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Rising Thunder - How We Learn Fighting Games and Why It's a Problem

Angelo M. D'Argenio | 1 Sep 2015 15:30
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Round 1: Normal Moves

Pressing the same button twice gets different results


Before I go on, I want to make it clear that the following examples are not meant to put Rising Thunder down. On the contrary, I am having quite a lot of fun with it. Rather, I want to contrast its design decisions with decisions made by other games that were also meant to reduce barriers to entry. Each of these games has succeeded and stumbled in its own right, and by examining them next to each other, we can come to a better understanding of the fighting game learning process and what steps we need to take to design a more accessible fighting game.

For example, Street Fighter's special moves are frequently criticized as being too difficult to execute, but rarely do we examine its normal moves. Conventional wisdom says these moves are simple to do: press a button and they happen. But Street Fighter characters sometimes use different attacks depending on how close they are to the opponent, and these attacks can differ greatly. Some are cancelable and some aren't. Some have large and disjointed hitboxes, some don't. Some are safe on block, and some open you up to huge punishes. How do you know what attack you are going to throw? You don't. You just have to judge what the game considers "close."

The same holds true in Rising Thunder. The grappler, Talos, has a close heavy attack that is a powerful, mostly safe, combo tool that chains into itself and cancels into specials. Talos's far heavy attack, however, is a slow unsafe poke that can't be combo'd into anything. The difference between one and the other is a few pixels of distance, and about 30% of your life in damage if his far heavy attack leaves you open. When you add command normal to the mix (attacks that are executed with a tilt of the joystick along with a button press) throwing the right normal at the right time becomes even more complicated.

Effectively, you can throw any special attack a character has at the press of a button, but you can't throw any normal attack at the press of a button, and normals are supposed to be the bread and butter of any character's toolset. This is partially because adding three buttons explicitly for special attacks reduces the buttons available for normals, but reducing the number of normals a character has reduces his options. Commands like the quarter circle in other games allowed you to have access to special moves without sacrificing those options.

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