Keith Burgun

Thoughts on Game Design

Smash Bros: Decapitated

Editor’s Note: Today I’m happy to release the second guest article for keithburgun.net!  This piece is written by lead artist at Dinofarm Games, Blake Reynolds.  Frequent visitors might also know him from the Dinofarm ART BARN articles or from the Game Design Theory Podcast, where he’s a regular.  Enjoy!

psall1I know I’m late to the party, but considering the subject matter, I suspect many have already left anyway.  The party I’m talking about is a rousing discussion about PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale.  I think the reason so many have departed is because the game was boring and forgettable, but many of these people might not have a full grasp as to what made it so boring and forgettable. Those who are still playing and are trying their very hardest to like or justify this product won’t last much longer, and I’ll explain why.

Most of the flak this game has caught in the past number of months has been quiet little suggestions that it is, well, a little bit similar to Super Smash Bros.  It has features such as Smash Attacks like SSB, directional tilt-attacks like SSB, rolling like SSB, air dodging like SSB, blocking like SSB, double jumps and recoveries like SSB, “A” attacks in four directions on the ground and four in the air,  “B” attacks in four directions, grappling from SSB, projectiles like smash, spiking, items… you know… every single mechanism to the last minute detail.

This complete thievery alone is enough of a blatant, cynical display of utter disrespect for the basic intelligence of the average consumer, and that’s enough to be insulting.  But hey – people re-skin a set of mechanisms all the time.  Re-theme it, tweak a few rules, and voila!  “If you liked original idea X, you’ll love cynical cash-grab Y!”

But plagiarism is not actually the point of this article.  A game can technically be a ripoff of another game and still have longevity, if it’s ripping off something really good and keeping what made the original thing good intact.  The point of this article is to explain why will nobody be playing PlayStation All-Stars next year, yet even Super Smash Bros. 64, the oldest game in that series, is still going strong.  The reason this game will be forgotten in another year is because of what they changed, not what they stole.  

I’m sure someone at some point in the corporate pecking order thought it might be good to change a few things, so no game journalists can claim it’s exactly like SSB.  That way it’s an “homage,” or “inspired by”, rather than “a ripoff”.  The creators’ disregard and complete ignorance of the discipline of game design is revealed by this “tweak.”

They changed the very goal of the game to something completely unrelated to the mechanisms of Super Smash Bros, and yet kept every single other mechanism from the game intact!  This severs the mechanisms from the core of the game engine, like yanking the nucleus from a cell, utterly destroying its purpose and identity.

For those who don’t know, in PlayStation All-Stars, the goal of the game is no longer “knock the opponent out of the ring”.  It is now “fill up a meter, and then use a Super Move to kill your opponents”.

PlayStation All-Stars Gameplay

PlayStation All-Stars Gameplay

That this new rule is a problem should have been obvious to all of us.  If we were thinking about game design in a useful way, it would have been.  We don’t, though, and so this crucial point was largely missed.

. .

. .

What’s Been Said

 

Most complaints from big reviewers are perfunctory and pedestrian.  Here are a list of “negatives” from GameSpot’s review.

 

  • Complex battle system makes for a steep learning curve

  • Lacks the fluid feel of a great fighting game

  • Horrible, pixelated menu screens

  • Some stills and a bit of voice-over do not make for a compelling character narrative.

 

The first two that sort of distantly address gameplay are so vague they communicate nothing at all.  The second refer to features in the software, and not the game, which renders them completely useless when it comes to a discussion on game design.

 

1UP.com addresses the problem more specifically, but doesn’t explain why:

 

“Regardless of these complaints, the crippling flaw with All-Stars is that the moment-to-moment combat feels rudimentary and lifeless. The action lacks a necessary element of friction to make it feel like you’re actually controlling someone who’s taking damage. Without this sense of feedback, you feel no inkling of self-preservation, which is one of the core components of any fighting game. Matches play out as inelegant ballets, with the combatants just swatting at each other without a hint of grace. The lack of a health system reminds me of being a kid and using Sock’em Boppers to just go to town on my buddies. Sure, you’re hitting one-another, but there’s no real damage being done. While Smash wisely approached its matches as a variation of a Sumo bout, All-Stars quickly feels like stretches of bland action all building up to someone using their Super Attack, which are the only ways players can score points. I’m sure higher level players will be able to find the strategy contained within the game’s combat system, but after spending dozens of hours with it, I still felt like I was just cheesing my way through a match until I earned my Super Attacks.”

