PlayStation All-Stars & Building a Good Smash Clone

What are your thoughts on Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale?

I played it a long time ago, so I’m going off memory now.

It’s competently made, but it doesn’t copy enough from smash or do enough of its own thing to really work.

All the stages with moving parts only go through their transitions once. No looping. So if the match is longer than a certain duration, the stage will end its routine long before that. At least there’s an option to turn off hazards, I wish Smash Bros implemented that without completely shitting the bed like in Smash 4.

Naturally the system for gaining points seems screwed up. You can only kill opponents by using supers, which you gain meter for by hitting them a lot. So you need to hit each other until one of you has meter, then land the super for a point. Strategically it all checks out, you want to hit them, you don’t want to get hit, but something feels really wrong about it, like how you can hit them a ton, but you won’t gain any points without using a super, and you can miss that super, lose your whole meter, and be really far behind.

It’s possible to combo into super with combos resembling something between smash 64 and street fighter alpha 3 juggles, so you can confirm into supers rather than just doing it raw. There’s no DI of any kind, which is why I compared it to smash 64, and knockback angles are a lot more standardized, which is why I compare it to SFA3.

Blocking is possible, but it’s implemented in a way where you don’t really gain advantage out of blocking, so it seemed kind of pointless, though I guess it’s still kind of useful since it’s a block? Also I think that pressing left or right while blocking would change your facing direction instead of triggering a dodge roll. Throws also seem to be implemented weirdly too, but I can’t really remember how.

It has the brawl air dodge because yay, we love the brawl air dodge, don’t we?

The roster wasn’t particularly inspiring. I can’t remember enough about the game to comment on any particular character. What was cool though was they used 3 different face buttons for attacks, so they had 2 special attack buttons effectively, allowing for a wider range of moves on each character.

I think the game overall goes to show that there’s a lot of detail that goes into smash bros that its competitors just don’t take the time to notice or if they do notice it, don’t bother to question why it’s there.

And here’s tournament footage with Juicebox on commentary:

I think the lesson to learn from all the Smash Clones out there is, Nintendo put a ludicrous amount of detail into building Smash Bros. If you want to build a game that is that good, you either gotta sit down and pay attention to every little thing they did right, or strike out on your own path and create as many good game dynamics as they did in your own way. You can’t half-ass it and go inbetween (Brawlout, Rivals, PSASBR). You need to implement as many systems as they did, same or different.

8 thoughts on “PlayStation All-Stars & Building a Good Smash Clone

  1. PlayerP September 12, 2018 / 6:52 am

    Wanted to offer some constructive feedback, but first a disclaimer: I was referred to this blog by Novacanoo on YouTube, who spoke highly of your game design philosophies when I watched his Uncharted 1&2 reviews a few months ago, and have been following ever since. I enjoy both Smash and PSASBR, and realize that you said you’re speaking mostly from memory about this game, so I obviously can’t expect retention of its minute details, only its larger concepts.

    With this out of the way, I’ll admit, I’m disappointed that someone with a history of providing insightful game mechanics analysis, has stooped to low-browing this game with yet another dry “it’s-bad-because-it’s-not-like-Smash” review.

    To be clear, I’d never criticize someone simply for disliking a game: critiques are interesting! Which is why I was looking forward to some concrete reasons regarding why this game didn’t hit the mark for you. This article, unfortunately, offers very little beyond the scope of judging PSASBR only by how well it refines/copies Smash’s concepts, and even then, sufficient explanation is missing.

    For example, you mentioned the game’s scoring system feels ‘wrong’ because you’re able to hit a player a ton, but not actually gain points until you land a Super that you gained from hitting said player. In other words, hitting players and scoring are connected indirectly, which creates a 2nd metagame (1st = finding ways to build your meter for a Super, 2nd = finding ways to land said Super). This differs from the direct connection between hitting players and scoring (single metagame) that Smash and many traditional fighters employ.

