What makes a fighting game deep?

So, I was explaining to my coworkers a few weeks ago that I was going to evo. I told them what games were being played there. They asked, aren’t those games kind of old? So I said yeah… but the newer 3d games kind of suck (DOA) and that the older games were deeper and better.

So they asked me what made a fighting game deep. Now that had me stumped for a while. I was thinking about my favorite game mvc2. I couldn’t exactly say it was well balanced, because its not. However, with the exception of a few trolls on this site (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE), its considered a great game. Meanwhile, another horrifically unbalanced game, svc, is also unbalanced, yet is condemned (rightfully so) as a piece of crap.

I couldn’t really articulate a good explanation. ANY TAKERS? OH, AND HI 2 EVERYONE WHO WENT TO EVO! IT WAS NICE MEETING U ALL!

good deal of room for mixup options at most points in a match without things degrading into “here’s your trump card move, have fun with it”; obviously your options will be a bit more limited at a few points such as during wakeup but as long as things aren’t so cut and dry the rest of the way through a match you’re on to a good start

Hot female characters! YAAAY!!!

sorry 'bout that…

My personal definition of a deep game is a game that you can get into easily and pick up enough skill to compete, but can continue learning new stuff long after. Think about how old some of the most popular games in the fighting game community are right now. People still play them because there’s always something more to learn. That’s depth.

I think a game is deep if it forces the player to make deep choices. A choice is deep if there isn’t a single clear right answer. A choice isn’t deep if there’s often one clear right answer, or if lots of things are qually good so you might as well act randomly.

Rock-paper-scissors is a good example of a game that, IMO, isn’t deep. The choice the player makes isn’t meaningful, because–absent external information about the other player, like “he’s hurt his hand, and can’t hold it out flat, so he can’t choose paper”–all your options are equally good. You just pick randomly and hope for the best. I know there are tournament players for rock-paper-scissors, but my understanding is that they add depth by studying the patterns of other players and trying to work out the psychological factors that go into one play or another. The depth there isn’t built into the game.

Super Turbo, by contrast, is deep, because the choices you make are meaningful. Say you’re playing Ryu. Will you walk up and throw? That gets pretty good damage, but not as much as comboing into super. Will you use a meaty attack and combo into super? That’s worth a lot more damage, but it’ll only work if the opponent thinks you’re going to throw; if not, he’ll block and you’ll just have reset the match (or, worse, wasted your super). Will you just block, anticipating a reversal? That gets the best damage of all if it works, but it’s only worth anything if the opponent thinks you’re not going to be blocking. In addition to thinking about what damage your choices give you, you also have to consider what you and your opponent have been doing in the past. If you’ve already pulled out the walkup-throw option twice, the opponent’s not likely to fall for it a third time–but he might be primed to throw out a jab to stop a throw attempt, and that makes him vulnerable to a meaty attack. Then again, your opponent knows you know…and so it goes. There isn’t a clear right answer, and random guessing isn’t as good as calculated decision making. You’re making deep decisions, and that makes for a deep game.

(Note that in Super Turbo, too, some of the depth comes from psychological factors, but it isn’t entirely coming from the players like it is in rock-paper-scissors.)

I’m tempted to say that “deep” and “meaningful” are the same, but I think “deep” captures the idea a little better. “Meaningful” is binary; a decision either is meaningful (i.e., not obvious and random guessing isn’t as good as calculated decision-making) or it isn’t. “Deep” is more granular; a decision can be more complex (and thus “deeper”) or less so.

A deep fighting game is a fighting game that doesn’t degenerate at higher levels but instead flourishes.

bloated system mechanics with an awkward learning curve

Many many many layers of guessing games and option selects.

Mind-games mixed with large combo systems and options to choose from, coupled with unique characters and set-ups. Plus, a game that doesn’t burn out easily, has a nice replay factor, and keeps the competitive ones coming back for more.

