If you’ve been on the shiny new Icons subreddit this week, you’ve seen me over there. A lot. In, like, every thread. Anyone who’s been following this blog for a while may remember other posts about my high hopes and excitement for this game. I have (and will do so again) talked about my expectations for how the game will reshape esports in the genre. Today, I want to go a bit more specifically into my specific desires out of this game, both in-game features as well as the structure of their esports ecosystem.
For those unaware (or having clicked the link praying for more HOTS content, sorry that’s on the way but it’s EVO season so fighting games get all my brain space) “Icons” is the newly revealed name for Wavedash Games upcoming platform fighter. The game promises all the technically rewarding gameplay of Super Smash Bros Melee with, you know, a developer that actually supports their competitive community. The game will be free to play on Steam with a beta set for sometime in the Fall. Go check it out, it’s gonna be sweet. Now, onto what I want!
First let’s talk about features. These are things I want to see directly in the game, or related to the experience of playing the game itself. In no particular order:
Not Loot Boxes
Free-to-play models are tricky. You need a system that encourages your whales to spend lots and lots of money, but also keeps your free-play player base engaged and grinding for in-game rewards. Loot boxes are cropping up in a ton of games, largely because of their success in Overwatch. For me, loot boxes are a huge turn-off. If I like a costume or a character, I want to be able to just buy it. I don’t mind the RNG in collectible games like Hearthstone, but if I have to crack a bunch of “space crates” or whatever to get the one skin I want for Kidd, I’ll be kind of bummed.
My hope is that the team get creative with their in-game purchases. Obviously fill the game with cosmetics, but let’s go deeper. Let me buy a new challenge pack of single player content once or twice a year. Stuff like Break the Targets from Smash. Let me pay to enter a tournament that rewards some sort of exclusive in game portrait or something. Give me the ability to purchase stuff for other players directly from the in-game store. This is something people want in every game, and when it finally game to League it worked out pretty well. Games like this are lifestyle games. When you play frequently, your fellow players become your core friends, your family. Buying them that costume they want, or the new announcer pack featuring their favorite commentator would be a great gift, and a great way to support their favorite game.
Biggest part of this–let me support esports through the game. Give me a Mango-inspired costume for Kidd when he wins Genesis in Icons. When there are sponsored players, let me buy in-game portraits to show my support with some of the revenue going to support that player/team. Make exclusives that directly support the pot bonus of an upcoming tournament. If this community becomes anything like the Rivals scene or Smash as a whole, people will want ways to not only support the game, but to support the people pushing it to its highest competitive level.
Deep Training Mode
This is likely too ambitious for launch, but I want a top notch training mode. I want a training mode so deep you can watch ESAM spend 12 hours in it on stream and never be bored. Let me pick every stage, every character, set exact percents for both characters, adjust how the computer DIs attacks, etc.
Most of all, I want to be able to record inputs for the training dummy. Let me practice edgeguarding by setting the computer to respond to hits the same way over and over again, from the same position on the stage. Give me the option to set their out of shield options so I can practice punishes, or set how they edgeguard so I can practice recoveries. The more features in the training mode, the better.
At this point, any game that doesn’t learn from the Rivals of Aether tutorial mode is just not worth playing. This game will be free to play on Steam, you’ll get a ton of people checking it out who have never seriously played a platform fighter. Educate them intimately on the basics, but also provide character-specific tutorials. At the very least, have something in-game that links directly to YouTube videos that show the basics for your character.
I love daily quests. Between my work schedule and obsessive need to absorb esports content, I don’t get a lot of time to play games. When I do, I want to feel like I’m accomplishing something. Daily quests and achievements give that to me. Daily quests are great in a game like this because they can encourage players to branch out to other characters or try out new game modes.
What I really want, though, are achievements. This is something the Might and Magic card game, Duels of Champions, nailed perfectly. I love card games, and I logged in every day for my daily log-in bonus. However, because I couldn’t play that often and was poor as heck, I couldn’t afford enough cards to really feel like I was progressing fast enough in the ranked mode. Fortunately, the game had over a hundred achievements I could focus on, each one rewarding in-game currency or booster packs. There could be achievements for winning ranked games with each character a set number of times, winning without taking damage, getting kills with a specific special move a number of times, and so much more! Achievements would give a player like me, who finds the game super fun but will never be able to climb the ranked ladder like they want to, an alternate success condition to chase.
