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Why Are Console Fighting Games Still Designed For Arcades?
by Cary Chichester on 04/25/12 09:42:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


"It's definitely a different landscape now than it was in the '90s and '80s. It's kind of a bit lonely making a fighting game now, because not a lot of people are doing it.But I think the responsibility for that rests with us and all the people who were making fighting games back then, because what happened was that gradually, the games became more and more focused on the hardcore audience, and we really shut the casual players out.

If you think about chess for instance, a kid and a grandfather can play the same game, with the same ruleset, and understand what's going on.  I think through our competitive spirit back then we were always out to out-complicate each other, and make our systems deeper and deeper. It was ok then because there was a wide player base who understood how to play these games, but that's not true anymore.

What we're trying to do with Street Fighter IV is bring them back in. There's not a whole lot of other fighting games out there to compare it to, but hopefully, if we play our cards right and get people back in to the genre, we can blossom the genre itself again and spread things out and get it back to the way it was." - Yoshinori Ono from 2008 Gamasutra Interview

It’s not hard to see why most fighting games today are designed for arcades; most of them are sequels to games born in the arcade, or the occasional new IP like Skullgirls and Blazblue are made by those familiar with that design and so they refuse to deviate from it.

As Ono mentioned, fighting games have over the years tried to become deeper by adding complexity, and games that would have worked well with a controller have since added extra gameplay layers that make using a controller a tough endeavor.

Amazingly enough, many of the fighters designed for arcades aren’t actually released in arcades; Street Fighter X Tekken and Soul Calibur V for instance are console and PC games, yet they’re still designed for arcades. Why is the arcade design still so appealing?


The benefits of the arcade stick 

The joystick allows the complex motions for special moves to be executed with relative ease. Simple movements like quarter-circles may not take long to perform on a controller, but more complex motions like 360s (full-circles) for grapples and Z-motions for dragon punches are often performed slightly faster with a joystick.

While these may not sound like they would take long to perform on a controller, the speed that these games demand ensures that every animation frame counts when performing moves. A player usually takes less than a second to complete a jump, so if you want to counter that jump you have to be able to both realize what’s happening and then react to it in that one second; although even with the aid of a joystick it’s still difficult to react in such a short time.

Your best option is for countering the jump-in isn’t to just react to it, it’s to read it; if you can analyze your opponent’s playstyle, you’ll be able to sense when a jump is coming and then mentally prepare yourself to react to it before your opponent actually tries it. With this system reading moves is a much stronger skill than reacting to them, meaning the smarter player will always have an advantage over the faster player. This system only works if the inputs are complex, and the joystick is meant to facilitate those complex inputs.

With the layout of the buttons on an arcade stick, a player typically has four fingers on a different button at all times; so many fighting games only require four buttons due to the assumption that the player is always ready to hit any of the buttons. 3D fighters like Tekken and Soul Calibur may not have the complex joystick inputs of 2D fighters but can still be pretty demanding to players using controller.

Players will need the arcade button layout to quickly switch between the four buttons for fast combos or to perform a slide input, a two-button combo that is inputted so quickly that players perform a ‘sliding’ motion from one button to the next. Techniques such as these are often very difficult for the average player to perform with a standard controller, yet the payoff for performing these difficult combos in a match is substantial because of their complexity.
         How to perform moves in Street Fighter   

Can it be more accessible? 
There have been many attempts at making the traditional design more approachable to the modern gamer, but seldom are those attempts ideal solutions. In Marvel vs. Capcom the player can select EASY mode and have each button correspond to a special move, although the buttons were normally used for punches and kicks so this mode would render those unusable.

In the 3DS version of Street Fighter IV, players can map a special move to the touch screen and simply tap it to use it; this consequently meant that moves which normally required a charge time before use could be executed instantaneously,  making charge characters like Guile overpowered and lead to tournament finals of Guile vs. Guile!

The recently released Street Fighter X Tekken included assist gems and quick combos to aid new players. Quick Combos allowed players instantly pull off certain combos by pressing two buttons, and assist gems could be equipped on players to do things like automatically tech throws or automatically block attacks. All of these however required the player use up the Cross Gauge meter, which puts them at a severe disadvantage in the match.

Many of the aforementioned approaches are simply band-aid solution; they are a result of the designers not wanting to change the design of the game, but still implement crutches for new players that if used will ultimately prevent them from becoming good at these games.

