Intuiting Expectations

You are playing an RTS. You have your units selected and you’re ready to roll out. Which mouse button do you use to command your troops to move?

These days, the answer is easy. You right-click to move. Thus it is, thus it has always been.

Except, not really. Continue reading

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So Close That I Can Smell It

We are now less than 2 weeks from Soulcalibur 5’s official release. I feel like doing some gloating. So I’m going to go over a few predictions I made and see what has come to pass. And like Nastradamus, this is going to get really iffy, really fast.

This first one is easy: No arcade release. It was obvious from the start.

Week Two – 01/01/11 – 07/01/11

I’m getting a lot of request for the arcade version from North America, Europe etc. I never knew there is a market for that overseas.

Thanks! I’m excited there are players from so many different countries! RT @merdenomss: There are thousands of players around the globe.

No matter where you are from, if you like SC, I want to include your ideas in the game.

Every country is important. It might be hard to include every single request, but I’ll try my best.

I have to think about the business side of things as well… but as a creator I don’t want to base my decisions solely on business.”

After all, Daishi is working for Namco, a company that reported losses for the last 2 years. Their last profitable year was 2008, when Soulcalibur 4 was released. Coincidence?

But I digress. The point is that Namco needs money, and they know that the foreign market loves Soulcalibur. They also know that the foreign market doesn’t buy many arcade machines. A cynic would say that the revival of Soulcalibur comes down to pleasing shareholders, but a cynic would also have to say that no shareholder would be pleased with an arcade release.

Continue to cross your fingers and hope for an arcade release, but my nearest arcade is too far away for me to indulge in wishful thinking.

Easy, right? I give it 4 Nastradamus heads out of a possible whatever.

Next, meters. Would there be a new type of meter in Soulcalibur 5? Daishi was already hinting at it before we’d even had concept art.

Week 4 – 15/01/11 – 21/01/11

I like the gauge system. Super/Ultra Combo, Rage, Tension, Kiai, Weapon, Skill, Power, Heat. RT @Wael3rd: What is your favorite gameplay…

There are many different gauge systems. I like managing gauges while I fight.

Gauges, like the Soul Gauge? Or maybe a weapon gauge? Or maybe a combination of the two, since weapons and souls seem intertwined in Soulcalibur anyway.

There is precedence for gauge management in the Soul series: Witness the Critical Edge.

For anyone out of the loop, the Critical Edge was the Soul Blade equivalent of Tekken’s 10-hit combos, though a well placed Critical Edge was actually useful, since it was guaranteed on a normal hit, leading to easy half bar punishment on whiffed moves. The downside of a Critical Edge is that it used up 1/3rd of a character’s weapon gauge to just start it, and it could be blocked. When a character’s weapon gauge was empty, blocking weapon attacks would disarm them, and they’d be forced to finish the round without a weapon — an unarmed character took block damage, had very little reach with their attacks, and couldn’t hurt their opponent’s weapon gauge.

In fact, Soulcalibur 4’s Soul Gauge functions similar to the old weapon gauge. Both are drained by blocking, partially refill between rounds, and would probably cost a player the match if drained completely. It’s easy to imagine a synthesis of the Soul Gauge, weapon gauge, Critical Finishers, and Soul Charges, and all the gauge management options it would represent.

As predictions are like hand grenades, I feel this deserves a solid 7 Nastradamus heads out of a possible 5.

Week 5 – 22/01/11 – 28/01/11

I like Random moveset characters (Mokujin) too. @BladeHero1: return of random moveset users like Edgemaster or Olcadan

Yes, please.

Hooboy. This wasn’t even a prediction. But it’s still a thing that happened.

Pure coincidence takes precedence over actual predictions when we’re dealing with the likes of Nastradamus. Ten out of ten.

Week 6 – 29/01/11 – 04/02/11

@tetubusi I put my soul in balancing Rock but he was changed again on the PSP version… Like I said I don’t favor characters, just in case.

Speaking as a Rock player, if Daishi was doing his best to balance Rock, he was doing it for a different game. Rock suffers from nothing more than Soulcalibur 4’s basic systems not favouring his playstyle. At all. But at least he was unique and fun to play. Given the chance, would Daishi just balance the rest of the game around such a unique style?

Funnily enough, Rock is much stronger in Broken Destiny, mostly through simple damage buffs and improved options. He’s still completely out of place, though.

Another non-prediction, but something I do have a followup to. I spoke to Daishi and Utoh (his translator, and a member of Project Soul who works an the game’s AI) at NEC–which means that, yes, I’ve played Soulcalibur 5–and the topic of Rock came up, though in a roundabout way since nobody actually cares about Rock except for me.

It was more about Amy and last-minute work done on Soulcalibur 4. See, neither Rock, Amy, nor Mina were completely planned additions to the cast. Each was a gameplay experiment, and each proved a point about gimmicks. That is, if your gimmick is compounded guessing in a game where everyone else gets consistent guaranteed damage then guessing right had better pay off really well for you, and if your gimmick is crushing your opponents guard then you’d better have some good ways to keep them from just killing you. But if your gimmick is just having ridiculously strong and safe mixups then you’re going to do fine.

This is a topic I plan on elaborating on soon enough.

Five Nastradamus heads because I’m really serious about this rating system.