Paraphrased from one of Sirlin’s articles
But you can make rock paper scissors quite deep by simply adding monetary rewards to winning with a certain gesture. Let’s say that if you win with rock, you win $5, paper yields $3, and scissors, a measly dollar. Obviously now, the best choice (in terms of an opponent who randomly picks) is rock. But if your opponent is also trying to win as much money as possible, he should pick paper, because then if you pick rock (because you want money), you will lose and he will win. Just repeat the example as much as you want, and you’ll find that every plan has an equally effective counter.

Exactly, RPS can be pretty deep depending on the stipulations.

Virtua Fighter is the most praised game regarding depth. Yet VF’s core system is really about guessing and a psuedo rock-paper-scissors system.

Dead or Alive is the LEAST praised game regarding depth. Yet it’s system is vaguely similar to Virtua Fighters in that it too is about guessing and a psuedo rock-paper-scissors system.

The difference though is enough to push many people away from it. Like two ends of the spectrum that it is RPS depth.

Gawd, I love DoA but everyone on SRK shits on it…
I like VF and Tekken to though…
DoA5 will be deep[er]…

one important element of the RPS system in fighting games is the ability to cover multiple bases with one low risk/low reward option (e.g. blocking low beats most of your opponent’s attacks as well as them doing nothing but youre still at 0f at best) or one high risk/high reward option (e.g. DPing beats your opponent attacking or throwing but if they do nothing you’re fucked). VF seems to practically have a fucking matrix of shit like this with subtly varying risk/reward ratios.

another factor is the fact that your guessing games are tiered, i.e. when one guessing game is resolved, another is produced. the fireball trap in the CPS1 games is a classic example of this. the player in the trap has to guess right 3 times in a row before he can even escape the trap.

the fireball trap is also a good example of a low-risk guessing game, which i think is also important. if every offensive move you make puts you in as much or almost as much danger as the opponent, the game still has some depth, but the results are likely to be much more random, and the value of setups is decreased. you should be able to work to set up situations that allow you to deal damage while at minimal risk to yourself.

Nykko… I think Tecmo tried to make DOA4 deeper, but just ended up bloating the move lists of each character, which made the already ridiculous learning curve that much worse (Thanks ALOT, non-existent blocking and abscenely difficult countering system!). It might not have been so bad if the moves were actually moves, as in Soul Calibur, rather than just an obscenely long list of combos.

Speaking of which, I find Soul Calibur to be a relatively deep series. There’s far more guess-work and strategy involved than the majority of 3D fighters, and countering doesn’t become the name of the game, because the game doesn’t necessarily reward counter-crazy players as heavily as other games do. The move lists are long, but tend to flow rather easily out of the character, which gives each character its own unique feel, with benefits and drawbacks therein.

Basically, any game that properly balances itself, while offering many alternative approaches to offense and defense is by definition ‘deep’. Honestly, though, I think the fighting games with more focus on combos tend to suffer in terms of depth. Look at Killer Instinct, and (sorry) the ‘Capcom vs. …’ games.

different risk/rewards for parallel counters to a problem. in turn, these counters to the counters have different risk/rewards, in turn, these counters have different risk/rewards etc

Well, actually, blocking is useful, dont believe that nonsense garbage when ppl say that blocking aint useful.
The counter sytem aint hard at all, counter when your in a stun, or if your going for the wake-up kick. That is all.
And dont be a counter whore.lol

various glitches that “enhance” gameplay. e.g. roll cancel, PTF, mvc2 infinities,

just when you thought the game was dead - a glitch makes the game playable again. lulz

Strategy. It’s more than just mixups. Think of all the things you need to be good at to be successful in fighting games: zoning, pressuring, execution, tricks etc.

The more strategies you can use, and in turn, have to adapt to, the deeper a game is. When only one strategy prevails over all others, that when you have a shallow, broken game.

Also I would say guessing does not really line up with a game being ‘deep’ since calling a game ‘deep’ generally refers to the level of strategy, and guessing is really just a lack of strategy.


Parries too.