Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Competitive Scene – Fighting Games

There are many gamers out there who are so engrossed into their games, they have wondered whether they could ever make a living out of it. Who wouldn’t have that feeling for a game they are truly passionate about? Well the fact is that you can make a living out of it, and it’s of course in the realm of multiplayer games and competitive play. Now there are many games out there that have multiplayer, the vast majority of them don’t ever seen competitive play in sponsored tournaments. It is mostly games from the big gaming companies such as Call of Duty, Halo, Starcraft, Dota and League of legends who get the most attention and sponsorship for tournaments. However there is a specific genre that has gained support over a very long time in the competitive scene, and that genre is fighting games.

From Casual Game to Competitive Game

Street Fighter 2, one of the first popular competitive fighting games

Since Capcom’s release of the classic 2D fighting game, Street Fighter 2, there has always been a dedicated base of players who have stuck with the Street Fighter series and other fighting games for a long time. What started as simple fun between other people in the arcades where the game was found, began to grow in popularity and competitiveness as players discovered aspects about the game that made it even more engrossing and fun to play. Players learned the advantages and disadvantages of the characters, learned strategies on how to counter other players and other aspects that showed that this game wasn’t simple button mashing game. There was strategy and a lot of it. Street Fighter 2 got several updates in the form of Hyper Street Fighter 2, Super Street Fighter 2 which changed the characters in various ways, adding new attacks or balancing the characters. New characters were also introduced into the series.

King of Fighters 98

Other companies were also at work on creating fighting games, notably SNK Playmore as a competitor to Capcom’s fighting games, notably their King of Fighter’s series. All of these fighting games seemed simple at first but hid a surprising about of depth in replay ability in their systems.  This would turn a simple pass time into a true passion for some players. It gave rise to the competitive scene slowly, but surely as the games were played constantly and new fighting games were introduced into the scene.

Xmen vs Street Fighter, one of the first  popular "Crossover" fighting games

Once these fighting games began to become popular enough, “Crossover” fighting games came into the scene, where characters from different series and companies would join all together in the same game for a brawl that made fans giddy with excitement. Capcom was able to obtain the MARVEL COMICS license, allowing them to develop games such as Marvel Super Heroes, Xmen: Children of Atom, and their first crossover fighting game, Xmen vs Street Fighter. Further games would mix in more characters from each company, such as Marvel vs Capcom, not limiting themselves to a single series of characters. Meanwhile Capcom also made a collaboration with SNK Playmore, which resulted in the creation of the Capcom vs SNK series and SNK X Capcom series.

An Evo 2002 match in Marvel vs Capcom 2

Many local tournaments would be made, though not usually with any major sponsors. However by 2002, the fighting game scene, with the constant flux of new games and the popularity of them increasing rapidly, finally gave rise to one of the largest Fighting game tournaments ever created, Evolution Championship Series (Aka. Evo 2002). Players from all around the world game to join in the tournament now, it wasn’t just locals from the neighbourhood. These were the top players all coming to the US, in Las Vegas to participate in the most popular Fighting Games at the top. Marvel vs Capcom 2, a recent release in 2001, Capcom vs SNK 2, also release in 2001 were the main games being played in the tournament. Despite it’s age, Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo was also played, showing that despite it’s age, it still had plenty of depth to show for it.

Grand Finals match of Wednesday Night Fights between two well known Competitors, Justin Wong and Floe

 Ever since then, Evo has continued to happen every year, with new games featured every time and the amount of participants and audience expanding every year. Evo wasn’t the only large tournament either. In Japan an annual event known as Super Battle Opera was the largest event for fighting games in Japan as well and still is today. Evolution and Super Battle Opera are the two most prestigious tournaments that a player could win. Nowadays, local tournaments are much bigger and with the flow of information happening, it’s much easier to find out when they are happening and join in. The local events are now much larger, some not even considered local as there are even “Regional” tournaments which invite people from all over to join in. There are countless numbers of them now, but a few notable ones include SoCal regionals, Wednesday Fights. There are simply to many other to count now as the scene is simply massive. The fighting scene has grown from a casual pass time to a very large, connected community of passionate players.

