You know what the new year needs? Negativity and a bit of complaining, there just isn’t much like it. I find myself while browsing the usual sites after the hiatus that was the Christmas period to stumble upon a little article about an interview with the Smash Bros. director Masahiro Sakurai. In the interview it has been translated (and thus is not concrete information but for the sake of this post let us just assume it is truth) that he believes that a Smash Bros catered to the competitive scene alone would not thrive, as well as saying that he could have made a more technical and complicated game for the competitive players but beginners would be alienated.
Sakurai has been rather persistent in his belief that the game series he has created is not one to be played particularly competitively, with the major games of the series that are being an accident he’d like to avoid in the future. There have been notable additions into the most recent entry that has somewhat shown an understanding and facilitation of the casual and competitive side, however it is still rather black and white.
For Fun is all stages with items on in a Free-For-All while For Glory is flat stages 1v1 2 lives without items. This has completely ignored any and all middle ground that I myself am a part of, I like to play for skill but I know that a perfectly flat stage isn’t fair for all characters and frankly gets rather boring even with the new Omega mode for stages allowing for more flat stage variety. Platforms as well as blast zones (the point in a stage you are knocked out) are different for all sorts of stages and tie into what kind of characters do better here or there, this attempt at what I might call quelling the whiners seems to have been very shallow.
Beyond all this though, there seems to be a misunderstanding for both many consumers and developers on how to design and sell a game. The common issue with broadening the audience of a game is the belief that this requires dumbing down of the content and removing its individuality so that more people would become interested. This has never worked as the new people come to find nothing of substance and the long time fans attack it for selling out the content they were fans of in favour of something more “widely enjoyable”.
I will be frank, I’m not a big fan of a lot of competitive games, not however because I don’t like the competitive nature of them. On the contrary I love a skill based technical clash of players as much as I love a maelstrom of final smashes, one hit items and 4 man fights that end up as a 1v3 against me. My only real issue is the learning curve and the barrier of entry to a high level game. I’m sure if I got into some MOBAs or into a few other fighting games I’d get good and have some fun matches, however the process of getting to that decent level is arduous.
Let’s look at say the tutorial for Dota 2, or the lack thereof. You get taught the basic idea of the objective of the game then thrown to the wolves of online and wiki checking to see just what in the hell you are supposed to be doing. I try to get into perhaps some Street Fighter 4 but some of these combos require set ups that the game doesn’t actually wean me on, if I can even perform some of the tightly timed combos at all. I got into, of any of the street fighter games, Third Strike thanks to the inclusion of parries meaning I don’t need to know amazing combos, I just need to know rhythms and natural timing which can be observed. Competitive gaming seems to enjoy having a high skill floor to stop anyone who isn’t going to give it their all to be come good from enjoying it, which I frankly think is the absolute worst way to go about making a game that is fun to play and learn.
I want to play a game that has depth for the high level competitive play but a simple base level of play for getting into it or just the casual gamer who doesn’t have the time or the energy to get really good at one game. Smash Bros. is a game I love for its simplicity in its controls, it allows loads of people to just figure out the basics of the systems without extensive tutorials and I watched throughout a whole year of my friends in college going from absolutely no knowledge to decent challengers against me, someone who has owned the game since its launch (although there was much I didn’t know seen as I would have had to check wikis and videos for things like perfect shielding, seems like the kind of thing you put in a manual). The game can have a way to play for the greatest of gamers as well as a basic level for just messing around.
With a game with such a large span of skill levels you can reach, it is inevitable you will fight people who far outmatch you and you will lose. This is a fact of life, there will always be someone better than you, even at the top you are waiting to be dethroned by the next amazing player who has surpassed even your level. Football is a sport played throughout the world at various levels from friendly matches with friends to clubs to world cups. Nobody decided that because they lose they hate the experience and give up, if there is in fact people who do I imagine there is no helping them whatsoever. I have myself played with people who took a casual game of football far too seriously and treat people not as good as them as jokes, these people exist as assholes no matter what they do. There is no getting rid of people who can’t relax and enjoy a casual match so stop trying to promote an ideal world where all people get along and work on what we can actually control and influence.
Games don’t have to block out so many potential players with these unnecessary barriers to entry, there is room for all of us to get into a fun game if we are brought into gently rather than slammed against the wall and told to climb it. Competitive or casual, games can have depth enough to serve the hardcore of the hardcore while being simple enough on the surface that anyone can give it a go. Easy to learn, hard to master should be the mantra behind every designers decisions, we don’t want the depth of high level play being locked behind such a high skill floor that we don’t even get into the meat of the game. We similarly don’t want quality gameplay to be erased so that everyone can play, this isn’t a lose lose situation this is a potential win win situation, if only more people stepped up to the plate and proved that. The future of gaming cannot be built upon foundations of excluding so many, neither a bleached experience nor an impenetrable one can sustain in the industry landscape we have, let us not see quality go to waste.
So that was a fun way to return to blogging, moaning and criticising! Anyway I’d love to hear what you all think about things like this, what games do you wanna get into but the entry level is so darn high? Is there hope that more games will appeal to a large audience without sacrificing high level content? Thanks for the read, hope your 2015 is starting off well and I’ll see you all later.