Developer Team Notes #6

Hey there, Smashers!

As previously stated, we will discuss the game mode that plays a significant role in SMASH LEGENDS in this developer notes. 

What is a Mode?

SMASH LEGENDS follows a set of battle rules. When I attack with the Attack button, the enemy loses health, gets hit stunned, and knocked back. Also, the player gets knocked back further when low on health, and flies across the map when that health reaches 0. When the player gets removed from the map, we use the term “SMASH” to refer a ring out. Likewise, this set of battle rules allows Legends to interact and clash with each other. 

Building upon the battle rules, we have Modes that add victory objectives. Being good at combat is an advantage you can have, but in order to win, you need to complete the mode’s objective.

There are two categories that consist of a mode.
The first is player count. How the teams are set up (solo, 2p team, 3p team), how many players can play the mode (4p, 6p, 8p), and who your teammates and opponents are.
The second is the victory conditions. This specifies what to do in the game and how the winner is decided. 

Different game modes are created using these rules.  For instance, in Team Deathmatch, you must SMASH opponents, in Dominion, you must capture the point, in Battle Royale, you must be the last man standing, and in Crown Guard, you must protect the teammate who is wearing the crown. In other words, the modes determine the kind of game that will be played by the players. 

We’ve learned from creating so many modes that each one affects how the game is played differently. While some games call for strategy, concentration, and teamwork, others can be played in a more laid-back and enjoyable setting. However, what matters most is the fact that each mode has a distinct goal that players can intuitively understand it. In other words, modes with confusing objectives had to be excluded during the development process.

Managing Modes

Throughout the development of SMASH LEGENDS, we discovered that the game was not just about combat and that having different modes to play made it more enjoyable. Thus, when the game first launched, we always intended to add different modes, ranging from casual party modes to strategic teamwork-oriented modes, with new ones being added on a regular basis.

One concern we had was that having too many modes available at once would result in a thinly distributed matchmaking pool, so we limited the number of modes that could be available at the same time. We wanted to build a system that constantly rotated modes by adding new modes and removing unpopular ones which would be revised later with this model. Despite our best efforts, however, things did not go as planned. Making appropriate maps for modes proved more difficult than expected, and managing all of these different modes proved to be a challenge. Therefore, we decided to create the Arena Lab, where we could continue to offer new modes to our players.

We desired various game modes, but we also believed that the main mode that served as the core of our game was necessary. In other words, we created a slew of modes in an attempt to find our “main mode,” which could be synonymous with SMASH LEGENDS. To better understand, we will look into another MOBA game. In this game, players compete in a team of five on three lanes. The winning objective is to destroy the enemy base, and this is their main mode of the game. There are other modes where it is 3vs3 instead of 5vs5 or has only one lane instead of three. Those modes, however, are not the game’s main mode. Likewise, SMASH LEGENDS needed the main mode, and this is what our journey looked like. 

Developing Modes

When SMASH LEGENDS was first being developed, it was a four-player free-for-all with the intention of being a party game. The rules were simple. Players had three minutes to collect the most points and win by SMASHING opponents to earn a point, getting SMASHED and losing a point, or intentionally falling off the map and losing two points. Fighting opponents was important, but the main goal was to land the final blow and ultimately earn enough points to win.

This four-person free-for-all was easy and enjoyable. However, it had some drawbacks, such as the fact that luck seemed to be the most important factor in determining who would win, and that players would often avoid fighting as a result. The game itself was entertaining for a few rounds, but it was insufficient to motivate players to practice and improve their skills. As a result, we determined that this mode did not meet our criteria for being the game’s main mode.  

We were still aiming for it to be a party game at this point in our development cycle. But then we changed our minds and decided to try to create a mode that required more strategy. As a result, players could enjoy the game for a longer period of time, and thus the 3:3 Capture the Flag mode was born. It followed the same rules as any other capture the flag mode, but with a twist: there was only one flag in the middle of the map, and it could be taken by anyone. When a team secured the flag, it earned them a point every second, and the other team had to SMASH the carrier of the flag in order to steal it. The team to reach 80 points first won the game.

