Posted by Carbon64 (21 posts) -

One common argument I come across when I defend fighting games is that they do not offer enough single player content. As an advocate of single player experiences and fighting game I found myself reluctantly agreeing. Even games that rely on their multiplayer like Call of Duty or Anarchy Reigns still offer some kind of single player campaign. So why do fighting games stay away from expansive single player experiences?

I do understand that fighting games like to add multiple gameplay modes but, I have found most of them to be either insubstantial or just more of the same. Fighting games have even made advancements in their story with BlazBlue and Skullgirls but, it still boils down to 1 v 1 fights. These gameplay modes usually include arcade, story, survival, online, and training modes. While fighting games have been trying to make advances in their story modes of late they still boil down to the same 1 v 1 fights in the arcade modes without any variation. So how do we fix this? While there are some games that have made strides towards a fighting game that can appeal to those that like single player experiences such as the world tour mode in Street Fighter Alpha 3 and the mission mode in Soulcalibur whereas you would complete different tasks in a 1 v 1 fight. These modes did add more variation to the game but, they did get repetitive after a while as they were still fights against the same characters you would fight in arcade mode. Super Smash Bros. Brawl actually took things in the right direction with its Subspace Emissary mode which tuned Super Smash Bros. into an action platformer complete with bosses and an expansive storyline.

Now while I did not enjoy Subspace Emissary for various reasons it did show a single player experience can work in a fighting game if it still maintains its same overall feel. Since the Super Smash Bros series even in its multiplayer mode has attributes that can be found in an action platformer the transition in Subspace Emissary wasn't too drastic and the developer did not have to create a whole new game. However, most fighting games are not structured like Super Smash Bros. and don't include platforming elements so what can we do for those games? Well most fighting games do share attributes with the beat 'em up genre. Yes fighting game developers could make the single player mode for their fighting games a beat 'em up adventure much like those we used to play at the arcade like Streets of Rage and Battle Circuit. The fighting game wouldn't have to sacrifice their gameplay mechanics either because they fit easily into the beat 'em up genre.

Well most fighting games do share attributes with the beat 'em up genre. Yes fighting game developers could make the single player mode for their fighting games a beat 'em up adventure much like those we used to play at the arcade like Streets of Rage and Battle Circuit. The fighting game wouldn't have to sacrifice their gameplay mechanics either because they fit easily into the beat 'em up genre. So what do you think about fighting games? Are they fine the way the are or should they try to add more single player experiences? Let me know in the comment section below.

#1 Edited by Barrabas (325 posts) -

Fighting games have tried doing beat-em-up modes for singleplayer before. Off the top of my head I know Tekken did it, MK has done it, and I think one Guilty Gear game did it as well (but I could be wrong about that). They've been terrible. I know it sounds like a great idea in theory, but when you just straight port fighting game controls into a beat-em-up style game you end up with one awkward poor controlling game.

#2 Posted by Carbon64 (21 posts) -

@barrabas: It all depends on the execution. Like Super Smash Bros. if the single player mode essentially functions the same as the 1 v 1 fights it can work.

#3 Edited by Rorie (2701 posts) -

I would really, truly love it if every single fighting game would eliminate any kind of flashing UI elements from them. One of my huge pet peeves with fighting games is when they're arcade ports and, while I'm playing by myself, they have a flashing "PRESS START" prompt for the 2p controller in the upper right corner. SO ANNOYING. I would play more fighting games if I was sure that that would be eliminated.

Soul Calibur used to be pretty good about supplying dungeon-like exploration with multiple weird alternative rules. Pretty sure the most recent Mortal Kombat did that too. Those things are always fun, and preferably to the side-scrolling beat-em-up stuff, at least to me.

Staff
#4 Posted by DarthOrange (3851 posts) -

Very nice write up duder. I find it a startling omission that you left out the Mortal Kombat games which during the PS2 era were always trying new things with their single player content. Mortal Kombat 9 also had a ridiculous amount of single player content both the form of the story mode (which granted was 1v1 battles but it was still very well done) and with the challenge tower that had all sorts of mini games and goofy one-off missions where you would do stuff like fight zombies or play as the director of a movie.

