Quick Rant on Those That Deserve to Die
I just emo-ragequit out of a game for the first time ages. I generally don’t do this. Normally when I quit out of a game before finishing it it’s out of boredom, if anything. If a game is hard, generally, I stay with it, and try to beat it through exploits if not by playing “fair”.
So which game is it that’s made me angry enough to actually turn it off? Blazblue.You know, that one “niche” fighting game from a few months back. I really wanted to love it. And indeed, I did at first. But, being as I’m a total completist, I decided to try to finish it with all the characters. And now the turn had come to Rachel, one of the quirkier ones.
Things were going well until the last few bouts. First against Hakkumen, who is very obviously cheating in Arcade Mode by doing huge damage with each strike, something he is incapable of when a player is controlling him. This was a very frustrating fight, and I easily played 12-15 times against him before besting him. But then came V-13, and this little bitch made me lose all hope before long. Not because of being overpowered or anything, but because her fighting style and attacks seem to be perfectly geared towards smacking Rachel around like nothing. Now, keep in mind that this, as I said, is the last boss of the Arcade Mode. All I had to do was stick with it and beat her, and then I’d be done with it. But the fact that even though I’d gotten a pretty decent handle on the mechanics of Rachel by now, I felt like every punch I landed was because of sheer dumb luck rather than anything else. Even when an actual strategy worked it was more luck than skill; the strategies one can use with Rachel are quite easily countered by a very mobile opponent like this one.
I’m not going to go too much into detail regarding how Rachel differed in play style from Noel, Ragna and Jin, the three characters I’d previously beaten the game with. If anything it felt a lot like those characters were much better at reacting to what the opposition would throw at them, while Rachel seemed more geared towards setting up “traps” and exploiting failures and mistakes, as I mentioned previously. But what really pissed me off is the insane incidental difficulty spike from “normal” opponents to Hakkumen and V-13 (this spike was pretty big regardless of which character I played), and the relative powerlessness of some characters to cope under those same circumstances. Some who are better at fighting games than I am will make the case that Rachel is awesome if you know how to play her. Fair enough! However, what I encountered and experienced HAD TO have come up in testing, while the game was being developed. Which SHOULD have bothered the developers; they’ve tried in many ways to make the game appealing to non-experts, even putting in a do-something-cool-button. And so, I would ask of Arc System Works:
- Do you care that some characters are grossly unintuitive compared to others, and that some players might choose to play them during their first go at the game because of aesthetics or something and then lose patience with the game altogether?
- Do you care that some characters may be “written off” by those who at least try different characters to see which ones suit their style best, and then never be played again? My first choice was Hakkumen, who wasn’t nearly as deadly when piloted by me as when the CPU uses him. And I loathed the thought of playing through the full Arcade Mode with him. In fact, I think I’d prefer Rachel even now.
- And finally, do you care that you are essentially forcing players to compensate for your lack of design sense by spending more time with certain characters to get the full enjoyment of the game? I actually WANTED to play the game through with all the characters, but the required time investment that I foresee just because of toons like Rachel and Hakkumen makes me sick to my stomach.
Maybe you don’t care about these things. Maybe 700 000 copies is enough as far as you’re concerned, having profited off of the resurgence in fighting game popularity triggered by Street Fighter 4. It’s strange though – you did put that one awesome-button in there. Also, the limited edition has pretty good instructions (why only in the Limited Edition, most likely purchased by people who are already quite good at these games is beyond me). For my money, you’ve alienated a whole bunch of players that decided to give your game a shot, but found that the crazy, cheating difficulty spikes and the sheer impracticality of some characters precluded their enjoying their purchase to its fullest. For fuck’s sake, one’s supposed to be able to beat “normal” difficulty by just button-mashing with every character! WoW’s approach to character design, with their ensuring that all characters can solo-quest up to max level etc., should permeate the entire industry by now.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the sequel sells at least 30% less than this game, with those 30% being made up by people who just didn’t manage to stay with the game long enough to become any good at it, and hence have FUN playing it. The novelty is over, and your outdated approach to accessibility and user enjoyment will take its toll, if there’s any justice in the world. Hopefully you all end up working graveyard shift at some code-sweatshop. Or back at school. They actually teach this stuff now, so maybe it’d be good for you.
Meanwhile, I’m going to play some real fighting games now. Ones that aren’t totally out of touch with where the state of our art is at in 2010. And to think I paid full price for this game EXPLICITLY to encourage more edgy, uncompromising games. Seems to be that no good deed goes unpunished.