NEWS - Monday, March 31, 2003

Kung Fu Chaos Controversy

Creators of Kung Fu Chaos lament raising of racism over campy Xbox game TORONTO (CP) - As a devotee of vintage kung fu movies, Tameem Antoniades wanted to pay homage to the genre - and just have some fun - in making Kung Fu Chaos. So the last thing the 28-year-old and his colleagues at Just Add Monsters expected to hear was an accusation of racism over the campy Xbox game. "A couple of reviews have raised that, which really kind of hurt us on a personal level because that was not the intention," Antoniades said from Cambridge, England, where the company is based. "We made this game because we love kung fu movies, and everything in the game is a reference to particular movies that we like. So we were really surprised to see this mention of racism." In advance of its release, Microsoft, the game’s publisher, even ran Kung Fu Chaos past "various ethnic groups to make sure that they wouldn’t find it offensive," Antoniades said. "And nobody did. So you can imagine our surprise when all of a sudden people started saying the game was offensive." Kung Fu Chaos is described as a "quirky brawler" that puts the gamer in the role of an actor fighting it out on a kung fu movie set under the direction of crazed director Shao Ting. You can either play it solo or with up to three friends, brawling your way through a series of movie sets ranging from traditional kung fu backdrops to the likes of Jurassic Park and Titanic - even an alien invasion. But the humour of the game has rubbed some the wrong way. While Kung Fu Chaos is full of stereotypes - game designers may want to rethink the choice of such character names as Captain Won Ton, Candi Roll, Master Sho-Yu, Xui Tan Sour, Ninja Fu Hiya and Chop & Styx - the overall intent seems clearly to be a hokey homage rather than racism. The game even opens with Carl Douglas’s classic Kung Fu Fighting, so it seems clear the designers’ hearts are in the right place. Just Add Monsters was initially frustrated in its bid to get the song. It took all of Microsoft’s might to help get the rights. "We felt this game really needed that song," Antoniades said. One of the game’s selling points is the way it uses the Xbox hard drive. After playing the multiplayer battle version of the game, Kung Fu Chaos plays back the action - complete with effects and comments from the director. Game designers have done their bit to get an authentic kung fu feel. At times, thanks to the use of filters, the picture has the scratched look of an old movie. And designers even worked on ensuring that the lip-synching isn’t quite right. "We made a lip-synching engine for the game and then actually put in extra time to make it not synch up quite as well as it should," Antoniades said. "And we also got the actors to speak as if they were overdubbing badly, which also adds to the effect." There is plenty of backchat in the games with characters able to taunt their foes. In coming up with Kung Fu Chaos, the designers wanted to combine an original idea with simplicity. "We found that a lot of games are very, very long and demand a lot of time," Antoniades said. "Whereas we wanted to make the kind of game you can play on social occasions, when you get back from work or get back from school or get back from the pub and you can just have a really good time, pick it up, play and put it down." Antoniades started out wanting to be a systems analyst but was derailed when he forgot to apply for a master’s degree "which I needed." By the time he remembered, there were no more places. So he needed to find a job pronto. "So because I love games I thought I’d just apply for a job in games and I got it, and I’ve never really looked back since." That first job was with Sony Computer Entertainment and lasted six years, first as a programmer and then a designer. Antoniades and fellow developers Mike Ball and Nina Kristensen started work on Kung Fu Chaos after leaving Sony in March 2000. They felt the time was right to strike out on their own. They spent six months working on Kung Fu Chaos for another platform before shifting to Xbox. From the three co-founders, Just Add Monsters is now up to 22 employees and working on its next project. "The only thing I can say is that it’s very ambitious and it will still focus on being extremely fun, above all else," Antoniades A Kung Fu Chaos sequel is possible, but that’s up to Microsoft - and the consumer. But Antoniades remains a huge fan of the genre. "I’m slowly working on a plan to turn everyone in the world into a king fu movie fan," Antoniades said, "and I think I’m succeeding."

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