    However, what makes this ‘wrong’? At worst it requires players to simply put more effort into scoring, and at best it solves a very dire problem that’s plagued Smash from the beginning: Smash tends to reward players who fight the least. The most efficient Smash 4-player strategies have always been the following: In Stock, camp on the side and vulture any remaining players, and in Timed, only engage players with high percentages for killing blows and then run away (aka kill-steal). These are issues purely because of Smash’s decision to import the concept of ‘dealing damage’ into a game where damage can come from all around you, instead of only from the person in front of you like in a 1v1 fighter. Both problems can (and often do) lead to the weaker fighter winning the entire match, which I hope we can agree isn’t something that should be encouraged.

    PSASBR’s system, on the other hand, chooses to have players build up their own power via fighting, rather than dealing ‘damage’ to others. Counterintuitive as it may seem at first glance, in reality, it eliminates the problems presented above. Campers will not be able to score points if they don’t engage with fighters, and the concept of ‘kill-stealing’ is impossible, since there is no means of ‘damage’ to others. The ‘issue’ you bring up of having to build meter again after a missed Super could be perceived as an annoyance at most: how exactly is it evidence of a ‘screwed up’ system at its core?

    I could go on, but hopefully you understand where I’m coming from. This blog has been a gold mine of objective analysis to me for some time, so I hope you understand why this article stuck out to me as lacking. That said, I hope to see more concrete analysis in the future, and wish you the best!

    Peace.

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    • Chris Wagar September 12, 2018 / 4:53 pm

      To be fair, I said either copy smash or go your own way.

      I get your point. Gaining victory points purely for successful hits rather than kills means a lot of weird incentives go away. The trouble for me is largely that just landing hits only provides the opportunity to earn victory points, it’s not directly victory points. You can miss your super or fail to get an opportunity to land it. I don’t have much argument except that that feels wrong. You can hit a lot to get a super, then you miss it and your whole advantage goes away. It feels like your whole success is dependent on landing the super.

      It’s that a lot of what you do is filler for the actually important moments.

      Sure this solves the perverse incentives of camping and kill stealing in free for all, but it means disconmecting success in the neutral game from success overall.

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  2. PlayerP September 21, 2018 / 8:21 am

    I appreciate the reply, and understand that the concept of landing hits only to increase a chance of earning points can feel bizarre on the surface…until you realize it to be a fundamental aspect of most (if not all) competitive sports/games. For the sake of argument, let’s repeat the scenario you’re averse to in PSASBR: you land a ton of hits on someone to build up a Super, launch it, and miss, apparently losing your ‘whole advantage.’

    The Street Fighter version of this would be wittling your opponent’s health down to 1% in Round 1, only for him to come back and win the round. Round 2 begins and all of his health that you spent time chipping away at is full again. Like in, PSASBR, every hit you landed increased only your chances of scoring (taking a round), but didn’t guarantee a score. Because SF’s Health bar and PSASBR’s Super Bar don’t dictate concrete ‘advantage’: they only dictate chance of scoring. Does that mean that entire 1st round was ‘filler’ and doesn’t matter because you lost? Of course not!

    John Choi and Gootecks of Street Fighter fame often speak of the importance of using the first few rounds of a fight to gather data on an opponent’s offensive/defensive tendencies, and PSASBR is no different. A missed Super is as informative as a lost round in SF, a missed/blocked shot in basketball, a failed drive down the field in football, etc.

    I think it really just comes to realizing that in competition, nothing is really ever ‘filler.’

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    • Chris Wagar September 21, 2018 / 4:40 pm

      That’s not really a fair comparison. In your example in order to come back, they’d have to land just as many hits as I did to put them in that situation to begin with. You don’t lose your whole advantage by missing any single move in other games. You may miss, but you’re just as far ahead as before. If I am at 100 health and you are at 1 health, and I miss a super, you aren’t restored to 100 health.

