How many meaningful decisions are there in a game of streetfighter?

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by SillySod, Aug 9, 2012.

  1. SillySod

    SillySod Active Member

    Sub-question: "How many meaningful decisions does a game need to have in order to be interesting?"

    I'm a big fan of street fighter in spite of being really really poor at the game. The game is lots of fun but it often gets frustrating that most of the actual strategy is hidden behind this big wall of stuff that I can't do. Like combos - it probably seems pretty pathetic but I can't do a combo to save my life and if I end up on the right hand side of the screen then I'm in real trouble.

    Anyway, despite being terrible I am at least aware that, at any given moment during a game, you have a huge range of options but only a few of them are actually sensible.

    e.g. I am playing Abel and you are playing Ryu. We are 3/4 of a screen apart.

    At this point I could do almost anything. I could attempt a throw, throw a punch, advance, focus attack, marseilles roll, backdash... anything. However, most of those options are crap. If I attempt a throw, punch, or special move then I am out of range and just make myself vulnerable to being hit by a fireball (ok, I can gain meter). Backdashing only puts me further out of range so thats obviously bad too. My options at that point are pretty much: advance. If you throw a fireball then suddenly my options blossom but, since I can react to the fireball and I'm out of range with all my attacks, advancing is pretty much the only sensible thing I can do.

    Ryu, meanwhile, has a whole heap of valid options. He could chuck a fireball, advance, remain stationary, or maybe dance around a bit for positioning. However, he still has heaps and heap of useless stupid options. Like, he could elect to jab or something. A jab wouldn't be terribly detrimental but it achieves pretty much nothing (I guess it could unnerve me) so we can rule it out as being pretty much a bad option.

    A parallel in Yomi would be Midori holding a 3, 4, 8, 10, Q. Obviously he could play any side of any of those cards and potentially get a hefty benefit. However, he would be stupid to play the 10 throw or the 4 attack because there are other options which are better in every way. Heck, it would be a misplay to lay down the 8 block so we can rule that out as a "real" option even if it would only be a tiny mistake.

    (incidentally, Yomi is impressive because most of these non-options have niche uses that should be played about 0.2% of the time or something, depending on game state)


    I want to know how many times you think a fighting game gives you a real decision to make.

    I'm also curious how many options you feel it gives you each time. If you know how many times it expects you to make an important decision (risk eating a big combo) then that would be handy too. Then there is also the sub-question, which seems like it almost needs its own thread.
  2. CWheezy

    CWheezy Well-Known Member

    http://www.twitch.tv/cwheezy/b/327837083

    OK, if you go to :30 seconds in this video, you see me anti air guile with a fp dp. As ken I could try to crossup, I could just try to regular safejump, I could meaty fireball, I could do a long range meaty to avoid a counter attack, like with cr roundhouse, I could meaty with a cr mp from closer, and do a link combo off of that, and I could meaty with cr lk, and then throw or mixup with a jab dp

    I chose meaty fireball because it is pretty safe, and puts me in a good position to immediately throw another one, but any one of these options are viable
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  3. Kayin

    Kayin Well-Known Member

    To answer the zero-question, depending on your definition of meaningful "Not many/zero". at least during the game. It's like if Magic decks played themselves, you'd still have an interesting game (though almost certainly a worse one, though maybe a unique one). The interest comes from the construction, planning and optimization still.

    In fighting games, a lot of what you're doing is training your inner monkey/reflects to do a lot of things the right way. Just being able to chuck fireballs and zone an opponent in a way where you give few openings is hard, not so much in a "meaningful decision" sense (though there is some of that for sure -- quite a lot depending on how you look at it. I'll get to that in a sec), but in that it is very information and focus intensive -- you need to be familiar about it that you're not thinking about the basic aspects of the strategy. The more your skill allows you to automate the fundemental aspects of the strategy, the more you can redirect your excess attention to small details. Like someone who's new is going to spend too much time thinking about the fact they even HAVE a fireball and that they should throw it at far range do to much else. Even if they know they should, they're probably spending too much time focusing on the QCF motion to say, notice and respond to a jump in... and the more innate the fundamentals of doing moves and zoning is, the more you can focus on new details and nuances.

    So you can have a decision that is "step back a quarter character length or less before throwing another fireball" and it only exists meaningfully to players of high enough skill to even notice that they should do it. These are subtle things that don't necessarily work logically as a 'risk/reward' decision (obviously there is risk/reward, but whatever), but more of a 'mastery decision' -- knowledge and performance that is an afffirmation that you as a player have your priorities straight and know what you're doing.

