Like a fair few people out there, I was pretty bummed to learn that Killer Instinct would launch without an Arcade mode. After a recent chat with Microsoft Studios game designer Daniel Fornace, however, it seems we won't have too long to wait until we're kicking serious CPU tushie.
"Our Arcade mode is going to come out when we've done the eight characters," Fornace said. "So it's not going to be at launch, at launch we're going to have six - Orchid's the last - and then we'll have two more following up post-launch."
One of these two characters is almost certainly swashbuckling skelly Spinal, who was teased at the end of Orchid's debut gameplay trailer just last week. The eighth and final character in the season one roster is widely assumed to be the Ultratech-owned cyborg Fulgore, or Human Torch-alike Cinder.
"So once the last character comes out then we'll have Arcade," Fornace continued, "but in the meantime we have Survival. And Survival is like our endless mode.
"The way it works is you pick a difficulty and you go in, and you're basically playing a long chain, and after each match you regenerate health, but as you go on you generate less and less, and even if you do beginner difficulty, as you get to the higher numbers the CPU does start getting tougher, so you'll still hit a limit. You set your difficulty to where you're at - so if you set it to Champion it'll start hard and get even worse.
"The other thing we did is if you played and you got it to five, you can pay Killer Points [KI's in-game currency] to skip ahead to five again. I've gotten to fifteen before, so I can start there; the scary bit is you're not getting much health at this point. And, the higher the difficulty the more it will cost you [in KP]. The other thing is for Survival it's a score you're getting, and [skipping] affects your score, so if you want a top score you have to go back to the beginning, as your score is what you get each round."
Aside from standard local and online Versus modes, KI also offers an extensive Dojo mode, which Fornace says goes above and beyond your usual fighting game tutorial system.
"The Dojo is our big tutorial mode, and the one thing that we're doing that's kind of different from other fighting games is, we're teaching you about Killer Instinct, but we're also trying to teach you about fighting games in general, and their terminology, because often you'll hear people talk about fighting games, and you know they just don't know what they're talking about.
"We start out, we go through the basics, stuff you'll see in other fighting games like navigation, blocking, crouching, jumping, throws, specials, and then we go into Killer Instinct specific things, like combos; Ultras, which are the finishers, and Instinct Mode.
"Once we get into advanced lessons, we start teaching you really advanced fighting game techniques, like cross-ups, which are in any fighting game; we have anti-airing; Manuals, which is an advanced Killer Instinct tactic.
"And then we really start just exposing everything - we show you hit boxes and stuff so you can learn, for Jago, what his attacks look like. We even have one on frame data so you can learn how to start to use frame data to your advantage. Frame traps, which is pretty advanced. [Shadow break] is another Killer Instinct tactic that is pretty advanced; it's a way where if you're blocking somebody, and they just keep whaling on you, you can use a shadow breaker to kind of just turn it around."
Fornace and I had a huge chat about pretty much every system you'll encounter in Killer Instinct once it launches, so look out for a bumper guide to getting started some time very soon.