246: Fighting Games: A Tapped-Out Genre?

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Fighting Games: A Tapped-Out Genre?

Fighting games have experienced a slow but steady decline since their arcade heyday in the mid '90s - today's fighters are both too repetitive and too unwelcoming to newcomers. But one 2009 title offers some novel solutions to these problems. Robert Bevill takes a closer look at BlazBlue and what it can teach fighting game designers at large.

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Yay for Blazblue praise.

If I do suck at it online.

This is how you tell backstory. With humor. I hate it when fighting games take themselves seriously.

Apart from BlazBlue there were two other fighting games released in 2009 that added to the genre: Fate / Unlimited Codes and Dissidia: Final Fantasy. The only "downside" is that both games are exclusively available on the PSP.

Fate offers special missions that let you ease into the different characters. Missions go from defeating an enemy in a limited amount of time, to performing a specific combo to playing a mini-game. It has a very varried roster, ranging from a creepy girl that comes straight out of The Ring, a halberd-wielding nurse, a Jean-of-Arc-esque knight to a magic-hurling floating oracle and a Hulk-like beast.

Dissidia revolutionised the controls by using the analog stick for movement. It also features huge arenas which are highly interactive in that they can be flown through, jumped on and that they can be demolished. On top of that you can smash your opponents against the decor for extra damage. There are added RPG elements (this is a Final Fantasy title after all) so you can upgrade your characters, equip them and personalise their abilities.

So I would definitely add these two games to 2009's success fighting games, next to BlazBlue (which will also get a PSP port this year).

Oh Blazblue, how I love thee.

This article just makes me anticipate BlazBlue's UK release all the more. Although personally I think the commercial and critical success of Street Fighter 4 does show that while the genre may be the same as it was years ago, that might not necessarily be a bad thing. Personally I'm not really a fan of 3D fighters, and street fighter's position as a constant, unchanging series is what kept me loving it all this time.

I like the mention of Jump Super Stars in the article, I imported the sequel, Jump Ultimate Stars some time ago and it was indeed a very fresh concept. It was also incredibly easy to understand even for a player who speaks literally NO japanese such as myself.

I think the biggest limitation of fighting games is the fact you're limited to a controller and an increasingly complex set of fighting moves.

I'm not saying the future of fighting games is going to be in the WiiMote, PSMove, or Natal exactly. However there aren't a lot of people who have the talent to pull of 30 hit combos or whatever a given fighting game allows you do.

What would be cool are thought Glove-like controllers that can track specific hand movements as opposed to the failing about of current motion-control games. This would allow for more control without having to mash in a 4+ button combo.

I think fighting games are on the decline because they are most fun when played with a room full of your friends, some pizza, and beverages. Now-a-days we lean more towards online multiplayer, which allows the faults of fighting games to really shine: they are boring without people throwing popcorn at you or laughing in your face.

I don't really think the learning curve is an issue. Let's face it the wildly popular Soul Calibur series holds up just fine for button mashers.

The only two fighting games stories I care about Tekken's and Soul Calibur's

I suck at most 2d fighting games I'm a little bit better at 3d fighting games but I hate how if i wanna get better I have to buy a fighting stick and learn bunch combos. Which to me is not fun.

Oooh, ooh, oooh, I just picked this game up not even a week ago! (Oddly enough, I was originally looking for Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts.) Quite honestly, I feel that the makers of the Guilty Gear series have yet to steer me wrong.

....Also, since no one else has said it yet, I guess I will.


Fighting games has been on the market for more than two decades, mostly from the arcades. Even with crossovers such as Capcom vs. Marvel tends to sell more.

Now, it's shrinking in size that people probably don't find fighting games fun anymore. Or maybe that online playing has shot the arcades.

I've seen people at the arcades competing who is the best fighter who mastered every fighting move and at times beaten a person who mashes buttons randomly.

I think Scott from VG cats best says about fighting games.

Sadly, I think fighting games have come as far as they're going to.

"And with most competitive fighting games relying on online connectivity rather than two players in the same room, why not design a first-person fighter?"

Zeno Clash

"the women have unreasonably large cleavage"

Not possible.

But perhaps it's time for designers to get even wilder with their ideas. How about a Pokémon-style fighting game of building a team of monsters that you can individually level up?

Pretty sure they already did something similar to this in one of the single-player modes for Street Fighter Alpha 3.

Or perhaps a rhythm-based fighting game with a non-standard input device? Guitar controller or not, fighting along to the music would be an interesting experience at the very least.

