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The definition of Scrub in this question comes from David Sirlin's famous article, Playing To Win

I am a fan of fighters, and I am fairly well versed in design (I get my daily dose of gamasutra). However, I am also a MASSIVE Scrub. I don't like using tactics/characters that I feel lessen the experience or go against the spirit of the game (for example, Street Fighter's roll-cancel glitch, MVC2's infinite combos, Cable, etc).

I will practice and get good at using those tactics/characters, so that I can better defend against them, but I'd never use them against another player.

My question is, can someone like me design/develop a strong competitive title, or does my outlook prevent me being able to appreciate elements of design that are a necessity for developing a competitive scene?

My question is, are such elements necessary in creating a competitive fighter? What are the "gotchas" a scrub would by hindered by when designing/developing a competitive fighter?

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As a general rule of thumb, any question which begins with the word "Can" is very likely to have an answer that starts with "Yes". "How" questions are generally more useful. :) – Trevor Powell Sep 27 '11 at 1:48
I'd gotten the sense of that. Might alter the question a bit... – Jordaan Mylonas Sep 27 '11 at 2:03
Those competitive tricks were mostly unintended, (and in the case of the roll gitch) grandfathered in weren't they? Rest assured, competitive players will find what they can exploit, and do just that. – Noctrine Sep 27 '11 at 2:46
Plenty of these glitches can enhance a game, and just become moves you didn't intend to implement. For instance: Snake's DACUS in Smash Bros Brawl (it's not gamebreaking, and it makes Snake that much more versatile and useful). – doppelgreener Sep 27 '11 at 3:03
up vote 6 down vote accepted

The definition of Scrub in this question comes from David Sirlin's famous article, Playing To Win

Resist the urge to rant on Sirlin... resist the urge to rant on Sirlin...

OK, with that out of the way, yes, you would be perfectly capable of developing a competitive fighting game. As long as you pay attention to what you're trying to make, rather than whether you personally like it.

Most competitive fighting games were never designed to be competitive games. Or at least, they are descended from games that were never designed that way. Take the Street Fighter combo system; that is derived entirely from a game bug, yet it is the cornerstone of competitive SF play.

Pop Quiz, hot shot: as a game designer, you are presented with your players (or if the game is still in development, testers) having found a game bug which they have exploited. This bug, when properly exploited, allows them to deal far more damage than your game design normally allowed. Which means that a move that you could punish with one hit (maybe 10% damage at most) can be punished by 30 or 40% damage instead.

What do you do? Do you remove the bug, thus eliminating the problem entirely and allowing your original vision of the game's design to show through? Or do you instead allow the bug to persist and effectively balance the game around the bug?

The real essence of this Pop Quiz isn't the answer; it's your justification behind your answer.

If you want to remove the bug, why do you want to remove it? Is allowing more punishment really that bad for the game? What is it exactly about the bug that you find objectionable?

If you want to keep the bug around, why do you want to keep it? Does it detract from the challenge, because exploiting it is too easy? Does it make the game one-dimensional? Will it always be one-dimensional, or is this simply a temporary metagame moment that will get smoothed out as people learn to deal with it?

My question is, are such elements necessary in creating a competitive fighter? What are the "gotchas" a scrub would by hindered by when designing/developing a competitive fighter?

The most vital element when creating a competitive game is this: player stratification. Good players must consistently beat weaker players. Good players must have the tools to beat weaker players. The system must have enough depth that good players are able to do things that weaker players can't, and those things must lead to victory. The use of these tools becomes what decides who is good and who is not.

Exactly how you bring this about is up to you. However, consider that competitive gamers like the feel of owning the game and the metagame. They like finding and exploiting glitches; they get off on pushing a game so far that it breaks and becomes a different game. In part because that enhances player stratification.

As a fellow "Scrub" (urge to rant rising...), the hardest thing you will have to deal with is the simple fact that competitive games are not made for you. What Sirlin derogatorily calls a "Scrub" is simply someone who does not enjoy a competitive play environment. We see the design of what the game ought to feel like, and any deviation from that is inherently antithetical to that designed purpose.