The benefits of the casual fighter
For some interesting reason, Super Smash Bros. is often seen as something other than a fighting game. I’ve heard it referred to as a party game, brawler, and beat-em-up, but there’s often a hesitation to call it a fighting game because of its simplistic approach and casual design.

Each character has four special moves that are performed by pressing the B-button along with tilting the analog stick in one of four directions. With this approach, it’s nearly impossible to forget how to play the game. In pretty much any gathering of gamers I’ve come across, I’ve always found more people willing to play Smash Bros. over any other fighting game that was present.

Players don’t have the excuse of not remembering a player’s moves or combos when it comes to Smash Bros., having a design that’s easy to remember means having an audience that’s more willing to play your game when the opportunity arises.

Comparatively, I refused to play King of Fighters XIII with my friends not long ago because I had forgotten some of my combos, and this game is only a few months old; I’m not sure how I forgot that Terry can cancel his Burn Knuckle into light Crack Shoot and then follow that with an EX Rising Tackle or Bust Wolf super, I must be getting Alzheimer’s.

          How to perform moves in Smash Bros.

Smash Bros. is very much a casual fighter. Not only is the design fairly simplistic compared to the hardcore games, but elements like prat falling (a mechanic where players can randomly trip and fall) as well as character imbalance (the often banned Metaknight) prevent many players from playing it very competitively.

In spite of that design however, it has a large following of competitive players and has made several appearances at the EVO World Fighting Game Championships. For all the reasons this game has to not be played competitively, it still is, and has shown a way that a fighter can be approachable to new players and still have enough replayability for hardcore-competitive players.

It wouldn’t be hard to create a game that would surpass Smash Bros., one that took into account the competitive nature of its players and used that to gain an audience; aside from a few poorly designed Smash clones however, there aren’t many contenders that have tried to dethrone it.

Despite my push for more games like Smash Bros., I would not ask for Street Fighter or Soul Calibur to suddenly adopt that design. Those games are successful at what they do and they should continue to do it. The developers behind them however have an opportunity to experiment and create engines that push the genre towards something that isn’t derivative of its predecessors.

It would be nice if there was a break from creating more fighting sequels so that developers could maybe -- and I’m sure this is what publishers would call the ‘N-word’ -- perhaps try a ‘new-IP’ (apologies if that word offends you). I do agree with Ono that fighting games can be more like chess, that a kid and a grandfather can understand a game and enjoy it together, but it seems that most fighting game developers have no interest in creating that game.

Many people see fighting games as a niche genre, appealing mainly to those willing to invest the money for the equipment and the time to learn everything. Street Fighter IV was seen as a resurgence of the genre after it had lost a lot of popularity, but the design of the games has not changed much and they seem to be falling back on old habits. If we keep appealing to the niche, casting away the kid and his grandpa, then we may come to remember why the genre became unpopular in the first place.

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Joseph Russell
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I think it is important to remember that being "too hardcore" was not the only reason why fighting games as a genre went into hibernation. The death of arcades and rise of home console gaming in the West during the 90s played a huge factor, in addition to degeneration of the playerbase and overall lack of readily available equipment. Finding arcades in safe neighborhoods and inviting communities, with well maintained cabinets and working buttons/sticks, became near impossible. Finding quality home arcade-style equipment for consoles was also a challenge before the rise of the internet marketplace and the 2008 release of Street Fighter IV. However, owning an arcade stick has never been a requirement for play and there are still strong players that prefer default console controllers to the expensive arcadesticks.

I agree that Super Smash Bros. is a fun game, but I feel the competitive community for it is its own worst enemy. The creator himself, Masahiro Sakurai, stated he created the series and designed Brawl specifically to be uncompetitive and casual. Yet the hardcore players do everything they can to change his vision! Most tournaments for Brawl require removing all random elements from the game, such as items and certain levels. While players have the option to choose how they want to play, the game as a whole was designed to still retain some of these elements in an average round. Essentially the competitive players are turning what is supposed to be, as you state, a "casual" fighter into a "hardcore" fighter, when a large portion of the playerbase for Smash Bros. (ages 6-14) probably does not play the game the same way.

In games like Street Fighter the number of rounds or amount of time can be changed, but there's no other random elements implemented...and therefore is already too hardcore for players because you have to remember a few controller strokes? Seems like a strange standard to me. People that seem to fall out of the community, from my experience, usually have an inherit problem with "losing," and in most fighting games the only person to blame for a loss is usually the losing player's lack of skill/character knowledge/execution/working equipment. Being put on-the-spot at your own passion/past time can be very intimidating, and there are many other types of gamers who would just prefer to play more team-based games or compete with only themselves.

