How TFT Double Up Mirrors Double Up Tennis

The Teamfight Tactics: Gizmos and Gadgets expansion has created a spike of players and Twitch viewers thanks to its innovative design. But while creators like Micheal “k3Soju” Zhang and Jeffrey “Milk” Pan of Cloud9 are streaming their World Cup preparations, the game they’re playing isn’t traditional TFT. Instead, it’s the game’s newest mode, Double Up.

Since the release of TFT in 2019, players have been asking for a team-based experience in the free-for-all auto battler. And thanks to Ananda Gupta, one of the principal game designers at Riot Games, players finally got what they wanted in series 6.

Reinforcement of the army in TFT Double Up

Gupta is not only responsible for designing Double Up, but for all of the “TFT Labs” – additional game modes that try to reinvent how TFT is played. The first was Hyperoll, which did well enough during Set 5 to be refreshed and revamped for Set 6. Yet players were still clamoring for a social experience after Hyperoll’s release, prompting Gupta to develop a philosophy that explored what that meant for TFT.

“The main assumption we made was that it wouldn’t feel like you’re playing with a partner unless you’re playing on the same board,” Gupta said. “If you have separate boards, it would feel like toddlers in parallel play.”

Gupta used the analogy of kids playing in the same room but doing different tasks because that was his first assumption about how not to approach Double Up. But as development progressed, Gupta’s assumption turned out to be wrong.

In reality, the solution to making TFT a more social experience turned out to be somewhere in the middle. For it to work, players needed separate boards, but their partner’s choices had to matter to the overall game. Bringing Double Up to life was about figuring out how that second part would work.

Back at the drawing board, Gupta and the team looked at the first brainstorming idea box and one thing stood out more than all the others: the rebar fitter. This would bring in your partner’s board to help you after they win a fight.

“In the very first playtest with the reinforcement mechanic, we realized we had solved the problem,” said Gupta. “We had introduced an area of ​​shared play that didn’t take up too much brain space.”

A two-team allegiance to bring players closer together

In addition to the reinforcement mechanism, Double Up also features the Rune of Faith, another mechanic that makes it stand out as a social mode. However, that idea initially did not come from Gupta’s team.

Previously, Tencent Games had released Battle of Golden Spatula in mid-2021 to give Chinese players a social game mode very similar to traditional TFT. Gupta and the team at Riot brainstormed with the team at Tencent on how to create a duo experience.

“We definitely worked with them on the design,” Gupta said. “In particular, they were the ones who fired the first bullet at the idea of ​​’what if there’s a consumable you use to give champions to your partner?'”

After deploying Fight for the Golden Spatula, Gupta and his team worked the consumable into Double Up. Gupta said the idea for a consumable is one the team had originally thought of, but because it worked well in a similar title, they were given the confidence to implement it.

Despite some similarities between Double Up and Fight for the Golden Spatula, they have no reinforcement mechanism. Gupta said the team at Tencent Games was okay with that because they just wanted a way for players to play together. The focus at Riot Games is on an optimal way of playing together.

“The reinforcement mechanic not only likes to give you high moments, it also makes those high moments social,” Gupta said. “I hope Fight for the Golden Spatula sees that and decides to adopt it.”

twos

Many types of players have enjoyed Double Up thus far, but Gupta had three types of players in mind when designing it. There are casuals, players who play to learn or teach from others, and players who naturally prefer team sports. In many ways, Gupta compared the way players approach Double Up to the way players approach a very popular sport.

“If you look at the top positions of tennis players, it’s actually quite rare that the top players in singles and doubles are the same,” Gupta said. “There are just people who prefer to play doubles and want to achieve maximum mastery of it and have no interest in playing singles.”

TFT isn’t the first esport to capitalize on that concept, as Super Smash Bros. has a rich history of several top players in doubles and singles. Doubles in many ways creates a completely parallel game with different metas. In fact, Gupta said he envisions a perfect world where TFT esports has thriving standard and Double Up scenes at the same time.

“I’d love it if that happened, I’d love that.” said Gupta. “But I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t happen until we get some work done.”

The next portion

Gupta outlined that Double Up is only in beta and there are many things that could improve the mode. Gupta said things like the ranking system need work, and a way to play custom Double Up lobbies is on the list of things the mode needs to address. But that said, Gupta knows a winner when he sees one.

“I’d say Double Up exceeded my expectations,” Gupta said. “I knew it would be popular and I’m optimistic about most things, but it’s certainly done very well, even relative to my optimism.”

Riot Games has announced that Double Up will be out sometime during the Set 6 cycle so the TFT team can do some extensive work to get the mode closer to that perfect goal. There’s no date or timeline yet, but in the meantime, players can get a glimpse of what high-level Double Up gameplay looks like during the first international tournament, Hextech Havoc, kicking off later this year.

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