Wavedash Games Lays Off Majority of its Staff, Winds Down Icons Development

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Out of the blue, game development startup Wavedash Games has announced in a new blog post that it has had to make the unfortunate decision to lay off the majority of its staff, signaling an abrupt end to the development of their inaugural game Icons: Combat Arena.

This announcement comes mere weeks after Wavedash revealed the games 8th playable character, the diminutive witch Ezzie, in a sponsored video put out by YouTube content creator Alpharad.

Rather than cease development altogether, Wavedash will push out a final ‘definitive’ update to the game. This will allow fans to continue to enjoy the game and will grant access to the new character.

Last May, Wavedash had secured $6 million in funding and had attracted top tier development talent from studios like Blizzard, EA and Riot Games, as well as from the popular fan made Super Smash Bros. mod Project M.

The game, which was envisioned as the first “free-to-play” entry in the competitive platform-fighter genre, is still in Steam Early Access. It has struggled to find its footing, receiving mixed reactions from players on everything from it’s art design to monetization strategies.

Still, this announcement comes as a surprise to many, and is hot on the heels of a similar shutdown announcement by the prolific development studio Telltale Games.

We’ll keep you up to date as we continue to learn more about the future of Icons.

Author’s Note: Were you a fan of Icons: Combat Arena? Will you continue to play the game despite the impending end of development? Sound off in the comments below.
 
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Keith “Octorox” Bress

Comments

#2
Yeah, I don't think F2P could've ever worked out for a Smash-like game like this.

I'd love for it to be reimagined as a one-time pay thing, maybe around $40.
 
#6
Icons has been getting popular too. The lay off of the staff comes as a complete surprise though.
 
#10
Wait, who told them?
Everyone did. They had an AMA on r/Smashbros shortly after reveal, and pretty much everyone told them to change a large number of things about the game. From the art direction, to the name, to the decision to have Melee clones, to the engine, to the logo, etc... The art direction is one I was personally particularly adamant about, and even spent a lot of time, writing up lengthy posts on how to fix it, and even drawing up some examples of what they could do about it, but it was all totally ignored.
 
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#11
Good, Icons was trash. The gameplay was just blatantly trying to be Melee 2.0 except with 6 frames of input lag and none of the depth or polish that Melee has. The artstyle was a blatant ripoff of the whole LoL/Paladins/OW "cartoony but still HD" thing and the animations looked horribly stiff and unpolished. And this isn't even to mention the awful lootbox monetization model or the fact that the starting characters are clear 1:1 ripoffs of Smash characters. Spoiler alert: making a Captain Falcon clone a black woman who looks like Pharah doesn't make your game original, it just means you're ripping off two games instead of one in the same character design while simultaneously forcing some sort of diversity quota. Not surprised in the slightest by this announcement.
 
#12
Good, Icons was trash. The gameplay was just blatantly trying to be Melee 2.0 except with 6 frames of input lag and none of the depth or polish that Melee has. The artstyle was a blatant ripoff of the whole LoL/Paladins/OW "cartoony but still HD" thing and the animations looked horribly stiff and unpolished. And this isn't even to mention the awful lootbox monetization model or the fact that the starting characters are clear 1:1 ripoffs of Smash characters. Spoiler alert: making a Captain Falcon clone a black woman who looks like Pharah doesn't make your game original, it just means you're ripping off two games instead of one in the same character design while simultaneously forcing some sort of diversity quota. Not surprised in the slightest by this announcement.
Funny, I actually got called a "racist" multiple times by fanboys on their subreddit for calling out their blatant forced diversity thing, despite having drawn a more attractive version of their Ashani who looked more like Shinobu from NMH as a pitch for them... :rolleyes: Glad I'm not the only one who caught onto that though.
 