Week 7 – 05/02/11 – 11/02/11

“Learn from the past and create something new.” No deep meaning 🙂 RT @broccoman: have you considered a retcon for the Soul series?

I think the title “Soul Edge” suits the game more than “Soulcalibur”. Other than SC1, the story always revolves around Soul Edge.

@zeonizm SE (SB) was about Soul Edge. SC1 was about Soul Calibur. SC2 was about Evil Calibur. The rest is all about Soul Edge.

Plus everyone seems to like Soul Edge better than Soul Calibur. It’s something I was thinking from a while back.

@satoda_eida I didn’t think Soulcalibur would become a numbering sequel. Thought it would change from Soul Edge > Soulcalibur > Soulxxx etc

@koo_j Yeah, I like Soul Edge better too. It looks stronger and the design’s cooler. Especially the eye.

@Harada_TEKKEN I know the real reason why the title had to be changed. I’m just talking from a setting, story point of view.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the chief reason for Namco switching from the name Soul Edge to Soul Blade for their international releases was the infamous EDGE Games trademark. With that out of the way Namco would be free to make a new Soul Edge game.

Daisha hints at a more intriguing direction for the series, though: a new sword, which would allow a new title, a new character, and fresh motives for all the rest.

Soul Edge was about Soul Edge, the sword, Soulcalibur 1 was about Soulcalibur, the sword. They’ve been playing off each other since then, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be more ancient and powerful weapons.

Imagine: Nightmare is again rampaging through Europe, with Siegfried on his heels. However, when they battle, a stranger shows up, holding a sword neither of them have seen before. The stranger states that his goal is to not only destroy Soul Edge, but Soulcalibur as well, and he attacks them both. Siegfried and Nightmare are too busy fighting each other to deal with this new threat, and the swords know it: with their mutual destruction at hand they combine to form Night Terror, leaving Siegfried and Nightmare drained and helpless. The stranger chases after the fleeing Night Terror, leaving Siegfried and Nightmare for dead. They each recover, but now have new goals, and a new, mutual enemy.

Any variation on those themes would work. The important thing is that a new threat would break the repetitive cycle of Soul Edge being broken up, recovered, broken up, and recovered again. It’s time to end the Cold War. If Siegfried is always chasing Nightmare, why can’t someone be chasing Siegfried? If Soulcalibur wants to destroy the evil Soul Edge, why can’t another sword, or owner of the sword, want to destroy them both? It would be a more neutral position, to balance out the good and evil we already have. And how would the rest of the cast treat a new sword? How would it treat them?

Technically I could have been more wrong if I’d tried, but who’s counting?

Certainly not me, so this critical miss is getting a solid 4 Nastradamus heads out of 5. Which is 2, plus 2 for effort.

Week 10 – 26/02/11 – 04/03/11

Good idea. Not sure who’s in charge at the company but we’ll have to organize it! RT @lifeasadesigner: Namco SPONSORING Nationals in JP/US

Take a hint from Blizzard, and put some money down. It attracts the players, it makes things exciting, and it pushes the boundaries of competition.

And guess what? Maybe someone at Namco is paying attention for once. Although, this being Namco, nothing good comes without a price being payed somewhere else.

Since this is less of a prediction than it is a God-like use of my powers, I only award myself 1 Nastradamus head.

Week 15 – 02/04/11 – 08/04/11

The story of a fighting game, of the new Soulcalibur, is 100% build-up. It’s about defining the setting, and about how the setting will define the gameplay. That’s also the reason behind Street Fighter 4 and Mortal Kombat 9. The developers appeal to nostalgia by reverting all the characters, and the story, back to early days. For Street Fighter, that means Street Fighter 2, and for Mortal Kombat that means Mortal Kombats 1-3. The setting then influences the gameplay — it could be argued that the reverse is more true, but that’s chicken and egg territory.

It still seems like a relatively safe bet that Daishi will hit some sort of reset button for the new game, if only for the sake of gameplay. He wants to go back to Soulcalibur 1 and 2, and he’ll use the plot to get him there.

The only thing to debate is whether the “joke” ideas are ones that he’s throwing out, or ones that show what he’s actually considering. Those are his 2 paths.

Gaze deeply into my crystal ball. A reset button for the game’s story and setting! Who could possibly have seen that one coming, other than me? Nobody, that’s who. Which is why I get these 6 Nastradamus heads as a reward.

Week 16 – 09/04/11 – 15/04/11

One More Thing

As this was another slow week, I’m going to write about something the new Soulcalibur game will have to deal with, something that I’ve not seen anyone talk about yet.

When Soulcalibur 4 was released Street Fighter 4 was still a pipe dream, Tekken 6 was flitting about in Japanese arcades, and Marvel vs Capcom 3 wasn’t a thought on anyone’s mind. Capcom may have brought 2d fighters back into prominence, and Tekken is as popular as ever, but if we’re going to play spot the influence — which I’m doing right now — it’s what these games have in common, and what legacy they’ll be leaving for new fighting games. That legacy is the comeback mechanic.

