2v2 or 3v3? The eternal debate that never ends.
But I’m not here to argue which one is better than the other. That topic has been beaten into the ground by newbies and veterans alike, and by now all that can be said about it has already been said. There are no new arguments left to be mined.
The time for discussion is over. A decision has to be made. I’m not saying I know which decision is right — that’s up to Stunlock and the community — but I am saying that Battlerite will suffer (or keep suffering, depending on your viewpoint) if it continues to support both 2v2 and 3v3.
The Imaginary Divide Between 2v2 and 3v3
Let me start off by saying this: I understand why Stunlock is stalling this decision as long as possible. It’s not an easy decision… but it’s a necessary one.
The majority of the playerbase prefers 2v2, but the chunk that prefers 3v3 is significant as well. The number of players who can honestly say “I don’t care either way” is surprisingly small, which means that no matter which side the gavel falls on, a lot of players are going to be disappointed.
And that’s a frightening thought. Gamers, as a whole, have always been a fickle bunch who are prone to tantrums and are quick to uninstall the moment they feel slighted. If your favorite mode was dropped from a game you enjoyed, there’s a non-zero chance that you’d quit playing, right? I think this is the fear that has Stunlock so petrified regarding this decision.
Last week I ran a poll asking which format readers preferred: 58% said 2v2 while 42% said 3v3 (211 total votes). I didn’t provide a third option, not even a “Both” option, because I wanted to see how players would choose if they were forced to pick one.
It would be much easier if the split was closer to 90/10 or 80/20, wouldn’t it? The prospect of losing approximately half of the playerbase with one decision is terrifying. Stunlock doesn’t want that, and neither does anyone else. We want the playerbase to be healthy and thrive. At the moment, it isn’t.
Would players leave if a format was dropped? Some, but not as many as you’d think.
Most players are pretty fluid in their preference as long as the core gameplay is fun and rewarding. If you follow the tournament scene, you’ve noticed that a lot of those who play in 2v2 events also play in 3v3 events. Just because someone prefers one format doesn’t mean they necessarily dislike the other. What I’ve found is that most players find both formats playable and simply lean towards one.
So no, I’m not convinced that focusing on one format (by dropping the other format) will significantly harm overall player numbers. In fact, I think dropping one format would actually lead to better gameplay and therefore better player retention, which would lead to better long-term growth.
Two Formats Are Worse Than One
You might be thinking: Who cares?! Let the 2v2 players keep playing 2v2, let the 3v3 players keep playing 3v3, and if someone wants to play both, let them! What’s wrong with supporting both modes? Isn’t it better to capture as many players as possible? Why unnecessarily alienate a big chunk of the playerbase?
Those questions are important, so let’s explore them.
Consider what Verosk said when he gave his opinion on the current state of Battlerite, that Stunlock’s indecision between 2v2 and 3v3 as the main game format is his least favorite thing about the game. (“It would be nice to know which [format] I should be focusing my attention on.”) He enjoys both, yet still wants Stunlock to designate one as “official”.
Why does an official format matter? For many reasons, but they all stem from one big reason: it’s very hard, maybe even impossible, to balance one game for two formats.
Take Iva, for example. She’s commonly considered weak in 2v2 but strong in 3v3, and Taya and Poloma fit that bill as well. But then you have champions like Jumong and Shifu, who tend to fare better in 2v2 than 3v3. I’m not saying that they’re OP or UP. The point is that they have different strengths and weaknesses depending on the format.
Because of this, those who play 2v2 have completely different opinions on balance than those who play 3v3. And why wouldn’t they? The two formats are so different. So when people argue about champion balance, this divide often gets in the way of constructive progress.
It comes down to the fact that certain gameplay mechanics are more or less valuable with more or less players on the field. Due to this, certain mechanics are impossible to balance for multiple formats — if you compensate for a weakness in one format, it usually becomes stronger in the other format. And vice versa.
The bounce mechanic is a good example, such as Iva’s Tazer or Poloma’s Ghost Wolf. The more enemies on the field, the more likely that two of them will be within bounce range. Same holds true for any ability with a relatively large AOE target mechanic, though to a lesser degree.
Player numbers also act as a soft cap on the number of times a certain mechanic can appear in a match. Take shields, for example. In 2v2, you can run a comp like Lucie/Iva or Lucie/Varesh and have two shields in rotation on one champion, but in 3v3, you could run Lucie/Iva/Varesh and have three shields in rotation on one champion. Can that be balanced by tweaking the numbers on each ability? Or is it an issue that’s inherent to the relationship between the shield mechanic and total players on field?
Buff and debuff durations also matter. A 1.5s Incap in 2v2 has a different level of impact than the same 1.5s Incap in 3v3. A 2.5s Barrier doesn’t have the same kind of presence in 2v2 than it does in 3v3. Even though it’s the same ability and mechanic in both formats, the impact and relative uptimes differ with varying numbers of players on field.
By trying to cater to both 2v2 and 3v3 crowds, Battlerite ends up being okay-but-not-amazing for both sides. Some parts of the game feel good in 2v2 and other parts of the game feel better in 3v3, but neither mode feels complete. That’s what happens when you try to have your cake and eat it too.
