Failures in Training, Round 2

Fighting game training modes leave players ill-equipped for competitive play. How can they become better tools for new players and veterans alike?

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Fighting games are a trial by fire. Traditionally, they drop all their mechanics in your lap with little, or no, explanation. Then it's survival of the fittest: either adapt or get blown up online. This inhospitable design needs to change for the fighting game genre to continue growing. In the first Failures in Training, we discussed the shortcomings of fighting games and their overall lack of teaching tools. Now, we'll tackle the ways to make fighting games more approachable, without detracting from the complexities that make them fun.

There are a lot of different mechanics to master in Street Fighter X Tekken.

Several comments from the previous article recognized Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution's comprehensive suite of training modes. Such praise is well deserved, and the tools VF4 provided should have become staples for the genre. They covered everything, from the basics of inputting commands to a glossary of fighting game terminology. But what really set it apart were three standout modes that instructed players on the game's mechanics. First was Tactics Advice, which not only taught you how to perform combos but also how mechanics made those combos work.

Graduating from this training suite meant you understood how to play the game; not just the characters.
Second was Challenge mode, which divided each of the game's mechanics into separate challenges. Examples include performing a set number of throw escapes or blocking strings of attacks. Mission Practice rounded out the three. It placed you in versus battles with various win conditions, such as winning in a certain amount of time or performing a certain number of fall recoveries. These conditions applied the isolated lessons of Challenge mode to an actual combat setting, thus bringing the entire training package full circle.

Graduating from this training suite meant you understood the why of Virtua Fighter 4. You knew how to play the game; not just the characters. But as great as they were, VF4's clinical presentation was hardly enticing and even a little intimidating. Fighting games need a place to start that's fun and engaging. A campaign mode that mixes a little story--something fighters already have trouble handling--with a gradual explanation of the game's basics would be a great addition.

The BlazBlue series has also been praised for its training modes.

Let's examine Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. During the introductory level, you play as Darth Vader, who has incredible power. That power is fun to play around with, but you realize you don't know how to wield it. The next level casts you as Starkiller, and your abilities are stripped back to only the most basic. The game then gradually reintroduces all of the abilities you had one by one so that you can learn and appreciate each. By the time you're back to Darth Vader's level, you're a much deadlier weapon. Fighting games should offer a similar form of progression.

The applications of a special move are easy to comprehend and they make you feel powerful.
Too often, players new to the genre exclusively want to perform the "BIG FIREBALL!" The applications of a special move, such as Ryu's hadoken, are easy to comprehend and they make you feel powerful. Meanwhile, normal punches and kicks get written off as filler because they're not as exaggerated in their animations; thus, they're less obvious in application. Therefore, restrict access to only normal moves, at least initially. Have them play a few matches using only normal moves and use dialogue to highlight the uses of a light punch or heavy kick.

Players will start recognizing the importance of normal moves and understand their place alongside special moves. As they progress, throws, special moves, and other mechanics will be unlocked leading up to the high-powered supermoves. Borrowing from Mortal Kombat, move-specific trails would follow to demonstrate the properties of each. These concepts are not much different from a training mode, but the presentation of information is what's important. It gives newcomers a definite starting point that puts them in the correct mindset to measure other fighters and their capabilities.

There are also plenty of lesser tweaks that could improve existing training modes. Not to pick on Capcom, but it is becoming notorious for not explaining how to play its games. Whether out of assumption or ambiguity, it's completely unnecessary to not clue the player in on how your game operates. Whether it's kara throwing in Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition or wave dashing in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, there are several crucial techniques that go completely unexplained. When your game needs someone on YouTube explaining "OK, here's how you really play the game!" that's a problem.

Fighting games are not easy, but there are ways they can ease in new players.

Thankfully, one of the best training tools available is already commonplace today: online replays. Analyzing the style of your competitors is a great way to better your own skills. However, this analysis isn't possible without a complete understanding of the game's underlying mechanics. A smooth introduction, comprehensive training tools, and a simple explanation of how everything works will enable players to appreciate this data. The fighting genre and its community are some of the most passionate in all of video games. They deserve to continue growing, and that starts with the games.

