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Friday
Feb272009

Street Fighter 4 Ultra Combos

Lots of people have asked me why the Ultras in Street Fighter 4 work they way they do. I have no inside information on this, nor have I even seen what the designers might have said, but I have a pretty good guess. After walking you through that, we can then ask if we would include such a mechanic in a new, ideal fighting game. I actually don't know the answer, but I can explain the issues.

When I first saw the ultra system a long time ago, I though it was a terrible, terrible idea. My reason was that the last thing casual players wanted was a SECOND super meter. I mean this isn't Guilty Gear, it's supposed to be simple and elegant, and a new super meter in addition to the old one (which has four divisions and multiple uses) is going to be a confusing mess. I think it turns out there was more to the issue than I thought back then, so let's look at all the issues together and see if the overall effect is good or bad.

But first, let's explore how I imagine ultras came to be what they are in this cartoonized, fictional line of thought:

"How can we get casual players interested in this game? There's lots of ways of course, but one way would be really flash super attacks. Yes, that's a natural answer because we already have had super attacks in lots of other Street Fighter games, and now that we can use 3D animation, camera movement, and effects, we'll be able to make these look even better than ever. So far, this sounds great."

"But wait, how often do people really land super moves? Maybe not quite enough. Think of the spectators, they'd probably like to see these flashy supers a lot. We want to make sure that even beginners see these cool supers, so they can't be some rare trickshot that's impractical in a real match. One problem is that we have this idea about multiple uses for your super meter. You can use it to do a super move, to do ex moves (powered up versions of special moves), or to do ex cancels (like roman cancels in guilty gear, where you do a special move, then cancel it instantly so you can do another move in a combo). Anyway, there is some strategy in managing your meter, and we like that, but it also means that supers will be LESS frequent. Some players will use ex specials constantly, for example, and while that might be a valid strategic choice, it's ruining our initiative to show off the cool supers."

"How about...a SECOND super meter? The main super meter works how we said above, with three different uses. But this new meter could only involve supers...a new kind of super that we'll call ultra. The ultras will be the visual showcase of the game, with camera movements and elaborate canned animations between attacker and victim. We need to make sure everyone gets to use these ultras though. If your opponent overwhelms you, you don't even get a chance to build up the standard kind of super meter. But what if this ultra meter filled up when you GET HIT? Everyone gets hit!"

"In tuning this idea for the ultra, there was somewhat of a conflict. On the one hand, we really want you to fill up that ultra meter fairly fast. If we only gave you the ultra when you have 1% life, for example, it would be too rare to see it happen. But if we give it to you when you still have 50% life, it's just way too powerful of a tool to have. So instead of just an on/off thing, where you either have/don't have the ultra...let's give it to people at 50% life, but keep the damage low. As they get hit more, their ultra meter keeps filling up so that when they do get really low, like 5% life, then the ultra does tons of damage...maybe 50%!"

"This is also gives everyone a comeback mechanism, so even if you're losing, you're still in the game."

"Finally, we want the ultras to be kind of special in that you don't just short kick, short kick, ultra all the time. So we shouldn't let you cancel moves into them. They'll be stand-alone attacks. But hmm...it sure is fun to combo into them anyway, so how about you can juggle into them, throw into them, and things like that to make sure they frequent enough."

That's the line of thinking I imagine lead to the ultra system. I'm not trying to be positive or negative about it with that description, just trying to explain why it probably is how it is. So what do I actually think about it? One factor is my original objection that a second super meter is inelegant and something that exactly no one asked for. I thought Casual Joe would scoff at it or be confused. What I greatly underestimated is how good these ultras would look.

Ultras: Production Values in Action

The production values on the ultras are incredible, and in my opinion are the best looking things in the entire game. The animations are great, solid, powerful-feeling. The effects are great. Some of the game's animation makes me cringe and Blanka's entire character model makes me want to cry, but these ultras really are amazingly good looking across the board. While I predicted Casual Joe would not be down with even more super meters (each with different mechanics...) it seems that Casual Joe's actual reaction is "wow these look incredible!" That also spills over into "this game looks incredible" and gives it an aura that makes Casual Joe completely willing to overlook lots of problems, even art problems, that might stick out.

