There is a discussion I’ve seen crop up recently in regard to giving newcomers a “fighting chance”; balancing a game with added mechanics to better help a new player, as seen with SFV’s upcoming revenge meter. To me, this seems backwards, as all they are doing is giving the game an added layer of complexity to further complicate the game for a newcomer.
With Combofeind’s recent comments on the subject, I noticed a pretty ignorant stance on Capcom’s part:
“The battle mechanics that give players a “fighting chance” are not necessarily a bad thing. I say this because a player who has put in time and dedication will know how to avoid being hit by said mechanics. For a new player however, the difference between losing by 20% vs. 80% could mean the difference between whether they quit the game or stick around.”
There is a pretty big problem here, IMO, when it comes to game design. I feel a new player would be way more inclined to keep playing if they quickly understood WHY they lost, opposed to noticing how much they lost by. The quicker you can get a beginner to understand why they may have won or lost, the quicker they can enjoy the game for what it is. Yet Capcom has done nothing but hinder a beginner’s potential to understand their games by adding sub-systems and making their games more and more complex. What is so perplexing about their stance on this is how right they got this in the past.
We can look at a game like Street Fighter II as a game that embodied this philosophy. Because of the game’s high-damage and lack of meters/sub systems, you could find out how the game worked fairly quickly. Beginners could learn to punishing moves and deal damage rapidly, because they didn’t have to juggle various meters, understand cryptic mechanics, or practice huge combos in training mode to punish an opponent worth a damn. It has such a simple concept: Jump? Anti-Air. Projectile? Jump. Walking forward? sweep. Blocking? throw. You can punish someone with strong attacks and specials and easily win on strategy alone, without high execution combos and meter management. If people love the game enough for the game’s fundamentals and strategy, they’ll learn the more complex stuff later, but at least they have a fighting chance with strategy alone.
If we take Street Fighter II as the prime example of a fighting game that facilitates the nurturing of beginners with simple mechanics and clear strategies, then SFIV and modern Capcom fighters are the antithesis. A low-level and mid-level player can’t even fight eachother, because of the low-level player’s futility when it comes to damage output. Without an understanding of all the subsystems, the low-level player has no hope outside of the Comeback Mechanic. The mechanic in turn obscures fundamentals by covering up a beginner’s inability to deal damage through strategies and reads. How can this help a beginner understand your game at all? What did you teach the player? “Get beat up until you can do your hail marry move and hopefully eek out a win”. Yeah, I’m sure people will stick around with that sort of logic, sounds like a blast.
What do you guys think? Is the feeling of landing a huge comeback move enough to have people come back for more, to create new fighting game fans? Is the obscurity in fighting game systems holding back the growth in popularity of fighting games?