    I actually think around here (and I'm not exactly pointing at anyone!) that what a lot of people here do wrong is try and think of fighting games in the form of discrete decisions too much (the opposite of most new player problems!). The Abel situation you described is not one of discrete decisions, but of many small ones. I love being on the opposite side of a fireball character with a character like Zangief or Abel. There is a "Dance" to it -- so many little nuances of how far to walk forward, when to stop, when to wiggled and juke back, when to attack -- even just to whiff and try and make them react. Lots of little things, mostly psychological and a lot of also keeping your self in situations where you can react. Or even deciding if you wanna do that. Maybe you just want to sit there and block to get a read on your opponent. That, gameplay mechanics wise is not a 'meaningful decision', but it is, strategically. It's intel. Or it's setting the expectation of passivity. Or whatever. Subtle things.

    As for "real options" in a situation, a lot of that is stuff not even give to you necessarily by the game. How many real choices do I have to make when I just threw someone? Well I dunno, how many setups do I have? How much tech have I made in the lab? How much of it is core goodness that people understand is a basic part of the character at high level play and how much of it is little tricks to unnerve the opponent? In a very "analog" game like street fighter, a lot of decisions aren't "intrinsic". You CREATE discrete decisions and use that as a mental filter and everyone's list is going to be different. At super low level play, waking up with a normal can be a smart thing to do! Then at decent levels of play it becomes a good way to get whacked! Then you get really good and it... becomes an option again? Both because not only are you better at paying attention to detail, but because, playing at that level, you know your opponent probably is too and you can more reasonably predict their actions, allowing you to squeeze in rather obtuse but rewarding counters.

    Anyways, you definitely, from a competent level of play onward can ascribe a bunch of basic, near universal decisions in various situations(do I throw break, block, backdash or reversal on wakeup/blockstun recovery? Maybe even jump?) and by that standard I'd say they have a moderate amount of discrete decision making, but I think the approach is kinda misleading. By realizing what decisions in the context of a fighting game is, you can better make use of them.
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  4. ajfirecracker

    ajfirecracker Active Member

    A projectile character vs. non-projectile character matchup will always have some element of zoning vs. getting in. It's a natural artifact of one character having much greater range than the other.

    That said, you don't always have to advance. If you have a life lead, you might stay away and neutral jump or focus absorb fireballs. This forces Ryu to advance if he wants to win, and if your defense is good enough then that's actually preferable to advancing on him.

    The real options mostly come when you're close, so you get a group of possible actions that's like {poke/block string, invincible startup move, Focus attack, throw, block} depending on your character. Each of those is the best choice some reasonable percentage of the time. When you're close, I'd say you have to make a decision like this once or twice a second, so the basic issue of "what do I do now?" can come up 20 times a match.

    (Design note: your character having some block string/combo-if-it-hits that pushes the opponent away and lets you get back to zoning will be right to use a lot more of the time, and sucks out some of the richness of this decision, which comes up a million times in a match. Unless a character really needs it, I'd say you should avoid this type of block string. Super Turbo St. Strong -> Tiger Shot, anyone?)

    The other really obvious decisions come with wakeup pressure, where the attacking player has a ton of reasonable choice and the defender has only a few options. (Hence the advantage to the attacker) This only happens a few times in a match.

    Another decision which is mostly hidden in the combo system is related to how you end your combos. Do you use lots of meter for the most damage? Do you do the most meter-free damage? Do you end earlier with a sweep, giving up damage to score a knockdown?

    Finally, you can argue that every spacing decision (i.e. several per second) is meaningful. So, when you're trying to advance on an enemy character, and you manage to get into pokes/footsies range, there's always a decision of "do I edge a little closer/farther, or do I throw out a poke where I am?".
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  5. SillySod

    SillySod Active Member

    Hmmm, I've asked this question badly.

    I'm not concerned that fighting games don't have enough interesting decisions. Actually I think that they are one of the genres that clearly has enough decisions to be a valid game (even if they insist on obscuring the choices) and as such I was hoping to use them as a benchmark to compare with my own designs to ensure that I have created enough decisions to make the game interesting.

    What I haven't explained is that I want to make a semi-discrete fighting game which emphasizes the decision making process while making execution requirements extremely low. In terms of design space I'm looking at something that is halfway between a boardgame and a fighting game, hopefully with most of the positive aspects of both genres intact.

    One of the reasons I'm interested in identifying the decision making process in a discrete fashion is that I am designing around an interface where only one button is pressed at a time. I don't want complicated actions or two button throws or any of that nonsense - in this game you will press a button and observe a perfect dragonpunch. I'm also planning to do away with movement keys. All this might sound a bit mad but the upshot is that I need to be able to take the dazzling myriad of (largely pointless) options that a fighting game gives you and condense it down to a selection of maybe four "real" options that I can present to a player at any one time. Which raises questions like "is four buttons enough?" and "how many times should people be allowed to press one of the four buttons before one is declared the victor?". It also raises issues because the four buttons have to produce some sort of rational response each time they are pressed - its no good if your dragonpunch button sometimes execute a fireball, sometimes makes you do a jumping attack, and sometimes does a dragonpunch unless there is some sort of easily explained internal logic to "things that that button does". But thats my problem :)

    Anyway, interesting responses so far but not quite what I was angling for....
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  6. Kayin

    Kayin Well-Known Member

    Making something? Hooray, nothing I love hearing more! Also for my part, I never necessarily doubted that you thought there was enough -- but more so that perhaps you don't quite think of decision making in this situation optimally. Your project makes this a more interesting question.

