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GN Podcast #484

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Smash Wii U review

Adventure Time rev
 

Sakurai on Smash Bros. customization, randomness, Melee vs. Brawl, the fighting genre and more

Coming from a GameSpot interview with Masahiro Sakurai.

"I like to think of Smash Bros. as a game with lots of interesting accidents. For example, you might have a terrain change that signals incoming damage from a hazard. Those sorts of things are fun to anticipate and react to while fighting."



On character customization

"Perhaps the best way to think of it is: it's not the strength of the attacks that change--their power--but the directionality of those attacks will change with customization."



On tripping

"I think we're going in a direction where we're not going to include [tripping] this time around."



On random elements

"When you boil things down to pure competition, it's not always the most engaging experience. For example, think about the 50-meter dash. This is something that really comes down to speed. You see a lot of people progressing in a linear direction, and the person who is fastest in the beginning is quite often going to be the winner. It's predictable--and while it is pure competition, it's not necessarily engaging in the same way as events with unpredictability. As developers, we have to think about all of these circumstances when designing fighting games."


On Melee vs. Brawl

"When I began working on the first Smash Bros., there was a great focus on [highly-technical] fighting games, and that's something we've seen branch off into sort of a niche direction. Now, those types of fighting games have a very high barrier to entry for new players, while Smash was always meant to appeal to lots of people from different gaming communities. When you look at fighting game forums, you'll see a preference for Melee, and yet, I think there are lots of people in the silent majority who don't post online who prefer Brawl. Ever since I started working on the Kirby series, I've always thought about the needs of the less vocal, beginning players of games."

On game speed

"I would say that the speed of gameplay [in the next Smash Bros.] is going to be a little bit less than Melee, but a little bit more than Brawl. One of the best ways to look at the fighting game genre is thinking about this pinnacle--this peak--we've built up to where these games have become more of a hobbyist [genre]. I think that trend might be reaching an end."

On the fighting genre

"I think the idea of the fighting game genre can be somewhat limiting. People have defined in their own minds what constitutes a fighting game, and that can be such a specific set of characteristics that when other people are viewing a game from the outside and they learn it's a fighting game, they may predetermine it's not for them simply because of what they expect from it as a fighting game.

When planning the development of a new game, I always take a lot of care to discuss the concept and try to define it as best I can. For example, I like to think of Smash as a four-player battle royal action game. You'll notice that's a lot longer than saying it's a fighting game, because 'fighting game' is a completely different label. You can talk about a fighting game or an action game or a racing game, but as soon as you define your game specifically in those terms, you start limiting your creative range because you're thinking of the limitations of that genre. Perhaps the best thing we can do now is start with a concept rather than a genre. If we can do that, perhaps we can grow the whole idea a little bit."

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19 total comments (View all)
User avatar
19 Jun 2013 20:56

You THINK you're going in a direction where you won't include tripping?
I'll show you tripping.
User avatar
19 Jun 2013 21:01

I don't see the problem with tripping... It rarely happens and lasts only a few seconds. And you can just jump to prevent that
No Avatar
Anonymous
19 Jun 2013 21:04

^Which is also a reason why it shouldn't be in in the first place.

I thought he already confirmed tripping is gone, so this new answer makes me nervous.
User avatar
19 Jun 2013 21:09

@TheDreamingHawk
It ALWAYS has the potential to ruin a perfectly balanced match. Tripping is awful, and rarely funny (except Captain Falcon's tripping. Dear God that animation always cracks me up)

On a different note, I really really really REALLY like that blurb on customization :D direction of attacks changing depending on how you customize the character? MEGAMAN WILL FINALLY BE ABLE TO SHOOT UP!
User avatar
19 Jun 2013 21:10

This worries me. Tripping should just be gone. End of story. It was a terrible idea then, it's a terrible idea now.

But... if Mr. Sakurai wants to expand on the concept, like say by giving some characters a move that breaks the ground up a bit upon which a character might trip, that would okay with me if implemented properly. As is? Get it out of here!
User avatar
19 Jun 2013 21:13

That last quote is honestly one of the smartest things I've ever heard a developer say. I wish more people in the games industry would take note.
No Avatar
19 Jun 2013 23:11

On character customization

"Perhaps the best way to think of it is: it's not the strength of the attacks that change--their power--but the directionality of those attacks will change with customization."

I wonder if he means that players will be able to customize what stick/button combos dictate which moves the character does...customizing movesets
User avatar
19 Jun 2013 23:17

kmc2482 wrote:On character customization

"Perhaps the best way to think of it is: it's not the strength of the attacks that change--their power--but the directionality of those attacks will change with customization."

I wonder if he means that players will be able to customize what stick/button combos dictate which moves the character does...customizing movesets

No, he probably means the attack trajectory; The direction that your opponent flies in after struck.

I feel like this may make balancing a significantly larger job for him...
User avatar
19 Jun 2013 23:30

He should take all the time he needs to make the game. So no more statements as "X thing going out thanks to time restraints".
No Avatar
19 Jun 2013 23:53

No one is commenting on his remarks regarding the fighting game genre and balancing the game for both casual and hardcore players?
No Avatar
19 Jun 2013 23:59

"When you look at fighting game forums, you'll see a preference for Melee, and yet, I think there are lots of people in the silent majority who don't post online who prefer Brawl."

I love Brawl simply because of the huge amount of things to do and hidden stuff to unlock. The actual gameplay is fun and frantic, especially when you play with 300% damage while only using Pokeballs and Assist Trophies. ;)
No Avatar
20 Jun 2013 00:30

BigLord wrote:@TheDreamingHawk
It ALWAYS has the potential to ruin a perfectly balanced match. Tripping is awful, and rarely funny (except Captain Falcon's tripping. Dear God that animation always cracks me up)

On a different note, I really really really REALLY like that blurb on customization :D direction of attacks changing depending on how you customize the character? MEGAMAN WILL FINALLY BE ABLE TO SHOOT UP!

