#1 Posted by jedge (57 posts) -

Hey duders,

Not sure quite how this'll go down but I'm a big advocate of accessibility in games, and a lot of people I know find certain genres hard to get into because of how not welcoming they are to new players. Case and point, the fighting game genre. I decided to sit down with three of the most recent entries in some of the most popular fighting game franchises to see how they stack up, after all, the frontrunners of the genre should in my opinion be setting the standard for accessibility as well as in gameplay and presentation.

It's split into three parts, one for each game:

Part 1 - Street Fighter x Tekken

Part 2 - Mortal Kombat

Part 3 - Dead Or Alive 5 and Conclusion

I'd love to hear what you guys think of the feature, seeing as the uptake on the site I posted it from hasn't been great so far. If you guys are into it I'd be more than happy to take requests for future genres to tackle in this way.

#2 Posted by HouseOfBalloons (46 posts) -

Seems interesting. I'll definitely get around to reading this on my shiny new Nexus 7 and give ya some feedback.

#3 Posted by jedge (57 posts) -

Great thank you so much Duder, really appreciate it!

#4 Posted by theoracleofgame (96 posts) -

This is pretty good! I've been trying to get into fighting games for a while -- specifically Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 -- and it's an uphill battle. Definitely been spending equal time on Shoryuken as actually playing the damn thing. The training mode is a good first step, but -- straight up -- is worthless for online competitive play. Would love to hear your thoughts on that.

#5 Posted by FLStyle (4665 posts) -

@jedge: Those 3 games in particular are... odd choices, but more power to you for putting in the effort. Of course once Divekick drops on August 20th the concept of accessibility in fighting games will be blown out of the water.

#6 Posted by jedge (57 posts) -

@theoracleofgame: You know I did think of Marvel vs. Capcom 3, but I knew they didn't bother implementing a tutorial, just a training mode like you said, so in terms of a discussion of how effective their tutorial was, it's a non-starter, sadly. At least with Street Fighter x Tekken, Capcom added a separate tutorial in addition to the training mode, plus they had made much of how much more accessible that game would be compared to prior entries in the series - sure, I didn't find it particularly effective

@flstyle: Yeah they kind of were but at least with those three I could track a progression from bad to good, and they were all games that had genuine tutorial modes, or tutorial elements baked into other modes. Plus they were games I could easily get hold of. Out of interest, what would you have liked to have seen? I thought about including Skullgirls, for instance, but I thought it would be more interesting to examine the kind of front-runners of the genre, because as (I think) I said in the article, they're the ones that should be paving the way in terms of accessibility.

(Admittedly with SFxT I'm using the term "front-runner" somewhat loosely...)

#7 Posted by joshwent (2172 posts) -

@jedge: Nice breakdown buddy. This is a great idea!

I've always been as baffled by fighters as I have been interested in them, so I've never spent the time to really get under the hood. Started playing MK9 on the PC a few weeks ago, and I think it's great for beginners like me. I thought the tutorial itself was a bit lacking, but the challenge tower stuff is super fun and also teaches a lot of important concepts that the tut doesn't even cover, in the most ridiculous way possible of course.

Still, kind of weird that this is even a problem in 2013. Why do you think fighters do such a shitty job at explaining themselves?

#8 Edited by Pepsiman (2470 posts) -

@joshwent said:

@jedge: Nice breakdown buddy. This is a great idea!

I've always been as baffled by fighters as I have been interested in them, so I've never spent the time to really get under the hood. Started playing MK9 on the PC a few weeks ago, and I think it's great for beginners like me. I thought the tutorial itself was a bit lacking, but the challenge tower stuff is super fun and also teaches a lot of important concepts that the tut doesn't even cover, in the most ridiculous way possible of course.

Still, kind of weird that this is even a problem in 2013. Why do you think fighters do such a shitty job at explaining themselves?

Part of the issue, believe it or not, is actually a bit legal in nature. Namco actually patented some of the basic ideas behind a hypothetically good tutorial that you think would otherwise be a no-brainer to include, so it can be difficult for developers to pioneer in that particular arena when they can't even necessarily legally include the basic stuff that would improve them. Some games have managed to circumvent different aspects of the patents over the years, but there are certain steps that are otherwise a risk to take when facing the prospects of a potential legal showdown with Namco's lawyers. Gamespot posted an article on the matter here, if you're curious. Obviously patents aren't the only thing holding back fighting game tutorials, but they're a bigger threat than many perceive.

