Saturday, September 27, 2014

Skylander Ideas: Skylanders Battles: A Standalone Battle Mode/PvP Game with DLC

Skylanders Ideas Series
Skylanders Battles: A Standalone Battle Mode/PVP Game

So, continuing on in our "Skylanders Ideas" series, this is another idea I pitched at E3.  Basically, since so much Trap Team info was off the table, we got to a point of just talking about the game and I was able to highlight some of my opinions, one of them being Battle Mode.

I never dreamed I would be releasing this video in the wake of news that Trap Team wouldn't have the usual Battle Mode setup, but I suppose it just makes this take on that much more significance.  I truly think this is the way to go with "Battle Mode."  I thought it shortly after Giants, this summer at E3, and still think it is the best option in light of the news...I don't think it was as well received as the "plain jane" variant proposal, but it didn't fall on deaf ears either.  At this point in time, I truly hope something similar is planned as PvP is a huge part of the Skylanders franchise and offers the most replay value imo.

The Original Issue

How to improve Battle Mode/PvP in Skylanders.

The Chatter

Most, or at least the majority of those voicing opinions on this matter have taken the mantra of "Online or Bust."  That is, players REALLY WANT Online PvP so they can play with friends, or just other Portal Masters when they pit Skylander against Skylander.  I am fully aware of that, but I take a slightly different approach, one that I believe has an even greater basis of support, but perhaps from the silent majority.

The New Issue: No PvP in Trap Team

The last month or so, almost every comment and message I have received was built around "What are you most excited for in Trap Team," or "Who do you think will be your favorite Skylander in Trap Team."  I actually began a list when I got the full size Trap Team poster at TRU and plan to actually line item them out.  However,  the last week or so that shifted to, "Holy Greebles!  What are your thoughts on there not being Battle Mode/PvP in Trap Team?"

I was kind of taken back when I saw that...

I've maintained a pretty solid "1P vs CPU" stance on Battle Mode, just like I've kept the same "LightCore Sermon" position (which is the next video in this series, lol).  In fact, one of the ideas I pitched at E3 this year was how to improve Battle Mode.  I want to make clear that I never suggest it be done away with completely, and I also need to stress my opinion could carry VERY little weight with the folks behind the game.  I'd actually err more on that side than thinking it was partially important, but who knows.  At this point in time I am left hoping that something similar to what I pitched actually becomes a reality, and hopefully before Christmas or late Spring.  Before I expand on that, let me address the question, "What are your thoughts about no battle mode in Trap Team?"

No Battle Mode in Trap Team: My Thoughts

In all honesty, I am pretty devastated.  As much as I wanted to see it change, Battle Mode is the #1 way my Nephew and I play Skylanders together.  We battle Kaos and sometimes play a random chapter, but for the most part when he is over and wants to play Skylanders it is always PvP.  Despite all the other options and Arena Challenges that have been added in, his #1 request is simply PvP.

I also know, despite how much the vocal fan base pushed for "online" battles, they never dreamed they'd have nothing in its place.

This is a big loss (assuming it is true...I've not seen anything to substantiate it, but haven't seen anyone rushing out to debunk it...I feel like if this was a rumor and NOT true, PR would be sending out word that people need to relax, Battle Mode is there with the Doom Challenge etc, and will be even better than last year etc).  For many, this was your replay value.  There are not as many "100%ers" as you would think.  For many gamers, just getting to the end and defeating Kaos constitutes completion.  Many don't feel the need to max out their Portal Master Rank, grind thru levels, look for missing items, or obtain 3 Stars for every chapter.  However, what kept them playing, and what was a huge part of the franchise for everyone else was Battle Mode.

Here is a rough timeline of events with my Nephew and I:

SSA: "I'm Terrafin and you are Slam Bam...Let's see who wins!"  Shortly after that, "Dude, let's set up and record a 32 Skylander Tournament!"

Giants: "Are the Giants Newlanders, or SSA Castaways better? Tournament time!"