Because of that, you will constantly want to assert the purity of your original design over the organic growth of your game in development. Resist this urge. Constantly re-evaluate your design as you see the game coming into shape. Constantly remind yourself, anytime you see anything "wrong", that you are making the game for people who are not you.

At all times, you should strive to remember who the game is for. You should make decisions about what goes into the game and how it changes based on how best to serve a competitive gamer. So if a bug comes along that your "Scrub" senses tell you is unfair, evaluate it based on how it actually affects competitive play. And if it helps create useful depth of play, then you should keep it (or at least promote it to a full-fledged feature and work with the good parts).

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Nice answer, +1 for you sir. – bummzack Sep 27 '11 at 8:48
+1 for the excellent pop quiz, but -1 for what I think is a mischaracterization of Sirlin - a scrub is someone who does not enjoy a competitive play environment yet insists on playing competitive games and attaching (usually incorrect) meaning to victory and loss in competition. Sirlin's written often he simply doesn't do 1P game analysis/design, not because it's not good, but just because he's not interested in it. – user744 Sep 27 '11 at 9:14
@JoeWreschnig: And the thing Sirlin gets wrong is his belief that a game is either competitive or not. A game is simply a game; if someone wants to play Street Fighter a certain way, who is Sirlin to judge them? Just because "the community" latches onto some game as being "competitive" does not mean that they get sole arbitration power over what is and is not the correct way to play it. The only time I judge competitive gamers is when they judge others for daring to play the same game in a non-competitive fashion. – Nicol Bolas Sep 27 '11 at 11:31
@Nicol: I agree there are edge cases where you can question if a game is competitive, but come on. There are two parties, they engage in actions directly against each other, and at the end a neutral arbiter declares one the winner and the other the loser. "Non-competitive Street Fighter" makes as much sense as "non-competitive football" or "non-competitive chess". (And don't try to bring up chess puzzles or something, we all know that's not what "playing chess" means in the real world.) – user744 Sep 27 '11 at 13:22
@Joe I understand your initial statement (on what scrubs are) but there's a dispute on semantics on what's a "competitive game". You are using a more objective definition, but Joe probably means "competitive gaming" which is usually seen as a distinct spirit or mindset towards playing a game. Scrubs focus on the ethics of winning in a highly competitive setting. I think that's the point the article wants to get across. "Play to Win" means that the end has all the priority, not the means. – ChrisC Sep 27 '11 at 18:27

All other things being equal, I don't see why not as long as you realize the side effects of the decisions you're making, and can balance the game appropriately given that certain players won't abide by self imposed rules of "cheapness".

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Just because you don't appreciate an element of a game, doesn't mean you can't design it. You may miss some obvious things, but that's what testers are for. From personal experience, my current project is just begging for an "Achievement System", which I've never found any joy in, but I see a lot of other people do. So even though I don't see the fun, it doesn't mean I can't work with it.

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The Roll Cancel Glitch and the Bugs found in the combo system that have morphed into things like infinite combos that you see in games like Street Fighter Alpha are obsolete.

These games are a dying breed and younger players enjoy the far more realistically gounded UFC games which focus on a realistic combo system with real world physics implemented.

Frankly it's the UFC games and even games like Tekken that manage to manufacture far more tactics and strategy during a match than the ridiculous 2D fighters we have grown up with in Arcades.

Don't get me wrong ... I grew up playing Street Fighter in an "ARCADE" anyone remember that?

Re-visiting these games now you realize button mashing and luck was why the competitive players won. ;)

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-1, if you think button mashing will win you an SF2 game against anyone of mediocre skill. As for "dying breed", SF4, Tekken 6, and UFC2k10 all sold within the same order of magnitude, and the genre is alive enough to birth a new franchise every few years (BlazBlue, TvC). – user744 Sep 27 '11 at 13:19
I'm lost for words. Do you even follow Evo or any e-Sports tournaments? MVC3 and SF4 are the headline acts of the competitive fighter genre these days. (Emphasis on competitive). – Jordaan Mylonas Sep 27 '11 at 22:29

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