Are fighting games starting to outgrow digital controls?

I know this topic seems like it’s in the wrong place (and who knows; it just might be. If it is, I will gladly delete it myself or a mod could move it) but I figured that Tech Talk would probably be the best place to start asking this question since we here deal a lot with modding and hardware to make controllers to play fighting games.

To make a long story short, I’m in the planning stages of making a game, specifically a 3D fighter. I began to think about the fighting games we currently have and the hardware they run on compared to games back during the arcade era. I’ll grant that I know almost nothing about the whole procedure of development, but something that I’ve had to put aside and come back to time and time again is the control scheme. As the title states, I’ve been questioning whether or not the fighting game genre is being “held back” so to speak by the digital control schemes that the genre is typically known for using. Certainly, the latest fighters seem to be doing fine using nothing but a standard 8 direction joystick and 6 buttons max, but I just want to hear what other people think about this subject.

What I want people to understand though before they post is that this is not a gamepad vs. arcade stick vs. Hit Box vs. keyboard and mouse vs. whatever else debate. I don’t want people to come in here and argue about which control scheme they think is better since it’s entirely a preference thing. What I want people to come in here and discuss is what sorts of things they think could contribute to a fighting game’s overall experience from a controller standpoint and how it could be implemented or if it already has. If, for instance, someone believes that analog movement would benefit a game, they should feel entitled to say that analog sticks on a controller or a Seimitsu LS-64 would be interesting to add to a controller.

I really don’t know how better to phrase this question, and I apologize if it’s in the wrong place or it’s a bad discussion. I just wanted to know so I could get some feedback from the hardware side of the community.

The controls of the game should be intuitively tied to the mechanics of the game. Forget about what’s standard; just make your game with a solid picture of how you want the user to interact with the game. If the best way to do that is with analog inputs, go for it, as long as the analog inputs are intuitive and bring something to the table that couldn’t be done with digital inputs.
Smash is the most popular fighter that uses analogs, and frankly, their use of analogs doesn’t bring anything to the table (in my opinion) that couldn’t be done with digital controls. So, using custom controls is extremely difficult, limiting the game completely to original hardware and original controls. Good for Nintendo, but less optimum for the consumer.

You make a game good enough, that has a good reason to use analog inputs, people will play it.

I always felt that a game like Tobal would be interesting with full analog controls (sticks and buttons).

I think it more depends on the application of analog controls in the mechanics of the fighting game. The only game that comes to my mind is Fight Night. Although you can set your control scheme between “analog” (via the analog sticks) and “digital” (face buttons). The use of the analog sticks to do punches was cool and probably inspired by the arcade version of Punch Out.

It’s very hard to do it without being very gimmicky. There will always be the need to just convert the coomands into a separate button or a combination of that plus a couple of directional commands, amking you end up with what we have now.

pressing buttons feels better that just using an analog stick (a la fight night). for me its an aesthetic thing, taking that away would be taking away a major part of why i even enjoy fighting games

I think a 3-D fighting game with dual analog sticks would be kind of cool where in addition to fighting your opponent ala Tekken or Soul Calibur you’d also be fighting your opponent for control over the camera.

Soul Calibur tried it.

It didn’t catch on.

After I read toodles statement I agreed wholeheartedly. Unfortunately I yet to see any fighting games to bring anything on the table that would use analog controls intuitively.

I think the major challenge so far with fighting games that rely on analog controls is that there’s less precision over standard digital controls, so there’s no way that games like Street Fighter that rely on very precise zoning and poking tactics would work properly on analog controls. You would have to create an entirely new physics, animation, and hit detection engine, and it’d probably be a fluid 3D fighter. Personally if I had an unlimited budget, I’d do something cool like allowing the joystick’s x axis to create varying speeds of horizontal movement, and the y axis for varying the height at which a player stands and crouches, then utilize preset movement combinations to allow for ducking, weaving, and sidestepping, and with different moves, strengths, and parrying available at each gradation of movement and crouching. Obviously that’s a really complex system and the game would likely have only a few characters to start with, but that’s exactly what I think it would take for an analog fighting game to bring something new to the table and truly impress the old fogies of Tech Talk.