Considering how much Street Fighter IV and other recent fighters are designed for more casual players (input shortcuts, exaggerated art style, comeback mechanics, etc.), there comes a point where the individual, niche or no niche, needs to take some responsibility for their own ability and enjoyment. Ask yourselves the question: "Am I willing to practice and play this game over time to improve like everyone else did 15+ years ago before me to be competitive, would I prefer to just play casually, or is this simply not my kind of game anyway?" At the end of the day it's only video games, right?

Lex Allen
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Honestly, the joystick and the 180 and 360 degree motion controls were a complete flop in design and usability. It made the best moves completely unavailable for the less dextrous of us.

My friends and I, who were really good at even the most complicated button sequences, would always have difficulty with the rotations. I still don't know to this day what we were doing wrong, but it seemed like the device was too sensitive or not sensitive enough. Even after tons of practice, we would be able to get only about a 50% move completion rate.

The 90 degree rotation was fairly easy to execute though.

By the way, you're not alone. Check out Undead Lily if you're looking for other indie fighting devs, though I don't think the dev is that far along at this point.

Cary Chichester
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Yeah, I definitely have problems with the input leniency. Street Fighter IV is so lenient on inputs that I far too often pull off moves I didn't intend to. It'll mistake a 90 for a 180, or a 180 for a 360. The other option is the strict inputs of something like Street Fighter II, but there I can barely get the moves out at all! I do prefer the newer lenient inputs, but I've seen world champions mess up their inputs at tournaments, so it's not something that goes away the more you play.

Ryan Marshall
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I think chess is a very good analogy. Even though the described rules can be covered pretty quickly, there are still nuances like castling and en passant that usually aren't explained right off the bat because they rarely come up during play.

For a modern fighting game, the basic movement and attacks, even the special attacks, are like the basic rules of chess: they're all presented up front, and anyone who can read that little Z-input motion will know how to do them. The real barrier to entry comes in the form of combos and (especially) cancels - it's like if every piece is a move (say a pawn is a light punch, and a rook is roundhouse) then each piece has a dozen or more special rules that explain situations where you can perform counter-intuitive actions - like chaining a jumping kick into a low kick into a fireball (just to give an example that I know).

You could simplify your inputs to a smash-like level and the "hard part" of the game - the thousands of special rules for each character - would still be the deciding factor. There have been a few games that have offered a simple input option, and they certainly don't hurt anything, but even choosing that option already puts you at a disadvantage. Let's look at two implementations:

MvC3: Choosing to use a simple input replaces your buttons with one button each for basic attack, special attack, and super. While it's easier to perform those complicated special moves, you are limited to only a handful of moves (by pressing a direction and the button simultaneously, as far as I could tell - it's been a while). You physically lose the option to perform the all-important chains because you don't have access to some of the necessary basic attacks, even if you knew which moves you needed. Chances are, if you haven't spent enough hours to perform the special moves consistently, then you haven't played enough to learn the cancel and chains either.

SFxT: Using a simplifying gem does not replace your basic attacks, so you can still theoretically perform just as well as someone who spent time learning how to do a 720 movement. However, there is a double penalty to the numbers: first, there's the flat damage (or defense) penalty imposed by the gem; second, there's the loss of a gem slot that could have been spent on something else (something like a flat damage bonus after hitting with five basic attacks). Likewise, if you haven't spent the hours to learn the "real" input methods, then you probably haven't learned the secret chains and cancels either. The difference is, even if you somehow manage to overcome the secret knowledge handicap by reading your opponent more successfully, there's still a good chance that you'll lose because of the stat penalty associated with the gem.

All that aside, I have to disagree with your basic premise: by placing a skill gate where you need dozens of hours of practice to play competently, you're actually catering to the home crowd rather than the arcade one. I certainly know that I wouldn't waste my hard-earned quarters just messing around and guessing what moves *might* secretly blend together; I would stick with what I know, in the hopes of extending my play time. Only home versions of a game allow a reasonable person to spend dozens of hours playing solo in order to get to the point of challenging someone else who has done the same.

It's been argued around these parts that games need depth in order to remain interesting, but I would say that most fighting games have far too much depth, between the complicated inputs and the complex chains and whatever gimmick mechanic the game is using to try and make itself distinct. I think it's safe to say that said demographic is well-served for the foreseeable future.

