Fighting Game Accessibility

I saw a video by Extra Credits talking about how to make fighting games more accessible to newcomers. Do you think that modern fighting games are accessible enough, too accessible, or not accessible enough?
I think that episode was genuinely HORRIBLE. The whole thing was made by someone who doesn’t seem to know what fighting games are. Like slowing the whole game down and flashing “Reversal opportunity!” betrays a massive lack of understanding on their part, considering reversals are such a basic option that people playing should know, and they don’t even have one player knocked down in their example picture, what were they even thinking?

I do think that fighting games have an accessibility problem. I got into fighting games only about 5 years ago, and I have tried really hard to hold onto that feeling of “I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing” that I had when I first picked them up, I felt like fighting games were clunky, handled weird, and so on, and only like Guilty Gear seemed to feel natural to me (because guilty gear is awesome and still is), probably because guilty gear had the double jump and air dash options instead of, you jump once, pray to god your opponent doesn’t anti-air. I don’t think changing fighting games from what they are is an acceptable solution to this problem. Not all games can necessarily be structured to be perfectly accessible. You can’t make all fighting games like Smash Bros without losing something vital about them.

Here’s a proposal for an interactive tutorial mode design that vastly outclasses the extra credits one. I would add a basic AI to Maj’s proposal that does 3 things, fireballs, anti-airs, and jump-ins. Or only the fireballs and anti-airs, throw fireballs and anti-air if someone jumps in. And the key thing is, have a little glint or something before they throw the fireball, so people can know what the right time is to jump, because to successfully jump-in on a fireball you need to intuit the exact moment they will throw it basically. Making the animation longer will only mean people learn the wrong timing or wrong visual cue, adding a glint or something, like punchout, can help give people the sensation of jumping after reading their opponent. Considering fireball > anti-air > jump-in is such a basic part of gameplay, it’s something rather critical.

I think that to really help bring people into fighting games, you need to make some simpler tutorial games for people to play, maybe even let people design tutorial games for other people a la portal 2 or some such thing. Skullgirls did a great job of this in my opinion and I still love playing through Skullgirls’ tutorial mode. Imagine if people had a simple setup to make combo tutorials that tick off as you do each move like the skullgirls tutorial does? It would make practicing combos a lot more clear-cut and “gamey” than sitting in the training room for an hour.

The trials in third strike are pretty cool too, as are the challenge AI battles. Same with the missions in guilty gear accent core. Imagine having those except against AI tuned to teach you specific concepts of gameplay, like footsies.

Really the key thing I think is, when someone picks up a fighting game, they have no idea what all the moves are good for. I found myself mashing random normals without any real idea why I’d use one normal over another. Create like limited stripped down versions of the game where they can only use certain normals against opponents who can only use tools countered by those normals. Create stripped down versions of the game where they only use some specials. If you present these as minigames then it could definitely help people. Like imagine a whiff punish/footsie trainer in the style of Juicebox’s explanation, that instead of using a pre-recorded training dummy, it had an AI that approximated similar motions, maybe even being as overt as, “whiff punish this move” The little jabs he has the character do are similar to my “glint” visual language thing. You’re simulating the act of making a read (valuable training room technique or trick for teaching first timers yourself).

Another thing is, a lot of mechanics like canceling moves into each other or using reversals, aren’t really clear from just playing the game randomly. People found out how all of street fighter works mostly from random experimentation and some concepts like that need to be explained flat-out and that job usually falls on internet tutorials. If you could help beginners by loading some of that into the game, you’d have a leg up on getting people more into the game. Imagine these types of things instead of a story mode, or instead of an arcade mode.

That and fighting game developers should be more up-front about how their whole game works. It means a hell of a lot less people having to scrounge through internet forums just trying to figure out “how do I combo?” Letting people make their own combo trials could help beginners get access to legitimately useful combos for their character from internet folks who know what’s actually optimal instead of the typical combo trial combo that is so impractical it’s only good for practicing general technical skill.

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