Reworking DMC’s Controls

I think you’ve already expressed your dislike for Chain Combos, and while I understand where you coming from, I can’t imagine a way to totally get rid of them in 3D Beat em Ups without making the controls an abomination to use

Does DMC4 count? Or is that an abomination?

I’d say God Hand is a reasonable example too, it has 1 chain on square, then command moves on X, Triangle, and down + X/Triangle/Square. Plus it has hidden contextual moves on triangle that are just direction + button, and dashing attacks. Since God Hand lets you assign any move to any button, you have a fair number of moves that you could potentially assign. A chain + 5 command moves.This obviously isn’t the most in the world, but it’s a fair number of moves with no chains required. Continue reading

Cool Airdashes (unlike Hollow Knight’s)

You mentioned that Hollow Knight’s airdash on its own was sort of boring, just moving you in a straight line. Whats an interesting airdash?

Something with an arc of some kind, acceleration, deceleration, a hop, a glide.

In Guilty Gear, you have an airdash whose momentum carries you forward as you attack, allowing attacks to chain in ways they cannot off just a jump.

In Melty Blood and UNIEL you have an airdash that’s more like a hop forwards. Mario Odyssey’s dive could be considered an airdash too in this way, it even lifts you up slightly to let you just barely clear platforms.

The dash could start with momentum forwards that falls off as it progresses, and a resistance to gravity that also decreases as it progresses, so it travels straighter as it starts, then begins to fall like normal as it goes.

It could transition into a glide, or have glide-like physics should the player move it manually.

Ori and the Blind Forest’s bash is a really unique airdash-type move.

Morrigan’s airdash in Darkstalkers lets her tilt it up or down as she goes.

Celeste has an 8-way airdash that can transfer its momentum into the ground for a big boost, much like a wavedash, which is interesting.

There’s a lot of ways to toy with momentum and gravity. Hollow Knight’s movement options are all kind of simple and straightforward, only really becoming interesting when you have a bunch of them to combine. Hollow Knight’s double jump is out of the ordinary, being a bit like the jump of the DJC characters from Smash Bros (Yoshi, Peach, Mewtwo, Ness, etc), but this doesn’t increase its utility, it more exists to nerf its functionality versus airdashing and wall jumping, so it occupies a distinct niche relative to them (doesn’t have as fast startup, so it’s slower for climbing and moving laterally), which is fair, and helps make the sum of all of these moves more interesting to use, even if none of them are particularly interesting individually.

At least Hollow Knight doesn’t have the teleport from Axiom Verge. That teleport somehow manages to be even less interesting than HK’s airdash.

“Fun,” The Deepest Buzzword?

Is “fun” just a buzzword?

I don’t treat fun as a buzzword, but of course I have a more specific definition of fun than other people.

The big deal is, Fun is a conclusion. Fun isn’t a reason or justification. You need to say why something is fun, not just that it is fun.

I go on about Depth a lot, but if I just said, “This game is deep” then I wouldn’t be saying much of anything. Same for “This game is balanced” or “This game is hard.”

It makes sense to have words for these conclusions, they’re not buzzwords, but the trouble is in assuming that the conclusion alone is self-evident. It’s useful to be able to say a game is fun, hard, deep, or balanced, but we shouldn’t take these conclusions to be self-evident.

This is in reference to your answer to that “is fun a buzzword” question from a couple months back. What is depth’s relation to how fun a game is? Does a game’s amount of fun differ based on the person playing it?

There’s no relation between fun and depth, I just like depth a lot, so I try to make people think there is!

Alright, I’m kidding. So if fun is the base human drive to make something inconsistent produce the results you want, then depth is practical in the pursuit of fun, because it gives people many different outlets for this phenomenon. If you have a deep game, then you can fail and succeed at many more things to many more degrees than in a shallow game, so you are constantly going through that loop of what constitutes fun.

