Changes to Slap City from Alpha to Early Access

Hi, I’m Elias, the main programmer and designer on Slap City, and in this post I’m going to briefly talk about some of the changes made to Slap City since the Alpha version. Doing the alpha was a lot of fun, we got a lot of great feedback, and I’d like to thank everyone who participated! Now, Slap City entered Early Access! Can you believe it? I can hardly believe it, it’s been in development forever and now people can buy an unfinished version of it? Boggles the mind.

Make it go faster

One piece of recurring feedback we recieved was that it took too long to die.
When a character is struck by a strong attack, they go flying. If the attack is strong enough to kill, the character goes flying all the way to the blastzone and explodes into confetti and bones. In the alpha, this took far too long to happen, but it was not something we in the development team were even feeling, having stared ourselves blind at the speeds characters were going at to even notice that it was all too slow to really feel fun. After all, if you’re destined to be KOd, all you were doing at that point was waiting, sometimes (for what could feel like) several seconds, for your character to make its way across the screen.

The implementation that was come up with to solve this was simple; for knockback over a certain value, make the character execute their movement at a faster rate. This eats through large flight distances in a much shorter time, without changing how far you’d fly or be unable to act for. Additionally, high knockback values are now increased further by multiplying a portion of them slightly.

So now, combat was suddenly much snappier; if it was gonna happen, let it happen quickly.

3D smearing

However, as a cascading effect of this, if characters were hit REALLY hard, they would vanish from the screen in a couple of frames, making it sometimes a bit harder to understand what just happened. This gave me incentive to implement an idea I’d had in the back of my mind for a while – dynamic 3D smearing.
In 2D animation, smears are used to imply quick movement between two frames. A characters’ features are stretched way out of proportion from point A to point B for a single frame, giving the illusion that the character really did move there, and didn’t just teleport their face.

For Slap City, I wrote a vertex shader that can smear a 3D model along a vector, and project onto two spheres at the endpoints. This is used by the game to morph characters into bullet shape when moving too fast for standard non-stretched rendering to hold together.

Removal of gatlings

In the alpha, “gatlings” meant moves that could be canceled into all other moves besides itself four frames early. FourĀ  frames might not sound much, but for combos, it made them much easier. So easy in fact, that it was hard to NOT combo. Gatlings were a thing that had been added as kind of a joke much earlier when the game had still been a prototype and were never really tested without. After some testing with them disabled combos were still very much a thing, but had to be more earned. Also knowing that it would be easier to keep track of and balance the real framedata, it was finally decided to remove them completely.

Land canceling

Another important change made since the Alpha is the replacement of L-canceling by Dash canceling. “Canceling” isn’t the right word for it, but it’s the cool word for it. In the Alpha, pressing defend just before landing with an aerial attack would halve the amount of landing lag. If you were playing competetively, it was something you always wanted to do, no matter what move you were doing. It felt a bit unnecessary, why not just halve all landing lag? But it’s such a neat place for an input, so I wanted it to do something. Another thing you could do in the Alpha after L-canceling was hold backwards to get a dash backwards. This was expanded to work in both directions and is now known as Dash canceling. Friction against the floor was increased for landing, so not doing it will slow you down, something you might actually want sometimes. And lastly, the input window was increased to reflect the decreased importance.

No aerial clashes?

On a whim one evening, we tried removing aerial clashes. This led to a bunch of fun stuff, but why exactly? It’s because when two moves clash, the result is…nothing. Nobody takes damage, and nobody goes anywhere. Whereas a trade, then everybody takes damage, and everybody goes flying. In the end, I still decided on leaving clashes activated for one aerial per character, to inject some possible pseudo-prisoners-dilemma style mindgames into the game.

Fastfalling

A small but significant change; all relevant aerials can be fastfalled (fastfell? fastfallen? what a verb), making combo movement ever so slightly faster.

Bigger blastzones

Taken together – characters flying faster, dash canceling and fastfalling it was no wonder some of the stages needed some bigger blastzones to account. As a meta-effect, now there’s the occasional edgeguard. Even I have edgeguarded now. Happy surprises!

Cosmetic Skins

Oh, and we have skins now! It was a bunch of work to make it work, but we made it work. Which one is your favorite?

3 Responses to “Changes to Slap City from Alpha to Early Access”

Hey Ludosity, long time competitive Super Smash Bros. Melee and platform fighter genre fan here. I’d like to offer some of my criticisms with the latest patch and the game as a whole.

