Hello again, folks! We're still working on getting out Demo 2 to you as soon as we can, but we took some time out of our development schedule to show you three more characters that we're confirming for Project M: Demo 2!
This is the first in a series of Project M character spotlight essays where we will discuss what we have in store for certain characters for the upcoming patch, Demo 2.5. We felt like a more in-depth look into the way we develop our characters was in order due to the interest in exactly what was going on for Demo 2.5. Remember that everything is still subject to change; Project M is a very much an organic game and our developers are always considering the implications of their changes.
Character Spotlight: Pit
Welcome to the first of small series of Character Spotlights with a Project M Developer. I'm cmart, the designer behind Pit in Demo v2, and also responsible for his changes in v2.5. I want to take some time to describe some of these changes, and why he was chosen for a revamp.
When looking at Pit's performance in the Demo v2 metagame, we saw limited representation due to a perception that the character was overly defensive or underpowered. A deeper analysis showed that Pit was a character that excelled in surviving, could rack damage appreciably fast, but struggled with converting opportunities into kills in a timely manner. This promoted Pit players to avoid confrontation and in turn led to longer matches with less interaction between characters. While there have been examples of this kind of play in Melee, it's been generally looked down upon as dull and unexciting. In Demo v2.5 I set out to address this by reigning in his survivability a bit and increasing his kill potential to promote more aggressive play.
The most noticeable change is an overhaul to Pit's Wings of Icarus glide system. In development Pit's recovery was seen as a bit much. A single glide allowed for near limitless horizontal recovery, with a second glide available as insurance if Pit was edge-guarded properly. At the time, I decided to intentionally build a "vulnerability" into his glide - if Pit was hit while gliding, he lost his second glide as well. While this mechanic seemed successful balance wise, design wise it fell a bit short of what we wanted. Even before Demo v2 dropped we came up with an alternative that mapped Pit's glide more closely with melee recoveries. While we didn't choose to pursue it at that time, Demo v2.5 presented an opportunity to revisit it.
In Melee there are very few recovery maneuvers that yield repeatable gains. Most only give a significant boost if used once, such as Mario's Cape or Marth's Dancing Blade. Alternatively, recovery maneuvers that allowed a large amount of distance in a short time almost always put the character into Special Fall. In looking at that template, fitting glide into it proved simpler than I'd first expected - Wings of Icarus would be limited to a single use and fall in line with nearly every other recovery move. This concept was then expanded upon and polished - Pit's manual glide cancel no longer puts him in Special Fall for one, allowing him to use glide without committing to an aerial or jump. He can also now regain his glide by grabbing a ledge whereas previously Pit had to land completely before recovering it. Finally, we made sure that initiating a glide from the ground didn't count against Pit's new limit. This preserves a bit of his ability to glide out to a stage's boundaries to pursue a kill and then glide back safely. Still, it would be foolish to suggest that offstage play with Pit isn't riskier now. Since Pit is more reliant on his up B Shield Bash for recovery, the vertical distance it travels was slightly increased. While I understand that no one likes to see an aspect of a character "nerfed", hopefully Pit players will understand that having multiple glides provided too much leeway. Fortunately, not all the changes were negative.
The other major goal I wanted to accomplish was expanding Pit's kill potential. When looking at Pit's power moves in a vacuum, he actually seems to have a decent amount of power moves. The problem lay in how those moves worked. Moves like back air and up B had precise sweetspot timings, limiting their use to specific combos or hard reads. Up smash and Forward smash failed to function properly, often allowing the victim to drop out of the attack between hits. Down air's sweetspot was especially unrewarding - it was meteor-cancelable, extremely hard to hit, and weak on top of that. His strong forward tilt wasn't too hard to land, but required Pit to space deep into his opponent. When compared to good Melee characters especially, Pit's finishers just seemed overly finicky. To address this, I opted to go over each of Pit's kill moves and make them less demanding to use.
- Up B's sweetspot was in a static spot around Pit's shoulder - it's been changed to follow the movement of his shield as he raises it. In addition to being a wider target area, this also works with the distance increase to cover the space directly over Pit faster.
- Back air's sweetspot was increased in frame duration, and the angle it sends at was lowered noticeably. Landing a back air now should put the target in a difficult spot to recover from.
-Upsmash's hitboxes were refined, and the knockback of each hit redesigned so that it was much harder for targets to drop out of it in the middle, or SDI down into the stage and tech away.
- Forward smash was redesigned as a multi-input smash, similar to Link or Snake's forward smashes. In addition, Pit now lunges forward during the second swing. Being able to vary the timing of the two attacks, along with the new lunge, allows Pit to more effectively connect with both hits.