I want to know the lore of this world. I love the wacky lore in fighting games, and even more so I adore the people who know it intimately. My hope is that Icons will reward those players who want a rich backstory for their character. Whether through single-player content or just through teases in the voice lines, make me feel that there’s a larger, cohesive world out there.
Adding to this, I pray that there is supplemental content. No one is expecting the digital shorts of Overwatch, but even in the early days League of Legends had a small written short story for each character release. Something that gave their motivations and fleshed out the world a little bit. We know the names of all the big cities on Runeterra, we know the relationships between all the characters in League. They had enough story in a game with no single player content to have an actual lore-based show-match that affected the course of the world. I want that! If Raymer and Kidd are rivals in the story, have Leffen and ANTi settle the score for them in a best of 7. Make the result of that match have real affects on the story of the world, and make some sort of in game collectible that reflects it.
Good Patch Notes
It is baffling how many games still have awful patch notes. Document every single change in a patch, and provide developer commentary on the goal of that change. Let the players know the reasoning for changes and the goals in your design philosophy so that they can properly test changes, and provide useful feedback.
It’s in my name, obviously it’s what I care about. I will likely invest in the esports of this game more than I actually play it, so here’s what I want to see:
Weekly Online Events
Whether through ESL’s weekly series or something unique to the game, there should be an official weekly tournament with an open bracket. These events allow online warriors to get a taste of the competitive experience, and are a great spot for amateur commentators to practice their craft. I think the ESL’s Go4 series is a perfect fit for this game.
No Developer Commentary
This was tough in the early days of Infinite Crisis. The dev team did all the commentary for every tournament. They choked the amateur commentary scene, and were not entertaining in the least. Events in early beta don’t need Scar and Toph on the mic, but there will be community members with good audio setups who are willing and able. Get them involved as early as possible.
A True Circuit
This is what will truly set this game above Smash in the coming years. Nintendo is a decade behind when it comes to esports, and there is no sign in the community of banding together to create a true governing body for the competitive scene. By 2019 there should be an official global circuit for the game. I’ll probably outline a proposal for such a thing in another post once I’ve gotten my hands on the game, but for now I just want the team working towards a true circuit.
This should be something with a universal set of rules, a clear understanding of how to qualify and what events throughout the year will award points, and a big world championship finale. My hope is that the finale of the circuit also not take place at a shared event. The finals should be special for this community, not sharing the stage at Genesis or EVO with another game. Ultimately, the main purpose of this circuit should be to provide the community with a central structure, and a clear arc to a season of competition.
More Than Smash
I don’t want Icons to just be a part of the “platform fighter community”, only showing up at Smash events. I want this game to be the infection vector for gamers in every genre. Hold major tournaments at anime conventions, do an invitational sponsored by PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, take the gaps in the FGC calendar that Smash avoids. We see a pitiful Smash competition at Combo Breaker, make that a key pillar of the Icons season. If Icons is going to be more than just a smash clone, that has to be reflected in the esports structure.
Official Esports Twitter
No one comes close to Riot Games on this front, but there’s so much benefit for doing it right. There needs to be an official Twitter account that provides updates during tournaments. Following tournaments on Twitter is so fun in Smash, but we have to rely on PGStats to tell us when upsets happen, and we rarely get other details outside of a bunch of vague tweets of “did that just happen?!?!”
If I want to keep up to date with a tournament stream until I get home from work, there should be one Twitter account I have to follow for those updates. It should be tweeting out set counts, upsets, clippable moments, and constant links to both the stream and the bracket.
If you are playing Icons, you should know about the tournament scene. There should be a button on the homepage that let’s you watch the stream of this weekend’s circuit event from within the game. Every week the in-game landing page should be announcing tournaments, linking to registration pages, and giving you updates on how the season has progressed. If your only connection to Icons is the game itself, you should still have resources to actively follow the competitive scene.
What sort of features are you looking for in Icons? Are there any dealbreaker features for you that absolutely must be included? What is your ideal esports structure for the game?