Two days ago at EVO 2017, Wavedash Games, which is made up of former Project M developers, finally unveiled its free-to-play “platform fighter” Icons: Combat Arena to many of its eager fans. Unfortunately, its initial response was tepid at best, with the reveal trailer sitting at 1,975 dislikes at the time of this writing as opposed to 1,074 likes.
Common points of contention were the fact that it seemed like some character’s movesets were ripped straight out of Super Smash Bros. Melee (which Icons: Combat Arena is clearly inspired by) in the trailer and the title’s underwhelming graphics. Fortunately, Wavedash Games held an AMA on /r/smashbros, where they answered many of their fan’s questions, including ones that addressed the aforementioned issues and asked about how the developers felt about the lukewarm reception. They even commented on the possibility of a console release.
When a user asked how the developers felt about the game’s initial reception, Matt Fairchild, Co-Founder and CEO of Wavedash Games, had the following to say:
“The reason we’re still around after two years is because we have one really, really huge advantage: we have a community that gives us a TON of feedback. You hold us to a very high standard, and frankly it’s because the Smash community deserves a high standard. We strongly believe that for as long as you are holding us to that standard, then we are on the right path. I admit, it’s pretty scary at times. We put our stuff out in the public eye way before other companies would. This is because the earlier we get your feedback, the more likely it is we can make changes before it’s too expensive to do so.
Yesterday’s was the first step. You won’t be waiting another two years for the next look at gameplay. In fact, we’ve already started posting gifs and videos of gameplay snippets from the build we playtested at EVO. The positive responses to yesterday’s trailer are wonderful and have encouraged the team, but it’s the negative responses that truly galvanize us. Some, like placeholder sound effects, were issues we knew about, and we took the calculated risk that putting a trailer out at EVO and moving us into the next stage of development was more important than waiting for that polish to come in.
Now, thanks to your feedback, we have an even clearer path forward. Some were already in the works (we have a new SFX designer starting next week, hooray!) and some we have upped in priority. So, to answer your question: we’re going to keep building, we’re going to keep asking for feedback, and we’re going to share our progress with you every step of the way. “
Addressing the issue of characters playing similar to their “Melee counterparts”, Jason Rice, Co-Founder and Creative Director at Wavedash Games, pointed out that many of the characters are unique and play differently, but that it was hard to convey that in a 90 second trailer:
“When we first started designing characters for Icons, we decided that having a mix of familiar and fresh material in the game was going to be very important. For veterans, having familiar characters provides two really important things. First, it helps them instantly feel “at home” and comfortable playing the game. But second, it gives them really important context for how Icons is different. This helps the learning process go more quickly once you’ve got the game in your hands, but those differences are really hard to convey in a 90 second trailer that is just showing off some in-progress combos.
New characters are very important to us though, and most of our characters (including the upcoming ones you haven’t seen yet) fall into this category… Next steps for us are to start showing our audience the characters in action, in real gameplay situations, so you can start to really understand all the differences and get excited about trying something new. That kind of context will really help differentiate Icons and hopefully excite you about all the new stuff incoming this fall and beyond.”
Josh Singh, Art Director of Icons: Combat Arena, also stated in response to a question that much of the game’s art is still a work in progress, and that they will definitely be working on it going forward:
“A lot of the art is still in progress. The main thing we are still working on is our in-game character shader, and world lighting… Ultimately we want to go with what looks best in game. The sketchy line style may look cool when zoomed in, but end up looking too busy when the camera is zoomed out, so the sweet spot is a treatment that carries the cool details of the characters while still maintaining readability. So yep as this is still in a pre-alpha phase you are 100% right that the art is incomplete. But it’s at a phase where we can begin polishing and making sure the characters and gameplay shine.”
Finally, when Wavedash Games was asked about the possibility of the game coming to consoles, Matt Fairchild stated that while they are focusing on working on the PC version of the game now, they will look into developing the game for consoles next year:
“Right now we are totally focused on making the PC release as good as possible, but we’re open to exploring consoles later in 2018.”
Icons: Combat Arena will be coming to Steam later this fall, and you can currently sign up for the official beta.