Tiers: Positive Or Negative?

As time passes in the fighting game community, you see more and more obsession about the tiers in every given fighting game. Arcadia releases tier lists within a month of games being released, and they do this because it is one of the prime topics of interests for players in the community.

This is really just the natural evolution of a competetive endeavor, as people are searching for the most effective way to defeat their opponent. The question is whether or not this focus of the fighting game community has an overall positive or negative effect, and I am curious as to what other people think.

Now obviously I’m not talking about the extremes here, about players who insist on using characters like SCIII Talim or 3S Sean, or about people who instantly jump boat from character to character the moment the one they are currently using goes from S tier to A tier, but about the more level headed players who shape the community.

My question is, is the focus on tiers helping to shape a more effective fighting game community who use the best tools available, or is it slipping more in the negative direction of creating cookie cutter styles that inhibit players growth and skills?

Honestly I think people bank too much on them. Tiering assumes that both players are the same skill level for one thing…and how often does that happen really? And how can one tell? There is no way you can grade someone’s ‘skill’ level or correctly rate someone’s skill level. So many different factors go into a match. Someone can know more about the game and their character and still loose because they made too many mistakes. Just because somone won doesn’t mean they are the more skilled.

I think tiers have gone to far when people are shocked that you are winning at all with someone who is low tier.

Me? I barely pay attention to tiers. Yeah I have an idea who is theoretically better than who but I don’t predict how matches are going to go based on it.


A tier discussion can be a spotlight that illuminates practical strategy issues. “Chun Li vs. Oro is a tough match for Oro; what can Oro players do to overcome this?”

A tier discussion can also be a curtain that keeps us in the dark. “Chun Li vs. Oro is a tough match for Oro? Let’s all just use Chun Li!”

We get stuck talking about tiers too often, anyway. Take a look at the Fist of the North Star thread in this forum for an example of that. Cats watch a handful of videos and they’re ready to argue who’s the best? Shit is silly.

Keep telling yourself that, champ.

One match isn’t the definite proof. You know that.

I think that the situation has been mischaracterized. Tiers have always been a part of evaluating a fighting game, what has changed is that the media is now able to bring these discussions out of just top player circles and into the general population.

Remember that the true idea behind tiers is just a simple evaluation of the game, what characters are best equipped to win? what characters are you most likely to see in a tournament? what characters have attributes that will probably cause people to pick them up (even if they aren’t top tier)? etc…

Since the discussion has become more public, the direction of it has become more clouded, people now talk about tiers as if they are an entity unto themselves as if
’the tier’ is a character or a MSH Gem… look I have the top tier gem, i’m a whore, or I have the low tier gem, now i’m cooler. Some people just want the character they like to be top tier. None of this, to me, is really a tier discussion to begin with. If that’s what people think of when they think of tiers, SRK is not doing it’s job.

Skill in general has to be copied or made transferable in some way to be effective at all. I think players get sometimes a little caught up in being ‘original’. If you break down what being ‘original’ in fighting games really means, it either means that I studied the engine and either through mental deduction, math, or just plain luck, found something before everyone else. While there is a primitive excitement in saying “look i found this first!” I do not think that should be looked upon as the mark of a great fighting game. It’s like taking away all the algebra formulas and making the kids figure them out with a middle school level math understanding.

I can watch a million chess matches and not ‘get’ how to master the game, I can watch a billion ST matches and still not be elite. Some players feel that it is possible to watch videos and get substantially better at the game, some think this is not true at all, but if it is, the fault lies with the game, not the publicity.

The mark of a good game is that the rules are not hidden, that there are no secret codes that are going to be unleashed on you at a tournament. New ways of thinking maybe, approaches that haven’t been examined fully, but not something that was programmed into the game (a glitch, a combo, etc…) that noone happened to find because they were unlucky.

Just to clarify, when I say cookie cutter styles, I’m talking about players who attempt to copy high level players without really understanding what they are doing. Chun Lis B+HP is good, yes, but in order to utilize it correctly in a match you have to understand why it’s good and when it’s good.