I'll specifically point out Gouken's ultra as looking and feeling terrific. The shin shoryuken has always been a good concept for a move that feels powerful, but Gouken's version...with 3D camera movement, huge hit pause on each hit (power!), and great animation...made the concept of the shin shoryuken come alive in a way we've never seen until now. A+ on that, if you ask me. Incidentally, he can combo it every time (easily) off a throw, so you're sure to see it often.

So if we ask "did ultras accomplish their mission?" (or at least the mission I'm guessing existed on this project), I have to say the answer is yes. They make the game much more exciting to spectators, they draw in casual players, and they contribute to that aura of good graphics that helps people overlook other graphical problems. But what about the effect on gameplay?

Ultras: Gameplay Effects

The most obvious effect on gameplay is that ultras offer a comeback factor. I still can't figure out why the concept of slippery slope is so hard for some people to understand (they intentionally try to misunderstand it, I think). I wrote an article about that here. The short version is that most fighting games are slippery slope neutral in that the scoring (your health meter) is not related to your ability to score. I mean this in general terms, so ignore edge cases like block damage (if you have only a sliver of life left, you can no longer do the move "block", yes I know that.) But whether you have 100% life or 5% life in most fighting games, your moveset is the same. You still have jump roundhouse and throw, and so on. There would be slippery slope if the more you got hit, the more disabled your character became, as in Bushido Blade.

Street Fighter 4 adds the opposite concept, which I called perpetual comeback in that article. It's really called negative feedback, but that term sounds..."negative" (it's not, it's just a counterpoint to positive feedback) and also people mix up those terms all the time. Anyway, SF4 adds a comeback factor. There are some who are against this in general, and who say a "real" game punishes your mistakes (and therefore a "real" game has slippery slope!). This is where I point out that your mistakes are punished in a game with neutral slope because a mistake means your score goes down (your health bar). It's just that your score going down doesn't make it less likely for you to win by reducing your ability to attack, which would lead to first hits being way too important.

So neutral slope is good, I think, but what about this comeback force? Can it also be good? This is a very delicate question because it depends so much on specifics. I think a game having a mild comeback force is usually fine, though when it becomes too strong, it throws things way out of whack. Another thing to consider is how easily you can make a comeback anyway, naturally, without extra forces (like ultra combos) stepping in. Here are some rules of thumb: if defense is really strong in a game, comebacks are hard. If offense is really strong in a game, comebacks are more possible.

Imagine a game where offense is, for the most part, really good. In this game, throws have instant startup. Even if the opponent breaks a throw, they still take damage. If you just sit there (trying to sit on a lead), you are open to throws. Also in this game, knockdowns are powerful. You can't vary the time you get up, so that makes crossups more powerful. It's also hard to reversal attack (a bad way to design things, but just go with it for now), so attacking a rising opponent is good. Stages are fairly small so you can't run away. Finally, hit point totals in general are actually really low, so even when you're behind, you aren't THAT behind. You can always go on the offense because, well, offense is strong.

Now imagine a different game where it's much harder to naturally make a comeback. Hit point totals are higher in general so that means when you're behind, you're actually further behind than in the first example game. Throws are weak with 3 frame startup (or worse, 5 frame startup for Ochio throw). Throws can be escaped for zero damage. The playfield is really big, so running away is more possible. Knockdowns are weaker (meaning offense is weaker) because reversal attacks are incredibly easy and varying your getup time helps a bit to weaken crossups. (Well sort of...). Anyway, all those things point to the power of offense lowering and the power of defense increasing, relative to the first example game. This second game (SF4) needs some comeback mechanism, that's for sure.