I definitely agree that there's a significant market of players who enjoy fighting-style games but don't like such unnecessary complexity, but how to approach that audience is still up in the air. Smash has seen significant success, even though they're shunned by hardcore fighters, (but any hardcore community is going to lean toward exclusion so that's hardly a sign).

Something more could definitely be done in that vein, but it's going to take a real budget to make true competition and nobody is willing to gamble so spectacularly on an un-proven IP. Rumours abound of Sony announcing their own take on the sub-genre, but they're really going to need to deliver if they want to be taken seriously.

Bryce Walton
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Unmentioned in this article is the Bloody Roar series, which strikes a decent balance between casual and hardcore fighters. Controls are mostly standard across characters for several moves, yet each character is well balanced and has a unique feel and style. Each character also offers more advanced moves for the hardcore audience, but a less skilled player can still win using the basics. Sadly, the series seems to be in a bit of limbo right now. Here's hoping Bloody Roar survives.

Steven Stadnicki
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The last Bloody Roar game was almost ten years ago now and Hudson is essentially dead and buried. Anything is possible, but I think it's a bit too late to claim 'survives' - at best, you're looking for a resurrection.

Also, there were about five thousand fighting series that didn't get mentioned, and as much as I enjoy Bloody Roar, I'm just not sure that it does anything specific that would warrant it garnering mention ahead of most of that pack.

Austin Ivansmith
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By that logic Mortal Kombat makes for a great example of both sides of the argument. Each character has the same base set of standard and extended moves (uppercuts, sweeps), with hit boxes and style of attack being almost identical, versus hitting the same button on a SF game and getting a whole different height, distance, or style of attack. But then Mortal Kombat also has the heavy duty memorization of special moves and fatalities.

Robert Boyd
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The Naruto Gekitou Ninja Taisen series is by far my favorite fighting game series and a big reason for that is how easy the moves are to perform (it uses a control scheme similar to the Smash Bros. games). Also, being able to have up to 4 players play simultaneously is a feature that needs to be implemented in more fighting games.

Luis Guimaraes
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I would mention Ultimate Ninja Storm, which can be both casual and competitive, by putting the emphasis on strategy and not on button sequences. It's fun enough to play even while not knowing how to play competitively, but very deep if you want to learn how to counter each character and get out of each bad situation.

Josh Gibson
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A lot of fighters are designed with competitive play in mind, so it would be really hard to ditch everything that's been learned over the years about how to make a good competitive fighting game, and start with something new from the ground up to make a competitive fighting game for a new generation.

That's not to say it can't be done, but it's hard to dismiss things that "just work". But when one does get created, I'm sure both styles of fighting game can coexist. The "classic" style of fighting game (from either the Street Fighter branch, Mortal Kombat, or 3D fighters) to the "new" style - whatever that may end up being.

And I'm sure they could both be competitive... not that all of them HAVE to be of course, since SSB is a good example of one that doesn't.

The new MK plays really well on a gamepad though, but it still doesn't remove a lot of the barriers that you're talking about. While I was playing it I would get a lot of players sending hate mail simply for the fact that I can get past that barrier, and they can't. So even Mortal Kombat's casual friendly approach isn't the solution.

Austin Ivansmith
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I don't consider a fighting game because it really only shares two things in common with a traditional fighter. First, players can fight head to head like a fighting game and, second, fighting is done on 2 dimensions.

I had always thought of Smash Brothers as more of a brawler for a number of reasons.
1) The stages have a variety of shapes and styles requiring the use of platforming and navigation. Most fighting games which have ever featured any kind of environment interaction usually happens at the boundaries like in Soul Calibur (either wall or pit edge of level) and the stages remain relatively the same throughout the fight, whereas in Smash they alter of the course of battle. Virtua Fighter 3 did have uneven terrain, but years later that is seen as more of a departure and I don't think any other games have really revisited it.
2) The use of items in the game is integral to the true Smash experience. I know a lot of people who only want to play with all items turned off, but I think that actually muddies the experience and charm of the game.
3) The win condition is not taking out health or landing a number of hits, but is about getting the player knocked out of the arena, especially with a final crushing blow. This is an amazing invention and works so great on the Smash games, and in a lot of ways I think it's what makes Smash better than a lot of fighting games.
4) More than 2 players can go head to head at a time and that puts it into more of a "brawl" than a "fight" in my book.All that being said, I don't feel the control scheme keeps Smash from being a fighting game.

In fact this blog has me really pumped to see a Street Fighter game with Smash controls, because I think it could work really well. Head to head, flat terrain, and Smash style controls, and I think you could have a casual gamer encouraging fighting title.

