Posted by: seanmalstrom | September 1, 2014

When in doubt, give gamers a choice

Above: You can set the population in Age of Empires. You can’t do that in Blizzard RTSes!

When the original Age of Empires was being made, the development team revealed an argument going on to the fans. There were really two RTS game standards then: Warcraft 2 and Command and Conquer/Red Alert. Command and Conquer did not have ‘farms’ while Warcraft 2 did. Farms were buildings you built to increase a ‘supply’ so you can build more units. More importantly, what should the unit cap be? If the unit cap was high, then people would build large armies and overwhelm one another with vast numbers. But if the unit cap was low, then people would build smaller armies and use them in more strategic and tactical ways. Which to choose? Which to choose?

I thought this argument was nonsense and expressed as much so when I wrote in. “Why do the developers have to choose one or the other? Give the option to the gamers. Let the gamer decide how the game should be played!” A couple days later, the team announced the resolution was to allow the game creator to set the supply limit. A game could have high supply or low supply. Everyone was happy. Everyone.

I had no idea what made the Age of Empire team decide what they did. For all I know, what I wrote wasn’t even read. Regardless, the team did the right thing. Give gamers the choice.

Above: Starcraft 2 is much faster than the original Starcraft.

My complaint about speed is with Starcraft 2. Starcraft 2’s multiplayer is primarily online (it CAN’T be local because there is no LAN!). While you can create custom melee games, no one really plays those. It is all in the ladder. Because Starcraft 2 was designed around high end Starcraft 1 players, you end up with a game that is way too fast for the average gamer. The difference between a low level player and a higher level player has NOTHING to do with strategy and tactics. It has everything to do with being fast. Due to the high speed, the faster you are, the more commands you can issue. You can literally beat the early ladder players in Starcraft 2 by making just ONE MILITARY UNIT if you are very fast and good with your micro and macro-management. Starcrat 2’s strategy and tactical nuances don’t get experienced by the players until they reach the high end of Diamond and Master leagues.

That’s pretty fucked up. It is why Starcraft 2 never caught on while the MOBAs did. A low level MOBA player is differed from a high level MOBA player by far more than just raw speed.

Now look at what Sakurai is saying about Smash 4. He is saying that Smash 4 will be lower speed than Melee but faster than Brawl. He admits Brawl was a rather tame game.

Above: Sakurai is just fiction. The above is how Smash 4’s roster was REALLY set up!

I haven’t heard much about Smash 4’s online, but I know Smash 4 isn’t going to be primarily played online. It will be played primarily offline in local multiplayer. Why not offer gamers the choice of setting the game speed? They can choose to turn off items, smash balls, and other things. Why not allow gamers to control the game speed as well?

Speaking of Brawl’s lameness from Melee, I do agree that the maps play a huge factor. In melee, you could easily fall off the edge in the maps. In Brawl, the map design didn’t really allow that. Worse, Brawl had characters that could FLY. Part of the excitement of Melee was how the stages would just dump you to death. Level design always matters even for fighting games like Smash. Yet, you never hear about level design in Smash discussions because they think the characters are the only variables. The maps are an extremely important variable.

Above: The above are Melee’s maps. Maps matter in Smash. It isn’t just game balance and speed!


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