I talked about how Black Hole creates a good metagame, although I'm not sure I covered the details properly. I'd be up for leaving the details I miss to the comments, because hopefully that would happen.
However, in order for Black Hole to be useful, the user has to have a great deal of natural attack AND defense power on their side. The latter is ESPECIALLY important for two reasons: so that you don't get killed waiting for the opponent to become vulnerable to BH; and you don't get killed when you actually use BH. Super Armor consequently becomes important for that, and that brings up today's topic: why armor being useful is good for the metagame in and of itself.
Armor's failure in Super Smash Bros.
I'm starting off again with a subject that needs to set the whole thing up. This time, why Super Armor is even available in KIU. Here's something you may have noticed: there are similarities in the gameplay to that of SSB's. It even gets lampshaded for a humor moment in the How to Play videos. There are, of course, improvements, such as how the roll recoveries actually don't suck by being stupidly punishable. (I hate that, because it makes the attack recovery the only halfway viable recovery.) The knockback IS more dangerous, but that's if you don't use a KB immunity power.
Of course, that brings up where SSB screwed up: the flinching is unconditional. Every time you get hit, unless it's some move designed to NOT cause KB, period, you flinch. When you flinch, you can't attack and you're incapable of doing a defense keeping you from staving off another attack. Do not bring up Directional Influence because I try that, you're still reeling while the opponent can attack AGAIN, forcing you to flinch. It results in that Link gets knocked from 0% to 90% just because he gets hit ONCE. Everything about that is wrong.
That's not even the only problem. When you flinch, if you were in the middle of doing an attack, IT GETS INTERRUPTED! It doesn't matter if you're playing as Bowser, your forward smash is going to get halted just because a pebble hits you. Because of that, you can NEVER attack for momentum. This means that heavyweights have to play completely passive, and even then, the lack of attack for momentum ruins THAT anyway.
As you see, unconditional flinching is an innate, continuous problem, and it's so bad that it resulted in Ike's inflated stats, which barely even lets him FIGHT BACK. There are other issues that makes heavies cry, but the UF is easily the worst.
I have done comparisons to Battalion Wars: in that game, only AI soldiers even get KBed by any attacks. If you're directly controlling one, he won't get sent flying even by an Artillery shell. The big concern becomes whether a given attack deals too much damage and will kill your guy as a result. Vehicles bounce in Battalion Wars 1, but even then, their attacks do NOT get interrupted. All this inevitably leads to, as a blatant example, Mortar Vets proving to be balanced by their having low attack power, which means I can say more about BW's balance than I ever could about that of Advance Wars'. ESPECIALLY Days of Ruin's. Considering Mortar guys work with KB, BW has to be doing something right, and yes indeed, it is: it keeps flinching from being unconditional.
This brings up how Project Sora takes a creative direction about KB immunity in KIU.
KB immunity's handling in KIU
When I first played KIU's multiplayer, which was at a demo stand in the Game Developer's Conference in San Francisco in 2012, things went nicely. I looked through the weapons, and after being turned off by a bow (I think Darkness) with a Status Resistance - mod, I saw a Skyscraper Club with Melee DEF +1. I used it, and while I couldn't get going on the first match, I soon started gathering victories because I knew to approach through terrain cover. Just for good measure, I looked at my tools better and there was the treasure within my power list on the set: Super Armor. I couldn't get a good read of the description, but I could be sure just from the name that it would provide KB resistance support. Sure enough, it did. I also tried out other weapons, but ultimately got most comfy with the Skyscraper set. The cannon set usage was actually a disaster because of the lack of armor powers to keep claw raids from butchering me, especially without working knowhow of how to use a wide array of moves.
I was actually impressed with how the KB immunity handling was: it ultimately encourages a player to work with other options, but it doesn't outright force them to avoid them like the plague. The KB immunity is not permanent, so relying on it and playing passive is a bad idea, but as it can be triggered at will, it can be used to bolster key moves. The power itself uses space that could be going to other powers, but as long as I have my KB immunity, I'm not complaining. If other players wish to use a set where the focus is not to get hit, they have more tools to work with, since the power system doesn't even exist in SSB.
For anybody who believes that Super Armor wasn't built with covering against SSB's problems in mind, here's Super Armor's stats:
- Charges: 1L
- Spaces: 4+2L
- Line Power?: Never
- Death recovery value requirement: 233 at all levels
- Duration per charge: 20 seconds at all levels
- Spaces per 16 seconds:
- L1: 4 4/5
- L2: 3 1/5
- L3: 2 2/3
- L4: 2 2/5
- Damage taken multiplier: ~7/10 at all levels
- Special effects: KB immunity
I may be missing something else, but here are some key factors: Super Armor has an above average space cost and needs to be leveled for multiple charge. This means that Project Sora was aware of the high value of having KB immunity compared to not having it. In return, however, the duration per charge is 20 seconds, which is actually longer than what you get with a standard buff. This is so that a given charge is likely to cover multiple key moments more easily. In effect, Project Sora must have wanted to make sure that somebody who worked with KB immunity wasn't going to get shortchanged. You can't tell me it's a coincidence, because Counter, which also provides KB immunity, has the same duration per charge.
