When Ranida Games decided to create Bayani, a fighting game based on reimagined Filipino heroes, the team didn’t know what they were getting themselves into. Back then, the San Pedro, Laguna-based team was thinking to themselves, “how hard can it be?”
It turns out, the answer was “quite hard.”
Now, over four years later, Bayani is finally out on Early Access in Steam, with the game’s core roster complete. That said, there’s still a lot that needs to be done for the game to finally be considered truly “complete.” A process that’s been complicated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. (Read: It’s time to talk about tech and mental health in the time of COVID-19)
The story of Bayani begins in 2015, just after the release of the film Heneral Luna. Back then, the team had taken note of a viral social media post of how actor Epy Quizon had to explain to a group of students why his character, Apolinario Mabini, never got up from his chair – the students had apparently never learned about Mabini’s disability due to polio.
At around the same time, Anthony Dacayo II released a concept art of Philippine national heroes as classic fighting game characters. Seeing Dacayo’s art, Ranida decided to partner with the latter to bring his vision to life, while at the same time creating a game that they hoped would help educate younger players about the country’s national heroes.
The idea, back then, was to create “a very simple fighting game for mobile.” But things took a turn once Ranida decided to get in touch with Filipino players who were part of the Fighting Game Community, or FGC.
Working with the community to learn how to make a fighter
The FGC has earned itself a reputation as a rather demanding bunch. The players know exactly what it is that they want from their games to the point where many key features in fighting games, such as advanced training features and netcode, have actually come from the community.
The local FGC is no different, and when Ranida approached them, it was immediately obvious that a lot would have to change with Bayani.
“We were big casuals when it comes to fighting games,” admit game director Robert Cruz and CEO Ben Banta. “We initially thought that Fighting games are just having 2 characters that beat each other. It was a huge eye-opener for us in the beginning as it is much deeper than that and we had no idea.”
One of the biggest changes that came about from interaction with the community was regarding the game’s platform. Initially pitched as a mobile game, Bayani would instead be released on PC due to the latter being deemed unsuitable for competitive fighting games.
“The initial comments on the first proof of concept were that the idea was nice and it would be a shame to leave it as a mobile game and not be a real fighting game,” explained Cruz and Banta. “We were hesitant to do it since we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into but the feedback was phenomenal enough that we decided to take the leap of faith and go with it.”
Armed with their feedback, Ranida buckled down and worked to turn Bayani into a fighting game the local FGC could be proud of. At the same, the team put the game out on Early Access on Steam, while continuing to bring the game to gaming events such as ESGS and Rev Major. In addition, they had gotten the help of known fighting game players, such as James “PromilKid” Flores and Fil-Am Evo champion Ryan “Filipino Champ” Ramirez, and others, to help promote it.
Eventually, the team had decided that the game would finally leave Early Access sometime in 2020 – then the pandemic hit.
Coronavirus – one more hurdle before Bayani can be released
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country, Ranida was just about to release the final character for the game: Lolang Tsora (a play on Melchora Aquino, aka Tandang Sora). But beyond that, the team also needed to implement features such as multiplayer, story mode and a training room.
Lolang Tsora’s release was only slightly delayed by the pandemic. But after her release, the company needed to “reorganize and reshuffle” their staff as they started losing a lot of their other projects for other clients – Bayani‘s main source of funding.
To get the game back on track, Ranida is currently pitching a console version of the game to publishers in the hopes of getting funding. They’re also looking for additional projects to supplement what funds they have.
On top of this, Ranida has also appealed directly to fans. Last November they launched a campaign asking fans to either buy the Early Access version of the game on Steam or donate directly to the team.
“We opted to call for support as well hoping that Filipinos who want to support the game once completed may decide to buy a copy and support us now instead.”
The hope is that, through these efforts, Bayani can finally see a proper release despite the challenges brought by the pandemic.
Bayani‘s creation has been a long, hard struggle for Ranida – one that was made harder not just by the pandemic, but also by the team’s relative unfamiliarity with the genre of the game they were making. But thanks to the help of the community, the team was able to learn what they needed to make a proper fighting game.
Now, as the game faces one more challenge on its way to completion, Ranida is once again reaching out to the community for support. Hopefully, it’ll be enough to finally get Bayani out the door.
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