    Anyways, good news and bad news. Bad News: You really can't meaningfully distill a fighting game down in full to "real" decisions. The Good News: Who the fuck cares, you get to pick and choose. Like, lemme talk about Yomi. Yomi doesn't really, in my opinion, try and emulate fighting games. It tries to emulate a specific aspect of fighting games (and one where the most actual discrete decisions happen). It sorta emulates the knockdown/wakeup/exitting blockstun scenario the best. Even there though, Sirlin played with concepts like Frame Advantage chips and discarded them. It reduced the accuracy to which Yomi emulates that aspect of fighting games, but really that doesn't matter much. It's value is more as a "direction" to aide design and as a theme. It is, primarily, Yomi(it's own entity) and secondarily an emulation of aspects of fighting games(but a strong second. You do not want to violate your theme too strongly or else everything sorta suffers!).

    So the compromises that you're going to have to do looking at a wider slice of the fighting game pie are going to have to be a lot bigger. Embrace it. Pick and choose. Don't worry about making things more of an abstraction than you're currently planning. Congealing a lot of subtle stuff into discrete decisions is going to be tricky.

    Though for my part, I'd wanna see decisions that involve creating setups for mixups and safe jumps so anything like that is going to seem cool to me. Anyways maybe I'll come back later and TRY and break down how a grappler character deals with zoner in discrete, macro decisions, but maybe someone will beat me too it. Either way, good luck!
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  7. CWheezy

    CWheezy Well-Known Member

    Make sure you add a character for kayinn where you have to constant be mashing 360's for sweet free mist cancel combos
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  8. keithburgun

    keithburgun Banned

    You know, I just played a bunch of Street Fighter 2 (HD Remix) yesterday, and... I really just think game design has come a long way since then. I think it's noisy, with all this intricate information everywhere that honestly, you should really just know and memorize if you want to get good (like arbitrary hitboxes and speeds for attacks). I think it's spammy, and even at like intermediate levels of play a crap player CAN sometimes win by just mashing buttons. Finally, I think the health bar is lazy and sloppy and flat. The state of the healthbar has really nothing to do with the gamestate. All that matters is: is it zero? If it's 1 or 100 it makes no difference. Contrast this with the damage system from Smash Brothers which is perfectly in tune with the core concept of the game: positioning.

    So, I think Street Fighter 2, at least, isn't good. But, after writing all of this, I realized you might be asking about 3 or 4. In that case disregard this message.
  9. Kayin

    Kayin Well-Known Member

  10. link6616

    link6616 Well-Known Member

    I think that health affecting you either makes some weird rubber banding with power changes, or makes the loosing player loose more...

    Fave use of health bar in a fighter is evil zone's zuper system, your health bar reflects how much you need to fill it to gain a super (1 pixel of health can net you 3 bars of super almost instantly)

    Broken as all hell, but fun.
  11. CWheezy

    CWheezy Well-Known Member

    All the things you cried about hdr keith, are in SMASH.

    Oh also smash has a bunch of secret really hard things you always have to do in high level play, but I don't think you know about them and pretend smash is easy to get into. Smash is almost worse than other games, because these mechanics are basically hidden, while some relative hard things in sfiv is basically a selling point
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  12. Lofobal

    Lofobal Well-Known Member

    You don't think a life lead matters in SF2?
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  13. SillySod

    SillySod Active Member

    I'd agree that a standard health bar is acceptable but somewhat clumsy and old fashioned.

    Most games have some other semi-secret mechanic that you need to watch to know who is really ahead. Street fighter, for example, hands out various non-health related advantages in the form of knockdown, timers, character separation, cornering, and the ever expanding system of super and ultra meters. These are almost coincidental to the fighting though which is what I think Keith is getting at. A modern and more elegant system would make cornering and gaining/conceding ground integral to basic gameplay (rather than incidental) and possibly hand out more obvious rewards. Yomi has a significantly more elegant solution where the health bar is king but card advantage and discard quality act as a driving force for the game.

