Archaic, inelegant movement and accessibility in fighting games. (blog thing)

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#1 Edited by shivermetimbers (1718 posts) -

For a long time I thought my deficiency in performance in fighting games had to do with its multi-combo button style fighting and for awhile I thought that was the case since I was decent at Smash bros. I have friends who are into Smash, so naturally I ended up buying it for that reason alone and that forced me into buying their arbitrary and obligatory online service for Switch. I also have friends who are into Warframe, just not on the Switch and b/c I was forced into buying online for that, I'd figured I'd try out Warframe for Switch. I thought aiming was rough on controller sticks (or at least the Switch, I have a pro controller and that didn't help much), so I decided to jump back with friends on Warframe on PC after a long hiatus and it got me to thinking a bit about movement mechanics in games.

The more fluidity in movement you give to the player, the more power they have. The less effort they have to put in to accomplish this movement, the easier it is to learn. What I'm saying isn't new, many people have said it. So to get to the point here, fighting games need to do better in this area. There's a reason Smash tends to be more popular than your Street Fighters and Mortal Kombats it's because it's easier to learn not only in terms of fighting mechanics, but in terms of movement.

And here's a shocker, I think Smash needs to improve on that too. Lets step it back a bit tho, I mentioned Warframe earlier and I feel that at the moment, it gives players a sense of complexity and power in its movement using 2 buttons, jump and crouch. Both control either horizontal and vertical movement. Combined, they can used to essentially dance around levels due to the game's pace and fluidity. You can crouch to gain momentum then jump to whisk yourself around. Aiming down sights while doing this slows your fall, allowing you to be more accurate with shots. Compared to other shooters like Destiny or Gears of War, games that require you to use cover or suck your thumb in a corner to regain health, you can essentially dodge fire while continuously doing damage and making progress towards your objectives.

Am I saying all shooters need to be like Warframe...no. There's something to be said about grounded movement mechanics and keeping the player on their toes (literally), but I'd argue that Warframe and even Vanquish innovated the shooter by making the player feel skillful by it's fluidity and simplicity. They may not be tactical in the traditional sense and they aren't exactly tense games but in terms of power fantasy, they certainly are a cut above the rest.

I think we need a Warframe for fighting games, or rather, we need more accessible fighting games. They are a hard genre to get into for many people and it kinda doesn't have to be that way. More fluidity and less input for movement would be appreciated. TL;DR: It feels clunky having to push the stick twice in one direction to get your character to dodge or move faster. I understand that's a staple in fighting games and fighting games are PvP in nature, but it doesn't feel satisfying, at least to me.I may not have a solution, but in Smash's case, there are two buttons essentially being used for 'jump' (on the default control setttings), why not give the option to hold down one of those buttons to gain momentum? It would be similar to the slide in Warframe. Less input for the same result. That's just one example.

I understand part of the joy of fighting games is learning combos, which is fine, but movement shouldn't have a learning curve, it should just feel natural. There needs to be a sense of momentum and fluidity to it, which is what the genre lacks. Thanks for reading and try not to throw rocks at me for my opinion piece. :)

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#2 Posted by musclerider (895 posts) -

In a sense I see where you're coming from but let me put in my two cents as someone who has a couple of hundred hours in at least half a dozen fighting games (mainly Street Fighter and Arksys games).

The movement may feel a bit stiff when coming in but that's because in a lot of these games the most important thing in a match isn't landing big combos it's positioning. Some games certainly move at slower paces than others (SFIV being notoriously methodical) but ultimately everything in a fighting game exists in a rulebook. Knowing the rules helps you know what options your opponent has. Knowing what options your opponent has helps you know what they'll probably do. And knowing the rules helps you know how to react to what they're about to do. The more things you add to the book the more complicated the game becomes. Go look up a wiki for a Guilty Gear or BlazBlu game and they're just an impenetrable wall of jargon and acronyms because of the amounts of options in those games.

I'm a huge Warframe fan myself also so I get what you're saying about the movement. It's fluid and you have an incredible amount of freedom as to how you approach the environment. But lets say you start adding all sorts of new movement options to fighting games. This gives you a lot more options as to what to do but it also gives them to your opponent. Now you have more mechanics to learn how to use and how to fight against. A lot of these fighting games have so many mechanics at this point that some games like Under:Night include tutorials that are 50+ discrete lessons on different mechanics.

I think the point I'm trying to make here is that a lot of these "traditional" fighting games might feel stiff compared to Smash but that's what the genre is. A good player can win a Street Fighter match with a single button if they know how to use their movement options properly and when you've played it long enough the feeling of "stiffness" tends to fade. It's like getting upset at a chessboard for me not being allowed to move a rook diagonally.

TL;DR: On the surface it might sound like a good idea but it would break the way that traditional 2D style fighting games play at all levels.

So my question to you would be:

What fighting games have you tried?

What kind of changes would you actually like to see (more options, easier inputs, etc.)?

