Few people embody the word “Immortal” as much as the legendary Bruce Lee. A legend both in his own time and today, he continues to inspire countless people around the world more than forty years after his untimely death, and one area where he has been a constant presence for over two decades is in the realm of video games.
The fighting game characters Liu Kang, Marshall Law, and Fei Long, among the most beloved and played among gamers, are all directly inspired by Bruce Lee, adopting his likeness and fighting skills into their respective worlds. More recently, Bruce was incorporated as a playable character in the “EA Sports UFC” game, allowing players to pit him against modern legends of MMA. Now, Bruce Lee’s newest foray into the world of mobile gaming is “Enter the Game”, a joint project created by Hibernum Creations and Bruce Lee Entertainment.
Enter The Game commercial:
The first video game made with the support and blessings of the Bruce Lee Estate, Enter the Game both asks the question of what movies Bruce Lee would have made if he were still with us, and allows the player to answer that question for themselves in the most action-packed, exhilarating way possible.
We had the privilege to speak with Louis René Auclair, Vice President and Chief Brand Officer at Hibernum Creations about the concept of Enter the Game, the support directly lent to them by Bruce Lee’s daughter, Shannon Lee and how the creators’ vision for the project became a reality, one that has already been downloaded by millions of enthusiastic gamers across the globe!
So, Louis welcome to KFK! Please tell us first of all who originated the idea for the game?
Thanks for having me! Well, Shannon Lee and the Bruce Lee Estate were looking into making a mobile game and they approached a couple of game studios to get proposals.
The initial connection between Hibernum and Shannon was really positive because she felt that Hibernum understood and respected the work and the man himself. Which, at this point, whatever the game would end up being, was a crucial component the Bruce Lee Estate was looking for in a partner.
Where did you draw inspiration from in creating Enter the Game, aside from Bruce Lee himself?
Mainly from classic fighting games such as Capcom’s Street Fighter 2, old-school brawlers Turtles in Time, Double-Dragon, and combat from Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham series. We also looked into the natural flow this system has. Then there’s classic and modern kung-fu movies with Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Jet Li and Donnie Yen, 70s vibe inspired us when coming up with characters and environmental setting.
How did the idea for it first come about?
We decomposed what we thought defined Bruce Lee, so his indomitable will and thorough discipline to surpass himself; his revolutionary style of fight scenes in his movies; his speed and agility; the core motivation that drove him in his movies i.e. protect the defenseless, stop injustices, and of course, Jeet Kune Do!
Drawing from those and the inspiration mentioned above, we built the pillars of the game true to Bruce Lee and Jeet Kune Do, it’s about going with the flow, the moves, body postures and pacing of the game which are all extrapolated from Bruce Lee’s legacy. Straight into action, there’s never a dull moment, even if you have 1 minute to play, you can get a satisfying combat experience. We made it accessible, so anyone can enjoy the game, but it requires true dedication to master it! We also adapted it to the platform so it’s fast, responsive and it’s for mobile.
How long did it take before the game actually got made?
From the initial discussions with the Bruce Lee Estate to starting the project, it took about two months. During this time we established the shared vision or a projection of what the game should end up being.
Can you describe the process of developing Enter the Game or video games in general?
- Needs and vision: That is when we sat with the Bruce Lee Estate and we determined the high level concept for the game.
- Concept: This is, on paper, what the game is going to be. This is as much about gameplay as it is about the look and feel of the game.
- Prototypes: We took our concept and put it into practice by making different playable prototypes. The goal here is to validate if the game is fun and if the controls work.
- Production: This is the step where we take all our learnings from the prototypes and make a full game out of it, so: all the levels, all the characters, all the arts, the music, sounds and more.
- Tweaks and iteration: We played, tested and tweaked until the game was close to perfection (just like Bruce Lee, we don’t believe in perfection, we can always make it better!).
- Debug: This is hard but necessary work, nobody wants bugs in their game.
- Launch: That was the best moment, when we got to share our work with the fans and see how they would react to the game!
What kind of challenges did you encounter in creating Enter the Game?
The first challenge was always staying true to Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee is a legend and we wanted to respect his legacy. It goes without saying that we spent a great deal of time and efforts studying his movies and Jeet Kune Do.
Another challenge was making a responsive fighting game for the mobile platform. Making fighting games is hard, as it requires perfect balance and super high fidelity controls. Making a fighting game for mobile, therefore for touchscreens/smartphones is another challenge in itself! We wanted a game that is responsive and that plays fast; we didn’t want fingers to be in the way of what you were looking at and we wanted the controls to feel natural. In the end we were really happy with the results but it took many iterations to get there.
You’re drawing on the biggest icon in martial arts history the legendary Bruce Lee using his likeness, how did you approach the Bruce Lee Estate and Shannon Lee?
The Estate approached multiple developers to provide concepts for a game and we managed to win the proposal process and get into an agreement with the Estate. It was an amazing experience to work with Shannon and the Estate, especially winning the bidding process by providing an early concept that was in line with their expectation and that respected the legacy and Bruce Lee’s ideals.