#13
Funny, I actually got called a "racist" multiple times by fanboys on their subreddit for calling out their blatant forced diversity thing, despite having drawn a more attractive version of their Ashani who looked more like Shinobu from NMH as a pitch for them... :rolleyes: Glad I'm not the only one who caught onto that though.
Bruh, your version looks so much better lmao. Crazy how one person can come up with a better design than a whole team of game devs with a 6 million dollar budget. Also, on diversity, in a game like OW there are actual reasons in the lore and story of that game for the characters to have the ethnic backgrounds that they do. And as an extension of that, those pieces of lore and character identity are actually parts of the gameplay & abilities of those characters. So while I'm obviously not opposed to the idea of representing different groups in media (the opposite actually), in the case of Icons, it seemed like they were doing it just for the sake of doing it with no real gameplay purpose as opposed to the OW model.
 
#14
People like to harp on the artstyle, which is certainly derivative, but it definitely wasn't the game's biggest problem. My biggest issue was the gameplay, which only marginally improved as time went on. It was like they were hell-bent on keeping the game a watered down version of Melee instead of expanding on Melee's formula like PM did.
I was expecting to see this news eventually, but nowhere near this soon. Hopefully a lot was learned.
 
#18
Wow, I just googled the game and looked at the art style.

Why did they go with such a cliche style?

Edit: I disagree with the idea they were forcing some sort of "diversity quota". They were making a character for their own game. I hate the idea that because people include minority lead characters in their own fictional works, it means they're forcing a diversity quota.

It's clearly a cliche and unoriginal art style though.
 
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#19
I guess slap city, rivals and smash itself overshadowed icons. Remember Brawlout? Haven’t played icons but I guarantee it’s a better game than brawlout
 
#20
It's a shame, really. I wanted to like Icons, but it just never appealed to me. I never wanted it dead, though.
 
#21
Bruh, your version looks so much better lmao. Crazy how one person can come up with a better design than a whole team of game devs with a 6 million dollar budget. Also, on diversity, in a game like OW there are actual reasons in the lore and story of that game for the characters to have the ethnic backgrounds that they do. And as an extension of that, those pieces of lore and character identity are actually parts of the gameplay & abilities of those characters. So while I'm obviously not opposed to the idea of representing different groups in media (the opposite actually), in the case of Icons, it seemed like they were doing it just for the sake of doing it with no real gameplay purpose as opposed to the OW model.
no offense, but this viewpoint absolutely baffles me. what's wrong with a game just having a black character? why does a character's race have to be justified by a gameplay purpose? i always see people saying this kind of **** when games have characters who aren't white, but why does nobody ask for justification when a game includes characters who are white? i really don't feel like there's anything wrong with a game having a diverse cast just 'for the sake of doing it' and i've never seen a compelling argument as to why that's a bad thing
 
#23
no offense, but this viewpoint absolutely baffles me. what's wrong with a game just having a black character? why does a character's race have to be justified by a gameplay purpose? i always see people saying this kind of **** when games have characters who aren't white, but why does nobody ask for justification when a game includes characters who are white? i really don't feel like there's anything wrong with a game having a diverse cast just 'for the sake of doing it' and i've never seen a compelling argument as to why that's a bad thing
A diverse cast when you've got a galactic setting would be having tons of weird aliens, not having tons of humans of different races and sexual orientations.

No one has a problem with different seeing different races in games, Street Fighter does just fine, Ryu is literally Japanese, and there are probably more non-white characters than white in the game.

People have a problem with Ashani, because the devs' intentions are very questionable. They took a commom trope of the hyper-masculine tokusatsu hero, and removed all the things that people liked about that trope, and highlighted their character's race and gender as a stand-in for any actual personality or character. There's no reason in making Cpt. Falcon a black woman, those characteristics ADD nothing to the trope, and only SUBTRACT the traits people like, which, I should emphasize aren't race nor gender related, as they stem from Japanese superheroes wearing masks. The issue people take isn't Ashani's race or gender, but that Ashani's race and gender are the only notable traits presented to us. Again, I literally took the same concept, while still retaining the core elements (has to be black, has to be female, has to be a glass cannon fighter, has to build off the Tokusatsu hero trope), and did it better, just to prove that a lot could be done if you added in just a bit of imagination and personality to the concept, not just "It's Captain Falcon without the manliness and it's a black girl, LOOK HOW PROGRESSIVE WE ARE!"