But where is the money?

A Madcatz Fightstick

If you’re wondering how players are able to get money from these tournaments, it is all about sponsorships. Popular companies of fighting games and peripherals are all high profile sponsors to these tournaments. Players themselves if they are good enough can even be directly sponsored. Mad Catz, a creator of gaming peripherals and one of the largest distributors of Fight Sticks (controllers that replicate arcade cabinet controllers) was one of the major sponsors of Evo 2011. One of the world’s greatest fighting game players, Daigo Umehara, was also sponsored by Madcatz as well.  Players such as Daigo are so well sponsored, that they only need focus on playing in the popular tournaments, getting their income solely through pure competitive gaming.

Other players have created popular sites and youtube channels, where they have gained enough popularity to be sponsored and even offer products. The products might include fighting game peripherals, DVDs and tutorials, etc. Two well-known members of the Street Fighter community Mike Ross, and Gootecks use their channel CrosscounterTV to do this. Another popular member now is Maximillian, who offers video tutorials on aspects of fighting games. He became popular enough to get some sponsorship, though not too much. He was able to get the game early and was asked by Capcom to make a series of videos to build up hype for the release of their new game Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. He isn’t a complete full time fighting game competitor however as he has a job in game design he still attends to. There are various levels of different competitive fighting scene gamers, but it can range from full out playing to part time playing, winning tournaments and sponsorship.

CrossCounter's Website

Maximillian's online tutorials for Marvel vs Capcom 3

But the strategy in these games isn’t that deep is it?

As can be seen from the presence of Super Street Fighter 2’s presence back in Evo 2002, these games have plenty of life in them. The amount of depth in many of these games is staggering, though it varies from game to game. Games like Marvel vs Capcom where you teams of up to 3 characters on each side, and with around 50 characters, means you have countless combinations of teams. Considering each character has access to a wide array of moves, the ability to call your team mates in battle, it means there are a lot of different combinations you can experiment with. You can always some new combination you never tried before.

Well known player Combofiend makes a triumphant comeback against Marn

Even in games where you have a single character, you always have many strategic options. Your position on the screen compared to your opponent, can your attacks reach them? Do you risk using a long range attack they can jump over or block? Do you waste “Special Meter” just to give yourself some breathing room from an opponent’s relentless assault? There’s also the mental condition you’re in. If you are losing by a lot, will you panic? Or keep your calm and figure out your opponent’s patterns and predict what they might do in order to make a comeback from the brink of defeat? These sorts of strategies all happen at lighting pace in many fighting games. These can apply to both 2D fighting games like Street Fight or even ones such as Tekken which happens in a 3D plane.

Evo 2007, Match between well known Smash Bros players Mew2King and PC Chris

Even games like Super Smash Brothers gained a competitive following, though it’s not nearly as huge as Street Fighter it has plenty of depth to it as well. People usually look to it as a party game but 2001’s Super Smash Brothers Melee showed that it’s simply button mashing. Exploits to the game’s system were discovered that made the game even faster than it was, turning it into a combination of execution of combos (which normally you can’t really do in smash bros, at least not easily) and mind games. Predicting your opponent was also the key in this game. Make sure they make a mistake and make them pay dearly for it. And that’s what you go for in these games, mind games. Predicting and making your opponent pay for their mistakes. Different fighting games have different systems which will vary the amount of punishment you can do for those mistakes but that’s overall how these games become so competitive. 

Evo 2004, one of the greatest comebacks in the history of fighting games. Daigo vs Justin Wong.

That’s where the true depth lies, and the amount of mind games you have to use during a game is crazy. The amount of depth keeps fighting game fans coming back for more, helping grow a new community of people attached to the fighting game genre. Fighting game’s have earned their merit as being in-depth games worthy of being recognized as legitimate competitive games.

4 comments:

  1. Very nice post! Also, love the backgrounds and art on your blog.

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  2. Any blog with the Daigo Parry is worth reading.

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    Replies
    1. Good to see someone else who knows the Daigo moment

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