Mega Man Arena lets players grab from an array of Mega Man 2 bosses for a four-player showdown, using their special abilities across stages taken straight from the series of sidescrolling shooters. With several fun elements, like ride-able atomic chickens in Wood Man’s stage or a boss rush that lets four players tackle some of the series’ huge bosses, Mega Man Arena offers many excuses for Blue Bomber fans to get together.
Siliconera spoke with Jeff Kish, developer of Mega Man Arena, to learn more about what drew them to create this kind of multiplayer game, the challenges of balancing powers (i.e. keeping Metal Man from destroying everyone), and what’s coming next for the title.
Mega Man Arena is a Smash Bros-style take on the Blue Bomber. What drew you to create this kind of game?
Jeff Kish, developer of Mega Man Arena: I’ve long been part of the Smash Bros competitive scene, attending my first tournament in 2003 and hosting/running a national tournament series called MELEE-FC from 2004-2007. I’ve wanted to create a Mega Man fighter for 15 years, and my desire was to create a game that’s faithful to Mega Man’s NES-era mechanics while allowing the game to be competitive – both in terms of character balance, advanced techniques like wavedashing, and overall fun factor.
What thoughts went into your character selection? What made your initial roster feel balanced? What helped you decide who to include and who to cut?
My initial plan was to include robot masters from several Mega Man games, but, upon completing the Mega Man 2 roster, I decided this would be a great starting point that would allow me to launch more characters over time. From a balancing perspective, I tried to create purpose behind each character – for example, Quick Man is a glass cannon, Wood Man is slow but defensive – and then tweaked energy use and damage based on early playtesting.
What difficulties did you face in working with Mega Man’s ability to copy any power? How did you make that work and still feel fair?
Mega Man’s copy ability is one of the most iconic aspects of the Blue Bomber, so I knew I had to include it. The main difficulty was (and will be) adding custom Mega Man code for every Robot Master that gets added over time! Mega Man’s other special abilities are fun but not particularly useful in a fight, so he relies on his ability to get close and grab a power to compete.
How did you balance the varied boss powers so that they complemented each other in the game? Keep the clearly powerful ones (Metal Blade) from being too powerful?
Energy expenditure and damage output are the major balancing factors in the game. Metal Man has incredible attack angles, but his damage output is low. Crash Man has high damage output, but he runs out of energy quickly. The key was to give each character strengths and weaknesses. That said, some characters are sure to be better than others, and I’ll make subtle balance changes if needed over time to keep the game balanced.
How did you decide on which areas to include? What made each screen feel right for the kind of action you wanted from the game?
One of the biggest stage design decisions was to keep the stages small. Mega Man Arena is a projectile-based fighting game, and a large stage will slow down the action and create camping situations, etc. Metal Man would be extremely unbalanced on a large stage! As far as what specific stage areas to include, I mostly pulled up a stage map and picked a spot that looked like it would be fun. For example, Crash Man 1 is the opening screen for Crash Man’s stage in Mega Man 2. I also took the Smash Bros approach – some stages are for fun, but others are meant to be balanced/competitive, like the Wood Man 2 stage (which looks a lot like Smash Bros’ Battlefield).
Mega Man Arena features some neat extras and hidden dangers on each map. What thoughts went into creating those?
This comes back to creating a game that feels like the NES classics. Quick Man’s lasers make for a horrible competitive situation, but they sure make for a fun party map!
What drew you to create the multiplayer challenge stages? Why let multiple players work through old boss fights or stage clips?
You can thank my kids for this feature! I was making a map where the Wily Alien shows up and starts shooting at players while they fight each other, and they told me in no uncertain terms that I should make a mode where the players can fight the boss as a team. I’m grateful for their suggestion, as Boss Mode has been extremely well-received. Players are already speedrunning the bosses.
What do you intend to keep adding onto the game now? What is your next step?
The most in-demand feature is a native online client, so my attention will be focused on that for a little while. From there,I plan to add characters and bosses from other Mega Man games. Capcom has given us no end of roster choices! My long term vision is to create an open-source MMA Engine of sorts to enable players to submit their favorite characters for inclusion into the full release.