Something I’ve been interested in lately is the performance level of CPU / programmed fighting game AI. Seeing as how I live in the middle of nowhere I end up playing the CPU a lot, which is inevitably resulting in my skill probably going endlessly downhill, as most people would think. Or is that really true? Does playing the computer AI make you a bad player? In one sense, yes, it reduces the possibilities of you having good mixup due to the fact that you’re trying to trick an artificial intelligence which has holes and loops to bypass, inevitably creating the idea that certain tactics will end up being anti-CPU and not anti-player. The CPU conforms to specified formats / playstyles based directly on your input. It runs on a variety of “If/Then” statements, i.e. IF you jump in with a normal, THEN it’s going to do a certain anti air. But is it always this simple? Let’s try breaking this down game for game, which I’m pretty sure hasn’t been done before.
I got the idea for this thread while playing a bunch of Queen Of Hearts '99 today and noticing that, for some reason, the CPU was getting 2 to 3k damage off of two standing 5B’s, while the damage output for me was INSANELY lower ( I noticed also that they, without fail, will ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS try and hit you out of IAD when using the Magic users, even if it’s impossible to beat their IAD j.A.) I realized eventually that maybe the CPU in that game has damage proration in its factor, simply put, it does more damage to me than I do to it, which is pretty damned unfair. Not entirely sleighted in their favor, but pretty hard to contend with when you consider in that game that one screwup and you’re left eating an untechable 50-60 percent of your life gone combo, putting you on the ground in the corner and them with free okizeme. Then I remembered hearing that Guilty Gear AI does pretty much the same thing: the higher the stage you’re on, the less damage output you do to the CPU character and the higher damage they get. Granted, in the realm of abusable tactics, this doesn’t always swing into the CPU’s favor.
So let’s see:
Throws - One of the things that has always bothered me about fighting game AI is the idea that the CPU character can throw you more often than not before you can throw them for free because their throw comes out on the perfect frame no matter the situation ( some ideas that come immediately to mind: SSF2X, TMNT:TF on higher difficulties, Breakers Revenge ( fighting CPU Condor is a PAIN ), UMK3 ). Sadly against most CVS2 CPU opponents with Rolento you can just do walk forward standing jab into throw or into crouching forward xx pipe twirls because they’re not programmed to activate A-Groove and kill you, they’re just not sure how to handle it.
Mixup - Something interesting about most fighting game AI is that they very often not capable of handling good mixup. Take Breakers Revenge for example: with Sho, cr. lk x2 crouching blocked by a CPU opponent then A+C will often result in a guard crush. Not spammable but useful in said situation. However, in a game like Fighters History Dynamite, with Karnov against the CPU, consider this blockstring in the corner against a blocking Mizoguchi: TK’ed Balloon, falling A,B, cr.B walk up throw - nine times out of ten the CPU will DP their way out. Not because they’re programmed to know what’s next - they’re simply programmed to know that you’re in a vulnerable state. Hence you have some games like DOA4 where you absolutely cannot go offensive at higher states of difficulty, you simply have to wait for the CPU to do something punishable to win. Considering the simplicity of that game’s yomi levels you begin to realize that something like forced techs off the ground were potentially created as a side result of laziness on the behalf of the programmers to make the CPU more difficult to deal with when you get knocked down; this also kind of strikes at the nitaku guessing game of waking up where instead of a game like VF where you have to guess between an incoming mid or a throw on wake, the attacker ALWAYS has advantage and doesn’t even have to perform a good mixup to be successful, he can just pursue them in the direction they tech.
Zoning and Safety - one of the things the CPU can be useful for at times is to determine what pokes a character has that are remotely safe. and how to use them to zone. In most games at higher difficulties the CPU won’t throw any normals at you unless they’re safe to do, and sometimes, in some games ( UMK3, TMNT:TF ) they’ll employ “fake ducking” i.e. walk up to you in a hurried fashion to bait something, duck to avoid the high / what you throw out, and punish. Sadly, this at times leads to horrendously bad AI tricks such as in UMK3: when playing the Master tower, after any uppercut / autocombo resulting from Scorpion, Human or Robot Smoke against the CPU, do a sweep. The CPU will flip back for fear of being swept, allowing you to spear them again, rinse and repeat. I remember that was one of the most abused tactics used when that game came out…Also, in some games like MVC2 / JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, some tactics that are definitely escapable on paper via pushblock / superjump become infinite blockstrings because the CPU will somehow forget to do it ( Spiral / Doom trap, shortjump hit into random blocked string into qcb+A xN with JoJo or Dio ). The downside of AI zoning and safety issues like this is that it will continuously fool a majority of casual players into a lull where they believe that some random tactics are safe against human players when they aren’t and are often times easily punishable ( see: most first time players of Tekken who use Christie or Eddy and mash 3 and 4, or people who mash buttons on DBZ Tenkaichi 2, Soul Calibur, Battle Stadium DON, Naruto GNT4, the kind you often see at anime conventions who are unfamiliar with high level play - these are players often weaned on AI who need to be helped to understand that every fighting game is designed for player versus player strategy. But I digress: )
Good AI / Punishment - Let’s be honest - it’s very difficult to program very good fighting game player AI. No CPU player is going to punish your mistakes as well as a human will. But there are a lot of games that try. Samurai Spirits series, when you lose your weapon, obviously the CPU character is going to try and keep you from picking it back up, they’re lot going to let you lovingly waltz over to it, grab it and rape them some more. The obvious honorable mention is VF4 Evo Quest Mode, but even the first couple arcades feature opponents that really don’t force you into any deep yomi-level planning ahead. Soul Calibur III WOULD have good AI that worked effectively ( if not extremely, almost excessively defensive ) if it weren’t for VC eliminating stun states ( not so much eliminating the usefulness of GI because the CPU never VCs ) . So what games DO have good AI? I would say the definition of a fighting game with good AI is one that presents a simulation of tactics that a human player would attempt against you, and sadly most games do that, just, not as skillfully as a human would, like, obviously if you’re playing Hokuto No Ken, CPU Toki isn’t going to go all Kurenai No Buta / Shiro on you.
So, in other words, ITT we tier off fighting game AI according to how hard it is to crack and defeat it.
( unless otherwise noted this means on the highest difficulty level )
S: VF4 Evo ( in higher Dans ), Tekken 5 ( Tekkenlord level ), SSF2X, Fighters History Dynamite, Tobal serie
A: SF3:3s, Last Blade 2, Garou : MOTW, Breakers Revenge, Touhou IAMP, Gundam Battle Assault 2 ( you try Big Zam on the hardest difficulty and tell me it isn’t a gargantuan pain in the ass at Evo East, and I’ll give you a dollar ), Samurai Spirits, TMNT:TF
B: KOF series, Guilty Gear, DOA series ( pre 4 ), Killer Instinct, Naruto GNT, Rage Of The Dragons ( the CPU from time to time will actually hit you with some crazy shit ), QoH '99
C: CVS2, MVC2, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, UMK3 ( MK series in general, actually ), DOA4, EFZ, Project Justice ( the AI will ceaselessly attempt to tardy counter out of stuff and/or call Teamups and waste meter doing so ), Soul Calibur
Agree? Disagree? Discuss. Feel free to discuss the AI positives / negatives of games I didnt mention as well.