 

Again, this reviewer feels how bad this game is, but isn’t quite able to state the reasons.  As mentioned in the introduction, there is a prevailing reason, and that is the severing of the core of the game from its mechanisms by changing the goal and nothing else.

. .

. .

The importance of a Core

 

Have you ever found yourself watching a film, and it seems relatively well-made, well-acted, and should be entertaining on paper?  Have you found that,  for some reason, it just feels drawn out, tedious, or just plain boring?  This is generally due to the mishandling of, or the sheer lacking of a controlling idea.

A controlling idea, in short, is a very powerful prevailing value revealed at the climax, a prevailing value which all scenes leading up to contain in some way, either directly or indirectly, to support this core at the climax.  It’s the nucleus, and in a good story, the threads of this nucleus run through every single scene and character.

The reason this is so important is because, if too many superfluous scenes occur, if too many tangential themes or ideas are introduced, if too much gratuitous action or violence occupies screen time, we begin to feel a crushing sense of bleakness.  “Why do I care? Why am I watching this?  Does this fictional world make sense to me anymore or do I have any stake in it?”  Engaging with the story becomes futile.

To illustrate this point, I’ll use a famous and popular example, and break down how one character’s actions are woven into the controlling idea for the entire film, and echo back to your unconscious mind when the climax is delivered.

The Empire Strikes Back’s portrayal of Darth Vader is actually very subtle and careful, and is tied to the climax every step of the way.  He’s not just a “bad guy doing bad things for two hours.”  I’ll give a quick rundown of the major events in his arc, and reveal how it all pays off in a holistic way at the climax.

1.  He is “Obsessed” with finding Luke Skywalker in the opening crawl

The word “obsessed” is used.  It’s a very strong and somewhat strange word, but the viewer assumes it’s revenge-driven for Luke having destroyed the Death Star in the previous film, and that his name has become famous for doing so.

2. He knows right away that the rebels are on Hoth, and he’s “sure Skywalker is with them.”

Vader makes specific reference to Skywalker, and again, the viewer assumes it’s because he’s priority target #1.  Against the advice of his admiral on the likelihood of this system being special, he insists.

3. He throws a very irresponsible amount of Imperial resources at one ship.

He’s after the Millennium  Falcon, and doesn’t care how many trained imperial officers have to die, or how many expensive Star Destroyers need to blow up to asteroids.  This is strategically and professionally very stupid, and an excessive use of resources for a single target.

4. He protects Luke when the Emperor calls him an enemy.

”He’s just a boy.”  “But if he could be turned, he would be a powerful ally.” are things Vader says in Luke’s defense.

5. Vader and Luke fight, and Vader can easily kill him, but doesn’t.  He’s toying with him/trying to turn him evil.

Why is he protecting him?  It’s obviously not about revenge anymore.  Which begs the viewer to re-evaluate the previous scenes.  Why did they use the word obsessed in the crawl if it’s not about revenge?  Why did he waste billions of space bucks chasing an enemy of the state when he ultimately wants to keep him as an ally?  Maybe his behavior isn’t crazy.  Maybe it’s motivated by something else…

The climax is revealed, and Vader is Luke’s father – now everything makes sense.  All of these threads which run through every single scene Darth Vader is in makes sense.  It is established after the climax he can make telepathic bonds with those close to him and the force, which explains why he was so sure “Skywalker was with them” on Hoth.  This is why he was protecting him, and why the word “Obsessed” was used. This makes the revelation have impact.  It’s not just a shallow twist.  The information is woven throughout the entire story.  This means all the time you spent with Vader has meaning.

Darth Vader in Empire Strikes Back

The climax, where all of the plot threads finally come together.