When Soulcalibur 4 was released this was not a standard across the genre. It’s not quite that now, but it’s moving in that direction. Mortal Kombat 9 has x-ray attacks and combo breakers and the meter used for them is built primarily by getting pummelled — you gain no meter for landing clean attacks and combos. Tatsunoko vs Capcom has Baroque Combos, Marvel vs Capcom 3 has x-factor, Street Fighter 4 has ultras, Tekken 6 has rage, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 will have rage as well, Street Fighter x Tekken will probably reveal a comeback mechanic at E3. Of course, there are fighting games without comeback mechanic built in, but they’re becoming fewer and further between, and more importantly Namco (and Harada, Daishi’s boss), and the company they’re working with right now — and the acknowledged leader of the genre — Capcom have been incorporating them more fully into each game they release.

The Critical Finish system in Soulcalibur 4 almost always favoured the aggressor in a match, and when it didn’t it favoured a specific character in a match-up. It certainly wasn’t meant for comebacks.

Whatever ideas Daishi has for new systems in the next Soulcalibur game, will they lean heavily toward the losing player? If there were a single factor that would keep a definitive comeback mechanic out of the game it would be ring outs, but those are also very character, and stage, dependant, and while many losing players will start fishing for ring outs, it’s even more common for the winning player to have forced their opponent to the edge, prime position for landing their own ring outs. Is that one-hit kill mechanic enough, though?

More importantly, do Soulcalibur players want a comeback mechanic built into the next game. And what does Daishi think about them?

Well, I think we dodged as much of this rocket as we could. Minor splash damage, mostly absorbed by armour. And with CPMA-like precision we even air-controlled away from any follow-ups.

Which is pretty much the nerdiest way possible of saying that while Soulcalibur 5 did get a comeback mechanic, it’s also very mild.

Whenever a player is in their last round they get an extra Critical Gauge bar. Incentive to use some extra meter in round 2 or 3, and a little bit of help when against the ropes. There is no Ultra, no x-ray. Meter is still built primarily from being proactive or taking risks.

Let’s celebrate with this trio of Nastradamus heads.

Weeks 17 and 18 – 16/04/11 – 29/04/11

Difficult commands only limits the moves players can use but changing them suddenly may make things feel strange. The balance is hard.

This time we plan on reducing commands like A+K so moves are easier to pull off on pad.

Which pad players will identify with readily. Moves with a+k commands are very difficult to pull off using the face buttons on the default setup, so most everyone binds them to a shoulder button or uses a shoulder button in combination with a face button. And a+k moves are mostly distinct, niche moves within a character’s total moveset, making them often the rarest and least used. But at the same time, they’re often that way because the other inputs they could be using are being taken up by more common moves, so if their plan is to make things less awkward for people using the same character across multiple games, they may still run into problems.

If they really want to work on difficult commands, they need to redo all the just frames. Not because they’re all difficult, but because many of them are arbitrary, and that obfuscates important parts of the game. Ditto for guard crushes.

However, some things are a given, like Ivy getting new commands for half of her moves. You know it’s going to happen.

Yeah, I admit it, I was on fire that week. Reposting that there would be less a+k moves–turns out there’s none at all–and also smoothly segueing into that knowledge bomb about Ivy getting all of her commands changed again. Too good.

A full 5 Nastradamus heads. The perfect score.

Week 19 – 30/04/11 – 06/05/11

It does look something like that. RT @Dizzy1080: is that what namcobandai’s new countdown clock is about i mean theres a sword above the book that looks like raphaels rapier

Let’s deal with this one first. I know it’s getting late for this, but I’ll do it anyway.

The sword pictured may have a hilt unlike Cassandra or Sophitia’s but it is still shares their origins. As I said in my last post, Soulcalibur exists in a historical vacuum that allows distinct cultures to interact with each other in ways that fly in the face of both history and geography. The sisters come from an idealized Greek nation (nominally the Ottoman Empire) and draw their weapons straight from popular depictions of gladiators and ancient Greek or Roman soldiers (filtered through the artist’s imaginations).

The swords they use have the very distinct leaf-blade that is basic visual short-form for ancient Greek or Roman. What they use is a artistic exaggeration of a gladius, and the most popular design for one of the most recognizable swords in history. The blade in teaser site is clearly the same sort of leaf-blade used by Cassandra and Sophitia.

Hilde is not Greek or Roman, she’s from a made-up Germanic country called Wolfkrone. Her sword is a generic European straight-edged deal with an elaborate hilt, which is only faintly like the one seen on the teaser site (and it’s her 2p sword anyway). The blades are nothing alike.

This sword is not Hilde’s.

I admit that this is not as spectacular as it seems now, without the evidence on hand. I guess I should have saved some of these pics since the sites in question don’t exist anymore. I’m sure someone else did, maybe they’d share them?

Bottom line: I was right and everyone else was wrong.

Four Nastradamus heads.

Week 19 – 30/04/11 – 06/05/11

Going back to the beginning of this post, where I explained why the countdown sword isn’t Hilde’s, I also have to admit that it doesn’t look like it belongs to the sister’s either, even if it shares the same features. Which means that it could belong to someone related to them, either a child or a sibling (less likely, a parent). There are plenty of options there: Sophitia has 2 kids, a living mother and father, a husband who at least knows how to make swords (he made both hers and Cassandra’s), and a younger brother. Any of them has the potential to be a new character, but I’d put her brother Lucius ahead of her kids, if only because he has a name with a proper mix between consonants and vowels and could be inserted into the narrative with relative ease, much like Cassandra was.

