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I'm not really sure if it's a good value add seeing as it would entail asset generation.

The only value I see in it would be for variance but even that would wear thin really quickly.

Clarification: i.e. Backgrounds that don't add game play related features, just appearance changes.

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This post about de Blob is cited in the first chapter of Game Feel:

When the ball bounces or moves very fast, it slightly deforms, and while rolling it slightly sags. On screenshots this is quite a subtle effect, but when seen in action, it really looks fun. An interesting detail about this, is that it changes the feel of the gameplay entirely. Without the squash-shader, the game feels like playing with a ball made of stone. Then with no changes to the physics at all, the squash-shader makes it feel much more like a ball of paint.

In other words, yes. Appearance alone can significantly affect perception of the game mechanics, which in turn affects how players play. Swink calls this "interactions emphasized by polish", and it's the earliest working definition of "game feel" provided in the book.

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Playing against the same background repeatedly would get boring quick. Also in single player the stage selection generally meant who you fought against.

I remember always wanting to play on the air force base level in street fighter 2, and a friend always wanted to play Ryu's level, so there is some preference.

So yes it is entirely cosmetic, as with so much in games the visual element provides a great deal. However fighting games don't have much in the way of assets anyway, so variation in backgrounds isn't so much to ask.

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+1 Any game will get boring fast without graphical and musical variance. –  adamk Jan 3 '11 at 1:43
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Not only fighting games do this. It's a technique used in most games & genres. To name a few: Mario, Sonic, Zelda, Contra, R-type, Ghost-n-goblins, Out-run, Starcraft 2.

All those have several "tilesets" and "backgrounds".

The first reason, as PhilCK has mentioned, is that players get bored really when they get presented with the same art again and again.

The other reason is that art (even on non-interactive elements, such as backgrounds) adds another layer of meaning to the levels it is used in.

Take Super Mario's Ghost House, for example. The shadowy black tiles & closed windows in the background (and that music!) really do transmit something completely different from the ones in Yoshi's Island.

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Mario, Sonic, Zelda, Contra, R-type, Ghost and Goblins, Outrun and Starcraft 2 are not similar. Because the background have interactive elements that do affect gameplay. Unlike the aforementioned SF and KOF games, there was a reason I didn't put Tekken (starting from 4), Virtua Fighter, Soul Calibur or even KoF MI (as these games had elements that mad the background a part of gameplay and strategy). –  Wight Dec 29 '10 at 1:08
    
If you look closely, I explicitly mention the non-interactive parts - "black tiles and closed windows in the background". All the games I mentioned have lots of variance on those elements, even if they aren't interactive. –  egarcia Dec 29 '10 at 18:16
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Of course there will be non interactive parts as they contribute to completing the picture/scene. Your still missing the point of the post as the backgrounds should be taken as a whole in this context. –  Wight Dec 30 '10 at 7:41
    
I'm sorry, I don't know what you mean by "as a whole". Please consider adding more details to your initial question, so we can answer more precisely. –  egarcia Dec 30 '10 at 10:49
    
In SF 2 turbo you could destroy things and use the nets on vegas' level. Loved that game! –  adamk Jan 3 '11 at 1:40
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Keep in mind that not all fighting games have gameplay-identical backgrounds. I've played a few games where the stages had different environmental hazards, or secrets that allowed for special fatality-like moves when performed in specific locations, etc.

So if it really bugs you to produce extra assets with no gameplay value, you could always add some gameplay to the equation...

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Adding features is always a possibility, but I also wanted to see if background in themselves had any added value =). –  Wight Jan 3 '11 at 2:36
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