This article is part of my ongoing “Indie Fighting Game Thursday” review/retrospective series, now on supercombo.gg! This week, we discuss about the legacy of the 2D Fighter Maker 2002 engine, which, despite being so old it could drive a car in several states around the world, is still being actively used by developers all around the world. Today, we interview the developers behind Angels of Battle v1.5, a game released this August, to understand why they stuck to this engine for so long and what they think about the current state of things!
A coelacanth that keeps on coming back
In a previous article of mine, we have gone through the history and alternate fortunes of a prehistoric game engine that is STILL getting used as of today by a multitude of developers: the immortal 2D Fighter Maker 2002, also called 2D Fighter Maker 2nd.
Since then, I have got in touch with some developers who are currently using this living fossil of an engine for developing their games, and also tracked down a couple more games that happened to use that engine and went “under the radar” for a reason or another.
So, without further ado, let’s dive into this continuation of our 2D Fighter Maker 2002 saga, with some more screenshots, factoids, and interviews with developers!
Author’s note: This article will be the first part of a double feature and will focus mostly on the team behind Angels of Battle v1.5, as they have provided me with A LOT of material to work with, which I don’t want to cut because — in my opinion — it is interesting for everybody to see how the project evolved and was born.
It came in August
After my previous article on the topic, I have taken my time to ask some questions to three developers who are still using the engine in question:
- Border Violation Taisei, the authors of the technically impressive Angels of Battle v1.5;
- Ulissan Game Maker, the creator of the karate game Ganbatte Karate;
- and らぐはちさん：南東ライトグリーン８(Light Green Eight), the developer of the upcoming pixel art game Inaho-cho Dynamite Bomb.
All of them were kind enough to answer to a set of questions I had, and I am grateful that they found time to reply in great detail! Now, let’s begin this double feature with an interview to the team behind Angels of Battle v1.5 and what they told me about the game’s development!
A fifteen years long story: Angels of Battle
Angels of Battle, despite having been released only in August 2021, is older than one might expect, topping a 15 years long development! But I’d better let the two developers behind it (Tomay and WWolf) tell the story in greater detail! I have reported the interview almost verbatim, embedding relevant links and adding bold for the statements I considered the most significants.
Q: When did the “Angels of Battle” project start and why did you go for 2DFM02 instead of e.g. MUGEN? How did the project came out to be?
Our team BV Taisei currently only has 2 active members: Me and WWolf. However, every author and editor of the team was involved in making another 2DFM02 title: Super Cosplay War Ultra (SCWU). Back then I was the acting editor of the SCWU, and WWolf was responsible for creating Yinan and some of the promotion materials.
After several expansions, SCWU had almost reached the engine limit and couldn’t be expanded anymore. Then, several members were planning to make a successor game of SCWU. I also wanted a game that I could call my own, because I have been playing fighting games since I was a child. Since everyone was planning to create female characters, we ultimately decided to make a shoujo (girls) only fighting game. This is the first time I had to build a game from the ground up, and I saw it as a side project for practicing purpose. This was about 15 years ago, and this marked the beginning of Angels of Battle (AoB).
However, at that time I still needed to work on SCWU, and was having a part-time job while attending to college. I really didn’t have much time to get my hands on AoB. While the other authors were still interested in the project, they also needed to make a living for themselves, so most of them had dropped off. The development of AoB was put into a halt.
Later, WWolf joined the team, that’s when AoB got kickstarted again. WWolf shares the same passion for fighting game as I do. When he started pouring out character sprites, I realized it was time for me to catch up. Around 2017 we started to work on AoB again, and finally v1.0 was out in 2018. Then after another 3 years, we released v1.5.
For real though, it’s been a hard time by having only one artist in team. WWolf has created almost half of the characters, almost all the effects, all UI and stages. I’m really thankful to have him on board.
As for why I choose 2DFM02, it’s simply because this is the only engine I know how to use [laughs]. I don’t like MUGEN so much because I saw so many people taking characters from other games and claim them as their own. Even some characters from SCWU were taken away in the same fashion. This is disrespectful to the author. That’s why I don’t want to touch this engine.
When I was still a student and could only afford to play free games (back in the time when Internet mini games were popular), I came across SCWU v1203. That’s when I started to play fighting games and became a fan of SCWU.
I wasn’t a part of SCWU team when the “final version” was released. However, after a few years, SCWU was opening up the last few character slots and scouting for authors again. It was a big surprise to me because the scouting was pretty low profile, and I learnt about this purely by chance, at the time when the scouting period was about to end.
