A look behind the scenes of the growing platform fighter.
Brawlout is one of multiple offshoots of the Super Smash Bros. model that are vying for attention as the subgenre grows. As the game has gradually built itself up on Steam Early Access, developer Angry Mob Games has their sights set on bringing their title to the console market, starting on the Switch, with version following for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One afterwards.
We caught up with Bogdan Iliesiu, CEO of Angry Mob Games, to find out some more about both the development and the future of Brawlout. (Responses have been edited for clarity.)
Zavian “mushin_Z” Sildra: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. To start: in what ways does Brawlout distinguish itself from Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. series?
Bogdan Iliesiu: While Brawlout is based on the “platform fighter” genre which was established by the Super Smash Bros. series, the fighting game mechanics are inspired from more traditional fighters — like Street Fighter, Tekken or Mortal Kombat. The movement and win rules are really where any similarity lines can be drawn to Super Smash Bros. We’ve focused on more fast-paced battles, faster movement and a lot more aggressive combat style for all characters. Brawlout is combo-oriented, with block and grab buttons totally removed, and this takes away the defensive playstyles found in Smash. Instead of having to read the opponent’s moves, and reacting to them (in the rock-paper-scissor/attack-block-grab style), all you need to focus on is your movement flow and anticipating your opponent’s trajectory around the stage.
We also introduced the Rage Meter. It’s charged by dealing damage, or even faster by taking damage. When half-filled, it gives you the option to do a Rage Burst, which acts more like a combo breaker in Mortal Kombat (you can interrupt your hitstun, or even use it to do several air moves — such as two recoveries — when activated in air). When the Rage Meter is full, you can go into Rage Mode. This lets you deal more knockback, while lessening your own when hit.
The main difference is the character playstyles. They are not duplicates of Smash movesets, but instead all designed around established fighting games archetypes, or fun action games mechanics. For example, King Apu wields a long chain, similar to the main protagonist in Castlevania, while Olaf Tyson combines close range boxing moves with long range freezing attacks (à la Sub-Zero). Whether you’re a die-hard grappler or a rushdown fiend, there is a fighter for you in Brawlout.
The meta game outside the main play modes are a totally unique fighting-platformer experience, likened to modern online games, similar to Overwatch or Injustice 2, with progression mechanics and robust online tools, like: 1v1 Casual matches for low-stress competition; 1v1 Ranked matches; 2-4 player private lobbies where players can practice or mess about to their heart’s content; the Brawlout Network where players can check their fight stats, match history and replays; Brawlout TV, which allows for live spectating and watching of specific player replays; and weekly competitive tournaments for those looking to prove their Brawlout skills.
mushin_Z: Do you have any long-term plans for esports/tournament support for this title?
Iliesiu: We definitely do! As soon as we launch on consoles, we’ll ramp up both our online and offline tournament efforts, and try to host our own tournaments in Europe and North America to foster the Brawlout community. So far we’ve had a great reception at all tournaments we’ve attended; Super Smash Con, PAX, Gamescom, EGX, and many more. We have plans to raise the prize pools as the community grows, and more top players rise up to pro status.
mushin_Z: Which fighter on the current roster is your favorite?
Iliesiu: Personally, I like both Sephi’ra and the Drifter — from Hyper Light Drifter — because they give you so many movement options, both on the ground and in air. That means you can easily follow up on your attacks and chain some amazing combos.
mushin_Z: Let’s talk a bit about the Drifter, the indie guest character — what brought about their inclusion?
Iliesiu: Ever since we settled on the various play styles we wanted to add, we knew we needed an amazing sword fighter. With a sword fighter, you get those disjointed hitboxes, which bring a new experience and strategy. The Drifter from the indie gem Hyper Light Drifter had such an amazing kit, and it was one of the dream characters we all loved. We were lucky that Alex from Heart Machine (the HLD developer) is a hardcore fighting games fan, and really loved Brawlout when he tried it out.
Working on integrating Hyper Light Drifter was a long process, even if we had clear design ideas for most of his moves. In all, it took us over eight months to finish him from modeling, to animations, and then to the final balancing.
mushin_Z: What specific challenges were there in bringing the Drifter into Brawlout‘s game system?
Iliesiu: We always add new features to our fighting game engine, with each new play style. We basically had to add proper support for disjointed hitboxes to accommodate his sword-basedplaystyle, which change their shape during attack animations. We then had to do some special type of hits for his long dash attacks (to keep the opponent moving with him, while staying stunned). You can drag your opponent all over the air, by linking up to three different types of special air dash attacks. [See the reveal video above.]
His Deflect move was another iconic Hyper Light Drifter move, and it made so much sense to turn it into something similar to Fox’s Shine in Smash. The Drifter has been compared to Fox+Marth, with better movement options.
mushin_Z: How heavily has player feedback from the game’s Steam Early Access period affected the game’s current build?
Iliesiu: The main reason why we released in Early Access was to gather player feedback. We try to update the game every couple of weeks, based on our top players’ feedback, and we’re always on discord.gg/Brawlout, open to new ideas.
As soon as we launched, we had a ton of requests for adding Ledge Grabs. That was an easy decision and we quickly added it, as it made the game more fun for newcomers and more technical for the pro players. The aim is to get it to a really fun and balanced place, and slow down on tweaking balance figures after the console launch. This way top players can perfect their skills, and we wouldn’t be interfering with their strategies with new updates. In the near future, we’re also planning to add more advanced gameplay techniques, like teching or meteor canceling.
mushin_Z: What are the biggest reasons a Smash fan would want to pick up Brawlout?
Iliesiu: Smash players would find it easy to slide into Brawlout, as all their experience would easily carry over. We avoided creating a direct Smash Bros. clone in order to make players feel at home, but instead brought in new gameplay mechanics and new play styles, based on the inputs and platforming mechanics they already love.
The Smash community is one of the most amazing communities out there. It’s very personal, and that’s what keeps them attending every single event. It’s rare these days, with all the online games available, to develop close, personal relationships between players. But the Smash community got there from games like Melee, which don’t offer the smooth modern online networking, and instead makes them gather around for fun experiences. We don’t realistically expect the top Smash players to switch over to Brawlout, but it’s super easy to pick up our game as a fun alternative, which they could play in their free time, or join our many friendly weekly tournaments.
mushin_Z: When can we expect to see the game make its way to consoles?
Iliesiu: We’re super hard at work on the Nintendo Switch version. It’s going to be so much fun to battle with friends in Brawlout on the go. The simplified inputs also make it super straightforward to play with the Joy-Cons detached (in Dual Mode). Our aim is to get it out on Nintendo Switch this holiday season (which means a likely early December release). The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions will launch early 2018.
mushin_Z: Any new surprises we can look forward to?
Iliesiu: Yes! We’ll be bringing out a whopping total of eighteen new character variations, later this year! We’re also polishing a brand new guest character this October, with rampant personality and brawler skills; they’ll feel right at home in Brawlout.
Shoryuken‘s own Assistant Editor Sam “Trilby” Foxall also contributed to the development of Brawlout, by writing the game’s story mode — to be added in a future build — as well as providing names for many of the in-game elements. You can check out the current Steam Early Access version of the game here.
Additional source: Angry Mob Games (YouTube)