 

Super Smash Bros. 64

 

Games work the same way, in that the mechanisms of the ruleset need to be tied inherently to, and be in direct support of the win/loss condition.  Otherwise, like a bad story, your actions are rendered pointless, boring, and ultimately futile.  Super Smash Bros. 64 is a great example of a game whose mechanisms, though not perfectly, are tied impressively to the goal, creating a strong core of gameplay.

Here’s a chart I made that attempts to illustrate this concept.

 

At its core, SSB is about positioning, and using your positioning to gain tactical advantage and knock your opponent off the stage.  The opponent must use his positioning to prevent this from happening.  So, the attacker and the defender both have a set of mechanisms to meet the win/avoid the loss condition, which is to be launched off of the stage.

The attacker can attack directionally, investing in more risky, long attacks to knock the opponent farther away, and the defender can exploit this by evading the long attacks and punishing the recovery time.

The attacker can attack from the air, and whack you downwards over the sky, getting a “spike” which can potentially grant an early kill.  The defender has a double jump and directional influence to “juke” the attacker to avoid being spiked, or even to turn around and spike the would-be spiker.

When the attacker launches a defender far, the defender uses those multi-jumps to recover back onto the field, but is vulnerable to continuation attacks, as he is closer to the edge.  Since he’s coming back onto the stage, he has less of the “positioning” resource than the guy who’s on the stage waiting for him.  The defender, already equipped with a second jump, can execute a “recovery,” which is often a third jump and counter-attack combined, making such “finishers” risky for the attacker, as he needs to be in the air, off the stage and at risk himself, to seal the deal.

The list of interactions is extremely deep, like in any good game, and therefore it’s impossible to completely map out all the possible interactions.  The important thing to understand is that nearly every mechanism in the whole game is tied directly to the win/loss condition – knocking the other guy out of the stage.  Nothing feels futile. Everything makes sense.  Well, not everything.

The game isn’t perfect.  Items, blocking, throwing and stage hazards/unfair stage geometry are probably the weakest elements of the game, precisely because they don’t tie as strongly to the core of positioning.  They could probably be eliminated altogether, with some re-design work to compensate for their lacking.  This (coupled with the randomness, of course) explains why most serious players turn off items and only play on two or three stages.

(There are of course other flaws with the game that don’t have too much to do with being separate from the core – such as infinite unbreakable combos or character imbalances – but those are beyond the point of this article.)

The point is, Super Smash Bros. 64 is an excellent first stab at a system that is a fresh design from the ground up, with a win/loss condition threaded strongly to most of its gameplay mechanisms.  This is why learning the possibility space, attaining virtuosity and getting a deeper understanding of what it is to excel in the system is rewarding, nourishing and exciting 16 years later.

 

PlayStation All-Stars

 

Go back to the list of events for The Empire Strikes Back.  Read each one and get ready for the climax.  Then, take the famous “I am your father” climax, and replace it with the exploding shark climax  from JAWS, but change nothing else about The Empire Strikes Back.  Now, all the subtle behavior of Darth Vader, all the small decisions he’s making that spark intriguing questions,  it’s all futile.  It makes no sense, and actually goes from being interesting to frustrating.  The viewer’s time has been wasted.

 

This is what PlayStation All-Stars is.  It is a film with its climax ripped out and another unrelated one slapped in its place.  To illustrate how stupid this is, I have made a second chart:

As you can see, the chart is virtually identical to the one from Super Smash Bros.  But take a closer look.  There are no “knockouts” anymore as a win condition, but all the mechanisms to get knockouts and avoid knockouts are intact.  Look at the guy getting “spiked”… into the floor. Look at the guy doing a “recovery jump” away from a wall from which he never needed to recover.  Look at the obstacle ricocheting the defender.  Where this might have saved his life or set him up for a lethal juggle, it now has no tangible gameplay function.  And after all this, what is the win condition exactly?

 

Oh… the win condition is similar to the worst feature from Smash Bros. Brawl: The Smash Ball mechanism.  The Smash Ball is a super move that covers the whole screen, that all players put their controllers down for, fold their arms, and wait for the game to resume.  In All-Stars, that is the only way you can win!  And, like in Brawl, it renders every other mechanism nonsensical, incoherent and futile.  Luckily, in Brawl, it can, and absolutely should, be deactivated as fast as you can navigate to the menu.

