I'm growing older all the time. It's getting to the point where it's embarrassing.
I think Dark Souls is a work of art that belongs in a museum. The Royal Ontario Museum disagrees, but I think I'm starting to wear them down.
When I was in grade 5 I went to school as Robin for Halloween. The costume was basically a pair of green lady tights and a tunic that had to be Velcroed at the crotch like a baby's onesie. My self esteem never fully recovered.
I believe Alan Wake was criminally under-appreciated. It's unclear if this notion stems from a legitimate love of the game, or my loyalty to any piece of media that is going to include tracks from Nick Cave, Poe, and Depeche Mode.
Some of my stuff has been front-paged. I'm super proud!
Capcom is the best at making fighting games. Sure, there is a hatedom out there that likes to take the piss out of everything they do, but c'mon. Street Fighter is sill the gold standard of the genre for a reason. This generation we've been graced with the sublime thinking man's Super Street Fighter IV, the manic fantasy dream of Marvel vs Capcom 3, and even the quirky but endearing Street Fighter X Tekken. All of them great games, and worthy of the legacy of their fore-bearers.
Too bad the online experience sucks.
Capcom may be the best at making a fighter, but when it comes to making an enjoyable online experience, they don't have a clue. It's just something the company consistently stumbles with in all their latest fighters. Maybe it is an archaic perception of who is actually playing their games. Stubbornly hewing to an arcade aesthetic that doesn't exist in the West anymore and a tournament scene that leaves out 90% of the people that buy their games. Maybe it's just that Western developers have become so good at making rich online experiences that Capcom seem outmoded in comparison.
Western developers like Bungie, for example. They know how to make a great online game.
Imagine a perfect world. A world where Capcom was big enough to swallow their pride and shop out the multiplayer portion of their game to a developer with industry-leading online chops. Imagine if Capcom and Bungie collaborated together to make a game baby. That's a world I want to live in.
Across all of this generations titles, lag has been a enduring thorn in the fighting game players side. In a genre of split-second reactions, one-frame link combos, and delicate positioning, lag has been screwing players over from day one. Latency is a reality, and it is foolish to think that Capcom could somehow banish it to the nether realm, but when you compare how the most recent fighters have managed lag to the most recent FPS games, you have to wonder if they are really doing their best with it. While FPS games have been delivering smoother and smoother experiences due to clever net code and subtle tricks to ensure an even and perceptually accurate game, fighting games seem to be taking a downward turn. I've always found SSFIV to be an occasionally slow, but by-and-large entirely playable game online, but UMvC3 was often like fighting underwater, and SFxT was a slide-show pestered with roll-backs and glitching sound effects. Why are Capcom games getting worse while all the other companies are getting better at hiding latency?
-You sure were Ryu, you sure were.
It is frustrating how long it takes to get into a match in Capcom's latest games. Whether you are shuffling through multiple redundant menus, waiting for the game to check for DLC, or just stuck in the purgatory of a matchmaking system that goes nowhere, it takes a shocking amount of time to get your fight on.
Halo: Reach on the other hand is wonderfully efficient at getting players in a game. The menus are super clean and let you access all your stats, preferences, and see which of friends are playing all at a glance. Matchmaking is quick and takes mere seconds to put you in a game.
One of the great things about fighting games is that they are discrete piecemeal experiences easy to get into and out of. You aren't wrapped up in a story, or haggling over costs at the item shop; you are there to fight. Slowing down the process of getting into the game and into a fight WASTES that potential. Why is it faster to link up with 7 other players for a round of Slayer in Reach than it is to find ONE guy to fight with in SSFIV? Ridiculous.
Matchmaking has been a ongoing problem in Capcom's fighters. Whether it's pairing you up by your accumulated Player Points in SSFIV, you're win/loss in Marvel, or the complete randomness of SFxT, finding an opponent of similar skill level is a crapshoot. Capcom would do well to take a page from Bungie's book.
