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Guitar Hero with swords
July 9, 2012 11:48 PM   Subscribe

Neal Stephenson's Kickstarter project for a realistic sword-fighting video game has just been funded successfully. Clang is meant to be played with a motion controller and aims to represent certain historical fighting styles as accurately as possible.

To be accurate, the company that Stephenson helped find funding is Subutai Corporation. The prototype of the game is build around the Razer Hydra controller. (hat tip)
posted by tykky (44 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
To people who find this with a search: This has nothing to do with the clang compiler. (just in case)

There was a previous deleted post. In the deletion text Mathowie reminded us not to post about active Kickstarter projects.
posted by tykky at 11:51 PM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


"This has nothing to do with the clang compiler."

Another red herring.
posted by klangklangston at 12:08 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am... not that interested, but in the interests of accuracy, I hope every single weapon from Gygax's D&D books is included.
posted by Mezentian at 12:19 AM on July 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well, since that new motion controlled Mech game is total shit...there isn't much in the way of "serious gaming" for the Wii/kinect crowd, so maybe this will be the answer, but I doubt it. Motion control without motion resistance is untenable as a precision input tool. Give me a robot arm to provide feedback then we'll talk.
posted by Chekhovian at 12:24 AM on July 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Give me a robot arm to provide feedback then we'll talk.

WII ROBOT ARMS RECALLED AS SCORES OF CHILDREN MANGLED IN COMBAT WITH FANTASY MONSTERS
posted by edguardo at 12:28 AM on July 10, 2012 [10 favorites]


"I am... not that interested, but in the interests of accuracy, I hope every single weapon from Gygax's D&D books is included."

Now, we shall duel with glaive glaive guisarme glaive Bohemian ear glaives at dawn!
posted by jiawen at 12:29 AM on July 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


I shall roll my D20... or wait, do we need Initiative first? And how about THAC0?
posted by Mezentian at 12:38 AM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


WII ROBOT ARMS RECALLED AS SCORES OF CHILDREN MANGLED IN COMBAT WITH FANTASY MONSTERS

"IT'S SO BAD!" WARN DOCTORS
posted by No-sword at 12:56 AM on July 10, 2012 [12 favorites]


Motion control without motion resistance is untenable as a precision input tool. Give me a robot arm to provide feedback then we'll talk.

Perhaps some sort of gyro-based one would be safer.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 1:12 AM on July 10, 2012


Perhaps some sort of gyro-based one would be safer

"Hey everybody, let's all go back to my place and play Rotate the Angular Momentum Vector! It's the best game ever!"
posted by Chekhovian at 1:16 AM on July 10, 2012 [14 favorites]


I hope every single weapon from Gygax's D&D books is included.
posted by Mezentian at 9:19 PM on July 9 [+] [!]


Roy: You realise that, if I could purchase a polearm from you, I would stab you with it now?
Annoying Polearm Vendor: The irony is staggering, sir, yes.

posted by Sebmojo at 1:20 AM on July 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


That was my post that got deleted, and I really didn't care much about the game itself or whether the kickstarter got funded (as if that was in any doubt whatsoever), I just think the video is highly entertaining, especially if you're a Stephenson fan.

So I'll say it here: even if you have no interest in playing a sword-fighting video game, check out the promo video. It's really great.

And if you are a video game fan, watch for a cameo by Gabe Newell.
posted by straight at 2:31 AM on July 10, 2012


I will wear the mythical Armor of Stephenson Books +58 and be invulnerable. No weapon every made could get all the way through those things.
posted by srboisvert at 2:38 AM on July 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Motion control without motion resistance is untenable as a precision input tool.

Stephenson talks about this a lot. In part, his answer is that the game will provide a mixture of feedback: what's happening on the screen + vibration from the controller.

But the clever bit, really, is that they aim to use the controller for what it's best at: indicating the player's stance and their direction of attack. It's based on an actual medieval swordfighting manual, and getting the stances right (as opposed to flailing around) will be a big part of the combat.