Ultras do provide that. I think ultras have an unintended negative effect though: the ends of rounds were supposed to become more exciting, but instead they sometimes become more boring. One of my friends who played me the other day remarked that it was frustrating to him that some rounds he would beat me down, but then toward the end, he had to play very carefully and conservatively. He just gave me a 50% damage ultra that I could randomly throw out as desperation at who-knows-what time, so he had to switch playstyles to a more boring one, basically.

Another situation that occurred in a match against him was when I had him at just under 50% life. I was Rose and just got my ultra. I thought about how if I use it soon, I could hit him (which is easy, it's like perfect anti air and beats just about everything), but I would not kill him. So maybe I will hit him a few more times, then do the ultra for the win. But then I thought, wait, what if he hits ME a few more times instead? That will actually power up my ultra enough that it will kill him outright! While it sounds better to hit him than to get hit on purpose, it did feel like the next few hits hardly mattered. (Epilogue: I got hit a few times, I ultra'd, I won.)

A New Fighting Game: Ultras good or Bad?

So I've been wondering, if we were to make a new fighting game, the ideal one, would we include something like ultra combos? It seems the market has spoken on the issue of complexity of two meters versus awesomeness of these supers. Awesomeness won. Now imagine all the extra hype, press, casual interest, and spectator interest our theoretical new fighting game would get from ultras....(at lot, right?) and compare it to the extra sales and interest we'd get from making sure the ends of rounds between experts aren't boring because they don't need to shift to cautious mode as much. Even if we did improve gameplay by avoiding cautious ends-of-rounds, it doesn't sound like a very good bullet point on the box, does it?

And even more to the point, it seems that when looking at this purely from a gameplay angle, it's a better solution to make comebacks more possible in a natural way by making offense good. Games with good offense have proven to be fun over the years, while games that allow defense to win are boring to play and watch. (And note that even games with lots of offense like GGXX and ST have defense too, it's just that attacking is good.)

So from a gameplay standpoint on our new theoretical fighting game, we might be better of with no ultra system at all, but better offense (and fewer hit points, perhaps). Even if we had a game that allowed comebacks naturally...would we STILL want the ultras anyway? Again, the idea that you get hit to fill up a special kind of super meter means that you will always be able to do that super before dying. It's a way to ensure that spectators and casual players get excited at awesome super animations that happen all the time, so is it really worth it to lose out on those benefits even *if* you believed that gameplay suffers? That's the scary thought I wrestle with. I'm not against comebacks, but when the mechanism to facilitate them is extreme enough to introduce some ill effects, and when it's possible to allow comebacks anyway with overall shifts in the design, I just don't know. It's a collision between trying to make the best gameplay possible and trying to make a game popular and get noticed. Maybe a good solution (for the theoretical game, not for SF4) would be to have one super meter and that supers are amazing looking, but we simply accept that they don't happen quite as often as in SF4. I leave it as an open question.

 

Reader Comments (87)

Ah, Bushido Blade... I haven't played that in forever.

It is an interesting question, one that I feel many game genres are struggling with. I'll be interested in seeing how Starcraft 2 will really have changed from the original. Here's hoping for a lower dexterity entrance fee.

February 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterban

Have you ever played BlazeBlu Sirlin?
It is from the Guilty Gear guys, and that game also has a 2 button command throw.
Looks and plays great, though.

Response by Sirlin: Someone told me it was PS3 only and 2-button throws, so I didn't follow it since.

February 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSambakza

I think it's safe to say that a sufficient condititon for a comeback mechanic being too strong is if you frequently *want* to get hit/fall behind. (Though, then again, Power Grid has that, and lots of people like the game anyway, so I guess it depends on how you think about it - I guess it's not a problem if you don't think about it as a "comeback mechanic" but just as a weird mechanic you have to master...)

February 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSniffnoy

Ive been thinking about this myself. I find it frustrating that the loosing player would be given so much more offensive power. Would nerfing damage help?

During some ultras, I find myself wanting to hit the start button hoping to forward through the cutscene and get back to the action. They were amusing the first few times, but damn, get on with it.

