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.

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

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.

Clicker Games & The Hedonic Treadmill

What do you think of “idle” games like cookie clicker? Do they offer anything of value?

They basically play on the hedonic treadmill to foster addiction. They’re like a game you can’t ultimately lose and you can’t ultimately win. I hesitate to call them games, but I think the description is appropriate, because I think they stimulate similar centers of the brain. You have an inconsistency between consistent growth and explosive growth. They’re dangerous like gambling, and only safe in that they eventually peter out.

So basically, there’s this thing called the hedonic treadmill. We have kind of a base level of happiness and it’s high or it’s low. It largely depends on genetics, I think, to a lesser degree environmental factors and upbringing. As long as our settings remain consistent, we pretty much default back to this base level of happiness no matter how good or bad things are. Before clicker games were more basic idle games, like Progress Quest, which was basically, wait a long time and stuff grows. Candy Box then was like, “Hey, what if we made it so you could buy things that increase the rate at which stuff grows?” Then Cookie Clicker took that idea and made the entire game about it.

So just clicking the cookie is kind of boring, you can click, maybe mash pretty fast, but you’re just gonna get cookies at a consistent rate, and maybe you’ll do it long enough to get a bunch of cookies, but that’s extremely boring and eventually you leave. So then you can buy things using the cookies you’ve earned that increase how many cookies you get every click. So you buy one, and suddenly your clicks earn twice as much, and you’re back to the amount you just lost way faster than you took to get there the first time, and it’s like, “Whoa. This is cool.” Then you add auto-clickers on top of that to automatically generate revenue, but clicking the cookie itself is still the most profitable thing. The whole concept of the game is growth on top of growth. You earn money, spend it on things that improve your growth, and there’s always things over the horizon that take your growth and create an even exponentially higher amount of growth on top of that in a runaway cycle of positive feedback into more positive feedback. And this is crazy addicting because you cannot acclimate to any particular level of growth, it just keeps preempting the set-in of the hedonic treadmill again and again.

Cookie clicker isn’t a particularly fun game considered in abstract, it’s just clicking a button over and over again, you’re not really developing any skills, and you’ll have explosive growth no matter what you do practically. However it hijacks the way we process rewards so heavily that if you start playing it, it’s nearly impossible to put down, even though at the back of your mind you’re not really enjoying what you’re doing.

Of course, if you know this is the case, you can get smart and choose to break the addictive cycle. It’s hard because, “oh man, I’m earning more than before, I’m making progress, lets keep doing this,” but it’s possible.

Hollowing/Embering in Souls

Any thoughts about hallowing/embering in Souls, especially how it’s handled in 2?

Okay, so, the whole system starts in Demon’s Souls of course. You have body form and soul form. In body form you have full health, in soul form you deal more damage the more white your character tendency is. Then you have the cling ring, which is kind of hidden, but it’s available in the first level, gives you 75% of your health in soul form. Body form is restricted to non-renewable resources, bosses, and stones of ephemeral eyes. How often are you really gonna kill a boss or pop an eyestone to get full health? So what’s the real default health that the game is balanced around? Realistically, the game is balanced around you having half health, and full health is a bonus. Soul form is actually easier than body form. You don’t need body form at all to beat the game.

And these forms have another effect, they control online play, limiting the ability of people to summon help for levels. The bonus to damage in soul form means that invaders are balanced out against people in body form. And then there’s another knock-on effect, deaths in body form affect the world tendency of a given area, making body form increase the difficulty even more.

So what’s the purpose of this? How does it affect the game? It means occasionally you get this bonus to health, nerf to damage. What does that do? What problem does that solve? Not really anything. Realistically, you’re gonna play most of the game in soul form anyway, and if you’re not in the know, you have the potential to use up all your eyestones, make the world tendency of every area pure black and make the game super hard for yourself. Playing around with world tendency is pretty fun for players in the know who do repeat playthroughs, but the idea behind taking your health away and giving it back sometimes doesn’t seem to have a real purpose, it’s just there for flavor.

Dark Souls dumped the concept, made humanity renewable, just had forms affect the online element.

Dark Souls 2 did basically the same thing as demon’s souls, made human effigies non-renewable, gave you a 75% health ring at some later point, and made the decrease in health extremely gradual, but still balanced the game around the 50% health mark.

Then Dark Souls 3 was like, “Okay, people don’t really get that the health is supposed to be a temporary bonus to add some variance because it looks like we took something away from them, lets show it as a bonus instead” And they made embers renewable.

The whole thing gets played up a lot as being bad game design, “punishing” players for dying, making it so bad players are punished even harder. I saw one guy call it “republican dad game design”. I mean, the exact same thing happened in WoW with the rested/unrested bonus/penalty.
http://www.psychologyofgames.com/2010/03/framing-and-world-of-warcrafts-rest-system/

And people know about this now and still say they like Dark Souls 3 better for framing it as a bonus. People are dumb, about all I can say.

What are Option Selects?

Can you define what option selects are in fighting games, what they do, and why they are useful? I looked them up on Google, but I still can’t seem to grasp the concept of them.

Sorry for answering late. An option select is when you input one thing that can have multiple possible resolutions depending on what your opponent does.

