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A General Beef With Fighting Game Tournament Culture

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Kotaku recently reported SFIV national champion Justin Wong's thoughts on Marvel Vs. Capcom 3. A recent tweet says he considers that "Mvc3 has to be the easiest and cheapest fighting game that was ever made....," Not without merit, just cheap and easy.

What the hell does that mean? I get to the root of the issue after the jump.

Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 Is "Cheap" and "Easy" [via Kotaku]

My friend plays Smash Bros. Melee competitively every weekend. He is a wizard at the game, trashing me every time. I can't get a smash in edgewise. There is a level of technique I will never grasp, but that's okay because I enjoy playing fighting games a ton.

There are a lot of things to consider when playing a fighting game: Inputs, specials, cancels, health, position, lag, and the game's idiosyncrasies. That's a lot. That's more than most driving games, action games or sports games (Madden included, Madden's pace is just to slow to compare). The fighting games we play today are impressive machines, driving calculations our ancestors were stuck to. Faster by light years, with more characters and trippy visuals that you can shake a fight stick at. At what cost, this godhood?

"Cheap and Easy."

The sentiment comes from a seasoned fighting tournament veteran and legend Justin Wong. Found a nifty wiki with some information on him, and this amazing video.

...where he bites it hard. Still, one of the most widely recognized and respected players of the game, in the game had that scathing criticism for the hot-of-the-presses Marvel Vs. Capcom 3. Sounds like some harsh words, so why the hate? Breaking it down, I'm starting from the bottom:

Easy: I agree that the game is easy. Tatsunoko vs. Capcom opened a floodgate of "Simple" into the fighting game world. Simpler inputs for the same results means the game is more accessible to players who haven't trained the timing and movements of the longer, more complex combos. Street Fighter IV is nigh on unplayable for me, I don't know every character's unique special moves, nor any of the combos. Argue that I could learn it, and I'll argue I'd just rather play other games instead. Makes sense. Other games that had it easy? Capcom Vs. SNK 2 EO (GameCube), King Of Fighters '95 (PSX) to name my favorite two. But there's nothing wrong with easy, so it's not much of an insult. I'll explain later.

Cheap: Cheap in video games has many meanings at times. Using the same move over and over again, a move that is impossible to counter, a weapon with too much power or too much accuracy or a mix of both. An exploit of a glitch in the game's programming...or worse, an exploit of a basic feature. One thing is for sure: a cheap game allows players of any skill to win with little effort. Because of the way things like launcher combos, damage and special activation works in Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 the came can be considered flawed to the point of cheapness. Is Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 cheap? No, not really.

I personally disagree with the "cheap" side of Mr. Wong's statements. To his credit, he followed up the thought by admitting the game was fun. Latch onto that for a second. Fun and Cheap can sometimes go hand in hand. We step back for a second...and don't we always love cheap moments in games? Slowing down time in Max Payne, Bayonetta, air juggling in Soul Calibur, Ninja and Nukes in Modern Warfare 2.

"But Joe! That's no excuse! This is a competition. Cheapness ruins the experience of tournament play when the playing field isn't even!"

Sure sure, but that's not what I'm getting at. The game has changed, sure, and changes are rocky but this change has made the game more fun for more people. And there are always exceptions to cheap strategies. The best thing about simple inputs, big damage and easy aerials is that it gives us all access to looking cool on day one. We want the experience of super battles, on super human levels...that's why we're playing the game. We distill the tournament experience from that and create competitive playing fields of all sizes...but the best of the best look great doing it and that's what I want. I won't speak for everyone, but I want to feel like a boss when I play a fighting game, not a n00b.

Part Two: Smash Bros.

Meta-Knight is broken.

This read is pretty incredible. Let's get some perspective: Brawl came out 2.5 years ago. This thread is a year old. So after a year and a half of tournament play...the sour milk showed it's face...

The story behind the creation of Brawl, and the vision of it's designer Masahiro Sakurai is pretty amazing. But the attitude of the tournament community towards Brawl is clear: Do Not Want. Subtle changes in Brawl ruined the experience of playing Melee. Things like where the player's model detects the ground, how many times you can air dodge and worst of all...a character so powerful he has his own "tier" of strength compared to other characters, "S-Tier". I prefer Melee as well, for it's almost "cowboy" feeling compared to the more vanilla Brawl. But it's deeper than that, I'm constantly reminded. It's numbers. It's razors edge. There is no way Melee could have been planned for, it's said. And as such, the game is revered as a high standard for tournament fighting play...among it's players.

