How Jedi Duels Inspired a Cyberpunk Swordfighter

Michael Chang, creator of the third-person swordfighting game Blade Symphony, meets the man who inspired him to dive into game design: Mike Gummelt.

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Behind every great idea, there's a spark of inspiration. Video games are no different, and as the next generation of developers unveil their creations, you can often spot the source of their ideas. A few weeks ago, I met with Michael Chang, creator of the stylized swordfighting game Blade Symphony. Seeing the game in motion, I was instantly reminded of the lightsaber combat from Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast--and this wasn't a coincidence.

As it turns out, Jedi Outcast--a game now over a decade old--was a major influence during Blade Symphony's development, and Chang himself had been a regular in Outcast's lightsaber dueling community. I was then surprised to learn he had never crossed paths with Mike Gummelt, the man who designed that saber combat system. Now, in the almost hour-long interview below, these two developers meet for the first time to deconstruct Outcast's lightsaber mechanics and talk about classic samurai movies. It's a highly technical discussion of a game that greatly impacted both of their lives.

What is Blade Symphony?

Blade Symphony is a third-person swordfighting game unlike anything I've seen recently in the fighting genre. It combines classical architecture, cyber ninjas, and an extremely robust combat system into a high-speed blend of slicing and dicing. As Chang describes it, in Blade Symphony, "you're basically playing filmed and staged swordfighting. We didn't want to go hyperrealistic. It's not supposed to be a swordfighting simulation; it's supposed to be highly stylized and fluid."

Blade Symphony began as a humble Half-Life 2 mod using Valve's Source engine. In 2011--after Chang and his team merged with fellow modders Team Dystopia--a Blade Symphony Kickstarter campaign was launched to help make the game into a full retail release. The campaign was a success, and today, development is running strong on Blade Symphony. An early version is now available through Steam's early-access program, and on the game's official page.

What is Jedi Outcast?

Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast was the fourth game in LucasArts' Jedi Knight series (assuming you include Dark Forces). It mixed third- and first-person combat with an array of lightsabers, blasters, and Force powers. This diversity of weapons and powers could lead to some hilarious scenarios if you--like me--switched on the game's console commands and spawned an entire army of Lando Calrissians to fight by your side. And to push off a building. And to battle a Rancor.

The game was a critical success--garnering a 9.0 from GameSpot's own Amer Ajami--and was praised for combining several different mechanics and modes into one, well-executed package. For a dedicated segment of the Outcast community, one-on-one lightsaber dueling became an obsession. Within this futuristic fight club, there were no Force powers or fancy gadgets, just the purity of saber-on-saber competition. This robust fighting mechanic, designed by Mike Gummelt, took on a life of its own and would ultimately inspire a young Michael Chang to create Blade Symphony.

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Discussion

26 comments
Acrobatc101
Acrobatc101

Nice job making that game guys. I've been passing links to this game around the jk2\jka community and a lot of people seem very interested.

Also was great hearing from the jk2 developer. I've always thought the two most interesting things about jk2 were #1 the strafing and #2 the dueling mechanics.


I played jk1, and in that game 1v1 shootouts seemed to be the best al though the sabering was very fun as well. In jk2 I don't think the great dueling ideas came out of the blue. There was a giant subculture in jk1 that revolved around microsoft the Zone where people played in a ladder system playing only duels.


That ladder system would have been nice to have in jk2\jka btw.


Too bad Lucas went bankrupt. Some amazing game from them.

B_ond
B_ond

This game is awesome if you enjoyed Jedi Outcast dueling. I would recommend buying Symphony if you did,  it's only $15 on steam.

starduke
starduke

This made me want to play Jedi Outcast again. BTW, the Star Wars collection on Steam is on sale right now, and it has all the Dark Forces/Jedi Knight games in it.

starduke
starduke

The Jedi Knight games had the best lightsaber combat of any Star Wars game I ever played.