Response by Sirlin: On of my friends said the exact same thing. "Why can't I press start to cancel this cut-scene? What is this, Final Fantasy?" But aren't these things important to the game's success? Yes/no?

February 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterL

Fair warning this is a bit of a tangent I suppose (sorry) but I couldn't resist. The debate kind of reminds me of uber-units/effects/heroes in RTS games. A flashy event that was entertaining for spectators and casuals but with potentially harmful effects for competitive players both as a comeback and possibly degenerating the game's strategy at certain points.

I know personally I'm very against comeback mechanics as a whole. I'd rather see a game designed to be interesting AND neutral slope than have to resort to comeback mechanics to keep the gameplay interesting. My problem with comeback mechanics is they tend to feel 'cheap' to a player. Long term you come to accept, counter, and deal with the strategy (like you do with anything when you are playing to win) but in individual games or short term the effects tend to diminish your enjoyment of the experience. It may just be a problem of degrees though, most comeback mechanics tend to be rather heavy handed and tend to completely reverse the game, any slippery slope mechanics, and the score.

I think that's when comeback mechanics become a problem. When a comeback mechanic can, by itself, do the following three things:
1-Reverse 'local momentum' (suddenly you're no longer falling further behind in score but instead catching up and you've reset a situation to bring it back to a more neutral local slippery slope)
2-Score points (in this case deal damage to the other player)
3-Reverse the lead (you're ahead from a benefit of the comeback mechanic)
4-Reverse the slippery slope (you're now taking more advantage of a slippery slope rather than your opponent) chances are if 3 happens this happens.

Personally I'd say a comeback mechanic is good if, when executed properly, it can do 1 and 2 always 3 as a rare case and almost never 4. To me it sounds like in SFIV it does all 4. From your description if a player is low on health they opponent would have to be ahead of that other player by around 51% of their life bar to not have the ultra reverse the lead. That seems a little heavy handed as a comeback mechanic to me.

I also want to argue a point. You say that most fighters (and I believe an example of a basketball game was also given out) are slope neutral. While they are relatively neutral in comparison to other games they AREN'T fully neutral. While probably like 99% of the time it will function as neutral the timer does/can add a slippery slope mechanism to the game. Being behind in life with 5 seconds left on the timer is MUCH worse than being behind in life with 50 seconds left on the timer. Same in basketball (down by 2 with .1 on the clock vs down by 2 with 5:00 left to go).

As for ultras themselves it seems like they could be combined into a more strategic choice within the game or made more transparent to be incorporated better. So supers could have great visuals but would be rare, that'd be one reward. Another possible reward visually could be 'automatic fatalities' (don't cringe yet it's just a bad title). What I mean is say you execute a dragon punch on an opponent that was low enough to have it kill him. You pass the point when a reversal, parry, block, or any other form of surviving the dragon punch is possible. At this point the game as been decided 100% (the other player is dead). However this point comes many seconds before the entire dragon punch animation is going to play out. Why not detect and fill these moments with visual rewards. Finish off your opponent with a dragon punch and when the game detects that the match is inevitable 'swap/cancel' the animation into something flashy for the casuals and fans. The same could be applied to other moves of course (finish with a fireball and once the damage is dealt the winning character could launch another flashy fireball to torch the opponent again). It ends up with no impact on gameplay but gives a visual draw and reward. It may not be as rewarding since it's not executed manually but it would give some flashiness to the game that may be enough to heightening the elation of winning for spectators and casuals. And on top of that you'd still have the excitement of the super moves. Just make sure you bug test so the flashiness doesn't come out before the match is decided fully lol :P. The overall point of the long winded example is that there should be other ways to make a game more flashy without ruining gameplay as much.

February 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLogo

Overt comeback mechanics (ie, giving extra power to a losing player) are bad. Let's ignore puzzle fighter for a second. Overt comeback mechanics lead to stupid situations like "I'll just let him hit me a few times then I can kill him!", and also make winning players play more cautiously than the losing player (what?).

