Introduction to 4v4 Ball

Whether you are completely new to PlaneBall or you have played traditional 6v6 and are looking to gain a better understanding of 4v4, this guide is for you.  4v4 plays quite differently than 6v6 although a lot remains the same.

Objective and Overview

The objective of PlaneBall is to get the ball into your opponent’s goal, while preventing your opponent from shooting it into your own.  Unfortunately as simple as that sounds a lot of players don’t seem to focus on the objective.  Before getting into strategy, you should understand spawning and how the goal area is designed in 4v4.  In 6v6 the ball generally only spawns in the middle of the map at the start of the game.  After a goal the ball spawns in front of the team that conceded the goal.  However, in 4v4 the ball always spawns in the middle of the map so there is always a “face off” to try to safely gain possession.

Planes spawn at either the top or bottom corner of the map.  Currently top or bottom spawn is randomly determined.  Future updates will change this to spawn away from the ball (if ball on bottom half of map, span top and vice versa) and likely only spawn on top at the start of the game or after goals.

Goals in 6v6 are small and many, if not the majority, of goals are scored by carrying the ball into the goal (“dunking”).  However, primarily for balance purposes with smaller team sizes, many hidden turrets defend a large half circle surrounding a large goal.  Turrets are primarily being used until Altitude’s code is updated to allow for a less primitive method of preventing goals from inside the goal area.  But they serve the purpose of forcing you to shoot a bit back from the goal.  Dunking would be too easy with small team sizes and having a large goal you have to shoot at adds another dimension to PlaneBall.  It becomes more like real life sports where you have to carefully aim your shot to beat a goalie.

Most Common Mistakes

The biggest mistake many players make is not guarding the goal.  This is even more of an issue in 4v4 particularly because the goal is so large and there is less chance a teammate will be there to prevent an open shot.  It is not uncommon for new or low rated players to fly directly through the opposing ball carrier.  Often they do not kill the ball carrier to the ball carrier passes to a teammate and the result is a wide open goal to shoot at.

So the most important tip you need to take away from this guide is be careful not to leave the goal wide open.  Even if you aren’t very skilled yet at defending just staying between an opposing ball carrier and your goal reduces the chance of giving up a goal drastically.  Leaving the new open is almost always going to result in giving up a goal, but even if you haven’t mastered defending you’ll likely reduce the probability of giving up a goal down to 30%.  It forces the ball carrier into either beating you with a good shot or killing you before or while shooting the ball.  And any delay you force before they can shoot allows time for teammates to get back and help you defend.

In addition to not playing defense, a lot of new or low to even mid or higher rated players seem to not want the ball or not think about the ball when attacking.  I’m not sure if they do not feel comfortable carrying it or just want to focus on killing, but you need to be aware of the ball at all times.  6v6 is a lot more chaotic and ball possession often changes frequently.

In 4v4 it is primarily the most skilled one or two ball handlers moving the ball.  This is somewhat due to a very wide range of skill levels playing together, but even so all players need to contribute more than just kills on offense.  Even if you aren’t good at staying alive with the ball, you should be able to identify when the ball carrier needs assistance and move into a position they can pass the ball to you (unless there is no time or it leaves your goal too vulnerable..  shift your focus to getting in position to defend).

What to Do With the Ball

When you do get the ball you are will encounter a few different situations.  If your team is mostly dead and the other team has at least a couple defenders, there is little hope of being a hero and scoring on your own in 4v4.  Even the best players in 4v4 will have great difficulty scoring solo against 2 competent players unless their health is reduced enough to easily take them out.  If you are on your team’s side of the map when getting overwhelmed you generally want to try to clear the ball as far as you can into the opponents side or bring it back into your goal.  When you become more skilled, you may try to pass the ball to a respawning teammate.  However, until you can do so comfortable you should always just attempt to move the ball as far away from your own goal as possible.

If you teammate’s respawn when you bring the ball back, your team may be able to gain the advantage and get back on the offensive.  Sometimes it takes awhile to regain control though, so you may need to hold the ball in the safe, turret protected area in front of your goal.  You can crash into the back of your goal to briefly prevent your opponent from being able to reach it.  However, be aware if you don’t get the ball to the very back of the goal it is often possible for opposing planes, particularly mirandas (“randas”) or plane’s with shield, to stay alive just long enough to grab the ball and shoot it before getting killed by the turrets.  If the hidden turrets protecting your goal get EMP’d it makes it much easier and in rare cases they might even reach a ball sitting inside the goal.

If you get the ball in the middle of the map or ideally on the opposing side of the map and most opposing players are dead, you generally want to rush the ball towards the goal and attempt to score before the other team can respawn.  Respawning takes very little time so you have to be quick, and most of the time they will spawn before you can score.  However, with them not in great defending position you may have enough advantage to kill them again before they can set up.

If both teams are at similar strength when in the middle of the map, if you have the ball you are generally going to want to look to pass to one of your strong ball carriers.  If the higher rated players on your team died you’ll likely want to try to safely hold it or maybe retreat slightly to allow them to respawn.  If at risk, just clear the ball as deep as possible into the opponent’s side.  If you are a low rated player your role is primarily to get the ball to your team’s playmakers and not make costly mistakes like leaving the goal wide open.  You aren’t expected to carry the team and mostly your teammates will be happy enough as long you aren’t giving away freebie goals and you are getting some kills.