Probably the most common type of option select in fighting games is one where the move will situationally have two different effects depending on what happens. For example, in 1 button fighting games, you can either throw by pressing forward + attack, or with that same input, just get an attack. In KOF in particular, across every single KOF game, it’s always been possible to option select between throwing, and some fast close range attack, because either your C or D (KOF’s two throw buttons) has a close range version of the attack bound to that button which comes out extremely fast. So if the opponent is throwable, you get a throw, if they’re not, you get a fast and powerful attack.

Another common type of option select is inputting additional actions that will get eaten depending on whether your first input comes out or not. For example, in Guilty Gear Xrd, you’re allowed to Yellow Roman Cancel command throws, but not Red Roman Cancel them. This means if you do a command throw, you can input the cancel, and it will cancel if you miss, and not cancel if you hit. So if you can cancel them when they miss, this means you can do something else immediately after they whiff, such as jump and attempt an air throw, meaning you can run into someone’s face, and either get a grounded command throw or an air throw, you’re throwing them on the air and ground in extremely short succession, and whichever one connects will continue. This is effectively an unblockable.

Another version of this is inputting things during hitstop. Hitstop puts your character in a state where you cannot act. By inputting when this time would happen, you’re making it so you’ll get actions if you fail to hit, but won’t get actions if you successfully hit. You can use this to situationally follow up depending on whiff or hit.

Hitstop also has another function, acting as the cancel window for special moves. In some games, hitstop is actually different on block and hit. This is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS! If hitstop is longer on hit than on block, then people can precisely target that interval where hitstop is longer and try to time their cancel for right then, because on hit, they will successfully cancel, and on block, they will be inputting too late to cancel. This means you can commit to risky special moves only on hit, making your moves way more powerful without risking anything. In an earlier version of SFV, Ken had this issue. I heard it also existed in MK9.

In a way, special move canceling by itself can be viewed as an option select, since you’ll cancel on hit/block, but not on whiff. Once you realize this, you can poke with cancellable normals, and time your special move buffer on them so it’s done before the move recovers. Then you can use that special move slightly outside where your opponent is standing to catch them if they move forward and therefore cannot block.

Option selects can occur anywhere where one input or sequence of inputs can be interpreted as 2 possible outcomes. Learning to look for cases like this is very tricky.

These aren’t very common in Super Smash Bros, because there’s almost no cancels in Smash Bros, and moves tend to only have 1 consistent effect regardless of what situation they’re used in. The amount of hitstop on whiff, hit, and block are different, but this doesn’t tend to actually be useful for creating option selects in the smash series. There are cases that are very common however in smash bros where you can position yourself in such a way that regardless of what option your opponent picks, you can react to it and perform the counter option. Smash Bros fans call this option coverage. You sometimes see commentators mistakenly call it an option select, but it’s not the same series of inputs every time, it’s the person consciously changing which input they’ll use based on what they see.

One example of a true option select in Smash Bros is in Project M with G&W. Game and Watch’s throws are all identical in appearance, so you never know which way he’ll throw you. He gets his best followups off down throw, but you can defeat that easily by inputting a tech right before his throw ends. This means that regardless of whether he actually down throws you or not, you will always tech it.

Another one has to do with meteor canceling. There’s actually 2 ways to meteor cancel, jumping, and up B-ing. There is an 18 frame lockout window after being meteor’d and trying to input too soon will lock you out from canceling, but jumping and up B both count independently from each other, so you can try both instead of just one. So if you get meteored, you can input jump first, then up B immediately afterwards, and if you screw up the first one, the second one might work.

I hope this makes it more clear. Option selects can be really really varied across games. Guilty Gear Xrd used to have one where you could mash roman cancel during combos between 25% and 50% meter, and it would automatically cancel your combo if your opponent bursted out, because they were no longer counted as being in hitstun. This means if they don’t burst, your combo continues, but if they do burst, you instantly YRC, making you safe from their burst. This was later fixed.

Using Advanced AI for Single Player Games

Thoughts on all the people saying they should put OpenAI and Deepmind into single player games to make the enemies smarter? https://www.theverge.com/2017/8/11/16137388/dota-2-dendi-open-ai-elon-musk

This entire line of discussion of is stupid. You can’t compare AI beating humans at multiplayer games with AI used in singleplayer games. The two are trying to accomplish fundamentally different purposes. AI in single player games is a Game Design issue, not a Technology issue. Developing AI that will beat players every single time at a multiplayer game usually isn’t a process of making the AI smarter the same way a human opponent can improve, it’s usually a matter of the AI having better timing, reaction speed, and knowing the best decision to make for each situation. AI doesn’t play the game the same way humans do, with our slow reaction time, our ability to only keep like 9 things in our head at maximum, our limited ability to simulate and predict what the game state will be. If you want to build a perfect AI that always wins at say, street fighter, you could just make it uppercut when you attack, throw when you block, and block when you uppercut, and the game is over. There’s already a number of bots like this at the top of the SFV leaderboards and the only reason they don’t win every match is because of netplay lag. Continue reading

Contact Damage Enemies are Amazing

How come direct contact enemies are so good? Alpha Metroids in AM2R are so great, Konami slapped a sine wave motion to some faces and they are talked about to this day etc, they seem to create much better depth with character movement and abilities than a dedicated “press for iframes” dodge button

Contact damage is nice because it allows the enemy to block your way with their body. In non-contact damage games, you can hug up against enemies to run past them without much issue. It also knocks you back in the process of touching them (having no-damage knockback, accompanied by a shoving animation, might be a smart idea to make enemies better at blocking your way without contact damage) Continue reading