As something of a longtime fighting game player, my initial reaction to Divekick, the world’s first 2-button brawler, was just as confused as that of most people’s. Surely a title so simple with such crazy mechanics (one hit kills, headshots, Marn parodies) was a total joke, right?
Yet the more I learned about Divekick, the more I respected it. The game so straightforward, anyone could learn it. Yet as with every fighting game, mastery would go a long way towards separating the pros from the button mashers. If lived up to the hype, Divekick could become a genre-defining masterpiece.
For all these reasons, I was more than excited to have the opportunity to speak with Dave Lang, CEO of Iron Galaxy, the company behind Divekick (and many other 2D fighting titles). Dave and I discussed some of the ideas behind Divekick, the effects it has had on the fighting game community, and its role as a statement about fighting games in general.
Top Tier Tactics Divekick Interview
T3: Thanks for taking this interview. Could you tell us a little about yourself, your team, and how you came together on this project?
DL: I’m Dave Lang, CEO of Iron Galaxy. I founded the company in late 2008 and since that time we’ve grown to about 40 people here in Chicago, and another 20 people down in Orlando. We work on all sorts of project, from helping other developers out on AAA projects like Bioshock Infinite to developing our own IPs like Wreckateer and Divekick.
Divekick came about as a side project of one our Producer/Designers, Adam Heart. Adam has a long history in the Fighting Game Community, and we hired him to help out on all the Capcom projects we had been working on (Street Fighter III, Marvel vs. Capcom Origins, Darkstalkers, etc). Adam had been building a prototype of Divekick on the side with some of his friends, but once I played it I fell in love with the game and wanted to get Iron Galaxy involved. After several months of hashing it out, we figured out something that made sense for everyone and it became an IG project.
T3: Would you categorize Divekick as a manifesto against the complexity of modern fighting games, or as a love song to the underlying heart of their dynamics?
DL: It’s true Adam believes that all games (not just fighting games) are needlessly complex, but Divekick wasn’t created as a statement against modern fighting games (we all love SFIV, MvC3, etc.). It’s definitely more like a love letter to everything that’s awesome about fighting games and the community. It just so happens that the things we love most about the genre (competition, reading your opponent, footsies, crazy characters) doesn’t require an overly-complex controls to express.
T3: How would you describe the skill ceiling and skill floor of Divekick, and how would that compare to a game like Super Street Fighter 4?
DL: That’s kind of a tricky question and I’m more or less guaranteed to offend someone but here goes. The truth is if you are a great SFIV player, you will probably be a great Divekick player, but the converse isn’t true. Many of the fundamentals required to be great at modern fighting games transfer immediately to Divekick, but not all. On the other end, it’s much easier to learn and get competent in Divekick than a game like SFIV. With Divekick you can learn everything you need to know in half an hour, then it’s just a matter of applying that knowledge properly, whereas SFIV has a near-infinite amount information that can help the player (Does Ryu’s Ultra I have priority over Cody’s?) so getting to a level where you are competent requires a ton of commitment.
T3: Why do you think divekicks are so popular as a fighting game mechanic? Why have divekicks been popularized over other sorts of midair movements?
DL: I don’t know if it’s fair to say they’ve been popularized over other attacks per se, it’s just in a fighting game there’s only so many ways to attack the other person, right? So you will just tend to see the same kind of stuff from character to character and from game to game. Either that or Divekicks are godlike. It’s one of those I’m sure.
T3: What were your original expectations with how Divekick has been received by the FGC, and what has surprised you about its reception?
DL: I was always confident the FGC would like it if the tried it. The fundamentals required by the game make it so anyone who’s played fighting games for any amount of time instantly gets it. The thing that surprised me is how people outside of the FGC have embraced it. It’s like there was the group of people interested in fighting games but had been scared off by the learning curve to jump into them these days.
T3: Have you gotten any particularly positive or negative comments from the developers or designers of the games you’ve parodied?
DL: Every character in Divekick is completely original. I don’t know what you’re talking about.
T3: What kind of gamer will enjoy Divekick the most? What kind of gamer will like it the least?
DL: Social and competitive gamers, people that have fun playing against other people will love it the most, of that I’m sure.
T3: Aside from mechanics, tell us about the art and design of Divekick. How did you settle on a style, and what were some important decisions that give Divekick its current look and feel?
DL: Adam’s fiancé actually came up with original art style for the game. I don’t know what all she weighed into it, but one thing I felt strongly about was that someone needs to be able to look at a screenshot and instantly say “Oh that’s Divekick,” which I think she achieved.
T3: Divekick is an intentionally minimalistic take on the fighting genre – what are some other genres that could benefit from this kind of treatment? Something like “No Scope” or “Stun Lock”?
DL: This surprises a lot of people, but this actually isn’t true. It turned out this way, but that was never the goal. The goal was, and is, to just make an awesome game. It just so happens along that path Adam discovered the bare essentials of what’s needed in a fighting game.
T3: Last question: If you could fight any character in Divekick, who would it be?
DL: Mr. N, no doubt.
On behalf of Top Tier Tactics, I’d like to thank Dave Lang for his time. If you’d like, you can read more about Divekick here.