Failures in Training

The resurgence of the fighting game genre is turning heads, but how accommodating are these games for newer players and how can developers make them more inviting?

by

Today, the fighting game genre is alight with a fire and passion not seen since the days of smoky arcades and battered Street Fighter II cabinets. Across the globe, tournaments are being held with hundreds of attendees and thousands of online viewers, celebrities are being forged, and dozens of podcasts or talk shows on the genre are in circulation. It's a good time to be a fan. But if this genre wants to continue growing, it must widen its scope and become more accommodating for newer players, which starts with training mode.

The developers behind Skullgirls have some interesting ideas for their training mode.

Online play offers one of the best ways to get better at fighting games. As the old saying goes, you're only as good as your competition, and this is no exception. It's also a battleground teeming with veterans ready to rub your face in their victory. Preparation is needed, which means visiting the training mode. However, for players new to fighting games, the available tools are entirely insufficient for the task. They only offer basic explanations without guidance or context. Knowing how to perform an attack isn't enough, which can be a disillusioning realization for a first-time online player.

Knowing how to perform an attack isn't enough, which can be a disillusioning realization for first-time online players.
Let's examine Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, which is arguably the current flagship game for the genre. Most characters have a series of trials that display how to perform some of their special moves, as well as basic to advanced combos. This is a good place to learn the basics of a new character, but the difficulty spikes once you hit the early combos. It all boils down to the timing. The simple act of correctly linking two crouching light punches can be tricky if you don't understand that this game demands precise execution. It assumes you do, and this is a poor assumption to make; one that can quickly lead to unnecessary confusion and frustration.

Tekken 6 does a better job of teaching combos by offering a demonstration video of each. These demonstrations clearly display the input timing to remove any ambiguity. However, without classifications for these attacks, players are left with an overwhelming list to decipher and memorize. In any other genre, your character would unlock these moves gradually so that you could spend some time with each and learn their properties. Here, it's sink or swim. Fighting fans are used to this, but moving forward, this unaccommodating design will quickly deter new recruits.

Darn it, UMVC3, why do you display the names of attacks rather than the inputs?

There are plenty of technical complaints that can be levied against current training modes and how they present information, but what these modes consistently fail to teach is why a move is important. Knowing and understanding are two very different things. These matches aren't just random assortments of fireballs and uppercuts; they're calculated, and each has its own unique ebb and flow. What are the properties of Ryu's hadoken, when should it be used, and what is its role in controlling space? There is an entire language unique to fighting games that is left completely untouched.

Fighting against an AI isn't the answer. AI can be challenging, but it cannot prepare you for the trickery and tactics employed by a human opponent. So far, players have been expected to throw themselves to the digital wolves and learn new tactics through constant defeat. But there are other, more effective methods of education. That much is obvious by the amount of content produced by the fighting game community aimed at improving players of all skill levels. Developers can learn a lot from the numerous resources they create.

Developers can learn a lot from the numerous resources created by the fighting game community.
Education will be especially important for Capcom's upcoming Street Fighter X Tekken. If you haven't seen it already, watch this trailer and see if you can follow all of the mechanics packed into the game. Gems, switch cancels, cross rushes, and more are a lot to keep up with, and to someone who isn't a fighting fanatic, it's going to appear impenetrable. The inclusion of an online training mode is a step in the right direction, whether you're working with a mentor or sparring with a friend. Including trials not only for characters but also for these new mechanics could be a great way to help acclimate players.

SoulCalibur V falls into similar straits by introducing a dedicated energy gauge for the first time in the history of the series. Much like the Tekken series, the SoulCalibur games have never been cluttered with meters and gauges. Instead, they focus entirely on the feel of the combat, with complexity layered into the characters rather than the overall mechanics. But SoulCalibur V feels like a new beast entirely. The changes therein could drastically alter the game's flow and should be introduced and explained to the player, not left unspoken for individual discovery.

Mortal Kombat's challenge tower offered a creative way to teach players about the game's mechanics.