Go plug your guitar hero controllers into SF3:Third Strike and face off against a friend and let me know how that works out for you. Fighting games hinge on precision, which you're not going to get from a new gimmicky controller.

And with most competitive fighting games relying on online connectivity rather than two players in the same room, why not design a first-person fighter?

Ah ha ha ha ha ha!
Man that was great. Competitive fighting...online. Man you crack me up.

Fighting games may have strong arcade roots, but developers need to start embracing today's technology and re-examine what makes fighting games fun to play in the first place.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

For me, fighting games are tough to get into because the require an incredible amount of time investment to be proficient at. Even ones that are supposed to be "pick up and play" easy need a little devotion, and I just don't have the time. Add to that that I mostly play solo, and it just compounds the problem.

I think the real problem isn't that fighting games are overly complicated, rather it's that people aren't willing to spend the time to learn the game. If Call of Duty suddenly told a player to roll their analogue stick from down to right do you think people wouldn't be able to do it?
Even with the inputs not really being very hard most new games have still made them easier. Taking Street Fighter 4 as an example you don't even need to actually do the motions that is put down in the move-lists. Explained here
Fighting games aren't hard, compare the button presses in most bread and butter combos for any character in any fighting game to say a song on Guitar Hero in hard made; I know which looks easier.

The problem isn't hard controls or the long move-lists (Most characters only have 2-5 special moves, and the motions are usually universal), the problem lies with the players. They don't want to spend a few hours in training mode before jumping into the action, because of that they lose to the people that spent them few hours learning the game. Because they lost they will either hate the game and never buy another fighting game, or they will realise they should learn the game before trying to play with the people that really know what they're doing. Unfortunately most gamers tend to do the former.

My problem so far has been the fact that as a beginner, I keep getting thrown into the deep end as soon as I go online. Honestly, SoulCaliber had a sucky online system to start off with. And then once I could get into a game I was destroyed in 2 seconds flat.

The one fight I had with a similarly clueless player was a lot of fun, but ultimately the ship has sailed on fighting games. They belong in the genre corner over there, waiting for the bell.

I disagree strongly. Not about the lifespan of fighting games, Robert has that right. But I don't think fighting games need story. Ok, now anyone whose been paying attention to my old posts (and if you have been, I'm flattered but you should really get a hobby. I'm dull as dishwater) knows I'm a story-driven guy. But since fighters are really multiplayer focused, the stories already in the game are quickly discarded anyway. The real story is how Evil Friend A has been spamming fireballs at Noble and Pure Friend B for 20 minutes and how B refuses to sink to his level. B will triumph through courage and perseverance and never surrender who and what he is. Real life is just better at telling stories.

Secondly, rhythm mechanics? Really? Gross dude. If that's the best innovation of mechanics fighting game can come up with, then don't change a thing. You want to bring in new players? Launch a New IP and hook them with the premise, not the story. Super Smash Bros. did this really well. "Hey man, what if Mario fought Link? Who wins?". Don't have an incredibly rich field of pre-existing characters? This doesn't have to be hard: "Hey man, what if 3 different groups : Robots / Pirates / Zombies / Old 70's Cartoon Characters / Over-Sexually Exploited Female Characters / etc. (pick 3) all put a few of their best champions in a pit and the prize was a new game in their genre?

Who wouldn't want to see a a giant mutant dead guy (something Tyrant-ish maybe) fight a pistol-wielding pirate to the death so that Zombocalypse 3 can get made instead of BootyShip 7?

Robert Bevill took my favorite new comer and my main in SSF4 and shoop'd him like that...let's just say he's not on my list of super awesome fun people. :/

I don't think there is a problem at all. Fighting games have always been a niche genre.

And skimming through this article, it seems to me Robert would like to see things happen to a genre that a lot of people that are really into it would be put off by.

innovation needed...fighting games must not die...

Or perhaps a rhythm-based fighting game...

Am I the only one who instantly thought of a game similar to "West Side Story" upon reading these words? Furthermore, am I the only one who would play that game? :D


Or perhaps a rhythm-based fighting game...

Am I the only one who instantly thought of a game similar to "West Side Story" upon reading these words? Furthermore, am I the only one who would play that game? :D

no, I'd probably play that too

the genre will never die, it just needs to be cut back, like a tree

On the decline? I could have sworn that they've just gone through a renaissance...

Oh, thank god I'm not the only one who knows about Jump! Super/Ultimate stars.

It's the only game my friends and I have played consistently, and still loved for 2 years.

A very thought-provoking Article; This coming from a diehard Tekken fan.