Speaking of, Counter's stats:
- Charges: 1+1L
- Spaces: 3+1L
- Line Power?: Never
- Death recovery value requirement: 202 at all levels
- Duration per charge: 20 seconds at all levels
- Spaces per 16 seconds:
- L1: 1 3/5
- L2: 1 1/3
- L3: 1 1/5
- Damage taken multiplier: unchanged at all levels
- Special effects: KB immunity, auto-target anybody who hits the user, free charged projectile during auto-targeting
Counter is low cost because it's iffy at best with non-synergetic weapons (it's certainly bad on the Magnus Club, a popular weapon) and even on synergetic weapons, it's still sensitive to how well the user is doing. But it still provides KB immunity, so a claw raid gets discouraged, especially thanks to the free charged projectile. The free shot itself weakens rapid fire, since if you get hit for any reason, even if you cause yourself to get hit by a weak shot, the free shot can be used for whatever you like.
There are more KB immunity powers, but that's going out of way. The main point is why KB immunity is handled the way it is in KIU.
Armor's own usefulness
If you're wondering what KB immunity's relevance is, it's that durability doesn't do you any good if you freaking flinch every time you get hit. It keeps you from being able to fight back against somebody with a better hit/evasion combination setup. KB immunity stops the flinching problems.
What defensive power lets you do is that you can shrug off blows and ultimately punch through toward a thick combination of abuse. Just being able to get close enough without fear of dying from too much abuse helps in answering key threats. While the armor guy can go for silencing the key threats, the opponent can't manage to kill the armor guy fast enough to prevent the blitz from doing its job.
There's also the mere survival in any situation where you're dealing with being countered. It's obviously not preferable, but sometimes, like when you can't trap the opponent efficiently enough, it can't be helped. Defensive power keeps one from being killed for something that isn't their fault, like a blatant accuracy advantage matchup. This is a major reason why armor is good for game balance: it keeps the game from becoming who can hit first.
And then there's the time bomb stuff. That's been commented upon on the post about Black Hole.
As you see, armor is a versatile check against innate balance problems.
There are, however, some problems that could make armor unlikeable. First is the brute force support in and of itself. This is actually understandable, because if armor is too strong, it kills the incentive to dodge, and anybody who proves able to do that is only more threatening. This turns the game into button mashing, which means that armor should be the first thing that needs to be checked, no matter how much it's the last thing that needs to be rendered useless. But I would say that Kid Icarus Uprising ultimately does a good job about keeping armor play from becoming stale and mindless. Really, the brute forcing ability just needs to be helpful for positions that become otherwise sickeningly strong, such as camping the top floor side rooms of Desert Tomb.
The next issue is that it could nuke the point of caring about a player abilty's body advantage at all. This would be because, let's face it, defensive power is working without the guy having to lift a finger while evasion has to be done manually. There are, however, key factors that work against this point:
- As far as player abilities go, body advantages should be checked first and foremost, or else the game's depth crumbles with darwinistic bullies becoming the dominant players. Defensive power actually provides good tactical depth when it's kept out of mindless play, so I would say this is a worthwhile risk.
- Speaking of defensive power apparently being mindless, KB immunity is too important, and that requires timed input for optimized usefulness. Why? Because the KB immunity is coming from powers. A mistimed power usage can result in being hit too hard at a key moment.
- Adding to that, even with my ABXY for powers setup that lets me work with my experience with handling units in Battalion Wars (where you use the C-Stick/Wiimote D-Pad to sort through your units), dexterity is still useful for making sure that you don't run afoul of basic use problems. I have actually used Black Hole in situations where I wanted to use Mega Laser due to those two powers being right next to each other, and when you're under pressure, it's not easy to remember how to slide to Effect Recovery to get rid of Petrification.
- Not to mention that on a weapon that would want both Super Armor and Counter, you would want to choose between those two in the first place. SA for walling threatening powers and multi-buffing, Counter for keeping potshots under control.
As you see, a body advantage doesn't become useless. It's simply and ultimately given a well-deserved checking with balanced defensive power.
And that's not even getting into how taking a hit for reduced damage is still more punishment than not being hit. Simple risk/reward, and certain people who would believe that defensive power mods deserve to be mod by any standard that expects the banning of Evasion + should be knowing that, but oh right, they don't.
The last potential issue I want to bring up? How defensive power strengthens higher power attacks and weakens the more sure hit ones. That's actually beneficial in general, which brings me to why defensive power works as a revolutionary concept.