Puzzle fighter is all about the calculated effort of executing and preventing the big attack that wins it all without coming up short. Sort of the opposite of "the Price is Right". So that's fine. Most games aren't about this, since there are a million other interesting opponent interactions taking place and adding that extra one is unnecessary.

Possible solution to your problem: start both players with a half-full Super meter each round. Make it so a half-full meter lets you do your super, and let it power up over the second half (which you get by being on offense in general - hitting your opponent etc).

Yes, I'm saying "start players with a Super each round". Sounds crazy. Could lead to mind-games near the beginning of the round ("Is he really going to use a weaker Super on me if he has the chance, or is he the type to save it for the big hit?"). This lets casual players use their Supers whenever they want, and maybe make it more interesting for high level players.

Response by Sirlin: Interesting idea there, PoisonDagger. In SF Alpha 3 you start with full super meter, but that lets you do invulnerable VC stuff. Anyway, your idea sounds better than A3's idea.

February 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPoisonDagger

You've got to understand the casual gamer, Sirlin. There are of course varying degrees of casual play, but in general, think of Mario Kart. In other Street Fighter games, there is zero chance of beating someone better than you because of the neutral scoring method you described. People want the blue shell to come up when they're losing badly so that they can have a close race. The ultra moves are that blue shell.

For better or worse, it might cause players to avoid being in 1st place when the round is almost over, or in Street Fighter to intentionally take a few hits to have a more powerful ultra. But really, it's not any better or worse, it's just different. Capcom just decided to go with the style that guaranteed more sales.

February 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJan

I forgot to mention... going into cutscenes for supers = bad. I can't stand how the game's flow breaks just to show off some self-indulgent movie that's the same every time. You can make a move look really fucking cool without it being a flow-breaking movie.

February 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPoisonDagger

I think how the meter builds in the offense game matters. If it builds by whiffing, then even if you have the advantage by attacking, a runaway opponent who has built his meter by whiffing has put you in the same situation as in your game 2. Now you become very cautios because one wrong move could mean death (connects with super which leads to knock down which leads to cross up which leads to combo which leads to death).

I like how the super meter builds up in SFIV. I never do a super though. I use it exclusively for ex moves and cancels. I assume that if I am playing someone competitvly that we both will be realying on our ultra for super rather than our super meter. If I am dominating someone and they turn around and land an ultra on me, they have just given me an ultra in return and have diminished their comeback chance. Like you said, you should only use your ultra when it will lead to certain victory. Dont blow it by giving the other guy the chance to "counter" ultra you.

February 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbuyproduct

Wow - Capcom is going down the drain as well. I gotta say I thought they might have SOME incentive to keep their games more competitively-oriented than casual-oriented, but this clinches it: obviously they care more about money in their pocket than making good games. Can't say I'm surprised.

February 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterInTheory

I'm surprised you didn't mention super meters are now mostly used for EX moves instead of actual supers.

I'll agree about the end of the matches. Sometimes it can be boring to watch but very tense when actually playing.

February 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbob

Yo intheory, that seems like a brash statement to make.

February 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCWheezy

@InTheory

What makes you say that, exactly? And more importantly, have you actually played Street Figher IV? It is the most tightly balanced game as far as characters are concerned in Street Fighter's history.

February 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSade

The Ultra system seems like something Midway would come up with.

February 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPhos

Very insightful post. Would read again.

"Maybe a good solution (for the theoretical game, not for SF4) would be to have one super meter and that supers are amazing looking, but we simply accept that they don't happen quite as often as in SF4."

Exactly what I was thinking while reading your post here.

Let's take a look at GGXXAC. Supers in that game are very flashy, but many of them leave the player at so much frame disadvantage that they get killed just for trying. Sure, you can combo into them, but the damage is so prorated that it feels like a waste of half a meter, which could have been spent on two combo-extending FRCs instead. So, instead of getting dramatic finishes like, "Tyrant... Raaaaaave! KaBAMM! Slash!" we often get the (arguably) more boring, "combocombocombocombocombocombocombocombo, Slash!"

