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From one of Marvel vs. Capcom's best to game developer: Clockw0rk talks Power Rangers Battle for the Grid, Mortal Kombat and state of the FGC

'I bleed fighting games'

Posted by Dakota 'DarkHorse' Hills • March 28, 2019 at 5:43 p.m. PDT • Comments: 12

Despite being announced only a few months ago, Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid is now out on consoles serving as the first real home fighting game in the series in quite a few years — plus it's 3v3 teams like classic Marvel vs. Capcom and Dragon Ball FighterZ.

We were surprised to find out when we tuned into the first livestream of the game that one of Marvel vs. Capcom's best players ever was actually working as the Lead Combat Designer at the developer nWay in Daniel "Clockw0rk" Maniago. We recently had the chance to sit down and pick his brain about Power Rangers, Mortal Kombat, the current state of the fighting game community and his lament over the death of the arcade scene in the West among other topics.

For those who are unaware, Clockw0rk is considered by many to be one of the best / most recognizable MvC and Capcom vs. SNK players since the turn of the century making it to EVO finals on multiple occasions, and you may also know him from the Excellent Adventures series where he appeared alongside other longtime FGC figures like Gootecks and LI Joe.

Like many of us born after the late 80's, Maniago grew up a big fan of the Power Rangers on TV and says he wishes Battle for the Grid could have existed back then though he is proud of what his team has been able to accomplish tying together a franchise that has been ongoing for over 25 years with over a dozen different series.

Battle for the Grid also features other development team members with a major fighting game pedigree including the legendary Justin Wong working on balancing the Power Rangers and villains.

Let's dive right into the full interview which can be found right below.

Who is Clockw0rk?

DarkHorse: You've had a long history in the fighting game community on the front lines, but for those people out there that perhaps haven't heard of you before: Who are you? How did you first get into fighting games, and what is your resume as a player or other things you've done in the community?

Clockw0rk: I’m a fighting game player from SoCal who specializes in Strider Hiryu + Doctor Doom in Marvel vs. Capcom games. I’m also a game designer, and my previous works include Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition and Power Rangers: Legacy Wars.

My two older brothers taught me to play Street Fighter 2, which prompted me to play every fighting game I could get my hands on growing up. I started competing in fighting game tournaments around 1999 starting with Street Fighter Alpha 3, but the first two fighting games to which I could truly hold my own competitively at a crowded arcade were Marvel vs. Capcom 1 and Tekken 3.

My fighting game resume includes numerous tournament wins, BIG money matches, two-time EVO finalist — plus countless ninth placings, even in CvS2 (sigh) — and competitions in over 12 states and eight countries. I’ve also run tournaments, charity events, co-authored the official strategy guides for Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Street Fighter X Tekken, and was the community manager for PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale.

I bleed fighting games.

DarkHorse: In your own words, what is Power Rangers Battle for the Grid, and what does this game mean to you?

Clockw0rk: Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid is a game for past and present Power Rangers fans who have always wished for a crazy, arcade-style action Power Rangers game. It’s also unabashedly a game that both novices and enthusiasts can enjoy, with familiar fighting game controls and mechanics.

It’s a game that I wished existed when I was younger, and the opportunity to work on a project like this with such a talented team is truly an honor. I’m a student of the genre, and this project has shown me that despite my expertise, I still have much to learn about fighting games and wish to keep improving my skills in playing and making them.

DarkHorse: Going from a player to a game designer, what is your role on Battle for the Grid and how did you land the gig?

Clockw0rk: I’m the Lead Combat Designer, so I design, implement and oversee everything and anything combat related. This includes character and system design, game balance, hitboxes / hurtboxes — anything you can think of that has to do with gameplay.

I was originally working on our mobile game Power Rangers: Legacy Wars before I switched over to the console project full time. My work on Legacy Wars includes design and implementation of Titanium Ranger, Jungle Fury Purple Ranger, and my childhood hero Dragonzord!

DarkHorse: What is your number one goal for designing and developing this game?

Clockw0rk: My main goal by far is to make the game fun. But of course this is a million-dollar question kind of thing - what does it mean for a fighting game to be fun?

Given this, we focused on playability - things like game feel, open-ended emergent gameplay, and varying character archetypes. We leaned towards crazy rather than conservative wherever we could - big damage, more combo-ability, Zord attacks filling up the screen, and dirty mixup situations.

One of Clockw0rk's crazy Green Ranger combos from the developers' streams

As important as the gameplay is, we want the game to be fun to watch as well. The spectacle of Tommy summoning Dragonzord, Jason charging his sword with energy, Gia twirling her weapon as she runs, Drakkon’s dual-wield fighting style - we’re confident that all these nods to the source material make the game not only fun to play, but fun to watch as well.

