In October 2019, Riot Games teased Project L, choosing to not show any concrete gameplay. The little footage fans got resembled yet another 1v1 footsie-based Street Fighter 5 clone and it was widely assumed that Riot was playing it safe. After all, why rock the boat on your first foray into the fighting game community?
Turns out, that boring Street Fighter feel really was an early stepping stone.
With over 2.5M views on YouTube, the latest Project L update video is swaying the hearts of the FGC and its most respected leaders. From a consumer communications perspective, it's hard to describe this update as anything but a home run. Now officially labeled as an assist-based fighter, project L is raising the bar on what the FGC has come to expect from developers.
What Riot is doing right so far
It's hard to find an FGC veteran who can look at Project L's updated gameplay and not get excited. Things like Ekko absolutely bonkers mix-up potential and Ahri's Marvel vs. Capcom-esque flight are impressive as they are stylish — qualities that define the most popular fighting game esports. Simply put, when a fighting game player sees a character doing something very cool, it makes them want to pick up a controller and try it themselves.
This aspirational appeal to fighting games is what makes the genre so potentially electrifying and Riot knows this. Their decision to heavily showcase optimal movement and max damage in the latest gameplay reveals a clear understanding of what actually motivates the best players in the world to pay attention.
Five design elements that make Project L stand out
Cool combos might attract talented gamers, but what makes them stay? In the case of Project L, there are five design elements that go a long way towards ensuring FGC and esports stickiness:
One, the art style for Project L is defined by crisp, recognizable silhouettes. This type of art is optimal for fast 2v2 assist-based fighters, as it helps discern different characters amid the chaos. The art style also allows for Project L to be played smoothly on a wide variety of different PCs and graphics settings — another FGC tournament necessity
Second, movement is a key part of Project L and developers want pro players to be able to dance around less skilled opponents with style. This is a departure from most 2D fighters released recently and a refreshing change of pace.
Third, 2v2 assist fighters are usually filled with mix-ups and creative pressure options because you can have two characters fighting on the screen at the same time.
However, Project L takes this further by also including characters equipped with profoundly tricky abilities, cross-ups, and ambiguous movement options. The biggest showoffs so far have been Jinx and Ekko with their designs encouraging further anticipation for more character reveals.
Next, the rollback-based netcode that Project L developers Tom and Tony Cannon invented is going to be even more optimal for fighting games thanks to Riot server support. Penalizing leavers for rage quitting is also a bigger deal than most think, as it makes ranked play mean something.
And finally, Project L is staying far away from comeback mechanics or tools that otherwise let average players sometimes win against the pros. This particular point has won over the hearts of many influential FGC veterans.
Considering the FGC's history of scarce developer support and the flood of forgettable fighters released in the past two years, it's no wonder why many fans desperately want Project L to succeed. The FGC has embraced hundreds of fighting games over the past decade and only a handful have stuck around as thriving esports scenes. Knowing how Riot supports their titles, fans are hopeful in Project L's longevity.
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