Making Fighting Games Accessible

This video will make you chuckle, mind commenting on it? 3:56 is my favourite part.

I already did, but the comment I posted was hidden as spam. Here it is quoted:

Look, you make a lot of errors here that you probably should have considered more carefully. I like some of your videos, you have more potential than a lot of other amateur game analysts.

Melee isn’t just the result of a decade of metagame development, Melee is the way that it is because it was developed that way. Many people said similar things about Brawl and Smash 4, that those games are just new, which is why they don’t look as fast, aggressive, or technical as Melee, they just need time for their metagame to develop. Except this isn’t the case, and it will never become the case. Melee works as beautifully as it does because development happened to turn out that way, because all the characters were afforded these latent abilities, and a few intentional design choices were made that tipped it in the right direction.

The thing about L cancels is, L cancels require you to recognize what situation you are landing in. When you whiff an attack, there is no delay before the L cancel, when you hit someone, there is a short period where you and your opponent are briefly frozen in hitstop, this changes the L cancel timing. When you hit someone shield, this hitstop increases even more. Some people even tilt their shield up to make the hitstop happen earlier, so there’s a longer period between the hitstop and hitting the ground, further throwing off their opponent’s timing. L canceling makes it so your attacks are safe or unsafe based on your ability to land it, makes it so you need to evaluate the situation correctly or get punished. If you just remove that, halve the landing lag on all attacks so you get decent landing lag all the time, then things like whiff punishes get worse, because people are no longer flubbing the L cancel on unexpectedly missing their opponent. Furthermore, L cancels act as a “flag” for when people touch the ground, and have an element of responsiveness to them because of the tight window between action and reaction, they have a game feel. It feels satisfying to press the button in conjunction with landing and receive an altered animation in response to your button press.

There’s a really amateurish idea among modern game designers and especially theorists on the internet that things like execution are just this barrier that’s sitting between the player and the game, and the only reason games have such executive barriers is because it’s an accident from a confluence of mechanics or product of an older time.

Also, you mention the top tier not really changing much over the past few years, but you included Leffen in your footage. You have to know he went from being banned from smash tournaments in 2013 to being one of the top 6 players in early 2015. I know “Much” is being used as a weasel word here though, and it’s otherwise basically true, so I’m not gonna get overly insistent about it. Beyond that, why do you think that is? Do you think that Melee would be better if everyone was at an equal skill level? If you’re able to play on the level of others so quickly, then where is the joy in accomplishment? Isn’t what makes Melee so great in part that it is a game that can be pushed so far that the players on top can absolutely annihilate those below them? That there are so many things a person can learn and master that players can entrench themselves so firmly at the top?

Isn’t there something interesting in the way that different players all learn and specialize in different techniques, that even among the top 6, everyone has their own playstyle, even where their characters overlap? There’s something very different about Mew2King’s Marth, and PPMD’s, something very different about PPMD’s Falco and Mango’s. Execution gives people different options based on what they work on, diversifying the types of players you’ll run across.

The ultimate truth is, you can’t make fighting games accessible and preserve their depth. I call this line of thought amateur because it comes from people who aren’t themselves high level competitors or people who aren’t even good and understand why the mechanics are the way they are. Some things need to be hard to function the way they do. The difficulty of some things introduces additional strategic concerns. If L canceling had a 20 frame window like teching does, then the scenario I outlined at the start wouldn’t exist anymore. Rising thunder made anti-air specials 1 button, so I can play every character like they’re a charge character that can get a powerful high priority anti-air move on reaction, instead of needing to buffer the dragon punch in expectation of them jumping. Working to improve at execution, being able to do things consistently that you used to be incapable of doing, these are what games are about ostensibly. The nature of games is that people attempt to achieve favorable results from a system that generates those results inconsistently. We’re wired to feel elation on success at inconsistent things, especially on steadily more consistent success, until it dies off as we achieve total consistency. This pattern exists to motivate us to do hard things, even if it’s for the sake of being hard. We can redefine our personal objectives in a way most animals can’t. There’s this belief among amateur game designers that the ONLY things that matter about a game are matchups, tactics, reads, and other knowledge-skill based things, when execution is equally a part of the game. Performing something difficult feels good in equally as real a way as making a sick read. The sickest reads are the ones with the highest execution involved, like the daigo parry of course. Because without that type of narrow window to act in, such as stuffing an opponent’s move at a critical time, or that tough thing you have to pull off to succeed, like all the parries for chun li’s SA2, a read isn’t much more than winning simple rock paper scissors. There’s a reason we play these games in real-time in the first place.