#9 Edited by Petiew (1345 posts) -

They were all pretty interesting to read, good job on them!

I think your criticism on being unable to finish arcade mode on normal meant that the tutorial was inadequate is a bit too simple though. These types of games are designed to be played over and over so I'd say it's just a lack of familiarity with the game and the specific opponent that caused the loss.

You should check out Blazblue Continuum Shift and CS Extend if you want an example of a great tutorial mode. It covers basic things like walking, jumping, guarding, moves on to system mechanics and then advanced things such as mixups, wakeups and so on. There're even basic strategies for each individual character to get you started.

#10 Posted by Steak_Monster (22 posts) -

I've tried several times to get into fighting games, I got reasonably apt (in the loosest sense of the word) at Street Fighter IV, but it's such an unforgiving genre to really get into.

I'll definitely give these a read through.

I guess there's a general mindset you only pick up from playing lots of different fighting games.

#11 Posted by joshwent (2172 posts) -

@pepsiman: Wow! Thanks for the link and the info. That shit if fucked up!

Seriously, I'm no scientist, but basic functionality of game mechanics/design seems like it shouldn't be patentable to begin with. That seems to me like Paramount saying, "We put our credits at the end of the movie with white text on black, so fuck all you other guys!".

Just craziness. I wonder if, like I mentioned above, the challenge tower stuff in MK9 gets much more in depth tutorializing than the tutorial does to specifically avoid patent infringement?

#12 Posted by Juzie (168 posts) -

Where is Soul Calibur or King of Fighters? The 2 least accessible fighting game franchises. You named the 3 most accessible fighting games on the market lmao.

#13 Edited by BBAlpert (1442 posts) -

@juzie said:

Where is Soul Calibur or King of Fighters? The 2 least accessible fighting game franchises. You named the 3 most accessible fighting games on the market lmao.

I don't think I'd put Soul Calibur or King of Fighters anywhere close to "the least accessible." I'd give that distinction to something with a lot of disparate systems all going simultaneously, like BlazBlue or Guilty Gear.

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#14 Posted by FLStyle (4665 posts) -

@jedge said:

(Admittedly with SFxT I'm using the term "front-runner" somewhat loosely...)

And with Dead or Alive, and with Mortal Kombat.

#15 Posted by Petiew (1345 posts) -

@bbalpert: Guilty Gear is more complex and difficult, but i'd say execution wise King of Fighters is one of the most complex series out right now.

Blazblue is much simpler than people seem to think. You just need to learn what your specific character's gimmick is. What systems do you think are difficult in it?

#16 Posted by Pepsiman (2470 posts) -

@joshwent: Yeah, it's one of the consequences of our patent systems not being up to date with contemporary software development ethics. To my knowledge, video games specifically tend to occupy a weird legal hole by virtue of being both like games with underlying systems and mechanics "invented" by humans, but confined to relatively intangible mediums aside from a raw data receptacle most of the time like a cart or a disc, which causes a lot of legal debate about the validity of their patent applications when it's not actual console or portable hardware. As a result, the games that still manage to actually get specific mechanics and development techniques patented are that much more egregious. For traditional board games, a patent as we understand it now makes more sense since the system is intrinsically biased towards protecting ownership rights of physical devices, but video games have yet to really establish a legal precedence that formally allows the free flow of information. On some level, the ability for individual games to iterate and resemble one another without consequence a lot of the time seems to amount to little more than a quiet gentlemen's agreement borne out of software engineering ethos.

It's hard to say one way or another for certain as an outsider to development whether stuff like the challenge tower in MK9 exists specifically because of weird patent logistics, but it's certainly not a bad side effect to have either way. Namco's patent seems to deal in both a specific style of execution and presentation in its tutorials, so the way to go may very well be a sort of semantic battle where other games achieve similar levels of in-depth training modes under a different contextual guise so that legal types can confidently say that Namco's legal rights aren't being infringed.