Arguably, this is a component in the success of penny slot machines. Penny Slots have a lot of different ways to win, so even if you’re losing overall, you’re getting a win of some kind every time you pull the crank (or push the button when you get tired of pulling the crank), and this is a big part in why they’re so successful at draining people’s wallets compared to traditional slots. As for whether penny slots are truly deep or not is debatable, but there is a confluence here.

Depth affords a number of positive design ramifications. It means that if you’re having trouble doing something one way, you can try other ways and those may work, resulting in people not getting stuck as easily. It also means that the game can be played in different ways on repeat playthroughs, preventing it from getting boring after a single completion. It means that even when repeating sections, things are likely to go differently than the previous time. These help keep the game fresh over an extended period of time, both for new and old players.

Depth also means that as players improve, becoming more consistent at easy things, harder things move in to fill the place of the easy things the player has mastered. The saying, “easy to learn, difficult to master” is an allusion to the principle of depth, and has been taken as the mark of a good game.

As for whether the fun of a game differs depending on the player, that’s a matter of perspective. Different people will be of different skill sets, and so will find games more or less fun based on how much of the depth of the game they can access. Street Fighter doesn’t get fun until you get over a certain threshold, so for a beginner, the game might not be fun at all. However if we’re going to address how fun a game is in general, I think it’s reasonable to consider it in the context of a skilled player. If you want to plan for success, then you need to consider it at all skill levels though, like Smash Bros Melee or DBFZ does.

I’ve heard people say Tekken is really fun for people who don’t know what they’re doing, because they can mash buttons and get a ton of different strings and all this crazy shit happens, but trying to learn the game on a low level is really frustrating, then it gets fun again when you get it, and then it gets really frustrating again once you have to learn how to defend and punish every move in the game, and fun again when you get over that hurdle.

Speedgames Ruined by the Patch

What speed games got ruined the most by update “fixes”?

I’d say either Dark Souls 2 or Bloodborne.

Bloodborne had the forbidden woods skip right at the beginning of the game, which involved a boost jump off a coffin, which I fucking love performing. This broke the game in half, and resulted in me hard locking the game, making my file impossible to complete, by fighting amelia out of order, but I got to fight her and eileen the crow at the end of her questline simultaneously, and after dying a lot, took them both out in the same go. This skip added a lot of nonlinearity to an otherwise rather linear game, and I dislike that they removed the ability to throw gascoigne out of bounds too. It was really tricky to set up and is a really unique quick kill method. Continue reading

Running Away is Deep!

Can having the option of fighting an enemy or running away be a form of depth?

Yes! Absolutely!

But more appropriately, the question generally tends to be, is having the option of fighting an enemy or running past them a form of depth?

NES games are the masters of this. Especially Castlevania 3 and Contra. Enemies in old games tend to have contact damage, they hurt you if you touch them. Then they’re set up in places where they block your way. This means that to get past them, you need to brush up against them, potentially hurting yourself. Continue reading

The Barrier to Entry

Do you think the real entry barier to videogames might actually be the player? At the end of the day, no matter how hard or easy a game is, how good they perform is determined by what they practice, how they practice, and whether or not they have the motivation to learn how to play.

Thinking that way is pointless.

Why are some games more popular than others? Is it because they’re necessarily easier? Harder? Or is it a lot of other factors? Brand popularity? Marketing strategies? Graphics? The concept of the game?

Either factors about the game affect the game’s popularity, or it’s random luck of the draw. Given that there are correlations between various factors and popularity, it can’t be purely luck of the draw.

Is it individual players that decide to be interested in any given game? Is there not something about the games themselves that influences this decision to play overwatch or call of duty for hundreds of hours?

The Melee community as a whole is at a much higher base level of competency than it was in 2006. The weakest players are stronger than ever. That’s why there’s the meme about low level smashers going back in time and tearing up the tournaments in the early days with advanced future technology. The worst players are better because the quality of the instruction has gotten better. There are way better tutorials and low level players understand a lot more about the game.