The anti-armor expectation standard
You may have noticed that in general in other games, speed is ultimately overfavored, and if an option doesn't have speed, it ultimately sucks. This inevitably causes a slippery slope where the same stale tactics become dominant. Usually, these games have one particular problem going on: defensive power sucks in them.
Defensive power is the best way to counter speed options, as a way to make sure that getting hit first isn't fatal. In turn, defensive power has a good array of checks:
- Offensive power cancels with the advantages that defensive power provides, which makes the whole thing boil down to skill again.
- Range is used to hit armor guys from where they can't fight back, forcing them to eventually attack.
- Variety. Armor guys work with IDing as both a necessity and a highly beneficial tactic that inevitably lets them fight in favorable range. Variety is used for things like preventing the opponent from winning automatically by doing that.
Notice a pattern? All 3 of those checks enriches the metagame in general with a very healthy spread, and all 3 especially benefit mage builds. The latter in and of itself is a good sign because mage builds have a learning curve as it is, and having something they can answer naturally under standard play means that they can focus on dealing with OTHER threats.
It's not even mage builds benefitting that would be a good thing. Creating a strong enough standard of anti-armor for being able to fight back invites a move variety that would be used in order to master available anti-armor. Expecting multiple forms of anti-armor severely cuts the kiting ability and prevents the opponent from autowinning by some dumb mobility advantage.
Speaking of, what happens to the speed builds? They get well deserved nerfing. Now they'd actually have to think in order to win. If they try to play too passive against armor, the armor guy could very well have ways to hax their evasion sooner or later, and most likely at the most inconvenient times. They have to care about anti-armor ability, and that will neuter their ability to be abusive, though they ultimately have less ability to be abusive, or nothing relevant. More dedicated speed builds, they can still threaten with the same anti-armor, although they'd have to use it as a psychological weapon, but it shouldn't ever be useless.
And what's the most important factor in this anyway? Affinity. Anti-armor is designed to be a reward for being in tune with your abilities. You play with your heart and you can manage to land the armor busting with workable reliability so that you don't get walled. This means that armor being just strong enough stops soulless play from being able to function. It's not even just simple game balance. It's simply improving the whole game, period.
Note that this applies with games in general, not just KIU. But it's relevant when the fact that in SSB, characters like Link and Zelda are considered trash proves no coincidence.
That out of the way, you can see that these particular things are clear: the Tankscraper should be setting the bar in order to prevent people from winning by mindless play. And the metagame would ultimately prove balanced enough when things like a Royal Blade with sufficient defenses for frontlining is actually able to function with suitable competence. But the former can still be outright mocked even with optimized setup.
This is where a banlist comes in: it prevents players from either mocking the Tankscraper or needing to neuter their ability to fight back in order to deal with other threats, the latter is a clear-cut case of overthinking. The recommended legality criteria thus is as follows:
- Criteria 1: Weapon types, mods, and powers may not be allowed to be capable of overrewarded mindless play by legal, balanced powers and mods.
- Criteria 2: Mods may not be able to keep Black Hole from dealing any Value worth of damage without power support. (Weapon types, this should never be a problem.)
- Criteria 3: Mods may not cause other weapon types to become instantly trash with excessive cost effectiveness.
- Criteria 4: Powers may not allow for on-the-fly complete countering a tag power such as Super Speed or Black Hole more than 5 times.
- Criteria 5: Powers may not allow for overly cost-efficient kiting that mocks tag powers.
- Criteria 6: Weapon types, mods, and powers that allow for forcing given strategies with combinations that otherwise wouldn't do so nearly as badly.
This is what warrants banning under this criteria.
- Brawler Claws - violates criteria 1 and 6: too much mobility and melee power, neutral rapid fire has base Shot Cancel 3 (only two other weapon types have base SC 3 or higher but they both have actually balancing factors)
- Raptor Claws - violates criteria 1: too much mobility and melee power.
- Taurus Arm - violates criteria 1: too much mobility and melee power, can 1 Combo Petrify with Petrification+4.
- Evasion +2 and above - violates criteria 2 and 6: allows for focusing on dodging the shot to completely thwart Black Hole's purpose, makes close range weapons need superior mobility in order to stop the dash around spam that provides for infinite invincibility with insufficient penalty, makes rapid attacking bad altogether as it just feeds the mod.
- Shot Range +1 and above - violates criteria 3 and 6: too much range for the low Value required, forces other weapons to use Shot Range + to counter (tell me how that is not overcentralizing), can be paired with things like the Predator Cannon to force armor power usage to even survive.
- Warp - violates criteria 4 and 5: paired with Super Speed for 10 anti-tag power charges, can be paired with leveled Slip Shot instead for excessive kiting.
- Jump Glide - violates criteria 4: paired with Super Speed for 10 anti-tag power charges.