If you read the rest of the article, it's worth noting that Namco seems to be the company that's by far the most keen on this sort of legal tactic to protect the integrity of its intellectual properties. Although the piece brings up a lot of other good gameplay examples that have mucked it up for other developers, they're also the ones that own a patent for being able to play games or minigames during load screens. They mostly use it let you play emulated versions of their arcade work while waiting for something else to finish loading, but it's one of the reasons why relatively few games today still don't feature much interactivity during load screens.

So really, the takeaway from all of this is that Namco is just kind of insane, I suppose.

#17 Posted by joshwent (2172 posts) -
#18 Posted by BBAlpert (1442 posts) -

@petiew said:

@bbalpert: Guilty Gear is more complex and difficult, but i'd say execution wise King of Fighters is one of the most complex series out right now.

Blazblue is much simpler than people seem to think. You just need to learn what your specific character's gimmick is. What systems do you think are difficult in it?

To be fair, I haven't played any of the recent King of Fighters games, and looking at an overview of what's going on in KoF XIII, I'm seeing a lot of things I have never heard of before. So in that regard, I'll take back what I said about KoF not being crazy.

As for Blazblue, I also don't have a lot of firsthand experience with the game. I've only played it a few times at a friend's house, but the fact that every(?) character has their own special gimmick on top of the flashy, fast paced gameplay just seemed overwhelming and intimidating. Part of my befuddlement could be on the part of my friend trying to give me a quick run-down of everything all at once.

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#19 Edited by Sooty (8082 posts) -

@joshwent said:

@jedge:

Still, kind of weird that this is even a problem in 2013. Why do you think fighters do such a shitty job at explaining themselves?

They don't. You get better by playing more so than any reading you can ever do.

The problem is people give up because they suck for a while and then call it quits, unlike Halo or Call of Duty where even a cat could get a few kills and call an airstrike.

SFxT has its issues but is still more played than Mortal Kombat and Dead or Alive, Mortal Kombat and Dead or Alive are dead games now, Injustice isn't far off from being dead either.

Best of comparing SFIV, UMvC3, TTT2 and KOF XIII, they are really the relevant titles right now. I don't think any of the tag based games are accessible as you have to learn 3 characters, assist combos and dealing with 1 combo leading to your death (in the case of MvC3). SFIV is pretty accessible but link combos (especially as Dudley) are not very newcomer friendly and there's a ton of characters to figure out how to play against.

#20 Posted by MikkaQ (10283 posts) -
@bbalpert said:

@juzie said:

Where is Soul Calibur or King of Fighters? The 2 least accessible fighting game franchises. You named the 3 most accessible fighting games on the market lmao.

I don't think I'd put Soul Calibur or King of Fighters anywhere close to "the least accessible." I'd give that distinction to something with a lot of disparate systems all going simultaneously, like BlazBlue or Guilty Gear.

I'd go as far as to say Soul Calibur is one of the easiest, most accessible fighting games I've ever played, and one that helped me transition into more serious ones. I mean it's mashy as all hell and it's super easy with some characters to find a move or combination of moves that make it impossible for your opponent to react or survive the match,

#21 Edited by Cheesebob (1235 posts) -

@sooty: As someone who recently bought Streetfighter 4 Arcade Edition in the steam sale I could not disagree more. That game is as obtuse as fuck. The challengers or whatever they are called barely teach you how to do the moves with no explanation when it comes to timing or even what some of the arrows mean. hell it doesn't even tell you what strong punch, light punch, light kick or strong kick etc are. I like the game, but its shitty at teaching new comers how to play it.

#22 Edited by gokaired (522 posts) -

@bbalpert said:

@petiew said:

@bbalpert: Guilty Gear is more complex and difficult, but i'd say execution wise King of Fighters is one of the most complex series out right now.

Blazblue is much simpler than people seem to think. You just need to learn what your specific character's gimmick is. What systems do you think are difficult in it?

To be fair, I haven't played any of the recent King of Fighters games, and looking at an overview of what's going on in KoF XIII, I'm seeing a lot of things I have never heard of before. So in that regard, I'll take back what I said about KoF not being crazy.

