Thrill of the Fight 2 Will Have Multiplayer PvP Matches says Developer
With a large amount of fitness-focused games on the Oculus Quest, it’s hard to stand out on the headset’s growing library. However, Thrill of the Fight is by far the best fitness game I’ve ever played and best boxing game I’ve ever played in or out of VR. Whats more amazing is that the entire game was created by one sole developer.
At a time when fitness centers around the world are temporarily closed due to COVID-19, I found it hard to keep in shape while staying indoors, especially in my Tokyo apartment that has only around 25 square meters of floor space (and yes you read that correctly, 25 square meters). Therefore, buying an Oculus Quest and discovering Thrill of the Fight couldn’t have come at a better time. With varying settings and difficulty levels, the game can be adjusted for anyone. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better VR workout than the heart-pounding rounds of simulated boxing provided in Thrill of the Fight.
I sat down with the sole developer of Thrill of the Fight to find out more about the amazing mechanics that make this game tick and how he managed to create it all on his own.
Ian Fitz is the developer of Thrill of the Fight. He is a self-taught programmer with an 8-year career in web development. When the Vive came out in April 2016, Fitz decided to grab Unity and see if he could make a game for it. He put Thrill of the Fight up as a Steam Early Access title in July 2016 and was able to leave his job to make the game his sole focus later that year.
What was your inspiration for The Thrill of the Fight?
Fitz: I was really in love with the Vive’s “room scale” capabilities and tracked controllers when it launched, and wanted to try to make a game that really took advantage of those features. Boxing was one of the first things that came to mind, and I expected to make something more like “Punch-Out!!” than “Fight Night”.
The original plan was to have 10 unique fighters that all had their own set of special attacks and punch patterns that you had to learn and properly react to. However, I also wanted to emphasize the physical interaction within 3D space instead of just mapping movements to the equivalent of button presses, and trying to maintain that freedom of action for the player just wasn’t working well with the pattern-recognition-focused gameplay.
As a sole developer with no prior game development experience and no funding to commission custom animations, I was also hitting a wall with the variety of special attacks I would have access to. Luckily early feedback on the game was almost universally asking for more of a focus on free-fighting than pattern recognition, so I started moving in that direction within the first week of the game’s release.
By early 2017, I had decided to focus on making the fighting mechanics as realistic as I could possibly achieve. At that point I was looking to real-world physics and biomechanics for inspiration instead of any already-existing video game. It was good timing, too, as “Knockout League” released around that time and pulled off the pattern recognition gameplay much better than I could and with far more interesting visuals than I had access to.
What were the biggest difficulties you encountered while developing this game entirely on your own?
Fitz: I think I spent two weeks working on the game during every free moment I had before I shared a demo on Reddit to get feedback. I didn’t expect to put my game up for sale then, but I was overwhelmed with the amount of people contacting me to ask how they could give me money to support the game’s development. A couple of weeks later, on July 1, 2016, I had the game up on Steam as an Early Access title, and I worked for more than 3 years before its full release in October 2019.
Although I didn’t have a background in game development, I was able to learn what I needed to keep things moving on the programming side up to a certain point. However, I have absolutely no artistic skill. I used modified off-the-shelf assets for venues and character animations, but it was frustrating to not be able to be just create what I was envisioning.
Character models were a major obstacle, because I wanted them to be unique to Thrill of the Fight. I started off with a tool that let me generate characters with a wide variety of appearances, but it was poorly supported and I ended up running into bugs and limitations that made it something I wouldn’t be able to use long-term. I ended up finding a character artist who had already made a boxer as a personal project, and we worked out a deal within my budget that allowed me to use that existing boxer in addition to him creating eleven more characters for the game. That first boxer became the new Ugly Joe.
How does the game keep you from punching walls or furniture in your play space?
Fitz: Assuming you at least have the space to throw punches in the first place, I see play area size and safety as mostly unrelated. It really comes down to how safe your boundaries are, and you can certainly create unsafe boundaries even if you have a huge space to play in. From there, the game just works on the assumption that anything outside your boundaries isn’t safe, and because of that I try to make sure there’s never a situation where you would need to move or swing outside of your play area. When a round starts, the opponent is placed on the opposite edge of your play area, and he won’t move outside of it. The end result is that your play area works like a miniature boxing ring, and more room just means more fun.
What features of the game are you particularly proud of?
Fitz: One mechanic I personally enjoy is how the game handles what happens when you or the opponent gets punched. When you land a hit on the opponent, you’re not subtracting points of damage from their health bar in the hopes that you’ll empty it and knock them down.
“Instead, the game calculates the force of your punch based on how you threw it.”
Then, where you landed the punch determines either how painful your hit was or what effect it had on the opponent’s brain. The end result might stun the opponent, cleanly knock them down or out, wear them down a bit for later hits, or it might not even accomplish much of anything at all.
The latter is often a point of frustration for players, but it’s a key part of making sure you can’t just throw a constant flurry of blind punches. There’s also an indirect cap on how much force your punch can impart (as a result of the force multiplier system you might see on the menus — talking about that mechanic could fill a whole interview by itself), which means where you hit the opponent is just as important as how hard you’re swinging, so you can’t just slam the broad side of the opponent’s head as hard as you can and hope to easily take them down.
How is punch strength calculated? Have you ever thought about using the player’s weight to influence this strength?
Fitz: Punch strength is primarily determined by the velocity of the controller at the time of impact. The game can’t read the mass you’re putting behind the punch, so that’s mostly filled in with idealized values.
The force mulitplier system accommodates for differences in player mass, in a sense, by boosting the strength of players who aren’t able to punch as fast. But really the goal is for you to be matched up evenly in terms of mass with the opponents, not for you to bring your real-world mass in for what would potentially be very one-sided fights if you didn’t happen to be in the right weight class.
Basically, just punch comfortably and purposefully, and the game will handle the rest.
How does the game track overhand punches outside of the player’s viewable area?
Fitz: I’m not doing anything special here and am just relying on the headset’s built-in tracking. Oculus’ inside-out tracking on the Rift S and Quest is phenomenal and really exceeded my expectations. I didn’t expect the game to even be playable on Quest due to the tracking, but now the Quest version is by far my favorite version of the game.
Will there be an online multiplayer option added to the game?
Fitz: Thrill of the Fight is feature complete, and I hope I’ve priced it appropriately for that. It will continue to get small tweaks and bug fixes, but there likely won’t be any large content or feature updates. It consists of everything I was able to achieve on my own within the budget I was able to allocate to the game. Pretty much anything else I would want to do to the game will require rewriting large portions of the game’s foundation, bringing in external help, or both, and it doesn’t make sense to do that instead of putting those resources to better use to just make a brand new game with a better foundation than what’s in place for TotF1.
So that’s what I’m doing. I’m getting external help and starting on a sequel from scratch. It should be bigger, better, and more realistic in every conceivable way, and unless something goes horribly wrong, it will have multiplayer PVP matches. Progress is currently moving a bit slow on that front while we still get the initial planning and details worked out, but I hope to be able to start sharing more concrete info about it sometime this year.
Thrill of the Fight is a game all VR headset owners should try. The game is modestly priced for the amount of replay value it holds and can even be used as a home workout. While it may be some time before we see a sequel released, I am definitely awaiting the next masterpiece by Ian Fitz and all his games to follow.