      Say it takes 10 hits to get super in psasbr. I hit you 10 times, you hit me once and I miss my super. I hit you 30 more times while you hit me 3 times and I miss my super. I hit you 60 more times, between which you hit me 6 and miss every super. Now you have 10 hits, activate your super and win with 1 point. I can hit you any number of times more than you hit me, but only the supers count. A situation like this cannot occur in any other game.

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      • PlayerP September 21, 2018 / 8:51 pm

        Again, you’re equating health meters with ‘advantage’ when that’s not true. The only thing that shows who is ahead, who truly has the ‘advantage’ is score (aka who has more rounds). Because as I said before, if I’m at 1% health, and you’re at 100% health, I could still win.

        You also seem to believe that the fighter who builds up the most meter (or deals the most damage) should always be the winner. But this is faulty logic for a 4-player game. If I do 150 points of damage split evenly between P2, P3, and P4, but P2 does 100 points of damage on me to take my whole health, should I win because I did more damage? Of course not.

        Just as kill-stealing/camping shouldn’t be rewarded on one end of the spectrum (little damage, high focus) neither should ineffective targeting on the other (high damage, little focus). Intelligent play is what all fighters aim to reward (high damage, high focus), and PSASBR has to achieve this while accommodating both 1v1 and 4 player modes. The solution? Make ‘focus’ a manual 2nd metagame (landing Supers) instead of automatic like in 1v1 fighters (and unfortunately, Smash).

        In the situation you described at the end, the more intelligent player won. PSASBR isn’t only about landing hits: it’s about landing hits and Supers. You excelled at the first part of the game, but you also missed 10 Supers, therefore failing the second. Your opponent excelled at both by building a low amount of meter for low-level, harder to use Super (high risk), and landed it. I have to wonder, if you built such a high amount of meter, why you wouldn’t opt for using high-level Supers that are easier to use (low risk)?

        You’re correct in saying that no other game plays exactly like this, but I don’t think that’s an effective argument proving that this system is ‘wrong.’

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        • Chris Wagar September 22, 2018 / 5:56 pm

          Yes, it is true. If you have more life, you’re ahead. Life is a representation of how many times you’ve been hit. This isn’t Magic the Gathering where the only hitpoint that matters is the last one. Health is just as much victory points as round wins are. You win the round if you have more health, and you cannot take a round without hitting your opponent more than they hit you. Ergo, Health is also victory points, not just rounds.

          My example was extreme and unrealistic to prove a point, that you can win at the core interaction more, but still lose overall. Sure, realistically someone who got 10 whole supers worth of meter probably wouldn’t be incompetent enough to miss all of them, but the base point is that winning is at least somewhat decoupled from hitting your opponent where in other fighting games it’s always tightly coupled.

          Saying the player who won was more intelligent is a stretch (also I did include the example of hitting 30 times then using a super, which is implicitly a level 3 super). If someone is able to land literally 10 times as many hits as the other person, they are clearly a lot better at the core interactions of timing and spacing attacks, which is the same for supers as anything else. Realistically, someone who was much better at that wouldn’t miss all their supers, but again, this example was to show that the disconnect exists, not provide a realistic portrayal of skill. Surely it’s not unimaginable that you can hit your opponents more times in a round of PSASBR and still lose.

          This is where your comparisons to other fighting games fall apart, you can’t hit someone more times in most other games and still lose. You especially can’t

          If they wanted to have a system that incentivized being aggressive in 4 player matches that didn’t have this weird decoupling, they should have just scored you for damage output, not for supers landed. Dream Mix TV did this, though it was also like, coin battle or some nonsense.

          PSASBR’s system doesn’t create focus either, you can gain meter off 3 different people and still build up a super. If you want focused damage, then you could create an additional incentive to hit the same person multiple times, like a short timer that acts as a damage multiplier.