It’s true though. Just because Yamazaki’s 12 loses to AFM’s Chun-Li, doesn’t mean AFM is better.
Do we really need another tier thread though?


How else would one learn that except to attempt to copy it and make mistakes? If you waited until you knew every possible thing about a move before using it I don’t think anyone would start playing.

So if you beat someone, you are not the better player? Maybe not of all time, or of the year, but WRT a single match, tournament, etc… the better player is == the winner.


i think we can thank this plagiarism of styles for accelerating how quickly a game can be explored; determining tiers can remove a lot of wasted time as far as bringing a gaming community up to standards is concerned. the competitiveness in that might disagree with our notions of “fun”, but maybe beating down everyone else in the neighborhood is what i call fun?

one possible result of this availability of information is that developers are coming out with deeper and deeper games, with more intricate engines yes, but also less easily replicated stuff. take GGXX#r for example. HUGE learning curve. you could learn maybe 3 characters in ST for every one you pick up in #r. it’s partially thanks to a thicker engine and a larger number of subgames (not just wakeup/corner/ground/air/etc anymore), but also thanks to a larger array of character specific strategies and (sadly) bigger combos to memorize.

whereas in the past you could sorta figure a character out by playing at just your arcade, now you have to actively search for how to play to learn “best practices”. point is: tiering makes that a little easier. the less time i spend reinventing the wheel, the more time i can spend on inventing something original with it.

I don’t know I think tier lists are just public discussions of what everyone used to eventually find out on their own anyway, back when I had arcades near me, everyone eventually would find the top tier characters and like most players, would begin to flock to them.

The discussion is just the sharing of this info, and it’s still up to the individual player how much the tier means to him. If your dead sure you’ve got a killer Necro, then by all means, play Necro and rock the house.

Yes people do react to tiers too much, but in some games, you just have to play the top tiers in order to last. It’s usually the game’s fault, not the player’s. On one hand, you pretty much always see a Mags or Sent based team win in MVC2, but in a game like, say, VF4 Evo (or Final Tuned), you have tons of different characters being used and the top tiers don’t always win. Granted, Chibita (Lion player), Kurita (Vanessa player), and Itabashi Zangief (Shun player) are way above the average VF player, but the matter stays. Low tiers have just as good of a chance placing high as top tiers. Even though you’ll probably see a million Kages and Jackies, maybe only 1 or 2 might place in the top 10.

Tiers do matter in some games. They don’t in others. Tiers matter in a game like SC3, mainly because Cass/Sophie own more than half the cast, while Rock/Talim suck BAD. They also matter in MVC2 because ALL YOU SEE IS THE SAME TOP TIERS FIGHTING! Also, why is it that most top tier characters in games are extremely boring? Is it because they usually show up 90% of the time, or is it because 90% of the time, top tier characters are allowed to abuse overpowering tactics? Sorry if I’m getting a little off topic.

Top Tiers are only boring if their overpowering tactic is boring. In MvC2 the top tiers also happen to have the most options in the game. Imo it’s a perfect example of a game with top tiers who are for the most part more entertaining to watch than the rest of the cast.

Except for maybe cable. Heh.

Not like say Samurai Shodown 2 where Ukyo in a game between “average players” seemed godlike because of 1 button.

Top tier = fine
Broken = lame

IMO, it’s all about the skill it takes with each top tier character. Do you think there would be this much top tier hate if it wasnt for characters like Cable, and 3s Chun. Tiers are always gonna exist and if they dont the game usually ends up sucking for some reason. I hate when I’m playing with some scrubs who cant do nothing, but think of excuses when we’re playing. Usually, people never just let the game be played without complaining. If you like a certain character then thats fine, but dont call me a scrub and diss me because I like MSP, Sagat, Yun or whatever.

I’d have to say the same for Storm some of the time, as well. While Storm can be exciting, sometimes it’s just a game of flying up to the top of the screen and building meter for awhile before unleashing supers. That’s not exactly exciting.

I see this happening at my arcade.