The Alexandra family and their relationship with Soul Edge and Soul Calibur has the potential to blossom into something as melodramatic and circular as the Mishima family conflict that drives Tekken forward. If Namco was choosing a new direction for the series to move in that seems as likely an avenue as any.

Yeah, getting everything right isn’t enough sometimes. That’s when I have to make bold and decisive predictions that turn out to be uncannily accurate.

Of course, I also missed the point by inches, and this time I put myself out in the open while trying for that pixel rail. It didn’t connect, so it doesn’t even count.

Three Nastradamus heads and a “better luck next time”.

I still think their names are stupid.

Week 20 – 7/05/11 – 13/05/11

そうだね。中に入ってるんじゃ… Maybe it’s Rock inside…RT @jodace0710: that rock has the same techniques of SC2 berserker.

Make that official and Rock has squeezed his way into every Soulcalibur game (just like Mina). That’s more than Siegfried.

They’re still not going to be in Soulcalibur 5. :/

Sometimes hitting a shot is so easy that you just feel empty inside, like you didn’t even want to hit it if things were going to be that simple.

And sometimes it sucks to be right.

A perfect 10!

Week 20 – 7/05/11 – 13/05/11

木人?…なるほどね~。Mokujin? I’ll think about it. @Furzy1290: We need a “Mokujin” character! 🙂 I liked charade best but any character would be cool!

Like the custom characters and their altered move properties, the eventual problem a Charade-like character could have is that it would potentially limit how character-specific some moves could be. Olcadan would, at least, without him sprouting extra body parts when needed.

Not to say it couldn’t be done. It could; but it may end up being way more work than the developers bargained for. I’d still love to have Olcadan back, but if that means sacrificing the overall uniqueness of characters then I’d live without him.

And sometimes you miss by so much that all you can do is cut your losses, roll your eyes, and type something sarcastic in chat.

O rly?

Another perfect 10!

Week 21 – 14/05/11 – 20/05/11

ありがとー! Thanks! RT @Furzy1290: The new swords design is incredible! o_O Very nice work!

Of course the big question now is who will be using the new swords? It ain’t Siegfried, and it doesn’t have to be Nightmare — he’s been without Soul Edge ever since his remake.

While the idea of Sophitia (or maybe Tira) being the new Nightmare may have a weird sort of fan appeal, and give them a way to stick her in the game without really worrying about her age, keep in mind that it’s as I said: Nightmare has been running around without the full Soul Edge for 2 games now. He doesn’t need it to be in the game, and if you give it to someone else then he’s got a reason to go after them. You can have your Devil Sophie all you want without having to throw out 2 perfectly good (and iconic) movesets in the process.

Close enough to a prediction that I can count it as a draw. At least I get Nightmare back.

Six out of seven.

And that’s it for now. I’d give out some lottery numbers as well, but I’m keeping them to myself. When you’re as good as I am you deserve to benefit first.

This Isn’t Your Aunt’s Soulcalibur

Or, Emergent Gameplay and You

By now most people who play games have at least heard of emergent gameplay as an idea, even if they haven’t looked for the effects themselves.

Not that I require anyone to read an entire wikipedia page before moving into the second paragraph of an article. I’ll lay out the basics here as well.

The term emergent gameplay is used to describe either planned or unplanned complexity that results from smaller elements that build upon each other and form deeper gameplay and strategies, with examples in every genre of competitive games.

As Defence of the Ancients is my go-to subject for this sort of thing I don’t see any point stopping that trend now when it’s most appropriate: As a mod, DotA borrowed systems from Warcraft 3 and warped them in ways that eventually made it so distinct it spawned its own genre.

Here’s an example that most people should be familiar with: last hitting and denying. This actually came directly from ladder Warcraft 3, where players had already learned that killing off their own units in fights would prevent their opponents from getting the experience, starting a sort of cat-and-mouse gameplay where players rarely engaged in direct battles. In DotA this concept was as applicable, so that while fighting against the other players, especially early in the the games, it was obvious that one player could kill their own team’s creeps before their opponent could, preventing them from getting experience (at least partially) and gold.

But there’s another half to this equation, one that depends on a subtler manipulation of Warcraft 3’s mechanics. That is, not every hero in DotA attacks the same way, either differing in range, projectile speed, and even their initial swinging animations. From this emerged better support heroes, ones who could stay in a lane and deny creeps from their opponents while their partner got creep kills, and an entire metagame around mid-lane dominance as heroes with better attack animations (and damage) had huge advantages, allowing good players to effectively shut their opponents down and stop them from gaining gold and experience, which negates the purpose of putting them in the solo lane to begin with. It became a balance mechanic, where heroes with bad animations have a much harder time getting gold early game, keeping them in check.

These mechanics became so important that when DotA was moved to a new, stand-alone engine and finally had the chance to divorce itself from all of Warcraft 3’s mechanics, every aspect of last hitting, denying, and attack animations were ported over faithfully.

What we end up with are integral parts of one of the biggest competitive games on the planet coming about because that was the way Warcraft 3’s engine worked when they were introduced. Through refinement and evolution they grew from restrictions to the building blocks of a much larger and deeper metagame.

There are dozens of other examples, from strafe jumping in Quake to the most basic 2-in-1s from Street Fighter that began the roll toward combos in fighting games. The point is that a competitive game is rarely the sum of its parts.