Anyway, as a fan of the game, I decided to give it a try. With the support and encouragement from Suneo, I finished Yinan for SCWU. This also set me on the path getting into the game industry. I must say SCWU is a very important part of my life, and being able to join the team is the luckiest event that had happened to me ever.
It’s around 2015. After I finished Yinan for SCWU, Tomay invited me to join AoB. I was planning to let Yinan join the roster, but then I was so busy on my new job, and AoB requires a lot more work to be done. I couldn’t manage my time well enough, so I ultimately gave up (Back then Yinan was supposed to be a character with 3 stances, which was a totally different character to the Yinan you see today).
But all thanks to Tomay, who kept bothering me by asking about my progress every week for a whole year, I finally decided to start anew with a simpler character design (graphic wise) and created Elvi as my first character in AoB. But then the game still lacked a protagonist. As the only active artist in the team, I took on the responsibility and created Eve. Then we released AoB v1.0, and BV Taisei was officially established.
Throughout the whole production time, we keep discussing about the future development of the game. We’ve talked about having a custom stage for each character, adding in fully fledged character stories, making an archenemy for Eve and so on. The original plan was to include all these updates and release v2.0, but there are just so many works to do. That’s why we decided to release an in-between version which is v1.5. (Unfortunately the archenemy of Eve has to stay in the end game teaser once again…)
[Andrea’s note: since I was intrigued, I have downloaded Super Cosplay War Ultra myself to check it out. And, guess what, the game still feels fresh and immediate as ever. Truly a statement of the team’s dedication.]
Q: What were the main limitations of 2DFM02 for the game? Did they force you to give up on some concepts/ideas for the game?
There are so many limitations in 2DFM02. For example, all actions beside the basic actions (those written in bold text) are considered “attacks”, and the player couldn’t guard during these actions (including the moment when a character lands on the ground while blocking, which might create an awkward situation where you’re blocking an attack string in air but start getting hit when you land).
And there are so many other problems:
- Unable to use “press and hold an attack button” as an input (Elvi’s charge attacks are really buggy);
- Unable to detect opponent’s position and automatically switch side;
- The time stop at the beginning of BV attacks couldn’t stop projectiles from moving;
- You must set a specific action for the character when he/she tries to use a super without adequate energy;
- Lack of choices in variable types [Andrea’s note: this is most likely a reference to the fact that you can’t set your variables to things like remaining health or super meter, or even perform actions that aren’t sum and assignment — yes, not even subtraction];
- If you place sprites or actions in “TECH 89”, they will disappear after pausing the game [Andrea’s note: Tech 89 most likely refers to the slot number 89 in the move creation set, and I found out about this bug myself, unable to understand why it was happening. If THAT’s why it happened when I used 2DFM02 this year, it’s actually an unbelievably bizarre error!];
- Pausing for too long or reaching the last 10 seconds in arcade mode will make many sprite layers and projectiles disappear [Andrea’s note: My goodness, this is even worse. Okay, so there ARE some even deeper bugs I wasn’t aware of!].
There are just so many bugs in this engine. I have spent most of the time taking care of these bugs rather than actual editing. But I also somehow made use of these bugs to create several features that were not meant to be created in the game. So I’d say there’re goods and bads in it.
As of abandoned ideas:
- It’s impossible to skip the opening animation in Round 1, so the length of these animations are limited to a certain amount of time.
- We couldn’t add intro and outro scenes (e.g. character win quotes) in VS mode.
- In arcade mode if you lose to a NPC, we couldn’t add an outro scene for that NPC character. You just have to go to continue scene directly.
- As mentioned above, the “press and hold attack button” is not available in this engine. Elvi’s charge attacks is a makeshift solution, and it’s buggy as hell.
- It’s impossible to create guided missiles that keeps changing its flight path and chasing a target [Andrea’s note: the character for which this feature was planned was actually Erus.]
- We can only use default character shadow, or else it wouldn’t change size and opacity according to the character’s distance to the ground.
I’m sure there are so many other ideas we’ve ditched but these are the ones I could think of right now.
Q: I have seen very clever workarounds, like Elvi’s Black Hole super and R-Voltes having an assist character who follows him. This is literally turning the engine on its head! Did it take long to figure out how to break the engine limits?
About the assist character of R-Voltes, I took inspiration from another famous 2DFM02 game: Vanguard Princess. In that game you can choose a support character for every player character. I’ve done some research on that and created our own version for R-Voltes.