- Down air's sweetspot hitboxes were redesigned. While the timing is the same, the sweetspot now encompasses the entirety of Pit's blade. In addition, the move is now a spike and thus cannot be meteor-canceled. Although the knockback is still on the weak side, landing one offstage is both more practical and deadlier.
- Forward Tilt is now angle-able. This allows Pit to use it more precisely, and in more situations.
Of course, I didn't just focus on finishers. Since his release in Demo v2, Pit's arrows lost knockback as they traveled, a mechanic that rewards players for keeping close to their target. For 2.5, the rate of decay resembles more a of bell curve compared to 2.1. This means that they lose a charge slower and can be used to set up combos from slightly longer distances. His down tilt was also revisited - rather than being mainly used as a meteor for edgeguarding, emphasis has been placed on the move's use a combo starter. The blade always pops up, allowing for setups even on aerial targets. The meteor hit is still there and stronger then ever, but Pit players will need to space deeper to land it. Taken together, Pit should have a much easier time converting setups into kills and ending combos properly.
Hopefully, this has given an idea of where Pit's design intent is, as well as something else to look forward to in Demo v2.5.
Character Spotlight: Charizard
Hey guys, I’m metroid. You guys may know me as "the one who johns for his opponents" or "that Ike guy," but I’m here as a playtester from the Project M Backroom to talk about the changes that have been made a current contender in Project M - Charizard.
In Demo 2.5, Charizard's design has been tweaked so he’s more vicious and beastly than ever. This was done by addressing three big issues he suffered in Demo 2.1 – inconsistent hitboxes, lack of offensive options, and lack of recovery options.
Many of Charizard's hitboxes in Demo 2.1, when compared to the Melee cast's hitboxes, suffered from a general lack of coverage. Jab and UTilt seemed to ghost through opponents even though the animation suggested that there should be an active hitbox; these moves, as well as many others, have been looked over and addressed in the upcoming demo. One particularly important change is Forward Air. Now a staple of Charizard's offensive options, FAIR feels right as home as meaty and brute tool; the adjusted animation and lengthier hitbox active time on this attack allows much safer shield poking.
Better Offensive Options
In Demo 2.1, Charizard’s offensive options were somewhat limited. Charizard had no problem getting combos started and racking up damage, but when it came to getting in the face of his opponent, he fell flat in Demo 2.1. He lacked a mobile and reliable approach that was conducive to aggressive play, not to mention that while his grab range was great, the reward for grabbing was low - DThrow tech chasing was usually the best option. These issues and more have been addressed in Demo 2.5.
- FAir, in addition to having cleaner hitboxes, is quicker (you can auto-cancel it from a short-hop) and hits harder.
- BThrow, instead of sending opponents far away, now has severely decreased knockback and increased knockback angle. This allows Charizard to profit more easily from grabs, something that Demo 2.1 Charizard lacked.
- UThrow has increased knockback, allowing it to kill much earlier than in Demo 2.1.
- up+B, instead of having a constant knockback throughout the attack, now degenerates in power like most other long-lasting attacks. This was done because the new slew of approach options opened up more opportunities to finish with an upB, so we felt like a more precise usage of this move was necessary.
- Nair is quite interesting now. The flame-hitbox launch trajectory now rotates based on when in the animation Charizard hits the opponent, it also lasts a lot longer. Tipman Nairs are a very useable option!
Even though it sounds like Charizard has received a plethora of changes, many of the tweaks are subtle and intended to make players who took the time to learn 2.1 Charizard not feel alienated by the characters. These tweaks serve to make Charizard more reasonable to deal with among the changes that he received while keeping his traits as a character that has insane profits from vertical combos.
More Recovery Options
In Demo 2.1, Charizard was often criticized for his recovery; glide was slow to start-up and his up+B was not only of mediocre length, but it was also very difficult to sweetspot. Like the issues above, these have been addressed in Demo 2.5.
- Glide has received three new attributes: (1) Charizard can now B-reverse both his glide and glide cancel, (2) the glide is much faster and angle-able and (3) Charizard does not go into free-fall when he cancels his glide. Glide's new mobility means that we had to tone down Glide Attack's power a tad, and now, Charizard must touch the ground before he can glide again; once Charizard is hit out of glide when recovering, he must commit to up+B in order to get back to the stage.
- up+B has been slightly buffed in vertical distance and the leniency of ledge-grabbing. This and the new ability to up+B out of a glide cancel have both made his recovery significantly better than in Demo 2.1.
As a playtester, I’ve had the privilege of being able to play on earlier builds and relay my feedback directly to the PMBR. Charizard has received many, many tweaks since the release of Demo 2.1; the result of our hard work is the character I’ve presented above. I honestly can’t wait for the release of Demo 2.5 so that you guys can try out what we’ve produced.
Special thanks to Jiang for being the principle designer behind Charizard and helping me edit this write-up.