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Code a Kung-Fu Master style beat-’em-up | Wireframe #32

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Punch and kick your way through a rabble of bad dudes in a simple scrolling beat-’em-up. Mark Vanstone shows you how

Although released to tie in with Jackie Chan’s Spartan X, Kung-Fu Master was originally inspired by the Bruce Lee film, Game of Death.

Kung-Fu Master

Kung-Fu Master hit arcades in 1984. Its side-scrolling action, punching and kicking through an army of knife-throwing goons, helped create the beat-’em-up genre. In fact, its designer, Takashi Nishiyama, would go on to kickstart the Street Fighter series at Capcom, and later start up the Fatal Fury franchise at SNK.

In true eighties arcade style, Kung-Fu Master distils the elements of a chop-socky action film to its essentials. Hero Thomas and his girlfriend are attacked, she’s kidnapped, and Thomas fights his way through successive levels of bad guys to rescue her. The screen scrolls from side to side, and Thomas must use his kicks and punches to get from one side of the level to the other and climb the stairs to the next floor of the building.

Our Kung-Fu Master homage features punches, kicks, and a host of goons to use them on.

Making our brawler

To recreate this classic with Pygame Zero, we’ll need quite a few frames of animation, both for the hero character and the enemies he’ll battle. For a reasonable walk cycle, we’ll need at least six frames in each direction. Any fewer than six won’t look convincing, but more frames can achieve a smoother effect. For this example, I’ve used the 3D package Poser, since it has a handy walk designer which makes generating sequences of animation much easier.

Once we have the animation frames for our characters, including a punch, kick, and any others you want to add, we need a background for the characters to walk along. The image we’re using is 2000×400 pixels, and we start the game by displaying the central part so our hero can walk either way. By detecting arrow key presses, the hero can ‘walk’ one way or the other by moving the background left and right, while cycling through the walk animation frames. Then if we detect a Q key press, we change the action string to kick; if it’s A, it’s punch. Then in our update() function, we use that action to set the Actor’s image to the indicated action frame.

Our enemy Actors will constantly walk towards the centre of the screen, and we can cycle through their walking frames the same way we do with the main hero. To give kicks and punches an effect, we put in collision checks. If the hero strikes while an enemy collides with him, we register a hit. This could be made more precise to require more skill, but once a strike’s registered, we can switch the enemy to a different status that will cause them to fall downwards and off the screen.

This sample is a starting point to demonstrate the basics of the beat-’em-up genre. With the addition of flying daggers, several levels, and a variety of bad guys, you’ll be on your way to creating a Pygame Zero version of this classic game.

The generation game

Because we’re moving the background when our hero walks left and right, we need to make sure we move our enemies with the background, otherwise they’ll look as though they’re sliding in mid-air – this also applies to any other objects that aren’t part of the background. The number of enemies can be governed in several ways: in our code, we just have a random number deciding if a new enemy will appear during each update, but we could use a predefined pattern for the enemy generation to make it a bit less random, or we use a combination of patterns and random numbers.

Here’s Mark’s code snippet, which creates a side-scrolling beat-’em-up in Python. To get it working on your system, you’ll need to install Pygame Zero. And to download the full code, go here.

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