The funny thing is the "Crazy" has always been there (at least since 2000). The real reason you haven't seen half the combos is because you and anyone you've played against simply isn't THAT good XD

#23 Edited by Vade (393 posts) -

I play both GG and KOFXIII in tournaments and both games get their share of new players. However KOF mostly attracts people who are already somewhat familiar with fighting games, and already have decent fundamentals from some other fighter. On the flip side, the flashy action of GG is more appealing to completely new players although getting competitive in that game requires a lot more dedication. Then the matter that the online for KOF is just unplayable while GG is barebones (but quite nice once it gets going!) probably makes KOF the least accessible of the two overall.

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#24 Posted by bearshamanbro (284 posts) -

I'm really conflicted about tutorials in fighting games overall. The biggest reason is that a tutorial format is not the best way to learn how to play these games well and takes huge resources from the developers when it could be put to use on the main game. They usually just show you the game systems. The don't teach you strategy, muscle memory, spacing. All this stuff comes from playing the game. I rarely use tutorials because most of the system stuff only becomes useful after you've played the game for a while. All you need to start with any fighting game is knowing the basic moves, the timing, and the spacing. For example a new Street Fighter player using Ryu could learn the game at a decent level just using face buttons and never learning how to throw a fireball. Instead new players jump in and just try to dragon punch everything, get frustrated trying to do an FADC in the combo trials and then quit because they think the game is too hard. Meanwhile there is another player who skipped all the tutorials, learned how to use simple moves, how to block, and is competitive with what they can do well.

New players want to "learn" how to play, but they don't get the core of how fighting games work. They confuse technical proficiency with actual playing skill or even think that there is a "right way" to play. What they learn in these tutorials is only good if it can be applied in a match. Maybe that's the thing, these tutorials just focus on performing actions instead of teaching you some basic strategies with the base moves and how to use those in a match.

Last thought, the FGC puts out some great tutorials on Youtube for games. I think avoidingthepuddle.com has the best tutorials out there (they are for Tekken). These put any resources that the Devs are putting in their games to shame and start to show you how to actually play and get better. I think they should hire some of these community guys and just put a video tutorial section right on disc. In my opinion that's best way to teach this genre, explain with a visual of something being performed so you know what it should look like or what to look for.

#25 Posted by Vade (393 posts) -

Sometimes I see even good players (often myself) forget that they're playing against real people that make decisions based on what they see on the screen. When advising newer players this is the tricky situation where you can't really tell them exactly what to do when the more experienced player will counter them anyway. Often they'll lose to the same thing repeated over and over.

What ends up happening is what @bearshamanbro described is thinking there's a "right way" to play. Fireballs are unfair, stop spamming, etc. In fighting games you mostly just do whatever is needed to win and anything else is unnecessary. Once the players learn to counter different things the gameplay will become more and more complicated. So just doing the same thing over and over again is actually an excellent teaching tool even though it may seem somewhat condescending.

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#26 Posted by Sooty (8082 posts) -

@sooty: As someone who recently bought Streetfighter 4 Arcade Edition in the steam sale I could not disagree more. That game is as obtuse as fuck. The challengers or whatever they are called barely teach you how to do the moves with no explanation when it comes to timing or even what some of the arrows mean. hell it doesn't even tell you what strong punch, light punch, light kick or strong kick etc are. I like the game, but its shitty at teaching new comers how to play it.

The button config options teach you what a light kick, light punch, etc are.

I meant accessible in that it's not a ridiculous hard game to get started with, the game does teach you little, I can't argue with that, but the core gameplay is accessible once you've played for a while against live opponents, looking up some stuff online would help a lot, but knowing how to frame trap, how to punish every move and going for optimised combos isn't anything a beginner needs to worry about.

#27 Posted by Scrawnto (2440 posts) -
@vade said:

What ends up happening is what @bearshamanbro described is thinking there's a "right way" to play. Fireballs are unfair, stop spamming, etc. In fighting games you mostly just do whatever is needed to win and anything else is unnecessary. Once the players learn to counter different things the gameplay will become more and more complicated. So just doing the same thing over and over again is actually an excellent teaching tool even though it may seem somewhat condescending.

