Shoryuken Posts A Comprehensive Guide On Fighting Games (With A Side Of Game Design)
Before we get things started, I'll offer an explanation of the "fighting" genre for those of you who don't really have much experience with it. Basically, a fighting game is any game which pits two characters against one another in a close-combat situation. The goal is simple: beat the tar out of your foe before they do the same to you. Traditional arenas are two-dimensional, and the most powerful attacks are usually carried out through increasingly-difficult button combinations. Some variations exist (additional combatants, different arena types, different special attack mechanics) but that's the fighting game at its core.
Full disclosure: I'm awful at those types of games (with the notable exception of Super Smash Bros). Like...really awful. I've sorta made peace with that, though. I know that perhaps I've the capacity to be better, but it's not really a burning, unceasing desire. I occasionally play them, I'm occasionally passable at them, and I'm happy with that. I also understand that not everyone is.
A little over a week ago, Evo 2013 - the world fighting games championship - wound down. As with every year around this time, legions of fans are going to the pros to ask about the how, the what, and the where of cutting their teeth on the genre. Mind you, there's nothing wrong with that - it's great that people are interested - but it can get a little old after a while.
Patrick of Shoryuken has finally decided to put all the questions new players have about the genre to rest, with a rather comprehensive guide, called "So You Want To Learn To Play A Fighting Game."
After all, notes Patrick; "we should all be proud that our competitive events don't just highlight the best players - they motivate people, as well...but all that time spent giving newbies tips is time we could be spending in the lab." I'll spare you guys the intimate details - those of you who'd care to read it can go here. Instead, I'm going to zero-in on what I feel to be the most interesting segment of the piece: that it highlights something fundamental about game design. Consequently, this is the most important part of the guide, too.
"Video games have lied to you," writes Patrick. "Odds are the vast majority of games you play have been impeccably designed to ease you into gradually feeling like a master...this is because people who make games want you to play them, so they give you levels that look harder than they are, introduce subtle mechanics like auto-aim to make you feel like a crack shot, and so-on. They know that most people don't like playing games that make them feel like they suck, because no one likes to spend an hour or two of free time every day feeling like they suck.
No one...except people who play fighting games. We love this feeling, because when we play a game that accurately acknowledges the fact, we get to have the feeling of gradually getting better at it. In other words: for many video games, you learn how to play better so that you can progress to the end. For fighting games, developing the skill is an end in itself."
We're actually seeing a lot more of games like this hitting the shelves lately; games like Dark Souls, Dragon's Dogma, Dota 2, and League of Legends. These are games that you're probably going to be awful at when you first start playing, and this fact will be acknowledged (sometimes very subtly) in each title.
These are games you're going to have to practice at if you've ever any hope of getting better. There's really little else to say. Somehow, in spite of this, they haven't struck out with the mainstream. Instead, games like League of Legends have become some of the most popular, well-known titles in the world.
Too often it seems as though mainstream gaming is an exercise in hand-holding: developers design games that make people feel hardcore with minimal effort because people (presumably) like to feel good. What a lot of them don't seem to realize is that people also like to feel challenged. They like to be presented with a difficult obstacle, because overcoming that obstacle feels bloody incredible.
Fighting games - and their growing popularity of late - underscore that truth, as does the MOBA genre. With that in mind, there's something to be said for not making people feel like pros right out of the box; there's something to be said for making them earn that feeling of competence and capability. Perhaps it's not a style - or a design camp - for everyone, but it's certainly been catching on well enough as things stand now.
Once more, those of you who'd like to read the Shoryuken blog can check it out here. I'll catch you folks tomorrow.