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Thursday
Aug252011

What is "A Love Letter to the Community?"

Saying that SF3:3s would be better if it was better balanced has resulted in a lot of personal attacks and hatred directed toward me. Not about the stated idea, but about me personally. That's sad to see after all the support I've given fighting games over the years, from helping running tournaments to working on the games themselves. Not real encouraging, you know. There's also a really strange claim that I only want 3s to be better because I don't like the game. As hard as it is to wrap your mind around that, let's think about it.

Street Fighter Alpha2

What would a love letter to the players of Street Alpha2 look like? I really like this game. Is the reason I like it because of the balance? No, it's because of the gameplay system. Regarding the balance, there's a top tier of ken, ryu, chun li, rose and they're pretty solid all around. I mean maaaaaybe chun li's Custom Combo does a bit too much damage (or maybe it's ok), but these top characters don't really need fixing. Zangief and Sakura are just below them, within striking distance, and they happen to have an unusually interesting match against each other. Probably don't want to mess with that. It is kind of annoying that Sakura's main combo is ducking short, short, stand short, dragon punch and that it overlaps with her near-useless triple hop move that gets you killed. Probably should make that a non-overlapping input, but the fun and balance are both ok here.

And then there's Birdie. Birdie is terrible and literally the worst character in the game, worse than Dan. Yes, really. If you write a love letter to me as a fan of the game, would it involve giving me the known-bad quantity of Birdie, a character who I can't really reasonably pick, or would this "love letter" give me what I liked about the game originally AND a pickable Birdie? Well, because I love the game, I would love to have a new choice in it, so of course I'd rather have reasonable Birdie instead of worthless Birdie. I played Birdie a bit in SF Alpha1, even, and he was stronger there but not even that good. It's not to hard to adjust him back up to at least be half-decent.

Adon is another example. He doesn't have much going for him, and just making his stand roundhouse half a decent hitbox and frame stats would be at least something. One of the very few good things he has is a good low strong, and interestingly that was actually *redrawn* and made worse in SFA2 Gold. So uh, that is not a love letter. A love letter would be fixing up Birdie, Adon, and a few other things with some of the worst characters. As I outlined above, there isn't really a problem with the first and second tiers.

Puzzle Fighter

I love Puzzle Fighter! Is the reason I love it because of the game balance? No. (There's a strawman argument I see all the time that I think balance is the only important quality in a game. It just happens to be an easier one to quantify than general fun.) Anyway, what a great game, but there's only two characters you can pick. Would a love letter to me give me 2 characters I can pick and the entire rest of the cast worthless, or would a love letter give me a whole cast to actually enjoy? To give me just those 2 guys playable when you know full well all the problems seems pretty sloppy to me, so yes please do something about that. There's a lot of reasonably playable characters in Puzzle Fighter HD, and I don't think anyone sees that as "bad."

Super Turbo

Another great game. Is the reason I like this game because of the balance? No. It has to do with how the game system works, how attacking is rewarded so much, how fast it is, etc. As far as fighting games go, the balance here is pretty good. It does have problem matchups and it could be better, so as "controversial" as it is, a love letter to me about this game would give some low tiers a little help, like maybe let Cammy's cannon drill be safer.

Ok now here's the plot twist for you. Street Fighter HD Remix does *not* really fit into this list very well. My original proposal at the start of development was to fix a few balance things amongst the low tiers, and it was like less than 10 things total. Maybe like 5 or something, I forget. Capcom said they would prefer that instead of changing a couple things, that it actually be a new version of the game, like a sequel, and that it also include the original game. There wasn't even going to be any old music or any way to see the old sprites. Luckily we *were* able to add support for those anyway later on in development (business people said it was too costly to include the correct implementations of the old backgrounds though). Anyway, the point is a new game. Very surprising to me, but sure ok let's do it. In that case, more drastic changes are on the table, like fixing all sorts of overlapping motions and the randomness involved in input detection. Remaking characters entirely like Fei Long and Sagat. So even though I think HD Remix turned out great, that it's more accessible, has improved balance, and has more fun (example: boring OP O.Sagat vs more mobile, fair Remixed Sagat), it doesn't fit into the list in this post very well because it's a sequel. It's not fixing a few things, it's a new game.

Street Fighter 2: Hyper Fighting

I really, really like this game. Some people think it's even better than ST, and I won't really take sides on that but I think it's on par, at the least. Is it because of the balance? Again, no, it's about the gameplay. How is the balance though? It happens to be pretty fantastic. The top tier of about 5 characters are all solid, and not there due to some degenerate strategy. The second tier, and actually--almost the entire cast--is reasonably pickable. Wow!