Ironically, though it’s not exactly the same in terms of how to get this super move, the thing they “changed” is yet another mechanism ripped off from SSB.  It happens to be the worst mechanism in all three games, and is slapped on the end of a stolen and unrelated system as the win condition.  Why weren’t there riots?  Why isn’t this common sense to not only game consumers, but game-makers?

Honestly, I would prefer it if they had just unapologetically ripped off SSB.  At least then it would have had a chance to be a modern alternative to Brawl with some of the imbalances from SSB 64 and possibly Melee fixed.  Someone at Sony had to get froggy and attempt to make a game design decision.  I hope this article illustrates the bottomless depth of incompetence that is PlayStation All-Stars.  Most importantly, those still lingering at the party, trying to extract some value from this broken system can understand why they can’t, and that it’s not their fault.

I hope this illustrates further that we should have zero confidence in what is considered to be a AAA studio full of “professional game designers.”  It’s squirrels finding nuts in the dark, and has been all along.

Super Smash Bros. 64 happened to be one of those nuts. It was lightning in a bottle, with plenty of blemishes, but they still got a few things really right.   In the future, when we have functional game design theory in the same way we have music theory or the principles of the craft of story today, we won’t need to rely on these somewhat random moments of inspiration.  That’s not to say that there will ever come a day when there won’t be bad things getting made, but it is to say that when we do fail, we’ll be able to point to why. 

Posted in: Competitive Games, Game Design, Guest Article

  • Kdansky

    I disagree with one small detail: Items and the Smash Ball are not completely separate from the base mechanics, but interact with them in a meaningful way. The basic idea about Smash is positioning, right? A dynamic element like random items changes the value of certain positions on the map. If a hammer or Smash Ball appears at the centre, both players have a huge incentive to control that space, so they can get the item. Space control is part of the core of Smash, so those fit.

    The actual issue with these items is not what they do, but how they do it. Many of them are plain too strong, one-dimensional and risk-free. Instead of being a gold expansion in SC2 (high risk due to central location, high reward with lots of cash), they are just I-Win-buttons.

  • ControlBlue

    The lack of drawbacks to the use of most of those items is already a pretty big problem, but there is another big one, items are about RANDOM space control in a game that is not about space control. The fact that the items don’t have specific locations where they appear, that the player could fight for control, and even if they did, players only have a few real tools for space control (except some items, how ironic) make items just bad for the game.

    Not only they are one-dimensional, but they are also random and this randomness doesn’t interact well with the game.

    Although, there is only one redeeming factor in the Smash Ball, the random movement make the evaluation of risk/benefit for each player dynamic. If Items had this, in a less erratic and more predictable way, along with spawn points, and drawbacks designed in each one of them, they would feel more at home in the game, I think.

  • Eli Piilonen

    Haha, you’re definitely right that this game looks like some fucking bullshit. Your “ignorance of the discipline” comment was the same reaction I had.

    Star Wars’ plot progression might be a little tangential, though – it seems like AllStars is just missing any compelling risk-reward scenarios.

  • KirbyKid

    I’ve got some kudos to start:

    Great writing voice. I enjoyed the authority and confidence here. I also enjoyed the pacing and paragraph construction.

    Interesting connection to the film star wars. The way you broke down the example using specifics from the film held my interest.

    Good use of diagrams to help illustrate a point that is somewhat abstract.

    I love how you brought in some quotes to frame the discussion and give us a peak at the discourse around this game.

    Ok… now for the rest:

    The sort of “internet writer” tone is a bit of a turn off for me. Though not presented in excess here, there is an attitude of superiority and developer experience that I don’t particularly like. I think it’s great to critique game design based on what we’re given to play with. But to step outside of that scope and to talk about rip offs, and what the companies might have had in mind, and how they felt creating this product is too far on the side of speculation and internet-ire for me. You didn’t support such statements in the same what that you backed up the smash, starts wars, or all stars examples. So just in comparison, such statements/opinions are weak.