If you somehow got here without reading the first Failures in Training then you should really go back and fill that hole in your life.

Discussion

35 comments
Overseer76
Overseer76

Analysis is cool, but there's a certain level of skill one needs to engage in an analysis. Beyond that, he's right. I've been longing for a slower-paced build-up to power in fighting games since Soul Calibur (whichever)'s Mission Mode showed me that I didn't know everything about how that game worked.

Mr__Maniacal
Mr__Maniacal

Tekken Tag had the best training mode i found. each move/combo was not only showed through the buttons, it showed how each button was implemented in the animations of the characters which created a sense of timing. it taught me to be the most devastating player to any opponent. as well as i wish it was online in the Hybrid version on PS3. but that's ok. Tekken Tag 2 should be online. and in that i will destroy All of you......All of you

SauhlGood
SauhlGood

@phoenix_crow you know thats a good point, come to think of it thats prolly why all of the mvc2, then 3, had their input complexity reduced, then painted as "easy to learn, hard to master" to the veterans... so people can push 1 button and feel like a superstar.

pqwoei
pqwoei

I guess training modes in fighting games need to improve, although if you really suck at fighting games then as the saying goes practice makes perfect

dazzwryght
dazzwryght

I'm old school. I've playing fighting games since the arcade days. I get playing a game until you get better. However, I see the potential of a soild training mode. If one could customize or simply select character. Then level up their selection and challenge others of similar level. Maybe if you challenge a higher level competitor and win one could earn additional perks. I'm no game designer, but if I could focus on training to develope my game play, i can't see the harm. Especially once you have ascended to my level of gamerhood, where the controller only gets time after the wife and kid.

Barighm
Barighm

The fact you need any kind of training mode to enjoy a fighting game is a deterrant. Believe it or not, most gamers want to sit down, turn on the game, and be enjoying it right off the bat. If they need to work at it...well, how many people do you know like to end a hard day of work with more work?

ssorrekrab
ssorrekrab

I'm all for fighting games getting more accessable more players can only be a good thing. Having said that fighting games skill like any other is learned by practice. When we attempt to learn a skill whatever it might be we have to practice. If we enjoy the practice we don't think of it as practice it becomes just fun. Games can be as accessable as you like but if you don't find the practice fun then maybe fighting games just arn't for you. I used achievements as motivation to improve my skills (I'm mediocre at best) and by persevering and deciding to not care if I lost (which is harder than it sounds) I learned and reached one or two genuine ureaka moments. Having a goal helps maybe challenge yourself to beat a friend who plays the game. Basically if you really want to get better you will.

Mifflinite45
Mifflinite45

Im bad at fighting games and its not fun playing games you suck at.

phoenix_crow
phoenix_crow

A little scenario that happened to me in the past. I went and got Guilty Gear Reloaded with a friend of mine (a casual gamer), we went back to his place and we started out in vs. Understand this was not my first fighting game and it was likely his first 2d fighting game. Although nether of us had played a Guilty Gear game I owned him for free. One match we picked the same person. I was testing what motions you needed to do some supers (same motion you do in most fighters) and I did one. My friend: "How did you do that?" Me: "Do quarter circle forward then X." My friend: "Quarter circle forward?" Me: "Press down, down-forward, and then forward. Like this." showing him my controller as I do it My friend: After a few attempts, some times it working often times not "This game is stupid" and gave up on the game. This is what I believe is the problem with getting casual or non-fighter gamers to play fighting games. In every other type of game out there one button does one thing; fire, aim, reload, switch weapons, ect. In a fighting game this idea is thrown out the window. One button can do many things when combined with motions, directions, other buttons, and even the distance between the other fighter can change what it does. For a person that is use to one maybe two buttons to attack this is just too much for them and to them it is not worth learning.

leviathan_wing
leviathan_wing

@flio83 happened to me a lot also. too bad for them i was good at these games... tekken, KI, mk2, sf champion/turbo, e.t.c. more than one guy broke a joystick because of me. one even got banned from the arcade right before my eyes and more than a few stayed away or warned their friends off but they never listen. too bad i suck at fighting games now... also arcades are dead.

