How Shaq got into another brawler isn't much of a surprise. Cold, hard business fueled its creation: his likeness holder One Spear Entertainment wanted a game and Hiptic delivered on that. The neat part of the creation story is that Shaq had some actual creative input on the project.

Earlier this week, we talked with Hiptic's Long Vo about the game's creation and Shaq's influence on the project. He pretty much walked us through development from A to Z, and told us what Shaq supplied where.

"So, we were approached by One Spear Entertainment, the owners of the Shaq Digital License," Vo tells us via e-mail. "They saw our previous game Go Ninja and wanted to make a Shaq game with our engine."

In what Vo calls an ironic twist, Hiptic ended up scrapping that plan and making a new engine for ShaqDown. It wanted to add in a dab of fighting game flavor into the mix. This was something Shaq's team was cool with.

"In terms of the concept, while working with Shaq's team, they pretty much let us pitch them whatever we wanted to. Shaq himself told us to just have fun with it and not be too worried about things. He was very supportive of letting us have creative freedom."

As the project took shape, Hiptic sent videos of the game in progress to Shaq. He and his team made remakes along the way. Vo says Shaq was "super cool about everything," but he did have some guidelines.

"I think the only directives we were given was that it couldn't be bloody and should have the violence level equivalent of say, the TV cartoon version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," Vo explains.

ShaqDown isn't Shaq's first rodeo. Dude has appeared and starred in a couple of games, though none as memorable as Shaq Fu (1994), a bad brawler with an absurd premise that saw Shaq fighting inter-dimensional villains. It's a bit of a cult classic, wretched hit boxes and all.

Hiptic was aware of Shaq Fu and knew that any video game with Shaq in it that came after would have to follow in its footsteps since, you know, it was so impressionably over-the-top. In the coolest way possible, the silliness of that game informed this one.

"We knew of Shaq Fu's infamous history, so we were very aware that that any game involving Shaq really couldn't be taken too seriously. So, we decided conceptually, we wanted it to be overly cheesy but play it straight, you know like a bad B movie," Vo says.

"ShaqDown isn't meant to be a serious fighting game like Shaq Fu, but it is one that emulates the rhythm and cadence of a fighting game. We treated Shaq like a character out of Street Fighter or Fist of the North Star, a larger than life hero type and just took it from there."

Outside of some over-arching creative guidelines, Shaq also handled his digital character's barks and added some of his own flavor.

"We had a recording session with him in which we wrote a script to have him make all kinds of Capcom-esque fighting yells using basketball terminology," Vo tells us. "We were super surprised at the level of professionalism he showed during the recording session. He did at least three takes of each line -- with different deliveries -- and gave us a lot of spontaneous ad-lib as well."

A lot of games featuring celebrities feel like the cold and hard business decisions that they ultimately are. But despite its problems, ShaqDown manages to feel honest to video games and Shaq's personality. Maybe he wasn't as hands-on as we hoped he would have been, but the approach worked.

ShaqDown might not be the best game ever, but it's a superb example of a game that could only happen on the App Store. We've got a review here and a video here, if you want to see the game in action.

  • Contest Chris

    This for a two star game? Imma confuse

    • joemontana

      that, my friend, is called good PR.

    • MrAlbum

      It is kinda cool to hear about, even if it is about a 2-star game, so I'm okay with it :3

    • Eli Hodapp

      You're not interested in reading actual interesting stories about game development on the App Store? Imma confuse

      • Like a Crocodile

        @hodapp:disqus Eli pls tell me you looked at the trailer of my game and it's not worth a mention. I promise you after you play it you will rate it way above 2 stars. 😛

  • Optimo

    I don't follow what is meant here:
    "... but it's a superb example of a game that could only happen on the App Store."
    What says this can't be developed for any platform?

    Kudos for dishing the info on classic games from our childhoods. Shaq Fu had unique art, and interesting new techniques for it's time (motion cap stuff ?). It might have been a superb example of a game that could have only happened in the Nineties, in the heyday of classic fighters, while conforming to use any celebrity IP.

    • swarmster

      "What says this can't be developed for any platform?"

      The extremely low barrier to entry (on both the developer side and consumer side), the bigger-than-any-strictly-gaming-platform market, and the widespread acceptance of simpler, bite-sized games?

  • Guest

    Everyone has their own opinions

  • B30

    Good PR for a boring game.

  • dancj

    Is this Shaq guy famous in America then?

    • themostunclean

      Shaquille O'Neal aka Shaq. An OK basketball player, bad actor in genie-based movies and soda commercials. He was famous in the 90's but for some reason people still care enough about him for people to pay .99¢ for his game.

      I too am dumbfounded as to how a 2 star game has gotten this much coverage on TA. A little payola perhaps?

      • MrAlbum

        The norm for games like this is that the celebrity whose image/likeness/voice is used has no true creative input during development. It is fascinating to see that this game is different. Mr. O'Neal was in fact involved with the concepts and development of the game on at least a general level, and it would be a missed journalistic opportunity not to write about that. Similar to how it would be fascinating to do an interview with the cast and crew of Manos: The Hands of Fate, a terrible movie that had a very interesting production history, and later got an (eventually) official licensed iOS movie game that the TA forums liked, yet TA staff had a less rosy view of it.

        So yeah. Just because a game is bad does not mean that it is not interesting, or that interesting stuff does not happen around it. Granted, it can be hard to find the interesting stuff sometimes, but once you do it is worth it 😉

      • themostunclean

        Even if there had been payment to write the article as a form of promotion for the game that isn't necessarily a bad thing. I didn't really mean it that way. TA definitely deserves any extra revenue they can get.

        There are probably some people who genuinely like this game who will appreciate the article. It was also a bit of a slow week on the iOS gaming front.

  • Ville Helin

    The Shaq-Fu game for Amiga was pretty terrible, so not much has changed since 1994, I reckon...

  • anada

    3 articles for a terrible game? Then there's all the great games that never get any coverage at all. Go figure

    • MrAlbum

      But is there interesting things to talk about in relation to those great games that would fill out three great articles each?

      If you are unsatisfied with TA's coverage, then why doesn't the TA community raise awareness about the games TA misses?



    • Like a Crocodile

      @disqus_thaKAB4zjK:disqus second that!