Sep 302009
 
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Challenge me angel ?? :-S

Do you really want to mess with me punk? Well, do ya?

Despite how I describe myself as being a fiero-seeking nutjob sometimes the challenge just seems too much, or too far away from my core interest in a game, even for me. For example, as part of my practice for Street Fighter 2 HD Remix, I’ve watched youtube videos of the best players in the world fighting with DeeJay & read about them and even from them on forums like shoryuken. And I see and read about things that I just can’t seem to do reliably, no matter how much I try. The biggest stumbling block for me is the execution of combos & blockstrings, which whilst not always that important to SF2, can be in certain matches for DeeJay. It’s a bit like how I’d describe watching any match of Street Fighter 4 in some ways [link to the future here ^_^], in that the best DeeJay players always hit that huge combo in that one chance they get to land it in a match, or can repeat a blockstring over and over if it’s effective to do so. It’s pretty much the opposite to me, as I have to play around the fact I will more than likely miss a big combo if only given a single attempt and a small opening to get it – and I actually quite deliberately work around this weakness in my play style and strategy in some ways. However it definitely limits my ability to play at a really high level – and with blockstrings it’s much worse than just missing a combo. In matchups where I need them a lot – eg. vs Dictator, I struggle with the whole matchup and am generally a lot worse because of it. Despite hours and hours spent in training mode on combos & stringing moves together, whereas I can at least do every combo in SF2 with my chosen character (unlike many other fighting games!), it always seems forever out of my grasp to become consistent at them. Now having this never attainable execution plateau is sometimes inspiring, but equally sometimes I wonder; what’s the point? What’s the point of learning every setup and situation & mindgame (which I find amazing fun, because it’s interactive & opponent dependant, not rote-learning of facts; like a map or course layout), when I get into the perfect situation I want to be in – I miss the exact move or combo I’ve just spent the whole round setting up.

I sometimes wonder if I ought to attempt to find the character in a fighting game that requires “the least physical dexterity to use”. My ideal character would therefore be the one with the least combos, least difficult moves – anything that’s a motion special I find much harder than a charge move, and I am quite bad at direction-held normals where they have to be applied in very small reaction windows, least important to time a perfect safe-jump / cross up / or reversal? ie: A character that is most dependant on mind-games (yomi) & knowledge. I’m not sure who this character would be in SF2, perhaps Blanka? But it’s so matchup dependant in SF2. And I would bet that this theoretical character in any fighting game is very probably low tier. It sometimes makes me think I really ought to go and play a good competitive turn-based game instead, such as Kongai or Magic the Gathering; and of course, sometimes I do. This is especially a problem when I’m playing when mentally or physically tired, and I’ve even suffered from serious issues with RSI in the past (thankfully joysticks never really cause me this, although I do get ‘button basher’s forearm’ at times 😛 ).

The crazy thing for me is that when HDR was announced I set myself my own personal goal for how good I thought I could get at Street Fighter 2…

Now whilst I’ve not yet signed away my soul to the Spirit of a Fighter, I’ve already surpassed my personal goal to become the greatest jazz player in Yorkshire… Perhaps I set my sights too low, and sometimes I wonder should I even be trying to aim higher? Yet of course, much of the time, it’s great fun, and that good old fiero when I do manage to punch above my weight isn’t half addictive for someone like me 🙂

Challenge vs SkillI do believe that the mastery of execution needed to play fighting games well is a big part of the ‘flow‘ that fans of this kind of game can achieve whilst playing. What I mean by this is that when the execution of moves is within their grasp, not too hard and not too easy, the player is put into the flow portion by just this aspect of the game; and they’ll probably have a lot of other enjoyment factors for them going on as well. The trouble is that the vast majority of gamers – at least when exposed to real competitive play on fighting games – are quickly placed into the Anxiety area on the graphic to the left – although I’d prefer to rename the feeling caused as frustration or despair. I believe one of the main reasons I enjoy it so much is that SF2 HDR hits my “flow zone” far more than any other fighting game, during competitive play, precisely because so many other fighting games are just too hard, too fast and too complex (in terms of the dexterity needed to use their mechanics) for me.

Unfortunately it seems that much of the fighting game community – and even the developers of these games – are oblivious to just how much of a challenge even so-called simpler or ‘easy’ games like HDR really are. As fighting games have developed over time, rather than a focus on balance and viable strategic options or tactical styles for players, games have generally just increased the complexity of the execution needed to master them. But then again, you could argue these developers really are feeding their own community, since even today you still hear cries from the ignorant about the so-called ‘dumbing down’ of SF2 in HDR purely due to the handful of motions & timings that were made easier. I take completely the opposite view and I think any nod towards greater accessibility is actually a really good idea for the genre. And the really daft thing is, when it comes to SF2 at least, that at the very top levels of play everyone can execute everything with very high %’s of success. So making moves ‘easier’ for lower level players, really doesn’t change the top-level game at all, it just allows more players access to it. If some players move into the “control/relaxation” zone when it comes to performing moves on a fighting game, I think that’s a really small concern, in fact the game arguably works best at that point. It amazes me that even fighting game fans at times seem not to realise there’s still so much more going on in these games than simply performing combos and special moves! ‘Flow’ can be found equally well, if not far more, in the rest of the gameplay inherent in fighting games, and that’s something I’ll explain further in future.

So really, maybe HDR is still the ideal fighting game for me when it comes to the mastery of execution, since I’m getting put very close to a ‘flow’ zone every time I get a chance for a crossup combo with DeeJay. “Alright Rikky, bust out da’ jackknife!.. kick”

  One Response to “Challenge me Angel!”

  1. I just picked up on a couple of really interesting articles from Gamasutra about difficulty in games, which are interrelated to all of this:

    http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=25040
    http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=25421

    To clarify my point in relation to those articles – what I’m saying is, fighting games are so far towards the “difficult & inaccessible” side of gaming (an SF tournament is even used as an example in the first link), they could really do with a nudge towards the other direction, even if it’s purely with the execution of moves; there is still a huge amount of ‘hardcore’ gameplay beyond that pure execution barrier.

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