This week in class we learned more about specific details that make a game. There was MDA, which stands for Mechanics, Dynamics and Aesthetics. There was also feedback loops and there was also Emergence. I will talk about these later in the post but for now let’s introduce the game of the week.
Tekken 6 is the sixth main instalment in the Tekken series of fighting games. These games take place in a 3D fighting arena, where players are able to move towards, away from the opponent and to the sides as well. It was one of the first innovative 3D fighters (as supposed to 2D fighters which only have towards and back) and is one of the more popular 3D fighters out there. I won’t mention the story since it’s… too confusing anyways!
Like I said, Tekken’s gameplay involves two players pitted against each other in a 3D fighting arena. There is a very large roster, of over 40 characters to choose from that have been brought over from the previous Tekken games. Each character has their own unique set of moves of course and all of them are usable by use of simply pressing one of four attack buttons (left kick, right kick, right punch, left punch) and with combination of moving in a certain direction. The goal of each battle is to of course, knock out the opponent by reducing their vitality to zero. Win 2 out of 3 rounds and you’re the victor. This is the same format that many fighting games possess and Tekken is a game that has stuck with this concept since its inception.
Gameplay of myself against various ghost (AI) opponents
For this game in particular, there is particular emphasis on punishing player’s mistakes. To truly shine in the game, you have to know the ins and outs of the characters you are both controlling and facing. Knowing what moves you have at your disposal and what your opponent has is the key to victory. Not to mention being able to predict and anticipate their moves is what determines the winner of a battle. When you see an opening, you unleash a large stream of moves that form a devastating combo. With the best circumstances these combos can take a very hefty portion of an opponent’s life. But otherwise shorter combos can be formed if your opponents don’t mess up too badly, but still deal a ton of damage. It’s this dynamic of baiting opponent’s moves and sidestepping to counter, or using a lot of fast moves so your opponent cannot even mount an offensive that gives the game plenty of depth. Every character’s vast array of moves and options in different scenarios means that fighting another player can always be different.
Game Designs of the Week
Mechanics, Dynamics and Aesthetics
Now about the lessons I learned in class today, I will cover MDA (Mechanics, Dynamics and Aesthetics) first.
Mechanics – meaning the rules and constraints of the game. These are essentially the foundations that the designers had planned when they created the game. For Tekken 6’s case, the rules were essentially, defeat your opponent, best out ‘x’ number of rounds. Win each round by reducing their vitality. Included in the mechanics were also the character’s move sets since they were planned by the designer specifically.
Dynamics – Is essentially the flow of gameplay and the rules of the game in motion. So to put it in perspective, Tekken 6’s use of attacks in certain situations and constant player decisions during combat is what drives the dynamics. Player’s are using the mechanics (characters and their abilities) to combat other players in a variety of situations.
Aesthetics – Is essentially the player experience, their reactions to that experience and strategies that might evolve from it. Now for the player experience, it varies. For example, for low level players, some moves can be “spammable” and can lead to an easy win. Now since the low level player doesn’t understand ways to counter it, they can become frustrated and call the user a “spammer”. This case goes for many fighting games and other multiplayer games in general. Though in this case, the “spammer” can be easily countered with the right thinking. Another example for higher players, after a very good match of constant “mindgames” (out-thinking your opponent) depending on the person they can of course either be really happy with the match, or if it’s a serious match (i.e. tournament match) they can get very angry or happy at their success or failure.
Example of a Spamming player (left player) according to the user of this video
Another lesson we learned this week was the feedback loop. Now there are two kinds of loops, positive loops and negative loops.
Positive Loops reward players for winning and getting stronger. Now unfortunately there is no solid example in Tekken 6 for this. If you win a match you do not automatically gain any advantage. Since it’s a competitive fighting game, they want to start each round in a match on even playing field.
Both their health is glowing red, this means they can both deal extra damage since they are so weak.
On the other hand, negative loops (a.k.a rubberbanding) involve players getting weaker as they win or making the other players stronger. Now there was some debate in class as to the true meaning of this since some examples were given that were not completely confirmed to be negative loop or not. However I will stick with the concept of making the other players stronger making sense as well. Now in Tekken 6, if you knock your opponent down to a certain amount of health, they will temporarily deal increased damage for a short duration. This is the rubber banding effect working. Because the opponent is losing, they get a boost to their power to try and even the odds for a come back.
The final topic was the concept of Emergence. It was really simple, it looked like this
Simple mechanics -> very complex dynamics
This means that our mechanics that make up the game, lead to some very serious thinking and strategy on the part of the player, coming up with ways to give the system we have built incredible depth. And I say that Tekken 6 and all fighting games in general are perfect examples of this concept of emergence. Tekken and all other fighting games started as simple casual fun in arcades, but over the decades they turned into competitive games. They now have tourneys and even have large sponsors. These tournaments happen all over the world. For more info on these events, check my competitive gaming blog.
The competitive scene is emergence in a big way
But anyways, the game evolved from simple punching and kicking, to full out mindgames between competitive opponents who dedicate their time into finding all the facts about each and every character in the game. They took the mechanics of the fighting game and thought up all sorts of neat strategies and combos that truly make the game competitive and truly use the concept of emergence. They showed that these fighting games have incredible depth to them and that those players who dedicate their time to the game will obliterate any person who thinks they can “button mash” to obtain victory against them.
So obviously as it can be seen, I have a thing for fighting games. And I've played a lot of them and have got to know their systems. I love Tekken 6's battle system and enjoy playing quite a few characters. But what I wanted to get across this week was more about the depth of games. Games that can achieve true emergence and provide incredible depth are the games that will be played the most. Fighting games are simply one of those genres that constantly provide this great depth and the companies behind them know they do. They build the mechanics based on providing great dynamics nowadays because they know they could get a tournament following.