Humor me for a few lines, reader. Imagine a game. Not just any game, a highly-nuanced, complex game; a competitive game. This game has next to no tutorial yes requires large amounts of precision and timing for even moderately skilled play. At high levels, this game necessitates using glitches and exploits to combat its own complicated systems. The game has no internal progression and makes no effort to teach the player, even through a simple challenge-curve. Are you disgusted yet? This is a problem, no? I mean, the controls could be tight. It could be a pretty game. All of the window dressing could be perfectly in order. And yet, here we are, with a frustrating game because it does nothing for the player at all.
“But Jon,” you say. “This game isn’t even real. Who would make a game like this? Who would play it?”
Well, to answer your first question: Capcom. Are you starting to get it yet? Yes, Street Fighter. As for the second question: Tons of people. I don’t get it. Why is this OK? I’ve tried to understand for so long. I’ve studied the systems. I know links and cancels. I can read frame data. I understand, but I still don’t get it. These things don’t seem fun. Why do I need to circumvent the SFIV input-reading system just to do a medium punch after a medium punch? Why can’t the game do something to tell me about its own systems? In any other genre, this would be unacceptable. You could say that this is simply the way it is, but it’s a game, not a natural process. It doesn’t just happen. Someone decided that this was a good idea and people are just accepting it. Worse off, not only does the game push people away, the community does as well. It’s simple group polarization and it’s stagnating the genre.
“But Jon,” you say again, “There’s a whole community of people having fun with this stuff. Just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean there’s something wrong.”
Perhaps you’re right, hypothetical person, but so what? I’m a game designer. If I think there’s a problem, I’m going to try to solve it. I know I’m not alone, and you have to admit that fighting games are getting kind of same-y. Saying that they’re just “similar with small differences that only connoisseurs can understand” doesn’t change that, it just means that you accept it.
So, in the coming weeks, I’ll be (hopefully) posting about specific things that I hope to address in the genre, as well as documenting my progress. Maybe I’ll do a physical prototype (like a card game). I’m not sure yet. I’ve yet to hammer down what technologies I’ll employ and I may not even finish. But I will try. If I don’t, I’ll just be pissed off forever and I don’t want that because I love fighting games. I want them to be more.
If it becomes something cool, I’ll open-source it of course. Stay frosty.