Getting out of sync with the sword on-screen-- i.e. swinging past the other guy's sword, not noticing that he blocked-- actually corresponds to a swordfighting error, which I think they call overcommitting the swing. It's an error because it leaves you in a defenseless stance, which leads to bad consequences like being chopped up. You generally don't want to swing past the center of your opponent.
posted by zompist at 3:22 AM on July 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


It is a good video, and I love his fiction (although not Reamde), *and* I love Kickstarter, so you'd think this would be an automatic $25 from me. BUT the problem is, not only have I seen any evidence that he can make a good game, but his previous digital effort, The Mongoliad, is so horribly ugly and unusable that I couldn't stand reading it after the first chapter (in fact, I have a friend who only managed by copy-and-pasting the text into Word).

That said, I am very much hoping to be proved wrong with Clang.
posted by adrianhon at 3:26 AM on July 10, 2012


> Motion control without motion resistance is untenable as a precision input tool.

I tend to agree, but they've made some fairly interesting arguments about why it might not be an insurmountable problem.

One thing they pointed out was that we've always had to get used to new barriers in games that we didn't feel in the controller — bullets running out or walls getting in the way — but we got used to it eventually, and it improved the realism of our games. The more sword-fighting specific point was that actually aiming to smash your sword through your opponent's would be pretty likely to end with you in trouble, so if you see a block coming the better move is to flow with it and so never encounter major resistance. One of their videos here has a pretty reasonable demonstration of that.

Actually, having just said that, a thumbstick or joystick that did have force feedback for walls would be super cool. You could feel your way through dark rooms!
posted by lucidium at 3:29 AM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


[A couple of comments deleted; to be clear, this is not an open Kickstarter project, and so does not violate the no-Kickstarter-campaigns guideline. So, all good, carry on.]
posted by taz at 3:29 AM on July 10, 2012


I'm looking forward to people attaching a controller to one of Stephenson's "redneck katanas" and touting it as an exercise tool.
posted by belarius at 4:00 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]



Perhaps some sort of gyro-based one would be safer.


Just because the Avengers was a huge hit, we don't have to make everything about shawarma-type stuff.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:22 AM on July 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


I can't decide if this is a testament to Kickstarter's awesomeness, or a testament to the old-fashioned power of celebrity endorsement. I guess it's both a floor wax and a dessert topping.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:32 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I keep thinking about this, and coming back to various guards and the attacks out of those guards, how fast they are, the precision required, and how I couldn't even brush my damn teeth in some stupid Wii game my friend was all upon without giving myself bursitis and suddenly being beaten with a stick seems so much safer.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:58 AM on July 10, 2012


glaive glaive guisarme glaive Bohemian ear glaives and spam

Bloody Vikings.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:46 AM on July 10, 2012


When the Wii first came out I spent a good hour arguing with my friend about how the technology could (and probably would) be used to make a realistic swordplay game. He insisted that it was completely impossible, and eventually I changed the topic in utter frustration the third or fourth time he claimed I just don't know what I'm talking about because I'm not an engineer like he is.

I have emailed him the link to the project page.
posted by Urban Winter at 6:48 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have emailed him the link to the project page.

I think he's probably still right.
posted by RustyBrooks at 8:30 AM on July 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


So, the Wii was released in 2006. That's 6 years ago, it has had a motion control since then. A swordfighting game is obvious, but yet, there have been none worth discussing in 6 years. I know Stephenson isn't the only person who wants a motion controlled sword fighting game.

So, I don't think it's possible. I think the game might have a good storyline, but what was Stephenson's last great game? Is Stephrnson even in to video games?
posted by fuq at 8:38 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


It might just be that making a realistic and fun sword fighting simulation is a non-trivial problem, and games companies haven't thought it worth the investment, and just went with easy fun. There is a small proportion of gamers that are really into simulation in any genre, and it's very possible that developing a realistic sword fighting game would not only be difficult and expensive, but it would also hurt sales.
posted by empath at 8:58 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


This thread reminds me of the best PS1 sword fighting game - Bushido Blade. So fantastic.
posted by zamboni at 9:14 AM on July 10, 2012 [12 favorites]


Yes, zamboni, Bushido Blade is simply the best sword fighting game, and possibly the best fighting game, I've ever played. I'm looking forward to Clang as well (though I didn't contribute, having already pledged all of my blood money to Wasteland 2).
posted by Doleful Creature at 10:25 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I heard that the zelda wii game had some fun sword-fighting elements - I never played it myself.

I might also mention that the Hydra doesn't currently have vibro-tactile feedback. Someone in my lab is actually modifying one to add VT feedback for different purposes; are hydra planning an upgrade themselves?