It's sad that such well animated supers go unused most of the time due to their high cost and risk. What I propose is that the ideal fighting game you're talking about should not use an ultra system, but have flashy Guilty Gear style supers which leave both the attacker and defender at roughly even frame advantage (give or take a few frames). They should still be punishable if, say, the defender reads that the attacker will do a super, then dodges it and retaliates (like in ST). Also, super meter should be awarded for taking damage as well as dealing it (slightly reduced for taking it, of course, but not by too much). That way, players (even new ones) will often have enough resources to do their flashy supers (ensuring that people WILL see them), they won't feel completely gipped for trying (due to even frame advantage), and the expert players won't feel that their game has degenerated into Build up meter -> Use super -> WIN (due to punishability on dodge).

Also, one point of personal preference: it should use Arcana Heart's two-button super input system. In that game, you get a super by doing a joystick motion ONCE, then pressing two buttons. For example, QCFx1 + Light + Medium gets you a super fireball, DPx1 + Light + Medium gets you a super dragon punch, etc. To me, this feels just right, and allows newer players, who would otherwise have trouble doing QCFx2 without missing a diagonal, accidentally jumping, etc., to pull off supers more consistently. I think that is very important in a game that wants to show off its flashy attacks to spectators and give everyone a chance to do them. After all, you can't show off what people can't pull off. ;)

~Z

(also, Amen to Gouken's ultra combo!)

Response by Sirlin: maybe your reasoning has a fatal flaw though! The reason the ultras look good in SF4 is that they are canned animations that involve attacker and victim moving together. So for Gouken, yeha he is doing a series of 3 punches, but his opponent is basically in a throw (I mean that they are briefly no longer playing and in a 2-character anim...) and the victim reacts appropriately. So supers in guilty gear on BLOCK can't possibly look as good. Only when when a super hits can you really go all this flashy awesome stuff. Unless I'm missing something?

February 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAvatar Z

How's this for a potential fix: overlapping meters. You have just one, 4-segmented super bar. You can do EX moves, that eat up 1 bar and cancels that eat 2, etc. Your second bar is UNDER the 4-part bar, and rises equal to it. When that sub-bar is full, you can do the equivalent of the weak ultra (what an odd phrase). If both meters are full (which, essentially, means filling super without using any meter), you can blow both bars on the big ultra.

The upsides: You can still do a super (a flashy, crowd pleasing effect) without giving up your ability to do EX and cancels. Due to the super-ultra, you can still play that risk-reward game of saving the meter up (only for a reaaaaly big reward). So you get crowd pleasing, and strategy, and it reduces your meter needs. Sure, it actually is two meters, but they're compacted and simple to understand.

The downsides: Limited comeback potential. You could have the sub-meter charge slightly on being hit, but I'm with Sirlin that it'd be better to make the game favor offense. The two-full meter attack will be rare. It'll be limited situations that warrant that much meter spending. On the other hand, regular supers should be more common and will favor an aggressive style of play.

Since playing defensive against that guy is just begging for some sweet super combos, an over all aggressive and crowd pleasing game is encouraged.


Alright, now tear it down, I'd like to see what flaws this approach has and what new ideas might come from patching them.

February 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChris A (CodexArcanum)

Canned animations that steal the camera are great on first impression, but become tedious on repeat plays. The best balance of flashy vs playable was struck by the VS series in my opinion. The sliding character portrait would only last a second and never seemed to get old.

One big difference between A3 and SF4 is that UCs are very easy to hit with, and in A3 SCs were still tricky to land, which is a good thing because otherwise you'd see people fire off level 3 supers in every first round. In A3, most people would hold onto their three levels of super meter until the perfect opportunity came to use them, which added variety to how the games played out.

