Be It Winners Winning More Or Losers Getting All The Fun: Comeback Mechanics & Excessive Positive Reinforcement In Game Mechanics

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When I mess up, that should be it, right? No salt on the wounds, no extra round of suffering to make me feel bad. For the most part my winning should begin and end there, right? I don’t get benefits from winning the battle to help win the war, that’d be absurd in most situations as I have already proven I am adept and don’t need anything else. Well I wish it would that be way for a lot of things but the truth is some games give the losers help rather than teach them better and others will give winners benefits to help them win….more? You know what let’s just talk about this for a minute here.

Well as you may or may not have guessed from the image, Street Fighter games have a little feature called Stun, occurring when a character has taken damage within a certain time frame be it from a full combo or lots of little jabs and pokes. It makes them unable to defend themselves for getting hit and can often set up some of the more devastating combos and attacks, the only way to shorten the length of this is to mash buttons. Odd that I’d start off with a bit of a screwball as I don’t mind this mechanic when I both know my progress to getting stunned and have the stun result from a lengthy combo, seeing as the damage scaling will prevent me from suffering a massive amount of damage for that one fuck up 10 seconds ago when I started to get wailed on.

Confusingly enough, Street Fighter games after the third flagship games removed the bar of stun so now it is a toss up unless one is paying extreme attention to wikis for stun damage and how slowly the, in this case invisible, bar is falling back to nought. I guess having that critical data on screen was deemed too much of a game changer, making people have to guestimate when they need to stop making so many mistakes or back off from an aggressive confrontation. Nevertheless it bugs me how I can suffer from messing up when the good players could do half a stun bar or more in a single combo, turning a slip up into a possible moment of “put down the controller and take it, bitch” like some fighting games do at times.

Infuriatingly enough though, Capcom thought that having it in only Street Fighter would be a waste of a “good mechanic” and decided to place it into the Monster Hunter series. Same rules apply, if you take consecutive hits within a time frame, you get stunned and must mash to reduce time, during all said time you are vulnerable to attacks. What brings my blood to a boil however is the fact that sometimes monsters in these games do combo you, they can pick on you excessively with attacks that don’t throw you flat so you can try and pick your moment better, you are forced to stand up into the next left hook, then the right hook and so on. I know that some enemies can fly up and hit you with wind pressure, forcing your character to brace and repel from the gust while they potshot you in the face with a projectile, it is infuriating.

The kicker to all this though? While the demo of Monster Hunter 4 likely doesn’t provide the optimal armours that one would have against the bosses, they aren’t that far off in my experience. The Advanced hunt is of a monster that when enraged can do an attack that knocks out over 60 of your health, total being 150. Should you not be at full health and have sustained a hit recently because of perhaps weapon choice or a persistent A.I singling you out in a group of 4, this monster can touch of death your character, meaning they can kill you from the moment they land a blow. Only perhaps 4 or 5 hits true but your input can turn to less than worthless when these moments happen, a feeling no player should have to deal with.

So we have games that reward people with winning with more winning, how quaint. However there exists a bolstering of the losers in some games as well.

Oh look, we arrive back at Street Fighter, or more specifically Street Fighter 4 and all its expansions. The Ultra is the biggest, flashiest and most singularly damaging move one can perform in the game…usually, I think there might be some exceptions. Now let us not pretend that what often pulls us into a fighting game at first is the flashy supers and amazing attacks, the pinnacle of the fighting experience that we hope to pull off successfully. Street Fighter 4 has some pretty nifty Ultras and were one of my draws to the game. Lo and behold, they are designed as a comeback mechanic, I have to get hit to build up the meter so I can use them. This means if I am playing relatively well, I don’t get to play with the flashy stuff, I have to play “normally” or accept a few kicks to the face if I wanna shoot my bestest fireballz. Not an attractive system.

Smash Bros. is also a fighting game. Smash Bros. is also very fun, especially with the addition of final smashes turning matches into a scene identical to my cats at feeding time, jumping and yelling to get a taste of that sweet treat. I’m going at the CPU or a friend with no items on, doing amazingly well and….oh, wait how the hell? They spawned with a final smash on them, I thought we said no items! Turns out if you die a certain amount of times without killing anybody or something you can spawn with a final smash, even if I turn off items so that sort of thing doesn’t come into play (final smashes aren’t balanced so they are really only for a good laugh). So glad you input a design choice that supersedes my own goddamn decisions, I was afraid all this freedom was gonna make me nauseous .

I don’t mind these sort of mechanics…when I have them against an A.I as some sort of technical skill. I’m not gonna complain about being able to dodge all hits perfectly if I’m good, I’m gonna be mad if it comes into play when against another person. I get upset due to the mechanic being implemented in an environment where it doesn’t play well into the overall experience. Yes you can have a counter or parry or whatever in a single player experience when your character is naturally supposed to be worse in every other way. No, don’t give the giant dragon running me over a means to make me helpless, especially when most of the time it occurs when I have no choice but to sit there and take it. He breathes fire, flies and is huge, just…………okay?

Some games work well with these systems, others drive me up the walls. What games have you played with comeback mechanics or these excessive positive reinforcement designs? When do you think this has worked work and when has it made you turn away from the experience? Thanks for the read and I’ll see you later.

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