First of all, I really don’t know if “Fighting Game discussion” is the right place to open this thread, because it is more like “game developer stuff”,so maybe it would fit better at “Domination101”, although it is not any strategy, actually, this issue is homeless, and I’m apologize in advance for my english, I really had a hard time writing this, I tried my best.
Hope you enjoy the reading. It is a big text, but you can read it in parts, just follow the index.
Tactical Balance in Fighting Game - with videos! - By Azis
3-The Tactical Balance
4-The Tactical Unbalance
5-Mind-Game: The game inside the game
1 - Introduction
When tactical balance is the issue, the first thing that comes to mind is "tiers". Automatically we remember the top tiers, god Tiers, mid Tiers or whatever pleases you. We think of Match-ups also. But balance in a Fighting game is not only that. A Fighting game is highly tactical, it demands balance among the characters and their actions. Actions in a Fighting Game are, basically: Move, jump, guard, normal attacks, special attacks and super moves. But what if a game is unbalanced in one of these basic actions? ***If a game is unbalanced in one of its basic actions or the combination of them (e.g.: Jump-in attack), giving advantage to one of these actions, what will happen is the abuse of this action (or combination of actions), making the game repetitive, lowering the tactical factor.**
2 - Match-ups
Match-ups are specific characters in a match, where we analyze some advantages and disadvantages for both sides. Some things allow the abuse of some characters against others in specific situations. In ST, as an example: Honda got Bison cornered. He will do Ochio Throw FTW because Bison doesn't has a Reversal - except his Super - that takes him out of this situation. We call this "Honda vs Bison match" a "though match-up for Bison", or we say E. Honda is a tough match-up for Bison. Actually, it is not so hard, because the advantageous situation for Honda is very specific. But it fits as example, as I cannot remember any better right now. But all I want to say in this section, besides the simple definition of the term "match-up", is that **this text is not about match-ups**. It is about general tactical balance.
3 The Tactical Balance
For better understanding of how the "Tactical Balance" works, let's borrow Sirlin's example a little bit. Think about the classic "Rock, Paper and Scissor", the favorite game of Alex Kidd, or, whatever it may be named in your region or country (some call it Janken-Po as well, lets avoid issues like this to progress, as everybody knows what I'm talking about). In this game, we have 3 elements: Rock, Paper and Scissor. Rock beats Scissor, that beats Paper, that beats Rock. Three options, with one choice you can beat one element and lose to other, and, of course, there are ties. This game is the perfect example of balance, since the chance of winning is always 50% (excluding tie), which is identical to losing. If you chose hundreds and hundreds of times one element, it will not give you any advantage, as the game is perfectly balanced. Actually, you may face some disadvantage for playing in patterns, as your opponent may notice and use it against you. To have the perfect 50% chance of victory, you have to be perfectly random maintaining the balance with the elements, and it does not depends on your opponent choice. It has some "mind game", also. ***The perfect balanced game would be like Rock-Scissor-Paper. But, of course, this balance is theoretical, and, actually, impossible to reach.**.
4 - The Tactical Unbalance
The opposite of the section above. Lets take as example the The King of Fighters series. In this game, small jump and meaties are the main tactics used, as they are better basic elements. The small jump is repetitively used by players in all games of the series (see videos) as it is hard to punish and trades with most of anti-airs, and most of times beats anti-airs. Besides that, it is fast and has high priority. Now imagine this as an derivation of a probability only Rock-Scissor-Paper, where Rock has 70% of winning chance, and Scissor and Paper share 15% each. As in the example of the real "Rock-Scissor-Paper", the use of small jumps, by the repetition, becomes punishable with an anti-air attack by anticipation, not on reaction. As everybody uses it a lot, because it is the best attack option in most of situations, if you execute a Dragon Punch or any other anti-air, you have a good chance to intercept an incoming attack. If the opponent is at the right distance for a jump-in, and, allowing the attacker to jump, you have a real chance to time a perfect Dragon Punch. Actually, a very, very big chance, as I'll show in the videos, because, at some distance, small jumps ARE the best option. There is no Mind game. If you wanna win some at KOF, jump more. Imagine blending KOF to Rock-Paper-Scissor, some kind of Alex Kidd, where we will switch the available options in the fighting game to Rock, Paper or Scissor, and, in this case, we will represent the jump-in attacks as the ROCK. In this imaginary game, in the mid distance, instead of regular actions, the characters would do Rock, Scissor or paper, simple as the Alex Kidd boss fights. However, think that the chances of the options are not the same, think that, as in KOF, the Rock represents better chances of winning, as IT IS the best option. As you know it is the best choice, instead of doing it, you can do paper, so, both of you excluded scissor from the game. As a consequence of Rock being stronger, and paper its counter-attack, it took one option out of the game, represented by scissor here, which is other possible options in KOF, and, more important, this unbalance takes the MIND-GAME, the most "pure" strategical element, out of the game. Now for some action, If you know KOF, just think that Rock is represented by Small Jump, Paper is the Anti-air (and as I said, it does not beat rock clean or do not beat it anyway , so that the rock IS the best option) and, lets say, scissors would be walk and then poke. Note that walk and poke really does not exist in KOF in high level play. **That is what I call the "TACTICAL UNBALANCE" that I want to talk about: One tactic overwhelm others clearly, allowing abuses.