And then there's Vega and Bison. These poor guys stand out as weaker than the rest, and they really could use some help. Poor neutered Vega. And Bison, who was way too good in the previous version of the game, really got overnerfed here. A love letter to me about this game would do something about these two guys. I really like the game, and the game plus a decent Vega and Bison would be even better. The only two other things that come to mind are the bug allowing low short to chain into fierce (that should probably be fixed...) and maybe something about throw softening. I like that throws are good, but it's a bit harsh that they do huge damage and can't even be softened. That one's negotiable though. Basically fix up Vega/Bison and show that you cared enough and I'd be happy.

SF3:3s

In the comments section for my last post on this, someone suggested disabling parrying in the air and parrying of projectiles. The reason would be to increase the importance of zoning. I think that is likely to lead to more interesting gameplay, but that is a real big change. It sounds more like a sequel to me. A "love letter to fans" would be more like everything else in my list above. You love the game because of the gameplay system (not because of the balance), so you'd want that intact. But if you could play that game with a decent Q or Twelve or whoever, that would be quite a love letter. It would show that someone cared enough to fix the very well-known balance problems with the game, and hopefully they'd leave most things how you liked them unless it was an actual sequel to the game, like HD Remix. In the games I listed above, I didn't mention changing any of the top tier characters. Often it's a good idea to leave those, but in the special case of 3s, such a love letter might slightly weaken the two best characters because the gap happens to be so large.

Puzzle Strike

You might think a love letter means intentionally leaving known-problems unfixed, but to me it means treating those with care and doing something about it. I also noticed some people are offended(???) by my mention of my own games in a post on my own website. I think bringing up Puzzle Strike is very relevant to this discussion actually, and not as some sort of marketing plug (though if it had been a marketing plug--which it wasn't really--I don't see the problem there either). I mentioned it before because the issues were talking about here aren't just theoretical. I have to deal with them all the time, for real, in my actual work. We've found that Puzzle Strike has some balance problems, so what should we do about it? The most common answers in traditional board games are to do nothing or to release an expansion that addresses whatever the issue was while leaving the first game in a problem-state. Well, I don't really like those answers. That isn't a love letter to the community in my opinion, and I think I have sort of an obligation to address the balance issues that have been shown in tournaments after the game's release. If someone likes Puzzle Strike, I think they'd like it more with the worst couple guys reasonable to play and the best couple guys not dominating all the tournaments. Same for 3s, same for Puzzle Fighter the video game, and so on.

So if someone said that a love letter to fans about Puzzle Fighter involved making sure that *only* Ken and Donovan are good enough to pick, and that true-love means keeping the other characters in a sorry state, I'd be pretty mad as a player. It would ruin the much better love letter of giving fans the game they love with, say, 6 or 8 real characters instead of 2.

Reader Comments (103)

I find it astonishing that this is even a controversial issue. Good luck on your crusade against poor balance and gameplay conservatism!

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterIJ.Reilly

I agree with your articles Sirlin. And I always found it bizarre that the hardcore community would complain about Yun and Fei Long balance in SF4AE, but demand to have the same broken gameplay from Marvel vs Capcom 2 and Third Strike ported over to the current consoles.

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRox

people are so easily trolled by you that they're actually offended by the existence of Chess 2, so it's not surprising that they're bothered by your "marketing plugs."

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKristoph

I've always wondered how you would have done an A2 or A3 remix. Birdie really needed some major, major buffs.

The fact is though, your article struck a nerve with a lot of folks in the community. Personally, I feel it's a nerve that needed to be struck. I understand why you would not want to cater to that crowd.

That said, I think the folks who are praising 3s balance are the same ones who hold a semi-religious belief that nerfs hurt games no matter what. It's an attitude that needs to be crushed, and quite honestly, the problem is I think many of the SRK staff agree with this degenerate attitude. I don't think this attitude will be crushed unless/until Capcom is no longer the dominant fighting game company.

This fundamental problem is why I really want Sirlin to make his own original IP fighter- as risky as that is.

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlstein

Should attacking always be rewarded more than intelligent and timely defense (parrying, Alpha Counters, etc.) in fighting games?

As for what constitutes "A Love Letter to the Community"; game developers and publishers don't do 'love letters', and if they do they are almost always poorly executed requiring a fair amount of patching. Which it seems 3SO is probably going to get sometime in the future.