But I also feel Soul Calibur is kind of already that title. It has the rock, paper, scissors element. (block beats attack, throw beats block, attack beats throw), with navigation and playing a big part (horizontal slash beats sidestep, sidestep avoids vertical slash), and all the buttons with the use of a directional input give different results. It is the kind of game where kind of button mashing and pressing directions yields different results, but often the same results you would see a boss or other player perform.

But no matter how much a game appeals to a casual player, the moment they face an experienced player of a computer, if opponents are capable of pulling off maneuvers which look confusing or are not readily accessible the player will be overwhelmed and feel like they are not good enough to accomplish those things.

Cary Chichester
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Even with the reasons you've pointed out, I would still consider Smash a fighting game.

1) There are plenty of stages in Smash where the level does not change at all, Final Destination for example is a static flat surface that is very popular at tournaments. Other fighters aren't always consistent. Soul Calibur and Dead or Alive will have some levels that have boundary hazards and some that don't, or maybe those hazards won't be activated until you shove a player into the wall which then knocks it down and makes ringouts possible.

2)While I do love items, disabling them is fine if its what the community desires. Some fighters have overpowered characters or levels with too many hazards, and these are usually restricted at tournaments. It's normal for games to evolve in ways unintended by the designer. The EVO championship for Street Fighter X Tekken is requiring that gems be disabled, but if it the end result is probably something that's better for how they want to play the game.

3)The win condition may not be landing a number of hits, but landing more hits does help you knock them out. Knocking players out is a win condition in other games, but Smash is unique in that it's the only win condition. It's like Sumo, and Sumo is a form of fighting so.... >.>

4)Where you see a brawl, I see a team-based fighter :)

You are right that Soul Calibur, and most 3D fighters for that matter, have a fairly accessible design for modern players. I think if they took away slide inputs and other techniques that revolve around arcade sticks, then that would bridge the gap between the normal and hardcore players without changing the design too much. Soul Calibur III was the last one to be released in arcades so this might not be a hard step to take.

Austin Ivansmith
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I think the devil is in the details and recognizing how Smash isn't a fighting game will only better help the cause of identifying the signs of a good casual fighter with its origin not based in arcade, rather than finding portions of the game with similarities to prop up Smash as a fighter. Everything you list out is true, but each example is also very conditional, so really Smash CAN be a fighting game when you alter the original design but at it's core it isn't an even-level competitive fighter (and the creator doesn't want it to be, which is precisely why "prat falling" was introduced in the Wii version.) But people should be OK with the notion that it isn't a fighter, because that isn't an insult to the game by any means.

Geoffrey Kuhns
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Agreed. Regarding accessibility:

The biggest problem I have found when picking up a fighter is not necessarily the complexity of any one input but the differences between controlling different characters. There was mention of simplifying inputs, but harder-to-execute moves resulting in more powerful moves makes sense. But if every character is controlled the same way, even a complex system could be learned with relative ease.

Of this system SSBBrawl is a great example. Each character has nuances to the particular move initiated, but every character initiates their moves the same way. Depending on the game, an optimal balance could be struck with inputs as complicated as Soul Calibur (for example) but with the congruence of SSBB.

Bisse Mayrakoira
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Complex move inputs aren't needed for balance. If there is a move that needs to be non-instant, you can make it come out from holding an input down, or just give the move a long startup animation. Top players typically become almost perfect with their move execution, so in a way they are playing with "simple inputs" already; therefore giving everyone else simple inputs should probably not break balance even in existing games.

Even if inputs are simple, characters shouldn't all control the same way. Part of the richness of good fighters is precisely that characters move differently and feel different, and the player can find favorites. I personally love "stance characters" who flow between different stances and have different moves available in each. There's no reason you couldn't have a stance character in a game with simple inputs. Naturally they are complex to play (even if inputs are simple) but in a game with e.g. 12 characters, I think it is fine for a couple of characters to be harder to master. This is actually the case at least in Soulcalibur and Virtua Fighter; most of the cast is okay for a casual player to pick but there are some that are better left for dedicated players. All of the cast should be roughly equal in power in the hands of a good player, naturally.

Geoffrey Kuhns
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"Complex move inputs aren't needed for balance." I didn't say they were, so I'm pretty sure we agree there.

I also agree with your second paragraph. Stances are great, and add another layer of depth that's exciting to master. That different characters feel different is critical to having any roster mean anything. I only mean to say that games like Soulcalibur would be more accessible if every character used the same input sequences. Fair statement?

