Air Dash Online is Coming! Smash On!
Being one of a kind ain't easy. The Super Smash Bros. franchise is certainly in a league of its own amongst other fighters, which just goes to show how a great game can foster a professional eSports community over a decade after its release. On a Nintendo console no less! Small but dedicated and astoundingly diverse, the Smash community has never stopped thriving and evolving.
Meet JV5 Games, the next evolution in the genre of Smash. Helmed by competitive Melee player Mike Lau, JV5’s first project is Air Dash Online, a fast paced platform fighter with an emphasis on fluid mechanics and agile character movement. And it’s coming to PC! The Kickstarter for ADO is coming in May 2013, with beta invites for all supporters.
We popped in on Mike, ADO’s lead game designer, for some questions about the community-driven project...
Tell me about the past, present and future of JV5.
Mike Lau: The name itself comes from a reference in the Smash community meaning to have won a perfect game; a name we believe represents the root of the development team and vision.
JV5 Games team members fall into one of two categories. Experience in game development or experience in playing games competitively. Some team members such as Mike Z, from Skull Girls fame, have experience in both. We believe having a balanced team of professional Smash players and professional developers will be key to the successful development of a platform fighter with eSports potential.
As for the future, that’s in the hands of the community and how successfully we grow our reach.
What led up to the creation of ADO?
ML: The (Super Smash Bros.) Melee community had been waiting for an awesome follow up game for years, and unfortunately Brawl was never the game the community had hoped for. A lot of the game mechanics we fell in love with were gutted in hopes that it would appeal to casual players. Since then mods like Project M have become very popular within competitive circles. We plan to take the mechanics from Melee/Project: M and add a few more on top of our unique IP. Essentially creating the game that the community has been waiting for, that we don’t believe Nintendo has any interest in making.
What is the overall style/theme of the game? Plot synopsis?
ML: We know that certain fans will find this aspect of the game important, but for better or worse it isn't a focus of ours at the moment. Currently Robert Wright (Wobbles in the Smash Community) is the lead writer for the game’s narrative elements, but we plan to tie the game’s central campaign to the player’s real world skill level. In some cases this may require players to participate in online or in person tournaments to advance their personal narrative. Though, we will do our best to align players of similar skill levels to reduce frustration.
To what extent has the game been inspired by SSBM? Is it a clone, a de/remake, or somewhere in between? What elements are inspired by other games, and what is entirely original?
ML: We really love the movement and variable knockback combo system in Melee. We plan to improve the movement further with the introduction of an air dash and an air tech. The attack/block system will be different from the smash series. For what we have in mind, we believe it will force players to read incoming mix-ups further in order to successfully block them. Our main influence is definitely Melee.
What kind of variety can we expect from the fighters?
ML: We want to create lots of different fighting styles. Slow with strong physical attacks, Zoners, Projectile Fighters, Fast combo-ers, and more. From what we have shown, we have already received some feedback that our characters are currently too similar in that they are all humanoid. We believe that their attack styles will be unique enough, but familiar still to allow players from the Smash community to properly test the mechanics unique to Air Dash Online. Once we have nailed down these five fighters and the game has shown to have developed a good community we intend to make some fighters that have more unique body types like what you would see in the Smash games themselves with fighters such as Yoshi, Jigglypuff, Donkey Kong and Pikachu.
What game modes can we look forward to?
ML: At the moment we are focusing on 1v1 game types.
How does the development team seek to accommodate the fighting "language" of various players?
ML: We are working hard to make sure the game controls feel exceptionally responsive. That’s the key to the success we have seen in Super Smash Brothers: Melee and Project: M. With customization controls and a lot of different options in game to change button layouts, players will be able to focus on each other rather than their controller or keyboard.
What kinds of fighting styles can we expect to see (e.g., weapon based, style based, character/theme based, etc.)?
ML: At the moment we are planning each character to have a skill set that makes sense for their particular ‘style’. Certain fighters will have strengths keeping opponents away from them, while other fighters will focus on maintaining control of the stage or fighting strongest in the air versus the ground, etc.
Are you designing ADO with an eSports scene in mind?
ML: Absolutely! Our second major objective beyond becoming a successful eSports game will be to find ways to help players garner income for developing skill within ADO. That might entail sponsorships or creating tools within the game to make this easier for players in the community to achieve on their own.
How much influence will the community have in design?
ML: Tons! Since we have a Kickstarter in the works, we want all of the backers to have a large influence in the way the game develops. Though the specifics are still being worked out, people interested thus far can expect to have significant input.
To what extent will the storyline be influenced by playing against other fighters for the campaign?
ML: That concept will be at the core of our single player campaign. As we believe players improve fastest by playing against other players, our campaign will focus on players competing against in game rivals at local events and at online tournaments.
What are your plans for distribution?
ML: Digital distribution.
Will we see a beta?
ML: Yes, the kickstarter backers will be our main beta testers.
Are there plans for ongoing development after release?
ML: Of course we would love to continue to develop the game after release, but it depends on how much support we receive from gamers throughout and beyond the initial Kickstarter.
Is there a price point or release date in mind?
ML: We definitely have that number in mind, but nothing will be official until our Kickstarter goes live.