    I'm planning to use ring-outs as the primary win condition with a health bar being an alternative win condition but also acting as a tiebreaker. The idea being that if neither player can ring-out the other then sooner or later one will run out of health. This should have some huge advantages:

    1) Payoffs will be unclear - should you play for damage or distance, what is your opponent playing for, etc.
    2) Games will be exciting - one person could be dominating on health but a comeback is still possible in the form of a ring-out, both players could be winning at the same time, etc.
    3) Distance as a medium is inherently interesting - there is alot you can do with distance that would "feel" screwy with a health bar. Distance can be "regenerated" by pushing your opponent back and you can generally play around with it more.
    4) I can ditch the need for a timer - as long as the health bars are genuinely acting as a tiebreaker then there's no need for an artificial tiebreaker.
    5) The game should feel aggressive - turtling shouldn't even be a thing, or rather it will definately exist in some form or another but hopefully it should "feel" valid. I don't much mind if someone plays defensively and uses the timer to win but I know that its an issue for other people so it'd be great if that wasn't even an issue.
    6) All this suits my control scheme - since the game is inherently aggressive I can mostly forget about providing players the option to retreat. It should still be utilised (since conceding ground is interesting) but on the whole it won't lead to players feeling hampered by the lack of movement buttons because that wouldn't be a "real" option anyway.
    7) It seems right - fights in the real world tend not to end in the death of one of the combatants. Not many end in KOs. Sure you can take some liabilities since its fiction but IMO fiction is stronger when the world is bonkers but the that way characters act emulates real world equivalents.

    However, I have to temper all that against the reality that the game still needs to guarantee a certain amount of decision making. Its not great if, for example, you have this really rich and fluid system that allows comebacks but its also possible for Zangief to occasionally get a two second ring out from megathrow -> jab -> win.

    ...

    I also suddenly had the revelation that by making the game more discrete I can avoid some icky issues with knockdown. Lots of games have the stupid scenario where one fighter nobly allows their opponent to stand up and then wallop them to death. Or gives characters invincibility when they are on the ground (cos thats where Gandhi was untouchable, right?). Or there is the even more ridiculous solution where you kick the snot out of the guy on the ground but he is somehow able to recover from that.

    I figure that I can fix it so that fighters aren't quite fast enough to come in contact until the guy is starting to stand up anyway. So you'd get the same knockdown scenario that street fighter has but without the ridiculous bit where you can piledrive a corpse for no effect.
  14. Spurn

    Spurn Active Member

    Might I propose 2 slightly different fighting ideas you might be interested in:

    1) Bushido Blade 1 (Ps1) - You can literally die from one good sword strike. There are some moves but I wouldn't say a whole lot, though maybe its weapon system obscures it a bit. I think the game system makes it easier for players to understand what's possible over the dragon punch fireball dance of SF. If you get knocked down, you still had a chance to get up but sometimes you didn't and oftentimes your leg was crippled.

    2) Phantom Dust(Xbox) - This game literally distills your moves to 4 buttons. However, it is an action game in 3Dbut in magic form. You can pick up from a set of 30 "cards" of different kinds of moves that spawn 3 at a time. (300+) But you never have more than 4 options at once. If you wanted a different move you had to overwrite your button from one of the 3 random cards available to you. Moves all work at the touch of a button. It uses a lock on system so this makes aiming a lesser execution issue. (move accuracy varied however) Still players had to make good use of the levels which included destructible hazards. And there are some special intricacies to moves that you had to learn to fully take advantage of things even if most of it was single button pushes. But compared to typical fighting games I think a lot of it was much easier execution wise.


    Smash Brawl is a pretty good example of simplistic moves at first glance. You could probably just take out the more complicated tricks/glitches players have used. Perhaps just an oversight in the games design. I think though at some point you probably do have to accept people who do play the game most will usually have something to exploit that might not be so apparent to casual players. But you can attempt to minimize it to some degree.
  15. tataki

    tataki Well-Known Member

    Are you sure that writing a book about game design is a good idea?
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  16. Kicks

    Kicks Active Member

    Here's why I like fighting game health bars.
    For me, it's hard to look at a number or word and not read it. That split second of reading it is an extra step in understanding it and costs time and brain power.
    Looking at broad shapes that fill the top of the screen are not only easier for me to read in an instant but also don't require me to focus on it optically and I can mostly notice it out of my periphery (not always, but it helps).

    Because it's less discrete than hard numerals it makes the gameplay more exciting. The damage dealt carries a visual weight that corresponds to the mechanics. It also works well when characters have varying health as it shows the visual dent you made to their health. Numerals wouldn't translate as easily in that regard.

    Many players use health as a resource to try many things so that they can learn as much as they can about the opponent. Then pull it all back and start a real offense.
    Finally, the gamestate changes tremendously as you approach lower health. The risk/reward of attacks gets shifted and it becomes another aspect to consider when reading your opponent.

    Some games play into this even more--like Mark of the Wolves and P4A--having those broad bands of health helps understand those systems.