My biggest tip: If you want to learn why people enjoy these games learn about the fundamentals rather than going straight for combos. A lot of combos are hard to pull off even for experienced players (some SF combos require inputs 1/60th of a second apart to connect) which is why a strong understanding of fundamentals (footsies, zoning, etc.) can really let you whoop most people's butts.

Sidenote: I haven't played these games with a regular controller in a loooooong time so I can only imagine what a nightmare it is to try to do combos. I use either a traditional fightstick for most games and a Hitbox (fightstick with buttons for directions instead of a joystick) for games that require a particularly heavy amount of dashing.

Didn't mean to respond with a rant but I love getting a chance to talk about fighting games so I got a little carried away lol :) Feel free to ask if I didn't make any sense

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#3 Posted by nnickers (496 posts) -

Have to run to work and will write more later if I remember, but I'd say a lot, if not all, of this is highly subjective. I've played hundreds of hours of fighting games over the years, primarily SF and Arc games like musclerider above me, and I absolutely despised the movement and controls in Warframe when I tried it.

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#4 Edited by shivermetimbers (1718 posts) -

Thanks for the posts. Yeah, it's a subjective piece that mostly stems from my personal bias towards fighting games lack of innovation at least towards movement. I'm not saying I'm 100% right here or that there isn't room for debate here, esp among fighting game vets. I'm not one of them, btw. To answer your question @musclerider my experience in fighting games stems from getting my butt kicked in: Injustice 1&2, Mortal Kombat 9-10, which are fairly recent games (although I have tired older ones, just not for any length of time). I wasn't in the fighting arcade scene in the 80s for example, so I don't have decades worth of experience behind my belt. Also, I've never played games with a fighting stick, which could very well be my problem and I'd argue it's something the genre needs to fix if it wants to grow a larger audience. I like your chess analogy and it did get me thinking this is an apples to oranges thing with shooters and fighting games.

Also, looking forward to your post @nnickers.

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#5 Edited by nnickers (496 posts) -

Hah, I'm going to do my best not to ramble too much here, but here goes:

"I understand part of the joy of fighting games is learning combos, which is fine, but movement shouldn't have a learning curve, it should just feel natural. There needs to be a sense of momentum and fluidity to it, which is what the genre lacks."

It sounds like you maybe just haven't much experience with "traditional" 2d fighters and, specifically, their movement/input options.

Try picking up a cheap Street Fighter (5 is $8 on Steam right now, and I'm sure 5 and/or 4 are regularly on sale on consoles, too, if that's where you play) and play with whatever controller you like. I played SFIV for years before picking up a stick and did just fine online. Then, try messing around in a Trial mode that simply sits you down with a character and a description of some simple combos. The classic in SF is probably Ryu's forward jump fierce kick > crouching medium kick > fireball. That's one movement of a stick and three buttons - nothing intense. But it feels satisfying to pull off.

I think a lot of people looking in from the outside see 2d fighters as a contest of who can mash out the bigger combo (thanks, Arc System Works), but most of us who play them even remotely seriously would say that someone can be, within reason, very successful repeating only a single 2-3 hit combo so long as they know when and how to use it. [Whoops, saw after writing this that musclerider already said the exact same thing. Great minds!] Pulling the above little combo in training mode: satisfying! Jumping over an opponents fireball in a real match and landing with it: so much more so! Getting movement down to muscle memory will help you far more than combo-memorization in any fighting game I've played. I know people who spend hours practicing combos in training modes but then get stomped in actual matches once that training dummy is now a human moving and attacking.

"The more fluidity in movement you give to the player, the more power they have. The less effort they have to put in to accomplish this movement, the easier it is to learn. What I'm saying isn't new, many people have said it. So to get to the point here, fighting games need to do better in this area."

I disagree with this and will try to convey why through an example:

Warframe is a 3d game and it's movement is analog: you can rotate a stick 360 degrees and move your character in as many directions as there are granular inputs recognized in the process. 2d fighters, at least those I'm familiar with, have digital movement: left, right, down, up, and, most importantly, diagonally. In Street Fighter, if you move your stick to any point between the 12- and 3-o'clock positions, the same character will jump toward the right side of the screen at the exact same angle regardless of where in that spectrum your stick went. This is crucial. If I've learned my character well enough, and I want to jump right over an opponent's fireball, my brain will know exactly where my character will land every time because they'll be moving the same distance every time. This would be impossible to achieve with digital movement - human error would introduce inherent randomness and the game would become much, much more difficult. If I don't move the stick to exactly the right spot, I might land on top of the fireball or in a spot where my opponent can easily hit me as I land. Changing this aspect of a fighting game will make it drastically less welcoming to new players as the demand for accuracy would increase immeasurably.

Re-reading the OP, I may have misinterpreted your meaning of fluid and the paragraph above may have been a wild tangent. Hopefully interesting, as an aside! If you were referring to input methods you dislike such as double-tapping to dash, well, that's both a matter of preference and a limit of the inputs on a controller. Street Fighter double-taps, Mortal Kombat has a run button, and...I don't know what to say there.

