Gaming My Way

09 Feb

This Game Doesn’t Have Enough Characters

There is a trend I’m noticing when it comes to licensed fighting games, such as Naruto and DBZ, and reactions that players have to them. They tell me that any given game needs more characters. Now, I can understand why: they want to play their favorite matches that happened in the show, or set up dream matches that never will happen in the show, or any of the other things you might think to try in a licensed fighter.

Here’s the problem: whenever someone makes this complaint, it’s made with regard to the first game of the series, and said game has a respectable number of characters when looking at it as a fighting game and not as a licensed property.

Pop-quiz: How many characters did the original Super Smash Bros. game have? 12.

Mortal Kombat? 7.

Street Fighter? 2!!! And they’re just pallete swaps with the same moveset. Ok, so that one’s a low blow, and I’m fairly sure the game did poorly compared to most starting fighters, so we’ll go with Street Fighter II, which has 8 characters.

Now, notice anything interesting here? All of these games, regardless of generation, have a respectable, but not huge, selection of characters, not counting the original Street Fighter. Now, in attempting to do a licensed game right, developers have to focus on making the characters who are in the game worthwhile characters to play, as well as design the rest of the engine from the ground up. All of this takes a long time to do. And while I know licensed fighters aren’t always in the highest echelons of the fighting game genre, some of them, particularly the various Naruto series and the DBZ games since Budokai 3 have been games that I can say have been fun. They’re no Soul Calibur or Super Smash Bros., but they are entertaining.

As an example of what I’m talking about, within the past year, Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit came out. Want to hear the biggest criticism I hear as to why people don’t want it? There aren’t enough characters! However, it has 20 characters, and is the first game in this particular series of DBZ games. That’s a very respectable number of fighters to choose from. In this case, the problem is that players are comparing this game to Budokai Tenkaichi 3, which has a ridiculous number of playable characters to choose from, even after accounting for alternate forms and various forms of Super Saiyajin. It’s also the third game of its respective series, so the developers had a lot more time to add characters, since they only needed to tweak the engine instead of develop it from the ground up. For those who wish to know, there are 162 characters in this game, though as I said, some are simply the powered up forms of other characters. Expecting a new series to compete with that is crazy.

What people need to remember is that designing a new engine takes time. So does designing new fighters. Sure, they’re basically drawn for you, and you have an idea of what their super moves will be, but that all still has to actually be drawn, programmed, and so on by the designers. In subsequent games of a series, you can basically tweak old characters, tweak the engine, then jump into designing new characters. I’m sure this is a simplification, but it’s something to consider the next time you think about ragging on a new series just because it doesn’t have as many characters as you think it should have.

Besides, most licensed games are still on a level that you can likely find much more legitimate complaints about in regards to gameplay anyway, without expecting the developers to go beyond what is reasonable in making a game.


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6 Responses to “This Game Doesn’t Have Enough Characters”

  1. 1
    Michael Chui Says:

    Now, in attempting to do a licensed game right, developers have to focus on making the characters who are in the game worthwhile characters to play, as well as design the rest of the engine from the ground up. All of this takes a long time to do.

    A different thing to remember is that you’re usually balancing pairings. Do a little bit of combinations. For 8 characters, you have 28 combinations. For 20, you have 190 combinations. For 162, you have 13041 combinations.

    Imagine the developers actually going through each pair and checking those for balance. And the best way to do that checking is to actually play it through a few times. (Automating it using AI would be possible, but arguably lower quality for anyone with brains or dedication.)

  2. 2
    Eclipse Says:

    Hi Michael, and thanks for dropping by.

    You make an excellent point about needing to test for combinations of fighters, and I wish I’d thought to include that when I was writing this post.

    In truth, I doubt developers test every combination in games with ridiculous numbers of fighters. Still, I imagine they would test pairings they expect to be troublesome, to make sure that they work out well enough. Other than that, my guess is they use their feel for the game and mechanics most of the time, and test when they think there might be a problem.

  3. 3
    Carnival of Video Game Bloggers, March 2009 @ The Collected Writings of James Newton Says:

    [...] green-fingered Eclipse is next with two offerings: the first is This Game Doesn’t Have Enough Characters, a sentiment which, as a Sonic fan, I’ve never shared. However, Video Games vs. [...]

  4. 4
    Winter Says:

    Often times (when they want the games to be balanced) developers WILL test every paring, as much as they are able to at least. Obviously with huge, crazy games like Dragonball (or Marvel vs Capcom 2 or what have you) that’s not possible, but for normal fighting games they will absolutely test them. For example, Sirlin (of sirlin.net) relied on the years of experience everyone had with Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo when he was making HD Remix mode (rebalanced mode) of SSF2T:HDR. As an example, he said that he discovered in a certain match the key for one character was to do a certain move over and over again by having someone mention it to him at the end of a tournament he ran once. Years later, someone else mentioned the key to playing the OTHER character in that match to him.

    So that’s the kind of balance that can go into a game. In the huge roster games, though, you don’t get that… (There are ways you can mitigate the problem of a big roster, mind you…)

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