Blyth native's 'Way of the Passive Fist' to be released soon - Jan. 18, 2018
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Within the next few weeks, Household Games will release Way of the Passive Fist on all major game platforms. It has been a labour of love for the team, which includes Blyth native Orie Falconer who designed the game’s music and sound effects.
The game is a new take on a classic game genre, affectionately known as a “beat ’em up” that demands players pummel as many enemies as possible to get to an end-level boss. Way of the Passive Fist, however, turns the typical “beat ’em up” game on its head and rewards players for playing defensively, conserving energy and tiring out their opponents.
Falconer, the son of Kevin and Lorie Falconer, first became involved in the project in 2016. He had worked at Vast Studios, which creates video games for cell phones, where he met Jason Canam, a man Falconer has essentially been hired to replace.
In Canam, Falconer said it was the first time he had met another video game developer who was as passionate about the craft and the world of video games as he was and Falconer instantly felt a kinship with him.
The two would go on to meet once again at the Toronto Game Jam, an annual competition that tasks video game developers with creating a game from scratch in just two or three days.
Canam saw what Falconer was working on in the competition, specifically his sound and music work, and had what Falconer remembers as a “great reaction” to his work.
“He said, ‘this is what video games sound like,’” Falconer said, adding that Canam felt the work Falconer was going in the competition was very genuine.
He and Canam would go on to work together on a handful of different projects, so when the concept for Way of the Passive Fist was on the table, Falconer got the call. He said he was thrilled to have that opportunity.
Falconer was then provided with stage breakdowns, settings and artwork to aid in his creation of both music and sound effects.
Because of the accessible nature of the game, Falconer said that crafting the game’s sound effects was one of the most interesting challenges he’s had in his career.
Because the name of the game in Way of the Passive Fist is defence, the game’s creators wanted an audio cue every time an enemy was about to attack. And, because of the rhythmic nature of the game, that was quite a challenge.
However, Falconer said that because of how the game is designed, it’s accessible to gamers of all stripes, even those who are visually-impaired.
“We wanted it to be accessible to all,” Falconer said. “No matter what kind of gamer, we wanted to allow all people to play.”
Way of the Passive Fist takes place on a desert planet that’s too close to a volatile sun. The heat has turned the world into a wasteland and becoming exhausted is akin to a death sentence. It’s this setting upon which the game’s strategic foundation is built.
The Wanderer is at the heart of Way of the Passive Fist. He is a character who defends himself by blocking and dodging enemies, allowing enemies to tire themselves out, leaving them vulnerable to a simple shove or tap on the head to defeat them once they’ve essentially defeated themselves.
Early impressions of the game have been positive, as its creators, including Falconer, have been making the rounds in recent months, attending video game conferences throughout the United States to help spread the word.
Canam has said that the game’s inspiration came from a very famous moment in gaming history, referred to as “Moment 37”.
Moment 37 refers to a famous contest between the world’s best two Street Fighter players in 2004. In what’s seen as a remarkable achievement in the world of competitive gaming, one player performing his character’s most powerful attack and his opponent completely nullified it through a series of perfectly-timed parries. He took no damage from the attack and was able to counter-attack and win the match.
Canam has said that Moment 37 is often cited as the most significant moment in competitive fighting games and it served as the inspiration for Way of the Passive Fist.
Work on Way of the Passive Fist has been tremendously creatively fulfilling, Falconer said, adding that it has been one of the highlights of his career and something he’s always wanted to do.
Falconer is passionate about his work, saying that many modern video games have lost their way in terms of music, compared to the heyday of video game music in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
That music, he said, was very melodic, driving and energetic. If done correctly, Falconer said, the music should almost play a character role in telling the story. With different music for a specific level or character, music should share in the DNA and style of a game, although sadly that has not been the case in recent years.
“The music should be part of a game’s identity,” Falconer said.
Falconer has now been working in game development in Toronto for a number of years. The Blyth native studied the craft when it was in its very early stages.
“I remember playing a game called Metal Gear Solid and really appreciating the way it told its story. It was so much different than any other medium,” Falconer said. “There were moments where things like saving data in the memory card and the game’s box itself had a direct impact on narrative and progression.”
Falconer’s love for video games in high school led him to seek out education options in video game development in the early 2000s. He would go on to study Video Game Development and Entrepreneurship at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa. When he was in his first year, the course was still in its infancy. In fact, those who took the course in its first year had yet to graduate when Falconer started his time at the school.
He said he found the education he was receiving fascinating, but admitted that it wasn’t for everyone. A running joke throughout the course, Falconer said, were the students who arrived thinking they would spend their days playing video games, when nothing could be further from the truth.
Days were grueling, Falconer said, going over the behind-the-scenes development of a game in excruciating detail. Not only were the technical aspects of game development explored in detail, but so too was the business behind creating a game.
Falconer said he felt right at home and loved the course, even as others found it wasn’t exactly what they were expecting it to be.
“As a gamer, you have some sense of the game’s creation through what you can see in terms of objectives and animations, but there’s so much more work behind the scenes that you can’t see,” Falconer said. “You might watch a movie and get an idea of what the director decided on in terms of story or actors, but there’s also set creation, score, camera lenses, budget, etc. Learning how to create an interactive narrative where the player leads the way, the different tricks of creating an effect or focusing a player’s attention one way while you change the world around them was all very fascinating to me.”
After graduating, Falconer went to work as Vast Studios, working there for several years. He has since moved on to work for the California-based PlayQ Inc. on a freelance basis, designing levels for the game Charm King, played on cell phones, while working on Way of the Passive Fist.
While a firm release date has yet to be pinned down, Falconer said the game will be released within the next month. It will be available for PlayStation 4, XBox One and on PC through the digital distribution platform Steam.
The game has already been made available to play at various public displays, including last year’s PAX (Penny Arcade Expo) West conference in Seattle and at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto last August, among others.
For more information on Way of the Passive Fist or Household Games, visit their website at household-games.com.