- Playing Dead - violates criteria 4 and 6: paired with Super Speed for 7 anti-tag power charges, can be used to shut down mass buffing as well.
- Lightweight - violates criteria 1 and 5: paired with Super Armor for too much mobility and power on a melee set, or paired with Bumblebee and Energy Charge for dealing excessive damage from range while shutting down the ability to get rid of either power for too long. (Bumblebee is at least a deathtrap, and EC, just hit once and it's gone, though it's tempting to ban as a violation of criteria 5 at this point.)
- Random - see any banned power. It can trigger that. It can also trigger any power balanced enough by grid problems.
Slip Shot seems able to violate criteria 5 on its own, but without key threats to melee like Shot Range + or Warp, its grid problems start becoming clearer. First, it costs 10 spaces to even have, so the theory that it unintroduces terrain, which I have to admit I myself believed but that was before I had given Black Hole a better look, turns out to be just that: a theory. In practice, it's contested by fighting in an open area where the thing loses usefulness, certainly as far as hide-and-seeking goes. Second, it requires a full line even at base level, so it can't be used with Aries Armor or Trade-Off. Aries Armor isn't a big deal because it isn't too synergetic on a range set, but Trade-Off not being as much of a problem on a range set is nice to see. Third, and most important, it has problems being paired with line powers. At level 2 and above, which you'd even want for multiple charges and thus anything resembling completely unintroducing defilade, it doesn't even happen, so Super Speed can't be used for a quick getaway, and Bumblebee can't be used to give somebody who even gets close problems. And if Bumblebee is used with Slip Shot anyway, that reveals both that Slip Shot is not leveled, and that Super Speed is not available.
The main worry would be the hide-and-seek abuse potential. Slip Shot can be used to hit opponents where they can't see the user. Without SR+, only high base range weapons, which have considerable counterbalances to them, would be able to do this without revealing their general location. Without Warp, the Slip Shot abuser has to use Super Speed, which both requires a full line, thus keeping Slip Shot incapable of lengthy abuse without losing escape ability, and doesn't even keep the opponent from knowing their general escape location, cutting down on the hide-and-seek ability.
Aries Armor and Trade-Off skits the line with criteria 1, because both provide effective invincibility in their durations, forcing the opponent to dodge in general. Both powers, however, have only 1 charge and require a full row and column. The full row/column prevents Super Speed pairing, which helps when Super Speed used by the opponent severely weakens both powers' usage and has a maximum spaces per charge value of 3 to make things even more fun. The problem is so bad that it leads to grid reading being discovered, simply because most Aries/TO users don't even have further BH protection to stop BH once the ultra-armor is gone. Well, unless you count Libra Sponge, but it generally gets used simultaneously with Aries, so that doesn't count. :P
I can see criteria 6 being a worry though. It depends on if things like Virus, Darkness, and Transparency work at thwarting the charge. But walling the Aries/TO well enough leaves the Aries/TO user stuck with a 5x5 grid for all intents and purposes. That can easily give them considerable problems.
Bumblebee seems to violate criteria 5, on the basis that the Bumblebee protects both Energy Charge and Full Health Boost from Mega Laser and Black Hole. This, however, turns out to not be the case, as Bumblebee has forced clockwise movement. This means that far from being capable of humiliating those two powers, Bumblebee can instead turn into a deathtrap against them, and it's so bad that I actually killed an Evasion + abuser because of it. Keeping in mind that Evasion + is still banworthy, it's the Bumblebee usage creating a weakness that even allowed for the kill.
Energy Charge pushes on criteria 5 too, as it has the problem of rewarding a player just for matchup. Thankfully, it has grid problems that makes Mega Laser L2 sufficient for making it easier to handle grid reading. It's overly popular though, so if it needs to be banned, I wouldn't exactly complain. But signs point to grid reading giving it problems that will likely only increase for it, as it turns out that L3/4 EC can't be used with more than 2 line powers, and you'd want leveled EC to keep efficient EC busting from gimping offense.
Freezing + probably should go though, but mainly, the issue is that it is generally better than Petrification + without sufficient penalty, when Petrify is an annoying enough status effect by virtue of completely immobilizing the victim unless they have Effect Recovery to get rid of it. It's really dependent on the difficulty of just breaking free of the Freeze status, and in comparison to the difficulty of breaking free of Petrify as well. Freeze Attack should be fine regardless, as it requires more space so it's bound to deal with grid problems such as being easier to grid read.
So I will admit that I got off topic here and there, but the point is, defensive power should indeed be useful as a way of setting a standard, without having to be mindless, so that players on both sides will have to think, and certainly do more than care exclusively about "don't get hit." It's safe to say that it ultimately fixes far more problems than it could create, and the ones that could come up are either easily fixed, actually beneficial, or simply not worrying about.