Soulcalibur 5

What does this mean for Soulcalibur 5? It means that what we think we see isn’t what we’ll get. This became increasingly obvious when I saw gameplay from the Japanese Project Soul stream and compared it to the many French gameplay videos that had come before. The approaches to the game had huge differences, and I think it’s worth repeating that the single biggest change to the game is also the most significant.

The Critical Gauge matters, and it’s time to start thinking with that. But it matters in ways that are more than the immediacy of Critical Edges and Brave Edges. The subtler repercussions are as important and interesting as the big ones.

Let’s take a simple example, one that should make the inclusion of the previous section about emergent gameplay actually seem sensible: teching (ukemi) builds meter. In fact, it builds a lot of meter.

Why is that particularly important? For the same reason that people spent hours in Soulcalibur 4’s training mode trying to figure out how long it takes each move to cause a Soul Break when blocked. A new system demands that we look at the game from a new angle.

Soulcalibur has had tech traps for a while now, but outside of those what were the benefits of teching? For laying on the ground? How automatic was it for most players to tech in most situations? What was the real loss for a character who had very poor tech trap options? How much worse off would Soulcalibur 4 Mina be with this new system?

If you’re playing against a Nightmare or a Siegfried, when do you tech? How badly do you need that meter? If you’re using a character with negligible options for preventing teching then how much free meter is your opponent going to get every round, and how well can they use it?

What has been obvious to everyone is that the way players will use meter 4 weeks after Soulcalibur 5’s release will be markedly different than how they use it when they first get their hands on it, but what about building that meter in the first place? If a particularly meter-hungry character goes up against someone who can’t even stop them from teching whenever they want, then how will that match be skewed? In fact, how much will the entire oki game be changed when every player knows that teching might get them that extra section of meter they need to activate their Critical Edge.

Suddenly the risk vs. rewards computations have a new factor to consider, and it isn’t a small one. Think about the supposedly 50/50 guessing game that takes place every time a character lands a normal throw. Why is the decision for which throw to break more than which button your finger is closest to? Because every throw has additional effects on top of the damage they do, be it a ring out to one side, or a position change, or just slightly more damage. When those are added to the process things aren’t as simple as they appear on the surface.

Tangentially, this may be the positive and negative reinforcement that is required to get players to pay attention to the game at a basic mechanical level. It will also become even more important to learn when and where it’s safe to tech, which direction to do it in, and how not to get relaunched.

This example represents only the first few degrees of angling toward the heights of complexity, and since I enjoy brutalizing metaphors, depth. I’m sure other people have already noticed mechanical changes that will effect the game as much or more than the one I described here, and I’m just as sure that more will be discovered before and after Soulcalibur 5 is released. For the players, for people who enjoy digging through mechanics and discovering these intricacies, the drastic changes being made in Soulcalibur 5 should be approached with an open mind, because the ones who stubbornly cling to old methods will be left at base camp. And since I actually don’t partake in any form of mountain climbing myself, that’s the summit of the metaphor, and I’m done.

Daishi’s Twitter – Round 19

Week 22 – 21/05/11 – 27/05/11

The gameplay screen I showed previously was the SCV screen. Like I said, balancing and tweaking is still one of my jobs!

For balancing purposes we are outputting SCV on the SCIV environment.

For those people who missed the Famitsu stream, I confirmed one thing. Nightmare will return in SCV.

Thnx to all who watched the Famitsu stream. I was talking while watching everyone’s comments. Harada-san was picking on me the whole time..

The most relevant part of that stream is this few seconds of blurry gameplay.

This is only a few months in, so it makes perfect sense that they’re still screwing around with an engine that’s mostly Soulcalibur 4. Even Soulcalibur 4 was built on the remains of Soulcalibur 3.

Eventually we will see the full extent of Soulcalibur 5’s look, but like the jump from Soulcalibur 2 to Soulcalibur 3 it’s important to keep in mind that these games are on the same console, and though they can refine and tweak many things, they don’t have the luxury that other console games have with how they push their bullshots, because Soulcalibur 5 still has to run at a solid 60fps, while most other big titles are lucky to be pushing 30fps at the best of times. Seriously: next time you’re watching gameplay of a new console game notice how much it chugs along. Most people can tell the difference between 30 and 60fps, and chances are that console game is running at 30, and stuttering below that when the effects start to fly.

For anyone interested, John Carmack recently gave a very good interview about not only iD’s new game, Rage, but also his thoughts on various parts of the industry and what it was like to design a game for current generation consoles. While little of it is relevant to Soulcalibur 5 in particular, it’s always nice to hear Carmack talk about technology and the video game industry.

The right time to show them will come 😉 @DivineDevil999 do u have pictures of the new characters XD

And we have to wonder when that is. With e3 over (at the time of this writing, not at the time of Daishi’s post), the next events for Soulcalibur news are Evolution at the end of July, then the Tokyo Game Show in September. It’ll probably show up elsewhere in the meantime, but those look like the most solid dates right now.

It’s a classic. RT @124f431 The Unforgettable Soul Edge intro, the best intro all time http://bit.ly/lyYTWr this gave me goosebumps.

Say what you want about Soulcalibur 3, but at least it continued the series trend of having neat intros. Which is more than Soulcalibur 4 ever managed. You have to wonder how much of a focus the guest characters will get in the Soulcalibur 5 intro.