Could we get around this by setting separate values for each format? For example, altering Barrier so that it lasts A seconds and absorbs B damage in 2v2 but lasts X seconds and absorbs Y damage in 3v3, then doing the same for every ability in the game? Maybe it could work in theory, but it would be a massive effort for Stunlock (who’d basically be maintaining two games), it would not be fun for players (due to twice the burden of knowledge), and it would likely split the overall community into two distinct groups (instead of the hybrid that we have now).
One Format to Rule Them All
Let’s switch gears from drawbacks to benefits: what do we stand to gain by dropping one format to focus on the other? A few things, and this is the heart of my argument.
1. One format would be easier to balance.
Walking the thin line between 2v2 and 3v3 is hard, and Stunlock doesn’t have an easy job in that regard. I’m not saying they’re incompetent or incapable — they’ve actually done an okay job so far if you consider how another company might’ve handled the balance of this game.
But the fact is that any time they want to add, tweak, or rework an ability or battlerite, their eyes need to be looking in two directions. Not only is it hard to find the sweet spots for both formats — assuming such sweet spots exist — but it also slows down the overall process of creation/tweaking/reworking because they have more things to consider and test.
2. It would lead to more cohesive gameplay.
As mentioned above, when you try to design one game for two different formats, some things end up working better in one while other things end up working better in the other. Neither feels truly complete because compromises are made.
Imagine if the game was only 2v2. We could cut away some of the more gutless mechanics, like getting rid of dynamic healing charge rates and using a flat cooldown that’s best balanced for 2v2 itself. We could increase the overall speed of the game to compensate for having fewer players, something that might’ve resulted in too much chaos if we also had to worry about 3v3.
Or imagine if the game was only 3v3. We could resize and redesign the maps so that they don’t feel so claustrophobic, which we can’t do right now because the maps would be too big for 2v2. We could retune energy gain on certain abilities that grant too much in 3v3 but need to be high so that they aren’t gimped in 2v2.
Imagine how much better an official format would be if every single aspect of the game was tailor-fitted for that specific format — it doesn’t matter which one because this is true regardless. The overall experience would be more cohesive. The gameplay would feel better. It would be more enjoyable.
3. Competition would all take place on the same playing field.
This would really strengthen the competitive scene as a whole, and I think this is what Verosk was getting at when he shared his thoughts.
When a game equally supports two different formats, the exploration of each format’s gameplay suffers. Nobody can deny that 2v2 and 3v3 play differently, right? But this means that players will split their attention between “playing 2v2” and “playing 3v3” — neither format gets full attention, which hinders the process of trying different comps, explroing new tactics, and pushing the limits of gameplay.
Certain strategies and tactics that work in 2v2 don’t really work in 3v3 and vice versa. Teams who win in 2v2 may not always win in 3v3, while teams who win in 3v3 can flop in 2v2. It’s tough to compare the two. Wouldn’t the scene have more legitimacy if we had one official format in which all players could fight on even footing? Comparisons between players and teams would be clearer since all matches would be judged by the same criteria.
This could also indirectly improve matchmaking queues. If Stunlock came out and said that Battlerite would be a 3v3 game from now on, for example, then they could close the other queues and everyone would be funneled into the same matchmaking pool. Less queue splitting, more accurate matching, better competition.
But wait, Patch 0.8 introduced the ability to queue both 2v2 and 3v3. Does that negate this point? I don’t think so. I’ve noticed that queues are slower when you’re in both, and I’m not the only one who’s noticed it. If everyone was forced into one mode, then Stunlock could better optimize their matchmaking algorithm — not just for speed, but also for quality.
All of these things would be more enjoyable for players.
Deciding on an official format would improve the game in nearly all respects. Are there any downsides? Yes, sure, we would lose a small amount of players in the short term. But as of this writing, the game’s daily peak has dropped below 3k. Players are already leaving, so I don’t foresee much harm in this at all.
What do we gain from it? More intentional balance and more cohesive gameplay, which would both lead to a better player experience and more esports legitimacy. The hope is that this would boost retention rates and long-term growth. Whatever players we lose in the short term, we’d make up for it in the long term (assuming the gameplay improves).
One last thing: Do we really need to drop a format? Can’t we just keep both and simply “declare” one as the official one for balance and design? We could, but I don’t think it’d be a good idea.
This kind of happened in Bloodline Champions with its multiple game modes. The game was balanced for Arena, which meant that Conquest and CTA both had a bunch of weird detracting quirks that weren’t fun. The game wasn’t designed for Conquest, so Conquest felt off. The same for CTA. Because of this, nobody played these modes except to kill boredom every once in a while.
Something similar would happen if, say, Battlerite was designed specifically for 3v3 but still kept 2v2 queues. Over time the game would become more and more designed for 3v3 and the disparities between the two formats would become more pronounced. 2v2 would eventually feel off, and people would either stop playing it or complain that it needs to be fixed.
Obviously all formats should be allowed in private games, just as 1v1 is currently allowed even though the game isn’t designed for 1v1, but in order to truly commit to this idea of having an “official” format I believe the extraneous queues must be dropped.
Remember, this wasn’t a discussion about whether 2v2 or 3v3 is better so please refrain from that in the comments. Let’s talk about whether Stunlock should pick an official format, and if so, whether they should abandon the other or still support both. Please be constructive!