SWAP Force: "Can anyone beat Star Strike?"  "Let's do a series where 1 Skylander takes on 8-10 others in a row!"

Battle Mode, namely PvP was my Nephew's FAVORITE part of the game.  I loved it too.  I'll recap this with how I opened it...I am pretty sad to see it go and can only hope that the folks behind the game have good reason for this and something that will blow us all away.

What I Pitched at E3: Stand Alone Battle Game with DLC Expanions

So, prior to the pretty tragic news of Trap Team not having Battle Mode, this is what I pitched at E3.

I suggest there be a Stand Alone Game, pricced something like $19.99-$29.99 that had cool arenas, all the characters, DLC expansion for future games, and some key upgrades...

1. Single Player Battle Mode with Adjustable Difficulty

I was totally honest with them...I can only play Battle Mode when my Nephew is here.  My other option is turning on another controller and either doing turn-based PvP where a single battle lasts 15 minutes, or just obliterate a pre-selected character to test out moves, complete quests, etc.

My suggest was to build this stand alone game on the Single Player dynamic.  I honestly think they expected to hear me say, "Online or die" based on their shock, but I truly believe all great games are built first and foremost around the single player experience.

Does anyone know how much content I would have on my channel if I could play 1P vs CPU in Skylanders Battle Mode?  I would literally take each character and run them thru the gauntlet against every other character.  I would record tournaments, I would upload Giant throwdowns, and 16 slot SWAP Force brackets.  It would be EPIC!

The current set up doesn't allow me to do that short of the RPG style battle which I don't think anyone would enjoy.

If you think, "Okay, that is good, but I'd kill the opponent..." Um, no.  Just like the game has Easy-Nightmare, I suggested this have similar difficulty modes ,or ranks like in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.  If you come in and Level 5 Ninjini obliterates you, you can turn down the difficulty, or practice till you beat her.  Once you can take her down, bump her up a level.  It is the fundamental of all fighting games imo...

2. Keep and Expand the Classic Local Player Battles

Just because I want to battle a CPU Skylader doesn't mean I want to forego battling my Nephew.  I suggested that mode be kept in tact, but expanded.

3: Local 4 Player Battles

This is the expansion on the 2P.  I know the argument I would get for pushing 1P vs CPU is, "But this is a family is meant to be enjoyed by friends, or kids and their parents etc."  Boom....Trump Card!  I fully acknowledge that...My Nephew and I are proof of how well that works.  However, what do other fighting games offer?  4 Players able to engage locally.  So now, instead of it being Sibling vs Sibling, the parents can get in on the action.  You can have Father & Daughter vs Mother & Son.

I also stressed how it should allot for 2 friends to be able to come in and battle against 2 CPUs etc.  Whatever the format, 1P vs CPU, 1P vs 2P, 1P & 2P vs 3P & 4P, 1P vs CPU1, CPU2, and CPU 3, it needs to allot for everything from a sole, individual player to 4 congregated players.

I didn't go into this, bu that can be made even better by allowing 1P-2P-3P-4P to battle 4 CPUs.  The options are really limitless and the more immersive, the better.

4. Tournaments/Brackets

This is another no-brainer in a dedicated fighting game.  You need to be able to do more than just a solo battle.  You need to be able to create Tournaments and progress through each round.  This would be HUGE.

5. Other Modes

I didn't mention this, but things like having a King of the Hill, or Gauntlet type modes where you pit your favorite Skylander against the rest would be awesome.

6. In-Game Roster

 This was also not included in what I pitched, but I think the game would be well served to have  an archived record of your collection.  Basically meaning that when you put Terrafin and S3 Mega Ram Spyro on the portal, they are there on a roster for you to select from. Essentially, this would allow you to play as Terrafin and earn XP while going thru your roster of Skylanders to spice up the battles, or practice specific techniques.