DarkHorse: How were characters decided upon and then approached from a design perspective? How were moves selected and made?

Clockw0rk: Though I cannot speak to the character selection process, I can give some brief insight into creating a character’s kit. Attacks start as an idea, often times pulled directly from the source material in a way that makes sense in-game for that character archetype.

Considering the development pipeline is crucial - something like the risk / reward of making an attack that has a special function versus a simple move that can be easily iterated upon must be analyzed within a lens of economics when there are deadlines ahead. It then goes to animation to be created, then back to us for implementation, and finished off with VFX. Then after some play testing and QA, we adjust and polish accordingly as much as we can.

DarkHorse: Which is your favorite character to play as right now, and why are they the best?

Clockw0rk: Right now I really enjoy Green Ranger because I was a huge Green Ranger fan when I was younger. He’s a flexible character with a lot of attack and combo options, so I hope players dig deep into his tools and show me cool stuff. Don’t let me down!

DarkHorse: Are any original Power Rangers actors from the TV show reprising their role for the game?

Clockw0rk: This question is better suited for Zordon or Alpha 5. Aye yi yi!

Why make Power Rangers a budget fighting game?

DarkHorse: What are the benefits of aiming for a more budget-priced title, and how does the game fit into the fighting game ecosystem? What are the risks involved?

Clockw0rk: To me, it’s part of the design thinking behind making a game not just for the pros, but for novices as well. A $20 price point makes it an easier decision for people who may not be hardcore fighting game fans to pick it up and try it out.

Also, this is intended to be an online first game, so having good matchmaking is super important. So the lower the price, the more people playing, the better matchmaking would be.

For the fighting game ecosystem, I believe there is a place in it for a Power Rangers fighting game that is fast paced, 3v3, and easy to pick up. We have packed a lot of value in here! Skip a trip to Denny’s this month to pay for Battle for the Grid.

DarkHorse: Are you concerned about your game launching so closely to Mortal Kombat 11?

Clockw0rk: I think Battle for the Grid offers a much different gameplay experience than Mortal Kombat, so its been the least of my concern during development. Also, the IPs cannot be more different!

The fighting game community has changed

DarkHorse: 2019 appears to be another strong year for fighting games with new releases and continued support. How do you feel the scene and genre are shaping up right now?

Clockw0rk: The scene in a lot of ways is stronger than ever, and awesome fighting games keep releasing in greater abundance, frequency, and quality, most with continued support. But the arcade scene I grew up with is long gone, and I feel the fighting game community these days is much different in their ideals, goals, and motivations.

"The scene in a lot of ways is stronger than ever, and awesome fighting games keep releasing in greater abundance, frequency, and quality, most with continued support. But the arcade scene I grew up with is long gone, and I feel the fighting game community these days is much different in their ideals, goals, and motivations"

Mind you this is more me lamenting than criticizing; as the scene changes, so does my role in it as a community member and competitor.

I believe the two things that serve as the foundation for the scene are the games and the competition. Fighting games will thrive as long as these two pillars stay strong, and I’m excited to see how it shakes out in the future.

Why should the FGC be interested in Power Rangers now?

DarkHorse: Why should the fighting game community pay attention to Battle for the Grid?

Clockw0rk: The Power Rangers IP has a lot to do with it. Fighting games got popular around the same time that Power Rangers got popular in the 90's, so a lot of us in the fighting game community are 90's kids that are also old-school Power Rangers fans. A game like this has been a long time in the making, and it’s finally here!

Also, since this game is so accessible, it offers a chance for seasoned players like us to show newer players what’s possible in an open-ended fighting game engine. This game could bring in a new group of players into the scene that might not have given fighting games a chance otherwise. It’s an opportunity to turn novices into enthusiasts, for us to share what we love with others, and for the whole fighting game community to grow.

And last but not least, dude, you can do Green Ranger combos with Dragonzord!

DarkHorse: Going by the last trailer, the game will launch with nine playable characters, but what does post-launch support look like going forward?

Clockw0rk: We're focused on the launch right now, but we have a lot of ideas and I can't wait to tell you more soon!

DarkHorse: Is there anything you'd like the audience to better understand about the game?

Clockw0rk: Our team worked hard on this game and is continuing to do so even after launch. We thank and appreciate everyone that gives the game a try! Please let us know what you like and what you feel could be improved. Also, anti-airs have invulnerability frames against air attacks, so learn how to use them ASAP!

Power Rangers Battle for the Grid is now available on Xbox One and Nintendo Switch with a PlayStation 4 release to follow on April 2 in North America.

We'd like to give a special thank you to Clockw0rk once again for talking to us about his team's game even as it was gearing up for its final release.

Photo source: Excellent Adventures.

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