If the fighting genre wishes to continue its upward momentum, then developers must find better ways of preparing players for matches against human opponents. The current tools only serve those accustomed to the hitherto unspoken nuances of the genre. Closing the skill gap between newer players and series savants is rife with needless hardships that the average player will not endure. Some lessons can only be taught through failure, but that only applies if players are equipped to know why they lost. It's time to pull back the veil of the fighting genre and let everyone in on cross ups, zoning, and why it's a bad idea to constantly jump during a fight. Education is the key, and we only stand to gain from it.

Unbelievable! There is now a second part to this editorial, Failures in Training, Round 2. Check it out.

Discussion

173 comments
Overseer76
Overseer76

Let's not lose sight of the fact that the point of this article is not that current games do a poor job of teaching a player how to perform moves in the game, but rather how each move fits in the grand scheme of a battle strategy. For instance, when I first started playing SFII, I had no love for the Jab or Short buttons -- why would I waste time with such weak attacks? Eventually, I learned the power of combos, cancels and feints. That's just a small example of the kind of evolution of understanding that can not be learned through constant failure and negative feedback. If I didn't believe that those buttons were there for a very good reason, I might never have figured it out. Nowadays, so many new concepts (e.g., juggling, in-air combos, follow-ups, character-switch attacks, cancels, super meters, variable strength attacks, false attacks, taunts, etc.) are layered upon the core mechanics that the correct usage of those core principles is overshadowed and misunderstood. In short, the article isn't about how tutorial modes should inform the player of WHAT to do, but rather WHY and WHEN to do it.

FallenOneX
FallenOneX

Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition was a bad example, but only because the new character don't have a trial mode. Without naming names, some of you are a bit mislead by your own skills. When you had to learn this stuff in the arcades, it was easier to find someone that could hand you your butt on a plate, and still be nice and give you some pointers. Fast forward to today, and the most you might get after someone pummels you for the 5th straight time is "learn some combos $#!@$#!@$". Wow, thanks for the tip genius. What makes it worse is that there is a good chance that when you're playing against "RyuDreamer21345", the person that's kicking your butt isn't even the owner of the account, it's that guys friend that plays the game 24/7, and he was asked to help level up the owners ranking. My situation is pretty similar. I have a friend that used to play in tournaments. Whenever he comes to town, he and another tourney friend stop by for an evening of whatever Capcom game they're playing at the moment. After coaching me for a bit, then making my eyeballs bleed by playing each other, we go online and pass the stick for a few hours. For that weekend, FallenOneX is a name to be feared on Live, but I'm man enough to speak into the mic and let other's know that F.O.X. wasn't always the person on the stick.

fadersdream
fadersdream

Training and separation based on skill level. You should have to earn the right to fight against top tier players... you know.... just like in real martial arts.

Richardthe3rd
Richardthe3rd

My point is simply that the best training mode can be great for players who really want to learn the game, but those players are going to learn anyways. In the games listed here with lack-luster training modes (SSFIVAE, UMC3, etc.) players who know more, as I did with my friends in VF4E, will be able to share their knowledge with me, and I will learn anyways. That's what the community is there for; that's what it's doing now. People who want to learn always, always do. And yes, in the beginning, hell, as long as you play fighters, losing will always be a part of that learning. A lot of players can't handle that. TL:DR: With or without a good training mode, players who aren't actually willing to train and learn won't really care. That's always been the problem with fighters, and it won't change. (Note, I definitely think they should still make good training modes in games.)

Richardthe3rd
Richardthe3rd

I don't agree with this article. Here's why. Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution had by far the most extensive, best tutorial mode in any game I've ever played, fighter or otherwise. It literally taught you all but the most hidden techniques in the game. If you played through it, you WOULD be better by the time you were done. The problem with this? It was HARD. The training mode was no walk in the park, and you had to really work on your timing and execution to complete the lessons. And completing the lessons usually wasn't enough, you had to repeat them several times. I only had a few friends who played VF4E with me, but none of them used the mode. I stomped the ever-living crap out of them repeatedly, and had to hold back in order for them to play. Even though the keys to success were locked away in that mode, none of them cared to learn.

