A bit long, first part mostly background information for the second part.
First order optimal strategies are in all games, what the phrase refers to is the usage of a low-risk high-reward strategy with a low skill cap. This is primarily put in or left by designers to encourage newer players to keep playing and feel like they have a chance against veterans in various games. In multiplayer games, especially competitive ones, often these are purposely added to help balance out the early growing pains of some players.
For strategy games take the early life of Starcraft which had Zergling Rush, Bunker Rush, Cannon Rush and 4-Pooling. These tactics are largely despised by people and I clearly remember how many games were still No Rush 10min and No Cheese even years after these strategies had long evolved or been discarded by a huge chunk of the player population.
These strategies originally took very little skill to attempt and the payoff was huge, you won the game if they succeeded without even needing to try. Often if they failed, early in the lifespan of these strategies it wasn?t necessarily a death sentence if they had dealt enough damage to derail the opponent. Over time though they practically were death sentence if they failed, as strategy evolved, counters were developed and these were largely relegated to the annals of time. This does NOT mean they were made completely obsolete. Boxer famously Bunker Rushed in a tournament finals and various Zerg rushes were developed that weren?t so suicidal and so on. SC was a game with a huge amount of depth and tactics that weren’t discovered for years into the game’s life-span.
Do note that for a time 4-Pooling and variants were actually OP, because unlike many fighting games SC received multiple patches for balancing issues. Some inadvertently broke the game, my example is linked to the times when they didn’t actually make Zerg early game too good or unplayable. Note that this is also an example of relying on patches as a risky proposition, sometimes they make things a lot better and other times they send balance out of whack in an entirely different way.
From Extra Credits - The Escapist : Video Galleries : Extra Credits : Playing Like a Designer Part 2
The “Noob Tube” is a classic example of this, a constantly bitched about weapon in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. It was a grenade launcher attachment that could be accessed very early in the game and eliminated or downgraded certain skill factors from play. It called the Noob Tube because while it took almost no skill to use, it was a powerful. Long story short, bad players were able to use this and get kills against good players. It was ultimately best against the middle class of skill where people either didn?t or wouldn?t adapt against these weapons and got killed more often then high end players.
Based on the example you may ask why any company would purposely diminish the skill set of the games they develop. When designing toward making a player base it really depends on what you want to achieve. If the goal is to encourage a player base and attempt to grow it, Marvel already was doing half right by having tons of shiny stuff and lots of crap going on to stare at. The other half was attempting to show that **you **can play this game and from a company standpoint that’s definitely something you want. From a tournament standpoint that’s something you want as it increases player bases, prizes, etc.
In an ideal world you could design it to have a beautiful curve that seamlessly joins leveling up, having fun and learning stuff. In the real world what I find usually happens is people understand that the hardcore / best players will still be the best even if they ‘dumb down’ the game a bit and open up to a wider audience. Magic the Gathering did that over the past couple of years and a lot of Pros really rallied on the company for it, a few years later they’ve had unprecedented growth of the base and shock of shocks, the majority of pros were still cashing / winning tournaments even if the playing field had leveled out a bit. In general if the game has a lot of natural depth built in, cashing a little of that in for increased popularity is a business decision that’s difficult to fault.
As I said practically every game and especially multiplayer games, have these built into themselves from the outset. In MVC3 we can already hear complaints about the FOO strategies that have been created so far.
Screen filler from Arthur / Doom / Dormamu / Trish / Sentinel
?Spammable rushdown? from Akuma / Wolverine / Magneto
Mashy attacks into super off anything from Chun-Li / Super-Skrull
Level 3 X-Factor comebacks
And of course the ubiquitous usage of Sentinel over the first week of game play
There are all obvious strategies that were realized and instead of figuring out how to advance them (Seeing what ones are legitimate mixed strategies and what is actually ?broken?) people generally complain and moan. Now these complaints aren?t necessarily terrible or without merit, if that?s the full depth of the game and the optimal strategies are the basic ones, the game probably isn?t going to have a competitive scene for very long. Dozens of dead fighting games along the wayside can attest to this.
