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Strike Back is a 2D 1v1 fighting game focusing on a bite-sized fighting game experience. Pick from a diverse cast of characters based on real fighting styles and Strike Back!

The game is one of the first 1v1 fighting games to be made available at DigiPen. I was the lead designer and a combat designer on the project.

Platform | PC

Engine | FOWL Engine (Custom)

Dev Time | 9 Months

Team Size | 15

Playtime | 5 Minutes

Role | Design Lead, Combat Designer


My Ownerships

  • ​Wrote all core design documentation/user stories, and designed/scripted the foundational combat for the game. 

  • Programmed/developed a frame-accurate prototype of the game within Unity. 

  • Scripted all in-game characters through our own proprietary "Fighter Data" JSON scripting pipeline.

  • Directed user playtesting to constantly align user feedback with appropriate gameplay changes.

  • Routine bug-logging for gameplay elements such as input buffering, gameplay issues, UI issues, etc. 

  • Assisted in designing the game's UI to ensure the smoothest user experience possible.

  • Performed/provided live reference modeling for artists for all character's combat actions.

Starting Vision

Let's start! When Strike Back originally began development, it was a game very heavily inspired by mechanically dense games like Tekken - major bias of mine given I played Tekken 7 competitively in my region. The initial emphasis of the game was to create a 2D fighting game system that was more realistic aesthetically than other contemporary 2D fighting games with jumping/crouching/projectiles. We wanted to base our characters and all their moves off their respective real-world styles. Given my background practicing mixed-martial-arts and love for martial arts/combat sports - I wanted every character's gameplay and animations to reflect on what real practitioners of their styles do, all the while being a "traditional 2D fighting game" and not a "fighting simulator" like the EA UFC games. 

An seemingly simple mechanic but with cascading effects I wanted to explore was the removal of a crouched state and crouching defense. This idea was originally spawned because of our game's aesthetic emphasis of leaning towards more real-world elements. When you fight in real life, a crouching stance/state against an opponent doesn't make much sense... unless you want to eat a knee/kick to the face. 

Though removing a crouching state creates a bunch of issues within the general established design for fighting games. Crouch state in 2D fighters exist to not only allow for multiple "hit-levels" (Example: highs, mids, overheads, and lows) but also it creates a dynamic relationship between moving backwards/defending.


For instance, in most Street Fighter titles - moving backwards/stand blocking has it's own risk/reward vs crouching/crouch blocking. Moving backwards allows for you to avoid potential mid-distance walk-up throw attempts, bait out moves from your opponent to whiff punish, and defend against general ranged pokes. Though it has a critical Achilles heel - It's vulnerable to low pokes... which often lead into combos/hit-confirmsPun intended. Crouching on the other hand defends about every strike a Street Fighter player character can do, aside the odd overhead. It's a highly defensive state but leaves you highly vulnerable to throw attempts and the subsequent strategies that come from trying to guess the throw attempt from that position. This dynamic of tying in defense with movement is what makes even the basic art of moving back and forth so engaging in a fighting game.


A gameplay example of the risk of walking backwards to stand block in Street Fighter 6

A gameplay example of the risk of crouching to crouch block + attempting to beat throws from crouch in Street Fighter 6

Without a crouch state, this would mean by default to defend anything - players could simply hold back (which is how a lot of fighting games allow players to guard). There were minor things that can be done such as chip damage but this would still skew the game into being overly defensive and more importantly, leave movement/defense divorced from each other. There would be inherently no major risk in ever playing overly defensive. To solve this issue, I took inspiration from a game that had a unique approach to a part of this design challenge, HiFight's Footsies.


Footsies is a game developed by HiFight. It's a 1-hit KO fighting game boiled down to it's most basic elements and was a major design influence on Strike Back. Exactly like our intent with Strike Back, Footsies does not have a crouching state but still incorporated holding back to block. Footsies answer to mitigating overly powerful defense was to instead give players exactly 3 "Shields". Every time the player would block an attack, they would lose 1 shield. If they attempt to block at 0 shields, a guard break state would be applied onto the player - granting a guaranteed round-ending strike.


Footsies gameplay featuring the shield mechanic and guard break mechanic. A guard break/shield/guard gauge mechanic isn't new or unique to this game, but its implementation is what inspired me.

The key takeaway from Footsies that I believe fit elegantly with Strike Back was the concept of tying the ability to guard to a resource that exclusively depletes as the player guards.

This aligned with Strike Back's design for two reasons:

  • Allows defense to be strong but have a hard limit - it gives a alternative method of beating the player and further rewards positioning.

  • It aligns with the game's aesthetical emphasis on realism - when repeatedly guarding a strike in real life, it hurts and can often be bout-ending if the arm/legs have taken too much damage from guarding/checking too much.

Though there was still one key element of this design challenge Footsies doesn't address, this still didn't address the issue of movement/defense being as divorced as it is moment-to-moment. Movement/defense in Footsies is mostly about shimmy-ing and not being trapped in the corner.


Though at the time a big mechanic of the game at the time was spotdodging. Players could evade attacks by spotdodging in place, forward, and backward. This was originally done to encourage evasive movements in play and build on top of shimmy-ing. We also thought it would be an interesting way to provide players with additional ways to move around the stage - similar to a dash. We thought at the time that the limited shields/guard gauge in tandem with our spotdodging would bring enough movement being tied to defense. We would ultimately begin calling our limited shield/guard gauge "G.R.I.T". It's name is an homage to the "R.I.S.C" mechanic from the Guilty Gear series. 


Brief gameplay of a very early prototype for Strike Back showcasing spotdodging and the guard gauge, known as G.R.I.T (GRIT for short).

Programming The Prototype


Programming the initial prototype for the game was an interesting challenge in and of itself not only technically, but due to the surrounding circumstances in development. 

To be continued (In-progress)

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