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

Negative Feedback Makes Me Rage

What do you think of the rage mechanic in smash 4?

It’s irritating. If there weren’t multiple stocks, then I’d outright hate it unconditionally.

Rage is a knockback multiplier, similar to weight. As you gain percentage, you deal more knockback, which also means you deal more hitstun. Damage in Smash Bros increases knockback, so by dealing damage to your opponent, you’re giving them rage, which increases their knockback, much as if you had taken damage. Effectively, by hurting your opponent, you’re hurting yourself, thanks to rage. (Actually, I think rage multiplies knockback more than percentage does, so you’re hurting yourself more than you’re hurting them) Continue reading

Throws in Smash Bros

What do you think of the way throws work in the Smash Bros series?

There’s nothing else like it in any game I’ve seen, except Skullgirls with Beowolf, and I guess King in Tekken.

Lemme just describe how it works, basically, once you get a grab, the other player is held in front of you in a grapple, instead of instantly thrown like in most other fighting games. In this state, there is a timer that counts down until the other guy is released, the timer is longer relative to how high percentage is. (and if the guy is holding up or presses jump, then they’ll jump upwards when released) The player who is grabbed can reduce the duration of this timer by mashing buttons (I hear the best method is to spin the control stick, varies by game since Brawl and Smash 4 handle inputs differently). Once the timer runs out, you’re released as soon as it’s possible. So past a certain point, mashing out of icies wobble is pointless, you’ll escape automatically if they mess up. Continue reading

Fake-out Attacks

What do you think of fakeout attacks? (Both when enemies use them in single plaher action games, or other genre’s, and in multiplayer fighting games)

Enemies using fakeouts in single player games:
I can’t think of a reason to use this off the top of my head. From the player’s perspective, it’s like the enemy randomly attacks or doesn’t. This creates the situation where the enemy uses the fakeout attack, and the player can safely attack them, but randomly sometimes they’ll actually do it, so they’ll trade hits with the player. Beginners might get scared by the fakeout attack, but intermediate will realize it’s basically just an animation where they do nothing important, so they can be attacked.

Maybe it would make sense in a game where enemies attacking requires an action that costs something from the player, and there’s a tell between the real and fakeout attack. Like in Furi, fakeouts would mean you can’t parry the next incoming attack, so if you made a system similar to this you could have the mixup between fakeout or not, then maybe a small reaction period for you to realize you’ve been faked out to let you dodge or something. Similar was used in the Mario and Luigi RPGs, where enemies would sometimes fake you out, so you’d jump over incoming attacks that weren’t coming, setting you up to be hit by the followup.
Continue reading

Smash Bros Move-Staling is Pointless

Any thoughts on move-staling in Smash?

I don’t think it serves a real design purpose. It weakens repeated attacks, which can make the effect of attacks subtly inconsistent, changing the amount of damage, knockback, and shieldstun. The thing is, there’s really no need to make repeated attacks weaker. Making repeated attacks weaker doesn’t prevent any type of degenerate play, it doesn’t encourage any specific tactical plays that are beneficial for the game overall, or add a significant situational factor that can be taken advantage of in the moment like stun.

It mildly discourages using the same move a lot, a tactic that many people would call spamming, but the thing is, there’s nothing wrong with spamming. If using the same move works versus your opponent, then you should keep doing it, not be forced by the system to use other moves to keep your useful moves powerful.

And stale moves can interfere with a lot of things, like it changes the knockback threshold on moves that will cause knockdown versus not, it can change shield stun, making safe on shield moves unsafe.

Thankfully the effect of stale moves in Melee is so small that it can largely be ignored, and PM had the good sense to remove the knockback component of stale moves completely. In Brawl however stale moves had a more extreme effect on knockback, enough that if you played a character like fox, it was recommended you only hit with the second hit of up air to kill, because the first hit would invoke scaling, reducing kill potential. Smash 4 has reduced the effect of stale moves, sitting it somewhere between Melee and Brawl, so it’s probably more tolerable in that game, but in general I don’t think it’s something that has a place in Smash Bros.

In a good fighting game, there doesn’t need to be a regulatory system preventing you from using duplicate moves, because in a good fighting game, using the same move repeatedly is a bad idea because it opens you up to be countered by your opponent.

Notably, Skullgirls has a mildly similar system in its game, the IPS, preventing you from using the same move to start a combo more than once, but of course this doesn’t mean that any of the moves in that game are situationally weaker in the neutral game, it just prevents you from doing infinites and practically nothing else. Using systems like this makes a lot more sense for limiting the length/strength of combos in traditional fighters than anything in Smash Bros, which doesn’t have issues with combo length.

Stale moves just feels like a design loose end trying to fix a problem that didn’t need fixing.

RNG Fighting Game Moves

What do you think of fighting characters that have special moves that change based on RNG (Like Luigi’s missfire, Peaches turnip pull, or anything else you can think of)?

