Monday, August 15, 2016

Breaking Down Martial Arts

I've always been heavily inspired by movies and telly, and always worked trying to recreate them in games -- not literally, as that would be boring, but in spirit. So I have been "gun-spotting" (the kind of thing IMFDb does nowadays, although I don't like their results very much), statting movie props, and finding ways to recreate specific stunts in movies with the rules for ages.
- Hans Christian Vortisch, Shooting Dice
I've been following Shooting Dice for awhile, and I really enjoy his breakdowns of movie or TV scenes in terms of Tactical Shooting or Gun-Fu.  It displays his amazing knowledge of those works, but it also shows you what rules you could use if you wanted to create a game inspired by a particular work.

If I want to make sure that Psi-Wars plays out like Star-Wars, I should understand Star-Wars, in the same way that Hans understands his works.  This requires an extensive knowledge of Martial Arts, but part of the advantage of writing is that it forces you to learn.  Thus, this will not only give me a greater understanding of Star-Wars, but the very rules that I need to capture the proper feeling.

As the lightsaber duel is the heart of what people consider the martial arts of Star-Wars, I've selected three lightsaber battles to analyze.
  • Luke vs Vader: the Empire Strikes Back
  • Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon vs Darth Maul; the Phantom Menace
  • Kao Cen Darach and Satele Shan vs Vindican and Darth Malgus: the Old Republic
The first, from the original trilogy, represents the most iconic duel of the movie series that inspired the franchise.  The second represents the most enjoyable and iconic duel of the prequel, which represents the next major iteration in the development of Star Wars.  Finally, I want something that represents the extended universe, and I feel that the Old Republic is both a good representation of that, and it's a series that I draw a lot of inspiration from for Psi-Wars.

There are more I could look at, Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight represents the Extended Universe before the prequels, and thus is a less cartoonish version of what comes after.  The Force Unleashed represents the far end of the cinematic spectrum.  Fans have created dozens of videos of their own take on lightsaber duels, which matters, because these people are the ones that will play your game.  The duel in the Force Awakens represents the culmination of the evolution of the lightsaber duel.  And I think there's a lot that can be gained from examining all of this, especially with comparisons and contrasts.  For example, Kylo Ren is not nearly as good a duelist as Darth Maul or Darth Vader.  A combination of kendo and dramatic, cinematic spinning seems to be the core base of the lightsaber duel.  The Extended Universe describes seven different "forms", though I'm not sure the films actually support that.

The actual act of looking through these require a great deal of patience, and they're subject to interpretation.  How do we know when an attack is deceptive?  When is an attack defensive, committed, or all-out?  What's the difference between Evaluate, Waiting and Doing Nothing?  Naturally, what will follow over the next week will be my personal interpretation of these scenes, and I do welcome counter-commentary or criticism, because the point of this exercise is to better understand what's going on in these scenes, and how best to translate them into GURPS terms, and thus to decide what sorts of rules we might include in Psi-Wars to capture the feel of these battles.  If you see something that I do not, I encourage you to say something.  If you want to analyze some on your own, I will happily link to you.
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