    Also, the way you sort of rally against all-stars is a bit of a fan-boy, internet poster type move.

    I don’t consider all-stars to be a rip off. I think there are other major changes to the design aside from kill-supers that make it distinct (ie, its static combo and more limited movement system). If you’re going to run with such a loaded argument, it would have been better if you defined what a rip off is. So what if all stars “stole” some pretty simple/common/generic design elements from other games? Besides, Smash isn’t the only 2D side scrolling combat game with ring outs. But hey, ultimately I don’t blame you/the article for having a particular bent against all stars.

    Ultimately, though I liked where the core argument as going and how it was framed, it fell short of a real game design analysis. You didn’t provide a convincing argument to why the elements in all-stars don’t add up or support the win loss conditions. Needing energy to use a super to get a kill is the core of the combat. You get energy by fighting/spacing/using moves. That’s a clear way in which attacks and character position play into the win/loss goal. Just because the system is a bit more abstract (super meter management based) than simply hitting someone and having that be the point, doesn’t mean that the design is completely separate from the rest of the actions. You exaggerated the design significance of kill-supers in all-stars.

    To make a convincing argument, you needed to study match footage and use a deep knowledge of how metagames and competition shape up over time. Personally, I’m close to working on really talking about the design difference of kill-supers in all stars and all the many ways this one choice affects gameplay on a high and low level. After studying the metagame of 4 smash games and competiting for years and doing interviews (and writing a huge blog on game design) NOW I feel ready to tackle this tricky design topic.

    And the way you so casually talk about the flaws of Smash make this article even weaker. put simply, you’re wrong about Smash in many if not most of the points you make. If you would like me to go into more detail, I’d be glad too, but I’ve written a lot here already.

    Peace

  • Blake

    Well, I didn’t actually say items were just bar-none unacceptable, but I said they’re some of the weakest mechanisms, because they don’t tie as strongly to the core for reasons like those you mentioned. I personally like green shells and bob-ombs a lot because green shells are a ballistic, “physics-y” item and bob-ombs are this little mini headgame. either way, we agree that most items are game-interrupting and overpowered, which renders player input, skill and the work they put towards a kill moot. Windfalls in a competitive game are always bad, if balance is something important to you.

  • ArC

    (full disclosure, I worked at Superbot on the game, but I certainly don’t speak for Superbot.)

    I
    understand your point about connecting the win/loss conditions to the
    basic mechanics, but I would argue that All-Stars does so. Consider
    your chart about All-Stars: the win/loss condition – the super attack –
    is fueled by the super meter. What builds up the super meter? The
    basic attacks do. (Plus, yes, a few other things such as Parappa’s boom
    box or Toro’s sleep move).

    So I would say that every single
    attack in that black-framed portion of the chart should have a red arrow
    leading to the super meter in the red-framed portion of the chart. You
    win with successfully landed supers, but you only acquire super meter to spend by landing basic attacks.

    Also,
    wall-bounces and launches/spikes can be exploited for super
    (kill/”win”) combos (very character dependent), so they do have tangible
    gameplay functions. As long as you have a super meter loaded up by the
    time of the bounce/launch/etc, anyways.

  • ArC

    Sorry, not sure why the formatting got messed up.

  • ControlBlue

    Now the point is, you could have removed characters being smashed, the SSB level design with obstacles and levels, and the whole floaty air movement and instead focused on what made the game, the loss and buildup of AP.

    Instead we get useless and time-wasting smashes all over the place, floaty and slow movement when SSB uses to create a mechanic of controlling the airspace, and levels that allow people to jump everywhere instead of being down there and gaining or stealing AP…

  • ArC

    I think that is a different (but certainly arguable) point. Blake’s claim as I see it was that AP accrual (basic attacks) and AP spending (super usage) were conceptually unconnected.