SauhlGood
SauhlGood

Im all for people being able to understand the game, because i know it could put them off if they cant even learn the beginnings of advanced tactics, but ALOT if not all of the mechanics/moves of most fighting games are in the manual. I'd rather devs spend time on the actual game than putting into the game what is already in the manual, clearly a lack of both is unacceptable so yes there should be a place either in-game or in the manual, that explains all the crucial nuance in the game. Open your SF/MK/Tekken etc. manual and you will see all the info you need. How comprehensive do people expect the training to be i wonder? are they mad they cant play as well as a veteran!? There will ALWAYS be a learning curve people, you will suck when you start for the first time, get used to it, no amount of training will allow you to win against a skilled player unless hes AFK, or letting you.... i think a good portion of people gripe about the road to 'proficiency' being to rough and hard, well suck it up. That overhead you just learned, kara throw, or the sweet combo you just learned in training, wont work in a real fight unless you understand how to read your opponent, learn his patterns, predict him, use the opening, and hope that you have input proficiency(from training) to be able to pull off the move in that opening, because skilled players know how to close that window very quickly even if they make mistakes. and thats what it comes down to in training modes imo, input proficiency, you can fault a dev for not explaining a mechanic ANYWHERE, but if its in there and you missed it, well then theres nothin really to gripe about, be glad your not learning it on the arcade machine like back in the day.

ALLoY1717
ALLoY1717

Capcom has awful training modes. MvC3 not showing what the commands for the moves it asks you to do is appauling. Capcom's specifically would be far better by just implementing a demonstration and timing indicator of the move they are asking you to do. Obviously that is still not enough but it would be the place to start.

ampthos
ampthos

i know its not difficult to figure it out but it still annoys me when the games don't translate the arcade buttons in the tutorials to the correct console your playing

Raxyman
Raxyman

@betelgeuse68 He just mentioned BF in a completely different topic. I'll bet BF is the only game he plays so, i guess he doesn't even know what fighting games are... The fanboys are replacing the annoying CoD comments with annoying BF comments...

Skull-Fire
Skull-Fire

Most Dragonball Z games have a lengthy tutorial that explains most of what you need to know. The only problem with that is how long and boring it is. But at least it's there and has been very useful. Other games should learn from this.

juggernaut5
juggernaut5

fighting games were a glitch. even the devs didnt know it was possible that you could do a 2 hit with close hard punch and hadoken!!! how are thei eve gonna teach new comer how its done!!!

VolcanoMan001
VolcanoMan001

Here is the fighting game tip of the day: Take your index and middle finger and place them on the kick/punch/block buttons, then tap away rapidly and randomly move around the D pad/thumb stick. Voila, you will be kicking butt in no time. ;)

Diluted_NZ
Diluted_NZ

It's good that online replays were mentioned as effective training tools. There's one addition that could be made to, say, the SF IV replays that would make them even better IMO. When you watch the replays, you can see each player's input on the side of the screen. This is useful in itself, but what if you could copy and paste these inputs to practice in training mode? This way you could be watching any replay, see a cool combo or move, and then be able to learn how to do it yourself. You'd have the advantage of seeing the moves in the context of a fight against a human opponent, which you can't get by doing the trials in SF IV against what's basically a punching bag. Or say you're new to playing the game, and someone does a FADC ultra, or an advanced combo on you? If you wanted to learn how to counter this, you'd currently be out of luck because the game's limited to recording and replaying commands you actually know how to input...

ThePowerOfHAT
ThePowerOfHAT

I only read this because Dan Hibiki was shown at the top.

betelgeuse68
betelgeuse68

@Agent-M Um... you don't play fighters do you?

Agent-M
Agent-M

If people can manage in BF3 with not training mode what so ever, they can manager here.

