The Problem of Execution

Execution is something which is present in all fighting games, and having good execution is a must for competitive play. If your execution is poor then it’s a liability. You may miss that reversal dragon punch, or screw up a combo that could have won you the match. Having good execution though gives you more options, more tactics and methods of offense and defense. And here is where the problem lies. In a way, players are restricted in what they can do by how good their execution is.

Obviously the solution is to improve your execution. This is done by practice, and you keep practicing until you no longer have any doubts in your mind whether or not you can execute what you’ve been practicing. This can take a long time though, something not everyone has the luxury of. And while its a good thing that players who put in the time and effort to improve their execution are duly rewarded, I can’t help feel that casual and new players are being discouraged by taking fighting games more seriously because of the demands on execution.

I originally thought that too many complex game mechanics were the source of discouraging more people getting into fighting games, but lots of game mechanics can go ignored as long as people can just pick and play and have fun. Thats why I believe 3D and Smash style fighting games are so much more popular than traditional 2D fighting games. People will say purely its because of the “superior” graphics. I’m not going to deny that as a major factor, but the graphics and art style is something which originally attracts someone to a game, rather than being the deciding factor which makes players want to continue to play it.

While there is still demanding execution in 3D and Smash style fighters, on the whole it doesn’t seem so important. New and casual gamers can more or less just button mash most 3D fighters, and the game play to at least themselves and amongst their peers will be fun and will look good. Now when new and casual gamers try to do this on 2D fighters, everything seems so much more sluggish and awkward, even to themselves. Nothing seems to flow and the game will move slow. Also classical special moves which we are used to here seem like totally alien methods of control, and while we may think some fighters have very lack execution in this respect, it something which can be very challenging to someone new to fighting games, let alone even trying to perform a basic combo.

So what happens when you remove the execution demands from fighting games? You generally get more button mash friendly games, which often lose depth and balance. And for a game to be taken seriously, at least in a competitive sense, it needs to have sufficient depth and balance. Few games have achieved a balance of less demanding execution with deep and balanced game play. I’m not going to say which have and haven’t cause i do not want to cause arguments, but more of these types of fighters will need to be made to not only appeal to casual gamers but also the hardcore gamers as well.

We had an epic argument about this way back in the old SBX thread. I basically agree with what Sirlin had to say in his interview linked here.

I guess I should preface this rant by saying that I don’t think fighting games are (or rather, should be) the genre for people that want to test execution; don’t get me wrong, they often end up being tests of that, but I think this dilutes what should be the main focus; strategic dominance. To me, measuring who is the best strategist and tactician is far more interesting than measuring who has the most technical skill, and furthermore, it’s even more interesting when unhindered by concerns of getting your combo off. Ultimately, this is a philosophical difference, and if you disagree you aren’t going to agree with my following points. Really, though, if you disagree I think you’d be better off playing something like DDR or Beatmania, where there are tests of execution far in excess of anything you’ll find in a fighting game.

Difficult execution in games is retarded. When you put difficult execution in a game, one of two things happens:

  1. People master the execution 100% in high level play.

All this results in is adding arbitrary hurdles preventing lower level players from being able to compete at a level where strategy (the interesting part of fighting games, remember) is what determines the winner. The most obvious offender here is FRCs in GG - everyone can do them 100% at high level, but they are pretty damn difficult for new players. There’s no point.

  1. People don’t master the execution 100%, even at the highest level.

Depending on various other risk/reward factors, this either results in people not using the technique at all, or people will go for it just on the off chance that it works. In the former case you end up with something that might as well not be in the game at all, and in the latter you again dilute the more interesting challenge of “who is the more mentally skilled fighter” by adding in a semi-random factor of who can more consistently press buttons at the right time.

There’s a few arguments people try to use to argue in favor of having difficult execution in games:

  1. “It differentiates the good players from the bad players!”

Some people seem incredibly insecure that without their advantage of god-like execution to cling onto, scrubs will be storming the high-level castle in force, turning fighting games into an egalitarian fairyland where everyone is equal. Funnily enough it never seems to be good players saying this, for obvious reasons; there is far, far more that distinguishes good players from bad than who has the better execution. If scrubs could execute everything just as perfectly as master players, they would still lose every game. And if that’s not the case, or the dominance factor is decreased? So be it! That dominance was based on bullshit, arbitrary, uninteresting tests of manual skill! If you want to see that kind of dominance again, encourage developers to make even deeper strategic games!