    For the thread's topic: make whatever kind of game you want. Interesting decisions are inherently interesting ;p.
    Civilization has lots of decisions with lasting impact with somtimes uncertain results dependent on tons of variables. And you make them all the time.
    Fighting games are full of lots and lots of analog mechanics that you try and optimize and execute dependent on your skill. Further, many of them are contested against your opponent's actions. If the game is well-designed and as you get better, this becomes more and more the focus (like Kayin said).
    You can 'decide' to try and train your opponent a certain way and it may or may not work. You can decide to shoryu.
    What I find most interesting about fighting games is reading the opponent. All the other stuff makes the reading much more interesting though. A game where you read your opponent would almost necessitate a way to hide and bluff that information to train and trick your opponent. It works in fighting games because of all the analog skills.
    Just think about the kind of game you want and the skills you want to emphasize.
    Binary and Analog skills can both be interesting but I find analog skills much more so. Finding that analog nature is difficult in turn based games. But the best ones have it.
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  17. keithburgun

    keithburgun Banned

    Kicks - haha - my problem wasn't with the visual "bar" representation, but with the fact that you have "health points". I think "health" is one of those plagues of videogames - like, sometimes it actually is good, but it's just the default mechanism in EVERY SINGLE VIDEOGAME EVER and that's dumb.

    Also I am aware of the flaws of Smash Brothers - I'm not saying that it's even necessarily a more well-designed game overall than Street Fighter, but I am saying that it does have a core mechanism that it sticks closely to, whereas, as SillySod said,

  18. CWheezy

    CWheezy Well-Known Member

    Yeah because there are no knockdowns timers or character separation in smash am i rite
  19. MajinSweet

    MajinSweet Well-Known Member

    You said you played the game a bunch, did you actually play human opponents? Just to give a simple example of a game state where life totals have a big impact. Lets say we have Ryu in the corner vs a Honda that's one jumps worth of distance away. The clock is at 20 seconds. Honda has full life and Ryu has 20% left. In this situation, what do you think Honda should do? Now lets makes one more game state. Everything the same, except the life totals are reversed. What should Honda do here? I'll just say he needs to do very different things simply because his life is less or more than Ryus. I think "health points" are used a lot not because they are simply default, but because they do a lot of things very well.

    1. It gets the message to the player very easily about how the game works. Health=good. Losing health=bad.

    2. Having a variable amount of health allows the designer a lot of design space. How much life does each move take, how does this effect a moves power level? Can some characters have more life than others, perhaps at the cost of something else? etc etc.

    3. It's elegant. I'm a huge fan of Melee, but I must admit the percentage system while adding a lot of interesting decisions for players, adds a ton of complexity to the point where it can be detrimental. The amount of percentage changes combo options, kill move options, edge guard options, even throw setups. And on top of that, it varies based on match ups. Life bars effect matches, while being straight forward and easy to see. You can literally see the bars and know how it effects the match up. Seeing the percentage itself doesn't tell you much unless you have tons of experience in said match up. A happy medium here would probably be best, but that's easier said than done.
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  20. link6616

    link6616 Well-Known Member

    ... I think the inevitable issue of videogames are more often than not about violence is what really causes this. A core consequence of violence is being hurt. Realism isn't always the most interesting result, nor fun, one hit death can be too frustrating, and it would be just as bad if every game used that, so health meters tend to work. Sure, it's nice when other people take interesting ideas with them (like when regenerating health was new, Bushido Blade also did some nice work with it's focus on 'realism', or smash's % system*). However it's easy to explain to players 'oi, this thing represents how close you are to dying,' which shouldn't make a lot of sense to people, but it does.

    The easy way to go beyond health bars/values is to make games that aren't violent. Looking at a great deal of non violent games we have a more interesting collection of loss conditions or even lack thereof.

    I'd be curious as to some suggestions on what you might do instead of a health mechanic (and for the sake of doing this easily, lets say 1 hit kill is just 1 hit point) in a thematically violent game. (although, separate topic if you care to look at that)

    *The percent system is both intuitive and terrible... It's pretty much impossible to explain in a way that makes sense to other players before they've played the game, it's not obvious exactly how it works and effects you so for a long time it lacks clarity. Brawl did some good UI work making it a little easier using the classic 'red is bad' as opposed to darkening in previous games, however I'm not sure it's enough to make it clear. I don't have an issue with mechanics taking time to learn, but mechanics that are directly tied to the win condition shouldn't be confusing to understand.
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  21. Lofobal

    Lofobal Well-Known Member

    Keith, the standard definition of the word arbitrary is, approximately, "based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system." Do you think this properly describes hitboxes and attack speeds in Street Fighter or are you using some as of yet undefined arbitrary* in your description?
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  22. Bucky

    Bucky Well-Known Member


    Check out the rules for Warlocks. It is a turn-based game with a lot of the same emergent features as fighting games (yomi, time advantage, cancels, option selects etc.) The number of reasonable moves in a given position is at least 3 in most normal situations, fewer in the equivalent of hitstun and up to 30 or so (due to combinatorial factors) during a transition with monsters present; there are about 8 viable in a neutral state such as the first turn. Games between competent players average about 25 turns.