Omega_Zero69
Omega_Zero69

i never do training i usually read the instruction booklet and try it hands on

Sablicious
Sablicious

Training mode is indeed where this genre needs to address the issue of diminished gamer skill compared to the arcade days / 90s. Fighting games should never compromise their inherent steep-ish learning curve (assuming they haven't already) because then you undermine the entire genre (see: criticisms of MvC3, SFIV, MK9 et al). A fighter with Wiisy command inputs is a BRAWLER (like DBZ or Naruto), not a fighting game per se. This should not be forgotten.

Dentalflossbush
Dentalflossbush

If you're not willing to put in the time neccesary to win then put the stick down. There are a multitude of intricate strategies that are needed to be very good, but fighters are just like any other game, if you don't practice you wont be good. Some people can just pick up the sticks to a brand new fighting game and lay waste to a veteran because they understand that it's not so much about the game as much as it is about who you are fighting. Fighters are like chess, if you know what your opponent is going to do, you can beat them, you can memorize moves all day but if the person you're fighting knows what you're going to do then you dont stand a chance.

LilRoss2k3
LilRoss2k3

you know what...i have no sympathy for these "new comers" half of them won't stick with it anyway. get in there and get your ass kicked and learn how to play the game. if you're serious you'll pick up all you need to know. i wouldn't have wanted to learn the things i know now any other way. nobody can spoon feed this stuff to you. you have to get in there and execute it yourself.

Jestersmiles
Jestersmiles

@grim0187 I miss the golden age of arcades :(. and so agree on what you said :).

vitari
vitari

How could anyone be against better training modes? It wouldn't hurt any of you 'pros' out there and would make the FC better.

grim0187
grim0187

@Jestersmiles People like him are the reason I dont play fighting games online at all. Its easy to talk like that when your hundreds of miles away. You wouldnt dare say the things these kids say to each other at an arcade, or you would get your face beat in FOR REAL. Not in the game.

MOBS
MOBS

@lokitama_01 Maybe the three negative votes on your comment that appeared practically instantly might indicate you're part of the problem. Maybe you have a problem reading, or you need someone to help you with the big words. I SAID THE VIDEO CAPTURE CARD INDUCED ADDITIONAL LAG! Comprende? So critiquing my fighting style and level is incredibly ignorant of you, considering I was fighting at a disadvantage. You think you came up with some BRAINSTORM telling me I should have blocked? What do you think I was trying to do? I very well did input block most of the time, but the DELAY between me inputting block and it actually registering was over half a second. Do you get the idea that I was fighting a handicap match? Or do you need someone to explain it in shorter syllables? My other video 'Made this loser ragequit' http://youtu.be/c5eUxaayAWY was captured the same day, so really with MVC 3 its either a rout or a LANDSLIDE victory, because the game is unbalanced and broken with scores of infinite combos. Virtua Fighter 5 is a way more technical and balanced game, and I'll beat youre scrubby carcass into the pavement if you face me on that REAL fighting game. Ive got the vids to prove it. Here's my first win in Ultimate MVC3 , made off screen webcam, to spare myself the vid cap lag. http://youtu.be/uCYdqGHacfo

chyng85
chyng85

Combos are the ultimate things in Fighting games~

Jestersmiles
Jestersmiles

@grim0187 don't waste your breathe on him it just going in one ear and out the other. Come to think of it,do we the majority want waste $65 to hang out with people like him?

grim0187
grim0187

@lokitama_01 And yes, people that have responsibilities are in the majority. So if your a developer and you want your game to sell, you need to develop your title around the majority. Also, Im just gunna lol silently at the "people like you exist" comment. You realize I AM a tournament level fighter and have been since you were probably in diapers. I grew up on Killer Instinct, Street Fighter 2 (the arcarde version) Tekken and Virtua Fighter. I was shovin quarters in arcades when I was like 15 years old to play those games. If NEW fighting games want to stay fresh, they need to bring in new players. I love fighting games and want to see them last and innovate but I understand gaming as a business and they WONT make new fighters if they cant pull in people willing to buy them and that ultimatly means refreashing the training mode, which is the entire point of this article...