I’m not really a fan, because sometimes the opponent just gets a lucky draw and you lose and oh well. Random stuff basically always does this unless there’s fore-knowledge of when it’s gonna come up ahead of time, which doesn’t completely negate the random effect, but mitigates it somewhat.

There’s a few other fighting game characters that have random effects like that, I can think of Faust, Teddy, and Zappa, from Guilty Gear and Persona 4 Arena. Phoenix Wright too, but the randomness screws him over more than his opponent. Game and Watch has a random effect in smash too, on his judgment hammer.

I mean, I just think all instances of randomness should be replaced by something that is deterministic and can be kept track of relatively easily, but which still looks random to the untrained eye, and has about the same level of frequency in outcome.

Barring that, there’s ways to build more consistent randomized systems, some of which you can see in Project M, some of which you can see in Dota 2.

One thing Project M did with Peach was make her Fsmash totally deterministic, it rotates the 3 possible items each time it’s used. Another thing is making it so Luigi’s next misfire is guaranteed to show up within the next 6 times it’s used, and allowing you to hang onto it. And with Game and Watch, they made it so the judgment hammer cannot repeat the last 2 numbers, and it has a light over it indicating whether the next number is even or odd, so you can stack the odds in your favor

Zappa in Guilty Gear has an ability to summon a ghost, and this is actually dependent on what second the timer is on. Some seconds still produce a random result however.

DotA 2, and a few other games, use what they call a PRNG (Pseudorandom number generator). Technically all games use a PRNG if you want to get really technical, because computers can’t generate random numbers, but that’s beside the point. Basically, when something says it has a certain odds of success, like 25%, instead of it actually having those odds each hit, it starts at a much lower chance of success and that chance increases drastically for each time it doesn’t succeed. This is set up so an ability with a 25% chance will occur roughly 1 in 4 times every time. By doing it this way, they reduce “floods” and “droughts” of a result coming up or failing to come up. People don’t actually have a very good mechanism for understanding random chance, we tend to fixate a little on the odds in the short term, and expect more uniformly distributed results than are actually likely to occur. This system makes it so a 25% chance effect will only very rarely occur twice in a row, and will only very rarely fail to occur after 6 attempts.

My general recommendation is, don’t include random effects if you can avoid it, it usually doesn’t add a lot, even if it’s funny some times. If you feel it’s necessary, find an RNG algorithm that works for you instead of flat % chance.

The Majesty of Dark Souls 3’s Backstab

Can you explain how the backstab mechanic is different in the Souls games and why you think 3 has it best?


Backstab works basically the same in Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls. If you’re behind the enemy, standing within a certain area, and press R1, then at that moment both you and the enemy will play a joint animation where you backstab him. During this animation you’re both invincible. It’s sort of like a 0 frame throw in old versions of street fighter. Oh, and you can’t backstab if your shield is up.

This meant that backstab, no matter what weapon you had, was essentially instant and inescapable. Your only defense was preventing the enemy from getting behind your back at all. Backstabs were more powerful than regular attacks, so a lot of PVP was just about backstabbing and avoiding backstabbing.

In Dark Souls 2, they decided to mess with backstabs a little. Instead of instantly going into the combined animation where you’re stabbing them, they gave you a little punch animation first. This punch was unblockable and would cancel on hit into the full backstab. If it missed then nothing else would happen. This is a bit more like a modern fighting game throw. You have a chance to roll out or walk away before getting hit by it. This significantly reduced the role of backstabs in PVP, while keeping them viable. Backstabs were still really powerful in PvE however. Also from a thematic standpoint it’s kind of weird that you punch the guy then stab them, didn’t really match the prior games.

In Bloodborne it seems like they REALLY didn’t want anyone to fuck with backstabs at all. In order to get a backstab, you needed to charge your R2 attack all the way up and hit the enemy in the back with it, much like the positioning for backstabs in the other games. Then they’d become vulnerable and you’d get to do the 0frame throw thing for a ton of bonus damage. So overall you were getting a lot more damage out of successful backstabs in bloodborne, but it was a lot harder to set them up mid-combat, and they were now basically completely irrelevant to PVP.

In Dark Souls 3, they clearly wanted to have backstabs match demon’s souls and dark souls 1, and to do this they assembled a mechanic that’s practically a work of art. Basically, when you press R1 within the activation range, instead of directly entering a joint animation with the enemy, you’ll instead play a specific backstabbing animation. If the enemy stays close to you, then at a certain point in this animation, there’s an invisible unblockable hitbox that comes out that forces them into a joint animation with you, canceling whatever they were doing, and canceling your lone backstabbing animation into the joint backstab (using animation blending). If they aren’t in range of this hitbox, then you’ll just continue to play the lone backstab animation, which functions as a regular (slower) attack basically. So you smoothly either get a backstab or just stab without needing to punch them first like dark souls 2, and without an instantaneous startup like DaS1 and DeS.

Enemies that Dodge and Block

What do you think of enemies that can block or dodge your attacks?