What was their initial reaction to your idea?
What really made the difference initially was the respect and understanding we had for Bruce Lee. What the Bruce Lee Estate loved about the initial concept was the flow of the game. The fighting, the action, the pacing and the overall look and feel of the game, it all came together to build a fluid experience. As we were working on this proposal, we really drew inspiration from a quote from Bruce Lee:
“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.”
Did you get much support from the Bruce Lee Estate in creating this game?
Yes, they were of great help. We had the chance to meet with them and have frequent calls. Shannon Lee was really engaged in the process, at some point she insisted to be on a call even if she was stuck in an airport during a snowstorm!
They also provided us with a lot of material about Bruce Lee. This really helped us in our research and understanding of Bruce Lee. Also it goes without saying that the team here were overly excited to get their hands on these awesome goodies!
Can you further describe the process of working with them?
Once we had agreed upon what the essence of a Bruce Lee game on mobile was supposed to be, they were very open with our creative process. We gave them full visibility on all the steps so they could provide us with feedback.
For the look and feel of the game, we proposed many directions and by working with them, we ended up with the colorful and stylized world you can now see in the game.
It was of utmost importance for Shannon Lee that the game would be fun and accessible, so she did end up playing quite a lot and providing feedback. It goes without saying that we felt privileged to get her input and in the end this greatly contributed in making a game that is a lot of fun! Their insights about Bruce Lee was invaluable and allowed us to stay true to the legend.
The overall narrative concept for the game is that you get to play Bruce Lee in movies he would’ve made had he not passed away. Currently, the game features two of these movies. In “The Last Straw”, Bruce plays a farmer protecting his village from being turned into a resort by a greedy businessman. In “Beatdown Buffet” Bruce is playing a man returning to his hometown to get rid of the criminals who have taken over his uncle’s restaurant.
The game was designed to support the possibility of adding more movies in the future.
What can fight gamers and Bruce Lee fans expect from Enter the Game?
Fast and exciting combat in the spirit of Bruce’s movies, an approachable combat system with a surprising amount of depth and a game that makes sense on mobile devices. They can also expect a good challenge, getting all the stars in each level is quite a feat.
What has the overall response been to the game so far?
The response has been amazing, with over 4 million downloads within the first two weeks of the release and reviews of 4 -5+ stars. The game was also featured on Apple’s app store homepage in 135 countries for the Best New Game, and featured 73 times on Google Play’s homepage.
Players are very vocal about the game, we’re nearing 150,000 reviews on the Google Play store! We love that people give us their opinions, it’s a great way to connect with them and gather feedback to make further improvements that resonate with the community.
What’s next for Hibernum Creations following the release of Enter the Game?
Bruce Lee is a very important project we are currently working on. That being said, we are really lucky and have many other great projects in development. We should ship about six other projects before Christmas 2015. Most of them are not announced yet and can’t be shared, but some of them have just shipped or are shipping really soon this summer.
Fruit Ninja Kinect 2 recently launched. We worked with Halfbrick Studio to deliver an awesome experience for the popular franchise on Xbox One. It’s a great party game to play when you have friends over, it can also be quite a workout as it gets you moving in front of your Kinect.
Trans-Galactic Tournament has been announced at Sony pre-E3 events. The game was made in collaboration with Kiz Studio for PS4. It’s a high action free-to-play arena multiplayer game that will be launching soon.
There is also Saber’s Edge, a massive tactical puzzle RPG coming to all mobile platforms this summer. We have developed this brand from scratch for Amazon Game Studios. It’s fun, engaging, dark and beautiful, we hope people will love it!
Could we possibly see a follow-up if Enter the Game is a success; what ideas lie in pipeline?
Bruce Lee: Enter the Game could be seen as just the beginning. We are definitely working with Bruce Lee in the future. Just as Bruce always pushed himself beyond the limits, we want to push the envelope.
First, on Enter the Game, there’s still a lot we want to add: more content with new enemies, locations and bosses. We also want to push multiplayer features and allow the community to get competitive and engage in tournaments!
We would really love to bring Bruce Lee to consoles as well. We are pitching the idea to the Bruce Lee Estate, we’ll see what they think. Let’s hope for the best!
What message would you like to share with Kung Fu Kingdom readers around the world who are into everything martial arts right now?
That you truly have our respect; martial arts are so complete and balanced, they push mind and body to new limits. The discipline required to achieve greatness in martial arts is something we look up to.
Also as game developers, martial arts are awesome as they make for really interesting game mechanics!
Where are the best places to go to find out more about and purchase Enter The Game?
Georges St-Pierre meets the Bruce Lee: Enter the game team:
Thank you Louis and Hibernum Creations for your kind participation in this Kung-fu Kingdom exclusive. Please keep us up to date with your other related, exciting video game news and developments!