grim0187
grim0187

@lokitama_01 The rest of us? You understand people like you are the MINORITY here, right? Hardcore fighting game fans that can sit there and memorize move lists for every character and go to tournaments are not many. I dont need to right attitude to relax and play a game. Its a damn GAME, not a job! This article addresses an issue that NEEDS to be brought to light. The entry bar for fighting games is too high, and like it or not gaming IS a business. Your precious fighting games wont last if they dont pull in money. And the few sad souls who dedicate all their free time to learning it ISNT enough. Im not saying change the entire game. All Im saying is make a training mode thats BETTER then what is currently out there to ease new players into the game. How is a better tutorial mode going to hand wins to anyone? Its simply going to teach new players how to play the game BETTER. You can keep your mechanics and movelist. Just put a better tutorial. Are you seriously against that? Is your head so far up your own ass that you cant see how beneficial that would be to everyone? Your not learning an ACTUAL skill. This isnt something that you can use to defend yourself in real life. Its not an ACTUAL martial art. Its a damn game, something to relax and have fun with. And if the game I buy doesnt teach me how to play, Im not wasting my time or money on it. Thats STUPID not lazy...

lokitama_01
lokitama_01

@MOBS Lol, reading through the comments you posted on your video certainly isn't convincing anyone that you're in the right here. But what you said is flat out untrue. The FG community is one that always strives to improve itself as a whole. Pretty much any FG player will be helpful to new players IF YOU HAVE THE RIGHT ATTITUDE. When asking for help you don't complain that X is cheap, but rather recognize that you're the one with the issue dealing with something. If you act as ludicrously hostile and childish as you did in your responses, of course no one will come to your aid. Your hilarious overreaction is probably what caused the comments more than anything else. Also, the video you posted was a pretty egregious example of bad play. You obviously haven't even put in the time to understand the core basics of the game and what you're doing in your video is the equivalent of trying to play basketball by sitting on the ball. It's difficult to give anybody much help or advice at that point because there are simply too many problems to point out without just telling you to read an entire guide. Though for starters, try blocking. It does wonders. Also, when Chun-Li's super punishes your random super for the SEVENTH TIME IN A ROW maybe you should stop doing it. Can you really blame people for laughing at you for doing the equivalent of running into a brick wall over and over again?

lokitama_01
lokitama_01

@grim0187 You missed the point of my post entirely. I was saying that the main reason that the FGC stays small is because people are lazy and don't want to put in the effort, not because of a lack of good tutorials. So what if some people have responsibilities that don't let them devote time to learning an FG? Does this mean that things have to be changed to suit them? Just because you don't enjoy devoting time and effort to learn how to play something complex doesn't mean that the rest of us are the same. The effort it takes to learn the ins and outs of a complex fighting game is exactly what makes it fun. Most of you just button mash for a month or two, whine about everything is cheap, then leave the game forever. For the rest of us getting better is a constant struggle that develops over years. People played MvC2 for over a decade because it had so much depth and because there was so much to explore, as well as an incredibly high skill ceiling and insane executional requirements. Fighting games weren't MEANT to be for everyone, which is why it's fine that people like you exist. But they shouldn't be toned down to simply hand wins over to those who aren't willing to put in the effort.

vegeta2002
vegeta2002

No mention of KoF 13 in this article?

MOBS
MOBS

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

grim0187
grim0187

@lokitama_01 You miss the point of this article entirely. Its not to make fighting games easier. Its to have better training modes to help new players learn the mechanics. When you actually grow up and get a full time job and a wife and children, you dont have the time and patience to sit there and learn characters like its a second job. That is NOT fun and NOT something Im willing to spend my hard earned money on. I dont care how "lazy" it makes me. I play games to BE lazy. Im plenty enough NOT lazy when Im putting in my 10-12 hour shift at work. So unless your a teenager with no social life and all the time in the world, then you can sit there and put up with "working" a fighting game.

