Project L has been pitched as an easy-to-learn but hard-to-master game that ‘breaks down barriers’ that keep players from giving fighting games a shot since it was first announced in 2019. Now, the developers are doubling down on that philosophy as they prepare to show off more of the game.
Dot Esports spoke with Project L executive producer Tom Cannon at the League of Legends 2023 World Championship, who said the goal is to make a “great game” for the fighting game community (FGC) while also opening the doors for newcomers.
“What we’re trying to do is make like a real fighting game that the core players will love. But then sort of break down those barriers with our easier input scheme and team play,” Cannon said to Dot Esports. “[We want it] so that people who have maybe been intimidated or just didn’t want to take the time to really get into fighting games, we just make it easier for them to find the fun. And then hopefully, it will get bigger that way.”
Cannon went on to clarify the Project L team isn’t trying to appeal to players who wouldn’t care about the genre, but rather they want to create their dream fighting game and “make it open enough so that more people can come in and enjoy.” The first steps in that process have already been handled, with the devs crafting a simplified Project L control scheme. The game will also launch as a free-to-play title. This removes the obstacle of needing to pay to try the game and should allow newcomers to easily pick up how the controls and inputs for moves work.
Cannon also told Dot the ability to play with friends in a non-traditional fighting game by using the Tag System is a highlight of how this approach is being handled, as it will let more people play and have fun with their friends.
“I’ve tried to get a lot of my friends into fighting games, but when we play together it’s one-on-one and I have to go easy on them,” Cannon explained while speaking at Worlds. “In that case, I’m not having a great time or, when I play for real, they just get destroyed and they’re not having a good time. Here, just like in League, if I’m better, I can teach them while we play and I can carry. Or even if we lose, like, it’s just fun playing together.”
Since the game supports one-on-one, two-on-two, and one-on-two matches with its gameplay structure, the door is open to get stacks of friends playing together in ways we haven’t seen in modern fighting games—but is a very Riot approach to the genre.
To ensure they are striking a balance between tackling accessibility and creating a game that is tailored to the FGC, Cannon and his team are constantly bringing in and talking with players on both sides during development. From early on, pros from various parts of the FGC have provided feedback on gameplay and other development areas alongside competitive players from other games that might have no fighting game experience.
“Fighting games are scary for folks because even before this game we heard ‘I feel like the game is judging me, I feel dumb’” Cannon said. “I totally understand. Games are about having fun and competitive games, especially fighting games are about fighting the other player not fighting against the controls or fighting against not being able to do what you want to do. And so that was an emphasis for us.”
Cannon says Project L is being built up with the idea of teaching new players how to improve bit by bit while having fun and getting rewarded just for playing with flashy combos and visuals. They are letting those players “get to the fun right away” while leaving more for dedicated players to unlock through dedication.
According to Cannon, it could take 10,000 hours to master Project L once it launches, but the team isn’t ready to share more details about why that is the case just yet.