"There's a reason Smash tends to be more popular than your Street Fighters and Mortal Kombats it's because it's easier to learn not only in terms of fighting mechanics, but in terms of movement."

Again, totally subjective, but I might argue that Smash is harder to learn than SF or MK. Following my last point, while Smash lacks the latter's combo systems it instead adds digital movement and a million other vectors by virtue of every stage not being a flat plane. 2d fighters take place on a line in a game of push and shove - Smash takes place in a square where characters can fly in any direction with wild trajectories and methods.

Woof. This is why I've been on the site for 10 years and have relatively no posts :). Hope I was able to provide a new perspective here and I love what a constructive start this thread is off to!

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#7 Posted by shivermetimbers (1718 posts) -

I've been thinking a bit more and I have a decent amount of experience with the one MK game on Gamecube (or PS2) as it was only one of a few games I played during that console generation (no monies and such) and it was 3D. I actually don't remember a lot about it, but I liked it and I also I understand the 3D probably didn't add much to the experience. With fighting games and reading your posts, I know that movement is basically 90% of skill (as it is with Smash), but my post is more about making that movement more accessible to learn. Do I have an answer to this? I dunno. Also, I may be willing to admit that it might not need the type of fluidity I'm asking for. I'll probably reinstall Injustice 2 and play with Harley Quinn some more.

If any more fighting game vets want to pitch in and disagree, I'm totally cool with that. Tekken might be more my jam, I have no clue. How do you all think about that game?

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#8 Posted by musclerider (895 posts) -

@shivermetimbers: Lol you put the words "fighting games" in your thread title so you've summoned up some nice essays from myself and @nnickers (who got the definitions of digital and analog swapped around :P)

I got into fighting games when Super Street Fighter IV came out my freshman year of college. One of my friends and I just started playing it and trying to outdo each other which turned into hours long sessions of just going back and forth. Then when we weren't playing I was doing research into advanced techniques. This then turned into us transitioning between many games over the years and we still play fighting games pretty regularly albeit much shorter sessions. So I'm no Brad Shoemaker who was there when MK3 was first put into his local arcade when I was a kid.

I've always found the Netherrealm games incredibly sluggish. Never really played a ton of them but I see where you're coming from now in terms of this thread. The MK and Injustice games rely a lot more on poking and when you manage to land a poke you do a huge combo. The loop is way different than most 2D fighters and to me not as satisfying.

Addendum to the controls thing from earlier: not everyone is a maniac like me and needs a stick. I played for a couple of years without one when learning the ropes and a gamepad is just fine but for me personally I hit a barrier as to what I could realistically do with my hands on a Xbox 360 controller lol.

Nnickers mentioned this as well but I'll double down since that's what we seem to be doing anyway :P. If you or anyone who's reading this thread has a PC and even the faintest interest in fighting games the Steam winter sale kicked off today. While not traditionally the first platform you think of when it comes to fighting games, there's a small community for pretty much every game on PC (in a weird Discord or otherwise).

If I had to recommend games from the sale if you want to give it a shot they'd be:

USFIV - $7.49 - Huge cast of characters, doesn't require big combos. SFIV is what I started out on and it's a great game for helping understand the fundamentals of 2D fighters. Easy transition into faster paced games.

Dragonball FighterZ - $23.99 - Lots of fast moving high flying action but without a lot of the complicated inputs that make Arksys games impossible to play. No half circles or dragon punch motions here, everything is a quarter-circle. Movement is pretty different from most other 2D fighters but it's very fun.

There are A LOT of fighting games on Steam but I wouldn't dive straight into something like BlazBlue or Guilty Gear because those games rely on a pretty decent understanding of fighting games to begin with.

On the 3D side there's Tekken and Soul Calibur which both had good entries in the last year or two but that's a whole other can of worms.

The GB community has a strong fighting game lineage (the SSFIV forum was the most active forum on the site for a couple of years) so if you want someone to play with all you have to do is yell the words "fighting games" into a void and you'll be accosted with people wanting to teach you about them.

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#9 Posted by nnickers (496 posts) -

@shivermetimbers: Lol you put the words "fighting games" in your thread title so you've summoned up some nice essays from myself and @nnickers (who got the definitions of digital and analog swapped around :P)

Whoops, I sure did! That's what I get for writing such a long post and not going back for a proofread before posting. I'll go back and fix that now.

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#10 Edited by nnickers (496 posts) -

@musclerider: I'd also thought about recommending SFIV over SFV because I started there in earnest, too. SFIV is still my one true love of fighting games, but I recommended SFV because it still has the same basic structure and mechanics, but importantly also still has an active scene. If Shiver or anyone reading this does mess around with one or the other and enjoys them enough to want to play online or seek out a community, SFV is the one of the two that still has people playing. Steamcharts shows a daily player-base of 100-200 people in SFIV these days versus 2.5k-5k in SFV. And also if they get into it, SFV is the one they'll be able to watch tournaments of and get hype over. Evo, baby!

And for anyone who does want to get into the scene, Giantbomb does have a very active, friendly community with discord server! You can find it right here.

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