I do not share the same idea that Brawl should be written of for its flaws so soon. I played hour upon hour of brawl with friends, and have never once had the issue of someone choosing Meta Knight too much, or playing cheaply. Not once. Is it because we "don't know any better?" Would you suggest that I am not smart enough to see what I must do?Probably not. It's just how I and my friends play the game. And indeed...the game was changed to reflect a less competitive experience. Items, and even features like tripping add chance to the mix, taking away a deep reliance on numbers. But did I, or any of my closest friends notice? Well...not the ones that don't play Smash tournaments weekly.

Where am I going with this? To a question that may very well lead to another article: What is the cocktail we'd need to have a truly great, tournament viable fighting game? What could please the crowds that want the razor's edge experience...and allow me and my friends the ability to enjoy it on a casual level? I know some exist...but we have to be careful about writing off games like Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 so soon. This is the new way of things, and the marriage of simple inputs with complex systems will only get better from here on out.

9 Comments

NaviFairy said:

I believe the answer to your final question is BlazBlue :)

Fillerbunny9 said:

I do believe the simple answer to your final supposition is: Options.

Enable/Disable classic and "simple" controller options. But for a simple toggle, you can please both sides of the fence's primary argument.

Enable/Disable "random" elements of Brawl (which I would love, by the way, and am not even a tournament player) would be welcome, particularly in an otherwise HIGHLY friendly to customization game. 10 lives, double damage, smash balls onry? No problem! Disable tripping on the air? Ooh, sorry chief.

A highly customizable experience is the best way to appease your hardcore fan base while allowing a game to be accessible. Further, it is little oversights like this which can help prevent incidents such as Daigo's complaint, perhaps salvaging a few otherwise lost sales or exposure.

It will be a fine knife's edge to walk, but I think once one or two issues got hammered out it would work to everyone's benefit.

As for judgement on MvC3, I'll reserve that until I play my copy tonight after work.

Henshin A Go Joe said:

Sadly, Fillerbunny9...Options doesn't seem to be the solution. Things like hit boxes and timing change between games too, things that drastically change the engine not just the parameters of the game.

Case study is Melee vs. Brawl. They didn't just add more options for how to play...they moved the hit boxes for the players feet, added tripping, unlimited air dodges, chose Meta Knight's sword for the incredible buff it has...all choices made on purpose by a designer for the game.

Options can't navigate around it all, it would seem.

BlazBlue is a great answer though, Navi...you've got me there. It's WAY accessible compared to other games but it's no Tatsunoko. I feel like there needs to be a true sequel to BlazBlue first, not this continuum shift talk. And we all know Tatsunoko will not be getting a sequel...

wohdin said:

I am of the opinion that anyone wanting to play a crossover game such as MVC in a balanced tournament context is silly. Yes, even Smash. Though this is a general fact with most every fighting game, whether it's crossover or not: even if the game isn't that imbalanced, there will always be cries by a certain camp of players that it is irrepairably and unmanageably so. While MVC3 certainly is not without problems, it doesn't justify calling it "cheap" or "easy" and just tossing it aside as a piece of crap.

VoiceOfGosh said:

I love BlazBlue too, but there is one aspect of that game that I feel is so very limiting and that is the punishment of people who prefer to play defensive turtle or keep away. Compared to MVC 2 , and 3 I suppose for its similar mechanics, you can dodge and run away from attacks all day long. Is this annoying? You all damn well know it's annoying but that's not the right question! The real question is: Is it still a valid and technical method of playing a fighting game? Yeah, it is. So why punish a whole group of players who have used such fighting techniques since fighting games included blocking? I really wish they would just do away with the "red lines of doom" already. I can fight forward like the rest of 'em but I miss being able to dodge, parry, and negate enemy attacks w/o the game punishing me for it. Honestly, this is my only qualm with BB/BB calamity trigger. The rest of the game is very well made.

In terms of MVC3's easy and cheap aspects, I don't feel too much has changed negatively from MVC 2 aside from how the attack buttons are executed. Rather than splitting it to 2 punch, 2 kicks, and assist buttons (MVC2) they changed it to Light, Medium, Heavy, and Special attack buttons (where neutral Special is always a launch type attack) with two assist buttons.