Thnx for sharing! RT @AriesWarlock real life Raphael and Amy http://fav.me/d3gpxxm http://fav.me/d3gpy6p

There’s that. I’ve about run out of things to say about cosplay. I wonder which one of those 2 will make it into Soulcalibur 5. (No I don’t.)

Let me talk about CPU. SCBD has the best CPU in the series because a lot of the AI is manually inputted by the game balancers.

I couldn’t check all characters due to time constraints so some are better than others. Like Setsuka; too strong after a certain difficulty.

The CPU’s moves are inputted by the game balancers taking into account the distance, radius, properties etc.

How the CPU reacts after a hit, a guard, a miss, a counter, in a downed state, in the air are all inputted manually.

We then use probability to add just the right amount of random elements.

So the CPU reacts more like a human, loses control, does horizontal attack against side steps, misses guard impacts etc.

The more variation and patterns we add, the more deep the CPU becomes. So the more time we can spend on each character, the better.

If we don’t have time, the AI will have inhuman reflexes or become one dimensional which makes CPU battles boring.

As I’ve said before, there is a fundamental flaw with AI design in fighting games that doesn’t really have anything to do with the AI itself.

Most people spend most of their time against the AI in a fighting game trying to get something else besides good matches. Almost always they’re trying to unlock something or advance through a mode that is barely related to normal versus play. And while trying to power through AI matches as quickly and efficiently as possible the last thing they want is to have to think about every round. Not when they’re going through a mode that will involve hundreds of matches, or one that they want to quickly get through in order to unlock something.

This makes the idea of “good” AI seem less attractive the more you have to play against it. It’s tangentially related to the way most JRPGs (and action games) have been structured — the main feature being attrition. No single encounter is supposed to be so difficult that a player cannot proceed, but by the time they’re reaching the end of an enclosed dungeon their resources should be taxed enough to make the boss a challenge. In the same way, many single player fighting game modes are filled with dozens of filler battles that lead up to a climactic encounter of some sort, or at least can be punctuated by regular boss fights, only the resources they’re taxing aren’t necessarily on the screen, but in the player’s head: having to fight dozens of AI matches in a row is exhausting, and if each of them was putting up a fight that required equal amounts of thinking and effort it would be exponentially more so.

There are special cases, like the Quest mode in Virtua Fighter games, but I imagine most people would still like to get through those as fast as possible.

Soulcalibur has had the right idea for a while with the special matches in Weapon Master mode on up. Make the AI better at responding to (and utilizing) the special conditions of those gimmick matches. That would make them more engaging and interesting to play against than days of work poured into “good” AI that will still lose to 22B spam.

Also, ghost AIs formed by players, like Soulcalibur 2 and 3 had in the arcade.

Daishi’s Twitter – Round 17

Week 20 – 7/05/11 – 13/05/11

I’m breaking this down into different parts because I’ve been a little busy lately, Daishi has been tweeting a fair bit more, and general Soulcalibur 5 news has been all over the place. Still vacillating about this blog in general. But since some people still read it, and others have asked me about it, I’ll keep it going.

同士よ~(笑 We share the same vision! RT @VanishingAge: I like ring outs! Even if some people think they’re cheap…

遊び方は個人の自由だからね。まぁ気持ちは分かるけど。 RT @RonTailor: DON’T TAKE OUT RING OUTS! Hate when ppl compain about that. Key part of Soul Calibur’s gameplay.

Ring outs are one of the things that set Soulcalibur apart from other fighting games, even other 3d fighting games. Only Virtua Fighter shares the same format for ring outs, but the methods employed to get them are very different.

More than walls, ring outs emphasize the very thing that Soulcalibur uses to set itself apart from other fighting games: 8 way run, stepping, and many, many horizontal attacks. The balance between verticals and horizontals depends on more than frames, it depends on the each player realizing that the layout of each stage will eventually put one character’s back to the edge of certain death and how they’re going to deal with that. There would be a definite shift in how Soulcalibur played if ring outs were removed.

But there’s no reason to take them out anyway, and Daishi seems to like them well enough. But it would be cool to see some of the Soulcalibur 2’s wall jumps and wall moves come back.

そりゃそうだ。 No doubt. RT @MostEffectual: So long as the game is fun to play and Yoshimitsu is fun to play it is a guaranteed purchase

Of all the old cast who have a chance to return after the 17 year time skip, Yoshimitsu is at the top of the list. He’s got little to do with the story, he has no face that needs to be aged, and I’m sure the artists delight in coming up with newer and weirder Yoshi costumes for every game he’s in.

SC2の提案書にはそれが合ったんだ。一応、秘蔵だぞ。That idea came up in SC2. I’ll show you the docs @briancgiles: Perhaps ring out leads to new areas to fight in.