BlazBlue's training DVD was a good first step, but these games shouldn't NEED training DVDs. BlazBlue's game mechanics are a maze of difficult antiquated inputs like quarter circles and memorization-needed combos, the characters' unique play styles are pretty much impossible to determine unless you're already good at Guilty Gear, and the storyline is still an intro, a half-dozen arbitrary fights, and an epilogue.

The only hope right now for fighting games is Smash Bros. Much as it saddens me to say that.

A learning curve is only a problem if you are unwilling to learn. If you want to learn to do the crazy 30 hit combos, just sit down and do them. Its a game, not rocket science. The biggest key to a combo isn't mesmerizing the buttons you have to press, but understanding that you have to "feel" it as one motion. Once your brain recognizes that you hit and can go into it, you do. You have to be both confident that you can do it, and do it without thinking. Its like juggling. Once you start thinking about juggling, thats when you drop the balls. If your having trouble, have a friend (you know, a person that you know and like) try to help you out.

Also, DONT BE AFRAID TO LOSE! Its going to happen. I don't care if you Justin Wong, Umehara Daigo, or Ken Hoang; your going to lose at some point. Just try to see objectively what you did wrong and learn from your mistakes and try to get better. And if your not getting better, or your local competition is just miles ahead of you, ask for some help. Most reasonable people that have played fighters for a while (2+ years) will help you understand the game better.

But anyway, the real problem is that most people are scared of failure, and don't understand subjective development. Thats why there are rpgs are so successful now, they want the game to make them better over time, then to actually become a better player. That why I like fighting game, they don't care how long you play, what level you are, or how much gold you earned. If you are a better player, you will win (matchups and adaptability non-withstanding). You have to understand your skill level with a certain character (scrub to Pringles), your feel for match ups, and your ability to adapt to your opponents without the game giving you any details about your play experience. You have to know yourself and your opponnent. Weather you are a rush down, turtle, gimmick or whatever. You have to understand how to make the game adapt to your play style.

The person writing this article doesn't understand why people still play fighting games after so many years, or what makes fighting games fun. Its about competition, community, and understanding yourself. Sure its kinda a niche game stlye but its better then playing a game for 3 months just to get fucked up by some scrub just because he has better gear then you. And to play a subscription fee on top of it.

as someone who has tried to teach rookies I fully understand. Fighting games can not be fully enjoyed until you're able to execute the moves, it's something that separates it from most other genres such as fps games where the skills can be transferred between games far more easily.

FPS games are more a test of reactions of the skills and aiming then a test of memory and fast password like button executions and repetition which is what most fighting games play like.

Kurt Horsting:

The person writing this article doesn't understand why people still play fighting games after so many years, or what makes fighting games fun.

That much was painfully obvious.

You also hit on another good point, which is that pulling off combo strings isn't actually difficult. Once you start doing them it quickly becomes muscle memory. You don't think about the buttons or the order of the combo, your body just executes it.

Fighting games are a very Zen experience. If you're thinking about what you're doing, you've missed the point entirely.

Real reason fighting games aren't as competitive as they used to be: People don't want to be competitive on a one on one level. Consumers have more of a choice of games these days and fighting games don't provide what the majority of consumers are looking for.

It is a niche market. The core of skilled players is actually LARGER than what it was when they first came out. The games are tailored now for that particular niche. Trying to 'cash in' on other, more casual players generally just hurts the games in the long run. Because people do try new stuff. Smash seemed to show that there was a new market for casual fighting games but then....... no, everyone who tried to make a game like that failed and ended up as a bargain bin title.

So really, unless you have some branding and/or some big tits, no one is going to care. Sure, you can do soem things to try and create friendlier games to new players, but 'innovation' for innovations sake is stupid. Most of the best games of this generation aren't great because they're INNOVATIVE, they're great because they are PUT TOGETHER SKILLFULLY AND WITH A HIGH LEVEL OF POLISH.

Also, whats with all the BB love? Ragna and Jin are the Ryu/Ken parallels. We've been past straight shoto ripoffs for years. Pokemon style teams and LEVELING? Yeah GREAT IDEA. Lets make it HARDER to play with your friends by creating level imbalances, or requiring grinding before hand, AND make it harder by requiring people to learn several characters at once. This is just a bad, bad, article, especially considering fighting games have had a lot more momentum over the last few years then they've had in a long time... And where did they get this momentum?

Through quality releases aimed at their CORE market.

