Monday, June 11, 2012

Hungry Developers Make Better Games

I sit here wondering to myself, how is it possible that Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown is a far superior game to Street Fighter X Tekken? Here we have two games, both in the same genre, with the same basic selling point for both of them (multiplayer competitive fighting) game has a much bigger budget and development crew than the had a much larger marketing campaign and loftier promises...That was SFxT. I was one of the millions of gamers the world over waiting for the greatest fighting game experience since SF4 revitalized the fighting game scene. So when all the controversies for the game occurred, I'm one of those that were affected. When I bought SFxT it was practically an investment. You buy a fighting game knowing it will give you hours and hours of gameplay. You know it shouldn't end in just a week or a day. Multiplayer gaming guarantees the endless availability of competition, that the constant desire to improve at the game will drive you to keep on playing...

The game was a good game, but over time I realized there was a lot lacking with it. The character balance was not very well done. Other players have pointed out that most games degenerate into a race to who gets to successfully low jab the other player first....another thing I didn't like was the ambiguous cross ups, which were manageable in the beginning but over time just become irritating and seemingly unfair. You've got flying kicks where you just don't know how to block them. You can probably get used to it after a while, but visually it just doesn't feel right. You have to block backwards to block an attack that looks like its going through the front. I thought this game was supposed to invite new players? A good player will just exploit the ambiguity and destroy new players with constant jump-ins. There are also ambiguous low/high mixups....visually the attack looks like you should block it low; but you should actually block it HIGH...and the opposite also exists as well. So for the new cast of Tekken characters, they already have a distinct advantage over SF players who are unfamiliar with their opponent's blockstrings.

These were issues I grew to accept in SFxT. I tried playing with those in the game, I could manage and hold my own....but then, day after day I noticed the player base got smaller...and smaller....and smaller....

You don't need statistical information to back that one up....just go to Player Match or Ranked Match in's very hard to find other players, and it just seems like you're playing against the same people over and over. I'm not sure if it's a 'feature' of the game where it just gets good ping connections....but for several days I noticed there were just fewer players, and the variety was pretty dismal.

Here's this million dollar game....and it makes mistakes that make it feel like it was made for a lot less money. It's really unfortunate. I looked forward to SFxT, heck I even bought a new stick just for some point I had wished I just saved my money.

Now, a year or so ago, Sega promised to bring in the latest revision of VF to home consoles: Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown. I was a big fan of the 360 version back in the day, so big that I even ended up on the WCG 2008 tournament for it. It was just a really fun game, and it had some really good netcode on the Xbox version. Aside from the announcement of the game, usually I'd hear about Sega's financial troubles...those guys are knee-deep in debt and I think they'll be out of business in a few years unless some kind of miracle happens. There were some news postings online about how Sega would just focus on a few key franchises, and many worried that VF5FS would never be released. Luckily those rumors didn't come true.

VF5FS comes out for the PS3 and Xbox (and I got the PS3 version, because I don't have a live subscription anymore....). It's every bit as good as the game I remember from 2008 for the Xbox 360. Even with the PS3's online hiccups, the game plays spectacularly.

Here we have a 15$ game that has:

- Superior netcode
- A well designed training mode
- A wide variety of characters
- Very balanced characters/movesets----it seems this game is even more balanced than the previous version of VF5!

For $15 the game feels like it's worth $60. Say what you will about its downloadable least you don't need the costumes to win matches. Those are completely optional, and they aren't part of the download, so there's no argument about what content does and doesn't belong to the player....

Sega delivered in every way. And I still can't explain why their netcode is so good. The only explanation I could think of is maybe they have some old R&D from their Dreamcast days in that game. Imagine...they had VF working on 56k modems back in the late 90s/early 2000s! Maybe whatever R&D they already have is existing in that very game...and with today's high speed DSL connections the game just literally flies....even on matches vs opponents with grey bars, the game is playable. You can feel input lag but it still works! It's really amazing.

So maybe the only conclusion I could probably make is this: Hungry developers make better games. You have Sega, down on their luck, down by the billions in debt, on the brink of utter collapse....and you have Capcom, the superstar of the fighting genre today, well-funded and with a solid reputation....Sega just made the better game with probably the smaller budget when compared to Capcom. Their game is more inspired, more solidly constructed, and just damn more fun than Capcom's SFxT. It works very well in today's online gaming environment. It would be a real shame if Sega went under. I wish they wouldn't...I would really miss their games and their creativity in designing them. The last game I played from Sega was Binary Domain---that game flopped in the market....but it was a really fun shooter. The only challenge it probably had was lack of marketing. Sega's financial troubles are affecting its ability to sell their games. I just hope the very positive word of mouth for VF5FS will help push the game to more players and convince Sega that the VF series is worth keeping.