Matrix game creator backs martial arts game

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Global online Kung Fu fighting to break out after licensing deal signed.

A 3D fighting game based on the martial art of Kung Fu may be the first Chinese-developed online game to win worldwide distribution, following the purchase of licensing rights by major online leisure software operator, Shanda Entertainment. The game, 'Kong-Fu Masters', has been endorsed by David Perry, developer of the best-selling Enter the Matrix.

NASDAQ-listed Shanda announced yesterday that it had secured the right to distribute the game outside greater China and Taiwan from its original developer, JoyChina Network Technologies. The game is based around 3D martial arts combat between heroes, with themes similar to those seen in movies like 'Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon'.

"There's no doubt that one of the things gamers like to do most is to see just how powerful they can become. It's our job as game designers to try to think of worlds where they can do that, and have fun at the same time," said Perry in a media statement released by Shanda, "Kong-Fu Masters is the first advanced casual game ever that's deeply rich in culture, has humour, is fun, and lets gamers have all-out Kong-Fu battles with other gamers."

Perry, who works as an independent consultant to game developers and publishers, founded development house Shiny Entertainment in 1993, but left the firm earlier this year following its sale. Perry's extensive portfolio as designer and project leader with Shiny includes the popular and critically-acclaimed games Earthworm Jim, MDK and Messiah. He also worked on the movie tie-in Enter the Matrix, which sold well but earned unflattering reviews from critics and experienced players. He is also working on the forthcoming 'adult' massively multiplayer role playing game, 2Moons.

While Perry has met with Shanda and its developers recently, the company has not disclosed how closely he is involved with Kong-Fu Masters or its other projects. The precise spelling of the game's name is also currently uncertain, as the fighting art known in Chinese as 'gong fu' is normally translated into English as 'kung fu', and not 'kong fu', as Shanda spells the title in promotional material. The game's Chinese name translates literally into English as 'chaotic martial world', and might be idiomatically translated as 'Crazy Fighting World'.

The game in its current beta form features seven heroes from Chinese myth and legend, most of whom are little-known outside Chinese society. The anime-style characters, who include the Monkey King, General Guan Yu, Hua Mulan, fight among Chinese-themed scenery.

"This is the first game we've licensed from a Chinese game developer," said Shanda CEO Tianqiao Chen. "We believe Kong-Fu Masters is a game rich in Chinese cultural content, which makes us confident in its global publishing potential and ability to attract a broad user base at home and abroad. Supported by Shanda's strong marketing and operating platform, we believe Kong-Fu Masters has excellent prospects for success. To best serve our customers, we will continue to add more high quality game titles to our platform."

"As one of the first game developers of casual games in China, we are honoured that our in-house developed game Kong-Fu Masters will be operated by Shanda and is praised by an internationally renowned game developer," said Chenghong Xie, president of the game's developer, Beijing-based JoyChina. "We will continue to develop high quality games and are dedicated to becoming a world class game developer."

An open beta test of the new game will start before the end of the year, Shanda announced. Versions of the game will be aimed at PC, mobile and other platforms.
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