If you put the resources closer to the game, give people better tools, make the game give more feedback about what is going on and what they did wrong, then they will learn the game better.

Individual players have barriers or setbacks, but in considering what can be done to make a game or video games in general more approachable, you need to think on a systemic level, not an individual player level. In large groups, people tend to act predictably, even if it’s difficult to predict individuals. People follow the path of least resistance, and it’s up to you to make that path the one towards your product.

DBFZ Impressions

What’s your opinion on FighterZ so far?

Alright, I checked out the DBFZ beta while it was up. I played some ranked, and honestly got my ass scraped. Had like, a 50% win ratio exactly. Feel like I gotta count my losses too.

Felt like I had no idea what the hell I was doing or how anything fit together, but then I watched a vid that explained the universal moves and the basic combo mechanics and it made a lot more sense. Once I actually got the game, I started winning a lot more, and overall the pieces fit into place a lot more, it can just be a bit rough starting out.

I’m gonna use anime numpad notation, so look that up if you don’t know it. 2M and 6M are a universal low, and a universal overhead respectively. 6M is a lot like the 3rd strike UOH, but it can’t be hit meaty, and doesn’t chain or cancel into anything, so unless you call an assist before using it, you can’t combo off it. 2M is a sweep that usually moves forward a bit.

Dragon rush is this game’s equivalent of throw, but it has a startup period before rushing forward to grab. It has low priority, so anything with range will knock you out of it. It sometimes loses to normals, always loses to beams, it’s a pretty crappy throw. It also serves as your snapback, letting you force the opponent’s character out if you land it. Since it has a startup, tick throwing in this game is basically absent. You’re only gonna get tick dragon rush off maybe an assist block pressure, or a reset really. Otherwise, you need to make them scared enough to continue to hold block long enough for the dragonrush to start up, and that’s probably reactable. This means that if you want to fuck up someone who is blocking, you need to mix them up, high and low.

Also, you can cancel ground pressure into superdash, vanish, or S (Ki Blast) to extend it. Ki blast can be canceled into projectile specials, then super, which sometimes can serve as a weak confirm, however your real damage comes from either confirming into H, or getting a combo off 2M.

So that’s the next deal, there’s an interesting progression in the combo system that has all these parts that are really easy to tack on to add up to bigger and bigger combos. First you have the L and M autocombos, which do like 2 normal hits, then a unique attack, then for the L combo, it leads into a launcher, then hard knockdown, and for the M combo, it does the 3 hits, then cancels into special, then super. There doesn’t appear to be any scaling on these, so they get decent damage, like a quarter to third of someone’s health. If you hold back, you can get the unique 3rd hit, without getting the rest of the autocombo. So you can confirm off random hits in neutral, then autocombo your way to victory as an introduction, then you can ramp up to doing L > M > H, which the tutorial shows you how to do. 5H and 2H are your launchers. 5H will launch horizontally and wallbounce, and is usually a big poking move, 2H launches vertically, and is invincible to air attacks, which is important. Then you can do an air combo like L > M > H for a hard knockdown, and then super when you land.

Once you’ve gotten those basics down, you can get a bit more mileage in a couple different ways. First, you can do 2M to sweep, then 5M to launch from the sweep and jump cancel the 5M to follow into the air. Then in the air, instead of doing L > M > H, you can do L > M and jump cancel into another L > M, then cancel to special, then to super. Or, instead of the special into super, you could do 2H, which launches them even higher, and lets you follow up into L > M > special > super. You could also vanish instead of super, letting you combo the wallbounce from vanish into dragon rush for a snapback. You can integrate these combo extensions at pretty much any point for a little extra damage, and far as I know, they’re universal across the cast. Even if you don’t do 2M > 5M, you can still integrate jumping L > M double jump L > M from the H launchers.