Not to mention that these higher execution games are deeper and feature not only more features, but more interactions between their existing features, in many cases dependent on their execution barrier. If you want to make a traditional fighting game without the difficult inputs, you’ll soon find there’s no easy way to cram as many moves onto a controller as there was when you used directional commands as a modifier for your button presses.

That and real talk on Rivals of Aether, most characters are dependent on an assortment of gimmicks, things that can be shut down if the opponent sees them coming, to win. Parries are ridiculously easy and overpowered, low risk, high reward. You can literally spam them with only a few (like 3 or so) frames of downtime between them, a near-perfect aegis of defense. There’s no grabs, or shields, and the recovery game is ridiculously simple, barely any element of ledgeguarding, many characters can use their specials to bypass the ledge completely. The game ended up being campy on a similar level to Brawl at any level of decently skilled play, in a large part because all the aggressive or offensive options are extremely weak, there’s no pressure, and no way around parries, or to punish parries. SF3, the game that invented parries at least had high and low parries so you could mix up, and had grab bypass parries completely. Rivals doesn’t recapture the metagame of melee, Project M did that. Saying Rivals is Melee done on purpose is an extremely hasty conclusion. The problem with Chess is that it’s very much not about the mindgame. Go is about the mindgame far more than chess is (and spoilers: Go has a lot to study to become competent in too). Chess is primarily about memorization, as other comments cited. The barrier of entry is a stack of books and computer programs that you need to work with and memorize. Though, you bring up something else that is interesting, sure, you can’t compete at a high level just knowing how the pieces move, but isn’t the barrier of entry just knowing enough to play the game? Is the barrier of entry into melee really learning how to L cancel, angle your shield (I don’t even do that, and I’m reasonably good), and other advanced techniques? Isn’t the amount you need to know to play the game a lot smaller than that?

I know you can do better than this, dude. Think your videos out. I know you put in work. You don’t need to say the single most obvious seeming thing. Most popular existing conceptions about game design theory are wrong. Question your conclusions more. Why are things the way they are? How could the opposite be true or work out? How could the things I think are true be wrong?

How would you change the mechanics for melee so it would require less dexterity to play but still keep it’s depth?

There’s a lot of ways you could potentially do that. For one, you could fix the bug where the last frame of jumpsquat won’t count in determining whether you fulljump or shorthop. You could extend the valid dash range during dash dancing, add an extra frame of leniency to backdashing. Make it so jumping during normal turnaround still has you turned around. A lot of small input leniency changes that Project M made. You could make shield directly cancel into up smash or up B instead of needing to cancel through jumpsquat first. You could probably make L canceling automatic, and not lose that much (I just resent the idea that such a thing is totally pointless, especially when you have characters like ice climbers, who are very difficult to L cancel against, and who have a valid use for L cancel in the L cancel desync). You could add a small buffer period, like 2-3 frames.

And that’s about it. Beyond that, you’re changing the options the characters have or how difficult they are to perform in a way that affects game balance (due to strong options being too easy), or the distribution of options players will pick (due to certain options being over-centralizing).

The resulting game would still take a massive amount of dexterity to perform at, but you can’t really pare it down any more without giving something up about the identity of the game.

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