Combos, move cancelling, super moves, and all manner of fighting game abilities are being brought to Shattered Realms, a beat ‘em up that draws from the fighting game genre to create some exciting play opportunities to the genre.
Siliconera spoke with Pieter Visser, director at KopSkop Games, about why they chose to bring fighting game play to brawlers, how that affects how players tackle the game, and how it changes up the pace and speed of the genre.
Shattered Realms brings fighting game complexity to brawlers. What made you want to bring things like advanced movesets, combos, and move-cancelling to the genre?
Pieter Visser, Director of Shattered Realms: I wanted to combine the versatility of the combat mechanics in fighting games with the chaos of a brawler. The main inspiration for Shattered Realms came from Street Fighter Alpha 3‘s Dramatic Battle mode, where 2 players could cooperatively go up against a single AI opponent. This lead to some massive combos where your partner covered the gaps in your offense, or bailed you out when you were being attacked. Having a wide variety of moves made it feel more like an expression of your fighting style, rather than using moves that were considered ‘optimal’. This was such an insane amount of fun that I found it strange that no one has tried to build a game around this concept.
What specific elements did you want to bring over to brawlers? Why did you feel these elements would make for a good brawler?
The main element I wanted to bring over from fighting games was the ability to express yourself through combat. This meant giving the player a wide variety of moves, each suited to different situations. The other was the impact and spectacle of landing attacks and super moves.
Most brawlers follow the traditional formula of “combo, knockdown, wait for enemy to stand up”. I wanted there to be a constant flow to combos, much like the Marvel vs Capcom series. No matter where the opponent was – ground, air or downed – there would always be an option for the player to continue their assault. Some of the other elements we brought over were double jumps, air dashes, ground- and wall bounces, as these were great for extending air combos.
One thing we changed was the execution of special moves. We wanted moves to be simple to execute so the player just had to focus on which move to do, rather than how to execute it. Almost all special moves are done by holding either up or down, and pressing one of the 3 attack buttons. To execute an EX Move, simply keep holding the attack button.
What challenges did you meet in bringing these elements to brawlers? How did you have to change the brawler to suit a player having access to so many quick, complex moves?
We wanted Shattered Realms to play like a fighting game, but feel like a brawler. Most fighting game mechanics transition quite well to a brawler, while I feel others like blocking and parrying don’t really suit the genre. Balancing what to include from either genre had to be done with care.
The big thing that makes a fighting game feel so good is the hitstop on attacks, but applying hitstop globally made it feel horrible as a brawler, so we introduced the concept of local hitstop. Local hitstop only affects the attacker and those being hit by them, so locally you feel like you’re in a fighting game, but globally everything else moves around normally. This is what helps give Shattered Realms its unique feel during combat.
Giving players such a huge arsenal of moves meant they had almost limitless combo potential. To help temper this, we looked closely at the defensive mechanics in the Guilty Gear games. Introducing mechanics like Hitstun Deterioration, Air and Ground Recovery, Bursting, Dodge and Roman Cancels, meant that combos could no longer be infinite, and that there were regular escape points for both the player and enemies.
With players having so many moves available, what sorts of attacks will enemies be able to execute to counter them? And how many enemies will players be fighting at once?
To make combat more manageable, we implemented some old kung fu movie rules. At any point in combat, only a limited number of enemies can attack the player at once (typically 3) while the rest wait for their turn to attack. So, even if things seem chaotic, being aware of enemy tells means you can always manage combat, and getting hit never feels cheap.
The defensive options are shared amongst all characters, players and enemies alike, though lower level enemies generally don’t use them. Elites and bosses can Burst and Air-Ground Recover to help them launch a counter attack. Enemies can also coordinate their attacks, so once you get hit, they let loose to do as much damage as they can.
You mention that players can create their own combos. How did you develop a system that allowed players to do this? Can you tell us how it works?
Initially we had a more traditional system that had cancel routes, so only certain moves could be cancelled from certain other moves. However, when I stood back from the game, a question popped into my head: "What if we introduced freeform cancelling, similar to that found in Devil May Cry games?" I.e. what if any move could be cancelled into any other move upon landing a hit. It was only when I tested it with players that I saw the potential. It shattered the skill ceiling, as now anyone could perform amazing combos and feel badass doing it.
And so the Combo Sandbox was born. It’s a system that allows the player to string together all the moves they enjoy most. Your combos, your play style. There are obviously optimal combos, but the route to get there is up to you.
Why give players the freedom to create combos rather than offer a pre-made set. What do you feel that adds to Shattered Realms?
Why not? Fighting games limit freedom to help make them more fair and balanced, and brawlers give you pre-made combos to help make them more accessible. But with Shattered Realms, it doesn’t matter if the player is overpowered (we want them to be), and with the Combo Sandbox system, it’s just as accessible as a brawler. We want players to feel awesome when playing our game, and we want to create as many opportunities as possible for them to do so.
Shattered Realms will allow for up to four players at once. How will the game change to suit the increasing offensive powers of so many players?
This is something we’re still testing, which is why the demo was soft locked to 2 players only. We need to see how players handle different situations in order to balance it correctly. Just spawning more enemies doesn’t look like the best solution. We’ll keep some of this, because it’s super fun, but not very challenging. Increasing their health helps a little, but a well-coordinated team still rips them to shreds.
One thing we’ve already noticed is that we can make the enemies hyper-aggressive, and also shower them with armour buffs. Players being able to team up against a single enemy, or bailing a partner out of a combo is a very potent force, and at the moment players are crushing everything we throw at them. However, we’ll never make the player less powerful to compensate; as we balance, we’ll balance upwards.