** The The King of Fighters series in the perfect example of this kind of abuse . The World's Top Players matches are composed by repetitive jumps. When punished, it is clearly the antecipation of the defendant, just as I said before. This characteristic puts the game in a negative view of the world's top players of many other fighting games. For the game to appear in a huge world tournament, it must be really deep and competitive, everybody must like it. Unless it has other interests behind fun and competition, such as increase the number of players sign-ups ($$$), sponsors disseminating a release, personal interests of tournament directors (such as high possibility of winning), etc. ***Just have in mind that the "Tactical Unbalance" makes the best option/tatic/action be used abusively so that it takes the mind-game out of the game.**
5 - Mind-Game: The game inside the game
The tactical balance in a game causes the game to be "transfered" from the screen directly to the mind of the players. It is not enough to execute one action knowing that it has a minimal risk and a huge reward. To execute one action in a balanced game, you must fake to your opponent that you would execute one action and then punish a possible earlier reaction or wait for him to do something and react wisely to the situation. That is what we call "Mind-Game". Its definition is cognitive: "The game in the mind". Mind-Games are constant (in variable degrees) in balanced fighting games. There games are present in the main world's tournaments unless it has interests behind, like sponsoring or others. It is made from transferring the game from the screen to the mind of players, as in Chess, where how do you hold the piece or move it is not what matters, but where do you put it to fill the need for a higher objective, the Check-mate. At this moment, the power of execution of incredibly hard commands does not lead to victory, but intelligence, and thus coming in second place reflex and execution, in the case of fighting games. Mind-Games rise the fighting game level to a higher instance, the one of logical reasoning and capability of answer in time according to several possible situations, as there is not only two or three good alternatives to an attacker. This implies that the player must know the game and it's minimal variations and situations to answer properly to any choice of the opponent and thus take an effective action, and it is noticeable that a game like this allows a bigger possibility of tactical exploration: pressure, defensive tactics, offensive tactics, mixed tactics, random (as many options are good or even) or Mix-up (and here I recall "rock-paper-scissor where the only way to have advantage is balancing the 3 elements), and effective counter-attacks, as no tactic overwhelm other. So, there are several ways to play in a balanced game. Pick one that satisfy yours, that is adequate to your profile and characters you chose, develop tactics, trade information with players and have fun. As I talked about, I must give definition: Mix-up means to mix tactics and options, ti means variation. Mix-ups are a constant element in balanced fighting games. It is not Randomness, but sometimes it can be confounded with it. By having tactics that are even in success chance, Mix-ups are applicable in games that has balance in its basic actions,and you can see it mainly after knocking and enemy down. This means that it is not about choosing options with guaranteed success chances, like Small Jumps or Meaty attacks (earlier attacks when the opponent is knocked down), but a variation of throws, overheads, meaties, small jump, safe jump, empty jump-hit low, fake an action, just block and counter-attack, etc, as any action in a balanced fighting game has equal chances of success **given the conditions of risk/reward, against the defendant options that has also degrees of risk/reward and success**, as the oldie-but-goodie block, reversals, normals, specials, supers or even others. Lets talk a little bit about risk and reward. The balanced game may not allow that small jump, meaty and others overwhelm supers/DM/Overdrive/whatever, as these movements demand higher execution ability, and you must "pay" for it with the cost of "super meters", so, this should be, to the knocked down enemy, the best option to cause damage. However, the standing attacker, knowing this, may fake an attack/pressure (mind game) and thus makes the defendant flunk in executing a super, spend meter, and yet has the fair punishment according to the reward he would have if the super had hit. So the reward for the player who used the Mind Game is awesome, as the reward for the knocked enemy should be awesome due