MOBS
MOBS

The author is also missing another academic point of the fighting game business: They deliberately make the training mode and game manuals sparse so they can sell you a $15 game guide. Every time I buy a Fighting game I buy the guide to go with it. Even a fighting game as simplistic as MVC 3 has a lot of Depth in the game system, things that would take hours to explain in an ingame guide. Some things are best explained in a wide view,in the context of comparing all the characters at once, like the mobilty attributes of each character in MVC3. Its best Done in a chart,with a graph including ALL characters at once. In game guides usually take you through training with one character at a time. For instance some characters can wall jump. Some can fly, some characters can double jump, and some can Air dash. Learning the difference through this mobilty system and who can do what can be learned quicker with a one page chart. In an ingame training tutorial, you would have to go through the training mode 40 times to learn what mobility type each character has. The MVC3 game guide by bradygames is just short of 400 pages. Do you have any Idea how long a training mode would be to convey that much information? How much they would have to pay voice actors to explain it all, and how much disc space that would take up, all for something most casual players wont even use?

MOBS
MOBS

Trial and Error and Depth are the selling point of these games. The Author is` missing this academic point . Fighting games revolve around 60 second matches, not 6+ hour adventures. Making a fighting game unlock moves and techniques would stratify online matches even more, and make new players even more intimidated by veterans. It would be even less fair than it already is if some new player with a limited moveset had to fight a vet with superior skills AND the entire moveset unlocked. Those new players would give up and sell the game back to gamestop even faster.

Rovelius
Rovelius

I like fighting games but I don't like the mountain of efforts I have to make to learn one character. That's why I stick to Smash. Easy to pick up and play, hard to master.

Jestersmiles
Jestersmiles

@gawthy Yes learning from players that are better than you is a great way to learn but not everyone has the patience for that. A MM the pits people against their own skill level keep them around long enough for them to want to commit to getting better while giving others like your self the option to test their skill against better players seem to me a way to go. This been implemented by Hon (heroes of newerth) and it doing wonders for them player base wise, I don't see why Capcom and others have yet to even attempt such a system. Maybe one day they will for the sake of all fighting fans.

jubdeidamasta
jubdeidamasta

@Jestersmiles. I went to the first evo in vegas. But I didn't say the word "noobs" any where. I did say they were dumbing it down. I was just stating my opinion, whether or not you agree with me. Means nothing to me. But don't miss quote me.

gawthy
gawthy

@Jestersmiles i have learnt alot from mp from SC against great players, who after slaughtered me i learnt so much more about the game

darkentity
darkentity

@Jestersmiles or in my case "Soul Edge"

H0rr0rG4m3r
H0rr0rG4m3r

Tekken will always be the top Fighting game in my opinion.

Jestersmiles
Jestersmiles

@gawthy yes and it also fun to take what you learn with said character and then get match up with some who been playing the damn series since it was called Soul blade -_-................

gawthy
gawthy

In Soul Calibur you have to put time in to each character to learn moves and that is part of the fun

Jestersmiles
Jestersmiles

@jubdeidamasta Why is it always about dumbing down for the noobs with you people? How about telling developers to get with the times with better matching and netcoding? oh now the big bad casual trying to dumb down more my "hardcore" game. Please I bet the only way you guys see EVO is through stream because none of you are good enough to even be in it, so drop the act. Starcraft is about as hardcore as it gets that being good at it is instance Rock star status in South Korea and yet us "normals" are still able to play it because unlike every lazy fighting game developer out there Blizzard took the time and put an actual MM that works. It pits the new with the new and the veterans with the veterans and that how you make people stick around. So enough with the "oh stop dumbing down my game yo" because the article is not suggesting that and none of are pro, so get over yourself. Every developer here for $$$ not to please a select few think to highly of themselves.

Falru
Falru

NOTHING will prepare you for actually fighting other human players except...fighting other humans players. I'm sorry but if you seriously want to get into PvP fighting games you learn to accept that you're going to get your ass kicked around for a while until you get the hang of things. If you can't take that then fighters are obviously not for you.