There are a lot of genres of games where losing is still fun for me, because the basic actions of the games are fun. First Person Shooters are like that for me. Fighting games are not, because the basic actions I get to take in a fighting game are (1) being pummeled continuously until my guy falls over, and (2) nothing else. Having every action I take be countered doesn't teach me anything about the game. Losing over and over again has not been an excellent teacher for me in the past. It doesn't tell me what's good in what situation, because to all appearances, everything is bad in every situation. Maybe matchmaking has gotten better since I tried to play Street Fighter IV, but I never had anything even resembling an even match in that game. And when I never had a match that was remotely enjoyable, there was nothing at all to motivate me to stick with it.

#29 Edited by jedge (57 posts) -

@pepsiman: Man that patent stuff is fascinating, thanks Duder! I totally agree with @joshwent about it being staggering that that stuff is patentable in the first place, we really need a legal overhaul on the patent system when applied to video games...

@petiew: Yeah you're absolutely it was by no means a perfect test, more of a litmus than anything. I tried to do the fairest test I could, given that it was just me doing the testing, and at least I applied the same standard to all three games. I don't know what a perfect test for fighting game accessibility would even be, given that like you say it is somewhat inherent to the genre that you need to play the game repeatedly - maybe set a group of people a task of completing the tutorial and then playing through the game for a set number of hours over several weeks? Would we factor online multiplayer into that? Sorry, thinking aloud here!

@juzie: Exactly! It would have been unfair to apply the testing standards that I do to those games - do they even have tutorials? (Genuine question!) The three I picked are the kinds of games that new people are likely to want to pick up because they've heard so much about them, or that their fighting game-playing friends have recommended to them as a starting point.

@flstyle: I disagree, I'd say those games were front-runners in terms of general gamer awareness - sure they might not go down a storm at EVO, or be regularly played by fighting game aficionados.

@sooty: How are you defining relevance, though? Do you mean in the sense that they're still actively played by fans of the genre rather than newcomers, and still draw in the crowds at EVO? I'd argue that they are relevant in terms of they're the games that are still household names, and likely to be first ports of call for newcomers to the genre - as such, surely we should expect them to be setting the standard of accessibility? Out of interest, if you're applying that definition of relevance, what games would you put forward for applying the same analysis of accessibility to say the RTS or FPS genres? Actually, I can kind of answer my own question there because a lot of the household name games in those genres are the same games that are widely played at tournaments? Hm...

@bearshamanbro: You could well be right about video tutorials being the best way, but saying that I don't think we've had enough experimentation and investment in fighting game tutorials to find out what approaches will work best yet. I think Skullgirls might have made the best stab at it I've seen - I could be wrong but didn't that tutorial at least attempt to teach and explain fighting game strategy as well as base moves and such?

@scrawnto: Couldn't agree more - the thing that frustrates me most when I'm losing is when I'm getting pummeled and juggled to the point where I can't get a move in at all. Once they've gotten me in the air and I can't react it feels like I may as well just not be holding the controller, and if it keeps happening I'm never going to learn what mistake I'm making so I'll just give up on online multiplayer in fighting games.

#30 Posted by FLStyle (4665 posts) -
#31 Edited by Sooty (8082 posts) -

@jedge said:

@sooty: How are you defining relevance, though? Do you mean in the sense that they're still actively played by fans of the genre rather than newcomers, and still draw in the crowds at EVO? I'd argue that they are relevant in terms of they're the games that are still household names, and likely to be first ports of call for newcomers to the genre - as such, surely we should expect them to be setting the standard of accessibility? Out of interest, if you're applying that definition of relevance, what games would you put forward for applying the same analysis of accessibility to say the RTS or FPS genres? Actually, I can kind of answer my own question there because a lot of the household name games in those genres are the same games that are widely played at tournaments? Hm...

Sort of both, but when it comes to competitive play most games see some life for a few months and then just drop off into obscurity, which has happened with MK and currently happening with Injustice. The only games that seem to stick around are Tekken and Capcom, everything else comes and goes I find. MK probably the most relevant among the casual crowd, but that crowd doesn't stick with fighting games past the first month, we even saw that happen with the GiantBomb community. (mostly)