Oh, and the chain system is weird, you can chain any button into any other version of that button, but you can’t have the same move in a chain twice, so you can chain 2M > 5M or 5M > 2M, but not 5M > 2M > 5M, which is what would lead to a launch, if possible. This also means you can chain 2M > 6M, the low into the overhead, but 6M cannot chain, so the overhead only combos with an assist.

Beyond that, there’s advanced character-specific combos, which involve comboing off specials or using assists or other business to extend, but still, there’s a basic template that lets you get a good combo, which you can steadily ramp up through and improve at without adding too much complexity at any given point. It also means you can pick up a new character and figure out how to do basic-bitch combos with them fairly quickly by following this template.

The superdash is a big deal, it’s kind of like a street fighter jump, in that it lets you get in, it’s safe on block, and combos on hit, but if they’re paying enough attention to AA you, there’s not a damn thing you can do, and they’ll get pretty decent damage off it to boot. 2H is completely air invincible, so if properly timed, it will beat superdashes clean. Superdashes can come out quickly however, and are tough to react to at close range. They deal a hit as they come in, which can be combo’d off. If blocked, then the attacker is not punishable, and they can get out an attack before hitting the ground, making it kind of a mixup scenario on block, which I’d guess is weighted slightly in the defender’s favor. The attacker can also double jump on block to make it almost completely safe. Unlike normal aerials, superdash can be blocked low or high, and you can cancel into superdash from L, M, and H, extending pressure. This move is gonna be the noob killer, because of how difficult it is to react to and shut down and how high priority it is. It goes through small ki blasts, but can’t go through beams and larger projectiles, so you can use those as a less guaranteed and lower reward anti-air, albeit with less harsh timing requirements than 2H. Superdash also has reasonably high priority vs normals.

I’m a bit disappointed by the tutorials and combo trials. The tutorials explain the bare basics, but don’t explain how to play the standard game, or that 2H is invincible. And it’s lacking Guilty Gear Revelator’s more advanced mission modes that fill in that type of information. The combo trials are also fairly simple, and don’t really go through the ramp up in complexity that I mentioned, at least, not nearly as far as Guilty Gear Revelator’s. So a lot of people are gonna have to go online to learn more information about the game, which is disappointing, and might detract from the image of the game, as people get stymied by simple tactics.

The game has a ton of hidden features, both character-wise and system-wise, so it’s shaping up to be an excellent game overall. My notes file on the game is huge. I like the game a lot so far, but I haven’t dedicated much time to improving in it.

Balancing Parries for Single Player

How are parries treated in fighting games? Specifically in comparison to single player games where once you get the timings down, it can trivialize enemies.

It depends on the fighting game, but I largely covered this in my last article on parries. Parries in fighting games can be beaten, unlike parries in single player games. In 3rd strike, you have to parry high or low, and the two zones are more separated and exclusive from one another than blocking (so moves that you normally could block crouch blocking might have different parry zones). In other games parries usually have a recovery time. In practically all fighting games, parries can be thrown.

This means parries have weaknesses, they can be mixed up, either with timing, or by choosing options that beat parry. In a single player game, this isn’t really feasible. Everything needs to be reactable in order to be fair, which means if everything is parryable, then every problem can be solved with parries. Some measures you can throw in to prevent this are having unparryable attacks, force the player to respond differently to those. You could have different parry zones too, so they need to parry differently depending on the incoming attack, but this amounts to basically just giving the player shit instead of solving the core problem, which is that parries hand players a difficult but simple solution to any problem where they are applicable. It’s not a question of, “would it be better to attack or defend now?” It’s just “If I can do it, parrying is best.” And you might have different types of parries or unparryable attacks, so players have a bit more trouble reacting, but the fundamental problem is still there in a way that it isn’t for parries in multiplayer games. Parrying isn’t the best solution to scenarios in 3rd strike all the time, since it’s not always rewarding (parry into throw) and requires commitment for the number of parries you’re gonna attempt and the followup. It is in Guilty Gear, but it also costs meter in Guilty Gear, which is a limited and precious shared resource.