If Wavedash had wanted the diverse cast of people from different races and cultures, then they should have done what SF, KoF, and Tekken have done, and stick to Earth, instead of forcing it into their protag like that in such a careless and obtuse manner for diversity brownie points. In a game set in space, less humans overall would be much more fitting, and the Tokusatsu trope would be more interesting as a Robot or something, not a character that retains zero of the traits people love about Falcon.


EDIT:
And for the record, it was just as bad when Air Dash Online did it too, and that character was white. They also failed to understand why people love the trope. People want someone who is ridiculous and acts hyper-masculine (or ar least something of equal exaggerated absurdity), not a Linkin Park singer in skater shorts. It's just extra bad when WDG did it cause it was coupled with a number of other design decisions in other characters that highlighted how their priorities in design were focused on a "progressive" political agenda, rather than just being unrestrained and creative.

Leave the politics out of videogames please.
 
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#24
I've been pretty open about my criticism of Icons seeming more like a bootleg Smash Bros than its own thing, but it still sucks to see these folks out of a job now. That's rough.
I've felt similarly, more or less. I didn't agree with a lot of Icons' creative choices, especially with how it kept trying to just be the next Melee rather than creating its own identity (one of the reasons Rivals of Aether has done so well is because it focused on the latter). But the staff behind it were still people trying to survive, and with how thin of a safety net low rung developers have, I can't help but feel bad for them.

Hopefully they'll catch on somewhere else quickly, preferably somewhere with humane working conditions and not the horror stories that have made the rounds lately.
 
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#25
It's sad and I hope the developers find some new work soon. but hopefully will serve as lessons to learn from for future Platform Fighters.

Namely, you can't just copy Smash 1:1 and hope to be successful., even the one with the biggest com scene. Also, try to pick a more memorable title, Icons: Combat Arena could mean just about any genre of game.
 
#26
There goes that I guess - never even got to play it properly since they never launched with proper support outside the USA.

Really sad to see the former PM team go jobless. Hope they find work somewhere else, PM is what introduced me into competitve smash
 
#27
I told myself I wasn't going to come in, but,
Leave the politics out of videogames please.
I get what you're trying to say, but, these words don't best illustrate your point. Some of the greatest games of all time have their creators taking political stances and agenda's with their story - Every creator is going to at least try to show a different PoV in the world, period. The difference is, these agenda's are typically broken down to mean something bigger through weaving subtlety into the narrative. It's kinda up to the general population to be able to weave out narrative subtlety, or you're going to see more stuff that yells it in your face. The better words would be that the "Representation lacks nuance; it should be there, but to me, it sticks out like a sore thumb and here's why"

This leads me to a bigger point about the art style. 3D models are fine (not my cup of tea, but they can work) but there were no plans to make it look distinct from Smash or other Triple A artstyles, to my knowledge. It doesn't matter if the direction behind such was executed perfectly; it's hard to get people to pay attention when things still look the same. Then, there's the whole Sci-Fi thing; No More Heroes (since ya brought it up) was pretty focused on "Modern Wild West" and the look and feel behind that was awesome; While I admire the ambition of Icons: Combat Arena, they weren't able to sell me on Sci-Fi the way No More Heroes was focused on MWW; not to mention, No More Heroes did cel-shading (A different style of 3D!). Making stuff look different has downright saved games before - I don't think Cuphead would have met to the same praise had it looked like another 3D game.

While it's easier to harp on the Art Style than the Gameplay, especially since the latter is harder to get people riled up about (it's smash.), this game here is an exhibit of aesthetic not being able to carry a game on it's own (and, don't be fooled, Gigantic had many other things on it's side beyond Aesthetic). It's easy for us to point out why things didn't go well, but I'm not really interested in that - I'm more interested in helping the next batch of people that decide to make another Platform Fighter. If there's a lesson to take from this wall of text, it's that 1) Have your Aesthetic sorted out, but 2) Don't rely on just Aesthetic; Aesthetic can take a game very far, but it can't carry.

