Icons Developer Diary: Ezzie

October 03, 2018

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Ezzie, The Witch Of Shadowbriar

Welcome to Ezzie’s Development Diary. I’m Adam Oliver, Game Designer at Wavedash Games. I took the lead on developing the latest Icon to join the arena: Ezzie! Ezzie was truly a blast to develop, introducing unique challenges that needed solving, and great opportunities to push the bar of quality ever higher. Let’s take a look through Ezzie’s development, how the various departments at Wavedash Games took part in bringing her to life, and how it all came together.

Ezzie Concepting

Ezzie Idle Pose Exploration

Ezzie Idle Pose Exploration

Early on at Wavedash we knew we wanted to introduce texture to the aesthetic of our characters and backstory by the homeworlds that the various fighters come from. Zhurong and Weishan hail from the arid cloud empire, while Afi & Galu are residents of tropical Malumalu. Ezzie is no exception and comes from Shadowbriar, a mystical forest filled with hostile creatures and powerful beings. Ezzie is a competent spellcaster with an emphasis on summoning spells, allowing her to summon creatures and ethereal beings from her homeworld of Shadowbriar no matter which Arena she’s fighting in.

Moveset Design

When designing Ezzie, we knew we wanted her to fulfill the “floaty” character archetype. Picking and choosing which elements to include, and where we wanted to innovate, was an important process early on. A character’s abilities are where we are able to most effectively fulfill the fantasies of the archetype and the themes of the character.

Abilities

Sinister Flight (Side-Special)

Ezzie’s Side-Special, Sinister Flight, is the cornerstone of her kit. This ability allows Ezzie to take flight and fly in any direction for a limited amount of time. Not only does it allow her to fly, putting it on a Special move rather than a jump-hold input enabled us to put a hitbox on its startup. This hitbox sends foes diagonally with low knockback, allowing a whole host of follow-ups and creative gameplay.

Here’s a fun combo just to give you a taste of Ezzie’s capabilities. By allowing her to air dodge during her flight, crazy stuff like this is possible. Watching players explore and discover what’s possible with Sinister Flight is something I look forward to. There was a great deal of iteration that went into refining the mechanics and inputs. We ended up with something that’s unique, fun, and lines up with the witchy thematics we were going for with Ezzie.

Spooky Summons (Neutral-Special)

Spooky Summons Posing Explorations

Spooky Summons Posing Explorations

By introducing projectiles to her kit, we had a unique opportunity to play up Ezzie’s ability as a summoner, and provide more context to her homeworld of Shadowbriar. Our concept artists explored what types of creatures Ezzie could summon using this ability, and they came back with some fun ideas.

Spooky Summons VFX Concept Art vs. In-Game VFX

Spooky Summons VFX Concept Art vs. In-Game VFX

The design team wanted the player to feel like Ezzie was acquiring arcane knowledge from her book. Ezzie’s Spooky Summons allows her to cast progressively more powerful and decisively unique spells. We ended up swapping the level 1 and 2 concepts. A key mechanical change we made was making the level 1 spell, carnivorous plant, fly upwards. This made the level 1 spell have a unique purpose, but not a ubiquitous projectile-spammy one that discouraged Ezzie players from charging up to further levels of power. The level 2 spell casts a shotgun spray of bats, allowing Ezzie to follow up with a devastating combo. The level 3 spell, the Augur of Abraxas, is a powerful multi-hit spell with strong knockback, worthy of its charging time.

We also wanted players to have multiple ways of charging this move. That leads us to her Down-Special!

Brax's Bite (Down-Special)

Ezzie’s Down-Special was one of my earliest ideas for the character when I first saw her visual design. Her big hat, Abraxas, introduced a unique opportunity for big bite-style attacks on a humanoid character. You’ll see them elsewhere in her kit on moves like Up-Strike and Up-Aerial, but with a special move, we were able to really make it cool. Floatier style characters usually don’t have a bursty way to move, much less in the air, but we wanted Ezzie to have a really satisfying and aggressive special move that let her move quickly.

