Riot Games vice president of design Tom Cadwell talked at a panel at GDC 2013 last Friday about how including counterplay and team-based attack mechanics in player-versus-player combat will help designers build strong multiplayer modes.
Cadwell explained that providing players with “satisfying” attacks is key to good game design, and attacks need to be fun, mentally engaging and have a mechanical payoff. Counterplay, or a players’ response to opponents’ attacks, need to be visually clear, and counterplay added to simply get players out of the way cannot be considered gameplay, he said. Counterplay should be “nuanced, skilled and interesting,” offering players multiple options to evade or counterattack.
“There needs to be an opportunity to respond, and it’s something you need to care about.” he said, and used the fireballs in Mario games as an example of clear counterplay mechanics that are visually appealing.
Cadwell also went into depth as to what teamplay and that teamplay needs to build opportunities for player-driven teamwork. Teammates should be able to clearly identify teamplay moments, and the game should give players the opportunity to react accordingly to specific situations and team up for more powerful attacks or to protect one another.
“Teamplay occurs when teamplay is possible, when the occasion to respond is there and when gameplay is nuanced,” he said. “There are limits to teamwork moments in games right now, and there are a number of noteworthy ones. Whenever players feel they are exhibiting teamwork, the first thing they’re going to do is credit their team.”