If there’s one thing that hardcore fans love in their fighting games, it’s those subtle moves and nuances, that when studied, can mean life or death in a match. Taking advantage of a crucial weakness, exploiting an overpowered move or learning a massive juggling combo, those dedicated players live for that moment. But when it comes to sales, hardcore fans aren’t enough, which is why you’ll find a lot of accessibility geared towards button-mashers, says Tekken creator Katsuhiro Harada.
“It’s interesting because the evaluation depends on the group, whether it’s the hardcore or just your average gamer, and it can be very different. If you just wanted to satisfy the core fans – the tournament going crowd – there are only a few elements that you really need to focus on,” Harada explained to GamesRadar. “The hardcore crowd want balanced characters, an emphasis on technique and knowledge of the game, and reliance on quick reflexes”, said Harada.
If you make a game where if you’re good at all these elements, where you’ll win consistently as a high level player, that group would highly rate that game. That doesn’t mean it will be popular among the mass, though.
The game needs to give players the sense that they can beat the higher-level players at least some of the time. It’s a game, so it has got to be entertaining. It’s actually easier to make a game that just appeals to hardcore fans because you know exactly what you need to put in it.
Sure, fighting games such as Tekken, Street Fighter or King of Fighters could cater exclusively to hardcore fans with revamped systems that penalise button-mashing greatly, but then no one would buy those games, and their reputation would be damaged in wider circles, much like what happened with Street Fighter 3, as Harada explained.
“That was very well received among hardcore fighting game fans. If you really get it down, where you know the knowledge and the reflexes and the skills involved, it’s a game where you can win 100% of the time,” he said.
It’s funny, it was Ono-san’s game, and when Street Fighter IV came out, people were like ‘wait, there was Street Fighter II, now IV, where was Street Fighter III?’ We laughed hysterically at that, but Street Fighter IV sold a lot more than Street Fighter III.
The man has a point. Seeing as how Geoff is walking cheat code when it comes to fighting games, the only chance I’ve ever had when beating him in one match out of every kajillion, was to button-mash my way to victory. Likewise with friends of mine in a round of Mortal Kombat, I’ve had my ass handed to me by their random thumb-flailings, despite my experience with the tile.
But it’s that very random chance at winning, that has made them want to go out and buy a fighting game, so that they could learn how to play it properly. And truth be told, the more people playing, the better the experience is at the end of the day.
As for Harada, his next stab at nuanced button-mashing, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, is out on PS3 and Xbox 360 in September.