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Filed under: Industry People, Masahiro Sakurai, Super Bros. Smash For 3DS, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Super Smash Bros. Series

Sakurai’s Famitsu Column Vol. 512: A Fair Chance

Translation Famitsu 512 A

Note: Do not repost the full translation. Please use the first two paragraphs and link to this translation. For additional information, please read this post. This translation is for fan use only, and may not accurately reflect the opinions of Masahiro Sakurai.

This column was originally published on September 08th, 2016.

One game that is popular at competitive tournaments overseas is Marvel VS. Capcom 3.

When you watch high level matches of Marvel, you will often see players start a combo, and keep it going until their opponent is KO’d. You can convert a single stray hit into a very long combo, and it’s not rare to see a character start with full health and lose all of it from a single combo.

Think about what it’s like to be comboed like that. Is that fun? Doesn’t that seem absurd and unreasonable? That’s what I thought, but when you get down to it, it’s not that complicated. It’s still a contest of skill between two people.

By the way, sometimes, when I’m making a game, there’s a small group of users who really demand a lot of things, which really stresses me out. In the case of Smash, that would be people who say things like, “This character’s down-special is too strong, fix it!” They probably think that because they keep getting hit by it and can’t avoid it, or they think the move simply isn’t balanced. I think that reasoning is fairly common.

However, when you consider the overall structure of Smash, one move doesn’t even account for one ten-thousandth of the game. They completely ignore how many different collaborations are happening behind the scenes, how hard it was for us to even make this game, and are extremely displeased by the smallest details and the most minute adjustments. It’s a thankless job. It’s probably the type of criticism you wouldn’t get at school, or at a more typical job.

But the problem is that personally, I do get distressed by the fact that I can’t simply ignore those voices and criticisms. They may suffer from their own personal biases, but that’s still a person who feels that way. But, even if there’s a multitude of people saying something, that doesn’t mean they are necessarily correct. There were times when I adjusted something in reaction to a vocal outcry, and there were even more complaints afterwards.

Basically, there are a very large number of players. The players who are satisfied don’t speak up. Even if the dissenters seem loud, most of the time they comprise a very vocal, but still very minor, portion of the player base.

Strong moves are difficult to overcome, and are unique. But the people who don’t know how to overcome that hurdle get angry and discontent. The people that know how to deal with it aren’t angry or displeased at all, so they don’t feel the same way. In the end, it’s just a problem that, no matter how hard you think or try, probably won’t go away.

That’s where my introduction about Marvel VS. Capcom 3 becomes relevant. Why is it still played at tournaments if these touch of death combos are so prevalent? I took a step back and thought about it, and came to the conclusion that it’s because that is fair, in it’s own way. A competitor has the freedom to choose the same team composition as their opponent, and pull off the same combos, if they so choose. If you think overpowered moves, links, or combos are unfair, then you should just use those techniques and win. Your opponent is doing the same thing to you. Getting hit by that combo starter is a result of the difference in skill between you and your opponent, and there’s a high amount of skill involved in converting that hit into a long combo. Watching high level matches, I didn’t feel that the character selection was particularly extremely limited, so as long as you have the freedom to choose, that’s fair.

Of course, if the gameplay becomes too unbalanced and reliant on specific techniques and characters, that’s a problem too. Also, relying on gimmicks is a whole different conversation. However, every game that is played competitively at a high level on a global scale has different characters, gameplay styles, and results. I’ve seen Smash tournaments in the past, where every finalist played a different character, for example.

I’m not the creator of these games, so I’m not trying to say anything definitive. But if I had to make a statement about these sorts of games, it would be, “If someone’s using a tactic that’s giving you trouble, just adopt their tactic, and win.” Of course, it’s not that easy– it’s about the effort you have to put in after that realization that matters.

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  1. I feel the same way in regards of long combos in fighting games, which is one of the reasons why I like Smash so much.
    I greatly like the feeling of control Smash gives, and I find combining moves to make custom combos is really neat.

    In regards of Sakurai talking about balance, I definitely saw what he was talking about when Overwatch was released.
    At that time one could hear a lot of people asking/demanding that the character Bastion would be nerfed, and now even though Bastion hasn’t changed at all, no one really complains about him any more. (shoot, you even get people wanting him to be buffed.)