If QCB + AX or whatever initiates a stance for some and a ground pound for others, great. Like you said, discerning these differences between characters is the beauty of many games. My point is that every character could have that same sequence produce a result, instead of every character having totally unique sequences. Though fine for some, it's just not an accessible system.

Jeff Turner
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I'm always disappointed when designers dismiss execution requirements (and mastery of execution as a thing in general) as bad. Saying that complex inputs are a problem because world champions can mess them up in clutch situations is like saying baseball bats are too narrow because a batting average of .300 is considered high in the MLB.

A high skill ceiling is key to a vibrant competitive community, and execution is a part of that. IMHO, if fighting games (and competitive games in general) need to do anything, it's provide tools to players who want to get better; replays, streaming commentary, proper move lists, easy to find frame data, challenges that teach you the meta game, etc. Right now, 99% of the gnosis of competitive games exists outside the games themselves; that is a major area in which home games are aping arcade experiences to their detriment. There's no one game that does all of these things perfectly, and I can only assume it is patent issues that are preventing that from happening.

That being said, total removal of execution is possible. Flash Duel, a card game, does an excellent job of capturing the feel of the metagame of high level fighting games.

Cary Chichester
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As I've said, I'm not asking for Street Fighter to remove all complex inputs. The extra frames required to physically execute moves is part of what makes it a great game, as it requires you to analyze your opponent and choose your moves carefully since you cannot instantly perform them. You do bring up a great point that there should be tools to teach players within the game itself, especially when when there's so much to learn. I would always get beaten by Blanka's Ultra because I never knew whether to block low or high, turns out I had to block low THEN high because he shocks the ground before he attacks high but that animation is never shown......took me 3 years to learn that T_T

Bisse Mayrakoira
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If complex inputs are desirable for high end, it's still possible to give the character a similar but worse simple move so that players can play the character at a lower level of execution ability without being hamstrung too badly. One example would be Akira's knee from Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution. The real knee has a one-frame slide input, but there is an overlapping normal input for another move that is also mid-height. So if you mess up the hard input the other move comes out and hits most of the time if the knee would have hit.

Another idea from VF would be to make attack inputs relatively simple, but allow good players to make an open-ended amount of defensive and movement input whenever they have the time. The result is that no one is missing a basic part of their toolbox due to an execution barrier, and can "do moves", but good players never run out of things to input, and are rewarded for those extra inputs by their character moving around fast and smooth, as well as being harder to throw.

Ryan Marshall
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As Sean says below, the execution of moves is just not that interesting in terms of the game as a whole. Prediction, spacing, knowing which moves to use and when to use them - these are all interesting choices that can be analyzed and discussed. And what is a game if not a series of interesting choices?

Execution - being able to physically press the buttons in order to express the thing that you already decided to do - is classic Fake Difficulty. It is a relic of a bygone time.

Jeff Turner
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Flow is the state you reach when your skill matches the demands of the task at hand. If you're skill falls short, it's stressful and frustrating but as you get better, you have more fun. However, once you start outpacing your opponents, you start to get bored (since the challenge isn't up to the task of meeting your skill). A high skill ceiling in a game provides players a greater chance to improve their play; there will almost always be someone better than you.

By adding a physical component (ie execution) you are just increasing the skill ceiling. Granted, if you're new and you're getting matched up with people who've invested a lot of time, its going to be stressful, even frustrating; that's a failing of the match making, not the mechanics of play.

Saying execution sucks is just as silly as saying strategy sucks; you're just lopping off an area of potential enjoyment. Chess is good, but so is boxing (and Chess-Boxing is more demanding than either).

Ryan Marshall
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That's actually a pretty good analogy, too, and it works in with the chess example from before.

Traditional fighting games, from Street Fighter II through Street Fighter IV, are like chess-boxing in that they require a wide spectrum of mental and physical skills. That's all well and good, and nobody begrudges you that.

The point that many people here are making, including myself, is that chess-boxing is a fairly niche demographic. Some people might be really good at chess, but fail at chess-boxing because they don't physically have the strength and coordination - which is expected while you're using chess-boxing rules as your metric, but does nothing to address the underserved demographic of people who just like the chess aspect. You could tell them that they'll be better off if they hit the gym and just train to be a great boxer, but that's more likely to just turn them off from the game entirely rather than encourage anyone to convert.