I think an important question companies ask is "how much money are we losing by not including a strong single player?" I have to assume that the answer is not a lot. People who buy fighting games for the single player are sort of like people who buy Call of Duty for the zombie mode. Sure they exist, but how many sales did Modern Warfare 3 lose for not including it? Same goes for something like Marvel vs Capcom or Street Fighter.

#6 Edited by Barrabas (325 posts) -

@carbon64 said:

@barrabas: It all depends on the execution. Like Super Smash Bros. if the single player mode essentially functions the same as the 1 v 1 fights it can work.

But beat-em-ups aren't 1 vs 1 fights. That's where the thing falls apart, and where you get bad awkward singleplayer modes like Tekken 6. If you want a good story mode with 1 vs 1 fights try giving MK9 or Injustice a spin.

#7 Edited by Carbon64 (21 posts) -

@barrabas: Draglade on the DS worked pretty well. Warzard was almost there but, it opted for 1 v 1 fights. All I know is it can work if there is no foreground/background and the beat 'em mode is linear. The moves might be more complicated than other beat 'em ups but, I think that may even break up the monotony of it all.

#8 Edited by casper_ (901 posts) -

@barrabas: yeah i think guilty gear judgement did that. there was also a capcom game called red earth which wasn't exactly a beat em up but more like a series of beat em up boss fights with deeper fighting mechanics.

i'm not sure how you could make an engaging single player experience in a traditional fighting game. the gameplay is really segmented (ie rounds), the mechanics need to be fairly deep for it to be an interesting fighting game and the AI generally isn't very fun to fight against and difficulty is usually a result of the computer reading your inputs and doing something ridiculously predictive.

the Tales series kind of has a fighting game feel to its battle system (although it depth is generally kind of focused more in the rpg direction) and i think that works pretty well but you are still warping into a totally different kind of rule-set as battles start and then leaving and returning to some other kind of gameplay after which seems kind of disjointed to me.

#9 Posted by Barrabas (325 posts) -

@carbon64 said:

@barrabas: Draglade on the DS worked pretty well. Warzard was almost there but, it opted for 1 v 1 fights. All I know is it can work if there is no foreground/background and the beat 'em mode is linear. The moves might be more complicated than other beat 'em ups but, I think that may even break up the monotony of it all.

Well I've never even heard of Draglade, and I've never played Warzard so I can't argue against those. I'll just leave it with I'm skeptical of that type of mode working well, but I'd love to be proven wrong as you're certainly correct with the notion that most fighting games need better single player modes.

#10 Posted by StarvingGamer (8016 posts) -

Time. Money. Resources.

Games like MK9 and Injustice are probably well-served by their expansive campaigns because there's a familiarity, both of gameplay and of mythos, that the most casual fighting game players can get behind. But I doubt crazier fighting games like BlazBlue are drawing in people from outside the FGC by virtue of their more fleshed-out single-player. The game still looks indecipherable to anyone not steeped in the genre.

If I had to choose between games that play like MK9 with a fully-featured story mode and games that play like MvC3 with almost nothing outside of the core fighting, I'd take MvC3 every time. The money has to come from somewhere, and I'd hate to think that the fighting game I was about to play ended up with one or two fewer characters to allow for single-player stuff.

#11 Edited by Petiew (1332 posts) -

Well it's a decent idea, but I don't feel like anyone would be enticed to buy a fighting game because of a tacked on beat-em-up mode.

I do think story modes and more single player content can serve to help a game sell better. A lot of Blazblue's popularity stems from its story, characters, charm and also the popular radio show that they do. But people buy fighting games for the fighting, stories can be good, but I don't think implementing them as a beat-em-up would be very enthralling or worthwile.

#13 Posted by FTomato (233 posts) -

@starvinggamer: I bought BlazBlue because of the story mode. Ditto MK9 and Persona 4 Arena, and I intend to do the same for Injustice. I don't buy fighting games that don't have a single player component larger than arcade ladders.

#14 Edited by Cheesebob (1232 posts) -

I loved Subspace Emissary for some ridiculous reason

#15 Posted by Humanity (8817 posts) -

I don't know about story but I think they could definitely use better tutorials and if they can incorporate that into a story that's even better.