Digital is still more precise for the purposes of fighting games.

Whow, coincidence that I just signed up in order to look for this exact topic. I’ve been feeling this way for a long time too, and aside from the difficulty of building the game, I think it would also be difficult to get the fighting game community to adopt it, as they’re very keen on their button inputs. Input speed and accuracy are currently very important and those are harder to reproduce with analog inputs. Also, I don’t think you should be looking into game that uses a new controller, as this will make it hard to try out and too far away from the current setting.

But that said, I also wonder why in current fighting games, even analog possibilities (eg. hold button to power up fireball with Akuma or Gouken) are always divided into digital ‘steps’, while they could easily make it deal damage between 2 values and even scale the sprite if necessary. I’m afraid I have to admit I’ve never played SSBM so cannot judge it.

Hope this topic doesn’t die for a bit.

Lest we all forget that the original Street Fighter arcade machines used two analog buttons to determine the strength of your punch or kick. Obviously, that didn’t work out.

In smash the analog controls work simply because everyone else uses analog controls as it was the only available tech at the time aside from the N64 and gamecube’s awful D-Pads. If Digital High Grade Fightsticks were available it would be a digital only game. With smash the game is actually fairly playable on a fightstick, the only thing you lose are tilts, and those are only useful in competitive situations(taking advantages of unguarded areas in a shield) which you never see in standard gameplay.

Define “Fighting Game” first off. Limitations are in the eyes of the player. One might say that you NEED a joystick to pull off C.Viper’s moveset. But then you see someone like Wolfkrone use a pad and you suddenly think “how in the f’???!”. There was a video I saw of Gootecks interviewing a “disabled” person ( who is only able to hold a controller up to his face to stabilize it enough so that he could use his face to move the analog stick and press the 4 face buttons with his tongue to play the game. It was pretty inspiring considering he was actually beating people, apparently.

Reason I say “define” is that I consider some first person shooters as “fighters” in a certain sense. Play some Quake 3 Rocket Arena 3 and go 1v1 against someone. This is what I consider the closest thing to a “first-person fighter” that one might get (Rocket Arena gives you both equal footing, so there’s no item whoring). Playing <this> game on a pad vs someone on a kb/mouse, the kb/mouse guy at “equal” skill will (should?) beat the pad guy, hands down. For that matter, try playing a FPS game on an arcade stick, then you’ll get a greater sense of “limitations”.

There’s another game/series that comes to mind when talking about control schemes and “fighting”. Think of the Virtual On games. Those who’ve gotten into them will swear up and down by the dual flight stick nature of the game. I’ve found that the dual analog + 2 sets of 2 shoulder buttons setup of current controllers to perform quite admirably when it comes to playing those games (ps2 > DC converter, etc.).

If you’re talking “full 3d” for a fighter, you might want to see how games like Power Stone (such underrated fun…) or Square’s Bushido Blade handle 3d movement. I haven’t played the recent Dragonball Z fighters, but supposedly they use more analog like these two mentioned quite a bit as well.

Last bit. I’ve found that the Sony PS controllers perform quite well for fighters like Tekken and Soul Calibur. Something about them work very nicely if you don’t have a joystick in-hand when playing those. I think if you were to consider making something, you have to think about the lowest common denominator (i.e. consoles = pad) if you want “mainstream” users to try them. If you make a fighter for the Kinect, for instance, you better make that game absolutely NEED that setup, or else people will think “wtf, I’d rather just use my pad for this!”

Woah, lots of great replies since the last I posted this up! I’m glad that this is starting a good discussion!