  • Blake

    I understand that it is a real time game that has hit boxes and attacks, and connecting those attacks increase a meter. So do almost all fighting games. And almost all fighting games involve “positioning” to some extent.
    The strawman you’re building here is to argue that just because you use all of these stolen smash bros. mechanisms to increase the bar, and then the bar is used to execute a supermove does not connect those mechanisms to the win condition in any COHESIVE, EMERGENT or NATURAL way. You can shoe-horn ANY mechanism to ANY win condition.
    Or…is it coincidence that a double jump, and triple jump/recovery are NECESSARY to express this system? and launching up? Down? Tilt attacks? air attacks? Items? an “A” directional attack? “B” directional attacks that are like “special moves? is this the single largest coincidence in gaming history, that these mechanisms just so happen to fit the “execute a super move instant kill” win condition, and that the exact same set of mechanisms serve a completely different win condition from SSB equally?
    Give me a break!
    if the endgame is to instantly kill an opponent by “catching them” in a discreet space on the screen, like a trap, the mechanisms from smash, which again, are designed specifically as a set of tools for an attacker to score ringouts/defender to prevent ringouts, do not support this in any tangible way. There might happen to be some overlap here or there, but THAT is the coincidence.
    If the creators were thinking in terms of design rather than stealing/frankensteining, maybe they would look at that endgame, “trapping,” and create mechanisms that support it in the same way. Thoughts of beartraps, spider webs, ankle traps, finger traps begin to come to mind, and some proposed mechanisms follow.
    teleports, fast, unpredictable fake-out maneuvers, decoys, a system to prevent the trap from being set or working properly, causing it to backfire. Sticky surfaces, snares. I’m just spit-balling here, but I hope this illustrates the difference and the flaw in your reasoning.

  • http://www.facebook.com/link6616 Rowan Idris Carmichael

    Got to say… Multi jumps, moves that give air mobility, direction+button for different moves, air attacks, normal attacks compared to special attacks, (also, trivial but this game had 3! Attack buttons, exciting!!!) but that list of things could describe Marvel in ‘Simple Mode’ just as much as PSBAR. And then we are also only like a few words away from melty blood too.

    Obviously the way the mechanics are implemented show clearly that they were inspired rather directly. But that list of mechanics could describe many many games.

  • KirbyKid

    The narrow minded arguments (or attacks even) that you present here are almost worth ignoring completely. Take out the bite from your response and try to look around the bias you have against All-Stars.

    Your little “rules of thumb” game design principles are a neat place to start, but you lack the clarity, language, and articulation to build a case to support your very strong claims.

  • Blake

    This is the most common strawman I’ve heard. Nobody is arguing there isn’t overlap from game to game, genre to genre, especially a real time system.

    But I’m not arguing that ANY similarities are a ripoff. This was a concerted, deliberate effort to replicate the movement, launching, attack system, item system, physics system, recovery system etc. etc. from smash, and then an incompetent decision to slap an unrelated goal to a set of mechanisms without understanding what made them work in the first place.

    It’s like, let’s take a piece of music. So you hear a melodic passage that is similar to another song. Maybe it’s coincidence, or unconscious borrowing on the part of the writer. Then you hear a song with several consecutive long passages of melody lifted, and then you see this trend throughout and entire album. At a certain point, the amount of substantially similar elements that occur simultaneously render the plausibility of incidental overlap very low, and the plausibility of deliberate plagiarism very high.

    This game is so, so similar in not only a handful of mechanisms, but the amount of mechanisms, arrangement, execution and relationships are so intact that to claim that “All fighting games have them” is just intellectually dishonest and a clear strawman.

  • http://handsomefatman.com/ Carlos Alexandre

    Keith made a topic about this on Fantasy Strike.

    My feedback is there.

  • John Meyer

    Stay away from the use of analogies in game criticism, especially those drawn from other media. It’s possible to understand a game without comparing it to something else. It might require a bit of effort to explain it, but it’s worth doing if your goals are accuracy and insight (I assume they are).

    Bringing this back to the realm of video games and not the irrelevant and obscuring example of music, maybe we should ask ourselves if it’s possible to construct a four-player, single-camera mascot brawler without significant overlap of established mechanics present in SSB, and whether doing so is worthy of scorn. The flip side of your coin isn’t “what should SuperBot/Sony have done dfferently,” so much as it is, “why should they do it differently?”

