, for not giving in the pressure to create a game that pleases everyone. Furi is a masterpiece, at least for me and many other players precisely because it´s edgy and polished as hell 😉 Keep up the great work!

  4. black1blade dit :

    Firstly thanks for making such an amazing game. I’ve got the platinum trophy and the amount of progress I made is astounding. I am not actually that innately good at video games but a lot of practice brought me to this point. There are a few things that I would think would be cool in the game. Firstly would be furier mode speedrun as a true challenge of skill for the great players. Secondly this is slightly less realistic but having a fight against the voice would be awesome as a super secret final boss. Perhaps it could be a DLC. I know it’s impossible to justify in story terms but my OCD is telling me that that gap between the song and the burst needs to be filled XD. That said, I don’t know what powers the voice would have or if in fact his power is his ability to talk and teleport around the prison. I imagine as the architect though, he could possibly employ the most powerful possible things against you. Perhaps in terms of the story it could be viewed as a sparing match or a way of the voice testing your skills before you face against the 2 strongest guardians that are next. Either way great game, I love edgy shit like this and I’m am really looking forward to your next game!

    • Emeric dit :

      haha sorry for your OCD! But I agree, a fight against The Voice would be awesome. About the Furier speedrun leaderboard, we’ll think about it!
      Thanks for playing Furi!

  5. Aditya Tomar dit :

    Hello gamebakers, well i just platinumed the game, and well i must say that i really enjoyed the game, the fight against edge was my personal best, even after platinum i play it, i even got 0 hits s rank on furier in that, and would have played it over 100 times. I just wanted to give my feedback because i am looking forward for your next game. And hope it will be helpful.
    1. Gameplay was great no issues. Well i would love to have a bit more longer game from your side if possible, i really wished there were more bosses.
    2. Story telling was awesome just too good. Rabit face was really awesome, the concept was awesome. But i wish bosses were described a bit more. Edge description was just awesome by the way. I could feel that moment. Even for the burst. But a bit more description could have been better.
    3. I thought first phase for most bosses was too easy at furi dificulty and while practicing a boss it was just a time consuming thing, as i wasnt learning anything and i had to go through it. Though it was good for chain, song, edge, beat, but easy for rest. Though no issues for other phases. Just that these easy phases could have been made more challenging or eliminated altogeher.
    4. Music was awesome no issues, now the major issue. Well i was playing on ps4 and i had that lag everytime during fight with scale last phase furier difficulty. Also there were few more lags in fights with song, beat phase 2, though these were rare. Hopefully you will fix it soon.
    5.environment according to bosses was awesome. Keep this concept in your next games as well.
    6. Well this point is about controls on ps4. I actually used charge and block. But it was difficult to execute it while holding controller normally and holding controller different way made maneouvering difficult so i had to change my grip frequently as charging while blocking i thought was great and easy damage could be done if execution was done. Well if dodge was made with triangle i think both charge and dodge and charge and block could have been executed with ease.

    Well anyways as you can see there arent any negative points which i could state. Its just some points are 9 which could have been 10 according to me. Though this is my personal perception, for others it would all 10 as well. But in any case this does show how much i liked your game. I appreciate the efforts you put in the game and thank you for delivering a wonderful game. Looking forward for an awesome next game from your side.

  6. Noel Robles dit :

    I really respect the design decisions taken, and the lack of compromises taken when it comes to the original vision. Furi is one of my favorite games ever, and I cannot wait to see what’s in store.

    With a little more polish and the lessons learned from this game, its eventual sequel should be even better.

    I just wish the Song didn’t repeat voice lines when you’re trying to trigger the peaceful ending. It feels really low-quality. A bit more polish, and I would have been on board for that ending.

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