I also think this aspect could be expanded to allow for those with a limited collection to battle Skylanders they don't own.  What I mean by this is that you have Mega Ram Spyro and Big Bang Trigger Happy.  We will say you don't have Star Strike.  The game would allow you to select to battle her as a CPU.  This would let you get a feel for old and new characters that might not be in your collection and ultimately encourage you to add them!  It is a win-win imo.

7. DLC

I know I am 95% of the time against DLC, but hear me out.  I want to pay the reasonable price for this stand alone game.  However I, you, and anyone else with any sense doesn't want to spring $30 for a new "Skylanders Battle:: ___ Edition" each year.  How do you rectify that? DLC.

When Skylanders 5 drops they can offer up the new character roster, new arenas, and honestly whatever other expansions they want.  Keep the price right (Say $10) and people will eat it up.  We are already buying the new Skylanders to use in the new game, so this would just add them to the Battle roster etc.

This DLC literally allows your initial purchase to be expanded on annually.  If they are loosing players, DLC can come along with new battle modes, etc.

8. Online

I am not about to poll people for what they want and not take it to heart.  While I would be ecstatic and content with what I have described above, I know an awful lot of you want online battle mode.  I have to admit, it would be cool.  Personally, I would rather have Single Player vs CPU first, but this is a step in the right direction from that foundation.

I honestly believe the biggest concern with "online" is keeping the environment kid friendly.  This is hard to do without nerfing no chat, no text, etc.

I think, for what it is worth, that quest is being made a little too difficult.  Nintendo has managed social gaming and online interactions quite well, and while it hasn't been perfect there are easy ways to make this function and not hold up a stellar addition to the franchise.

Mario Kart Wii didn't have voice chat, it didn't offer up a blank slate and keyboard, it had pre-selected messages like, "Great Race!" "Last One!," "Let's Race Bikes" etc...While it isn't super sleek or modern, it would work while something better could be hashed out.


I pitched this idea because I truly believe in it...I think it is 100% the way to go.  In light of the recent revelations that there won't be a a Battle Mode in Trap Team, I think it is seriously worth considering.  One thing I tried to convey while pitching this is that people would pay for the stand alone game if it was well executed, patched, updated, and included the DLC to update rosters etc.

I have no qualms continuing to pay $75 for the main entry.  You are getting a game, Portal, and 2-3 figures, or in the case of Trap Team 2 Figures and 2 Traps.  That is basically $25-$35 on the figures, and puts the game right in line with others at $49-59.

Make the stand alone battle game priced at $19.99, or $29.99 and then offer the annual $9.99 roster update (as opposed to a new game at $30 again), and offer up some other reasonably priced arenas, or misc. items for cheap and I think it is a no brainer.

The game can feature more content like the Bonus Mission Maps, or longer levels and then the battle mode can be built around a more robust and typical layout for a fighting game.

I think it would be the best course of action for the main game, battle mode, and franchise as a whole.  I am just one guy, but I have spent a lot of time playing Skylanders the last three years, feel I have a good feel for what the community wants, and have the unique vantage point of being an older, regular player while seeing first hand what my Nephew makes of things.  I think this is the way to go, especially with the sad news that the Battle Mode we have come to expect the first three installments has fallen to the wayside.

As always, let me know your thoughts.  Are you in the "Online" or bust camp?  Do you agree with me that the heart of the game should be built around the single player?  Would you purchase a well executed stand-alone, battle mode game for Skylanders?

1 comment:

  1. In a nutshell, PVP was largely untouched and viewed as a hassle to complete for the personal quests. IF...a player vs. CPU option was there I would have put it up there with all the other enjoyable mode options. Bottom line, as it stands, I am not impacted by the removal of PVP.
    However, a dedicated stand alone battle release as you describe would be purchased and played at my house. (My son and I would like the preset tournament bracket events...DLC is on it's way so they should wade into the shallow end of it before they get thrown into the deep end at some future date. I wonder if the downloadable WiiU version offered with the Wii starter packs represents their intention to develop their DLC options. I think they should combine in a version of their presently available online Skylander Vault collection app.

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