Today’s post will delve into Ultimate moves, a mechanic we have shown a lot in person but rarely online. Ultimate moves were always slotted to be a part of our game. Mechanically, they give nice spikes in power that lead to some powerful turnarounds. This shakes up matches and makes them more dynamic and interesting. Stepping back from sheer mechanics, I personally feel that the real power of an ultimate lies in the feel and spectacle of the moves. Ultimate moves are fun, plain and simple. This is why implementing them into our game had to be done with a subtle touch to ensure they kept the power balanced mechanically while still feeling epic.
Haste, as we originally conceived it, had a set number of cards for each player much like a physical deck of playing cards. These decks would be comprised of basic attacks shuffled in with cards from each of the 3 characters. Since the ultimate cards were powerful, we decided that only 1 ultimate card from each character would be shuffled in. This resulted in the problem where players could potentially draw an ultimate card in their opening hand. An opening hand with an ultimate card would of course give an early spike in power that would be a huge advantage much too early in the game. To resolve this, we tried several solutions including built-in downsides for cards that discouraged playing them early. This will be further discussed in the ‘Chopping Block – Ultimate Costs’ post coming up. Until then, the best example of a downside designed for late game would be Skrill’s Devour ultimate which sacrifices Skrill to resurrect another player. This card couldn’t be played until one of the characters died, and even then the card retains less value while Skrill has high health. Other solutions included a hidden card counter that would stop the player from drawing the ultimate cards for X number of turns. Unfortunately, this still gave a huge variance on when a player can access the ultimate card before their opponent.
After brainstorming, we landed on an Ultra bar. Despite the game’s RPG aesthetics, Haste is very much influenced by fighting games. Early on I mentioned how Haste is closely related to fighting games like Street Fighter due to the constant action from the real time aspect. Naturally, we looked at games like these for inspiration, which lead to our *ultimate* decision. sorry...
The Ultra bar works out great for a few different reasons. First off, it solves our issue with ultimate cards being drawn too early. Stopping players from randomly drawing ultimate cards also meant we could remove all detrimental costs attached to them, though we chose not to for several of the moves. One unexpected advantage of using the ultra bar, was that we could now play around with how fast a hero could build their ultra bar. This not only gave us a new balancing tool, but also allowed us to make different ultimate moves of different power levels. The longer it took to get your ultimate card, the better the payoff could be.
More broadly, the ultimate bar adds a sense of build-up and tension. The bars on either your own characters or your opponents’ let you plan for upcoming ultimates to be used or defended against. Also, with the bar comes a new risk/reward consideration when choosing who to put into the line of fire. If players are on their last legs and need that ultimate for offense or defense, chances are they’ll play a lot more desperately to get that ultimate out.
The last point I will make is that ultimate moves feel great to play after they’ve been ‘earned’. By working towards the ultimate, the player now has a sense of investment even though they just played the game as they normally would. This ‘investment’ increases the perceived impact of a move which actually allows us to lower their power level. Granted, some of the moves are still quite strong, but this isn’t true for all of the characters. The ultimate bar in conjunction with Jacob’s epic animation effects give players the feeling of importance and power without breaking the overall game balance.