          That and I don’t see the value of focus, it’s not a degenerate strategy to have no focus on any particular opponent, and every opponent has equal incentive to hit you and not get hit by you. Framing PSASBR as having more focus is disingenuous though, since you have no reason to go for any one opponent over any other at any point in time, even when you’re landing supers. This sounds like an aesthetic judgment.

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          • PlayerP September 23, 2018 / 3:10 pm

            The universal trait of FG health bars is that they represent chance of scoring. PSASBR’s Super Bar is no different, but it seems you see it as ‘wrong’ due largely to your belief that health/super bars should show concrete ‘advantage,’ which I can’t agree with. Advantage (score) is set in stone and cannot be undone: it must be met or exceeded. When you win a round, a round cannot be taken away. Yet there are plenty of examples of games that allow damage to be undone (Tekken Tag’s health regeneration, Elena’s healing ultra in SF4). Those are direct counterexamples of fighters who deal the most damage not being guaranteed a win.

            In fact, you seem very keen on repeating what PSASBR does differently from other fighters without delving into what makes those differences ‘wrong.’ The only one I can see almost literally says “It’s bad because no other game does it.” You point out a discrepancy without considering its purpose: PSASBR realizes that you can’t view 4P brawlers through the exact same lens as 1v1 fighters. They’re two types of games with different determinants of skill.

            Firstly, ‘number of hits landed’ isn’t a reliable metric for determining the more skilled player, because in the chaos of a 4player battle, damage isn’t always a deliberate result of P1’s offense trumping P2, 3, or 4’s defense. Sometimes defense is nonexistent (while P1 and P2 are engaging, P3 stabs P2 in the back), and sometimes offense is misdirected (P1 hits P2 with an attack intended for P3). Another point is that damage output is too situational: fighter playstyle (melee/combo vs zoner vs AoE), map size/shape, matchup variety, etc. all have a much bigger impact on a player’s damage efficacy than in a 1v1 fighter. Damage dealt in a 4p brawler is not guaranteed to result from player agency, thus proving why scoring based solely on it is insufficient: too much variance.

            This is why PSASBR’s 3-Tier Super System is in place: to introduce objectivity. While all regular moves in the game carry varying degrees of risk vs reward, every fighter’s 3 Supers follow the template of Level 1’s being high risk/high reward and Level 3’s being low risk/low reward. Thus, it scores fighters less so on the hand they’re dealt (landing hits, less agency) and more so on how they use that hand (landing supers, more agency). Returning to your example, there could be many reasons within variance that you built up 10x hits as I did. But if I land one hard-to-use low-level Super, while you miss many of these same Supers or even some higher-level easier ones, it’s hard to argue who has a better grasp on this core value you mentioned of timing & spacing attacks. This is what was meant by ‘the more intelligent’ player: as in all fighting games, having a bar lead is irrelevant. How one uses it is what matters.

            Lastly, my point on ‘focus’ referred only to a player’s foresight on how his actions will turn the overall battle in his favor; I didn’t mean focusing on one single opponent. I also highly disagree that PSASBR gives you no incentive to chase one particular opponent over another at any point in time: matchup/playstyle advantage, score lead, & Super level are just a few factors that entice/dissuade engagement with a certain fighter.

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          • PlayerP September 25, 2018 / 12:31 pm

            Also, while we’re still on the subject, the ‘core interaction’ point you bring up of a player who lands the lesser amount of hits ‘wrongfully’ being able to score and pull ahead…is absolutely possible in another game series that you seem to know very well. It’s called Super Smash Bros.

            If P1 is at 300% and P2 is at 100% (aka chance of being killed), P2 is still capable of killing P1 despite landing less hits. And that would be a direct consequence of P1 not capitalizing properly on the larger amount of damage he’s inflicted, aka the exact same situation you described in your 10x hits PSASBR example.

            If this is truly what you take issue with in PSASBR, it’s puzzling why you don’t take issue with it in Smash.

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