Face Offs

I’m going to assume most people reading this guide are new or less skilled.  If that is the case you it is unlikely going for the ball yourself on a face off is a smart decision.  Grabbing the ball without getting killed can be challenging.   While you shouldn’t immediately rush the ball, if it sits there a little bit you should grab it if it becomes safe to do so.  Then, if possible, pass to one a skilled ball carrier on your team.  If it is not possible, and you come under fire you may want to clear the ball.

Be sure that at least one player on your team hangs back on the face off.  Otherwise it is easy for the other team to grab the ball and have a wide open breakaway.  These breakaways happened very frequently before players adjusted to 4v4.  While significantly reduced, they are still relatively common.  In general if your team has an explodet they tend to be the one to stay back, but try to be aware of where all your teammates are and be ready to cover the goal.

One important tip to know is that when you clear a ball forward you often shift the risk from yourself to opposing planes going for the ball.  When you clear your opponent usually has to change direction, meaning it often impossible or at least more difficult for them to fire back at you.  Additionally you have a much better idea where to direct your fire because you expect them to be flying towards the ball, rather than trying to dodge your attack.

Plane Strategies

Loopy is one of the more straightforward planes.  Even as a new player there is absolutely never any reason to use Tracker in 4v4.  In fact the only time you can somewhat justify using it at all in Altitude is on a wide open map, and even then it usually is not wise.  When flying on maps with obstacles, the advanced tracking usually does more harm than good as your missiles will often try to target an enemy plane other than the one you want them to or otherwise quickly turn and crash into something other than an enemy plane.

So if you want to use EMP that leaves Double Fire which has a more powerful but slower tracking attack.  In either case you should always use Heavy Armor for your green perk and Turbocharger for your blue perk.  Without Heavy Armor it is impossible to stay alive for long as a Loopy.  Even with Heavy Armor it doesn’t take much to take you down.   Choice of blue perk is less essential (ignoring reverse thrust which you should never use), but you’ll definitely benefit from the faster energy regeneration of Turbocharger more than anything else.

Double Fire is the most commonly used plane in Altitude although it is arguably a little weaker in 4v4 than 6v6.  Still, having a plane with EMP or your team or not can significantly affect how the game plays out.   Using EMP against defenders is not only easy (defenders have to block the goal), but also very effective.  A skilled goalie can make it nearly impossible to score, but it becomes very difficult to block the goal when EMP’d.  EMP, when used at the right moment on enemy turrets, can also allow you to grab a ball sitting a bit inside the opposing goal area and quickly shoot it into the goal.  Finally EMP is often used to drastically reduce the ability for enemy mirandas to hide behind objects and avoid being killed.  However, hitting a skilled Miranda with EMP can be challenging so expect to need a lot of practice before finding much success.

Acid Bomb is a similar projective to EMP, but instead of immobilizing, it briefly drains a little bit of health while making any projectiles that hit that plane cause a little more damage.  It is better in some ways in 4v4 and worse in one significant way when compared to 6v6.  In 6v6 you simply can hit more planes at once doing more damage because you shooting at a higher number of planes.  In 6v6 when a player drops out and it becomes 5v5, I often find the effectiveness of Acid Bomb decreases enough that I switch planes until when/if it becomes 6v6 again.  In 4v4 you may not do as much damage, but the damage you cause can be much more important.

Acid can be extremely effective on face offs, perhaps even more so than EMP.  If you land an acid bomb right where the ball spawns any opposing plane that picks the ball up or gets close will get hit.  There is some difficulty though in that if you don’t get to center fast enough a miranda can grab the ball and get out before the acid hits.  If you spawn top you should have no problem on most maps, but sometimes you won’t get there fast enough spawning bottom.

Acid is also very effective in front of the goal.  EMP is probably a bit more powerful, but it is a little harder to hit as it doesn’t stick around a little awhile like Acid.  Also while EMP can be effective at the goal solo, Acid really needs some teammates firing into the goal area to result in a lot of damage.  It can clear the goal very quickly though with some help.

Finally Acid is arguably even more effective at defending against mirandas than EMP in 4v4.  EMP is better but only if you have teammates who are good at flanking or otherwise hunting down mirandas / skilled ball carriers in other planes.  Often that isn’t the case though and Acid can cause a lot of trouble for mirandas who can be forced into eating the Acid to stay protected behind an object.  Even if you aren’t able to kill them they will be down to only a hit or two by the time they are forced out and will be much easier to take down before they can find an open shot.

Team Composition

Team composition is a little more flexible in 4v4 than 6v6.  It is more possible to win without any Explodet or EMP (Double Fire Loopy).  Depending on the other team’s skill level and composition, winning with an Explodet is much more possible than in 6v6.  In many cases you do really want an EMP as effective as it is immobilizing goalies and turrets, but with only 4 planes you may be giving up another effective tactic.  Also there is less chance you have a skilled Loopy on your team due to less players.  Having one of the very best mirandas on your team makes things a lot easier, but overall I feel Miranda is about the same or slightly less important to have than 6v6.  You can certainly win without one as it is more so about having skilled ball carriers/shooters than them using a specific plane.