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Training Room / Balance?
« on: July 25, 2011, 07:13:32 PM »
In the earlier years of the competitive fighting game community, games which were balanced in terms of tournament-viable characters were somewhat scarce. However, due to a few fighting games in recent years, many players have asked for balanced character casts. Some of the demands for balance may be reasonable, other may not.

Namco is known for releasing a balance update for their Tekken series after the intitial title is released. Namco pays attention to the demands of the community, and watches closely for what characters may have distinct advantages over other characters. In response, Namco will either tone-down, alter, or completely remove whatever techniques the character possessed which were deemed too powerful or unfair.

Another example being the Street Fighter 4 series. The initial release of Street Fighter 4 introduced an entirely new game, which of course could not come without any potential balance issues. Some issues included the tools which were universal to all characters being very poor to some, many characters doing much more damage and stun for significantly less effort, and unfair and definitive advantages in terms of matchups. Capcom then releases Super Street Fighter 4 which added 10 more characters, and balanced the cast greatly. By the end of its lifetime, Super Street Fighter 4 was considered a very balanced game. Capcom then releases Super Street Fighter 4 Arcade Edition, which contrasts Capcom's efforts in balance in the previous release. Some characters received unnecessary or excessive buffs, 2 new characters who possess incredibly strong tools were added, and some characters who needed small buffs to be stronger were either ignored or received buffs which did not benefit the character strongly in terms of matchups and competitive play. Due to such, many players have cried to Capcom for nerfs in a patch or update, as these players feel such strengths these characters possess are difficult to overcome. Capcom, being a company which directly listens to its fanbase, will most likely do something to address the balance issues of Arcade Edition.

However, with Namco and Capcom taking some effort in keeping the game enjoyable to the player of any character, the same players who are used to such treatment are not offered such hospitality in other fighting games. One example being The King of Fighters series.
In the latest installment, King of Fighters XIII, the game for the most part boasts a relatively balanced and reasonable cast of characters, until 2 particular characters are put into the equation. One of them boasts a powerful, invincible, and very fast attack which possesses an excessively high damage output, and is capable of putting any match into his favor instantly, along with strong attacks right off. The second possesses tools which hold a heavy presence in both the ground and the air, and generally has few to no apparent weaknesses. Characters as strong as those two in a fighting game are often dismissed under one of two titles: broken or overpowered.

Because the technology is readily available, many players will cry out for nerfs to the strongest characters in the game, and buffs for whatever characters said player plays. Such demands are merely ignorant cries from a player who: 1.) Does not understand the game at a technical level, and 2.) Does not wish to understand the game at a technical level. When a player demands a nerf or a buff to existing characters, the player displays a lack of knowledge of the characters' strengths and weaknesses, and instead of putting in the effort to determine a counter to such strengths, will dismiss any and all matchups, as the player honestly believes there is no apparent counter strategy. Due to such ethics, the players who complain about nerfs to top tier characters are generally the weaker players, or those who have a very difficult time winning against an opponent who has a level of understanding of the overall game mechanics. In many fighting games, top name players are less-likely to complain about an overly-apparent strength of a character, and will instead work towards determining a weakness or counter to those very strengths. The very mindset of the top player is to understand the game at some of its deepest levels, and at such levels, one must understand his opponents' choice in characters and playstyles, regardless of tier lists.
When it comes to demands for character buffs, there must be a level of respect and compromise. Once again, the weaker player will demand "Over-the-top" buffs, or changes which are heavily unwarranted, so the player can obtain wins easier. Instead, one should be respecting both the strengths and weaknesses of a character, and understand how one characters attributes compares to another's. Once a strong understanding of a character and the game's mechanics arises, one would learn how to maximize the use of the character's strengths, and minimize any weaknesses from being exploited. Only then can desired wins be found in any character, regardless of tier list placement.

In high level play, there is no meaning as to whether a fighting game is balanced or not. The thoughts of a balanced fighting game are merely myths created by weaker players. The general consensus of a balanced fighting game is where every character is viable in a competitive environment. Such ideas are passive, and are contradicted when the idea of character specific matchups are involved. With the laws of matchups, it all depends on how one character's attributes compare and contrast to another's, and because of such, it is very possible for a lower tier character to beat a higher tier character. A character which is placed in high tiers is placed there because said character is very strong against the bulk of the cast, while being governed by in-game mechanics. However, no character is void of any counterpicks, or direct counters which may come in the form of any character or playstyle. So, theoretically, a competitive player may or may not obtain more wins by picking a character whose strengths are more apparent at shallow levels of gameplay, than a character whose strengths become more apparent in deeper levels of gameplay. Such a theory is why some characters possess an "Un-tapped Potential" which can only be found in the deeper and wiser levels of gameplay and understanding.

Essentially, play the characters you choose. Understand their strengths and weaknesses well, and capitalize them when it comes to matchups. The sky will never rain skill and wins down on you. You must work for them yourself. Stop looking at tier lists as definitive titles, and view them as a list of characters who will produce more wins in the lower levels of player, rather than top levels, where the lists are somewhat null and void.

Note: This is generalized as hell, so cut me some slack.

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