The matchmaking in Reach is second to none. I'm not a fantastic Halo player – it's not my game and I don't have any real interest in getting better. Still I played tons of great matches in Reach, and that's thanks to the matchmaking system. Blow-outs were fairly rare. The only times I ever felt significantly outclassed or on a ROFLstomp was when I was linked up with a larger party of friends. Either one of my buddies of a higher skill level was dragging me into a shark tank I couldn't swim with, or the combined might of our awesomeness was flattening the opposition. This is a reasonable limitation, and the fact that it happened so rarely is a testament to Bungie's online prowess.
Playing with friends is one of the best parts of Reach. I bought Reach because I had a few extra dollars in my pocket and the sheer hype for the game was hard to resist. But even under the tidal wave of peer pressure, I was sure I would just play through the campaign and maybe check out a few matches online. But I ended up playing WAY more than I thought I would because of my friends.
Imagine if it was as easy to link up with friends, not to mention friends of friends, in a Street Fighter lobby. I would play a lot more if those games were as conducive to a party atmosphere and group experience as Reach is.
Of course it goes without saying that Reach is buttery smooth to play. Bungie does a great job of tucking latency under the rug. I'm not sure how they do it, but somehow Bungie can get 16 future soldiers chucking grenades, belting off space machine guns, and diving in and out of Banshees and Warthogs all at the same time without dropping the ball. Capcom seems to have trouble telling if one dude actually punched the other dude or if they should roll-back the action. Not impressive.
-Buttery smooth. Like a plasma sword cutting through warm meat flesh.
Then you have the options and preferences. I LOVE that you can set that kind of thing in Reach. Want to play with chatty players in the good-time zone? Go for it, Bungie will seek out similar dudes and match you all up. "Shut-up it's time to headshot" pro? Right this way. You can filter for maps, game-types, all sorts of stuff – it's beautiful.
I would love to see that kind of deep selection process in a fighter. Imagine a system that gave you a better chance to get paired up with like-minded players. Set yourself as a casual enthusiast or a no-fun-allowed tournament player and be matched with your kind. Want to practice against Sagat? Tell the filter, have the matchmaker try to steer you towards a skill equivalent player that frequently chooses Sagat. Want to avoid a certain character because he's giving you fits? Tell the matchmaker to avoid players that frequently choose him (although I might have a built in timer that makes that request expire eventually, just so players don't get too complacent.)
I bet a lot of hardcore fighters might deride that kind of matchmaking, but who cares? I know too many people that love the idea of fighting games but hate to play them online because they either get schooled hard, find themselves facing the same characters over and over again, or just have a personality clash with the community. If there were more robust internal filtering and matchmaking options I guarantee you would see more enthusiast interest in fighters.
Bungie does some neat behind the scenes things to encourage a fun online experience in there games that could really help Capcom's fighters. For example, if a player is frequently muted by others in Reach, that player will be flagged as disruptive and automatically muted for others. UMvC3 did something similar, pairing players that frequently disconnect mid-match with each other in a sort of “quitters-hell” and it's a great start, but why not go further? There are all kinds of annoying troll activities that plague fighting games - stalling at character selection, lag switches, disconnects, ect. With Bungie's expertise they could ID players that like to troll and separate them from the population of upstanding players.
But this collaborative dream team isn't just about what Bungie can fix in Capcom's online game, it's about what they can add
Imagine the deep stat tracking Bungie had for Reach with Bungie.net applied to a fighting game. Doesn't that just give you a tingle?
SSFIV has a serviceable stat screen. It tells you your win/loss ratio overall and against specific match-ups. It includes some of the interesting tidbits that get my geek dander up, like times you've dizzied an opponent or perfected a round (few in my case). SFxT recently added a replay analyzer that has some neat ideas, but I want MORE.
