The application of the of five animals theory on balancing issues for fighting games
The correct use and application of the theory of the 5 animals of Shaolin would make balancing issues an easier task for developers of fighting games.
The theory divides combat strategy into five different categories and assigns an animal to act as a metaphor for each one. It has a similar structure of rock-paper-scissors game, but with 5 elements.
Below is a brief explanation of each animal and their strategies used in combat, and resumed from (http://lifestylekungfu.com/articals/the-5-animal-fighting-strategies/), for more details about the theory please search for the subject on the internet.
Advantage against: Tiger
Disadvantage against Leopard
Its strategy revolves around leaving, opening and moving just enough to appear to be just out of reach of its attacker, thus giving it the illusion of impending success and the encouragement to continue its committed action and then redirecting that energy in a different direction or exaggerating the original path of travel.
The Dragon defeats the Tiger buy using the Tiger’s committed force against itself, but is defeated by the Leopard because of the absence of the committed action that sustains it.
Advantage against: Crane
Disadvantage against: Dragon
Tiger strategy emphasizes the proper sudden use of extreme committed force and importance of body structure and alignment. The goals are to explode forward with the entire body when advancing to cause the maximum damage possible with each individual strike.
The Tiger defeats the Crane by exploding through its pitiful attempts to keep distant, but is fooled by the elusiveness of the Dragon.
Advantage against: Snake
Disadvantage against: Tiger
The main goal of the Crane is to maintain or increase the distance between it and its attacker, reasoning that if it can’t touch you, it can’t hurt you. The Crane responds to short-range combat by unleashing a flurry of short-reaching but powerful strikes, such as knees and elbows. This flurry is intended to create enough breathing room for a quick escape, while NOT extending the limbs, in order to prevent the attacker from grappling.
The Crane defeats the Snake by staying out of reach of its fangs, and fluttering away when the Snake tries to wrap around it. The Crane’s tendency to move directly away from an incoming threat makes it easy prey for the Tiger.
Advantage against: Leopard
Disadvantage against: Crane
the Snake can be offensive or defensive, and uses both striking and grappling.
In the striking aspect, instead of using the brute force, the Snake stresses targeting and weaponry, to deliver a focused strike to a vital, and usually small, area, to cause the most damage possible with a single hit. Because of the focus on targeting and weaponry the strike is often a straight, piercing action in which a limb moves forward but the body does not. This allows the Snake to be direct and quick while limiting its vulnerability to counter attack (allowing for a quick Jab or a sudden, devastating counter).
The grappling aspect of the snake can be use defensively at a distance, by trapping and tying up an attacking limb, or riding the limb back to its source.
The Snake defeats the Leopard by either delivering an encounter ending strike before sustaining too much damage, or by constricting around the Leopard, and taking away its constant motion. The Snake is ineffective against the Crane, because it can’t close the distance to employ its techniques.
Advantage against: Dragon
Disadvantage against: Snake
The Leopard uses speed and angulations to bury its opponent in a multitude of attacks that seemingly hit all at the same time, or at least in a nonstop rapid-fire barrage. The fact that each individual attack is much weaker than someone using Tiger is balanced with the thought that the effect of the actions combined simultaneously is greater than the sum of the effects felt if each action were separate.
A skilled fighter using Leopard will use both hands and feet to attack multiple targets at once using every possible linear and circular path, up, down, left, and right, snapping out and darting back only be sent out again on another route. The intended result is an opponent that can’t defend itself from all over, at once, and instead just freezes and does nothing. This is part of the defensive strategy of the Leopard, as well as not staying in one place for longer than a blink of an eye and using shifting body movements and footwork to both evade and set up the next wave of strikes. In actuality, the defense of the Leopard is a secondary byproduct of its overwhelming, ever-changing application of offense.
Because the Leopard does not commit itself to any one action, it can make a yummy treat out of the Dragon. The Leopard’s reliance on multiple attacks and constant motion make it vulnerable to the vital strike and grappling attributes of the Snake.
The chart below shows who would win how many fights out of 10 if two high-level fighters of equal skill fighting against each other, using the strategies of the animal shown.
For example, the Dragon would win 6 fights out of 10 against the Tiger.
Dragon Tiger Crane Snake Leopard Total
5 6 5 5 4 25
4 5 6 5 5 25
5 4 5 6 5 25
5 5 4 5 6 25
6 5 5 4 5 25
The chart above shows that every style has 3 equal match-ups, 1 good match-up and 1 bad match-up. Emphasizing that with practice even a bad match-up that is 4/6 can be won.
The idea is that in fighting games, to maintain balance, the number of characters should be always multiple of 5 and that these characters were equally distributed in each category.
For example, a game with 16 characters even with few match-ups to learn will eventually have some dominant characters that are not necessarily over powered, but because they have few bad match-ups compared to the others. This is due to the simple fact that 16 are not a multiple of 5!! Even if the top tiers were nerfed with patches and/or updates the only thing that will happen is the rise of a new top tier character in a game that still unbalanced.
Another example, even a game with 35 playable characters (where balance would be achieved when all the characters got 7 bad match-ups, 7 good match-ups and 21 equal match-ups) can still be unbalanced if 8 or more characters are using the same strategy of combat, because 35 divided by 5 (which are the fighting strategies described in this text) is 7! And in this case there is no patch, update or game mechanics/engine that would fix it. The re-balancing once again will just change the positioning of the characters in the tier list and there will still be dominant characters in the game.
And finally, even if the game has a number of playable characters multiple of 5 and these are equally distributed on the five categories of combat strategy, developers have to avoid that the mechanics and/or engine adopted in the game favor any combat strategy over the another (between the 5 shown here) as this would cause imbalance between the characters.
On the selection screen, characters of the same combat strategy could be grouped together for an easy viewing. Another point also is that if they wish to make a nuance among the characters grouped on the same combat style, it could be done by taking bits or pieces of other animal. As example a Tiger could add some Leopard bits or a Crane could add some Dragon pieces to make their style more effective. This is more to be variety between characters of the same combat style as real martial arts combine styles to strengthen their own.
An example would be American Kenpo which uses primarily Leopard strategy with some Snake mixed in and Aikido that uses the Dragon strategy with some Snake strategy.
Assuming that a game had four characters in the Dragon category, they could be:
- A character 100% dragon
- A character 70% dragon 30% snake
- A character 70% dragon 30% crane
- A character 70% dragon 30% tiger
Emphasizing that this example was made without thinking too much, so it is prudent for the developer to make adjustments in order to maintain game balance.
It would be great for any player to get the character that he enjoy and know that his choice is viable for a big tournament. And find variety in the choice of characters by the others playing online!!
Thanks for reading,