A fair number of these strategies could be responded to with attempts to figure out what evasion options are open / optimal against spammers or what characters counter them effectively. Against rushdown or characters with instant overheads, learning how to block effectively or looking for signs that give away the direction of an attack are all valid options. Against mashers, blocking, zoning and more blocking and evasion are all things that should be practiced. Instead there are largely complaints. Oddly people who put work in have actually found a bit more joy in the game despite it obviously being broken after the 10 hours of play you put into it.
Again I’m not saying that it isn’t possible that some of these strategies are OP, but claiming them to be because they show success and people play them isn’t exactly a great place to have that argument from. Especially not so early in a game’s lifespan. Note that with Sentinel there’s a fair chance that he ends up being the best character in the game. I’m not trying to argue that Sentinel isn’t OP, just that we should give it more time and allow counter strategies to be developed before declaring him so. The discussion about him should be established, but not the ‘wah wah, he’s too fucking good’ part of the complaints. Is he the best character in the game and if so, by what margin? Him being the best character because of his one-hit = kill nature might not be the biggest issue if it turns out more characters have the same thing going for them as the combo and proration system is fleshed out. At that point he might just be a bigger and easier target than someone with similar damage dealing capabilities and he’s no longer *the *overpowered threat in a game full of them.
Point is to figure out if he’s OP in the ‘broken’ game warping fashion, rather than just OP in the SF4 Sagat fashion and then after that can come the discussion of how to tweak him assuming a balance patch or patches actually are in the game’s future. X-Factor is another system that needs to be dissected as the current form of Level 3 X-Factor seems like a slippery slope comeback mechanic taken too far. Once again, figuring out a solution and presenting it is going to be a lot more effective than complaining about how beast it is or how Level 3 Sent > the game.
However in a fair number of games such as the ones listed, there are ways around these strategies or even outright more powerful strategies with better risk / reward ratio for more skilled players. In general what?s happening is how fighting game meta?s evolve and it?s ridiculous to talk about what?s supposedly broken* or unfair in a game that?s been out for a week. For every post I see whining about skill being removed from the game I?m left wondering if these people have actually played video games before or know what skill or variance even means. I’m not trying to say the game is perfect, but that actual discussion should take place and there needs be a line drawn behind what’s causing an issue on the player side and what on the game mechanics side is legitimately OP and may want to be tweaked down the line.
*Broken means that a strategy actually breaks the game, not the thing you lose too for reasons you can’t even accurately describe over your own raging.
You have complete control over your character in a fighting game. There is no variance for what that character can do outside a joystick malfunction or a legitimate game glitch. Everything else is completely under your own control and remains that way until the match ends. You may be limited in what your number of options are at a given moment, but you always have the capability of making a decision when possible aka: anytime not in stun, getting hit or on the ground. The definitions people use for random are absolute trash for how much control you have in FG?s compared to other competitive games. In various trading card games the best players in the world winning percentage range from 65-70%. Poker players deal with variance all the time and face even less decisions than in other games. The way some fighting game players talk about FG?s (and it really doesn?t seem to matter which ones anymore) you would think it was a big coin flip.
Getting hit by ?random? attacks isn?t random, it?s a MISTAKE. Or perhaps more accurately it?s a byproduct of taking risks in these games, since while you have complete control of your character it means that the opponent is as well and you have to accept that sometimes your decisions will be directly countered by a ?less skilled? opponent. This is why American tournaments have multiple sets per round, so the maximum advantage is given to the better player, no matter how slight that edge might be.
So instead of crying or complaining why not try and level your game up? Practice, read, try new stuff out or watch a match or two. If the stuff that’s dominant right now is really -that good- and isn’t patched, the game will die out soon enough. Discuss what seems too good, figure out what needs to be tweaked and present your findings and you could do a lot of good.
Or you could just quit. Your call.
TL;DR version: Stop crying over things you bring on yourself and try to pass off as scrubby or variance.
Credit to MingoDynasty for helping flesh some of the piece out.