Don’t worry about balance in fighting games. 5 Reasons coming up!

Balance, or rather the lack thereof, is the most common complaint in all of fighting games. Every player of every game has their own unique take on it, and with their own ability to win matches on the line, the arguments can get heated. If you wake up in cold sweats at night worrying about what’s going to happen to your character in AE2012, read on to discover why you just shouldn’t care.

1. Balance doesn’t make a game fun.

A few examples of some perfectly balanced games: the original Street Fighter, Karate Champ, Pong. None of which, I imagine, you’d want to play for any great length of time. A game can be plenty unbalanced and still be a ton of fun to play, even competitively. There’s a reason Marvel vs. Capcom 2’s core of only 4 viable point characters was enough to sustain interest in the game for almost a decade: those characters possess a veritable wealth of options and potential for mastery. Conversely, better balance is often achieved by normalizing the obvious strengths and weaknesses of characters, making them play more similarly. You then end up with a game that, while ostensibly more balanced, has less variety in the way characters actually play – defeating the purpose of balancing the game in the first place.

Would you want to play this for 10 years?

2. You don’t have to pick bad characters.

Much complaining about balance is the result of a player’s irrational attachment to a certain character that just can’t compete. Competitive players are in constant search of superior tactics, and advocate doing anything necessary within the rules of the game to get the win. So why do so many players not consider character selection part of that equation? Hampering yourself with an allegiance to an uncompetitive character is no different from forcing yourself to play Ryu without using fireballs; both are totally artificial constraints that you only have yourself to blame for adhering to. The game begins on the character select screen.

3. Balance isn’t static.

It seems obvious that a game’s balance will evolve as players improve and make new discoveries, but some people still act like these things are set in stone. Players who complained about Iceman on week one of MvC2 probably feel mighty silly right now, and even Cable, who dominated that game completely for months on end, is now relegated to the bottom of the top tier. Abel and C. Viper began climbing the ranks in the latter days of vanilla Street Fighter IV, and knowing what we know now, there’s a good chance Cammy was much more competitive than anyone realized at the time. This illustrates a hazard of begging for balance changes – the game gets “fixed” before you even know what needs fixing.

The god of week 1 MvC2.

4. It’s a futile endeavor.

In the history of asymmetric fighting games, exactly none of them have ever allowed all characters to compete on an equal footing. Maj observed that in the “classic” Capcom games a top tier of four characters plus an upper-mid tier of a few more has been enough to support years of competitive play. Given this precedent, why would you expect that the future will be any different? Yes, it’s easier to patch games now, but throughout history fighting game updates have usually just shuffled around the tiers, not actually made them more balanced – that’s the nature of trying to balance a game where one change to address one matchup can have completely unintended effects on the rest of the game.

There’s something very fulfilling about watching a game develop over the course of several years, which has sadly been lost in this modern generation of constant updates. A game is never old enough to declare its balance set in stone, as the ascension of Super Turbo’s Old T. Hawk to upper-mid tier after over ten years of languishing in the bottom tier proves.

5. You probably aren’t good enough.

The numbers you see in matchup charts are, if they have any credibility at all, assembled by top players. The rating for any matchup is thus contingent on both players being able to perform at the level of top players; the same matchup between mid- or low-level players could display a totally different balance. A classic example would be Super Turbo Honda vs. Bison (Dictator), which common wisdom states Honda wins at the low level, Bison wins at the intermediate level, but Honda again wins at the high level.

More importantly, at any level of play below the very top there is a very simple solution to any balance problems you encounter: get better at the game. If you’re that much better than your opponent, even the worst matchup ratings go out the window. It’s only at the very highest levels of play, where there really isn’t much room for improvement, that such concerns are legitimate. So maybe, say, Uryo has the right to complain about his character’s bad matchups, but you probably don’t. Step your game up!


This article was made by a very new blogger on one of the most visited fighting game message boards and blogs. I for one think that this guy is full of &%$^.

F$#% this guy. Cmon, “you probably arent good enough.”  What kind of motivation is that? I wanna shoot this guy.


~ by Philip Chotipradit on November 29, 2011.

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