It can be kind of tricky to get this right. Dodging especially. Like, the question is obviously, when should enemies dodge? Should they dodge when you attack? How often? If they only dodge right when you attack, then the dodge is kind of guaranteed, but also kind of like, “Okay, we feel like you shouldn’t get damage this hit because we felt like it, rolled some dice and you didn’t come up lucky”. So for all effective purposes, sometimes your hits just don’t deal damage. This is lame naturally, but this is how dodges in say Dark Messiah, and God Hand work as well as maybe a few other games. It does from a superficial standpoint make the enemies look more intelligent however.

The Souls games have enemies that can dodge too, but it is a randomly utilized part of their moveset rather than something they choose to do in reaction to the player. So they can dodge at bad times or good times and their dodges can be punished.

Curse of Issyos did a similar thing to this with blocking (look up footage and you’re bound to see it). Many enemies have shields that can block you, and when you hit them it’s decided randomly whether they are gonna block or not, so it’s as if they have way more health than they’re actually supposed to have. Sometimes you kill an enemy in 2 hits, sometimes it can take like 10 even though the enemy only has like 2 health. This is total nonsense.

Halo 1 did a SUPER clever thing here. They have enemies that dodge out of the way of your bullets, but they only do it in response to you successfully shooting them first, and they’re vulnerable for the entire dodge. So rather than enemies just deciding to dodge a bullet right as you shoot, they’ll dodge after being shot a little, so your first shot is always successful, and then you have this minigame of trying to trace them as they dodge.

Souls again has the correct solution on blocking here, enemies are programmed to block for periods of time or when they’re not attacking, and you’re given anti-block options like kicking and usually get a ton of damage if you do this successfully.

Basically, make blocking and dodging behaviors consistent and predictable, and give players a way to counter them.

Making Effective Counter Moves

What do you think of counter moves in fighting games? (Those in the smash games, cross counter, ect.)

I believe Mike Z made a good statement about those, counters shouldn’t have a distinct animation to them, because nobody’s gonna hit you if they see you in the stance, which is why Valentine in Skullgirls has a counter with no animation until she’s hit.

Counters are kind of like a worse dragon punch. They will beat any attack that hits them, but only if you do it at the same time they attack. The difference is that a counter will not attack afterwards like a dragon punch will, so it will not hit an opponent unless they attack. A dragon punch can be used to beat things like jump-ins or dash-ins, but a counter only works in those contexts if the opponent attacks afterwards. A dragon punch can punish a commitment that isn’t necessarily an attack, but counters only punish attacks.

And because you strike the counter stance, you are telegraphing to your opponent not to hit you, so to be effective with it, you need to go for that hard read that they will attack and not do something else. And if you can read them every time, that works great, but versus good opponents, they’ll realize after you do it twice that you’re trying to counter bait them, and start moving in without attacking, or using grabs instead of attacks. Dragon punches require tighter timing and are more punishable than counters, but they’re much more reliable as a tactic in high level matches.

The actual counter attacks work differently per-game. Sometimes they nullify incoming damage (Marth, Kolin, Valentine, Hakumen), sometimes they take incoming damage as super armor (Dudley in 3s & SF4), sometimes you’re given temporary health versus incoming attacks (Alarak in HOTS).

Sometimes you’re given full invincibility to any followup attack (Marth, Kolin, Valentine, Hakumen), sometimes you just have hyper armor during the counter attack (Dudley in 3s), sometimes the protection is only partial (Marth’s iframes wear off rather quickly, beating multihits, but not projectiles followed by melee).

Sometimes the counter hits a massive area to guarantee it beats long pokes (Leo Whitefang, Hakumen, Valentine), Sometimes the range is more limited and it can be baited out with the right hit (Dudley, Marth), Sometimes it pulls the opponent in like a hitgrab (Zangief in SFV S2.1, Kolin).

Sometimes you have an actual hitbox that catches enemy attacks (Marth has a large shieldbox for his counter that doesn’t cover his feet, Kolin’s V-Skill catches based on a hitbox, Hakumen has a catch hitbox for his D moves), sometimes it counters if the character is hit at all (Valentine, Dudley SF4, Leo Whitefang), sometimes it only catches certain types of attacks (Kolin, Rock & Geese, Zangief, Dudley 3s)

Sometimes you get followups off it (Hakumen), or it just does a lot of damage (everyone else).

The differences in implementation can make these counters more or less effective depending on the game. Marth’s is still useful for edgeguarding certain opponent’s up B moves, assuming they don’t sweet spot.

Making BOTW Climbing more Dynamic

Since BOTW is fresh on your mind, how would you go about improving its climbing system? Do you think climbing should have combat sections as well (Say spiders that can threaten to knock you off or whatever)

You’re not mobile enough to avoid spiders, so that would just get annoying.

The primary thing I’d do is just speed it up twice as much and have jumping consume maybe half as much stamina, enough that it’s still significantly more than climbing the same distance, but not so much that you only get like 3 jumps, thereby letting you scale things a bit faster.

Add the skyward sword stamina regen fruit, make them move in some way. Continue reading