Thursday, February 26, 2009

David Sirlin Says SFIV Is Too Complex. I Completely Disagree.

When I read about the 100/100 scores, I see again and again how "simple and elegant" the game is. Two super meters, a 3-tier focus attack system, and all the complications above seem to fly in the face of that. Even more though, I hear how "casual friendly" it is. This is deeply mysterious and I'm not sure why this so often claimed. Not every game has to be casual friendly, so it would seem more honest to just explain how casual unfriendly all these things are. Qcf x 2 +PPP all the time, extra button presses to throw, extra button presses to roman cancel, and many, many extremely difficult link combos work in concert to create that impenetrable wall of execution between you and the actual game (the interaction between you and your opponent). I wish we could get rid of all this stuff and focus more on the gameplay itself.

I read the full article and I completely disagreed with what Sirlin had to say. I've come off playing Virtua Fighter 5 after a long time and going into Street Fighter IV, it seemed far simpler to me than the previous game that I played.

One thing is that I have some degree of experience with older Street Fighter games, so the learning curve for players like myself isn't so high. The question is, does he have a point when it comes to bringing in more casual gamers to the fighting genre?

I think there's a lot more to bringing in more players to fighting games than just giving them a button to push which lets them pull off fireballs instantly. Fighting games are just simply more competitive. Even if you made the controls really easy for new players, I think a lot of them would stop playing at some point. Why? I think it's less to do with the ability to pull off moves easily, and more to do with the psychological effect of winning or losing in a game.

I think I've talked about this in other blog posts previously. In a fighting game, when you LOSE, it's more easy to get discouraged to keep on playing. That's because when you lose, you lose all by yourself, and you've got no one else to blame. For players who get easily affected by losing, all it takes is a continuous streak of losses to completely give up on a game. No amount of move shortcuts is going to change that fact about fighting games. The part where you can actually lose (and feel pretty stupid about it) is something that is just part and parcel of the genre.

Picture this....putting fireballs and dragon punches to each button of your controller won't make everyone like the game more. That's because it won't make them win any easily against other players, who have access to the exact same shortcuts. So what you'll have is a scenario where players who already know the game will have an even EASIER time beating up new players. I don't think it was ever about putting shortcuts for special moves or making ultra/super moves easier.

One thing that made Street Fighter II so popular way back then (in the 90's) was the social aspect of it. Friends of mine would huddle around a machine and talk about how to play the game, and how to get better at it. Paying for each game made it feel like 'gambling' in a way; the better you were at the game, the less money you spent on tokens. So even if you didn't really win any money playing Street Fighter II, at least you didn't spend any more money, and had a damn good time playing it.

With today's gamers, that isn't really the case now. With the Internet making playing online the more convenient option, the real-life social aspect of playing fighting games is a bit lost on people. When you play a fighting game online, you don't have the chance to ask a person how he won or what he did different. The anonymity of the Internet just makes people usually more inclined to trash talk other players or blame lag or other things. In a sense, the fighting game environment today is more brutal on people's ego, there's more of a sense of isolation when you play a fighting game in the online environment.

And I think that's the primary reason why you aren't seeing Street Fighter IV suddenly ursurping Guitar Hero as the game of choice for connected, casual gamers.

By its very nature, fighting games are simply more competitive in feel and scope. Making moves easier is not going to make things any different for the genre. I think it will just introduce a sense of randomness to the game, a sense of 'cheap wins' (winning where you know you just got 'lucky' and you didn't really earn the victory).

I don't think the method for executing special moves in fighting games should be dumbed down. What I DO think, is that fighting games should do MORE to train players to get better. Virtua Fighter 5's Dojo Mode is pretty good, but still not good enough. I had wished that SF4 would have had a similar mode to that game when it comes to training new players. Also, there should be some kind of area in the online mode that's really for new players and meant to demonstrate how or why a player won or lost. Something like that would be more technical to achieve, but it's really the only solution to improve the reception towards fighting games that casual users usually have.


For readers who thought my post was TL;DR, here's a short summary.

Making special moves easier in fighting games is NOT going to suddenly make casual gamers like them. By their very nature, fighting games require far more dedication and training to play because the reward (and punishment) for winning or losing is more brutal. You can only blame yourself when you're not good enough at it.

The only way for fighting games to overcome this and become more popular with gamers is to reintroduce the social aspect this gametype once had, when it was being played by people meeting up in real life in the arcades. Players have to somehow be able to teach and encourage other players to get better....and essentially remind them all that it's just a game, and it's meant to be fun.

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