Did you notice that the Battlerite announcement trailer showed a 2v2 match between Shifu and Freya versus Croak + Ashka? If so, you weren’t the only one — and apparently it’s been confirmed that 2v2 will be the main mode. (Update 11/19/16: Stunlock hasn’t yet decided on a main mode yet.)
There’s been a lot of uproar about it, but will it really be so bad? Maybe, maybe not. There would be pros and cons to it, for sure — especially if the game won’t have true healers due to reworks (another discussion for another time).
So between 2v2 and 3v3, we all know which one would be ideal… but which one would be best for Battlerite’s future? The answer isn’t as clear-cut as I once thought.
Ease of Participation
The biggest obstacle for any competitive multiplayer game is getting players to sign up and participate in tournaments, leagues, and other events. That’s why, in order to maximize participation, it’s so important to eliminate as many barriers to entry as possible.
And in a team-based game, the worst barrier to entry is the process of finding teammates — not just any teammates, but teammates who you have chemistry with, teammates who are on the same schedule as you, teammates who have the same level of commitment as you do. The larger the team size, the less likely players are to participate.
Which is why 2v2 was so popular in Bloodline Champions even though most players knew that 3v3 was the “right” format to play. It’s exponentially easier to find one teammate than two teammates.
Strength of Competition
Anyone remember the early tournament days of Bloodline Champions? Back then, Team Mushin reigned supreme over the US scene and In Soviet Russia snagged every single win in the EU scene. Things diversified later on, but even then, the same players won all the time.
The problem with a competitive game that has a small playerbase is that it’s too easy for one team to dominate the rest. Not only that, but the bigger each team has to be, the more this problem amplifies.
Let’s say there are ten top-tier players. If the game is played as 3v3, then you have three top-tier teams plus one player leftover, but if the game is played as 2v2, then you have five top-tier teams. Wouldn’t that be more interesting for fans and spectators?
This is an extreme illustration, but the concept is true: by shrinking team size, you increase the strength of competition and reduce the likelihood that one team dominates.
Field of Competition
In addition to improved variety, shrinking team sizes also results in a wider number of total teams. This expands the field of competition, which is perceived as more exciting by spectators. Here’s what I mean.
Let’s say the competitive scene consists of 30 players. In a 3v3 format, we’d have 10 different teams, but in a 2v2 format, we’d have 15 different teams. In fact, we’d probably have more teams because 2v2 teams are easier to create (players who couldn’t play 3v3 but can play 2v2 would now be participating).
In other words, shrinking team sizes from 3v3 to 2v2 immediately bumps up the total number of teams by at least 50%, but possibly much more.
When you look at a tournament bracket, would you rather see 10 teams or 20 teams? Even if the total number of players is the same, the fact that they’re split up between more teams is perceptually more interesting.
Ease of Spectatorship
Think of any popular sport in the world and it will probably fall into one of two types: 1v1 (like Tennis) or 5v5+ (like Soccer, Basketball, etc). Some sports can even be played in 2v2 fashion (like Tennis Doubles), but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sport where 3v3 was an official format.
As I thought about why, it occurred to me. 1v1 is the easiest kind of sport to follow because commentators and spectators only have to focus on one person at a time, sometimes two people. And in 5v5+ sports, you usually only focus on one or two people at a time as well (such as the player who currently possesses the ball, or the quarterback and receiver).
And then you have Bloodline Champions where spectators need to watch six players in simultaneous action and need to have a sense of what every spell does. Simply put, it’s too chaotic to watch if you aren’t already a die-hard fan, and that’s not good if you’re trying to develop a true esport.
That’s why going 2v2 would make a lot of sense. The streamlined action makes it easier to commentate (for casters) and easier to follow (for spectators). 3v3 might provide more depth, but 2v2 is clearly better suited as an esport, if you ask me.
Gameplay Variety & Depth
Generally speaking, increasing the total number of players in a match will end up increasing the overall complexity and depth of the game. For example, League of Legends can be played as 1v1 or 3v3, but is most interesting when it’s played 5v5.
Despite 2v2 being so popular in Bloodline Champions, everyone agreed that it lacked the depth of 3v3. It has fewer players, fewer variables, fewer unique matchups, and if you add in the possibility that champions will only have six abilities, then it may become too shallow.
That being said, 2v2 wasn’t terrible. Skillful players were still able to distinguish themselves from the pack, and the matches were still exciting to watch. Ideally, 3v3 is better, but 2v2 in Battlerite could work out well if Stunlock intentionally designed the game for it.
Note: if Battlerite doesn’t have any true healer champions, then 2v2 is the obvious way to go. Nobody knows yet if healers will be heavily changed or redesigned, but if they are, 3v3 would just be too chaotic and 2v2 would end up being the better mode.
Competitive Pressure & Anxiety
If you’ve played Starcraft 2, then you probably know all about ladder anxiety. For those who aren’t familiar, ladder anxiety if when you want to play competitively — whether that means queueing for matchmaking or joining a tournament — but you feel too intimated, so you don’t.
What’s weird is that even though ladder anxiety exists in all competitive games, it’s way more pronounced in a game like Starcraft 2 than a game like Dota 2 or CS:GO. There are several reasons why that could be, but the clearest is that Starcraft 2 is a 1v1 game while the other two are 5v5 games.
If you lose in a 1v1, then you can only blame yourself. If you lose in a 5v5, then you can blame your team. The more teammates you have, the less pressure you have to face, and that makes the game less stressful to play.
In a game like Battlerite, 2v2 actually puts more pressure on players than 3v3. If you aren’t playing well, you only have one teammate to rely on — and if you lose, there’s no room for blame-shifting. After all, you can’t blame your farts on someone else if you two are the only ones in the elevator.
One could argue that this is actually a good thing. It puts more pressure on each individual, which gives an advantage to players who have a stronger mental fortitude. But in terms of ladder anxiety, 2v2 would likely be worse for newbies.
And the Verdict Is…
Honestly, either mode could work out well for Battlerite, at least in theory. It comes down to what you cherish most. Do you want things to be as close as possible to Bloodline Champions, or are you willing to change things up for the sake of Battlerite’s growth potential?
The 3v3 format might be ideal from a purist’s perspective, but 2v2 offers a lot of important benefits that could be what the game truly needs to succeed — as long as Stunlock properly balances the game around it. For smaller playerbases, 2v2 is undeniably better.
What do you think? Which format would be ideal for this game: 2v2 or 3v3? I’m sure there are several other considerations I missed, so feel free to bring them up as well!