So in SF4, the skill barrier to landing flashy moves was mostly removed. This was clearly a great move by Capcom, as you've shown. In the long run, the damage it does to gameplay will probably become more glaring.

Combining the points from your three articles, it seems like SF4 is a competitive game with an expiration date, but that didn't hurt its sales or reviews.

February 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLodurr

I thought that the Supers in the other SF games were flashy enough. The character would have after-images follow behind them (missing in SFIV by the way) and if you won with it you got that sunny background image. They also only took a few seconds (at most about 4) so they never slowed down the gameplay. Maybe if Capcom makes a Super Edition they will realize they already have a built in audience and think of a way to make Ultras better for gameplay (they won't go away since they are SFIV).

Chris A: I had the same idea a while back. I knew that the Ultra (as it is) couldn't be good for gameplay and having been playing IV at least once a day since its release I haven't changed my mind.

February 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFistfulOAwesome

"Response by Sirlin: maybe your reasoning has a fatal flaw though! The reason the ultras look good in SF4 is that they are canned animations that involve attacker and victim moving together."

I think I have an idea for this. Take Sol's "Tyrant Rave" (that's his fiery Falcon Punch super). In the actual game, it looks the same whether it hits, is blocked, or whiffs. Now, Ideal Fighter XX could have the same cool fiery punch animation on block or whiff, but if it hits, it has that same animation plus a canned cutscene showing Sol doing a bunch of follow-up hits and his victim reacting accordingly (ie. NOT just taking his default "I got hit" pose, but having his head reel back when Sol hits him in the head, then being set on fire after another fiery punch, etc).

So, blocked or whiffed super = damn cool effect. Hit super = damn cool effect + 2 character canned animation. Either way, it sells the game. Of course, all of the above would be for naught if supers aren't even worth using in the first place, or are too hard to pull off, so that's ten times more important, in my opinion.

Also I just read Poison Dagger's suggestion to start each round with enough meter to do one super, and I really like that idea. Newer players probably won't have a super available to them as often as marketing departments (and probably us players) would like, and may not realize that whiffing a bunch of short hurricane kicks while away from the opponent is a good idea (which arguably looks a bit silly anyway). I recall a time when I first started playing when I couldn't do Ryu's super at all, not because of the motion, but because by the time I got enough meter for it, I was often so low on health that I pretty much died before being able to throw it out. The marketing departments probably wouldn't like that.

~Z

February 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAvatar Z

I gotta disagree with most of this. You say that Ultras cater to the casual player, yet you dislike the fact that they add another layer of strategy to the game.

When you are in the lead and then have to step back, turn off "attack mode", collect your thoughts, and plan a course of action, I think that's a great evolution to SF gameplay.

Do I keep my distance and make him come to me, forcing whiffs so I can punish? Do I keep the pressure on? What can I do to bait him into using the Ultra when I want him to?

The thing with Ultras is that they are pretty well balanced I think. If your health is low enough for you to be finished by an Ultra, chances are you have an Ultra of your own. And you really need to set up your Ultra combo if you're playing anyone with enough common sense to block/dodge (depending on the Ultra, obviously).

If you know your opponent has an Ultra, don't let him set you up for it. It's as simple as that. If you get beat by an Ultra, you're at fault. Don't get Focus Attacked. Don't get thrown. Have some patience and block on wake up.

However, I'm not gonna sit here and say Ultras are great and need to be a series staple from now on. I agree that the canned animation sequences are sometimes a little much - Ken's goofy ass closeup at the beginning of his Ultra - but I do like the fact that they tried something new to change up the flow of matches.

It's tough being in those shoes. Do we play it safe and make few changes, and get criticized for sticking to the old formula? Do we try to evolve the gameplay and risk failure and/or alienating our die-hard fanbase?

You can never please everybody, but tournament players will adapt and thrive with the tools they have. They always do. Just don't assume that you'd be happier playing SSF2T re-skinned with prettier graphics and 3D models. Chances are you wouldn't be.

February 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterElement Zero
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