Why Fighting Games Are Hard

One thing you hear constantly about fighting games, is that they’re hard which is often cited as the reason for why there aren’t more people playing them. But I don’t think the problem is that newcomers can’t win I mean, this is my cousin playing Ultra Street Fighter 4 for the first time on the hardest setting with two minutes of coaching. He beat the game in ten minutes on his first try getting multiple “perfects” on the way, and thought it was really easy Okay, obviously the enjoyment he’s going to get out of the game using the lariat trick is going to be very limited and beating the CPU is about as gratifying as cooking instant Ramen. He needs a human opponent, because in fighting games, it takes two to tango, right? So I coached my girlfriend for two minutes, and had her play him.

He won again… but still no satisfaction. This all probably seems really silly, but the point I want to make is that when people say fighting games are hard, they mean it’s hard to get to a high enough level to enjoy the game, not necessarily hard to win. But what’s making it hard to get to that level, and what can be done about it?

The first thing people mention is the execution. And it’s true; execution can be very difficult, whether it’s a special move, or a combo. In fighting games that run at 60 frames per second (FPS) there are often what’s known as one-frame links, which means you have a 60th of a second window to time a hit. Not even the best players in the world are able to land these all the time, and missing them can cost you the game.

But because these one-frame links are so hard, newer games like Street Fighter Five (SFV) are widening the window to a minimum of three-frame links, which is around a 32nd note at 150 bpm for you musicians out there \m/ This is much more doable, and without too much practice, most people should be able to nail this most of the time. Great, right? Personally, I think we can keep the one-frame links, as long as they’re not mandatory to get great at the game.

In basketball, 3-pointers are hard to nail, but Shaquille O’Neal is still a legend, while having one of the worst 3-point records in NBA history. If we remove the 3-point line entirely, because people thought it was too hard, then we wouldn’t have moments like these. I don’t think difficult execution is a problem, as long as it’s not required to be good at the game.

Take Ryu’s Solar Plexus move, for example. The easiest thing to do is mash into Dragon Punch, which has a large input window. But if you want that extra damage, you can add an extra hit with a one-frame link. The key here is that you can choose between the easy… …and the hard combo.

Daigo Umehara mostly goes for the harder combo, and Alex Valle, not as much. But both are great players. I hate doing one-frame links as much as the next guy, but I like them there as an option. But what about the fundamental aspects of the game, that define the difficulty of the entry barrier? I’m talking about special moves, blocking, throwing, and things that most fighters share. Well, there seems to be two approaches to this. The first is to go here: https://casinoslots-ie.com/

One, is to simplify the moves. The free-to-play PC game Rising Thunder (RIP), has made all special moves available at the touch of a button, but my favorite idea that helps newcomers in this game, is the ability to choose between an advanced attack-canceling system known as Kinetic Advance, and a simpler option of Kinetic Deflect, which gets you out of a combo by pressing two buttons at once, which is easy to do and gets newbies out of the frustrating situation of watching their character get their ass beaten for ten seconds straight. These measures have definitely gotten some of my friends into the game, who otherwise wouldn’t have.

But I noticed a lot of people were still getting frustrated by classic shenanigans, like tick throws and spamming fireballs. So while simplification is one method of drawing people in, Education, is the other. But this is another huge topic, that has many approaches. Personally, I think a well-made video with clear explanations can help a lot. Thankfully, there are more great resources out there than ever before, and most I’ve seen are made by fans of the game. As great as all this user-made content is, I’d also love to see game companies make some official videos that are linked to the game’s tutorial modes.

Speaking of tutorial modes, the show Extra Credits has suggested improving tutorial systems, and had some interesting ideas on using the single-player mode to do so: Dan: You could do things to make players more aware of how to use these concepts, things like, having the game go into slow motion with a big, “REVERSAL OPPORTUNITY” flashing on the screen when this concept is introduced. Gerald: but more than anything, I think they inadvertently illustrated the biggest reason why fighting games are so hard to enjoy for new people. Dan: The thing to recognize, is that fighting games will never reach the audience they could until they do more to help people get to the level where they can experience real, fighting game, play.

Gerald: This mentality of “you game companies better help us get good or you won’t get as many sales,” fails to understand that getting to high-level play is up to the player, NOT the game companies. I mean, Capcom made an inflation-adjusted amount of 3.5 billion dollars on Street Fighter II, without any tutorial mode, or even a training mode. Dan: Fighting games need to move past being an informational brick wall, and instead, graduate their new players from the “button masher” to the type of player who can think through the problems that a fighting game presents. I propose that single-player is the best place to do this, it being the safest space in the game outside the pressures of competition or other people. Gerald: I’m all for better teaching tools within the game, but you’re not getting to high-level play by doing multiple-choice quizzes in single-player mode, and that’s BECAUSE it’s the safest place in the game. The reason why I think it’s so hard to get to that satisfying, high level of play in fighting games, is because you have to get out of your comfort zone, and get bodied by real people over and over again.

I mean, you’re playing a one-on-one game, where you’re represented by a character on the screen, who screams in agony when you fail to block, and no one is there to help you. There’s no save-and-reload feature, there are no teammates to share the blame, and when you lose, the game will write a personal message for you in huge letters, and an announcer will read it out loud. As a bonus, in Mortal Kombat, you get to watch your character die a horrible death, which happened because YOU failed to defend yourself. Then, in order to improve, you have to watch yourself losing all over again in a replay, to find out what you did wrong. And on the journey to getting good at the game, real people will insult you for losing, hate you for winning, tell you to quit, and sooner or later, you’re going to get taunted and “perfected” by a young kid, and when you have an emotional reaction to that, you’ll be told to man up by an old-school veteran, who has knife wounds from winning too much in SFII in the 90’s at his local liquor store. Okay, now I’m exaggerating.

But the point is, no amount of simplifying gameplay and tutorials are going to prevent these kind of things from happening, and in this light, it’s understandable why it’s so hard to get into fighting games. Being salty is not a great feeling, but you can’t avoid it any more than you can avoid falling when learning how to skateboard. Now, I’ve painted a pretty grim picture of fighting games, so I want to say that the pros definitely outweigh the cons, and that winning the right game can vindicate all the frustration you’ve been feeling up to that point, and it’s something you can be proud of. When you “level up” in a fighting game, the attributes that improve your play are stored in your own brain, not on some server run by a giant game publisher. There’s a unique satisfaction you get from beating an opponent you couldn’t beat before, or beating someone you were expected to lose to.

As a matter of fact, beating the right person at the right time can start your fighting game career, or at least make you famous as the guy who beat so-and-so. Because matches can be over so quickly in fighting games, the potential for blow-ups and upsets are high, and when they happen, it gets hype as hell. [speakers disintegrating] But there’s a trade-off: Whenever there’s a hype moment, there’s going to be a very salty player at the receiving end, which, to be philosophical, completes the Yin and Yang.

So even though learning to get good can be discouraging at times, it’s part of the journey, and the vast majority of the people I’ve met, online or in-person, have been really supportive, and sometimes, you’ll even have players fighting to teach newcomers how to play the game, which is pretty fitting for this ridiculously competitive community. Let me know what you think is the hardest thing about fighting games in the comments, and subscribe for more videos like this. Thanks for watching, and seriously, thanks for helping me get to 10,000 subs. See you guys after SFV comes out.