On Tailoring Movesets For Rivals | Less Time Wasted

It’s no secret that stalling and zoning characters are the ire of a lot of fighting game communities, and that has been no different in the Rivals Workshop scene. At the time of writing this post, I have created a defensive grappler-like character and a full projectile-based zoner, and co-created a character who is a hybrid of the two. You would rightly assume that I don’t think these character archetypes are inherently boring; instead I would argue that the number of interactions they have with opponents, and the amount of incentive they have to engage with their opponent, decides how enjoyable a character is to fight. Even rushdown characters can suffer from having mechanics that unreasonably drag out the length of a match, depending on how they are implemented. Here I’m going to rant about the various ways that characters passively slow down matches, and how they can be made more enjoyable.


Camping is when a character makes no effort to engage the opponent, and instead stays put and defends their area to gain (or maintain) an upper hand. While certain amounts of defensive play can make for a fun playstyle, a defense that is too easy or rewarding  will cause matches to drag on for longer than necessary. There’s no way to make a character incapable of camping, but it is possible to gear their moveset in such a way that camping can’t completely neuter the pace of a match.

The most problematic kinds of attacks tend to be the ones that linger (such as mines, traps and slow or delayed projectiles), and ones that can be used without any commitment (such as “assist”-style attacks). These moves are staples of defensive characters, since they let the player have a hitbox on the screen without being locked into an attack animation; they can parry, dodge, or even perform a second attack to cover two areas at once. If they are able to cover too much space, an opponent will have no choice but to linger outside of their threat bubble and wait, slowing the match to a halt. Although much of this sounds like common sense, it’s worth giving a lot of thought to these moves to make sure they won’t be too oppressive in action.

Offstage Stalling

Every character eventually needs to touch back down on the ground after getting forced off-stage. Typically, a character who can survive for a long time off-stage will be considered to have a strong recovery. However, if a character can hang off-stage for ten seconds at a time with little risk involved, the match will once again become a waiting game whenever an edgeguard situation occurs. 

Like with camping, off-stage stalling can have some naunce to it, and some character strategies even revolve around being able to stall for time – but taken too far, the slower and fewer interactions will simply make matches less engaging. The usual culprits here are special moves that prevent falling (e.g. Sylvanos’s Beast Dash), and aerials that have upward momentum. With the latter, extra attention needs to be given to combined jumps and aerials, which can increase a character’s air time much longer than using them separately (e.g. Maypul’s Up Air). If a character can survive off-stage for ages with no risk or preparation, I’d suggest tweaking or reducing the number of options that the character can hover in the air with.

Unnecessary Hitpause

Hitpause is the short moment that players are paused in time when one player lands a hit on another. A large amount of hitpause on an attack can visually make it feel more impactful, and also signifies to the opponent when they need to DI a powerful attack. However, all the hitpause inflicted on the opponent adds up over the course of a match, and it is possible to overdo it. 

I recommend first adjusting low-knockback moves that are intended for combos; shortening hitpause lengths here can lead to having a faster and more responsive character, without changing their gameplay strength at all. Multi-hitting attacks especially should have lower hitpause than the average attack, to balance out how many times they hit the opponent.

Slow Command Grabs

Command grabs are surprisingly popular among workshop characters – in contrast to Rivals of Aether base characters – but there is nothing worse for an opponent than having to wait forever for a grab to complete its animation and give control back to them. This is made worse still if the grab is easy to hit, and therefore gets used frequently in a match. Just like with hitpause, a long grab animation will feel weighty and powerful, but every second spent waiting for a grab to finish can eventually feel like a chore. A good balance is key.

The simple way around this is to make sure grabs don’t waste any more time than they need to – keeping in mind how reliable they are to hit with, and how much emphasis they need to convey their strength. If a grab animation takes 60 frames in total, does it still have the same impact at 40 frames, or 30? My usual method is to shift animations around and aim for as low a number as possible, while keeping the move’s force and appeal intact.

Encourage Interaction

Like with all fighting games, the goal is to hit your opponent – so it only makes sense to avoid mechanics that would make players not want to hit the opponent. Yet such a thing isn’t rare at all, as it commonly shows up in the form of a charge-over-time resource. If your character will have stronger attacks or a big move if they just wait for ten seconds, there’s a good incentive to just run away for those ten seconds until you’re all charged up. If you’re running a mechanic like this, you may want to lessen the problem by making the charge require commitment (usually in the form of standing still). Alternatively, just shortening the charge time to a second or two will mean that neither player is left waiting for long.

Similarly, characters shouldn’t have (m)any states or moves that encourage the character to run away for a long period of time. Usually this appears as a temporary character buff or debuff that gives one player a bigger advantage than normal. If this advantage is too great, the opponent’s best play will be to run and escape until they are back in a neutral state again. Once again, there’s a tradeoff with the length of this discouragement, and the frequency of the discouragement – long-lasting buffs can be workable if they are rare enough, and frequent buffs can be fun if they are short enough or not too impactful to the rest of the match. 

Stats, Size and Damage Output

I saved what might be the most overlooked point for last. Stats and damage are often considered a lot in a balance sense, but it isn’t often that I see them talked about from the perspective of game pacing. I could probably dedicate a full guide to the idea at a later time, but for the sake of wrapping up this rant, let’s summarize it for now. A speedy character scores more interactions with the opponent per minute; a slower character gets less. A big character gets more interactions from the opponent, a small character gets less. A heavier character requires more interactions to KO, a lighter character requires fewer interactions to KO. And naturally, a character with a high damage output requires less interactions to KO.

I think that a good balance of these stats are needed in order to have a match that progresses at a reasonable speed. In Rivals’s base cast, it adds up that the slowest, heaviest characters are also large and heavy-hitting; the two traits that would slow down a match are balanced out by two traits that speed it up again. On the flipside, A few early Workshop characters were infamous for being slow, small and fairly heavy, leading to matches that would take a long time to finish. It’s ideal to keep these factors in mind when deciding on a character’s strengths and weaknesses early on.






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