Oh yeah, maybe that’s the answer. Bloodborne limits parrying by tying it to bullets, but that just restricts the amount of times you can parry, bullets aren’t really used for much else of consequence. Imagine if parrying in dark souls cost you literally your entire stamina bar, requiring the bar to be full first, and you don’t get it back after a successful riposte. Hell, make stamina a bit negative even afterwards. Perhaps you could balance parrying by limiting the conditions for it, and having it cost you significantly otherwise, so you can only use it occasionally, and by sacrificing something else important.

How to Cater to Fighting Game Beginners

How do you feel SFV and MvCI’s approach to catering to newcomers compares to Sakurai’s approach with Brawl and Smash 4?

It’s not nearly as bad, but it’s very similar in its heavy-handedness.

Instead of trying to lower the skill floor of the game, they did that and lowered the ceiling as well. Honestly, I don’t know as much about MVCI, it sounded like that game did fairly well except for hitstun decay being tied to damage, and the discoveries people (infinites, hitstun decay glitch, the new unblockable) making progressively making the game less and less interesting to play, but whatever.

Characters in SFV don’t have as much potential for combo creativity as characters in SF4. They made combos easier and more understandable, but they also reduced the number of moves on each character that link and limited the juggle properties of characters even more severely than the juggle points system in SF4 (unless I’m mistaken. SFV’s juggle system is still a bit weird and hard to understand). SFV was intended to correct SF4’s mistakes, but they overcorrected and ended up making new problems.

The issue is, they removed a lot of the potential for advanced play from the game in the name of making the game easier to pick up, and those two goals aren’t mutually inclusive. Having a lower skill ceiling doesn’t attract beginners, and honestly, neither does making the game easier. SF4 was one of the best selling SF games in the franchise, despite being arguably so difficult. Casual fans are more attracted by having a large roster of characters that they like than anything specific about the game systems. Casual fans are more attracted by single player content like Mortal Kombat’s. Brawl and Smash 4 at least delivered on those fronts, there’s a lot you can do without needing friends to play with you, and the rosters are large.

Dragon Ball FighterZ has a really neat auto-combo system that helps bridge the gap even better, without compromising high level combos in the process. Basically, you have 2 autocombos, LLL and MMM, and these will do simple combos. The light autocombo does 3 unique light attacks in a row, the 3rd one launching into a low air combo, where you can again press LLL to do light, medium, and heavy in a row. The Medium autocombo does standing medium, crouching medium, a special, then super if you have meter. What’s cool about these is, lights chain into mediums, and mediums chain into heavies. So instead of doing the next hit of the auto combo, you can at any time do a better attack instead.

What’s also cool is, later on in the combo, you can default back to doing the auto combo. So beginners can easily do LLL or MMM, but they can substitute for better attacks, then default back to the easy stuff where they don’t know the way yet. So you can do MM, but instead of continuing, you could press H to launch the opponent, then go back to doing LLL in the air to finish up the combo. If you do crouching H, then you will even get a hard knockdown off this, which you can combo into super.

In this way, beginners can slowly ramp up their combos into more optimal sequences, LMH > LLL, or LMH > LM > special > super, or 2M 5M > jc > LM 2H > LM dj LM > special > vanish > special > super. The combo trials hint at a lot of these common combo properties across characters, though I still wish they were more extensive, and the tutorial was better.

And the best part is, advanced players still have difficult and advanced juggle combos they can perform for optimal damage, or using assists and so on, so unlike MVCI and SFV, there wasn’t anything compromised in the process of building this system. The air autocombo even has special height gaining properties that make it useful in combos.

I still think they dropped the ball a bit on the tutorial end of the game however. It can be difficult for players to realize all this, especially because they probably don’t understand what’s happening in the combo trials, they just see a list of moves and don’t understand all the different ways it can go. It also doesn’t help that they didn’t include the basic universal B&B anywhere in the Combo Trials. Oh well.