Thanks for giving us such a great starting post, Toodles. :tup:

I do agree that this is a great philosophy and would certainly be an ideal one to follow for any game development. But I can’t help but feel that it’s not quite as simple as making sure the controls fit the game. Again, I could just be ignorant of the whole thing, but there are a lot of semantics involved regarding what kind of controller a community who plays these games (such as SRK, Dustloop, 8WayRun to name a few) want to use. The next post down by aseq sort of touches upon what I’m thinking about.

aseq, I’m going to apologize in advance here if I accidentally misinterpreted anything you’ve said here. I once talked to my friends about what they found so appealing about fighting games as a whole and the answer I got surprised me a little. A lot of them really were just fascinated about arcade sticks. Not the hardware mind you (they’d be here on Tech Talk otherwise :lol:), but the fact that fighting games are one of the few genres which has a unique controller associated with it. Fishing simulators have rods, racing games have wheels, fighting games have sticks.

I’ve also noticed that within the more traditional fighting game communities, it seems that a sign of a fighting game’s legitimacy is determined by whether or not it was designed with arcade style controls in mind. I don’t want to start an argument here, but I am willing to believe that apart from the various other stigma surrounding the game, this is why games such as Super Smash Brothers or any fighting game released on a portable gaming platform have not quite been so easily accepted by the traditional fighting game community. I believe, aseq, this ties in with the point you made regarding the difficulty of getting the fighting game community to adopt a new style of control scheme.

Definitely good points here too, earlyberd. I snipped it off, but I think you also said in this post that an analog control scheme would lead to a more fluid game. Despite the fact that games such as say Street Fighter IV run on digital controls, they still look quite fluid themselves. For discussion’s sake, how would you say visual feedback ties in with controls?

xpulse, this is a great point you brought up in your post. Obviously, a game should be able to be played on a controller or control scheme that the entire userbase has access to, regardless of platform. This definitely had me thinking though about two particular games though, and those would be Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Mortal Kombat 9. Capcom and Netherrealm Studios were from the get-go releasing these two games specifically for the 360 and PS3. In one sense, your last point holds true. Both companies made absolutely sure their games would be playable on the standard gamepads that come bundled for the 360 and PS3. But both companies also ended up having their games work fine on appropriate arcade sticks. If Capcom and Netherrealm decided to make absolute full use of the default system controllers, MvC3 and MK9 could have easily done more with their controls. Despite this, they didn’t and their games are doing perfectly fine. This has to make you wonder which is actually the common denominator here? The arcade stick or the controller?

Again, I don’t mean to offend anyone or start any arguments here and I apologize in advance if I have. I’m very fascinated as to how this discussion is moving and I hope to get some more people to give their opinions.

As can be seen from most fighting games that utilize analog control, typically the angle of tilt on the joystick is determinant of the horizontal movement speed of characters. That’s really about the only major difference, as visual fluidity can be obtained regardless of the control scheme so long as the animations provide fluid transitions between inputs. And even Street Fighter is not as fluid as it could be in regards to animations, and I’ll give you an example.

Every character has the ability to execute air attacks from variable altitudes, but regardless of how close to the ground the attack animations will fully execute until interrupted from the landing. This often has the strange visual effect of characters being in a really awkward pose upon landing, but magically and instantly they are snapped out of the pose and into the landing animation pose, whereas in real life you’d probably stumble or fall down if you had to land like that. This effect is most clearly seen when you knock out an opponent with the air attack, and the game enters the temporary slow motion for artistic emphasis. Obviously Capcom made the decision to leave those glitches in for gameplay reasons, so I can’t really complain, but my point remains that I think a good analog-based fighting game might not fare so well if it had animation glitches like that.

The fluid type of game I’m describing would have a completely new physics engine to cope with the fact that human bodies don’t immediately snap out of poses in order to execute a perfect landing, and recoil from blows would be determined by where and how hard they’ve been hit. Imagine something like the Euphoria physics engine utilized in GTAIV and Backbreaker, just applied to a fighting game. Tekken is gradually implementing bits and pieces of a similar system, but the recoil and recovery is still just a bunch of canned animations, albeit more varied as the game engine progresses.