At first glace, Slap City looks very promising, especially in the realms of eSports. As someone that has been playing platform fighters for as long as I can remember, it thrills me to see a new title on the market that seems more in line with traditional platform fighter mechanics, but after seeing some of the change logs I’ve started to lose faith in the project. Aside from that, knowing that a ‘complete’ or ‘gold’ version of Rivals of Aether is on the horizon and Icons: Combat area will be open for public playtesting later this summer, I’m worried that Slap City may lose traction/interest from platform fighter fans due to it’s similarity to other clones (at face value), it’s own wild implementations, and it’s choice to diverge to far away from Melee’s central mechanics.

I’ve been an Icons and Rivals playtester since the heydays of both of those games, and I can say that many changes the aforementioned games have applied have resulted in alienated players. The removal of blocking systems in favor of parries in Rivals was very worrysome, and has led to the game lacking a solid defensive game like Melee did. This is resulted in few other platform game players taking interest in the game, and the game has been on a steady decline in recent history with small bursts of interest whenever there is an addition of new DLC.

Like Rivals, Icons: Combat Area has been straying to far away from Smash’s general mechanics, but in it’s own ways. Instead of creating a fighter that allows for multiple options, Wavedash Games have been more focused on providing their players characters with specialized toolkits and forcing them to use them in certain ways. When those certain ways are exploited or used in non-intended ways, Wavedash Games have been quick to throw on a new mechanic to fix whatever the issue was, without addressing the root of the problem. Situational implementations that drastically change the meta game for characters have been making their way into that game, and it’s starting to mess up the development of each character’s meta. One big controversial change in Icons was a function to remove chain grabs, which adds knockback to a subsequent throw to nullify an option from some character’s punish games. This situational rebalancing makes the game less about mindgames and outplaying your opponent, and more about knowledge of the system and raises the bar of entry drastically.

So why is this all important?
Because right now, or at least before this patch, Slap City was the most accessible platform fighter for Melee and Project M veterans. The game offered us a clean slate with mechanics and gameplay we’ve come to love, while also opening the doors to new comers with it’s ease of access on Steam and low barrier of entry (the price/hardware costs to run the game). I think I speak for most people in the Melee/PM scene, or at least my scene when I say some of these recent fundamental changes to Melee’s central mechanics worry us, and may alienate us from leaving the game.

While I agree that at first glance some of Melee’s mechanics may seem pointless, many of them are there for a reason, and L-Cancelling is no exception, and I’d like to clear up some of your misconceptions with it.

L-cancelling is not as simple as an automatic button input that ‘you always wanted to do’. The timing changes depending on your opponent’s position and action. The timing is different depending on whether you whiff, hit a shield, hit a light shield, or hit the opponent’s body. The result of it’s inclusion creates a dynamic, every changing neutral game that other Smash clones (Rivals, Icons, Brawlhalla) completely lack.

This technique should be kept here, for the health and longevity of the game. A physical input requirement like L-Cancelling makes games like Melee and Slap City not only physically fun and rewarding to play, but also increases the skill ceiling. Consider if Melee had auto L-Cancelling, or a lack of a physical input requirement. This would lower the risk/reward ratio for playing the game/punishing opponents, as it would make once-difficult actions a breeze to pull off. In result, top tiers like Fox would be even better than they are now, since the skill ceiling is so easy for a human to achieve which top tiers, it’s pointless to play anyone else, or rather it’s pointless to play at all.

Let’s compare physical input mechanics like L-Cancelling to a sport such as Golf for example. If golf players could shoot a hole-in-one every time, the physical components of the game would be dumbed down to a degree to where the winning player would be the one who shot first. Like Melee, Golf is limited by human imperfection, and this is a good thing. Same goes for three-pointers in basketball of field goals in football. The human imperfection factor creates an element of error that results in success being celebrated more. This is why Melee is so ‘flashy’ and still alive after 17 years.

The removal of L-Cancelling will result in massive changes in the meta for you game, many of them worse for the neutral/defensive game. You are effectively lowering the input rate (and requirement) of the game. It’s like increasing the size of the hoop in basketball, because if some guy was smart enough to have an open shot, he should get the point, or lowering the hoop so as not to disadvantage short people. The requirement of physical input with a risk/reward/failure rate SHOULD continue to be included in Slap City’s neutral game and decision making, just as it was in Melee.

Regardless of what you all choose is important mechanically for Slap City, please remember this at the very least – Casual players on Steam just looking for a Smash clone will buy and play your game regardless to how it plays in a competitive sense. Competitive players looking to sink their time into this game won’t. Please don’t alienate the latter half of us.

Thanks,
Ash.

@Magical_Ashley

I would like to beta test your games for iPhone 8+

Delaino
2018-04-03

Thank ‘s a lot.

Carlos Cafferata
2018-03-20

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