(For the record, the only part I ever latched onto about Icons: Combat Arena was their 2016 panel at SSC, which made for a great business pitch. Beyond that, I'm very ambivalent about the game itself and almost every Platform Fighter. The only one that has caught my attention is Rivals of Aether.)
 
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#28
I told myself I wasn't going to come in, but,

I get what you're trying to say, but, these words don't best illustrate your point. Some of the greatest games of all time have their creators taking political stances and agenda's with their story - Every creator is going to at least try to show a different PoV in the world, period. The difference is, these agenda's are typically broken down to mean something bigger through weaving subtlety into the narrative. It's kinda up to the general population to be able to weave out narrative subtlety, or you're going to see more stuff that yells it in your face. The better words would be that the "Representation lacks nuance; it should be there, but to me, it sticks out like a sore thumb and here's why"

This leads me to a bigger point about the art style. 3D models are fine (not my cup of tea, but they can work) but there were no plans to make it look distinct from Smash or other Triple A artstyles, to my knowledge. It doesn't matter if the direction behind such was executed perfectly; it's hard to get people to pay attention when things still look the same. Then, there's the whole Sci-Fi thing; No More Heroes (since ya brought it up) was pretty focused on "Modern Wild West" and the look and feel behind that was awesome; While I admire the ambition of Icons: Combat Arena, they weren't able to sell me on Sci-Fi the way No More Heroes was focused on MWW; not to mention, No More Heroes did cel-shading (A different style of 3D!). Making stuff look different has downright saved games before - I don't think Cuphead would have met to the same praise had it looked like another 3D game.

While it's easier to harp on the Art Style than the Gameplay, especially since the latter is harder to get people riled up about (it's smash.), this game here is an exhibit of aesthetic not being able to carry a game on it's own. It's easy for us to point out why things didn't go well, but I'm not really interested in that - I'm more interested in helping the next batch of people that decide to make another Platform Fighter. If there's a lesson to take from this wall of text, it's that 1) Have your Aesthetic sorted out, but 2) Don't rely on just Aesthetic; Aesthetic can take a game very far, but it can't carry.

(For the record, the only part I ever latched onto about Icons: Combat Arena was their 2016 panel at SSC, which made for a great business pitch. Beyond that, I'm very ambivalent about the game itself and almost every Platform Fighter. The only one that has caught my attention is Rivals of Aether.)
I disagree on two main points you brought up.

One of which I THOROUGHLY disagree with, which is the notion that because creators are trying to put their own perspective of the world into their work, it's therefore impossible or difficult to divorce political ideals and values and narrative, from their creative work. I'm not sure if this is what you were getting at, but I have seen this argument get brought up before in defense of the onset of more political narrative and agendas weaseling their way into videogames and other creative work.

As a creative myself, I will say "NO, that is most DEFITENITELY not the case" and honestly, I'd say it's very unprofessional of some to use their creative work as a platform to preach to the public about their own political values. That doesn't mean that some creative work shouldn't be explicitly political, or carry ideological or philosophical theme to it, of course not. In fact, works like Metal Gear Solid, Ghost in the Shell, Evangelion, and so forth, which are dense with social commentary, and philosopical intrigue are some of my favorites. But we should make a separation between something meant to entertain, and something meant to educate. A lot of more artistic work and literature, is made with the explicit purpose of self-expression. However, not all creative work is meant to be philosophical and "artistic." Some of it, a lot of it, purely exists to entertain. And outside of political satire or parody, it's very jarring to see such work used for the sake of trying to educate people on your own political values. It's as if the creator is taking the role of pariah full of great wisdom, and their values and ideology are infallible, and they're going to "educate us." That's how it comes across in some cases, especially in the instances where it simply does not belong. It's not the creator sharing their worldview, it's got a much stronger sense of arrogance and attempt to "change" tagged along with it. And it's really, REALLY irritating.

