Thursday, April 16, 2009

Street Fighter Revisited: Designing A System

I wanted to come back to Street Fighter IV for a moment, as I was recently thinking about how defensively oriented the game is. It's hard to catch opponents and at higher levels of play it seems that things like Focus Attacks aren't used very often for anything besides cancels, so I started thinking of a way to alter the game to be a little more balanced between offense and defense.

Eventually, this led to a rethinking of the current system and the addition of a new one. Obviously it'll be broken at some level because, well, there's no way to do any sort of testing, but really what I'm going for here is the theory of the system.

Before we get into it, you may want to read the previous Street Fighter IV posts, as this is building upon those suggested changes, and wouldn't work as well without them. Now ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you...

The Momentum System
The idea itself is very basic, and in a way somewhat similar to the K-Groove from Capcom Vs SNK 2. Each character's health bar will pulse - essentially a heartbeat (I suppose you could call it the heartbeat system, or adrenaline system, but nomenclature isn't the point here). This is really just another gauge on screen, done without adding anything bulky to the interface - there are tons of different ways you can handle it, but this way seems the most unintrusive.

We'll say the heartbeat starts at 1 beat per game second. We'll call this 50%. As you attack, the heartbeat speeds up (meter increases) and as it does so, your damage percentage increases at a rate of 3:1. This means at 80% you are doing 10% more damage than normal, and at 100% you are doing 16.7% more damage than normal. Your heartbeat also goes up minimally when you're hit (1% per hit).

When your heartbeat hits 100%, you go into Momentum Mode (or whatever the hell you want to call it) and for 5 seconds your heartbeat will not decrease, Focus Attacks absorb two hits instead of one, and Supers cost only 2 bars of the Super gauge. Afterwards your heartbeat resets to 25%, not 50%.

Your heartbeat will only decrease during moments of inaction (including whiffed normal attacks), at a rate of 10% per second above 50%, and 5% per second under 50% - when decreasing, your heartbeat will hover at 50% for 5 seconds, and your heartbeat will only begin to decline after 2 seconds of inaction. Also under 50% your damage percentage decreases at a rate of 5:1, so at 0% you are doing 10% less damage than normal, and you gain heartbeat (back up to 50%) at a 1.5x rate.

Let's sum things up in a list and see if we can't simplify all this a bit now. There are essentially two sets of rules: above 50 and below 50.

Above 50%
  • Damage increases 1% for every 3% heartbeat increases
  • Heartbeat decreases at a rate of 10% per second
  • Heartbeat will pause at 50% for 5 seconds when decreasing
  • At 100%, player gains 5 seconds at 100%, 2 bar Supers, and 2 hit armor on Focus Attacks
Under 50%
  • Damage decreases 1% for every 5% heartbeat decreases
  • Heartbeat decreases at a rate of 5% per second
  • Heartbeat increase is boosted by +50%
  • Heartbeat will begin to decline after 2 seconds of inaction
  • Heartbeat remains stationary when blocking or performing a special move
  • Heartbeat increases on successful attacks
  • Heartbeat increases minimally on damage taken

And that's it. The trick here is that characters who are not made for frantic close combat (Dhalsim, Vega) shouldn't be negatively affected - this is why under 50% it's harder to lose momentum. Generally the idea is to keep combat going, and that if you decide to stay away from your opponent for long periods of time you also have to make the conscious decision to reduce your damage.

This system rewards the aggressor, and in a way is a counter to the Ultra system. The idea is to prevent staring contests and keep both players on the move at all times.

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