  1. “Gamers these days don’t want to have to work at anything! If you don’t like difficult execution, you’re just lazy!”

Also known as the “crotchety old man” defense. People who make this argument seem to think there is some inherent value in any skill you have to really work to get good at, no matter how dull, arbitrary or just plain retarded it might be. I saw this guy on TV once who could identify any Michael Jackson song just by listening to a half-second clip from anywhere in the song. I’m sure that was pretty fucking hard, and it sure as hell must have taken a lot of practice, but does that make it any less pointless? As stated previously, difficult execution might be hard, but it just isn’t interesting, and no amount of whining about lazy gamers while you grind ROM infinites in training mode is going to change that.

  1. “You can’t stop difficult execution unintended by the programmers from emerging in games , so why bother trying to minimize it?”

It’s true that any fighting game system that allows you freedom to experiment (a good thing, in my opinion) is inevitably going to result in unforeseen techniques being developed by the players, which may well be difficult to execute. However, a few difficult, unforeseen techniques is considerably preferable to a few difficult, unforeseen techniques plus a bunch of other arbitrary execution tests that were thrown in there just because fighting game developers seem to have a hard on for this stuff.

There’s also the issue of player accessibility which r3ko raised - while new players might not be able to do those unforeseen techniques even in a game with easy execution, they can at least feel like they possess the manual skill required to play the basic game as it was intended. I met a girl recently who told me she really wanted to like Guilty Gear, but found it hard to get into because everyone she played destroyed her, as even basic motions like QCFs were difficult for her to perform on command. Perhaps if she’d picked up Smash Bros. instead she could’ve eased herself in gently and, in time, mastered the more difficult execution and maybe even become a high-level player! But in a more traditional fighter, she was cut off at the first hurdle.

So, in summary, difficult execution adds little of interest to fighting games, dilutes the parts of fighters that actually are interesting, and prevents potential players from being able to get into the game. In spite of its defenders, who, for whatever reason, be it simple unwillingness to change or insecurity about their own strategic ability when the arbitrary barrier of execution is removed, will claw tooth and nail to keep their infinites and just frames intact, fighting games and the fighting game scene as a whole would, I believe, be better off if developers did their best to minimize its presence.

i gotta call BS on this one.
i play(ed) feng in tekken 5 and all the effective moves he has don’t need more than a direction plus a button. you win cuz you do the right move at the right time and that’s it.
does it mean anyone can win tournaments with feng? does it mean tekken has no depth?

It’s hard to fight emergant properties in a lot of games like guilty gear, but I hate the time window for FRCs. I generally don’t have a problem with them, but it was an unnecessary barrier. I think, where the developer can reasonably help it without damaging the integerity of the game, execution should be made easier when possible.

Not much they can do about the tight link the players discovered without effecting the rest of the game, but still like reversal timing, generous command interpters and avoidence of built in features with ‘2 frame windows’ or stuff like that. Fightign games, particularly complex ones, are never going to be execution free, but that doesn’t mean they should be made harder on purpose.

I think one potential plus to hard execution, at least for myself, is the satisfaction I get from finally hitting something perfectly. It feels much better to get some crazy combo that I worked at than to do something easy to execute.

My sentiments exactly.

some people love executing hard stuff. so maybe the games should cater to all kinds of players and have both easy and hard characters. but making something of the system itself hard, something that every character needs (like frcs) is a no no

title of thread sounds like a really bad afterschool special about the death penalty

“Good execution” is relative. For a theoretical physicist, Einstein’s math skills were nothing to write home about, but he was an expert compared to the common man. Likewise with fighting games, you don’t (or shouldn’t) need incredible execution to make it to the big time, but that doesn’t give you license to sluff off on your practice, either.