    Does that answer your question?
  23. SillySod

    SillySod Active Member

    Thats awesome, I'll have a good look at it in the next few days.

    Would you consider Warlocks to be a "good" game? I assume that you are suggesting that it is suitably deep.
  24. Bucky

    Bucky Well-Known Member

    Yes, I consider Warlocks to be a good game, give or take a bit of ugliness around FFFFF. It's deep enough that the top (known) level of play calls for over an hour of analysis on most moves.
  25. Arghy

    Arghy Active Member

    A related question I sometimes wonder is "how many critical mistakes can you away with before you die". It's usually not a lot! A Yomi character dies after about four or five good combos, Virtua Fighter matches are over in about four solid hits and Super Turbo games can be even faster.
  26. ajfirecracker

    ajfirecracker Active Member

    I purchased an original Xbox about two years ago, and I got a bunch of old games when I did. One that looked interesting (based on box blurbs) was Phantom Dust.

    I played through a few hours, but ultimately quit because the game felt really clunky and tiresome. Some of that was probably camera issues (I was not a big fan of their lock-on implementation), but I think some of it was probably due to the core combat mechanics. I haven't really thought about it enough to give a more detailed analysis, but this is something to keep in mind (i.e. be careful about making sure everything 'feels' right) if you start borrowing from Phantom Dust.
  27. specs

    specs Well-Known Member

    Keith, I love your games (well, *game* but I suspect Auro will be digital crack cocaine) even if I disagree with much of your personal philosophy about game design. However, I can disagree with most folks in a civil way. e.g., Sirlin and Kayin don't like Skullgirls' IPS, where I find it's easy to understand and awesome at solving design and gameplay issues.

    BUT when you assert something isn't good from some broad, overarching place of higher zen game design that really only represents one type of design, that's douchey.

    Understand that I think it's *totally okay* to think the games you design and like are better than other games. Hell, a little bit of venomous pride can go a long way towards conversation and, hopefully, both game design improvement and more thoughtful consumers of said games. e.g., I've told someone that 100 Rogues is better than Azure Dreams (a PS1 roguelike with pets I played the hell out of) because the "real game" isn't marred down with a dumb dating sim, and dating sims are already dumb.

    But going "SF2 isn't good" because of some rhetoric about life bars and gamestates coming from a place where fighting games aren't necessarily well understood (and probably understandably, as I don't imagine much of roguelike design transfers over), it's douchey. It will turn away potential fans. Not me, because I have thick skin for a lot of things (except freaky, giant moths... and MovieBob, who's a scrub) so I'll be a guy who says "I love Auro even though its designer is a little douchey." I'll also try Chick Fil A one day despite not being a homophobe, and Orson Scott Card's fiction is amazing even if, when not wearing the storyteller hat, he's the biggest tool on the planet. And I'll befriend people who don't understand the difference between "its" and "it's" even though IT DRIVES ME FUCKING RAGEBONKERS.

    That said, I'd rather not think of YOU as "that guy who makes something I love but who I personally don't want to associate with," because I feel there's much for you to add to -- and take away from -- gamey talk.

    Now, onto the whole lifebar thing:

    The whole point of a fighting game is to defeat your opponent. That lifebar is a nice, simple, elegant representation of exactly that. I know that as it diminishes, I'm in deeper and deeper shit, and same for my opponent. An aside: Tech Romancer, a Capcom fighter I loved to death and desperately in need of a Sirlin rebalance, had a "damage bar" that filled up as opposed to emptied. Perhaps the "damage bar" is a more appealing concept? Ponder.

    Anywho, lifebar = my life line. I see a bar. That bar depletes, I'm closer to death. The enemy's depletes, same thing. It's elegant, it's simple, it's functional. Yay lifebar.

    Where I can see having some bar-phobia is in games with lots more bars. While I like, say, Persona 4 Arena, and I appreciate that every bar on screen has a purpose (except the useless score counter, in a game where a numerical score is wholly pointless), I still gravitate more towards something like say ST/HDR, where I have only four bars to worry about. Or even Skullgirls: despite having a potential EIGHT bars on screen at once, they're all together, yet distinct.

    So maybe THAT'S the issue, presenting all that info in a way that's easy for the eye to catch and process. I loves me some TIE Fighter, but some of the ships just had too much to look at.
    Kicks, garcia1000, link6616 and 2 others like this.
  28. Kayin

    Kayin Well-Known Member

    <3 Specs.

    I actually had a great argument with Mike Z about IPS. Both of us were really understanding of each others position and while it didn't make me like it any more on a personal level, it helped me understand it's appeal to some players. Whether or not the system it's self is "objectively" good or bad isn't as useful as understanding it and it's reasoning (unless you're planning on stealing a system wholesale I guess). Understanding is awesome, as is disagreement! It takes some humility. It takes some consideration of what opinions are worth holding onto tightly and which ones require a "loose grip".

