#kofxv The players’ biggest complaint

It’s of no surprise that some players are unhappy with the newest kof, and will grudgingly play it while bitterly referring to the better one from before.  We’re now old enough to see that there is always something to complain about and that the argument will go around in circles.  However, there are definitely some grounds for the current moaning and it’s indicative of a wider approach to fighting game system development that ‘real’ fighting game fans will not like, as they stand together, yet pitifully alone, against the tide.

So, what happened?  It’s part of the fighting mechanic which the average player might not notice and the casual player arguably won’t: the throw priority on wake-up.  That means, when you get knocked over, when you stand up again, a normal throw (not a command throw like Clark’s) has priority over anything else.  So if the opponent tries to mix up your blocking by doing a crouching attack or even a standing one, your throw will win.  The opponent has to either jump or back off, or attempt a “meaty” which is a move that is active as you are standing, which is difficult to do (for the average player).  The intention is, from what I can tell, to force opponents to leave you alone as you stand up, resetting the positions to a more neutral game. They can jump or hop at you but then you only need to think about blocking or anti airing. Seems simple enough. Is it less stressful? Is it more fun? Ah, now that really depends on how you enjoy the offensive side of fighting games.

When you are knocked over, opponents can still jump at you, and employ safe jumps against those who have anti-airs.  On top of that, the top players are finding ways around the throw priority, which defeats the purpose and leads to even more confusion.  That’s not fun.  So why not just remove the feature and go back to traditional KOF?

Listening to the community of players was interesting as I heard valid complaints and on the other hand there were players who simply adapted to the new system.  It reminded me of the complaints when KOF14 was released, and there are still complaints about maxmode system.  It seems to me that it boils down to wanting the same old KOF system that most players are used to. But there lies the problem, will players be satisfied with the same old thing?  Would KOF15 be satisfactory with the traditional wake up and offensive mixup system, the maxmode tweaks and new shatterstrike?  Actually, I would say yes, very much so.  And Shatterstrike has barely been utilised.  The far greater problem is that the new system is intended to slow the game down and (I’m guessing) make KOF more approachable for a wider audience.  If we look at the complaints again, we can see that the high level players don’t like it because they have to spend time to find a way to beat it.  Should SNK cater to the hardcore, or to the general audience?

One could argue that players shouldn’t try to find ways to beat the system and torment opponents who are trying to get some breathing space.  Perhaps SNK should simply make standing opponents completely invincible, but that would completely destroy what KOF has been up to now: a rushdown offensive game.  And that’s the issue that’s facing a lot of fighting games today, making the game more “dumb” to cater for a wider audience, an audience that is very likely going to walk away anyway after a month, while the hardcore base are building more and more grudges.  The complaint is especially valid for certain characters like Angel, who are famed for doing crazy mixups on a fallen opponent.  As someone on the receiving end, you might be happy to see Angel back off, but for the Angel player, many have given up working in the lab to find creative ways to mix up their offense with you in the corner, and that is actually sad.

It was also clear that some players didn’t want to lose the advantage they had in their offensive game, and the ways they could trap opponents.  This is a key point that wasn’t lost on me.  Certain players enjoy finding frame traps and mixups to confuse and destroy their opponents, this takes time to learn and is immensely satisfying.  On the other hand, the opponent is upset and doesn’t understand.  But this always happens, does it not?  Between two casual players, they are just having fun.  In a high level tournament match, one will get blown up for making a wrong decision, so what difference does the sytem make?  Saying that it’s more difficult to attack doesn’t convince me that the design choice is wrong, however what does persuade me is that certain characters benefit from the system while others do not; certain characters need to continue their attack in the corner because they don’t have much chance otherwise, and the creative aspect, to find these attack patterns, is lost.  Even some Option Selects (where the player can input some commands to cover more than one situation) have been defeated by the throw priority, so again some players just feel de-motivated.  The game has definitely become more defensive in nature.  It’s true that, in the corner, there are less opportunities and less interesting situations, so the question is, is simpler, actually better?   There are more arguments about the system than just the throw priority, not to mention the comeback mechanic and the run-block… Is more neutral, more stand off, more slow, more simple, aka more dumb, the future of all fighting games?  Is that what will actually make KOF universally succeed?

There is the fact that KOF (and frankly any other game with a deep fighting system) has a stigma with certain crowds that needs to be eliminated, KOF needs to grow, to get more players.  In a world of low attention span, the ‘more simple’ concept seems good, and there hasn’t been any complaints, strangely, about KOF being difficult, this time around, but is it because of the system change?  Did players even notice?  A small sample again from my twitter:

As we can see, nearly 38% do not like the wake up system.  However, just over 30% are willing to adapt and 22% actually like the change.  Only 7% don’t even know what it is. With the 32% that don’t care, it’s very telling.  My followers are tournament players and likely a majority of more casual fans who like KOF artwork, so that’s interesting.  Tournament players make up a minority in the general fanbase, so which opinion counts more?  What will SNK do about it?  Probably nothing, like they did with KOF14 when players complained about EX Moves and Maxmode, instead buffed and nerfed characters to balance the game, only to make that change for KOF15.  So perhaps we will see the removal of throw priority in KOF16, hopefully where new players will be more ready for a more offensive game.  Or, perhaps they could make the change when they are sure all the casuals have left and turn KOF back into the rushdown craziness that it is really famous for, but then perhaps the stigma of ‘KOF is hard’ will return.

At a casual level, the new system reduces the amount of offense and makes the game more manageable, but against a high level opponent, it makes little difference.  The system reduces creativity and the classic rushdown but tempers down the pace.  Is that a good thing?  Will it make a difference in bringing in new players?  Right now it’s only making a difference to the high level players, while 60% the general playerbase is unaffected.  Would I like traditional KOF rushdown? Of course!  I love all the options and mixing up opponents.  But if the new system is proven to bring in more players, then I’m all for the change.  On the other hand this is hard to prove, perhaps it wasn’t necessary, and new players simply came for the good graphics and waifus.  In the end, SNK needs to take surveys to gauge this, but if they want to please their tournament players, they need to change it back, sooner or later.

Thx to Cristina for some added input.

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