In an interesting article by Polygon, they discuss someone who wrote in to Super Smash Bros producer Masahiro Sakurai complaining about the online multiplayer in Super Smash Bros Brawl. He said that “The other day, I had my first run at Smash Bros. Brawl online play. What I found was that nobody ever went on the attack; it was like everyone was taking the approach of waiting for the other guy to take the offensive. There were no items, either. I wanted to shout at them ‘This isn’t how you do Smash Bros.’!” and finished by asking Sakurai what he thought of this style of battling in the game. Or in other words, what Sakurai thought of the ‘no items, final destination’ style gameplay so beloved of tournament/competitive players. Here’s Sakurai’s response:
The idea of Brawl’s ‘carefree brawling’ motto was to get rid of as many restraints as possible and allow people to choose whatever play approach they liked. I’d like people to take some freer approaches with their gameplay, but the sort of battle style you describe in your letter is not interesting or fun. That’s why I’ll probably be thinking of a way to deal with that in the next game. We’ve learned a lot about net play since Brawl was released, after all, so a lot more is possible.
In other words, he doesn’t particularly like the overly defensive style of game that seems to have become the de facto standard for the tournament scene and online, and wanted Brawl to be a more random game where people could play in any way they liked. He also said he’ll be thinking of a way to deal with this and make it so things like items are more commonly seen online than they are at the moment.
But it’s not just that playstyle Sakurai discusses either. No, he also talks about how the limited online capabilities of Super Smash Bros Brawl and the Wii itself severely limited the game. How it meant they couldn’t update or add anything interesting to keep it varied. Here’s his quote in regards to that:
I suppose the fact that we’ve still got no-fee online battles available in a game that was released five years ago is another cause of the problem. It would have been nice if we could have revised the game rules as appropriate, but with the system we had, that wasn’t possible.
So it seems like the next Super Smash Bros game is going to be focused quite a bit on improving the online multiplayer and making it so pro players dominate it less. Maybe they’ll come up with some filters that let you only find opponents who play the game in the same kind of style as you (and hence avoid fans of the more random free for all style ending up playing on Final Destination with items disabled or vice versa)?
It also seems like they have a distinct interest in downloadable content and rule patching. So instead of a single character (*cough* Meta Knight *cough*) being a whole tier above the rest of the cast or gameplay settling down in a certain way due to the meta game, they’ll rebalance the thing to make sure no one particular style of play/character/stage is overly dominant. So sort of like the patches Nintendo released for Mario Kart 7, except with game rebalancing and general rule changing rather than just fixing technical issues.
Additionally, it seems like DLC is being heavily hinted at here. Sure game rules could imply just fixing character attributes and abilities to make them less over/underpowered, but when you think about it, adding new characters/stages/items would certainly spice up the online play a tad. After all, look at Pokemon. They had a massive problem with Psychics being broken to hell and back in the first gen, so they included new types of characters in form of Dark/Steel Pokemon that could counter them and shook up the metagame drastically. Downloadable content means this type of thing is now possible without releasing a whole new title, and hence the next Smash Bros could end up getting additional characters with movesets and abilities designed to directly counter broken characters like Meta Knight.
All in all, Sakurai’s comments give me hope the next Super Smash Bros title might just have more ‘balanced’ online play and end up being fun to play in the long run. What do you think about his ideas and quotes? Think that downloadable content and rules patches might be long overdue for the series now?