They need entire sections dedicated to cross ups and overheads. Like you need to block and perform a certain number of cross ups and overheads in succession in order to progress further in the story "single player"

#16 Edited by JohnSublime (53 posts) -

It is a hard thing to envision. I think one thing that can help is giving the players a full toolset to make custom match ups with their own crazy conditions.

Bored of fighting one person? Make it so your fighting two, three, four people one after the other without interruption. Or even multiple people at once. Stack poison and life steal modifiers on yourself along with no block and a hundred other modifiers. Even if it would break the game it would still be fun just to try and adapt yourself to these crazy game breaking situations you are free to construct.

Netherealm did an incredible job with MK9's story mode. I loved every second of it and the difficulty really amped toward the end with the multiple fighter encounters. Some complained that doing those fights were cheap, but I think it's far better way of adding difficulty over making the computer cheat by reading your button presses perfectly.

While I've had a lot of fun with Injustice, the story mode disappointed me. As a DC comics fan I was really excited to see what crazy shit they would end up doing and as a whole the story was okay, although similar to many other DC stories that have been in the comics, cartoons and movies but the individual dialogue in a lot of places was really hammy and could have been done much better in my opinion.

I had started reading the comic in the run up to the game and felt like this about it. The artwork and writing was pretty hit and miss but the nature of the story being a massive game changer that it is, made it entertaining enough when taken at face value. Going back to the tie in comic after playing Injustice makes the writing seem much better in comparison. Still some hilariously poor panels here and there though.

The way Damian kills Nightwing made me laugh so much. Especially after seeing the cringe worthy interaction between Bruce and Damian have in the game.

More games need to do what Tekken has done for a long time and collect data on people playing in the arcades so they can build more interested and varied bots when it eventually comes to consoles.

#17 Posted by THRICE_604 (210 posts) -

MK9 was a great first step but Injustice proved it. Fighting games need a single player campaign with a fleshed out story. No more insane plot lines you are decoding from character bios and one off endings for each character. Thats all great include that there too. But because of this Injustice and MK9 are definitely my favorite two fighting games. And come to think of it MK6 was probably my previously most played fighter because of its crazy and half broken story mode.

#18 Posted by rebgav (1429 posts) -

Mortal Kombat 9

@barrabas said:

MK9 or Injustice

MK9 and Injustice

MK9's story mode [...]

Injustice

MK9 was a great first step but Injustice proved it.

Does no-one remember MKvDC?! Did I imagine that game?! You guys should try it, you might like it. It plays quite like those other two games, it has the same plot as those other two games, it has the same characters as those other two games - now that it's okay to like MK again you might find that, in hindsight, MKvDC was actually quite good.

@carbon64 said:

Let me know in the comment section below.

Ew.

#19 Edited by Rebel_Scum (637 posts) -

Would be nice if they played more like an adventure game. Games that have done it right in my books:

Mortal kombat 9

Soul Blade (PSX)

Tobal No.1 (PSX)

I don't really play that many fighting games though apart from original MK 1 & 2 and SF2.

#20 Edited by DarthOrange (3851 posts) -

@rebgav said:


Does no-one remember MKvDC?! Did I imagine that game?! You guys should try it, you might like it. It plays quite like those other two games, it has the same plot as those other two games, it has the same characters as those other two games - now that it's okay to like MK again you might find that, in hindsight, MKvDC was actually quite good.

I bought a PS3 for Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe. I also first discovered Giant Bomb because Jeff was the only dude on the internet that seemed to love the game as much as I did. He is the only person to give the game a perfect score on metacritic, the score it deserves! To this day his is the only opinion about Mortal Kombat that is worth a damn in all of video game journalism.

#21 Edited by MikkaQ (10268 posts) -

I really like what NeverRealm did with their recent games for singleplayer, that should be new standard at this point, any less just comes off as inadequate now.

#22 Edited by Winternet (8006 posts) -

I don't know. Maybe? Probably not. Back in the days, only thing you need was a handful of quarters and a tournament-like setup and boom, you had your single player. And you loved it. So, although the genre has changed, it hasn't changed that much that you need a well realized Single Player.

#23 Posted by JohnSublime (53 posts) -

@rebgav: I did play MK vs DC that was incredible in its own special way. Looking back I actually think I got more joy from that story than the Injustice one despite there being next to none there bar RAGE!