As for Elvi’s blackhole, it’s actually kind of an engine bug. I once tried to create an object that sticks on the character. But since that object has a collision box, it started pushing the character away. At that time I thought it’s just another 2DFM02 bug and simply tried to avoid it. But when WWolf told me about the concept of a blackhole, this situation came up in my mind. It almost exactly fits the requirements: The blackhole needs to constantly pull in a character, while that character is still free to do all actions.
[Andrea’s note: holy moonfish, this is so friggin’ CLEVER! I would have never expected it to work like this, but this is just glorious! Kudos to WWolf and Tomay for seeing the opportunity to turn a bug into an engine feature!]
There’re so many things that are not supposed to happen in 2DFM02. Features like assist characters, blackhole, auto side switching, super armor, auto lock on, bullet time, stopping a projectile during time stop etc… Yet, we created them in AoB. I’m quite sure even if I release the editing files to the public, nobody’s going to understand what’s happening. AoB is so complicated I could even make my own series of tutorials.
When we design a new feature or gimmick, we start by coming up with a rough idea, then try to think of any problems we’ll face. If it’s 50% doable, then we start working on it and get rid of the rest of the problems on the way. The whole process to create one gimmick would take at least 3 months, which doesn’t include the time for testing and further editing / debugging.
Just by thinking of this process makes me hate being a game editor [laughs]
Q: Would you advise 2DFM02 to beginners or do you think there is a better alternative now?
2DFM02 isn’t a easy-to-use engine. It’s telling you it can create all sorts of things with ease, but the tutorials are abysmal, not to mention the limitations. I believe I’ve already created way more things than the engine was meant to do.
That said, 2DFM02 is an engine with a wide variety of tools. At least this is how I feel after comparing it with other engines I know. Or maybe I just didn’t try enough engines or look deep enough.
If you want to trade characters with the community, then I’d suggest MUGEN. Though I don’t like it, but it can really go into details when it comes to action designs, and the engine is pretty flexible. If you want to start learning MUGEN, you can simply download any character assets and study its structure.
If you want to start using 2DFM02, the best way is to find someone that’s experienced with the engine to teach you, or you really need to watch the Youtube tutorials thoroughly. I mean even the official company has ditched this engine and focused on RPG Makers. I guess RPGs are just way more popular. I also realize the production advantages of making 3D models over 2D sprites.
But, I’m still glad that I stayed on this path until now. Without 2DFM02, There won’t be me and BV Taisei.
Q: Last but not least, I want to know a little bit more on the game: what were the biggest sources of inspiration re: character designs and gameplay?
Since we’re making fighting games, it’s natural to take references from other popular games of the same genre. I started off by referencing KOF XI, then the heavily combo based Blazblue.
However, I realized I’m not really into games that simply compete on “who can make the longest combo”. That’s why I started to reference SF 3.3, which it focuses on the tactics rather than “combo-ability”. I recently also took references from SF 5 and GGST and raised the damage reduction in long combos, in order to give player more chances to turn tide.
As for character designs, I’ll leave it to WWolf.
As mentioned before, the characters of AoB were created by several authors. However, the other authors are not active anymore, and I can only talk about the characters of my own: Elvi, Eve and Yinan.
I’m just a causal fighting game player at most. I played SCWU the most, have spent some time on KOF02 and 13, and a little bit of Blazblue, Chaos Code and SF 4. I also love action games, but my most favorite would be FPS / TPS (non-competitive ones). I also play airsoft, so I’m definitely the guy who brings a gun into a fist fight (Looking at Elvi 😊).
All these hobbies would become my inspiration. And since I don’t go too deep into fighting games, I’m not bounded by the traditional fighting game mindsets, and more likely to bring in ideas from other genres (looking at Elvi again 😊) … Of course, Tomay is always here to keep the designs from going too wild.
The design principle of AoB is that, we wanted to implement some unconventional systems or movesets into each character. And this principle is also reflected on our team’s name: Border Violation.
Since Elvi is my first character, and I didn’t have much understanding on fighting games yet, she has the weirdest design of all. Some may even say she’s violating the taboos of fighting game character designs. Of course, you can also see the heavy referencing on Nu13, Mu12 and Noel from Blazblue.
in fact, some people I showed the game to, were a bit “put off” by Elvi’s design, and by the tactical usage of armor to hide her bits, not dissimilar to the usual reactions to BlazBlue Mu-12’s design]
By the way, at that time I simply looked at the gravity field of Nu13 and thought “Let’s make a blackhole for ourselves!”. I had no idea what a breakthrough this is to 2DFM02 editing.