Something like the hydra is really perfect for this purpose, since its technology allows relatively accurate 6 degree of freedom motion tracking. I don't think lack of force feedback is a dealbreaker; the limited range of wired sensors might be though. If they come out with wireless versions, I could imagine a market for LARP style sword attachments for the controller. That would be pretty awesome!
posted by ianhattwick at 10:34 AM on July 10, 2012


OH HEY DID SOMEONE MENTION BUSHIDO BLADE

I must have played that game 30 hours a week as a 22 year old. My friends and I had a whole complicated scoring system based on Happy Days (the points leader with the most kills (known as the Cho 'Ni) got the best chair, while the worst (the Cha Chii) had to sit on the floor. There was a FanZhi too but I forget what that was)...

Anyway the elegant part abut BB was that one or two strikes was the end of the round. Freed from video arcade necessities, you could play your friends with just a few elegant moves. It was all timing, and hand/eye c-o, though each weapon/character had different positives and drawbacks.

I hope the game is somehow on a system I can use eventually, but I doubt it. Barring that, how do I go about putting a Bushido Blade league together somewhere?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:13 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey Potomac, I just read that it's on PS3 as a download... which is seriously tempting me to buy a PS3 (and now Mrs. Creature is giving me the stink-eye for even airing that thought)
posted by Doleful Creature at 1:07 PM on July 10, 2012


This game is going to be terrible.
posted by Justinian at 1:20 PM on July 10, 2012


it's on PS3 as a download

Unless things have changed, Bushido Blade is only available in the Japanese PlayStation Store. I would be very happy to be wrong about this.
posted by zamboni at 1:36 PM on July 10, 2012


What!? Swashbuckler is not good enough?
posted by mr.ersatz at 2:03 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Heh. Anybody remember Die By The Sword? It tried to do something sort of along these lines with sword combat, with a mouse (or joystick) instead of motion controllers. Mouse movement = sword arm movement. Move your mouse in a figure eight, swing your sword in a figure eight. (You controlled your character's feet with the keyboard.) It was a nice idea. Except for a few minor details, like how anyone accidentally left-clicking would instantly crash multiplayer games.

I'd love to see something like this actually work, though.

I could imagine a market for LARP style sword attachments for the controller.

If this turns out really well I'm sure there will be LARPers building their own wii-controller-broadswords from scratch out of rattan and ductape pretty much immediately.
posted by mstokes650 at 2:21 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I funded this, and not at the basic $25 level, either. Stephenson is an actual practicing Western Martial Arts guy, and has a gym in the Seattle area, I believe. From videos they've released, Guy Windsor may be involved, maybe as a consultant, which is heartening if so. I don't think anyone knows as much about Liberi's style as he does.

There will be no story, at least at first. They make this clear if you read the page. While at launch it will cover only the longsword, it will be an extensible system, much like, say, Orbiter, so maybe all those polearms will make it there eventually, if the community wants them enough to make them.

It's also worth mentioning that Stephenson appears to be a sort of figurehead for the project, not the design lead or anything, so whether he's into games (although he pretty clearly is, at least conceptually) or has produced a game is irrelevant.

This kickstarter actually ended up pointing me to the Chicago Swordplay Guild, which I am told is the biggest WMA community out there, and I've been taking their introduction to the longsword class for a few weeks, and it has been a lot of fun, so thanks for that, Neal.
posted by adamdschneider at 4:21 PM on July 10, 2012


Rather than use a motion controller to simulate something it's not good at, why not create the game around what it can simulate ultra-realistically?

All the sword/stick fight games I've seen have struggled with the problem of blocks not being solid, so why not turn the bug into a feature and, like lightsabres in star wars, create a new super-cool fictional sword paradigm, in which the blades can pass through one another. Ghost-steel, whatever.

They used this to amazing effect in a fight scene in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon - the senior swordswoman faces her junior, the junior has the Green Destiny that will cut through any weapon and thus cannot be effectively blocked, while the senior has her greater experience to draw on and with which to devise a new style of combat to counter the fact that her weapons can't block the green destiny and win despite this.

