Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Round 1: FIGHT!

The inspiration for this post, and this blog in its entirety, was a post I made over at the forums, regarding my set of ideal, “fictional patch notes” for the game Street Fighter IV. It was only a list with no rhyme or reason to it, but I’m going to use this space to really expound on what I think are the games biggest areas in need of improvement.

I should add that I thoroughly enjoy the game in its current incarnation. If I didn’t I wouldn’t have played it enough to make this assessment. I should make a note to anyone and everyone that “then just don’t play it” isn’t really a response. There’s not a single game that wouldn’t benefit from every single gamer enjoying it, and it’s our duty as gamers to rip these things to shreds and let developers know what we liked and didn’t like.

I’ll be doing this in installments, as this will be way too much for one big SF4 post.

And with that, on to the post!

Ultra Moves and the Revenge Gauge
I’m going to start here, as this is a big gripe for a lot of players. Ultra moves are essentially big, powerful attacks that can do up to 60% of your opponents total health. You earn the ability to do Ultras by essentially taking hits in the face. Around 50% health you can do an Ultra, with the damage you do increasing as your health decreases.

So what’s the problem? Well, it comes down to a few characters being able to easily land their Ultras. Imagine the following scenario: Vega has been pounding on Abel, who is almost dead at this point. Abel has only landed a handful of combos on Vega, leaving him still at around 50% health. This match is, to the naked eye, already Vega’s. However, Abel managed to land a crouching fierce punch, which he can combo into his (now full) Ultra. Abel has just won the match.

See, the issue is that an Ultra can give you a lot of benefit for a little work. Now we could just pull Ultras out, sure. But they’re in there for a reason - Ultras give a player on the losing end a chance to make a comeback. Pardon the cheesery, but the match isn’t over until its over. This is a great mechanic, and keeps players trying their hardest despite how behind they are. So how can we remedy the issue without making Ultras obsolete? Let’s find out!

Increase every character’s health
Ultras really accentuate a big underlying problem with the game - no one has enough health! A simple jumping roundhouse -> crouching roundhouse combo does something in the vicinity of 20% of an average character’s life. When you put it like that, 50% health for what should be your big, damaging move doesn’t seem so ridiculous now does it? I mean it should be more powerful than landing two incredibly easy 2-hit combos shouldn’t it? It doesn’t need to be an enormous increase, something like +150-200 health across the board (to put things in Perspective, Ryu has, I believe, 1000 health). Already our ridiculous 60% combos are down to 50%, players can be competitive for longer and matches last a little longer than 20 seconds.

Decrease Revenge Gauge rate of increase
Ultras are supposed to be comeback moves, but do you really need a comeback at 50% health? Getting them so early simply means they replace Supers (which I’ll touch on later) as your big attack of choice. Instead, the Revenge Gauge should increase at a rate that leaves it at 75% full just before your death. This way you get your Ultra at 2/3 dead instead of 1/2, when you really need it to make your comeback.

You can still get it earlier by using the absorbed damage from a Focus Attack (which is also the only way to get the gauge to 100% with this change). This makes Ultra more of a reward if you successfully get it before you’re almost dead - pushing it from a free super, to something you get as a reward for being a more skilled player.

Increased damage reduction for mid-combo Ultra
This is simple and straightforward. If the first hit of your Ultra is not the first hit in a combo, the damage should be decreased by somewhere in the vicinity of 1/4. This helps to balance out characters who can easily combo in their Ultras. We don’t want to necessarily remove this ability, as it could be a key component of the character, but we don’t want an easy win button either. It should do more damage than inserting any other move into the combo, but not nearly as much as a clean Ultra.

End Result (warning: fuzzy math!)
With all of these changes in place, let’s revisit our Abel vs. Vega example. I’m going to throw some math in here, and these numbers aren’t going to correct, but it’s for the sake of proving a point!

Let’s say Vega has 1000 health, and Abel’s crouching HP -> Ultra combo at 100% does 500 damage. In our previous example where Abel was almost dead and Vega has 50% health, this won Abel the match off a normal hit combo.

With the revamped rules, Vega now has 1200 health, and Abel is only at 75% Ultra. The damage doesn’t scale linearly I’m sure but let’s say at 75% it does 420 damage for the sake of making my math clean.

Now, Abel hits with a crouching HP -> Ultra. Because it’s in a combo, it now does 315, bringing Vega from 600 down to 285. If he does a clean Ultra he brings him down to 180. Vega is definitely now in comeback range, but he did not instantly lose, and only did about 25% of Vega’s new and improved health with a combo into Ultra. This seems like a much better solution.

That’s it for round 1! Join us next time where we’ll discuss Supers and EX moves!

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