Sunday, April 5, 2009

What's Really Good?!

So, King of Fighters! Kyo is right when he says that if you speak English, you probably haven't played these games. Not an issue.

What's really interesting here is the rock-paper-scissors dynamic of the game. In King of Fighters, it seems to work mostly like this:

JAB beats JUMP devastates SWEEP beats JAB

What's really interesting here is that all of these things are attacks. King of Fighters is designed like a super action-heavy anime, with their opponents constantly attacking. There's not nearly as much holding back as other games.

Given the risk/reward setup, in King of Fighters, the "default option" is a jump attack.

Its kissing cousin, Street Fighter, looks something more like this:

BLOCK devastates ANTI-AIR beats JUMP can beat BLOCK

The massively unequal set of rewards here are what really makes Street Fighter a mindgame fest. The easiest way to get big damage in the game is to trick the opponent into thinking that you're going to jump... the layers of yomi (reading the opponent) are paramount to winning.

Default option in Street Fighter: Block

Virtua Fighter:
BLOCK mostly beats ATTACK beats THROW mostly beats BLOCK

Compared to the other games, the high-level counters of Virtua Fighter are very "soft," which means that a champion at this game must understand all the low-level, character- and situation-specific strategies. This generally translates into understanding the minutiae of frame data, as well as reading the opponent well-- these counters are nullified with systems like throw break, throw clash, and guard break.

Default option in VF: Block

BLOCK mostly beats ATTACK is faster than THROW often beats BLOCK

Tekken's layout is similar to VF's, the main exception being that attacks and throws are on equal footing. It is completely situation-specific, though in most situations attacks will win. Also, blocking is not a foolproof way to stop attacks, as there are plenty of safe pressure options that will continue an offense against a blocker.

Default option in Tekken: Attack

Soul Calibur:
ATTACKS have better range than THROWS can beat DEFENSE can beat ATTACKS

Soul Calibur's gameplay is hard to break down into such broad strokes. Ever since SC3, the series has been adding more and more exceptions to rules than much else. What's important for this discussion is that throws are easy to react to in this game, though unlike Tekken, the defending player must guess at which break to execute.

Default option in SC: Defense

Dead or Alive:
DEFENSIVE HOLD devastates ATTACK devastates THROW devastates DEFENSIVE HOLD

DOA is all about intensely hard counters. If one player knows exactly what the other player will do, he can be rewarded with up to 50% life per guess. The incredibly high stakes nature of the game is exciting and fun, but the standard deviation of win percentages (the only way to judge relative skill at the game) is very high.

Default option in DOA: Block (to avoid the high-stakes rock paper scissors)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Just for Fun

"Like, some people say they go to parties for fun. But all parties are different, and most parties aren't all that much fun."
Jonathan Blow
The creator of Braid came to our school to give a talk about game design the other day. Not surprisingly, he is far more concerned about the meaning of life than about how "fun" something is. But if doesn't play games for fun, then why does he devote his life to them?

The truth is that in games, this kind of thinking doesn't really come up. For as long as a game is on screen, the player has a temporary meaning of life-- he knows why he's there and what his purpose is. He knows how to gauge his level of ability, and he knows how to improve on it. Life is not necessarily easy, but it is easy to understand.

Speaking of fun, software development is not fun. Why do I want to make games so bad then? I'm not the best programmer, the best artist, or the most revolutionary designer, so what do I have to bring to the table?

Or maybe I'm just subconsciously trying to make my life more like the games I play. Where have a clear goal, clear obstacles with clear solutions, and an immediate reward for doing the right thing.

Oh, and infinite retires in case I get it wrong.