To be honest, we enjoyed the capture the flag mode. It had one carrier, two defenders, and three attackers attempting to steal the flag, all of whom were constantly switching roles. This mode, however, had a critical flaw. By nature of the game, it was difficult to hit players in SMASH LEGENDS who were focusing solely on avoiding fights, which ended up putting a lot of pressure on the attackers. Later, we added a rule that the carrier’s movement speed would be halved and they would be unable to jump, but even then the outcome of the games would often result in 80:0. Furthermore, with six players brawling it out, it was difficult to identify who the carrier was, so we decided to scrap the mode out entirely during development. 

Our next attempt was a more straightforward mode: the 2:2 Duo Deathmatch mode. It had rules that everyone was familiar with. It was a 2vs2 team match in which each team earned a point for SMASHING an opponent, and the team with the most points at the end won. The time limit was changed several times after that, but the mode remained largely unchanged. We were thinking about making Duo Deathmatch our main mode, but when it was about to be revealed, the consensus of the game being labeled as a “fighting game” worried us that it would not appeal to a wide audience. Duo Deathmatch relied heavily on battling. Also, it did not help that fighting games were perceived as a niche genre that only a few people enjoyed playing. In the end, the main mode of our game was changed to 3:3 Dominion.

Other modes we recall being created were 1:3 Mode and Soccer Mode. Both were enjoyable to play, and we will discuss them further when the opportunity arises.

The Next Main Mode

If someone were to ask me whether Dominion as the main mode of the game was a perfect choice, we would have to say it was not without its faults.

  • SMASH LEGENDS is primarily a multiplayer brawler. So it was easier to develop than a 1vs1 fighting game, and we anticipated that a 2vs2 team battle would be appropriate. A good way to understand the game is that things are chaotic for a while in a 2vs2 fight, but less so when it becomes 1vs2 or 2vs1, and finally simplified when it becomes 1vs1. On the one hand, the problem was that in a 2vs2 battle, it was obvious when one teammate was performing better/worse than the other, which stressed everyone out. On the other hand, we wanted to make the battles more interesting. As a result, we transitioned from a 2vs2 system to a 3vs3 team battle, making 3vs3 Dominion our main mode. 
  • Gameplay-wise, a 3vs3 battle is very complicated. Newcomers must learn the game one step at a time, but a game that is too complex will discourage them from learning and leads to their quitting the game. Furthermore, even the most skilled players will struggle in a 3vs3 battle because there is nothing that clearly distinguishes an attack from a defense.
  • We thought that a 3vs3 game would be more exciting than a 1vs1 or 2vs2 game, but we were wrong. The various skirmishes between 1vs1 and 3vs3 were few and far between, with the majority of the time being a full-on 3vs3 clash-out. This was repeated in every game, leaving no room for variation. 
  • Furthermore, when it came to Competitive Matches, issues began to resurface due to a lack of strategy in the game. We hoped that switching our main mode from Team Deathmatch to Dominion would add more strategic depth, but that did not happen. Draft picks to create synergy comps, or counter-picking against the opponent’s Legends were less impactful than expected. Also, maps and their gimmicks were largely ineffective due to the nature of the mode bringing everyone to the dominion point. 

For these reasons, we decided that Dominion would no longer be suitable as the main mode of the game. As a result, we created Touchdown to replace it, as it had more advantages than Dominion. 

Player Dispersion

  • The main goal was to break up 3v3 battles and try to divide them into smaller ones. During the game, most skirmishes were 1v1 or 2v2, allowing players to make strategic decisions about grouping together or spreading out. However, in critical moments of the game, 3vs3 battles would take place, giving the impression of a full-out battle. 

