ShaqDown Interview With Hiptic Games' Long Vo

Earlier this year, One Spear Entertainment and Hiptic Games released ShaqDown for iOS and Android, a crazy endless-runner starring retired NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal. In it, The Diesel sets out to kill zombie mutants and save humans from destruction, which almost mirrors what The Big Aristotle does in real life, in between offering basketball analysis on TNT. Personally, we really enjoyed it, and to learn more, we caught up with Long Vo, founder of Hiptic, to find out how this project got started.

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So where did the inspiration for ShaqDown come from? Was it created to erase some of those bad Shaq Fu memories?

It's really funny you mention that. When I was growing up in the 90's, Shaq Fu was one of those titles I had only seen a friend play and never actually played myself. My impressions from back then was that it looked like it played well and the graphics and animation were pretty smooth, but I was just way more into Street Fighter to really give it the time of day. So, in retrospect, I never had any bad Shaq Fu memories until I got older and learned about how it actually played.

ShaqDown was the brainchild of One Spear Entertainment, who wanted to make a game starring Shaq using the game engine from our last game, GoNinja. We ended up writing a new engine from scratch for ShaqDown so that we could improve performance across all mobile devices, and also to give ShaqDown more of a fighting game flavor. As for the concept, it's really a mish mash of every post apocalyptic cliché you can think of-- all combined into one idea. We knew going into it that because of Shaq Fu's notorious past, any game with Shaq in it couldn't be taken too seriously. So we decided to play it straight like a bad B movie and everything just came together. Sentient zombies, right? Who'd a thought?

How receptive was Shaq to the idea, and what was the process getting him on board? Did he come to you guys to record, or did someone send audio files your way?

One Spear Entertainment owns the digital license to Shaq. And Shaq is a major shareholder in the company, so he was behind it all the way. We had a recording session with him in which he read from our script and delivered not only a few variations of each line, but adlibbed as well. We got some fun stuff from him. One of my favorites is when you uppercut an enemy missile and he yells "Get that SHOT out of here!" This was totally adlibbed by Shaq.

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He yells "free throw" a lot, which is ironic, given that free throws weren't exactly his strong suit. Whose idea was that?

[Laughs] It was my idea. The funny thing is, we knew we wanted Shaq to yell basketball-related phrases for his attacks. So when we made the list of things for him to say, FREETHROW was the only term that seemed fitting for his "fireball" attack. We quickly realized the irony and ran with it.

The decision to price the game at $0.99 was a bit curious, given that many of these titles are free-to-play? Not that a buck is too expensive, but how did you arrive at this decision?

The short answer is that it's easier to go from 99 cents to free than it is going from free to 99 cents. The game is certainly a steal for 99 cents though, don't you agree?

The game only has three levels. Any plans to add more via free update?

There are talks about an expansion right now, but I can't say anything more than that at this time.

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You're most known for your Street Fighter character designs. How was it to add Shaq to your collection?

I've been drawing Street Fighter characters professionally for over a decade now, and it's interesting because there never really was a "pro basketball player" in the Street Fighter universe (Sean from Street Fighter III plays basketball but never dons the jersey or plays professionally). Drawing Shaq as one of those types of characters was really fun, and I can honestly see him going toe-to-toe with Ryu or Ken.

Did he have final say over your rendition? If so, what did he think?

Yes of course. Shaq has final say over everything. I believe Shaq's exact words were "I'm a sexy beast."

What's next for Hiptic Games? Kevin Garnett Trash Talker, perhaps?

We have two of our own new IPs in development right now and both are pretty out there. One of them is a sort of spiritual Metal Gear plus Angry Birds for kids. The other is even more insane than ShaqDown. I wish I could tell you more but we will as they both get further along in development. We are also in talks with a few larger publishers to work on their IPs, so it's going to be insane juggling all of these things, but we're totally up for the task! 2013 will definitely be a super productive year!

To learn more about Long Vo, click here.

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