    Your arguments regarding the goals vs. methods of attaining supers comes off like justification after the fact. Your chart shows no link between combat and supers. When it’s been demonstrated combat leads directly to supers, your response is, “the two are related, but not in the right way.” As a criticism, this is clearly a weak stance, and your weird attempts to buttress it with blather about Star Wars and music plagiarism does you no favors. I’d argue your premise is incorrect. The player attacks his enemies to extract Super energy from them. When he’s accumulated enough, he activates a Super and uses similar attacks to finish them off. There couldn’t be a more clear link between the two.

  • Blake

    “Stay away from the use of analogies in game criticism, especially those drawn from other media.”

    -Why? Analogies are some of the best ways to illustrate abstract concepts in a way which illuminates something that may otherwise be technical or obtuse. It’s used all the time as a very effective pedagogical tool.

    -”Bringing this back to the realm of video games and not the irrelevant and obscuring example of music…”

    -again, how is this analogy “irrelevant?” It illustrates the nature of the strawman presented, in that when a long enough string of “coincidentally” lifted elements, at a certain point the line of “borrowing,” or “natural overlap” is implausible, and to deny PSASBR’s deliberate plagiarism is to deny a song thief because a single line of lyric may be different. For someone claiming that I have a weak stance, you sure like making bald, baseless assertions.

    “Your arguments regarding the goals vs. methods of attaining supers comes
    off like justification after the fact. Your chart shows no link between
    combat and supers. When it’s been demonstrated combat leads directly to
    supers, your response is, “the two are related, but not in the right
    way.”

    Wrong. The reason there is no connection is because there is no connection. I was trying to show that that mechanism is in a “separate box.” I could also have drawn red arrows from each of the mechanisms to that red box. And then I could have changed the contents of the red box to a sudoku puzzle and it wouldn’t have made any difference. Does that mean those mechanisms are then “related” to a sudoku puzzle? Or did a programmer “connect” the two? This is the nature of shoe-horning. In all-stars, the mechanisms are CONNECTED to the goal, but in SSB they are INHERENTLY RELATED to the goal.

    “”why should they do it differently?”"

    I stand by my conclusion. When someone doesn’t know what they hell they’re doing, the more they steal. When they steal the hard work, ingenuity and dedication of another person, they do not have a holistic understanding of WHY the thing worked in the first place. This is evident in the shoe-horned goal change, utterly destroying the system.

  • John Meyer

    Analogies are used all the time, but not effectively. Comparing “plagiarism” in video games to that of music is necessarily obscuring rather than illuminating, certainly when employed by all but the most deft of writers, among whose names yours won’t be found. Suffice to say comparisons can be made between anything, regardless of how unrelated they may be. Analogy is the tool of the intellectually lazy bully, not of the critical mind.

    The fallacy inherent in your argument, that there is a line being drawn by others between plagiarism and natural overlap doesn’t need examples from music or literature or Star Wars, or really anything, to be explained. Simply state it. We’ll understand, though of course we’ll disagree. As I stated, you’ve failed to adequately explore the idea of whether a four-player, single-camera mascot brawler can be constructed without “natural overlap” of mechanics from SSB. I’d argue it cannot, or at least it cannot while maintaining a certain amount of engagement and that always difficult to define “fun factor” we chase so relentlessly (or maybe “fun factor” is easily defined if I compare it to eating an ice cream cone?). Hence, your question isn’t whether the game should or shouldn’t borrow from SSB, but whether any four-player, single-screen mascot brawler which isn’t SSB should be made. You’ve decided the answer to this question is a firm “no,” which is fine, but it’s not fine to then review any other games in the genre. In face, I’d question why you’d waste your time doing so.

  • blake

    I love how, in video games, we call an original game design a “genre.” Calling PSASBR and SSB games of the same “genre” is like calling Tennis and Virtua tennis games of the same “genre.” and I love how you, like so many, conflate a game and its theme. “mascot brawler” is a thematic layer. If you wanted to theme any engine with playstation characters, you could. “engagement” is a word which communicates absolutely nothing. Anyone could become “engaged” with anything. In video game discussions, the word is used as if to say “it’s good, but it needs more engagement.” If you think this through it’s asinine. It’s like saying “hmm. I like it, but it needs to be better.”
    You argue that it isn’t possible to make a “fighter” system that is original that isn’t also largely lifted from an existing system? You might have said that in 1992, and the conversation might have been about Street Fighter. Then Smash Brothers comes out.