The fighting was fun too. Despite complaints about the violence being turned down some of the fatalities (or rather brutalities) were unbelievably harsh.

See Captain Marvel

#24 Edited by FLStyle (4581 posts) -

Good write-up.

As far as I'm concerned, if you're Capcom, Namco, Atlus and Arc System Works and releasing fighting games without single player content like MK vs. DC, MK9 & Injustice (with dynamic story and challenge modes) then you're doing it wrong.

@carbon64: Don't say, "Let me know in the comment section below." That's for "professional," businessy video game journalists with no personality.

@rebgav: No-one includes MK vs. DC because it was part of the dark era of 3D Ed Boon games. MK vs. DC had the story but not the competent fighting game engine mechanics.

#25 Edited by Damodar (1302 posts) -

I think the reason why a lot of the games of the genre are so lacking in single player content is because the games are intended to be played multiplayer. Playing against another person and either just wailing on each other, or playing at a higher level and getting those mindgames happening is what really makes fighting games fun. Fighting against each other to control space on screen, baiting and reading and all that good stuff. It's basically the reason why Dive Kick actually has depth. When just fighting the AI, it all feels really pointless to me. I got the hit more because an AI subroutine rolled a dice and decided not to block that time, not because I got a good mixup or anything like that. As much as I appreciate the story modes put in to games like Persona 4 Arena and the BlazBlue games, I don't really want to go through a bunch of AI fights to experience that stuff. And since anybody who is actually taking a fighting game seriously is playing against other people, there isn't really too much reason to actually improve the AI, which is about as good in most fighting games now as it was in Yie Ar Kung Fu.

Obviously, I'm not representative of the normal person playing a fighting game, since I come at it utterly from the competitive side, so while I can see people being annoyed by the slender offering of single player content in, say, most Capcom fighters, I don't really care about any of it as long as I have training mode, versus mode and online.

Certainly, a LOT of people DO like that stuff and lots of games are going out of their way to include a bunch of that stuff. I do think asking for the single player stuff to diverge in terms of actual gameplay is maybe a bit unfair though, you're asking them to become something they are not.

Also, MK vs DCU is terrible. I popped it back in the PS3 this week to see if it was as bad as I remember and I continue to be fucking flabbergasted that Jeff gave that mess five stars.

#26 Posted by rebgav (1429 posts) -

@flstyle said:

@rebgav: No-one includes MK vs. DC because it was part of the dark era of 3D Ed Boon games. MK vs. DC had the story but not the competent fighting game engine mechanics.

MKvDC had its problems and MK9 is obviously the better game but I don't buy the narrative that one is a masterfully crafted piece of fighting game goodness and the other is a poop. MK9 hit a lot of the major features that people wanted from a new MK and it did a good job of updating/modernizing MK's systems to bring it up to par with contemporary fighting games but it's not far enough removed from the previous game to allow for the complete turnaround in reception between the two releases.

Still, we're talking specifically about single-player content and MKvDC should be recognized in any discussion of NetherRealm's approach, they pretty much 'solved' the single-player value problem in 2008.

#27 Posted by C2C (855 posts) -

Very good write up.

The thing about deviating from just the typical 1v1 fighting format for single player is that you are now introducing mechanics which are not compatible with fighting games. Beat em up mechanics are really hit or miss. I have fond memories of the Tekken 3's beat em up mode, but start foaming at the mouth when I remember Guilty Gear Isuka's attempt at it.

The pure mechanics of a fighting game even make interesting narratives somewhat difficult to pull off. You have to write around the fact that character will fight because of the game mechanics. While Acsys have figured out how to pull off that type narrative, they can't really make the actual fighting gameplay speak to anything other than dude beats up other dude. I would like to speak more to what the new MK and Injustice have done, but I have yet to play those games and have no access to consoles right now.

However, I think the more interesting single player modes will integrate fighting game mechanics in weird new ways with the narrative. I would find it hilarious if some developer found a way to integrate the car smashing minigame into the narrative. Or imagine a narrative that tries to make sense of the tekken ball minigame in Tekken 3.