Dcuments from SC2 http://twitpic.com/4vuznn http://twitpic.com/4vuzny http://twitpic.com/4vuznu

Dcouments from SC2 cont. http://twitpic.com/4vv034 http://twitpic.com/4vv03g http://twitpic.com/4vv04a

Dcouments from SC2 cont. 2 http://twitpic.com/4vv0ch

もしかしたらね。Maybe RT @briancgiles: Any chance for more dynamic stages and stage interaction? Wall & obstacle throws, walls & barriers break…

It looks like Soulcalibur 2 had ideas for everything from tiered stages and breakable walls to uneven stage terrain and environmental hazards. While they’re neat ideas, I’d imagine they were eventually discarded not only for the extra work they’d require, but also because  everything there had been done by Virtua Fighter and Dead or Alive, and both of those games had already exposed some of the inherent problems these extra systems can cause. Not that they couldn’t have been fixed, but Soulcalibur is already a series with a reputation for weird, random hitboxes. Adding another layer of things that can go wrong wouldn’t have helped.

Uneven stages are probably never coming back. Tiered stages have been done so well in Dead or Alive it seems pointless for Soulcalibur to copy them now. Breakable walls and more interactive environments, though, those are things that have a good chance of making it into the new game. When Soulcalibur 4 was first announced there were going to be stage hazards, pillars and things, that could be used as temporary walls, and could be smashed into until they broke. We did get falling and moving walls that extended stages, which worked out well enough. The moving walls could be annoying, and they’ll probably go, but the extending, breakable walls worked very well and I won’t be surprised when we see more of that in Soulcalibur 5.

“Almost” all moves. Some do require practice. RT @broccoman: Part of what makes SC so attractive in the US is that you can do the moves without a ton of practice.

All great fighting games place importance on defense as well as offense. If it’s just all attack there’s less strategy involved RT @broccoman: There’s a large part of the community that believes fighters are neglecting strategy in favor of exceution.

Of course, the same could be said of Virtua Fighter. Overall, there are many things that make a game complex and hard to master, but a basic input barrier is usually the shallowest bit of depth, and the first most players have to get through. Extending this metaphor, if you want to get to the bottom, to find those pure and ripe pearls of competition, diving in at the deepest end will only get you so far. If you can’t do the moves you need to do then you’ll never penetrate the murkier depths, though you may see them from where you’re floating.

Terrible wordplay aside, Daishi is saying that he wants to make the game easier to play, but he’s also dropping hints that there will be things buried in there for people who want to dig them out. I hope he’s not using Street Fighter 4 as his model, though.

Interesting but not very realistic. @StrykerDR: gather famous SC players around the world and make consensus about balance and gameplay

This is the sort of thing that’s done with arcade location tests, or private betas. The problem here is that Soulcalibur 5 isn’t getting an arcade release, and testing it online is unreasonable. They could simulate arcade testing with beta builds on consoles, but it would be unfeasible to distribute them outside of weekend-long conventions, and then you have the issue of most people playing simply to play a new game. Actual testing and balancing requires hours and hours of playing and fiddling.

The best we can hope for is solid post-release patching, but that seems like a dubious proposition, since even with Mortal Kombat 9’s hotfix patching, which they advertised as being the newest and best solution for patching on consoles, the patches need to be tested internally and obvious problems can still be left in the game for weeks or months after they’ve been discovered.

As much as I generally dislike it, I think dlc may be the best answer. If Namco is still making money off the game 6 or 9 months after the release then they’ll still have a reason to balance it, and, crucially, they’ll have a way to get the updates in.

Without enough profit the company won’t give the money to make it. RT @adercader: it seems like soulcalibur on arcade isnt taken as seriously as tekken on arcade… why?

Are we supposed to blame this on Soulcalibur 3 as well? Soulcalibur 2 had a successful arcade release that went through 4 versions before the console port. Soulcalibur 3 was released directly onto consoles and ended up full of bugs and questionable balance. That was Namco’s decision, and probably had something to do with the failing arcade market outside of Japan, and that Soulcalibur was more popular outside of Japan as well. When Soulcalibur 3: Arcade Edition was released it was way too little and way too late, but if that game’s lack of success is to blame for Soulcalibur never getting another arcade release then I don’t know what to say.

Actually, I do: it’s business as usual for Namco. Release a game with ridiculous expectations, and when its success is only relative declare it a failure and abandon non-Japanese fans. That’s Namco’s basic game plan, except in this case they’re doing it in reverse.

That would be too difficult for many reasons. RT @uniongrahamaker: Is there any chance you can bring back the old voice actors from SC1-3?

You’d think the number 1 reason would be that they’re all much older now, and their voices have changed. But then you realize all the characters are older as well. But that also gives them an out when they hire new voice actors. That, and who knows how many of the old cast will actually make it into the game.

少しなら。 Just a little bit. RT @yin22: @Daishi_CALIBUR have you played the new mortal kombat?

It’s very well made. RT @Pixel_Kaiser: @Harada_TEKKEN @Yoshi_OnoChin Have you tried the new Mortal Kombat game? What do you think of it?

There are a few lessons to take away from Mortal Kombat 9, but I don’t think many of them apply to Soulcalibur. There’s the patching and the story mode, but most importantly there’s how to promise one thing and deliver something else. And that people will still bitch about bosses.

Mortal Kombat 9 is a decent game, and the story mode is alright. Good for a fighting game, which is a backhanded compliment. At least it’s better than Mortal Kombat Legacy. That series is abysmal.

For everything it does right, it still gets most things wrong. And while many people found the story mode compelling I still haven’t forced myself to finish it — and the only reason I wanted to finish it in the first place is to unlock Quan Chi. The story itself is not very interesting, and becomes less and less compelling as it proceeds.