Combos are easier to launch because all you have to do is input almost any attack and then S to launch. In this case, we lose some variation in terms of variable ways to attack into a combo launch. Fortunately, this doesn't change blocking combos. We can still block and utilize the handy push back block by pushing two attack buttons at once so no matter what the combo, you're still able to block it!

Another aspect they added to MVC 3 is the new Aerial Combo switch in attacks. You can now use that nifty Special attack button and specific directional inputs to use up to two character switch ins to a) hit you opponent up for heavy damage; b) hit your opponent back for medium damage against a wall; or c) hit your opponent straight down and gain a whole Hyper Combo bar. But as the video game adaptation of the saying goes, where there is a will to create new attacks there is a way to counter them. You can input the same Special/directional input as someone who is aerial comboing you and you essentially have a turn around push back block effect (kinda like countering a throw but in the air).

So in effect, they may have sacrificed everyone's completely unique launch attacks and made the buttons a tad more easy to utilize but they added more depth to the game in return. The game is still a blast to play for me though!!! :D

DJS said:

I haven't played MVC3 yet so can't comment about that.

But to make a truly great tournament-viable fighting game, it needs to have a balanced tier list with lots of testing done. Hilde's Doom Combo ruined Soul Calibur IV for me-- I got destroyed in tournaments, and had no fun watching international play, because Namco screwed up.

MVC3 might just be the perfect balance of fan service and depth. If you try to go too hardcore you lose the general public. (Virtua Fighter). And if you please the mainstream too much (Mortal Kombat) it simply doesn't have the depth to make it in tournament play.

P.S. more content about competitive gaming please!

NaviFairy said:

Voiceofgosh, honestly, the punishment of "turtling" players is the thing I like most about BlazBlue. The genre is called "fighting games," so I like that there's a game that actually forces players to participate in the fight.

Ultraboy said:

The one thing everyone seems to forget: That while a company (Capcom especially) may support the tournament community, its focus on making a game will not be the small, small, small percentage of people participating in tournaments. They need to be able to sell as many units as they can to justify the cost. Especially one that has its costs quadrupled due to MASSIVE licensing fees.
When you sit down and start producing a game, you have to try and make its appeal broad enough that everyone wants to play.
If you make a game strictly for the tournament players, you take a lot of the appeal out of the game for casual players because it quickly becomes 'known' to be 'complex', etc.
Capcom also has to fight the fact that no matter what they did, NO MATTER WHAT, there were going to people that bitched, whined, complained, moaned and declared it awful. If they had just made it MVC2 with some updates and new characters, it would have been panned as not being anything new and a waste of time. So they go the opposite way and try and create something that is a successor while new enough that new players can join in.
I remember 10 years ago when MVC2 came out and people made fun of the idea of it possibly being a tournament worthy game. Now a lot of these same people are acting like its a holy grail and MVC3 will never be tournament worthy.
3 days folks, only time will tell.

until then, if you're having fun, isn't that all that matters?

I like simple mode because my friends that can't compete with me at all in SSFIV actually do well and win in MVC3 at times.

Three days into MvC3 and I'm pretty much done playing online. The same team of Zero, Dante, and Morrigan keeps coming up and it's pretty annoying. These are the people who use Ken in SSFIV and do nothing but spam fireballs and dragon punches all...day...long. In other words, rookie fighters who think they are good at the game, even though they only do two moves or press one or two buttons through the entire match.

And I think that it is flawed, due to the fact that Capcom keeps dumb-ing down the SF series for mass appeal and more sales. It took a well skilled player to actually get good at SFIII. Meanwhile, all it takes in SFIV/SSFIV is for someone to pick M. Bison or Ken and try to spam away for the wins. How boring is that?

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Kid Amnesiac 1979 on A General Beef With Fighting Game Tournament Culture: Three days into MvC3 and I'm pretty much done playing online. The same team of Zero, Dante, and Morrigan...

Ultraboy on A General Beef With Fighting Game Tournament Culture: The one thing everyone seems to forget: That while a company (Capcom especially) may support the tournament community, its focus...

NaviFairy on A General Beef With Fighting Game Tournament Culture: Voiceofgosh, honestly, the punishment of "turtling" players is the thing I like most about BlazBlue. The genre is called "fighting...

DJS on A General Beef With Fighting Game Tournament Culture: I haven't played MVC3 yet so can't comment about that. But to make a truly great tournament-viable fighting game, it...

VoiceOfGosh on A General Beef With Fighting Game Tournament Culture: I love BlazBlue too, but there is one aspect of that game that I feel is so very limiting and...

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