At PAX Aus 2019, we were fortunate enough to be able to speak with Matt from Team Fractal Alligator about their upcoming multiplayer party game – Wrestledunk Sports.
Alex: Hello everyone, it’s Alex from Switchaboo and I’m joined by Matt Trobbiani from Team Fractal Alligator. So please, tell us about Wrestledunk Sports.
Matt: The foundation of Wrestledunk Sports is a collection of multiplayer sports games, local or online 2-8 players, that can quickly be switched between. They’re all designed to be super tight, easy to learn and get into but still satisfying to play if you want to go 100 rounds in a row. I’m really proud with how the game has turned out.
A: And how many people would you suggest play the game at once?
M: It depends, some games are best with about four players – two on each side – and some modes are best 1v1. Wrestledunk Sports really shines when you have four people rotating controllers but there are some modes that are really competitive 1v1. The game technically supports 4v4 but that can get pretty wild. If you’re just there to see all of the pretty partical effects because you can’t not defeat two players with every swing of your hand; so if you want to see some pretty colours, 4v4 is something else [laughs].
A: Can you please list all of the game’s modes?
M: We’ve got wrestling which is kind of a minimalist fighting game with platforming controls; you just need to jump, dive and squish your opponents. One button is your dive which moves you and is your attack and the other button is just mix-up. The design of it is to be a very simple game, you just have to crush your opponents and it’s all very intuitive. There was a lot of work that went into the detail of it. For example if you’re lying on the ground and you hold the directional stick, it will get you up to that side instead of just getting up in the middle. You can do the mix-up spin in the air but you can also do it to get up instantly from the ground. However, that means if you jump out of that, you can jump on frame one but you can’t spin in the air. There was a lot of detail that went into these interactions to keep it really crisp. The aim was to make a lot of the controls really simple but there are a lot of different ways to use them, giving the game a lot of richness. For example, you can hold down the dive button and instead of going forward, you’ll go straight down, things like that.
There’s also Smash Ball that is inspired by this obscure Japanese arcade game that I really like called Sanrio World Smash Ball! It’s a ponglike game where you’re the paddle and the trick to this game is that you can hold the attack button to charge your meter, but that means that you move really slowly and you can’t hit because you’re holding the button down. However if you’ve got a full meter, you can do a really strong attack. The game is mostly about managing your greed, squeezing out a little bit more of the meter and using it effectively. That makes the game a bit more tactical but it’s also pretty fast-paced.
We also have Fencing which was originally designed in a Game Jam when I saw the Nidhogg trailer. I really wanted to try it out, so I tried to design the game around that idea. I made a lot of assumptions and got a lot of things wrong but I still really liked my weird broken version and I wanted to see it through. It’s quite different in that the swords clash a lot more; it’s more about movement and motion, being able to jump over someone quite easily. The sport is very snappy and moves quickly; it has a four-way rock/paper/scissors for how you win with a little bit of a minimalist fighting game within. After every three points, the map will change, so you need to get a quick read on the environment and making quick little plays. It plays quite differently to wrestling.
The last game is volleyball. My favourite is either wrestling or volleyball. This game is very technical and quite difficult to explain. It’s kind of like volleyball but you’re highly encouraged to cheat; all high-level play involves you diving over the net and playing from your opponent’s side because when the ball spawns, it’s just a ball on the ground and you can just kick it up, smack it into the ground and get another point – totally fair move. It was originally programmed with extremely basic volleyball interactions but it’s become its own game where you need to work out your enemy’s assumptions – it is not at all like how really volleyball works [laughs]. I love it but it’s always difficult to explain. I think that’s why it’s very hard to make an effective trailer for it because a lot of what’s good about it is the satisfaction of the interactions. The buttons work in a way that’s very intuitive and the movements and shots are very expressive; it makes the moment-to-moment batting of the ball a lot of fun. If we nailed that, then making the games have a lot of strategy to them where you can be having fun banging the ball around, and as the matchup between you and a friend gets more and more serious, you are progressively pushing out the rules in order to squeeze out a victory. That’s what I was really going for with the design and a few of these games have really nailed it.
A: That all sounds fantastic! Are there any other modes that you’ll want to add in the future?