Im running up against this in ggxx:ac with all of the 6FRC6’s. I just don’t have enough time to dedicate to being able to pull it off in every situation every (or nearly every) time. It’s like this huge block and it leads me to going why even play the game if Im not going to be able to master that. Maybe if I was in some podunk state with a small community it wouldn’t matter but I spend an hour in traffic to get to FFA only to get mind-wiped by some guy who lives in that arcade who kept pulling out 6FRC6’s like he was doing fireballs. Makes me feel like I should just go back to tekken or something

jeez, could this be anymore ass backwards.

  1. Its called stepping your game up. If people are going to sit and train for a high level tactic, then others who are willing to play the game have to learn the same tactics to stay on the same plane as the other player. Its just that simple.

  2. If you want to take execution out of the picture and have it be all strategy, go play chess. There’s already a game like that. Fighting games have 2 sides to them, the execution side and the mental side. Both should be equally as deep as one another. Thats why the heavy execution games like mvc2, ST and GG get alot of play still. People want a challenge not a dumb boring game that takes very little skill to play aka DOA. Thats why DOA sucks, its too easy.

  3. Difficult execution adds everything to a game. Why are games like mvc2 and ST still around? why is mvc2 still evolving to this day after 7 years going on 8? these games have huge fan bases because it implements crazy amounts of execution and mental strategies. The depth of these games, along with other mentionable games like GG, adds to the staying power and fan base.

Execution is not a problem, it’s a requirement for competitive play.

Execution will always be a part of fighting games, only limited by technology, and generally speaking in 2D fighters, the more in-depth the game is the more execution required. It is the requirement that you must learn to even have a chance at playing competitively.

Execution has its parallel in many things outside of fighting games. Because it is such an intrinsic part to any type of sport - to be able to control what you do.

Let me use basketball as an example. Most people are not ambidextrous. To even play bball well, you have to learn to control the ball with both hands in various ways, like dribbling, passing, doing layups. So in high level play, players have to be nearly ambidextrous with the ball. Having the ability to control the ball easily with both hands is the requirement to even have a chance at playing competitively, or learn with even one hand at the bare minimum.

Say for example you have an opening to do a layup from the left, but you cannot control the ball well with your left hand, so your options get limited. You lost a possible point, which could have been the winning point. In fighting games, not being able to execute a certain technique like a 2-frame FRC on some move limits your options. You lost possible damage, and a possible win because you cannot do the frc.

People who are not dextrous even at a minimal level do not stand a chance in basketball, and neither do they stand a chance at execution-intense fighting games.

Execution is an intrinsic part to any type of sport that requires using your body somehow. So nobody is going to allow 1 button shoryukens to make it less execution demanding. The NBA isn’t going to change the rules and let you carry the ball in your arms instead of having to dribble it to make it less execution demanding. You’re going to have to learn to execute.

It’s a pretty natural thing when you look at it outside of fighting games, if you cannot execute, don’t expect to do very well, and that’s the bottom line. Until virtual sports or games are made, where you use your mind to do everything, you’re always going to face the problem of execution. So if you can’t do that, it should tell you clearly that sports/fighting games are not for you.

So what can you do about sports that are execution-intense? Well other than practising your execution just like anyone else who intends to play competitively, there is nothing you can do. :rofl:

You’re missing the point. Much of the difficult execution in fighting games is completely arbitrary and unnecessary, which can’t be said for sports.

r3ko you seem a little hypocritical…

In you last thread you said that gg was the future. But now our saying execution is hindering fighting games. You do know that gg is the game most people fea in regards to execution, right?

just saying…

Can you please explain how it is unnecessary that you have to somehow control what you do, and thus must execute some combination of movement and buttons?

I mean the only way to solve that is to just make 1 button for anything because that’s as simple as execution would get, and then you’d have to remember what 100 different buttons do. Then we’d see threads like ‘The Problem of Memorization’.

I said “difficult execution”, not “any execution”. Obviously what qualifies as “difficult” is subjective, and there’s a limit to how far you can go, but I think it’s possible for fighting games to ease up quite a lot on the execution difficulty to be inclusive to a wider number of players without sacrificing strategic depth.

The NBA can change the rules to allow you to carry the ball rather than dribbling, easing up the execution making it more welcoming to a wider number of players without sacrificing much strategic depth. So in a way, dribbling is arbitrary and unnecessary too. But that ain’t happening soon. :rofl:

So yeah, ‘difficult execution’ is rather relative - no point arguing.