Someone needs to make a serious chess game, stripped of the boxing aspect, for people who just like playing chess. Nobody who loves chess-boxing will be forced to play - they still have their own games - but the aforementioned chess player with the constitution of Glass Joe will not be forced to put aside the thing he's good at just because it's been inextricable entwined with a thing he's terrible at.

Jeff Turner
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You should look up Yomi Online, which is a card based fighting game that does a good job of capturing the chess aspect of the Chess-Boxing.

Ardney Carter
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I can understand both sides of the argument and see how either approach could appeal to certian types of people. That being said, I definitely feel that a move toward minimizing or even removing execution barriers is healthier for communities in the long run.

I find it interesting that twice in your responses to other comments here you have recommended card games to people. Card games and not video games.

Jeff Turner
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If you want zero execution requirements, you have to go to turn based games.

There's already a pretty rich gradient of execution requirements in competitive games, yet optimal level of execution requirement for a game to rise to the top of it's genre and gather a healthy following is pretty high (League of Legends, StarCraft 2, Counter-Strike, Street Fighter IV).

The games that are less complex (Monday Night Combat, Dawn of War 2, Call of Duty, Soul Calibre) get their niche, as do the more complex titles (Heroes of Newerth, AI: War, Arma, BlazBlue) but the games that reside in the sweet spot seem to demand quite a bit from their players.

Sean Hayden
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@Bisse: your idea actually reminds me very strongly of Super Smash Bros. Melee. In Melee you can "L-Cancel" (by pressing the L Button) an aerial move as you land to eliminate lag. Combined with the ability to "fastfall" (press down to fall and land faster) means someone who is an expert at execution can act far faster than a novice, even though they are both using the exact same moves. With certain characters (Fox, for example) the execution skill ceiling is so high that only computerized inputs can reach maximum efficiency.

These are inputs even a novice can understand, but only a master can execute with 99% consistency. It probably was a large part of Melee's popularity as a competitive game.

@Jeff, Ryan: I like the chess-boxing analogy. I would love to see more chess games, since both chess-boxers and chess players can enjoy them.

Sean Hayden
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This article is incredibly spot on for me. I have absolutely no patience for fighting games that require complex strings of button presses. It comes off as fake difficulty, and it tests a skill I find utterly boring compared to prediction, spacing, timing, etc.

Suffice to say I absolutely loved Brawl, to the point of hacking in characters and visiting a tournament. Brawl can be a nearly flawless competitive game if properly modified ( but unfortunately the community will likely never accept a hacked version.

One possible compromise is to have certain characters who require complex inputs and other characters who do not. I'm sure this example breaks down at high-level play, but in BlazBlue with Hakumen I can hold my own very well just using his basic attacks, whereas with the other characters I can't do squat.

fred tam
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I don't think so, "dumbing it down" won't bring in new fans, it will just drive the old ones away, whatever happened to skill, which requires dexterity, leave casual games as casual games, button mashers as button mashers and punishing games as punishing games. I think the author is giving too little credit to the gamers.

Cary Chichester
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We need new types of fighting games. Even if the current ones stay as they are, only having those experiences will cause the genre to stagnate. Capcom stopped making fighting games for a long time after they flooded the market with numerous versions of Street Fighter. People will tire of the same old stuff eventually, and I'd rather not see history repeat itself.

Jason Wilson
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I think the title of this article asks a very good question "Why are console fighting games still designed for arcades?" but goes a little to far into the debate over "hardcore" fighting games versus "casual" fighting games, which I think is unfortunate because I think the title question is much more important.

The core canon of fighting games are designed with inputs and button sequences that are imagined for an arcade set up. Playing these games and executing some of the games inputs are much easier with a fighting stick. I like fighting games. I will even spend time trying to learn different moves and combos, but even I have difficulty performing some of the more basic maneuvers on a standard controller. I find it extremely difficult to perform any charge moves in Street Fighter with a standard controller. I also can't figure out how you're supposed to press vertical strike and grab simultaneously in Soul Calibur on a standard controller. However, using a fight stick these moves are extremely trivial.

Even though there are some players who will able to excel at playing these games with a standard controllers, the majority of high level players will play with a fight stick. Why is this the case? Because that's how they were designed. How do I know this? Not only because of difficult input combinations, but because every game will get simultaneously released with their own branded fight stick.

Surely we can have deep hardcore fighting games designed with the standard controller in mind. With button combinations and controller inputs that make sense with a standard controller. You could keep all of the hardcore dexterity required but simply make things possible to perform with a standard controller. By moving away from the fight stick to the standard controller, not only would you be able to keep the hardcore happy, but you'd also bring in more casual players because they wouldn't need to buy custom peripherals to play, and they wouldn't be fumbling over their thumbs to try to do things.

