Rising Thunder: An Open Source to the Future?
Rising Thunder was the well-received brainchild of the studio Radiant Entertainment. The game was touted as a great, accessible fighter. For those who always watched the fighting game community (FGC) from afar but never had the skill to break the entry barrier.
That was the case until Radiant was bought out by Riot Games, cancelling Rising Thunder. Reactions ranged from hope for their future work and disgust that Radiant and Riot had snuffed out a game they loved. This is where the story would end had it not been for the shocking announcement Radiant made early on December 18th, 2018: Rising Thunder would become a free-to-play game with an open source code for all to enjoy. Radiant wouldn’t work on it but with this development, players had true freedom.
One only needs to look to the past to see how this is an unlit stick of dynamite, waiting for someone to light the fuse.
A History of Mods
Three of the most popular esports to date, being League, DOTA and CS:GO, were all based off engines and mods rather than full, released products. Mods have created the bedrock for certain games to balloon into world-spanning, genre-defining esport titles.
Rising Thunder’s release harkens back to the original Warcraft III DOTA mod but there is more to this. Radiant had given players the keys to the dorm and telling them to turn off the lights when they’re done. With an open source code, a server for players and a working engine? This game is a virtual playground very reminiscent of another important fighting game engine.
The most apt comparison to the Rising Thunder engine is MUGEN. MUGEN was created back in 1999 to be a sort of freeware engine for people to create and tweak fighting games in a 2D setting. To this day, MUGEN is played and modded by players, as well as used for the CPU-based betting channel Salty Bet.
Considering the power of the MUGEN engine and that a system almost twenty years old is still popular among modders, the Rising Thunder engine is a breath of fresh air and a new tool for players to toy with the game. But let’s step out of the mod world and focus on some of the scenarios the Rising Thunder engine could find itself in…
The prime scenario is that Rising Thunder gains a cult-following and becomes a fighting game owned and run by the fans. As previously mentioned, mods often pave the way for future games of the same genre; Aeon of Strife begets DOTA which begets DOTA2 and League of Legends. Rising Thunder could be the seed that sprouts a new wave of fighting games.
But if Rising Thunder doesn’t find a community? This isn’t necessarily a negative outcome either. MUGEN might not have created a new group of fighting game players but it did serve as a tool for players to create. In some cases, merely having access to a free tool is enough to spark creativity and talent in others. Rising Thunder character creations can easily be added to someone’s portfolio in showing character design, gameplay know-how and programming expertise.
A Bright but Unknown Future
While I am confident in Rising Thunder’s future, nothing is assured. Problems can arise and there is always the chance that something goes wrong to make these future scenarios more dream than reality. Radiant could have made a sloppy and ugly engine. Other fighting games could crowd out a fledgling mod. Maybe it’s just not fun?
Despite the possible negatives, the stage is set for history to repeat. An interesting, free engine is given to all along with the base game tied with it. Even if nobody lights the fuse of Rising Thunder, it’s always going to be a tool available for someone to unknowingly spark a new era of fighting games.
While I don’t expect those questions to get answered on day one, I can’t wait to see the future that Rising Thunder will create for all its fans…and the fans who will shape that future along with it.
Edit: An employee of Radiant Entertainment has clarified that only the server is open source and that getting it to a state to rival MUGEN would be “quite something”. Despite this, I am still firm in my belief that Rising Thunder can go that distance and that this can be a tool for those who wish to learn more.