Columns Interviews

Interview With Paulo Luis Santos Of Flux Game Studio, Developer Of GUTS

GUTS is an upcoming fighting game from Flux Game Studio that challenges some of the established norms of the fighting genre. It features no health bar, instead requiring players to slowly dismember their opponents to defeat them, and easy-to-learn controls that don’t utilize complex input combos. It is set within a TV show in which contestants fight until they are completely dismembered by either their opponent or the environmental hazards around them.

I recently had a chance to ask Flux Game Studio head Paulo Luis Santos some questions by email. I asked about the game’s backstory, what drove the decision to remove health bars, how the team feels about the current crop of fighting games, and more. His answers are as follows.

What inspired you to create GUTS?

We needed a game that had Flux DNA. We always liked crude humor, political incorrectness, irony, and we always loved to mess with paradigms. When we were wondering what our next big project would be, we wanted to make it a fighter or a brawler, or even a beat ’em up. Something you could have a lot of fun and laugh while beating the hell out of others. Then we thought about all the fun you have when you beat someone in a exaggerated gory and kind of goofy way, so we decided to take that to the next level by making the process of beating down your rivals as satisfying and funny as the victory itself. Then we went straight to references such as Monthy Python, South Park, Kung Fury, Rick and Morty, Tarantino and other awesome cultural references to create our own video game version of a politically incorrect IP.

There’s a quick overview of the game world’s backstory on the Steam store page, but how did the world go from a scientist finding out that those who are exposed to violence are docile to killing people on TV for sport?

People are not killed in GUTS! They are dismembered, but all limbs are easily replaceable due to the high technology existent in the world. 

In the GUTS’ world the main economic problems have been solved and governments have managed to provide for people’s basic needs – therefore money ceased to be the most important currency in the world. People’s happiness and statuses are now directly affected by another coin: fame (or popularity). This “social currency” (as some call it) acts as a gateway to all (even if indirectly) of the perks civilized life can offer.

GUTS first concept came around in the late 2040’s, when the celebrities culture was already spread around the world and entertainment was getting bolder to get the attention of the public, always trying to be more creative than before, sometimes challenging the boundaries of law and morals. 

The GUTS creator was a Swedish businessman called Rolf “One Arm” Fjordson. He was a retired celebrity from the 2020′ that became really famous for doing really stupid and dangerous things on camera, from diving naked into the arctic sea and swim with dangerous radioactive whales to medieval mocks fights with real sharp weapons and sanctioned maiming protected by law. Rolf was a fan of all types of violence and a very proud bearer of his viking heritage. On his prime, he starred in a dozen violent fights shows where people would battle each other, but the law always got in his way, preventing him from doing the most amazing things or giving him a very big headache later. He lost his right arm in one of those fights, cut off by a friend that was wielding a battleaxe, which gave him the nickname Rolf “One Arm” Fjordson.

Around 2040, however, the world was turned upside down by the recent discovery that violence on TV helped to reduce violence in real life. People who watched a lot of violent shows would feel less inclined to be violent. Rolf didn’t let this opportunity pass by: using the resources he collected along his career and with the help of a few rich and influential people and companies, he developed the project of the GUTS show, a fighting showdown where people would be allowed to use weapons and technology to dismember each other, reaching a new level of violence on TV.

Even with the thesis backing the show up, it wasn’t easy to get the approval, but Rolf was skilled in this subject, since he already defied the law with his crazy shows for the last 20 years. In a few time, the GUTS team gathered the resources and the approval required for the show to run and, in 2047, the first version of the GUTS show came along.

Rolf spared no expenses in trying to make the show the most amazing it could be. It was widely publicized: everyone around the world knew it was coming and was excited to be a part of it. More than 20 Million people applied for the selection process, seeing the show as a once in a lifetime chance to be in the spotlight and become famous. And, besides that, the concept of having “any wish granted” was very appealing.

GUTS show became the prime representation of society. A spectacle which unites advertising, violence, sports, fame, technology, and creativity. All in favor of deciding who will the world’s next idol.

But in the end of season 1, Rolf suffered a Coup D’etat by one of the contenders, DB Judge, who became the showrunner from that point on. The game we are releasing is the 50th Season of the show!

What drove the decision to remove health bars from the equation?

At Flux we believe innovation is crucial if you want to bring meaningful experiences to players, so we needed to break some rules. 

We love fighting games! It’s an awesome genre with a very passionate community, but it’s very tough to develop to, so companies have not taken many big risks with it (sticking to very nice, safe and good design standards). But we want to bring something different to the table and have players enjoying fighting games in a new way.

When we started the first tests for the game, we realized health bars made people go for draining HP more than dismembering – removing limbs was just a gimmick. Then we realized our whole game design should be dismemberment-oriented, and connecting GUTS moves (the ones that dismember) or sending rivals to hazards should be the most thrilling part of the experience.

Removing health bars became something natural then, as we needed to change players’ mindset and make the fight not about HP, but about Limbs.

Because there’s no timer, can fights theoretically go on forever, granted players manage to avoid all of the hazards on the current stage?

Technically, yeah, they can go forever in the case someone drops the controller and stops playing. But we did add some very nice multiplayer-inspired mechanics that make the fight harsher – for example, remove blocking, spawning hazards, dismembering two limbs at a time, or filling GUTS Bars instantly. Those tweaks lead up to a quick finale.

Many of the characters seem to have clear inspirations. Can you share some of them?

We had a few mantras to follow when we were creating the characters: they should not be too stereotypical, they should all have light and dark sides, and we wanted to make the roster very inclusive and global. Every character in GUTS is controversial as there are no heroes, no division between good and bad. We are very happy with the results as we created very unique characters. But we could point out a few references we closely looked into for some inspiration: Mr. Chow, Ruby Rhod, Terry Crews, Geum-ja Lee, Furiosa, Glados.

You’ve put a lot of work into designing a game that is easier to play than the average fighting game. How do you feel about the current crop of fighting games? Do you feel that they’re too difficult for the average user to play well?

Yes we did, thanks for noticing!

I think that fighting games are actually as hard as any other game that has deep mechanics, but they became inaccessible due to the lack of a “easy to play” layer for newcomers. At some point between Street Fighter II and today, several franchises lost some of their mainstream appeal and just took for granted that everyone should know that flying kicks must be blocked high and low attacks must be blocked crouching – and even that you block by pressing back! So nowadays it’s so common to hear “I don’t know how to play fighting games” or “Fighting games are too hard.” That is very true, they are difficult to play at a pro level, but they should be easier to play at an average level.

Usually players need to be way more precise to play a fighting game well than to play an average platformer well. However, we wanted to make GUTS as accessible as your regular platformer, and still deep enough to be competitive. That’s why we created the dual-layered combo system. On layer one, you can button-mash your way to limb-chopping glory. But if you want to get good, you will need to dive deeply into the moveset – and there are 16 per character as the moves change as you lose limbs. 

All moves were handcrafted, with all frame data carefully created one by one. Hardcore players will even access all frame data on the pause screen – something average players probably will ignore. But all of them are going to have fun because we worked really hard to shorten that casual-hardcore gap and we are confident we succeeded.

Are you planning to expand the game with DLC characters?

We have already planned for at least 3 DLCs, always with cool content such as new characters, different game modes and new arenas. We’re eager to expand the GUTS roster and universe. We are a small indie studio with limited resources but loads of passion, and we will do our best to keep players engaged with the game as long as we have financial resources and interested players to keep creating new content.

GUTS is set to launch on Steam on October 31st for $19.99.

Ari Bellamy
Matt has been playing games for as long as he can remember. He got into games journalism during college.

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