    Smash44 on September 7 |
  2. There’s a difference between something like golf, where the players just happen to be playing in a similar timeframe, and something like Tennis, where the players respond directly to each other’s actions. Both games can be called “competitive”, but only the latter forms a true interaction between the players. Needless to say, most competitive video games are fundamentally interactive.

    Pulling off combos is fun for the player using them, but if they go on too long and the target’s inputs don’t matter, it can result in large chunks of each match no longer being interactive. In the case of UMvC3, you can literally pull your phone out, check the time, and put it away in the time it takes many combos to finish. It may be “fair”, but it’s not very engaging. That doesn’t mean there should be no flashy combos whatsoever, but it’s an important factor to consider. Of course, it’s a non-issue in single player games, and Smash has DI, which is a nice solution.

    Igiulaw on September 7 |
    • I agree completely. To me, the best type of combo is one which depends on the player’s ability to read / react to his opponent’s escape options. The opponent has ways to escape, but the opponent can counteract them with enough skill / a good read. It might be a DI mixup, tech-chase, 50-50, or even reading a foe’s method of retreat / retaliation. This kind of combo is pretty rare and hard to pull off, but tends to be very rewarding, lengthy, and flashy. It keeps the player who’s getting combo’d active too, since they still have a shot at getting out of it. The unpredictability, flashiness, and skill involved in the combo make it very exciting both to watch and perform, and doesn’t ruin the game for whoever happens to be on the receiving end.

      I suppose, then, that the best kind of “combo” isn’t really a combo at all, but rather a string of attacks mixed in with reads, baits, and predictions.

      Regarding Sakurai’s thoughts on overpowered tactics, I disagree. A lot of the time, players are indeed overreacting when they say that a certain move or tactic is overpowered, that much is true. However, there are some cases where that is not true, such as – in my opinion – pre-patch Bayonetta’s zero-to-death combos. While it is true that an effective counter to a truly powerful strategy such as this is to use it yourself, that also tends to make the game very over-centralized and same-y, without much variety at all. If everybody uses Bayonetta, the metagame is not nearly as interesting. Of course, this is different for things that are universal to the whole cast, such as perfect-pivoting or wavedashing. These techniques open up opportunities for all characters, and don’t create a metagame that is centralized over a certain character.

      Munomario777 on September 7 |
  3. So, that still leaves me with one question.

    Does that mean that Jigglypuff has potential in Smash 4, even though she was never changed?

    Wolfy76700 on September 7 |
  4. so smasher, just drop the baby game and pick up a real man game, marvel 3!

    tr4sh on September 7 |
  5. “L + R + A + Start + Fox” – Masahiro Sakurai

    Dr.Bread (@dr_bread) on September 7 |
  6. I hate to admit it, but MVC3 is “relevant” as Bayonetta is “revolutionary”.

    backup368 on September 8 |
  7. He referenced a game that is largely irrelevant and considered highly broken. Lol

    Robert on September 8 |
  8. For once, I think I’m gonna have to disagree with Sakurai. What draws me to fighting games isn’t what I can do with the characters, but which characters appeal to me. Often times, that means picking up a character that may not have the best combo game, but might excel in other areas. However, if I’m getting insta-killed every time my opponent starts up a combo, that’s not going to make me want to pick up their characters and do the same to them, because that playstyle doesn’t appeal to me. If I just wanted to memorize a long sequence of buttons and repeat it in every match, I’d play rhythm games (and I do). I understand by all means that there is skill in some of the more elaborate zero-to-death combos in games like MVC3 that take a lot of precise timing to pull off correctly, but if that becomes the dominant way to play the game, then it’s just boring to me.

    Spiral on September 8 |
    • Your points don’t touch anything Sakurai was stating. He’s talking about balance, not what makes you play a game. He’s stating zero to death’s are balanced because everyone can do them.

      Bap on September 8 |
  9. “If someone’s using a tactic that’s giving you trouble, just adopt their tactic, and win.” The problem is that it’s admitting the tactic IS broken, either by ridiculous ease for the reward provided, or by the simple lack of Counter Play. Sakurai, I’ll stick to accomplishing the likes of this, thanks:

    Sakurai, I will agree that game balance is thankless, but it has to be done. Moreover, it should reward the right people. Those complaining people you complain about generally want EVERYTHING to be powerful for its own sake. I actually want people to weigh their options against their weaknesses. THAT is fun, and THAT is healthy as well.

    warriorsuprising on September 11 |