About Eve, as she’s the protagonist, all her moves were meant to be “as shoto as possible”, so we didn’t add too many special designs. We made her D special a 3-steps chain combo, which is a shout out to SCWU. During that time, I’ve been doing lots of references on tokusatsu stuff due to my current job. Then I was thinking, since we’re making a shout out to SCWU, why not make “transformation” the theme of Eve? And so, she became the typical tokusatsu heroine of AoB.
Yinan is a very special character to me. She, her teammates and her whole family (which appeared in SCWU) is the reflection of myself. She grows along with me. It’s been quite a long time in between her appearance in SCWU and AoB. I’ve been through a lot during this time, so Yinan also had a drastic change to her image.
Since she has her own character development outside of the game, I made her a character from another dimension. She won’t be a main character to the game, but she also has the most complicated backstory.
Finally, I think the movesets of Eve and Yinan are too normal. I’m looking forward to create some more weird characters [laughs].
But how does Angels of Battle play?
Thanking again BV Taisei for the interview, it is only fair that I delve a bit more into the game itself!
Angels of Battle v1.5 has a four buttons system, not dissimilar to BlazBlue (light, medium, hard and unique special, labelled as A, B, C, and D respectively). Each character has access to double jumps and air dashes (with Yinan having also a command, 8-direction air dash), steps and dodge rolls, performed by pressing down-forward while stepping. Each character can stock up to 3 bars of meter, which can be used for EX moves and super moves, called BV specials.
Grabs are performed by pressing forward or backward plus C, while in proximity to the opponent, and there are also guard cancels (similar to Alpha Counters or Dead Angle Attacks).
Contrary to most 2DFM02 games, Angels of Battle runs on a slightly edited executable, which allows for the D-pad of a controller to be recognized – something that is normally not possible for games made with this engine.
What makes the game shine on its own rights, is the Finale BV system, a power-up state accessed by pressing down down down D with a full bar, which boost each character in a unique way. For example, Elvi activates a sort of THE WORLD, freezing time and making it impossible for the opponent to block attacks, while Yinyan receives a substantial buff, turning her counter attacks into active command grabs and removing the limit on the number of air dashes.
There are only 3 stages and two game modes (arcade and VS). Training mode can be accessed if both players press the F button (L1/LB on a standard joypad), allowing for labbing sessions against each character.
The characters are also pretty varied. Eve is a fairly standard shoto with some tokusatsu reference sprinkled in, Elvi is a zoning monster that struggles at short range, R. Voltes is a sort of assust character, Kay is the resident grappler, Erus can aim her gun at will and has a mechanics based on discarding her weapons, and Zeiko has some sort of rekkas and chain moves.
Overall, the game is a lot of fun to play. It has everything you could look for in an air-dasher, and the coding is top notch, for the engine Tomay and WWolf had to work with. Special mention to how Erus “evil spirit guns” works, I love the concept and quickly elected her as my main in this game.
Overall, even if you aren’t a fan of the character designs, I suggest you to play it and have a look at it, because it is extremely well crafted and has some very cool ideas I haven’t seen often in other fighting games!
Credits for the pictures used in this article
 Bruce A.S.Henderson — Fraser, Michael D.; Henderson, Bruce A.S.; Carstens, Pieter B.; Fraser, Alan D.; Henderson, Benjamin S.; Dukes, Marc D.; Bruton, Michael N. (26 March 2020). “Live coelacanth discovered off the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, South Africa”. South African Journal of Science. 116 (3/4 March/April 2020). doi:10.17159/sajs.2020/7806 © 2020. The Author(s). Published under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence.
Name of the engine: 2D Fighter Maker 2002 (called 2D Fighter Maker 2nd too)
Available on: PC (English version)
Year of release: 2001
Netcode: none (but one can use Lilithport for any 2DFM02 games)
Legal status: it is legal to sell games made with the Japanese version. The English version is an unauthorized, fan-made translation
In one sentence: good engine for beginners in the fighting game making scene, but has several limitations due to its age.
Name: Angels of Battle v1.5
Developer: BV Taisei
Available on: PC (itch.io)
Year of release: 2021
Netcode: none (but one can use Lilithport for any 2DFM02 games)
In one sentence: A game with stretches the limits of 2D Fighter Maker 2002 to its very boundaries and has A LOT of technical flavor. A must see for all aspiring 2DFM02 developers!
Special thanks to Light Green Eight, Ulissan and Border Violation Taisei for answering my questions and helping me understanding the modern 2D Fighter Maker scene better!
If you are interested in more coverage about indie fighting games, you can find me on Twitter at @AndreaDProjects