X-RS
X-RS

lol How about Option Selects :P

imetamonster
imetamonster

When it comes to fighting games I can usually defeat the CPU. Going online can be deppressing though because next thing I know ill be on a 20+ losing streak. Would be much more enjoyable if I actually knew how to counter the other player with some equal like skill. So ill play training mode for hours. Go back online and just get whooped again having another double digit losing streak. Fighting games have been one of the only games I almost enjoy more offline than online this gen. I still have a blast playing against the CPU in Dead Or Alive 4 and Virtua Fighter 5. But online is like a nightmare. If I ever get motivated to head online ill usually end up returning to offline play pretty quickly now.

slonekb05
slonekb05

i dont get this. im pretty good at games in general but when i get a new fighting game i go into training.. look at moves list , get the feel for a few min's then i crank the cpu difficulty as high as it goes.. yes i get my but handed to me for the first 5min or so but then you get the feel. If you can beat the cpu on the hardest or 2nd hardest difficulty consistently. you will do better than fine in playing ppl online.

TrueProphecy22
TrueProphecy22

Only show newbies the spammable, difficult to block attack, and nothing else. Low kick, low kick, low kick!

Gen007
Gen007

I still feel like its would be better to get better by actually playing the game yeah you will lose and you will lose a lot but that's part of the process. People these days just cant stand having to put in actual work to get better. There's just no way a tutorial mode is gonna be able to teach you everything because there's to much to cover. Say for SSF4 with what is being suggested here it would have to cover not only basic but advanced stuff with each character. They would need to teach things like plinking, canceling, buffering, charge buffering, partitioning, mix ups, option selects, match ups, ect. Also its debatable weather plinking was even intended to be in the game so how can they teach a glitch? Its important to note that often some gameplay mainstays are figured out by the players and become mainstays of the game without the developer even intending it to or even being aware of it. It goes on and on and that's just the surface. It would take ages to go over everything and most people wouldn't even stick with it. Think licenses from GT but much worse. You could literally write a book for each character. Thats the whole point of a fighter imo though. You get longevity and enjoyment out of a fighting game from mastering the game mechanics and the characters through exp. My advice hop in and play the game and try to learn a little something from each match then experiment with your ideas in the training room.

flio83
flio83

in my day, we don't have the luxury of "move lists/ move guides" let alone training..in my case its bit different than solidty, mine was drop a quarter and got whooped by high schooler.it was a trap, really I waited till the machine is empty and suddenly when I dropped the quarter suddenly I hear "here comes a new challenger"...they training on me!!

akmex
akmex

you learn by playing the game. People nowadays want everything handed to them. Please, im a vereran from the SFII days. I agree I learned at the arcade (@SolidTy). Playing games like Samurai Showdown 2, King of the fighters 95, SF2 Chapion Edition. and Pit Fighter.. Yes, Pit Fighter.. lol

lm316
lm316

hey, why all of you down voted me? I was first, jealous much my peeps???... u know thats how I roll

caffiend7
caffiend7

@SolidTy God I miss those days

anticusho1984
anticusho1984

@vadicta that's so true and tha's what I like from soul calibur V you can look rivals with you same ranking or you can change it just to fight with higher level players or random, that really comes in handy and it's way less frustrating

anticusho1984
anticusho1984

some developers assume that just because the franchise has been out for a long time people know how to play it like king of fighters, marvel vs capcom, street fighter, etc. I liked dead or alive 4 training mode it takes you through every move and by pressing a button you can see a demo of the move,

vadicta
vadicta

I think all of this is really true. I still mostly just spam powerful attacks. as much as I can :P I really do love fighting games and I own and have played a ton of them, and I think it's strange how little I really understand about them even at this point. I also think they should break up the online modes into sections. They should quarter off players so newcomers can fight people of their own skill-set and let the more advanced players play against others like them. I'm sure that fighting games will learn their way soon, though :D

hickabickabooya
hickabickabooya

I still agree with this whole heartedly, I think I have a games mechanics down, then get stomped online and have to relearn. While I get that there are better more experienced players out there, it can kill the fun of a game to get whooped hands down over and over. Some in game training would be nice.