The Black Heart is awesome game. That’s a fact (and I wrote about it in Polish when I was starting my blog). It has something for fighting games fans – intuitive MUGEN mechanics plus unique characters with large selection of amazing offensive moves (fatalities included) and individual style. It has something also for horror fans – it’s oozing the dark, heavy atmosphere and heroes of the story are a monster mash based on genre archetypes with a twist. It’s basically the best fighting game You can get for free and I wouldn’t even mind to pay some bucks for it either. And it is created mostly by one man. Andrés Borghi, Argentinean filmmaker, who also can do literally anything when it comes to multimedia and art. And he’ll tell You about creative process and influences behind his masterpiece himself.
Let’s get it started, shall we?
Hello, welcome to Net is Nerdy guest zone :). And let’s start with the obvious question. You’ve made The Black Heart using MUGEN. And it seems You’ve done everything one can do with this immensely popular free 2D fighting engine – everything from animation to music is made from scratch and You’ve put a whole lot of details and extra touches into the game. So the question (or two combined questions ;)) is – how You’ve came up with idea of doing MUGEN-based game and do You think MUGEN is a good choice for people who want to make their own independent fighting games? After all, it has some limitations, I’m sure.
At first it wasn't about making a full fighting game. I was looking for some pictures of some character of a fighting game and got into a snapshot of M.U.G.E.N. where this char was fighting another char of another fighting game, so that photo was impossible. I started investigating what was this MUGEN thing and then I realized it was a fighting game maker software. Then I started making my own chars from scratch (contrary to what the rest of people do, which is ripping chars from existing games) and suddenly (actually 6 years later) I had 5 full original characters. I saw they could fit together in one game and decided to take that path and make a full MUGEN game. So it wasn't really a decision, I was already there.
Regarding the second question, absolutely. MUGEN is a great tool for making your own full game and it keeps getting better since they update it frequently. I'm kinda out of MUGEN now cause the game consumed all the energy I had for it but I know the soft keeps getting updated.
The story was never too important in fighting games. It’s there just so characters can have cool background and some reason to beat up other dudes. This approach evolves – once we had games with loose stories and contradicting endings for each fighter, but the modern fighting games try to make them more coherent and in the games like Blaz Blue or especially Mortal Kombat 9 the narrative plays important role. But still, The Black Heart is quite different. The story is not only important, but even essential to the game and it’s complicated, with intertwined character arcs, and written almost novel-style. With original visuals, it creates unique atmosphere. Why You’ve decided to make Your fighting game story-driven?
There's something I hate of fighting games, specially Capcom ones (even though I love their games) and it's the endings. You put your ass there and beat all the challengers and all you get is a picture of Ryu with his bag and a text that says "Good fight! I'll keep training". Come on, Capcom! The effort wasn't worthy for that! So that's why I decided to make a good story. MUGEN provided a great gameplay so an interesting story would make it much better, I thought. And it wasn't easy! All the chars were different and they weren't created to belong to the same game, so what I did was to create some kind of a prequel to a film I wanna make in the future where many elements were already established like the Red World and the prince Janos. That's why the story ends so open. Someday (maybe in 10 or 20 years) You'll see the continuation to The Black Heart in film form.
One can easily see some inspirations behind characters. Noroko comes straight from J-Horror, Shar-Makai and Final are creatures with lovecraftian qualities, Animus with its sadomasochistic and gender fluid image seems to be something out of Clive Barker’s book… ok, but what about the rest? Which fragments of popculture served as Your inspiration for the cast of The Black Heart?
Well, that's a complex thing, mostly cause it was so long ago. For Hashi, all I remember is that I wanted to make a guy that could stick his fingers in the floor and raise them beneath the enemy to stab it, kinda like Hisien-ko does in Darkstalkers. So I made a plant guy who could turn it's body into plant related attacks. I kinda forgot that original attack I wanted to make in the beginning and it was left out, then it pop out later when I made Animus. Hashi has a Darkstalker feeling also, with the themed attacks (Rikuo has fish attacks, Victor has electricity attacks, etc..). He is based on a local legend about a monster in Tierra del Fuego that destroys people campings.
For Peketo, I really don't know. He has a very simple shape and somehow I wanted to make the cute killer guy. He is very Burtonesque so maybe that's his inspiration. He has also a move called ‘dementia13’ that is inspired by Doctor Faustus from the cancelled game Thrill Kill (that we got to play anyway).
Ananzi is there cause I am a guy and I like girls so I tried to make her as hot as possible in every sprite (weirdo!). I really don't remember where the spider thing came from. Most of those thing come from attacks I wanna make for the chars and then I find a theme that fits those attacks. That's the way some of them came to be.