Ardney Carter
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I agree with your comment but was amused to find that your experience with a standard controller seems to be the exact opposite of mine. For my part, I can't play anything but the charge characters effectively. Guile's Flash Kick/Explosion and Sonic Boom come so much more easily to me on the 360 controller than Ryu/Ken/Akuma's Shoryuken as 1/2 the time I end up executing a Hadouken instead or vice versa. :)

May I ask, is your "standard" controller one for the 360 or the PS3? If it's for the PS3 then perhaps that explains the difference in our experiences.

Cary Chichester
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Great points, Jason. The obvious reason why current fighting games are still designed for arcades is because the majority of them are sequels to franchises designed during an arcade era. As for why we continue to do that with new IPs, it's because the arcade stick allows for more complexity with motion inputs and button combos. This complexity creates an entry barrier that's often intimidating to new players, and games that work for controllers -- including Smash Bros., Naruto, and Dead or Alive -- are often viewed as more casual fighters. This is why the arcade stick vs controller argument turned into a hardcore vs casual one.

Joseph Russell
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From a design and economic standpoint, fighting games were MADE to be played in an arcade. You're at the machine playing by yourself against the computer for a time, then someone else would be on the other side of the cabinet to challenge you to a match. In Japan, most fighting game enthusiasts do not sit for hours in an arcade hoping NOBODY is going to try and challenge them. The player that loses has to pay more money if they want to play again and improve themselves, get out of the way for another player in line to wait their turn, or simply leave and play something else.

If the player is alone and can only play against the computer, the difficulty spike is usually enough to defeat the average newbie by the second or third match, and the player must once again pay more money if they wish to continue. Difficulty can be adjusted as needed by whoever owns and manages the cabinet. Usually if the player is good enough (or puts in enough money), there will be an incredibly difficult boss character they must fight. Often this boss is "cheap" or very powerful, but of course you want to win...right?

After losing a bunch of times and paying even more money, you may be able to defeat the boss and see an ending. Between when you started and finished by yourself, the machine has made quite a bit dough! A bunch of players constantly playing each other and rotating creates even more revenue.

At least that's how things generally work for fighting games as arcade releases. It's usually the home console releases that have to invent new modes, extra characters, add-ons, and paid updates to generate more money for the developers and distributors.

Jason Wilson
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Ardney: I played on the PS3. I find the D-Pad on the 360 doesn't work the way I expect it to and just doesn't "feel" right. That goes for any type of game, not just fighters.

Cary: I think there has to be a middle ground. There has to be a way to create depth without falling back to arcade inputs.

Joseph: As arcades become rarer and rarer (at least in North America) this becomes much less of an excuse. The primary market is the home console, so designing for a secondary (or nonexistent market) doesn't make any sense. Perhaps since the majority of fighters are made in Japan where arcades are still somewhat viable, the developers are not forced to revisit their old design principles.

Michael Stevens
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I feel like the core issue is that "legacy" fighting games don't give new players anything useful to do when they're losing. Sooooo often when I try to play uMvC3 online (particularly HvH) I encounter players who have worked out the system to a degree where I spend the entirety of the match stunned in a corner while they lazer me to death. My inputs are irrelevant to someone who's had Akuma mostly figured out for a decade; there's nothing I can do to that player that's going to surprise them or make them reconsider their strategy, and against opponents like that there's very little opportunity for me to hone the (limited) skills I have. In this capacity, I'd say Vanilla MvC3 has improved dramatically since the launch of UMVC3. The player base has split into one arena for the die-hards and one arena for mid-low players.

If the genre is going to grow it needs to broaden it's focus. It needs to consider new match types, it needs to open up to *real* cooperative play. "perfect" matches shouldn't exist. Guilty Gear 2 was rough, but I'd still say it's the only fighting game i've encountered that tried to interface with the reasons people play games in the seventh console generation.

Geoffrey Kuhns
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Couldn't agree more. Stealing control away from the player for too long deals irreparable damage to the experience, yet too many combo/string systems allow for it. One hit, and "inputs are irrelevant."

Personally, one of the chief indicators for the quality of a fighting game is the set of defensive options available to the player, especially in the face of such possibilities.

reka savo
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as Marvin replied I didn't know that a single mom can make $4482 in a few weeks on the internet. did you read this web page