From a sword-fighting perspective, it's exhilarating the fundamental re-invention of fight technique needed to adapt to using weapons that cannot be blocked. It's easy (and in fact intuitive) to overlook this, thinking that unblockable attack means easy victory, because we're conditioned by sports to think of hits as points and points as the goal, but the goal in a sword fight is clearly the opposite of that - it's to not get hit yourself at all, and only while maintaining that, if possible, hit your opponent.

The fight technique involved in defeating an incoming attack by, for example, re-framing the situation to make it a suicide and thus force a change in their action - and of defeating that same defense when attempted against you - are much more interesting than realistic sword-fighting, which has been done to death and studied to oblivion.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:55 PM on July 10, 2012


realistic sword-fighting, which has been done to death and studied to oblivion.

I completely disagree. Bushido Blade is the only game I can think of that has even come close to trying, and even it falls way short, entertaining as it is. There have been a couple that have let you move your arm with the mouse, but that hardly counts as realistic. Nor does the Mount and Blade style of choosing an attack direction with the mouse.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:02 PM on July 10, 2012


You misunderstand. I mean done to death in the world, not in video games. It's common for people to have studied martial arts for decades for example - techniques have been honed and hammered by time beyond the point at which the casual enthusiast can realistically contribute anything new and revolutionary.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:08 PM on July 10, 2012


Ah. Well, you may be thinking of Asian martial arts, many or most of which have living traditions stretching back to when people were actually killing each other with these techniques. I don't think the same is true of WMA. The serious and widespread study of this stuff doesn't go back more than 15 or 20 years at this point, I think (cue someone more knowledgeable to tell me how wrong I am). Sport fencing doesn't count.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:26 PM on July 10, 2012


I'm also thinking of films, TV, books, sports halls, poems, re-enactment fields, etc.

Sure, swordfighting with metal is cliche for a reason - because people love swords, and love fantasies about being badass, and fantasy work better when the props could exist in the real world, but as a counter example, you know what was cooler than swords when unvealed? Much cooler? Lightsabres. Someone took the old formula and did something new with it. Sword-fighting is awesome - until you discover something even more awesome. But you won't discover that more awesome thing if you never deviate from the formula.

Game controllers aren't very good at steel (or at lightsabres). If you have a square peg and a round hole and you love them both, it's natural to try to cram them together. But if you walk around the corner... there might be a square hole. We won't know if we don't explore.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:51 PM on July 10, 2012


I'm also thinking of films, TV, books, sports halls, poems, re-enactment fields, etc.

None of those are remotely the real thing. Not that WMA is, but at least it, unlike the things you mention, is (to quote Jules) "the same fuckin' sport".

you know what was cooler than swords when unvealed? Much cooler? Lightsabres. Someone took the old formula and did something new with it.

I appreciate your point of view, but I don't really see what makes lightsabres different from steel blades, except the deflection of projectiles (and maybe not even that; Cromwell's sword supposedly saved him from not one but two musket balls), although really that depends on the Force more than anything. Sadly, lightsabre combat isn't all it could be. If I wasn't on a phone, I would find you the article by a fencer where he talks about lightsabre techniques in the prequels and how if he had a blade that would kill with a touch, basically, he would spend all his time trying to push it into his opponent, not sweeping it around in wide arcs. Rapier fighting, more or less. There was a hilarious video I saw recently that took clips from the end of episode 1 and on the guise of a safety video showed how out of their way they went to make their swordplay very much NOT effective, presumably in the interest of drawing out the fight. Movie combat is about flash, pure and simple.

Playing with swords these days is not about innovation, anyway. There is no battlefield use for these weapons. Innovation has led us to UAVs armed with missiles. That way lies the future of combat. Swordplay is about connecting with another era and another way of doing things, and feeling a small part of what people who did these things for real felt. It's a bit like reading historical fiction, really
posted by adamdschneider at 9:44 PM on July 10, 2012


Cromwell's sword supposedly saved him from not one but two musket balls

Wait...you're saying that Cromwell was some sort of Protestant Jedi Master? Actually, that makes a lot of sense...
posted by Chekhovian at 9:47 PM on July 10, 2012


The blocking/feedback problem is a toughie, but solvable. I actually thought the Wii Motion Plus version of Wii Sports did a pretty good job with that---if your sword got blocked in-game, you had no control over it until you brought your controller in line with your avatar's sword position. A neat way to simulate the moment that a block causes you to lose control.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:04 PM on July 10, 2012


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