If I understand correctly, the idea of a "love letter to the community" game would be a rebalanced game instead of a broken classic with online play tacked on to it. I'd agree, but too many of the newer players who started playing fighting games recently (around 2008, for some reason) and probably make up more than half of the fighting game customer base right now. Those new players probably never or only occassionally played Third Strike in its heyday, if it could be called that.

The new players needed to to see how broken the game was before getting balance patches (new Third Strike), which could be done at a later time (allowing more time for balance testing?) after complaints about (old Third Strike) reached a certain threshhold. The old players moved on to other games because they didn't like Third Strike. The community doesn't deserve any love letters.

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMike O.

It's really amazing to me that people are thinking negatively about this.

I think you're doing a real service to the community just by being around and spreading your ideas (Even if not that many people are listening), so thanks!

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterArcher

I wish you would just make a fighting game already.

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterflush07

Your agreement with the comment of making projectiles unparryable in 3S is so absurd and ridiculous, it is actually frightening.
It shows that you lack even basic knowledge of the game characters and engine, yet you made such a harsh statement towards 3SO

If your agreement of making projectiles unparryable, Urien would immediately rocket up to S+ Tier, completely forcing all characters to never jump due to his 45degree and 80degree metallic spheres which would => 45% tackle combos. Urien can delay his projectiles to mixup in case the opponent does jump.
In addition to that, Q and Hugo would both drop down even more in tier due to at least 2 10-0 matches they would be fighting, either vs Urien, Oro, and probably Remy.
Both Hugo and Q cannot come in because Oro's and Urien's 45degree fireballs hit both characters even when they are standing. To make matters even worse, Urien can delay his projectiles. Both Urien and Oro have much better mobility than both Q and Hugo, thus even if Q and Hugo come close to either character, Urien and Oro could run away.
Remy would be a projectile factory with LOVs, and both Q and Hugo would not be able to get in at all. This would be a 9-1 match in Remy's favor at best.

Please refrain from commenting on games that you lack knowledge about.

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVMT

I don't buy into the "hard core player don't like rebalance" advertizement talk. $15 to buy a game that I ready own from DC & PS2, I will like to see a new rebalance mode with the old mode as choice. Capcom can stop the development on AE 2012 and give the money to make 3s for a chance, I guess they just want to make mad money.

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDean

VMT, you're so full of hate and venom there, what gives? Your point is that a drastic change to the parry system would require many other changes. Yes, obviously? You said I don't understand things, but I don't understand why you think that. Do you think that I think it make sense to remove air parries and just leave the rest, like it would all work out magically? It seems like bad reading comprehension or a strawman argument, or something. Also, why is any of that relevant? My post said my suggestion is to NOT do that. Further, if you're right and I "don't understand 3s" does it logically follow to you that a love letter to fans includes poor balance? How does my understanding or lack of understand of 3s even matter to the question of whether a love letter to the community fixes major known problems or not? As I wrote in-depth in my post about games I do like and know a great deal about, fixing major known problems beats the hell out of not fixing them. "You don't understand 3s" is such an out-of-left-field non sequitur to that.

It's like you are trying your hardest to hate any way you can without really thinking critically about what's been said.

August 25, 2011 | Registered CommenterSirlin

VMT: Speaking as the guy who made that comment about removing air parries and fireball parries, I didn't mean without changing anything else. Obviously you'd have to retune the game, since the whole reason Remy and Urien have such strong projectile options is an attempt to give projectiles a chance against parries. You could tone down Yun's crazy mixups for the same reason - they were put there in the first place to counter the insanely powerful parries, so get those under control and suddenly Yun doesn't need the knobs up so high on his mixups and super to win.

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFluffing Shrift

WOW Sirlin is so godlike calling out the logical falacies. Almost everything Sirlin is saying is spot on. Sirlin may have a rep as an arrogant ass and maybe Dave you are but when you are right you are right. Just goes to show Sirlin knows his shit.

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZTS

The amazing thing about Sirlin is that he actually approves comments like VMT's instead of marking them as spam in his CMS. Most people would sterilize the hell out of their site. You have to respect his unflinching support of freedom of speech and his confidence to be able to take punches in public.

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThomas Grové

Stop trying to make 3S into ST. It's not a zoning game and that's what people like about it. Variety is always good and multiple fighting games can coexist. I'm a big fan of zoning which is why I prefer ST, but I don't think 3s should be changed to be more like ST. Heck, there's people that make the reverse argument that zoning/defense is what makes ST/SF4 bad. Let people play the kind of game they want.