    I see this as a curse in the indie community too where people feel entitled to have "expert opinions" when they're in total ignorance. It's embarrassing. "Well I'm a smart guy who makes things, so I know how good/bad/whatever this thing is"! It oozes "Dunning-Kruger Effect" with people who should be well past that. I think this gets to something garcia1000 tries to express all the time and that's the value of understanding your ignorance and the importance of doubt and uncertainty. You do NOT what to overestimate the value of your opinion on any given thing because if you just run your mouth all the time, by the time you're saying something worth saying, everyone will already have written you off as a fool.

    I think the most frustrating thing for me to see is smart people thinking and communicating like idiots with supreme confidence (especially when they style themselves as intellectual or logical even when they're frequently not either!). That's what gets me worked up into rancorous fury. If they were just stupid, they'd be easy to write off, but the fact that they clearly have something to say or contribute and are ruining it is extremely maddening. It's such a waste! Lost potential! Even worse, the feedback loop of false confidence generally harms even their legitimate opinions. It allows situations where I can totally hate someone yet REALLY REALLY wanting to help them climb out of their little box.
    Kicks, Kristoph, Bodknocks and 8 others like this.
  29. Logo

    Logo Well-Known Member

    I want to steal this post for the thread on RTSes that's also going on. Very well said.

    Also on health bars... sometimes slippery slopes are good sometimes they're not!
  30. Fenrir

    Fenrir Well-Known Member


    Wait, when are they good?
  31. Claytus

    Claytus Well-Known Member

    Man, this is the dumbest thing I've read all day, and people trying to counter it are using way overcomplicated scenarios to explain it.

    Easiest way to point this out is the "Shin Kick of Doom!" phenomenon. There is a point where your opponent's health bar is low enough that you don't need need a combo to kill them anymore, you can basically poke them to death with a low kick. Low kicks tend to be especially hard to defend against, but very unrewarding, so at higher health totals you don't really want to use them much.

    This generates a mind-game that only exists at a low health situation, player ahead on life knows they just need a low kick to win, losing player needs to consciously think about defending against it (often at higher life totals, you kind of don't care about getting hit with such a weak attack, and would rather focus on defending against other stuff), and on top of that the winning player then has the yomi layer 2 option to beat defense against low kicks, and losing player has the yomi level 3 option of "play normal", which is either consciously assuming a low kick isn't coming, or simply not watching the health bar, and forgetting to defend against them.

    All of which leads to an inordinate number of fighting game matches ending off a single low kick either hitting or being successfully countered, which wouldn't actually happen if players didn't change their styles as life totals changed.

    (Note: This doesn't apply to some dumb games like Soul Calibur where connecting a low kick can be converted into a max damage combo... )
    link6616 likes this.
  32. Logo

    Logo Well-Known Member

  33. Fenrir

    Fenrir Well-Known Member

    That's not really a slippery slope though, it's more of a temporary change in the game state.

    In order to really be a "slippery slope" there has to be a way for things to get worse (double knockdown!) and the set back has to be permanent.
  34. Logo

    Logo Well-Known Member

    Well if that's the definition you want to use then I'd replace what I said with limited slippery slope, but it seems a bit pedantic.
  35. SillySod

    SillySod Active Member

    Urgh.

    Keith went to far, didn't qualify his statement, and did himself no favours in terms of presentation but his actual point was quite good. Health bars are overdone and old fashioned and better alternatives absolutely exist. Health bars have lots of good qualities but that doesn't mean his point is null or, indeed, "the dumbest thing".

    :(

    Anyway, back on topic I've got half a post sitting and waiting for me to finish outlining why I don't want to emulate Bushido Blade or recreate smash, cool as that would be. I'm also superkeen to start talking about Warlock because the combat system is really unique and an awesome piece of design.
    link6616 likes this.
  36. CWheezy

    CWheezy Well-Known Member

    Sorry had to fix that for you
  37. Claytus

    Claytus Well-Known Member

    Meh... what I was talking about is more about 3d fighters. I think in 2d fighters a better example is the point when killing someone with chip damage becomes a viable strategy to win, instead of needing to get through your opponent's block.
  38. Spurn

    Spurn Active Member

    Did you at least get to the point where you make your own decks? I think the atmosphere and story is pretty cool at times but its not without its problems.(quite a few characters aren't exactly likable) Having to randomly go to people to get the missions got annoying after awhile.(even if their not that spread out) Single player also kind of forced you to play certain ways to complete a level. It is like they designed the single player to be a tutorial to the actual action.

