Note: Do not repost the full translation. Please use the first two paragraphs and link to this translation. For additional information, please read this post. This translation is for fan use only, and may not accurately reflect the opinions of Masahiro Sakurai.
This column was originally published on September 08th, 2016.
One game that is popular at competitive tournaments overseas is Marvel VS. Capcom 3.
When you watch high level matches of Marvel, you will often see players start a combo, and keep it going until their opponent is KO’d. You can convert a single stray hit into a very long combo, and it’s not rare to see a character start with full health and lose all of it from a single combo.
Think about what it’s like to be comboed like that. Is that fun? Doesn’t that seem absurd and unreasonable? That’s what I thought, but when you get down to it, it’s not that complicated. It’s still a contest of skill between two people.
By the way, sometimes, when I’m making a game, there’s a small group of users who really demand a lot of things, which really stresses me out. In the case of Smash, that would be people who say things like, “This character’s down-special is too strong, fix it!” They probably think that because they keep getting hit by it and can’t avoid it, or they think the move simply isn’t balanced. I think that reasoning is fairly common.
However, when you consider the overall structure of Smash, one move doesn’t even account for one ten-thousandth of the game. They completely ignore how many different collaborations are happening behind the scenes, how hard it was for us to even make this game, and are extremely displeased by the smallest details and the most minute adjustments. It’s a thankless job. It’s probably the type of criticism you wouldn’t get at school, or at a more typical job.
But the problem is that personally, I do get distressed by the fact that I can’t simply ignore those voices and criticisms. They may suffer from their own personal biases, but that’s still a person who feels that way. But, even if there’s a multitude of people saying something, that doesn’t mean they are necessarily correct. There were times when I adjusted something in reaction to a vocal outcry, and there were even more complaints afterwards.
Basically, there are a very large number of players. The players who are satisfied don’t speak up. Even if the dissenters seem loud, most of the time they comprise a very vocal, but still very minor, portion of the player base.
Strong moves are difficult to overcome, and are unique. But the people who don’t know how to overcome that hurdle get angry and discontent. The people that know how to deal with it aren’t angry or displeased at all, so they don’t feel the same way. In the end, it’s just a problem that, no matter how hard you think or try, probably won’t go away.
That’s where my introduction about Marvel VS. Capcom 3 becomes relevant. Why is it still played at tournaments if these touch of death combos are so prevalent? I took a step back and thought about it, and came to the conclusion that it’s because that is fair, in it’s own way. A competitor has the freedom to choose the same team composition as their opponent, and pull off the same combos, if they so choose. If you think overpowered moves, links, or combos are unfair, then you should just use those techniques and win. Your opponent is doing the same thing to you. Getting hit by that combo starter is a result of the difference in skill between you and your opponent, and there’s a high amount of skill involved in converting that hit into a long combo. Watching high level matches, I didn’t feel that the character selection was particularly extremely limited, so as long as you have the freedom to choose, that’s fair.
Of course, if the gameplay becomes too unbalanced and reliant on specific techniques and characters, that’s a problem too. Also, relying on gimmicks is a whole different conversation. However, every game that is played competitively at a high level on a global scale has different characters, gameplay styles, and results. I’ve seen Smash tournaments in the past, where every finalist played a different character, for example.
I’m not the creator of these games, so I’m not trying to say anything definitive. But if I had to make a statement about these sorts of games, it would be, “If someone’s using a tactic that’s giving you trouble, just adopt their tactic, and win.” Of course, it’s not that easy– it’s about the effort you have to put in after that realization that matters.
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