Casual Progression

Some players are better than others, that's an obvious given but also an important one. The reason gaps are important is the same reason that it's important in basketball/baseball/etc. You will not beat Michael Jordan if you've never even stepped onto a basketball court, and you can't hope to perform as well or be as valued as Babe Ruth if you've never played baseball a single day in your life.

I've encountered some players who say that some games are designed too "hard" or "difficult" and the "learning curve" is not to their liking, and the argument is that these games reward grinding practice far too much. I've also heard the opposite where players say a game is too easy. Well sorry to repeat what I've just said, but if you've put no effort into practicing a game then why should you be favored to win over a player who has put in effort, right? Nope, the player who has worked hard and actually cares about the game and about winning should win. If you think you're so talented that your talent should carry you then go right ahead and keep thinking that, while you continue to not place top 8 at tournaments where other dedicated and talented players do (unless you are placing, then you shouldn't be complaining). When a game is too easy is when things become more about personal experience.

Coin flips are easy and linear, not much to them, but that shouldn't bother you or anyone else. You didn't put effort into training to win a coin flip, so there's no point getting upset over it. There are players who greatly enjoy coin flips though, and you shouldn't try to modify the coin flip game just because it doesn't appeal to you due it being simple. Some people enjoy simplicity. If you don't then at least you know why. Move on.

Exciting things also happen when there's a distinct fissure between players. Style, skill, talent, everything. If every game was Ryu versus Ryu of equal player-skill then it would be boring. It would bore anyone who doesn't main Ryu, bore any observers/spectators, and even bore Ryu mains too, eventually. There aren't twenty copies of Tiger Woods, and the golfing world is probably extremely happy about that.

I personally would agree that a game's difficulty shouldn't be about how difficult it is to perform something like c.MK into fireball. Instead, how difficult is it to land that c.MK in the first place and why. Are you the type of person that throws out a c.MK expecting it to hit, and then gets frustrated when it doesn't hit? I ask because the question itself is something everyone should ask themselves, not only to evaluate their involvement with fighting games, but rather to also consider why frustration is the reaction to "expected [x], but got something different". It extends to both sides of the spectrum: You expected to win, but you didn't.

Most players will get bored doing c.LK c.LK hitconfirm into special/super over and over again against a dummy in training mode. The dummy isn't fighting back. It's the real fans/athletes of the genre that take joy in the next step: Challenge. The challenge of, if the dummy was trying to do the same thing you are, then how do you: A) Prevent the dummy from hitting you with c.LK and B) How do you land your own c.LK knowing that the dummy will try and block or otherwise prevent it (and still also trying to hit you)? With this struggle, it's up to you to find enjoyment in this hobby and whether or not you also would consider Fighting Games as a sport (spectator sport). It's not always going to go your way every match, and that should be a good thing. A fun and interesting and motivating thing.

Watering a game down or making it easy doesn't necessarily kill a game though. Any game will eventually get judged by the community after it gets broken down and analyzed by enthusiasts (usually pretty fast!), and you're free to come up with your own conclusions of course. When a game is dead in the water, it ended up there on it's own accord. Your own personal opinion about a game being easy or difficult makes very little difference in the long run regarding a game's popularity and longevity, as each player experiences the game in their own way and with each other and formulates their own judgement. If a fighting game author were to try and adjust a game's difficulty/ease to try and appeal to the audience after it's initial release, sorry: It has already been judged.

The act of pushing a direction down and pressing the LK button to perform a c.LK is, after all, fairly simple. Most games, though, force you to find creative ways to land that c.LK. So regardless of how easy it is to perform a c.LK or how easy it is to do a two hit or multiple hit combo after landing the c.LK is relatively unimportant to the learning curve and difficulty of the game. What is important is how hard and interesting the game makes it to land the c.LK in the first place, and all the dynamics involved. That is what the community judged in the first place, how fun it is to figure out and exploit strategy.

If these concepts fail you, then it may be time to sit back and reflect on everything in retrospect. In the end, what is important is your own experience. If you're not having a good one, then consider that others are having a good time and maybe the problem lies elsewhere, not with the game and not with them.

In closing: It's actually a good thing when casual players get butt-hurt over a loss, maybe not for the game's unit sale$, but because young children that are still in elementary school shouldn't be able to compete in the NBA with Michael Jordan. They should get their asses handed to them just as hard on a basketball court as they would in a video game against seasoned players of superior experience and talent. Widening or narrowing the basketball hoop or backboard shouldn't change things at all, the elementary school students should still get whooped by a professional player who has the advantages of: Experience, physique, intelligence. Likewise the same logic can apply to fighting games. Making a combo or universal action easier or harder shouldn't affect the outcome between a newb and a top player. Why should a newb player who has never played Street Fighter a day in their life be able to compete with players like Daigo and Wong during a tournament like Evolution? They should not, and they do not. It doesn't happen. It has not happened in over a decade since Evo started, so it's not something to worry about. The fact remains: The players who put in the most effort and are naturally talented come out on top, regardless of how easy or hard the game is. The way it should be.

- Copyright © Xenozip.

1 comment:

Crow Winters said...

It's hard to argue with anything here!

I think some people get scared when producers like Ono or Sakurai talk about making the game easier for new players, or making it to where casuals can do better vs. Pros. I think everytime someone involved in the game making process says that, they either are dishonest (ie. just paying lip service to casuals) or they don't understand their own game or genre. I don't think it's much of a secret that Ono, for example, really can't talk about SF mechanically, which is why we have people like Combofiend working for capcom.

As many problems as I had with SC5, It was refreshing that Dashio (I think that was his name?) absolutely knew the lingo of his own game, and pretty much came out of the gate saying "we're making these mechanical changes for (concrete reasons)". There was never a moment of SC5's development where anyone on the team said they were going to make the game easier for newbies, or wanting to close the gap.

"How you land X" being the most interesting part of any game is so important and I think something games often times don't bother explaining. Fighting games are notoriously difficult explaining the why. They'll show a convoluted "how" (sometimes!) and leave the rest up to the player. Is that good? Is that bad? I think it depends upon the game's level of complexity. I certainly think SF could have benefited explaining what a link was in game, for example, but it still sold buckets.

To elaborate on the anecdote I was telling you on twitter: I am not a smash player. I went to a local smash tourney with some pretty strong players from Texas (Hakaii, Incendiary, etc) and ended up beating Incendiary pretty cleanly. He played really smart, patient, well researched, and clean footsies... exactly the sort of thing I can deal with because I don't know anything other then neutral. I played a much worse player later on the tournament that played the same character as him that bodied me because he just got in my face and took giant, disrespectful risks. I don't play the game enough to react to the things other players at that tournament probably react to all the time, and I think Incendiary would have beaten me had he just not assumed right out of the gate I actually understood things about basic smash. He should have tried something disrespectful at first somewhere during our first match just to see- and, in relation to your article, I think that's a really common mistake so many new players will make. They make assumptions about how a game should be played, they won't think about the player they are against.