    The thing I like about the lock on mechanism is that it eliminates the need for a player to aim like in most other 3d games.(or you're limited to mostly melee in other games) Its also nice to have a 3D game that doesn't have your hand glued to the right analog stick all the time. Yet there is still enough ways of physically dodging attacks that hitting someone once you do a move is not a sure thing like in something like WOW projectiles. I can't say the game is not without its tricks for more advanced players, but its not like you have to spend hours in the training room to pull off combos. (and yes there is still some value to manual aim, but is not as valuable a skill like it is in an FPS)

    The real time nature of the game in tag mode was just awesome.(its best mode) I don't think a CCG can do two headed giant styele as well as PD ever does it because of its real time quality. You're not constantly saying well "I have these cards, and you have those cards, what do you think we should do?" You can still strategize but you can't take all day doing it.
  39. Claytus

    Claytus Well-Known Member

    No, all this proves is that you don't what you're talking about either. Health bar positions absolutely do change the gameplay... so his only specific point was just literally wrong. And making you entire argument be the vague statement "they're old fashioned" doesn't actually mean anything. FGs are *fast-paced* games, with a massive amount of information to process. It's actually in the games favor to have an extremely simple and recognizable way of tracking progress towards the win/loss condition.

    Maybe think about the problem for two seconds, and you'll realize why there isn't a good alternative. The only thing even close is Smash, and all it does is make it more confusing to tell game state (need to memorize all the values for percent damage where your character is capable of a kill), and actually causes the problem Keith described about gameplay not changing over time, because it's very nebulous when the win/loss state will be hit.
  40. SillySod

    SillySod Active Member

    Claytus - I assume that you didn't actually read my proposed alternative to a flat health bar system? Or ignored it, or something? :(

    Regardless, health bars are imperfect in certain respects and it is worth at least considering other options.
  41. ajfirecracker

    ajfirecracker Active Member

    Yes, I played through a bunch of the single-player missions. I quit when I got to a hard fight (maybe a boss?) that I couldn't beat, and as I played it over and over I realized I hadn't had any fun in several hours (even before the fight).

    The tag mode seemed really cool but due to my adopting it relatively recently, I've never played it. (My friends are more interested in newer games + Smash)

    Edit: In response to the thread's subquestion "how many meaningful decisions does a game need to be interesting" I think the answer is 1. It might be zero, but then you're into some weird discussions about whether or not it's a game. "Interesting" of course is a pretty subjective term, and I wouldn't find most single-decision videogames interesting (unless they could be repeated or something). Game theory (the mathematical / economic field) provides plenty of examples of games which are interesting even with only one decision (per person).

    There's the Ultimatum Game, for instance. In it, two players are paired with each other, and given a sum of money. One of the players (selected by the host) proposes a split of that money. If the second player accepts, the money is split accordingly. If the second player rejects, the money is kept by the host (or thrown away or given to charity; the important thing is that neither player gets any). This game has an optimal strategy for the second player (assuming he prefers more money to less and has no other considerations), "accept any positive offer". If the first player knows the second player will do this, he should make the smallest possible positive offer (keeping as much as possible for himself). With human subjects, though, this rarely happens. Instead, the second player usually rejects offers which he objects to, usually because they are too low (although in some cultures, it is common to reject an offer of 60 or 70% of the pot, since this 'gift' would give the proposing player social standing over the second player). With this in mind (perhaps unconsciously or speculatively), proposing players rarely offer minimal positive offers. Instead, offers tend to fall in the range of 30-50% of the pot. The thing is, if you're placed in this situation (as the proposing player) there's a huge mind-game/speculation you need to do to figure out how much to offer. How little can you 'get away' with proposing?

    Imagine that the second player could send you a message before you make your decision, but not make any binding agreements. If the second player thinks you are strictly payoff-maximizing, they should try to convince you that they will arbitrarily reject any offer that leaves YOU with more than the minimum positive amount. This effectively reverses the roles. If they think you might not believe them, or they think that you would offer less to spite them (i.e. you are not strictly payoff-maximizing), then they should claim that they will arbitrarily reject some lesser amount, like anything below 50%-for-them. The thing is, you know that they have this incentive, so you could still try sending the minimum positive amount (say, 10% of the pot). This actually leaves them with an incentive to accept, so they might claim they would reject 10% but accept 20% or more (if that's the most they think they could 'fool' you into giving) and then when you send 10% (b.c you think they're bluffing) they actually accept! Or, they might reject just to spite you (this is surprisingly common in Ultimatum Games played for money, even several months salary).

    So, the Ultimatum-game-plus-message has 1 or 2 decisions for the second player, and only 1 for the proposing player (since he can't send a message) but there's still an incredible amount of strategy, prediction, and mindgames involved.

    TLDR: If players incentives' are sufficiently in conflict with each other (and with social norms) behavior becomes hard to predict, and even simple decisions can become incredibly complicated and interesting.

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