I think creatives should realize their role as entertainers and put their audience FIRST. At least that's how I personally treat my work. And I say this as someone who worked on a political satire for a while. I didn't write that to try and change people's values or worldview to align with mine. I catered that to a specific audience in order to entertain them. I ALWAYS put my audience first when I create, not myself, no matter what I make, I'm very conscious of WHO I'm making it for.

And honestly, this is the exact same philosophy you see in a lot of Japanese media. Very rarely do you see social critique and commentary on contemporary politics make its way into Japanese videogames and media. Meanwhile, the west seems OBSESSED with trying to shove politics into everything, and then using the "As an artist, I can't separate my values and worldview from my work" yes you can. You most definitely can, and as a professional, you often SHOULD. If I'm gonna make a manga about martial arts and fantasy, I'm not gonna shove in commentary about our political climate, it doesn't belong. People aren't tuning into that sort of stuff to hear people prattle on about let's say, the refugee crisis, or feminism. People just wanna see characters with magical powers beat each other up. You know, have a little respect for the people tuning into your content. Not everyone is gonna share the same political views as you, don't preach to them. Share your worldview, sure, but don't preach. Anyway, this isn't related to Icons in any specific way, but I can think of a VERY large number of games and such where I've seen this issue crop up, and what you said rung similarly. If it's not what you were getting on about, I apologize.

The second point I disagree with is what you said about art style.

Perhaps I'm biased when it comes to this, as I personally place a LOT of value on visual aesthetic. But I disagree with the notion that art style and aesthetic can't carry a game. Where I've in fact seen the opposite be the case MANY times. Hell, I've personally bought many games, like Muramasa the Demon Blade, and Odin Sphere, purely because of the aesthetic alone. Art is your STRONGEST marketing tool. For any product really it's what gives it that unique identity. And that first impression really really counts. People make up their minds rather quick on things, and if the aesthetic is something that makes people shy away in some way, 9/10 times, you're gonna be fighting an uphill battle. Personally, I always argued that Wavedash Games greatly undervalued the importance of having an APPEALING aesthetic. Something that drew people in. I see people all the time become avid fans of something because they become really attached to the design of a specific character. Hell, there's an entire internet culture built around the worship of "waifus" and people drop TONS of money on merch and even digital merch of their favorite female characters. Regardless of how **** a game might be. And yes, sex plays a huge role in this. Sex sells. It's the oldest rule in marketing. How someone could willingly ignore this because of their left-wing political values is honestly baffling. Had the Icons female cast at least been attractive waifubait, you'd have at least begun to build somewhat of a fanbase who'd pour money into it just to have their favorite waifu and all her ingame costumes and sexy merch. You know, both League of Legends and Overwatch, which Icons was trying so hard to copy, both of them were priivy to this, and made extensive use of sex appeal to draw people in. Characters like Ahri, Sona, Diva, Tracer, Mercy, Widowmaker, etc... These were intentionally designed to sexy and attractive to get people's attention, and "seduce" them in. The argument was often made on the Icons subreddit that "not every game needs those things" I'd say, all things considered, that all fighting games most certainly do, because it's already a very niche genre with heavy competition, you need every tool and trick at your disposal to get people to gravitate toward you. DBFZ isn't as big as it as cause of the DB licence. There have been DB games made, fighting games too, made since the dawn of gaming. DBFZ is as big as it is, cause the game is goddamn gorgeous to look at, and secondly, it's mechanically sound and balanced. But it's the visuals that really pulled that casual audience in. You look at the reaction videos for the DBFZ E3 reveal, and most people aren't going "finally a competitive Dragonball game!!" They're going "OMG IT LOOKS JUST LIKE THE ANIME!!"

I do agree that there's a lot people can learn from Icons' failures. Fans of platform fighters especially. Three things I would personally highlight:

1. Be original, and experiment with the mechanics (and especially movesets, good lord!), don't just copy Melee. Melee already exists, make something NEW and ORIGINAL. Think "how can I put my own spin on things?" "what hasn't been done yet?" Look at other genres, and combine ideas from them. Build many prototypes, and play around with a variety of different concepts that could bring a fresh new spin to things before starting properly. Platform fighters are a lot more than just Smash Clones.
2. Have a very strong and identifying visual aesthetic (hire good artists with a lot of creativity, and give them FREEDOM to create - make sure they're familiar with design for fighting games, different genres require different design approaches). Don't underestimate the value of a strong visual aesthetic.
3. Leave the politics out of your videogames. Don't limit your creativity to suit certain political values, and don't cast your net too wide either. Study your target audience, CATER to that audience first, and not anyone else.
 