M: I really want to focus on just a couple of them and get them really tight. I feel like you can go in the opposite direction where Mario Party has 100 games but then some of them might be to press a button and if you press it first, you win. I really want four games that are all really good, really tight and if Wrestledunk does really well, I can think about adding in new games or DLC. I’d like to do DLC where it’s a series of topdown games. Adding in new sports is possible but I’d really like to stay focussed and only put out bangers.
A: And how long has Wrestledunk Sports been in development for?
M: In total, about two years, but I’ve really been working on it for about one year. It’s been on and off while I’ve been working on other projects. I’m most of the way through development now. There are a few tuneups and some things needed but most of the work now is finishing up the code and making sure that it always runs at 60fps and is always crisp – that’s really important to us.
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A: So these interesting little rectangle characters, what are they?
M: I call them the athletes but they’re rectangles. I haven’t really thought about it, I’ve just given them little outfits and thought they look cute [laughs]. They started out as just rectangles and I was considering turning them into little sprites but I really wanted them so that their hitboxes were always visible – it always made sense. For example in Street Fighter where the hitboxes are always invisible, you kind of have to guess and it makes the game feel a little muddy. I wanted how the game worked underneath to be very visible. I think that’s something that Flash games really nail and once you add too much polish, you end up removing clarity and that’s where it gets muddy. I wanted to keep the characters as rectangles and keep it tight like that. I originally had patterns on them but I wanted them to have personalities, which is why I added faces as an experiment. Once I added the faces, if I ever turned that off, it was like, “here’s my normal boy and he’s beautiful and then I’ve horribly scraped the face off of the other one,” [laughs]. So I could never remove them once I put them on. I then added more and more smug facial animations and made them do cute little reactions to all sorts of things. Then, I thought, “these boys need some clothes!” and then we drew up a bunch of outfits. They’re really cute and I love them.
A: It sounds like you just had fun with it.
M: Yeah I got my artist to draw me some weird outfits and he just sent me back nipples and I’m like, “what is this?” and he just responds, “what if they were shirtless?” [laughs]. I just thought, “what does that even mean? They’re just rectangles,” to where he said, “but if you put the nipples and shorts on them, it implies…” and we just went with it.
A: That’s incredible [laughs]. So you’ve got the red and blue commentators, was that deliberately to reflect the red and blue Joy-Cons?
A: [laughs] With the Switch version, have you thought about any Switch exclusive features like HD Rumble?
M: I really love HD Rumble and Wrestledunk Sports already has it implemented for a bunch of them. It’s something that I really want to spend more time on because for one, HD Rumble rules and I’m really into my audio. There’s some really cool stuff in the audio mix and for example in Volleyball, there are two channels for the wind trail and when you hit the ball, it plays like that depending on how fast you hit it. But when you hit a ball out of it, it’ll fade out and if you hit the ball up, it’ll fade out pitch up or pitch down if you hit it down. So that’s more like texture through the wind and adding a lot of details to the sound and interactions, that’s really important to me. I think HD Rumble is just another way that you can ramp that up. With HD Rumble, you can actually make it work by putting a sound file into it and it’ll generate a rumble based off of that sound. So doing that sort of thing to match the interactions in the game is something I’ve already started and I want to spend a bit more time with it.
A: In every review that we do, we always talk about HD Rumble and how it is utilised so that is very good to hear! How is the game’s development coming along in late 2019?
M: Well the bulk of the game development is done and I just have to finish up on the net code which is something that I want to keep getting better at. I think the foundation for it is really good so I want to make sure that the game is really polished and I want to make the lobby interactions nice and clean. So after that, it comes down to going through the certifications and making sure that the game is in every language, etc. But all that aside, I believe the game is mostly done. So I’m hoping to have the game ready to release in December/January but that’s a AAA season so we might just spend a couple more weeks to tweak things here and there and wait it out to get a better release slot.
A: We’d also like to acknowledge everyone in the team, can you please fill us in on those who have helped you in the game’s development?
M: We have some additional dev and net code done by Jamie Williamson; music and sound by Chris Larkin… yeah he’s a big name now, very cool guy. The trailer track was done by Matt Hopkins who also did the track for the wrestling game; we’re not sure what we’re going to do for the Smash Ball track yet but we’ll see. And that’s the whole team.
A: Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?
M: You can use the bumpers to change your outfits in the game’s lobby [laughs]. You can go through so many, it’s good!
A: [Laughs] That’s a handy feature! Where can readers go to learn more about Wrestledunk Studios and to follow the game’s development?
A: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us.
M: Thank you.
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