Maybe read Archon Shiva's summary of this post first:
The way I read I, the original article had nothing against this release of Third Strike - he agreed with all design decisions that went into it, and I'm pretty sure David's not actually opposed to unlockable artwork. What he did oppose was the attitude of some players that tweaking an unbalanced game into a balanced one was a net loss. At no point was it hinted that the original balance shouldn't be part of the release, or even that a rebalanced mode should have been in: he just said he feels the proper reaction is "too bad they didn't have time/budget to add it, but that's life!", rather than "thank god we didn't get a rebalanced mode selectable at the title screen, that would have ruined everything!"
This review of SF3:3rd Strike Online at 1up.com should be considered shameful. It casually embraces an attitude that's damaging to the quality of games we get to play. What's so wrong with what's said there? This (emphasis added):
Do the developers make adjustments to characters like Chun-Li and Yun -- who are leaps and bounds more powerful than the rest of the cast -- rebalancing them as to give characters like Q, Sean, and Hugo a fighting chance? Some argue this would allow newer players to ease into the game and even provide a fresh take on the series, possibly revitalizing the competitive scene.
At the same time, if they make changes to the game, even the slightest rebalance, players such as myself who have literally been playing the game for 10 years now, might feel it's an inferior port and not play it at all -- opting to continue to fight it out at the arcades or even on the PlayStation 2.
It's great that Capcom made such an effort to translate the game to a modern console. It's great they used the only reasonable kind of networking for a fighting game (GGPO). Well, strike that. It would be shameful and embarrassing for any fighting game to not use it, so it's more of a "phew, they did an obvious thing right there." It's great they did an obvious thing right with the way the button configuration screen works. There's really a whole lot of positive stuff to say here, and I agree with those saying those positive things. BUT...
There's a problem: 3s is one of the worst balanced fighting games around. I mean that literally. It's hard to even come up with worse balanced fighting game than it, yet if you throw a stick at a pile of fighting games, you'll hit a better balanced game. James Chen had this to say in 2008 about the Evolution tournament results:
Street Fighter III: Third Strike - This year , in the Top 8, we had Chun, Chun, Chun, Chun, Chun, and Yun. In 2007, we had Chun, Chun, Chun, and Chun. In 2006, we had Yun, Yun, Yun, Yun, Chun, Chun, and Chun. In 2005, we had Chun, Chun, Chun, Chun, Chun, Yun, and Yun. I don't think there's anything left to say about this game.
Yeah it's pretty appalling. It's laughable to think addressing this might make it an "inferior port." I think parrying making projectiles and zoning hardly matter is an even bigger problem, as is the shallow hit-confirm-into-super gameplay in general, but let's not even go there. Let's just imagine that stuff is all great. A game where two characters totally dominate is a problem. (Yes I know about Japan, but balance is clearly disastrous anyway.)
So what's the problem here? Is it that Capcom didn't make any effort to fix this problem? Well, sort of. I do think that's a problem, but if you follow my subtle point it's not actually the biggest problem. Maybe they did some business analysis on how much that would cost, how much testing it would take, and how much money the game would make, and they didn't like the result. (Though maybe they asked Floe what he thought and he said he'd rather play a brokeny game.)
Anyway, there's a much bigger problem than Capcom's decision here, and that problem is the reaction to it as exemplified in the 1up review. It's damaging to gaming to profess the anti-progress ideal that problems should be kept broken. Somehow this reviewer and many players think that it's a good thing that two characters dominate and other characters are comparatively worthless. Well, that's not ok. That should be fixed and you should demand it be fixed. It's exasperating to even have to say that because it's so obvious in any other context. Imagine if Blizzard discovered that Protoss vs. Zerg was an 8-2 match, but hey, the game's been around for a while so we're going to leave it! After all, it is possible for Koreans to win it sometimes. It's just so deep to have a wildly imbalanced matchups like that, and for the game to be dominated by it. Seriously though, it isn't. It's ridiculous to even say all that about Starcraft, as it would be for any other type of asymmetric game. But somehow a segment of the fighting game community has begun to cling to the idea that problems shouldn't be fixed.
Let's dispel the strawman response before it happens. "If you keep fixing things, players don't have to learn." Yes, there's truth in that and Blizzard is very conscious of it. They want to fix actual real problems with their games, but not fix every *claimed* problem. Fixing every claimed problem would mean flavor-of-the-month fixes, constant change for no real reason, and if any tactic becomes even slightly ok, bad players demand it be "fixed." Players would have trouble even developing strategies because constant changes would be happening under their feet all the time. I think that's bad, Blizzard thinks it's bad, and you think it's bad. So we can file this away as "it's not what we're talking about." What we are talking about is actual real problems, the ones that might make Protoss vs. Zerg a tragically problematic 8-2 matchup. You can bet they'd fix that and rightly so. Anyone "defending" keeping it 8-2 would look silly. And if anyone did make that defense, we'd wonder about their attitude if Blizzard announced that Protoss vs. Zerg was actually 5-5, but Blizzard plans to make it much more unfair in the future, slanting it to 8-2 in Zerg's favor to make the game more manly. Better game right?
I hope we can fight against this bad mindset and create a community where we expect major problems to be fixed in games, at least when those problems are as huge as 3s's problems. I'm certainly glad Blizzard lives in that world, but over in fighting game land, we get reviewers congratulating a company for NOT fixing the balance in nearly the worst balanced game in the genre. This issue directly affects my own games as well. Yomi, luckily, remains better balanced than any fighting game I know of, so even though it's not perfect (nothing is), it's in great shape. Puzzle Strike, on the other hand, has shown itself to have less-than-desirable balance in a tournament setting. Still better than 3s, but not really good enough. I suppose it might help me financially if I were to take the attitude that these problems are great to have, and that it makes a game deep to have 1 or 2 playable characters and a bunch of trash characters. But I just can't do it because it makes no sense. So at great cost of time and money, I've worked with my playtesters to develop the "Puzzle Strike Upgrade Pack" that adds several non-gameplay-affecting components to the game, as well as a bit of new gameplay...and...balance fixes put all the characters on equal footing. More details and pictures of it will come soon. I really hope Puzzle Strike players are going to be happy about improving and progressing the game, even though 1up's reviewer "might feel it's an inferior port and not play it at all."
Also see this followup post about loving games and allowing them to be the best they can be.