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#29
They needed to keep this game in the proverbial oven a little bit more before they opened it up to the world. They also needed a different art style and some unique hook.

The F2P system they chose also rubbed players the wrong way, though I don't personally see why. Maybe its because I played a lot of MMOs back in the day.
 
#31
That’s a shame. I always enjoy following game developments and this was something I was half-watching. Criticisms aside, I did actually enjoy some of the characters and thought it was alright attempt at making a Smash-like game. Hopefully the developers learn from the mistakes they made if they attempt another future endeavor or able to decide another path in life.
 
#33
I think it's a real shame, sure Icons has its flaws, like the questionable art style (which honestly wasn't that bad). But from what I had seen, it was a very well made game, which obviously had a lot of work put into it. I was looking forward to the Mac version, but unfortunately that doesn't seem like a reality anymore. Good luck to all the devs.
 
#34
Icon's biggest fault, in my eyes, was not that it was a Melee ripoff. It was the fact that it was selling itself as a Melee ripoff. A very, very clear and loud reminder that it's a bootleg of a superior product. That's not how you entice customers. You can love the formula and seek to work with it, yes. But what sells your game is your creative spin on it. Take something old and twist it into a new offering. They just took some Melee characters and slapped some rather unappealing skins on them without any real acknowledgement of aesthetic. And thus the game died before they could push out their more unique offerings which should have been shown off straight away.

That being said, it's never a good thing when game developers lose their jobs. As someone who's juggling different job prospects (that do not pay very well, mind you, and are all variants of back-breaking labor), I feel for those who are now being dumped back into the cutthroat game design marketplace. Hope all that got laid off get back on their feet with livable-wage jobs.

...but 6 million dollars? That could have made a very good game. But, alas, squandered.
 
#35
It was a spectacular mismanagement of resources, what with Bubble Tea Fridays, and Unlimited Paid Time Off. It's no wonder progress moved along so slowly. They were given $6 million to make a game, and spent most of it ******* about, making merch, and flying to tournaments, rather than actually making the game. The real cautionary tale is for investors. Be careful who you give your money to.
Yikes.
 
#36
That’s a shame.

Can’t say I did not see it coming given a lot of issues around it.

I might look into this with more detail, since I think there maybe some reasoning for each issue with misjudging the market and what they can do to improve.
 
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#37
I was one of the few people who really enjoyed the game, but even I guessed this was coming. Still a bummer though, I hope the learning experiences help them to get future jobs in game developments. I just think something didn't "mesh", but they're all pretty talented individually. Good luck in the next stage of your lives! I really hope this doesn't ruin anyone's lives/careers :/
 
#39
I feel this vid does the best job of summing up things IMO. F2P platform fighters were an immense gamble, since the only major one out there is Brawlhalla and that was more lightning in a bottle. May everyone from Wavedash tech land safely on your feets as you move on to your next adventures.
 
#40
I know it's strange to describe something with smash terms but...
Icons should've been a Luigified game (taking a base for a game and changing so much that it becomes it own thing but you can still see where it came from) like Rivals instead of an Echo Fighter (copy pasting a game almost entirely, then slapping a new skin on it). Besides the art style stuff (not gonna lie, the generic themes kind of made the game feel bland), it would've been cool if the actual original characters weren't locked from the get-go. If anything, the melee "derivative" characters should've been unlockables. In the end, it somehow came out doing worse than Smash Bros fan games (Personally I had more fun playing Crusade than Icons, not to say Crusade is bad but it's a little concerning that Icons died ONLY because it was trying too hard to be a 1:1 to smash. Games like Slap and Rivals do so well just by actually being their own thing.
 
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