Monday, February 8, 2021

BOSS FIGHT!!! Ghastly Gus (from Maximo: Ghosts to Glory)

 In which I take a deep look at some of the Maximo bosses I've helped create:

Probably my favorite thing to design for a video game is a good boss fight. By my count, I have designed a couple of dozen of these fights. In my experience, the best boss fights are comprised of the following components:

1) A memorable looking character

2) Interesting/funny/threatening behaviors

3) A perceivable pattern to those behaviors

4) A clear method for the player to defeat the boss

When I joined the Maximo team at Capcom, one of the first things I tackled were the boss fights. Some of the themes of the levels had already been determined - such as the opening graveyard level, which was a homage to the first level of the classic game Ghosts n' Goblins. 

Design lead Bill Anderson had created an environment in which the battle was to take place. Collapsing terrain was a big part of the graveyard levels and the thought was to have the same thing happen in the boss fight. This was the map he gave me.

My task was to create who would be the "boss" that Maximo would fight. Since the action was in a graveyard, I came up with a "gravedigger" character. 

Sadly, the arena didn't work out (If I remember correctly, it might have been due to either AI issues or camera issues) but the design of Ghastly Gus, the Gravedigger boss stayed. These are the designs used to create this boss fight.

You'll notice that this design wasn't exactly what was used in the final game. Several elements were changed to save time and coding effort: The big gravestone was removed as it caused collision problems. The Skeleton coming out of the grave was deemed too much work for such little bang during the boss fight. Gus getting dizzy wasn't pro-active enough so I came up with using the downward smash to hurt Gus' exposed toe. Only once the big dope falls to the ground can the player hurt him. And because Gus is much more fit, than my design, he dies from sword attack rather than heart attack.

As with all of Maximo's character designs, after I had figured out what they might look like and how they behaved, my designs were sent to Susumu Matsushita in Japan - who painted the character's final look. 

Under Matsushita's pen, Ghastly Gus went a "Peter Lorre-type" to a more traditional "Frankenstein-type". It was fun to see Gus later created into an action figure from this design.

I hope you've enjoyed this look at the creation of Ghastly Gus! More Maximo bosses to come!

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Maximo: Ghosts to Glory storyboards (part 3) - the Epic Conclusion!



The big plot twist of Maximo: Ghosts to Glory had already been devised by creative director Dave Siller by the time I got to the project. In it, Maximo realizes that his queen Sophia - whom he believed had betrayed him - was actually a horrible demon-creature, that he ends up fighting as the final boss of the game. 

Maximo is despondent, thinking that Sophia has been transformed into the demon Queen he just defeated, but Grim points out that she is still alive... which I thought set up the sequel nicely.


The storyboard ends with my nod to that classic film Casablanca - a film which I had fallen in love with while in film school (and might have even colorized in my first job out of college - d'oh!) 

The series went on to have a sequel - Maximo vs. Army of Zin - let me know if you want to see those storyboards in the comments!

I hope you enjoyed this rare look at the making of Maximo: Ghosts to Glory!

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Maximo: Ghosts to Glory Storyboard Part 2

In Part One, Maximo had been betrayed and killed by the evil usurper to his throne, Achille. While in the underworld, the Grim Reaper offers him a deal... help him rescue the souls Achille has stolen and he'll keep bringing him back from the dead until his quest is complete. 

Maximo now travels to the kingdom to rescue the wise Sorceress' council from their powerful jailers. He has saved four of them and only has to rescue Persephone from Achille. As the heroes plan their rescue, Achilles springs a wicked trap!

Maximo has finally rescued all of the sorceresses and with their help, returns back to his castle. Achille has set-up the Great Drill to plum souls from the underworld to power his undead army. Maximo arrives for the final confrontation!

Will Maximo defeat Achille? Stay tuned for more behind-the-scenes storyboards from the classic Playstation 2 game!

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Maximo: Ghost to Glory Storyboards - Part 1

Back in 1999-2000, I was working as a game designer on Capcom's game Maximo: Ghosts to Glory. The game had already been in production awhile (It might have been as long as two years as the game was "restarted" when it was "moved" from the N64 to the PS2) but the framework of the story and the game's main characters were in place by the time I arrived.

One of my first jobs on the game was to help get the story into shape. I have an education in screenwriting and had been storyboarding since I was 15, so I was eager to help tell the story of Maximo - a king who is betrayed by his magical advisor and (seemingly) Queen and comes back from the dead to avenge himself. 

The character designs for Maximo, Sophia, King Achille and the Demon Monster (seen at the end of the game) had already been created by Capcom Studio 8's director David Siller and drawn by famed Fatmitsu cover artist Susumu Matsushita - which is why you will see photo-copied images of Matsushita's drawings used in some of these storyboards. 

If you've ever wondered why the lips in the cinematics don't match the English dialogue, it's because the characters were animated by a Japanese team. The characters in the cinematics are all speaking Japanese! The game's budget prohibited us from going back to re-animate the characters speaking English!

On to the storyboards!

1. The opening of the game. Maximo bursts in and gets killed. One of the things left out of the final cinematic was the "knowing look" between Achilles and Sophia. I wanted to indicate that something was already up between these two and that the audience wouldn't catch it unless they played through the game and then watched it again. Also note, that Achilles shoves Sophia. The Japanese animators turned it into the "pimp slap" in the final game.

2. Having been blasted by Achille, Maximo ends up in the underworld, where he meets the Grim Reaper. Grim offers him a deal to help him take down Achille.

I hope you enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at the storyboards for Maximo: Ghosts to Glory. I'll be posting more soon and you can watch the final Cutscenes Here!