Intuitive Causal Relationship

  • There is no clear cause and effect in Dominion between bad and good play. In SMASH LEGENDS, for example, SMASHING opponents is a big play. It does not, however, directly lead to the capture of the Dominion Point and earning a point. If the timing is off, the opponent may be able to revive and return to contest the point with full HP, making life more difficult for your team.  In another case, intentionally dying when you are low on HP can be a viable strategy. Similarly, in order to win the game, you may need to act counterintuitively. However, in Touchdown, we made this causal relationship clearer so that the gameplay could be more intuitive by battling opponents, exchanging damage, gaining an advantage through SMASHING, and snowballing. 

Picking Legends Based on Match-ups and Synergies

  • Because Legends can now use more of the map, they can be used in new ways. In 1v1 or 2v2 situations, there are numerous options for controlling the game in your favor. As a result, the synergies between Legends and their match-up become clearer. Furthermore, as it integrates into the Competitive Match’s Draft Pick system, the strategic factor becomes more prominent. 

Changes Made Through Time

  • Although playing the same game with the same rules, it is more enjoyable and less tiring if the early, mid, and late phases change the gameplay. In Dominion, for example, there is the “FINISH TIME!” rule. In Touchdown, this change of pace happens throughout the entire game, keeping it fresh by taking advantage of the different stages of the game. 

This is not to say that Touchdown is without flaws. The scattered nature of the mode makes it difficult for players to decide where they should go. Touchdown, unlike Dominion, has two goals that players must chase around the map. So, even if you focus solely on one lane and win the battle, you could still lose the match. Even veteran SMASH LEGENDS players can be overwhelmed by this new implementation, so it could potentially be even more challenging for newcomers.

To address some of these concerns, we intend to release a 2:2 Duo Touchdown in addition to the original 3:3 Team Touchdown. 2:2 Duo Touchdown will be released with the same map that was first revealed in Arena Lab and will feature a single target that players must escort in order to score a touchdown. Although it appears to be a simplified version of Team Touchdown at first glance, the strategy required in Duo Touchdown is far more complex than the original because the goal is to guide a single target to the endzone rather than simply SMASHING opponents. Nonetheless, we believe that this mode will help both veteran players and newcomers understand the game’s basic rules. 

Balance Changes

Starting Competitive Match Season 3 in August, Team Touchdown will become the main mode. SMASH LEGENDS’ balancing will still be made with the main mode in mind, so a balance patch to adjust Legends, who were balanced with Dominion in mind, for Team Touchdown will arrive in the coming days. Touchdown will do certain things differently from Dominion.

  • Higher value will be placed on Movement Speed.
    : Because Touchdown maps tend to be larger and move the point of focus around the map, Legends with high mobility will be able to use their skillset to their full potential. 
  • More value will be placed on 1vs1 encounters than 3vs3 encounters.
    : In comparison to Dominion, 1vs1-2vs2 battles will be more common, whereas 3vs3 battles will not. As a result, any Legend who excels at dealing with multiple opponents will lose some of their advantages in battle. 
  • Higher value will be placed on stronger damage.
    : In Touchdown, SMASHING an opponent creates more advantageous opportunities than in Dominion. Therefore, Legends with burst damage or those who can continuously harass the opponent will be in high demand.
  • Knockbacks are still good.
    : Knocking back opponents from the escort target is sufficient to move the target closer to your goal. The time it takes the knocked-down opponent to run all the way back to the target will put a lot of pressure on them. We will, however, reduce knockbacks for all attacks across the board to ensure that skirmishes can occur throughout the match. 
  • Less charging in, more defending.
    : Dominion always had a clear definition of which team was attacking and defending. Hence, it was necessary for the attacking team to charge into the Dominion Point to take control. However, Touchdown does not require charging in and can block the opponent’s escort by positioning themselves at choke points. This way, Legends who excel in tanking can perform their role better in these types of situations. 

We intend to implement these balance changes with these considerations in mind. When the changes are implemented, there will be Legends that have been a bit over-tuned, as with any balance patch. However, we hope to consistently release updates on a regular basis in order to even everything out. 

This is all we have prepared for our Developer Team Notes! We hope you enjoy the new main mode as well as the upcoming changes to SMASH LEGENDS!

Thank you.