#28 Posted by Carbon64 (21 posts) -
#29 Edited by StaticFalconar (4849 posts) -

Good write up, here's my two cents on the matter

The "great single player" in MK9 and Injustice is somewhere along the lines of The storyline in Bioshock. By that I mean all the cutscenes in between the actual gameplay is really what drives the player to play the game. As a first time player of whichever game (MK9, injustice), I wouldn't mind it since it forces me to go through half the roster opening up my mind to characters I never would have tried usually. But, I simply have no intention to play through the single player again.

Now the other way single player fighting games have gone is to place the game as a platformer or beat them up (some version of smash and Tekkan did this i believe). As "fun" as that is, when you do that, anything you play in the single player mode will not mean jack shit to the mutiplayer. You know the whole fighting games is 1v1 and when turned into a platformer or beat them up its automatically not that. Why don't I just play a platformer or beat them up game instead?

But perhaps that may not be a bad thing however. The single player of COD whatever doesn't have kill streaks which makes that multiplayer experience unique. The single player and multiplayer aspect of fighting games can be two separate entities, and it works out. However, if at all possible; I would disguise the single player into one big tutorial.

Imagine if you will, SF5. The overall single player storyline is like MK9/injustice where there's an over arching storyline forcing you to play through many characters. You start off as Ryu and your opponent is makes some remark of how Ryu's fireballs are a great tool for zoning in the game (this can be more in depth or not depending on how great the writing can be to get away with it), then the computer would have a preprogrammed sequence where they would be more susceptible to the zoning game. Move the story on to say C. Viper/ibuki for cross-up etc. As for the actual difficulty that one will experience eventually when they cannot get the basics of whatever character down because it takes heavy button execution (say the rush down characters), when they lose, have a dream sequence where its flat out a tutorial of learning that combo/button sequence/timing, etc before you go back to the real fight.

No matter where fighting game is going, people should know the hype and joy in all fighting games has always been based on the multiplayer experience. By that I mean in theory if match making was perfect and lag non insistent (probably never will be), it will follow the same path as a group of friends picking the game up for the first time. In the beginning everybody button mashes, just being excited about the animation of the moves and such. Then eventually everybody learns how to do all the moves on command (and be smart as to when to use it too), move on to combos, and eventually you are so good that whatever you want your character to do in any given situation, you have the reflexes and muscle memory to pull it off. That is when it gets to be the most fun, since at that point the only way to win is to actually think of your opponent and his own pattern of play. Of course when you face the "noobs" of the same game, you can just throw fire balls or cross them up all day, and they simply can't do jack shit about it, easy ass victories until they learn to control their character at a high enough level where they can actually do something about the same patterns that has beaten them in the past. If somehow, you can progarm the single player experience to replicate that; that would be the true best single player experience in the videogame.

#30 Posted by Cameron (595 posts) -

I think they do if the developers want more people to buy them. I don't like playing against people online because people online are almost universally horrible sports. No one is a gracious winner or loser and that is very off putting This isn't a problem for most games as they have a competent single-player mode. However, this is a huge problem for fighting games as they almost never have single-player modes worth playing. I can enjoy the campaign in Starcraft 2 or the single-player portion of COD 4 even though those are multiplayer focused games. I can't say the same about most fighting games. The result is that I almost never buy fighting games. They probably just aren't for me and that's fine, but they are excluding a significant portion of their potential market by having terrible single-player.

#31 Edited by churrific (475 posts) -

I appreciate having a fleshed out single player, but no I don't think they're strictly needed. Actually, I feel like creating a more robust online experience around the multiplayer is a better way to go in terms of growing the genre. Follow the online infrastructure for the moba and RTS games of the world. Create options for leagues, fantasy leagues, stats, better matchmaking, viewing experiences in game, Dota 2- like unlockables, etc. Just go all in on that stuff and make it the most addicting shit to hook people into. Then just let the word of mouth from that take over. I mean the biggest/most popular games in the world right now are those types of multiplayer games with amazing online experiences like that, but generally inconsequential or flat out no singleplayer campaigns. Just sayin..