Shar-makai comes from a movie I made at age 18. It's called Necropolis (a really cheap zombie flick). In the movie the zombies where there only at daytime cause they were possessed by creatures that hate light. So at nighttime these demons left the dead bodies and present themselves in their true forms. Those were the Shar-makai (who came from a Red World). So I put them in the game kinda ignoring the zombie and the nighttime thing cause no one is gonna remember Necropolis.
Noroko has the horror theme as inspiration. I think the idea was to make the scariest MUGEN char to date. I don't know if I was successful, maybe if I were a better spriter...
Animus was the last one I created (of the playable ones). He was made once I knew this was gonna be a full game so he is the most story driven of all. I have like 3 books about Countess Bathory (a real life Romanian serial killer), so I made his her son. He was conceived by her and Final so he has the countess desires made real by Final's magic: She wanted to be young forever, so Animus is immortal; she was a lesbian (or so is told) so Animus is half man half woman; she loved giving pain to others so his attacks are based on pain with tools he can create. That's the idea. The name comes form 2 places. In that Romanian age there was a title named "Animus magnanimus" that was given to the most excellent and violent knights, and "animus" is how specialists call to the masculine part of the feminine mind. The opposite would be Anima, so that could be the name of his girl version.
And finally Final (ha!). He is based on a drawing I made in highschool. I liked that design so much that I kept it till I have a character that was worthy of that scary design. So when I had to do the boss I rescued it from oblivion and gave him that look. His personality is similar to the one of the underground gods in Legacy of Kain (can't remember the name of the thing). It is a horrible being whose looks doesn't match his wisdom and ancient knowledge. I find that very interesting.
Let’s take a look at Noroko – she may be called fan favorite (lots of MUGEN players use her as independent character). She even appeared in the very Japan-influenced music video of metal band Shocker X, directed by You of course. The process of creating her seems to be the most complicated – with separate voice actress, other actress portraying her in half live-action fatal move scenes and such. Can You tell something more about developing her and people who helped You?
Like I said, the main thing on Noroko was horror and the idea of scaring the player. This is common in horror adventure games but not in fighting games. Even Darkstalkers, that are inspired by horror movies, can't scare the player. So I had to make some weird experiments to achieve this. I made her fatal move like some kind of screamer video. For this I thought it would be a good idea to have a real life video. So i called a friend who had a Japanese friend and met her to do this little sequence that I also used for her trailer (it's not rare to make trailers for awaited M.U.G.E.N. characters). Later I erased the girl's face to match Noroko and then I said "Why did I need a Japanese girl for this?", But didn't matter. It added to the feeling.
I investigated some Japanese legends for the char and so I learned about Okiku's story (one of the most antique Japanese tales of "ringuesque" ghosts), the Snow Woman tale, and some other things like types of ghosts or spirits. Some of these thing can be found in her attack moves. Then I contacted a MUGEN guy called Byakko who knew Japanese and he gave me the name. Noroko means "cursed girl".
She often says: "dasukete", or, the way it sounds: "tas-ke-te", that means "help me". This is directly taken from the movie Pulse (or Kairo, in Japanese) from director Kiyoshi Kurosawa. This movie scared the hell out of me with almost no budget so I thought it would be nice to honor it this way. This is also the Japanese word written in her fighting stage, the attic. Just like that Noroko is obviously inspired by J-horror, like the weird noises she makes when stretching her neck in her winpose, directly taken from the Ju-on movies (but made by myself and my throat!).
Her story is not much complicated and is kinda generic, but interesting. She was killed in an ancient ritual to give fertility to the village's men and her spirit got trapped in a doll used in that same ritual. Her spirit awakens when the king of the Red World dies and she starts seeking her path to heaven. That's what she says in her ending: the Japanese word means "other world". She wants to go the other world and rest in peace.
You seem to be the man who likes to try and do everything. You write, direct films, play in a band, design games, do graphics, animations and many, many more. Therefore there are many different projects displayed on Your home page. Can You recommend some that should be interesting for horror and speculative fiction fans? Or maybe You’re working on something new we can look forward to?
If they like horror they should check my short films The Spectre of the Woods and Dedicated to Nobody (has English subtitles). beyond that I have 2 horror movie scripts to develop. I am a filmmaker first of all, so that's why I'm so focused on movies and not so much on making games. Maybe someday I'll make another game. Let's hope so!
Oh, and check the trailer for my upcoming movie Born to Die. It's a comedy, but maybe You’ll like it!
Thanks for the interview, it was a pleasure :)
Thanks to You for the interview! It was great and was a nice chance to tell some things about the game that
people usually ask.
Be sure to check out The Black Heart at:
And visit homepage for movies and other works
After first interview I realized that the questions alone, without greetings and other personal touches, are kinda dull. So now I’ll try to include such nice little things not only in mail correspondence, but also in the interview itself.