to the risk he just payed for and due to the usage of meter. This means that the balanced game has weights and measures adequate to their respective risks and rewards. A great risk is rewarded with a high reward, in the other hand, the cost of the bad use of a high rewardable option is a high reward to the opponent, as he was rewarded by the good use of tactics. As examples of this good weight and measure balance, think of: A)In A2, Ken vs Ryu, Ryu does c.fk into hadouken. Low risk, low reward. B) Ken does c.fk into level 3 shoryu-reppa, high risk high reward, because, if Ken miss it, he is all in the hands of Ryu IF... C) Ryu was wise to store 3 meters, which involves risk. You can think about a Shoryu-reppa done in reversal, that has also high risk and high reward, but the price is also high, very susceptible to the standing opponent mind-game. As a bad example of risk/reward relation we may think of: A)In CVS2,A-Bison does short scissor kick with a full meter. It can also be comboed from anything, that is easy to pull off. If timed right, it is hard to punish on mistake, so we can classify this as of very low risk. However, the reward for a landed short scissor kick is absolutely fucking insane crazy high, which is the famous Karate Kid borrowed name "Paint the Fence", the "PTF". B)Small jump in KOF: low risk,high reward, you can do insane combos after taht such as the "PTF". Punishments for it are only the bests Dragon punches in the game, if you miss, you will be knocked down leaving the attacker with small jump or meaty options, again, or some few cross-ups, grab-hit/low-high mix-ups. Backing to the mix-up, if meaties always beat an knocked enemy super, so,there will be never supers in this situation, thus no risk/benefits balance, and there will be none of the two main elements in competitive fighting games played in high level: Mix-ups and Mind-Games. If you know that meaty will always work, this is clearly the best option, why would you not use it? The opponent will never try reversals in this condition, because, even hard to pull off, it always fails, so why would you, as attacker, fake an attack to get your reward after the opponent's mistake? He will not commit this mistake. It would be unreasonable this Mind Game/Mix up in an unbalanced game as there is a clearly better option. In the balanced game, however, decisions are much more difficult to take, more risky, more thinkable, less automatic. This situation is far more dramatic, even if it runs very fast. Remember, in EVO (06 I think), CVS2, Tokido using the "quick get up" against Combofiend's Eagle? It was the price of automated "decision". It is pretty obvious: If Meaties are better, I'll use them, if it is not possible to get out, I'll definitely use them. ***The repetitive abuse of tactics destroys the mind game** Now that I already talked about Mind Games,Mix-up, and Risk and Reward regarding the tactical balance, and you must be tired of reading, watch some live example of it: [media=youtube]gVmc5ZepdVs[/media] (Justin vs Yipes cyclops comeback)
6 - Videos
Talking is not enough, so I'll show it. What follows are four comparative videos, two from CVS2, two from KOF2002. Both with TOP players in the world and Randomly selected*, as they were never watched before. CVS2 is not the perfect example of balance**, but it is well balanced in its basic actions. I decided to select this game to analyze as it has lots of mix-ups and a strong mind-game, and also an wide possibility of tactical exploration with each character in each groove, allowing you to turtle or rush with great balance with all these possibilities. And, besides that, this is a game that I know very well. KOF2k2 was selected because jump-ins are abusive, as you will see by the repetitive jumps in the videos, sometimes 4 or 5 in a row. The analysis is based on the tactics used by the players in-game. As to evidence, it will have a "counter" in the bottom, represented by:
A)Jumps while attacking, small jumps or normal jumps;
B)Clean Punishments to jump-ins (not trade);
C)Jumps that trade.
The intention is what matters, jump to attack add a number in the counter, even if the action was not succeeded, if the opponent moved or whatever happened. Back jumps or without the attack intention, such as taking position advantages or move, or even trying to hit an possible "quick stand up" as anticipation does not account. Thus, it is easy to show KOF2k2 as an example of a tactically unbalanced fighting game, showing that it has priority in small-jumps, as the simple evidence given by **the repetitive jumps.** Thanks for your attention. I hope that you readers analyze this text with critical eyes, not love. Then take your own conclusions and read the video analysis and conclusion.
VIDEO 1 - http://br.youtube.com/watch?v=k3qWW0ihOSk
VIDEO 2 - http://br.youtube.com/watch?v=INQm3Edre7I
VIDEO 3 - http://br.youtube.com/watch?v=R1Be9Ijoiog
VIDEO 4 - http://br.youtube.com/watch?v=IyNX_n4xaNA
*Nightmare (kof player) randomly selected the KOF videos. I randomly selected the CVS2 videos, both are from EVO WEST 07.
**Of course I don’t want to show CVS2 as an example of perfection. Much more the contrary as it has the biggest fucking abusive-ish tactic ever known in the fighting game history, the Roll-Cancel, a way to make any special move invincible,thus, safe and abusive. However, as basics are easier to discuss, I chose simple movements and combination of normal moves, such as walk, block… so I pick jump and attack.