#32 Posted by Crysack (296 posts) -

The problem is that, when devs focus on the 'fluff' in fighting games (so to speak), it tends to come at the price of solid core gameplay. Case in point - Soul Calibur 3, which had an extensive singleplayer campaign with Chronicles of Souls etc but the core gameplay was fundamentally broken. Compare it to Soul Calibur 5 which, while it had almost zero extra content, was infinitely superior from a gameplay perspective and far better received by the fanbase.

#33 Edited by Clonedzero (4091 posts) -

I got Injustice: Gods among Us, and honestly, i REALLY enjoyed its dumb elseworld story. It felt like an elseworld comic to me. Most of the characters were well represented and jumping between characters was actually beneficial to the story AND the player by forcing them to learn new characters. (i still suck at cyborg). It was a fun what? 6 or 7 hour playthrough? something like that. It was still a blast.

I can't argue with that at all. I enjoyed the hell out of it. Plus theres the S.T.A.R labs stuff which i barely scratched the surface of. So yeah. Injustice has TONS of singleplayer content. OH! Plus i unlocked about a dozen single player ladder match variants via unlocks.

So while I'm not a huge fighting game guy, Injustice is actually the first fighting game i've got in like 5 years. It's pretty staggering how much content is in it. Granted most of the time i play it now is playing couch versus against my brother or other friends.

Still as a person who doesn't normally play fighting games, Injustice is great, has tons of multiplayer and single player content. I'm really enjoying it. From what i hear i shoulda bought mortal kombat reboot too when it was new, as its alot like Injustice.

Online
#34 Posted by Fredchuckdave (5339 posts) -

For new IPs it doesn't necessarily matter; for ongoing series that are otherwise identical absolutely. Soul Calibur II/III were awesome for the single player weirdness and it's a shame that they threw that to the wayside. KoF XIII is a lot of fun because the very hard comp is really well designed so just fighting matches is solid, so that's another alternative to adding in purely single player modes is simply making the comp more interesting without making it cheat. If Injustice didn't have a shitload of single player content I still would've been able to get a few hundred hours out of it since it wasn't played out from day 1 like most fighting games are, but if a game has familiar characters that play almost exactly the same as they did in the last installment they desperately need something to draw in more people than the already devoted fanbase.

#35 Edited by GERALTITUDE (2947 posts) -

Yeah other than the NetherRealm games I can't think of any good SP campaigns in fighting games. Didn't someone on the bombcast say the next Street Fighter was taking a similar approach to the MK/DC games?

Sometimes NR does this, and Injustice is the best example so far, but the story should be created in-fight, rather then in lengthy cut-scenes (whether they use the same graphics as the gameplay or not). Cut-scenes wouldn't disappear, but just weigh less. They need to be more ambitious with the camera, and more creative with the way they present the end of round, tagging in and out, and figure out a way (maybe using music?) to present some kind of feedback to the player when the "tension" rises, or someone makes a comeback, and so on.

#36 Edited by Hailinel (23917 posts) -

Yeah other than the NetherRealm games I can't think of any good SP campaigns in fighting games. Didn't someone on the bombcast say the next Street Fighter was taking a similar approach to the MK/DC games?

Sometimes NR does this, and Injustice is the best example so far, but the story should be created in-fight, rather then in lengthy cut-scenes (whether they use the same graphics as the gameplay or not). Cut-scenes wouldn't disappear, but just weigh less. They need to be more ambitious with the camera, and more creative with the way they present the end of round, tagging in and out, and figure out a way (maybe using music?) to present some kind of feedback to the player when the "tension" rises, or someone makes a comeback, and so on.

Persona 4 Arena and the BlazBlue series have great single-player story modes. Soulcalibur V tried, but was hampered by what felt like an obviously truncated development cycle. Capcom is looking into doing more elaborate story modes for their fighters, but I don't expect them to necessarily emulate the MK9 model specifically.

#37 Edited by Bloodgraiv3 (2712 posts) -

I really like what neatherrealm does with fighting game stories. I do think other fighting game franchises need better story lines. Or story lines in general.

#38 Posted by gokaired (488 posts) -

Persona 4: Arena seems to be the heftiest story mode of of any fighting game, but KoF should be commended. It does feel more like a continuing story than most and characters referring or changing for reasons of the previous game, for instance Mature lost her eye and though died and came back still hasn't got it back.