Having high difficulty of execution is a risk/reward type of situation.

First off, having both “easy” and “difficult” execution is already built into every fighting game: normal moves you can do with one press of a button, and then everything else (specials, supers, etc).

If you don’t want to deal with difficult execution, stick with normals. Can you win a game? Possibly. You won’t deal as much damage, be able to punish as hard, or have a truly effective zoning or rushdown game, but possibly, you can win matches with a minimum amount of execution.

What about moves and combos that require an extreme degree of execution to perform? Things like infinites, karas, FRCs, unblockable setups, hit-confimation, high-damage juggles/combos, etc etc. These are definitely difficult to perform, but look at the benefits! All of these factor into your strategy, giving you infinitely more options. And really, having more options is the most important part of strategy.

The harder it is to execute something, the more rewarding it is. Developers reward people who take the time to truly play their game, learn the mechanics (or in some cases, discover the glitches). Fighting games are games that test coordination, reflexes, planning, and judgement. Like anything else worth doing, if you want to do well, you have to practice. If everyone could play like a pro the first time they pick up a game, what’s the point?

I would say that there is no such thing as “unnecessarily difficult” execution (FRC’s). So your 40% combo becomes a 30% combo. You can make up for it by having superior strategy and broadening your mixup game so that you can hit with your smaller combo more times than they can hit with their higher damage combo. At the end of the day, the level of skill between the two players is equal.

Now I agree, difficult execution is a serious barrier for many fighting games. “Simpler” games like Smash are popular because (aside from playing with all the favorite nintendo franchises) they have a much lower learning curve and are accessible to more people, not just the hardcore elite. But I would argue that Smash could very well be a gateway fighter, much like 3s is now. If your friends love to Smash, introduce them to other fighters. Some won’t like it, but I guarantee, some of them will be attracted.

My $0.02 :sweat:.


you’re idea has failed. Its called DOA.

Fighting games are supposed to be hard. By making them “easier”, you’re inviting in players who wouldn’t other wise play because “its too much execution.” I don’t want pansies stepping in because all of a sudden its easier. Fuck that weak shit. You play because you want too and you’re willing to learn regardless of difficulty.

Are sports made easier because its just too tough to play? dribbling with both hands in basketball @ the same level is pretty hard to do. Usually, players not @ a high level can’t do it or if they can one hand is stronger than the other. An nba player can basically do this all day if he had too but he had to train to get his skills up. What if all of a sudden the NBA said you can only dribble with your right hand, well duh, you’ll make it easier for more people to play, but @ the same time you’re inviting in crappy competition who wouldn’t have met a normal standard. Sure you’ll still have high level one handed dribbling but the difficulty isn’t there anymore and thus lowering the competition standard. People like to challenge themselves and there’s a reason why DOA isn’t a popular fighting game.

This is basically the same concept that special tasks force use. They keep their requirement high so that only the good people are left. If you lower the standards to allow more people to be able to join, you’re making your task force team weaker by default.

Is this supposed to prove anything? Does the fact that an established sport conducts itself in a certain way mean that fighting games should all be designed the same way? Like I said, ultimately it comes down to a judgment call of whether it’s interesting to measure manual technical skill in fighting games or not. If you think it is, then there’s not much I can say about that, but don’t try to use “it’s like that in basketball” as an argument because it doesn’t hold up.

If you think the only thing that determines the difference in depth between DOA and, say, Super Turbo is how easy it is to execute, then you clearly know nothing about fighting games. While, really, you would have to build a game around easy execution from the ground up rather than insert it into an existing game to ensure it wasn’t totally fucked up, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say Super Turbo where everything is brain-dead easy to execute would still be a deep game.

Did you even read my original post? Here’s a quote from it:

You’re conflating execution skill and strategic skill, and considering you think any game with easy execution will inevitably end up like DOA it’s probably because you’re incapable of recognizing the difference between the two. Your attempt to attach some kind of masculinity-affirming bullshit to, of all things, doing moves in a fighting game is fucking pathetic, too. “Pansies”? Grow the fuck up. Why are you trying to attach worth to something so arbitrary and dumb?