Brax’s Bite Posing Explorations

Brax’s Bite Posing Explorations

But a bursty high power bite wasn’t enough for this to feel truly special. Abraxas is a demonic magical hat and he opens his mouth wide, so we decided to allow him to eat projectiles! When this happens, Ezzie’s Neutral Special (Spooky Summons) goes up a level. If you have no charge, she can now cast Shotgun Bats. If you already have a charge, you get access to Augur of Abraxas.

Spell Dash (Up-Special)

This was the most difficult of her specials to get right, in terms of mechanics, feel, and thematics. We landed on something that we think works well!

For her Up-Special, we thought it was important to introduce a decision even after she started moving. We decided to do a second leg of travel with the ability to change direction after the initial burst. In doing so, we give Ezzie players a means of being tricky on recovery (in case her flying move wasn’t enough). We also put a significant wait time between the two legs of travel. This makes Ezzie feel floaty and magical, rather than quick and agile. In addition, it introduces a point of vulnerability in the recovery move, allowing opponents an opportunity to attack.

Ezzie Spell Dash Posing Explorations

Ezzie Spell Dash Posing Explorations

In terms of thematics, everything came together when we made Ezzie go (mostly) invisible during travel. Ezzie’s magical abilities are strongest when it comes to summoning style spells, but she knows a thing or two about flight and visibility. Trying to do both at the same time is taxing on her abilities, so she can be hit while traveling and she’s not able to go fully invisible. This move is still great for returning to the stage, but watch out if your opponent is able to intercept you!

Normals

Leveraging VFX

Ezzie is a small girl with short limbs, so we wanted to grant her some extra range on certain attacks. The obvious way to accomplish this is to utilize her magical staff like a sword user would, but this didn’t seem fun, interesting, or thematically appropriate to do on a bunch of attacks. A couple ideas we had involved Ezzie summoning creatures and entities from Shadowbriar as extensions of herself for combat, in a way unique from her projectiles. An ethereal claw and vicious vines enable Ezzie to attack foes from a distance or with greater force than she otherwise would be able to reach with just her relics alone.

Ezzie VFX Collage

Ezzie VFX Collage

Her Side-Tilt summons a claw from Shadowbriar to eviscerate her foes, and her Down-Strike opens up a portal to Shadowbriar to summon violent vines to pierce enemies. The vine attack for Down-Strike was a collaboration between both Animation and VFX, since they are 3D models. These ended up being some of my favorite attacks to work on.

Magical Relics

A big part of Ezzie’s design are her magical relics. Her staff, her book, and her hat (Abraxas) are all important elements of her character. You’ll notice 3 of her specials use each of these, with a fourth special using her cape. When designing her normals, something we wanted to do was give her a good balance of attacks that use her relics. Her aerials have a mix of use of all of her relics and her cape for Neutral Air. Her grounded attacks also have a healthy distribution of which relics she uses to conduct combat. 

Ezzie is a powerful magic user, but is still a young girl with little combat experience; this leads her to use some of her relics in ways they’re not ideal for. For example, her book grants her arcane knowledge for her summoning spells… but sometimes she uses it as a blunt object! Her hat has a mouth capable of destruction, but she does a lil dance and uses it like a hair-whip for her Up-Tilt. Picking specific times where Ezzie’s inexperience manifests in her moveset was an important part of both finding and expressing her personality through her gameplay design.

Closing Remarks

Working on Ezzie was a lot of fun. She is our most ambitious character yet, and seeing her come together is wonderful to see. Ezzie represents the culmination of Wavedash’s knowledge and processes when it comes to developing characters, and it really shows in her final product. Wavestaff from every department worked with me to bring her to life, and I really grew to love her over the course of her development. I hope you love her as much as I do.

Adam “Strong Badam” Oliver

See You In The Arena!