I think he meant the knockback trajectory.
This could be interesting as you would be able to set your own comboes. XD
No Avatar
20 Jun 2013 00:44

I really like Sakurai, and I feel like from this interview he really is a smart guy. It takes a lot of determination to ignore the vocal minority and develop a game that everyone can have fun with. And I really don't mind tripping, I actually think its really funny. Its a signal, whether intentional or not, to people who take the Smash games too seriously: don't. I also appreciate his assertion that Smash Bros. isn't a fighting game, and as such shouldn't really be approached as one.
I think after this, Sakurai (and maybe Smash Bros. in general) need to take a break. Maybe work on something a little less highly scrutinized/anticipated. It sounds like working on this franchise has become tremendously stressful for him, probably much more so than Uprising.
User avatar
20 Jun 2013 00:44

"For example, think about the 50-meter dash. This is something that really comes down to speed. You see a lot of people progressing in a linear direction, and the person who is fastest in the beginning is quite often going to be the winner. It's predictable."

How terrible!
User avatar
20 Jun 2013 05:23

To be honest, I really like ALL of these blurbs of his. People have pointed out how great the last one is (which it is, it's one of the most thoughtful things I think I've seen a developer say in a long while), but I also really like this one:

"When you boil things down to pure competition, it's not always the most engaging experience. For example, think about the 50-meter dash. This is something that really comes down to speed. You see a lot of people progressing in a linear direction, and the person who is fastest in the beginning is quite often going to be the winner. It's predictable--and while it is pure competition, it's not necessarily engaging in the same way as events with unpredictability. As developers, we have to think about all of these circumstances when designing fighting games."

This gets at the heart of why I love SSB so much as a gameplay experience. It is NOT freaking Street Fighter. You strip it down of all of its personality and 'events,' and just fight as top-tier, no-items, Final Destination, and it's like you might as well be playing SF or KoF or whatever instead, because Smash wasn't DESIGNED to be played that way. It is intended to not be a sprint of skill but an ever-evolving and changing experience.

While I agree that tripping was not the best implementation of this concept, things like items and radically different levels, or levels that change over time, have all been handled with some great variety and engagement in a way that I consistently find more entertaining than most fighting games which often boil down to repetition, whereas Smash does not unless you specifically go out of your way to make it so.

In my mind, part of being a good Smash player is being able to adapt on the fly in the face of those random elements, or likewise being able to take advantage of opportunities that arise during a match. It's not about combo memorization but something more organic than that mechanical process which makes fighters like MvC end up feeling very repetitive and robotic by comparison (I do love MvC3, BTW, I just can't play it these days because in order to have a fighting chance with random people online you're supposed to memorize a lengthy combo and just repeat it three times to win a match).
No Avatar
20 Jun 2013 08:23

You can't balance something as dynamic as human skill with game mechanics because more often than not, the player with the most talent will always win. Why can't he just accept that and let people have their game where everyone could enjoy it at all levels, a trait that was only unique to smash.

Smash was designed with the intention of it being a game (which are competitions of skill) and it was created to offer choice, for you to make it what you want and whatever you want. If someone likes to play with items off and explore other areas of the game (that are already there) they should have every right to or if they want to use hidden (benign) techniques as every other fighting game has, it doesn't hurt to let them. What right should one have to completely deny others of playing how they wish when customization, or defining what you believe to be fun, was always a staple of the franchise?

Smash's Design in general makes it less linear to common things that plague other fighters, it introduces a dynamic design that deviates from the common Vanilla rectangular stage. It enhances the genre and magnifies the concept of Footsies or the mastery of mid-ranged combat.

Tripping has no right to return, as it should never have been there in the first place, it got old and fast. It had the possibility of triggering everytime you dashed and the risk increased the higher your percentage was. Many of my friends and family despised it as it was something they commonly experienced and did nothing but throw their hopes down the drain as they often tripped into an explosion or on a falling platform. It's also sad to have people apologize for hitting you when you're unintentionally vulnerable and if they do happen to win they don't feel victory because it was sheer luck.
User avatar
20 Jun 2013 09:44

The speed of multi-hit attacks hopefully gets a lot higher than brawl as well, moves like Ganondorf ↑B, Pikachu and Peach ↓Smash were so... dull looking in brawl.
User avatar
20 Jun 2013 13:46

I admit that Melee was a bit too fast paced for me, and Brawl was ok, so if they find a middle spot I'm good.
Tripping... I wasn't bothered by it, thought it was funny actually. But I hardly notice it really. Perhaps more competitive player find it annoying. I suppose its good that it is gone.
User avatar
21 Jun 2013 11:16

Sakurai, you are looking at things to simple. First of all, I don't see the problem with races. Obviously, the person who practiced the most and is most physically fit will win. If he starts off well he will probably win, yes, that is because a race is a small-scale event with only one preset variable (physical fitness).

This is the same thing as someone like Ken or Isai or any other pro taking on the average Smash player.

On the other hand, pros taking on other pros is more like the World Cup Finals or any finals for a professional sports event. You don't know who will win because both teams had to work against other amazing teams to get to the finals, and turn-arounds and comebacks can happen anytime.

Same thing happens in fighting games, incl. Smash Bros. Even without items and stage hazards, Smash's mechanics, especially Melee, are so complex and the competitive metagame is ever-evolving. People are finding new techniques all the time, and people are PERFORMING these techniques in live matches. People are performing techniques found via tool-assistance in actual match footage. That is quite possible the highest level of engagement videogames can offer.

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