New Player -> Looks at top tiers -> Picks Top Tiers -> Loses a lot -> Reads the internet/ asks questions -> Wins some-> Practices/asks more questions -> Wins a lot.

Now, ask them to use high Middle tiers or Other Top Tiers, and they lose all over again.

Sometimes I ask myself, what does ‘Better player’ mean? Is it the player that can win most of the time using the very limited characters they’ve trained so hard in? Is it the player that went and understood the game mechanics so that he’s accurate in judgement, but doesn’t win as much as the player who wins all the time using Top Tier?

In Tournament play of course, the obvious is that, the ‘Better Player’ is the one who wins, by any means.

So, actually, your question will be answered differently by the different camps that exist in this forum.

What about me? I’ve seen too many cookie cutter people already. If you got a new game, and you threw it to them without internet, they’ll probably find the most obvious abusable move, and call it top tier and then they’ll proceed to beat the game and other players with it, all the way.

How about the experimental types? They would spend their time experimenting so much, that they’d never train until they got Toppest Tier of the Toppest tier to it’s full human playable potential.

Now put the two together, and you’ll get the experimental strategists, doing the R&D, and then there’ll be the cookie cutter types who will just follow the latest fad. Makes for a good team no? We’ll. that’s whats actually happening.

And the progress is -> Cookie cutter (leeches) beats everyone with certain Top Tier -> Experimentals find some way around it -> Cookie Cutter Uses that information and practices just that -> Experimentals find out something else major -> Cookie Cutters shift focus and play whatever is most powerful…and it repeats.

So, who is better? The player that won the tournament, or the player who taught him how to do it?

It’s actually a cycle you see…

Now of course there exists those who are both. They practise the most powerful to win when they need to, but experiment a lot during their free time. Of course, these people have a lot of time on their hands (And I envy them). The players who do this, and SHARE with the community are the best players for the future development of the community.

And there are of course, the underdog extremes who insist on never using the Top Tiers for whatever reasons they have. But they are not part of the discussion so never mind.

And whats the Conclusion for me? Tiers = Positive. In the long run, it is a focus for the “experimentors” who find out more about the game trying to topple the current Top Tier by trying to solve the puzzle of the current “top Tier Problem”. Cookie Cutter Types have no use for the information except to read it and try to play it as they see it anyway. (oh let’s take Cable they say he’s good. Ok, So, umm, what do we do with him?. Oh! his Punch is a GUN SHOT! My gooness! How will anyone ever get near him! no Wonder they say he’s good! Let’s abuse this!) The Cookie CUtter Types ahowever, will look to what the Experimentors do, and learn from them. Thus upgrading themselves in their own way.

So by that logic, if a King player loses to a C-Sagat player in CvS2, the C-Sagat player is better necessarily?
Same with Roll VS Magneto?

If it’s top tier VS mid’ tier that’s fine, but when it’s top VS low, skill doesn’t come into play as much for the person playing the top tier. That’s why tiers exist in the first place. Yamazaki had the match in the bag. He had a little less than half life left and AFM at barely anything. He slipped up once, got hit by SAII and lost.

Why do you think most of the people who win tournies in 3S play one of the big 5? Do you think all the Hugo, Q, Twelve, Sean, and Remy players just suck or something? C’mon man. Kuroda is one of the top Q players around but he got near perfected both rounds in his match against KO because he just couldn’t do much of anything.

You make it sound like tiers make no difference at all. Maybe they don’t really if it’s like Makoto VS Ryu, but when it’s Alex VS Yun, it does come in to play. You also make it sound like there’s no such thing as bad match-ups. Just a because a 'gief player loses to a Honda player in ST doesn’t mean the Honda player is necessarily better.

Part of being good at a game is knowing what characters give you a better chance at winning. If the game was “Who can be the best Q.” then things would be different. Sure someone can possibly kill me with a knife in a gun fight but is the knife guy the better gun fighter. Shit he could have brought a gun too!

Sounds stupid to me. Bring your guns people. Or at least a slingshot.