    Open your mind!

    Oh, also. I love how I’m a bully but only one of us is slinging personal attacks.

  • John Meyer

    It’s telling, if not particularly interesting, that you perceive criticism of your writing skills a personal attack. I’ve suspected from the start you’re less interested in discussing the merits of this (or any other) game and more intent on winning an argument. While the two may not be exclusive, you seem to insist on making them so.

    Mascot brawler is certainly more than a thematic layer. It informs the design and implementation both of core systems and individual character mechanics. And again, comparing a video game to a physical sport doesn’t mean anything, nor does it enlighten. There are countless differences between tennis and Virtua Tennis. In fact, the sheer number of significant differences between the two makes any comparison meaningless. You might as well compare Virtua Tennis and the Mona Lisa. In fact, it’s probably more appropriate.

  • Blake

    I’m not referring to my writing style. I’m referring to your constant implications regarding my intellect. You waste a lot of time attacking me, my tone, or my mental “laziness” and not my arguments. When you do, I offer detailed rebuttals, and all I’m getting is obtuseness and bald assertions. If my methods of “winning” are to attempt to respond to your claims, yours are certainly the rope-a-dope.

    Virtua Tennis and physical tennis are the same game, because they’re the same ruleset. The only difference is the input mechanism. They are not “different games in a similar genre.” they’re the same game.

    “Mascot brawler is certainly more than a thematic layer. It informs the
    design and implementation both of core systems and individual character
    mechanics.”

    you’re wrong. “mascot” is a purely thematic word. “brawler” is a thematic word. You can express “brawl” with a humanoid agent “punching” or you can express “brawl” with a bunch of physics and dots piling on each other. So yeah. Those are both purely thematic words. Period.

    If you took allstars and reskinned it to be all professional baseball players, the ruleset, and therefore the “game” would be the same. Only the theme would be different. And as to “informing the implementation of mechanisms,” well, yes. theme informs mechanisms sometimes, but you’ve got it backwards, because mechanisms should inform THEME. And the theme should be the best possible theme to express the mechanism. All-stars does it backwards, starting with a theme and a stolen system and “theming” it like playstation charaters. Furthermore, just because a theme may inform a mechanism doesn’t mean it’s NOT theme.

  • http://www.facebook.com/srwDomon Niccolò Ricchio

    An example is made in order to explain a concept, not to prove it. If an example is not cogent, you ask for more explanation, you don’t attack the example or the writer’s writing skill.

  • http://twitter.com/AdamRB Adam Borno

    In defense of the items, it only effects the game IF the point of the match is pure skill-based competition. The items serve an important role of tilting the scales, meaning that if a match is too one sided or too evenly matched items keep it from staying that way for too long. As a mechanic for balanced competition where skill is a factor items are indeed bad, but as a mechanic for a balanced game where skill and luck are factors it’s a great mechanic.

    Having items spawn in specific locations would kill this aspect and make the game less about controlling your opponent and more about controlling spawn points.

    The only item that I think breaks this is the Dragoon from Brawl, which I’m surprised isn’t even mentioned in the above article. I never had any problem with the Smash Ball, but I always turn the Dragoon off. The way you aquire it and the random nature of when it falls out of an opponent when you hit them change the game from knock-opponent-out to kick-opponent-until-piece-pops-out.

  • ControlBlue

    There is one thing you are over-looking.

    Items can also further reinforcing the position of the person winning…

    Balanced, SKill, and Luck don’t belong in the same sentence .

  • d.e.d.val@hotmail.com

    Really amazing blog. From the presentation to the information it was long but worth reading.
    It really packs a punch at what PSABR did wrong.

    -DedValve

  • http://www.keithburgun.net/ Keith Burgun

    Hey, thanks!

  • http://www.keithburgun.net/ Keith Burgun

    Will pass along the feedback to the author.