I want the calibre of experience delivered by Bungie.net and Battlefield 3's Battlelog. I want DEEP stat tracking on all my games. What characters I pick, match-up results, what moves I used the most, which hit, which lead into combos, what did I get hit by the most, and on and on. I'm sure this kind of info would be great for a serious pro looking to dissect his game, but I just want it because I'm a geek. I get a giddy thrill from looking at my Battlelog results and seeing how my accuracy is with the FAMAS is or how many times I've been killed, and I would love the chance to nerd out over my fighting game results in the same way.
In fact, the only thing better than drooling over your own stats, is creeping on your friends. I've wasted a good chunk of my life checking out my friends BF3 stats. The combined factors of morbid curiosity and a competitive streak creates a NEED for me to know how I stack up against my buddies directly and check out the different ways we play the game. The ability to share this kind of info with friends in a fighting game would be a boon. Options for things like uploading replays to your profile to share with friends who could watch them in game, or showing off your various achievements and accomplishments would go a long way in building a better more cohesive multiplayer experience.
-The shotgun kill count of the beast. See, if I wasn't stalking my friends, I wouldn't have shots like this.
I want to see a fighting game backed by Bungie.net style stat tracking keeping huge swaths of info on the entire community. Which characters are picked the most, match-up records, graphs of peak player activity, all the statistical gooey goodness you can think of. That kind of tracking isn't just for the curious, it could be used to make something like an official tier-list or at least help identify systemic imbalances or problems in the game. Now that I put it like that, I'm astounded that Capcom doesn't do something similar already.
Bungie style official forums would be a welcome addition. Right now you have an official forum in Capcom Unity, which is this mess of a site that's hard to navigate and filled with junk, and the next-best-thing with SRK. SRK is the place to go for deep fighting game knowledge and is much more accessible than Unity. Problem is, SRK is filled with abrasive jerks, shit-talkers, punitive mods, and all sorts of other unpleasantness. It is THE fighting game forum, but it is a tough place for a neophyte or casual player. Of course there are a dump truck load of other big name FGC sites, but they all lack that clean professional design of an official site. I really believe fighting games would benefit from a less fragmented and more inclusive platform to introduce new players to the community. An official forum that you could link right to your fighter profile would be a welcome addition.
One of the biggest problems with SRK and its sister sites is that THE PLAYER has to search them out. There is nothing in SSFIV or UMvC3 that directs the player there, it's up to the individual to decide to either get more involved with the community or improve their game and seek these sites out. Bungie would never stand for that. They don't hope that Halo players form a community and interact with each other and build loyalty to the game, they GO TO THEM. Things like Bungie.net, community challenges, blog updates, ect, they are designed to actively build the community. Capcom is blessed to have such a loyal fanbase, and they have made some effort to reach out to them with a more active tournament presence and community front-man Seth Killian, but mostly they seem content to let the community handle and grow itself. That's no way to do it in this day and age.
While Bungie is doing all this wonderful stuff for Capcom, why not go the extra mile and throw in all the bells and whistles? Progressive unlocks and customization are an important component of any good multiplayer game these days. SFIV started on the right track with the customizable name tags and icons (some available to everyone, many locked behind certain conditions and challenges) you could select to represent yourself online with. Bungie could run with that. Include more personal customization and unlocks. I know it's too much to ask for unlockable costumes and colours (Capcom's entire dreadful DLC strategy seems to be based on charging as much as possible for that shit) but even just having more customization options available to your nameplate would be a treat.
- Let the player make their own tag. Choose the text, background, image, ect. I'd dig it.
Combine that with some of that good external scripting you see with Xbox live gamertags and games like BF3 and CoD that would let you share that customized plate and some relevant stats about your play as a message board signature and you have yourself a winner.
Capcom makes fantastic fighting games. There is no reason for such great games to have multiplayer that languishes so far behind the times. I know this is just my pie-in-the-sky dream idea for a silly wish-list blog, but the more I think about it the more I want to see it actually happen. The folks at Capcom are professionals when it comes to putting together a top-notch fighting game. Bungie knows exactly what it takes to make a premium online experience. If you put them together you'd have an unbeatable tag-team.