People just gotta accept that fighting games will never be mainstream again. They were only mainstream when they were still novel and that novelness was only kept alive by Mortal Kombat providing a level of violence we can get out of pretty much any game at this point (also MK was terrible and we still bought it. Why? BLOOD). Peoples interests just don't crave that sort of competition usually. It's way safer on the ego and visually more 'fun' for most people to run along with squads of other people in some war game or something.

Developers do the right thing by realizing fighting games are generally a lower cost genre to develop for that also gives lower returns. Thats life. If you maim up the genre, you're just going to alienate your target audience and then NO ONE is going to buy the game. A developers goal is to not maximize units sold, it is to maximize profits. Sure you could get more people to buy your game by having a single player game that feels like God of War, but you're also going to multiply your production costs.

edit: This isn't REAL evidence, but in my social experience, the ease of people playing fighting games has nothing to do if people play them. IF someone sucks and they want to play, they'll play anyways. They will curse and scream and throw the controller, but they will play. On the other hand, the people who end up not playing are sometimes actually sorta good at the games! They just have no interest in that sort of game experience.

Good the see the art of writing articles without knowing jack shit about the subject is still alive and well. Saying fighting games have a poor plot is like saying a soccer tournament fails at storytelling.

Fighting games have evolved into a kind of "sport," and much like something like Quake 3 it's based entirely on appealing to THAT rather than anything else. If you're not into that competitive thing, then these games are probably not for you. Likewise you can still play them, but again just because you happen to hate soccer rules it's retarded to ask the rules to be changed just for your tastes when tons of people already play.

You can always make up your own fighter if you think you can do better, but I doubt it'd make any sense with such huge gaps in knowledge.

This is the reason why I cannot stand 1 on 1 fighters. There's nothing new! I haven't loved a fighter since Soul Calibur 2 and I haven't liked one in quite a while either. Until something, *anything* new happens in the genre I am boycotting fighters. And, no, DOA's almost naked girls beating the snot out of each other doesn't count as innovation.

I think Scott from VG cats best says about fighting games.

Hehehe... I forgot about that strip. Great comic.

Fighting games have evolved. The pure fighters are the ape-like ancestors to God of War and Bayonetta... They have their place but by changing them you get something quite different and so they get redefined as "action" games... but they're still fighters in many respects.

Although personally I think the commercial and critical success of Street Fighter 4 does show that while the genre may be the same as it was years ago, that might not necessarily be a bad thing. Personally I'm not really a fan of 3D fighters, and street fighter's position as a constant, unchanging series is what kept me loving it all this time.

Street Fighter IV sold well because of nostalgic fans - you dont see new players flocking to buy this any more then any other fighter. Now don't get me wrong.. I'm one of those fans. I bought the collectors on launch and I think the game is great... once you enter the ring.

The console versions were extremely weak. Take a step back, remove the ready made arcade game that was already set to go and look at that the console team actually did..

-Crappy menus
-No lobby system for online round robin with friends
-Extremely weak storylines.
-A terrible animated movie and bad quality figurines for those of us that forked out significantly more cash. (Seriously? They spend the whole damn movie making Ryu angry then go 'oh whoops, now hes angry and all powerful.. run awaaaayyyyy!')

Now they're releasing Super Street Fighter IV and fixing things that should never have made launch in the first place. Whats worse was the SSFII Hyper on Xbox live was a perfect example of what they SHOULD have done with the console versions. So they only explanations are that they are either unbelievably stupid and bad at game design or they did it on purpose with SSSIV in mind to 'fix' everything, make everyone shell out yet another 100 bucks and gives us a couple random costumes as a reward.

The annoying thing is that because it will have online round robin... I will buy it :(.

Besides the fact I disagree with Wolfram's choice of words (lol ape like), it is pretty true. You can now get combat with a plethora of moves and have cool effects go off and the likes without things being linked to a "1 vs 1" fighting game base. Fighting games are a very exact thing. If you start trying to "innovate" the genre, you really just end up with a different genre.

Honestly if someone is looking for "something new" out of fighters, they don't like the genre to begin with. They are better served by newer games, such as GoW and Bayonetta as Wolf pointed out.

Personally as someone who actively played fighting games, MOST of them do something that I find to be significantly different. Street Fighter may still mostly be Street Fighter, but every other series has something different going on. If you can't notice or appreciate any of that, it isn't the genre's fault. You just don't like the genre, which is an extremely okay thing. Not every genre needs to be appealing to everyone.

Edit: Spar also touched on something though. Man, SF4's online was a joke. Thats the sort of stuff the community CAN benefit from. Good online and lobby support. Almost every other game has that too! That said, you live someplace terrible for gamers? Because the game is only like 40 bucks in the US compared to the original. :(

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