Control-wise, analog control would add to the fluidity by allowing more variable movement speeds, attack power, and changes in the center of gravity for the characters. Just as one would imagine, applying more power to an attack would increase the chances of knocking down the opponent, but a failure to hit or being blocked would result in more recoil and an opportunity for the opponent to strike. Furthermore, attacks would have less chance of inducing a knockdown if your opponent lowers their center of gravity by crouching, but would be more vulnerable to getting stunned from a blow to the head.

Current fighting games already sort of operate on these principles, but striking is always a case of hit or miss, with the same two possible outcomes for every single move. You always know that a Shoryuken will throw your opponent into the air, or that a leg sweep will instantly knock them down, and blocking or whiffing either one leaves you open to practically any counterattack. In a more fluid game, the effectiveness of moves would be based on the context of not only the amount of force, but whether the blows execute cleanly, and, if deflected or blocked, where the player’s limbs and center of gravity are located after executing the moves. For instance, a clean uppercut to the face would stun and possibly cause the opponent to fall over backwards, while a glanced uppercut would do minor damage and leave your midsection open to attack, and a completely blocked uppercut would cause you to stumble and leave your head open to attack. Likewise, a clean leg sweep would trip the opponent, a glanced sweep would do minor damage and cause both players to momentarily lose the ability to counterattack with a kick, and a blocked sweep would cause a stumble and make the player’s midsection and head open to attack, but due to the low center of gravity the player’s vulnerability to a counter sweep would be minimal. On top of all that, direction of the blows would be important in determining how fast you can recover with a counter attack, obviously with less speed and power available to the limbs that were used in blocking the attacks.

Yeah, it’s ridiculously complex. But like I said earlier, this is what I would do if I had an unlimited budget, and it’s not at all unreasonable to expect at least half of this could be accomplished with current technology. It would just be really expensive.

The question is, do we really need to complicate an already complicated genre by having them utilize the everything on today’s admittedly over-complicated controllers? At least for me, one of the things I love about fighters (and other old school arcade games) is the fact that they use a relatively simple and intuitive control scheme: stick for movement, buttons for actions.

If there is any hope to gain the sales and adoration from younger gamers, I’d say there is a need. Street Fighter has a huge following, but it’s mostly populated by older gamers in their 20s and up who used to play in the arcades as kids. The younger generation is growing up on DDR and waggle games on the Wii, where the idea of controlling a game with just your thumbs is actually seen as difficult and not in the least bit intuitive. Intuition is not a constant or consistent trait among gamers, because typically we prefer the control schemes we’ve grown up on regardless of whether it’s actually the best way to control a game, and therefore the most intuitive controls are typically those that most closely resemble those you are familiar with.

Put yourself in the shoes of a kid that has spent the better parts of their childhood playing analog-dependent games like Halo or Wii Sports. You won’t find many reasons for picking up a game like Street Fighter IV, which has used the exact same set of controls for 20 years, meanwhile the difference between Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Bros. is staggering, and SMG most closely resembles the controls you’d be used to. Simple digital controls might not be on the way out yet, but their days are numbered, with the number based on how long us old guys will continue to live/buy such games.

Platinum Games are billing their upcoming title Anarchy Reigns as a 3D multi-player beat’em’up.

Check out what they’re doing.

Personal thoughts:
The point of a traditional fighting game is to give the player a set of limitations, then task them to build around those limitations to win. Digital (on-off) controls help simplify their thought processes during this abstraction.

Also, you will never, ever have an unlimited budget.

Thanks kikimaru, i’ll check out that game.

I’ve been trying to imagine a combat system that would still have something in it like combos yet has analog inputs, either for the movement of limbs altogether, in 3d, or just determining the strength of the move. Not knowing what your move will do to the opponent exactly (variable hit stun/knockback) will make it very hard to combo anything. So you’d probably still have to divide hits into levels (miss, glance, angled, direct hit or something) to make it possible. Just like earlyberd stated above is the case for Tekken.

Not that long combos are essential to a fighting games, but they’re more or less the standard today (just look at the 5 games at Evo).
Some fighting games (UFC) do use the analog joystick, but so far I only read/hear those are terrible.