Also, your understanding of a game you're talking about is VERY relevant when you make a specific suggestion (change parries) rather than a general one (improve balance).

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteramro

Thanks Thomas!

amro, your comment is kind of strange in that you're saying a rebalance of 3s shouldn't have the major change that I also said it probably shouldn't have. So you're violently agreeing? Or now you are debating stuff about 4th Strike? I mean that change probably would make an interesting 4th strike, but that's such a tangent from what the point of any of this is. The claim I made is right there in the original post, that a) a real love-letter about 3s would still have parries (you agree) and that it wouldn't be dominated by 2 characters.

August 25, 2011 | Registered CommenterSirlin

This article is written a lot more nicely than the previous one, more analytical and positive, less anger, which seemed to bleed through in the other article a little too heavily and might be part of the reason behind the controversy surrounding it.

I agree with you to a large extent, though I think in the case of SF3 in particulary, a fourth iteration of the game would actually be a better way to go than a simple retool of 3s. Partly because 3s is so firmly established for what it is, partly because a new iteration would give a lot more freedom in terms of what you'd be 'allowed' to do (depending on the money involved you could even get really crazy here and add some juicy new stuff) , and partly because it'd alleviate some of the nervousness over someone screwing up a simple rebalance of 3s: It'd be a new game in its own right.

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterih8modok

Part of the vitriol against a hypothetical Third Strike 1.1, I think, is that everyone who minded a game where the top two tiers consist of two characters gave up on 3S years ago. All you have left are nostalgics, who want things exactly the way they used to be because they used to be that way, and dwindling fanbase, who are comfortable with the flaws as-is.

Aren't there diminishing returns on trying to fiddle with a game which mainly appeals to conservative players anyway? Wouldn't the effort expended to try to tune up 3S be better expended on a sequel or other derivative game that stands on its own?

August 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterA Man In Black

I've got to ask, are you really at all surprised people responded to your last post with vitriol? Imagine it from our point of view. We've been playing a game that we totally love for like 10 years now, and we finally get a port that's got it all. Its arcade perfect, it uses GGPO, its so full of love that you spend half your offline time unlocking fan art. And then some dude, who doesnt play 3S, doesn't like 3S, and given some of your comments, doesn't have a very good working knowledge of 3S comes around, tells us our game is bad, and our attitude is venomous. What did you expect... accolades?

You've said its irrelevant whether or not you understand the game, but really thats not true. If I'm out playing some pick-up 3-on-3 with my friends, and suddenly some guy walks up and tells us basketball is unfair and unbalanced, our first question is gonna be "Well, who the hell are you?" and if his response is that he's a baseball player, even a super talented, highly influential one, we're going to write off his opinion immediately.

Know why? Cuz he doesn't know what he's talking about.

August 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFunkenstein

Sirlin: When it comes to changing a core mechanic like parries, it actually doesn't matter if you're talking about 3s or fourth collision or whatever. And me disagreeing with you is not automatically violent.

I've made two attempts to post on the anti progress article explaining my standpoint in detail, but they seem to have been gobbled up by the site. I don't have time to reproduce it in full, but the gist of it is:

Rebalancing it would not automatically make it more fun. It might end up being more fun just as easily as it might end up being a complete failure. You're assuming it's possible to fix every matchup's balance without affecting how it's played. This is the key point, if it were possible to balance 3s without affecting the flow of the game I don't think anyone would disagree with that. I play Q because I like the way he plays. If he was buffed in a way that made him play differently (and that's the only way you can buff Q as the "numbers" part of the equation favors him in terms of damage and health), I might not like the new Q at all and choose a different character. And if you change enough characters there might not be a fun character for me to pick anymore.

You seem to be extrapolating from this that people don't want "progress". If Capcom announced a sequel to 3s rather than a rerelease, you can be sure that nobody is going to ask for the current tier list to remain intact as a sequel is meant to play differently.

August 26, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteramro

This discussion is one of the things that really impacts the "games are art" debate. I believe really strongly in the integrity of a work of art -- the idea that it's important to read or watch exactly what the artist intended, no more, no less. That's why it's so important for textual critics to try to establish what Shakespeare actually wrote, or why it's so wrong for TV stations to edit controversial parts out of a movie. If games are art, then it seems like changing and updating them might violate the principal of artistic integrity. If they're just entertainment, maybe it doesn't matter.

August 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJob601
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