Jestersmiles
Jestersmiles

@Diabeto That casual garbage makes $$$, and the Fighting genre almost went extinct like the dinosaur so something must be done or it back to the time before SF4 cameout. and MVC3 would like to say hi to you. and please drop to the "hardcore" act will you? , it so stupid.

jubdeidamasta
jubdeidamasta

Learning combos, proper execution and timing. Then going and beating up on other players is one of the most rewarding things about fighting games. If you suck, you either take the time to learn how to play better and progress or you keep getting punished for not. Giving every genre the "COD" treatment to get sales, isolates the hardcore fan base. Which is one of the worst trends of this current generation of gaming.

jubdeidamasta
jubdeidamasta

@Diabeto. It's too late capcom is already dumbing down their own fighting games. Look at UMVC3 compared to MvC2. A freaking "Super" button. SfxTekken is already shown with a "team attack" gauge. SF4(all editions) are beyond simple compared to something like SF III: 3rd Strike.

Diabeto
Diabeto

Already?? It's already time to @#$% up the fighting game genre by making it accessible to casual gamers? Gaming doesn't need another CoD. Newbie/casual gamers already have CoD to satisfy their delusions about how good they are at games. They actually think it's a competitive game. "Game that appears to be competitive to professional levels but actually isn't" CHECK! No need for any more casual garbage.

lime_93
lime_93

I don't think a game should hold your hand to become a better player. I understand that people new to fighters might have a problem getting better. Street Fighter and Blazblue challenge modes are really all you should get. I remember on vanilla Street Fighter IV sitting there for 45 mins learning how to actually do a link with Vega and Zangief. Some stuff you can explain but most of the things learned in a fighting game a learned when a player takes some time to learn it, not a complete strategy guide on how to play the game perfectly. This guy just seems like he wants to be great at fighting games without putting in the work. If the game is too hard to learn, put in the work to get better or find another game.

Hydrafiend
Hydrafiend

Great article! I think its true that game development companies can only gain from providing good training modes so as to open up this genre to more gamers.

greatgamer0036
greatgamer0036

and to @ABEzilla116, please keep it between real fighting games, not that smash boring bros., it gives the chance to win to everyone,but when a first time player beat the hell out of some experience player of the same game, there is something wrong, it is good to have chances against "experts", but in super smash bros.simply there are too much chances, before any speculation, when i first played that game, i was against three more experience players, and i ended second by not much, it is like comparing the age of zombies (psp) with dead rising, or dead island,it is funny,but it will never be as good as the others

greatgamer0036
greatgamer0036

a solution to this would be to make groups to new fighting gamers at least in the xbox live and the psn, like a rookie group or like a novice league, although the game style in the new era of fighting games are to soft to the older fighting gamers, for example, i find the street fighter II much harder than the S.F. IV, well in anyway, this style will never be dead

WhiteBane
WhiteBane

i like the olds street fighter series

abcdefgabcdefgz
abcdefgabcdefgz

Yeah my favorite fighting game is still street fighter 2 hd remix or even old turbo. It requires good decisions and reflexes, but the combos are only 3 or 4 hits to do. I do not want to spend weeks learning complex combos. Like a lot of games its taken too seriously and competitively which makes it take too much time to get good at for the average player.

caffiend7
caffiend7

out of any training/mission mode umvc3 is the worst. pause look at moves find move then unpause and use move instead of showing how to do it. also how about showing how to to basic combos instead 20+ button combinations most people won't use out of tournament play

Brettsky128
Brettsky128

I played UMvC3 online once. Never before have I been so thoroughly trashed. I do OK and even pretty good at certain fighting games, but holy cow, I don't think I even got to move!

VikingPhobos
VikingPhobos

After playing UMVC3 for a while and learning Thor (One of the slowest initiators in the game) I found myself doing better with characters like Wolverine (Which is my favorite). It also helped me a lot in MK9 since the combos aren't as tight as KOFXIII or SSFIV:AE. I was defeated a lot in all this games, but when I go back to playing with newer people, I can clearly see the difference. In my opinion people should make 2 accounts for their fighting games. One for reference, and one for competition. It helps a lot. Trust me. I've always been the type of person to figure stuff out, but lately it's much easier to try the Missions and Tutorials.

irishdude199210
irishdude199210

First game I ever played was a fighting game, and I've been a massive fan of them since! I find inventing my own combo's more rewarding than being given them. A good fighter should give anybody the ability to easily come up with even a few simple 3 hit combos.