BasiK3108
BasiK3108

This was awesome! I would love to see more things of this nature! thanks Maxwell :D

StaaViinsZ
StaaViinsZ

Oh, MIBAD, MINUTS. It's coming for the PC soon. Saw that on the game's Poke(Home)Page

StaaViinsZ
StaaViinsZ

Here's something interesting, though... After Lucas arts takes it's last breath, (And tells us there is another Sky-wal... ker) Here comes someone saying "My game was inspired by this game of their's". It's like Paintings. When somebody dies,(Specifically The Artist XD) Their paintings all of the sudden take a JUMP up in value, albeit temporarily. 

StaaViinsZ
StaaViinsZ

This inspired game looks interesting though. What Rating is this expected to have, When is supposed to come out, and for what system(s)? 

StaaViinsZ
StaaViinsZ

I used to play JK2... Sadly those days have left. Someday I'll grab another copy of my game disc, which is now damaged just enough for me to play the game on another computer on which I installed the game previously, but not install on mine. *.*

highlanderjimd
highlanderjimd

I would happily kill you all for a new Jedi Knight game, made by the same people of course. Not some generic shitfest EA would bring out

Hurvl
Hurvl

Jedi Knight inspired - great! No singleplayer - not so great. I'll wait for a singleplayer game that reminds me of Jedi Knight.

highlanderjimd
highlanderjimd

jedi outcast was all about force choke (level 3) which lifts them into the air then force pushing them into other enemys :)

Caldrin
Caldrin

Ah now i want to go back and play the dark forces and jedi knight games.. they where soem of the best fps games full stop..


Not sure about this new sword fighting game tho, i have seen the videos on steam and sure i know its early development but it seems very clunky.. still one to keep an eye on i guess :)

RPG_Fan_I_Am
RPG_Fan_I_Am

"(assuming you include Dark Forces)."

You say that like dark forces was a bad game.... 

PyreofKoL
PyreofKoL

Jedi Academy, bitches. And yes, messing with NPC spawning in the JK games is exceedingly entertaining. I enjoyed spawning 100 Reborns and pitting them against a single Yoda with his Force Push cranked up to an absurd level. I turned off notarget and was treated to an atomic explosion of Reborn corpses. 

Ledah
Ledah

I just wished Blade Symphony had better sound effects, it sounds as if you were hitting a trash can with a bat when you parry or attack someone with your sword.

B_ond
B_ond

Jk2, sabers only, duel server, no force powers including jump.  Probably the best dueling experience in any game.

korvus
korvus

Ah, Jedi Outcast...one of the most fun multiplayer modes to date for me :D

lgrtmb
lgrtmb

One of the best games I've ever played.

Acrobatc101
Acrobatc101

Also in the interview you guys talk about being able to run away...


In jk2 you can strafe. A good strafer can move 3-4 times faster than an opponent after a couple jumps. No one can run away from you once you know what you're doing with that for the most part.

Acrobatc101
Acrobatc101

www.igl.net was called Case's ladder. They had a superb ladder system that was used for jk1.

If anyone remembers that far back. Game was nearly as epic as jk2 became.

gashoe13
gashoe13

@highlanderjimd Yeah, well, lightsaber throw level 3 was awesome too. Just hold down the saber throw button and watch as the foe tries to desperately block the lightsaber now attacking him on its own. Awesomesauce.

Hurvl
Hurvl

@RPG_Fan_I_Am Jedi Outcast was also the third game, not the fourth. First game was Dark Forces (without Jedi powers), then came Dark Forces 2 : Jedi Knight and *thirdly* came Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast. Jedi Knight 3: Jedi Academy was the fourth game in the series. Just had to point that out.

Hurvl
Hurvl

@StaaViinsZ @Hurvl @RPG_Fan_I_Am I might be wrong, but I saw that more as an expansion. It came included with my Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight game when I bought it in  a store in 1998, so I never thought of it as a sequel, since when do they bundle sequels together like that? I guess you could count that as the third game then, but that's not how I see it.