As I keep saying, the unlockables should never be tied to a single mode (and especially not a single player mode), especially with something as important as characters. I do not want to finish the story mode, but I do want to unlock Quan Chi. This is a dilemma I’d hoped to never be in again.

Me too. I’ve been with the game for 2/3 of my life. RT @CameronWisher: I love soul caliber. Good arcade memories.

俺はAC版がベスト. I like the ARC ver. the best! RT @jcgonzmo: @Daishi_CALIBUR please go back to basics, the best SC was the first on DreamCast!

The ARC ver. shocked me but the DC ver. was even better RT @Saitoh92: Hell, one of the only game that was prettier on console than arcade

In fact, Soulcalibur’s release as a launch title for the Dreamcast effectively killed Virtua Fighter 3’s North American release when that game was delayed and ended up with slightly worse graphics (and much longer loading times) than the arcade version.

You must really like the original voices. RT @kakeruddr: Not just one freak. Me and at least one friend I know also change ALL the voices to Japanese. ALWAYS.

Good to hear some people like playing the game in it’s original language. RT @Pulsahr: @OfficialAPM I change voices to japanese since the option exists (SC2? SC1?), and all my SC friends do the same ^^

Both are usually fine, but it would be nice to be able to toggle between the different voices on a character by character basis.

Classic line for the series. @nanotechnician:”Transcending history and the world, a tale of souls and swords, eternally retold”

And as we saw, it came back in the new trailer for Soulcalibur 5.

Yeah. Any one who likes fighters that camw after SFII, would come up with the same spec. RT @Marc_Buckley: hey have you guys ever considered having strangling moves where the opponent has to mash out like sophitia and iv’y’s throws

Actually, Yoda does have a command throw that his opponent needs to mash out of. Of course, it’s really easy to mash out of it, so it’s a bad move and you’ll rarely see it used.

When I made Tira in SC3 she was incomplete and had to make improvments in SC4. It’s like raising a child. RT @Pinmoshita: Please Daishi I want you to take care of Tira Can’t wait to use her!hehe

Tira was not a good character in Soulcalibur 3. In Soulcalibur 4 she’s not very good either, but she’s at least unique.

Under Daishi’s direction the Soulcalibur cast has become increasingly diverse, and also increasingly unique. He’s added character specific mechanics to the game that further set the series apart from other 3d fighting games, and most other fighting games as well. Tira’s Jolly and Gloomy stances, Hilde’s charge moves, Mina’s range mechanics, Ivy’s increasingly complex stances, and the abundance of stances in general. While they don’t always work, you can never fault him for playing things too safe. He seems like the type who’d like to take more risks, and if Namco was willing to let him test and patch things he could be successful. Soulcalibur 4 is itself only a couple of patches removed from being a balanced game — it’s quite playable currently, with a few glaring problems.

I can only hope that the fighting game market being so much different than the one Soulcalibur 4 was released into will have positive implications for Soulcalibur 5’s future.

It’s a collaboration many people think about but would be hard to achieve. @Tcjunior22: Samuri Showdown and compare them with Soul calibur 4

While Samurai Shodown is cool and everything, I’ll always be a Last Blade fan. That’s a crossover game I’d love to see.

They get stronger each time so I gotta be careful. @capsule_toy: can’t wait to see what Nightmare and Ziegfried look like now in SCV, each game they’ve gotten bigger, better and crazier! 😀

Soulcalibur 2 was the last game in which Nightmare was considered really good, in Soulcalibur 3 Nightmare and Siegfried were both average at best, in Arcade Edition they were somewhat better, and in Soulcalibur 4 they’re solid characters in capable hands.

Still waiting on Soulcalibur 2 Nightmare’s movelist to return, Tekken-style, from the grave.

What do you mean 2D style? RT@Howler_2007: is next soul caliber going to do a 2D fighting style like newer fighting games have done?

Probably referring to the Mortal Kombat reboot. We already know Soulcalibur 5 is a 3d fighting game. Next.

俺も気に入ってる機能。I like those featrues too RT @TheLoneGamer: Please don’t forget Training Mode with Record and Replay function, plus VS CPU mode!

Something so basic, yet so many games lately have been messing it up. Thankfully Soulcalibur has always had pretty good training mode features, with a working record function and being able to program multiple commands for the AI. As long as nothing is cut and improvements are made, Soulcalibur 5 will have a very good training mode.

それは至らなくて申し訳ない. Sorry, we’ll improve on that aspect. RT @strikeromega: It seems more like there was no continuity to the story mode at all.

Needless to say, they’re going to try and do something with the story mode in Soulcalibur 5. This is one of the most requested features, and used to be one of the biggest selling points for the series, though that’s shared now with the Create-a-Soul modes. If Namco wants sales, and they do, they’ll be putting a lot of resources into both single player modes.

Besides that, with the time skip and the new characters there’s now actually a story to be told. There’s more room for it if only to help introduce the new fighters and situations.

Sounds cool but we need to create twice as many motions. RT @broccoman: One idea- how about having a male/female version of all characters instead of custom characters?

So, rule 63, only official? I’m sure some would enjoy it; rule 63 exists for a reason.

On first blush Daishi’s comment about having to redo the motions for each character is strange, since you can already make male and female versions of any movelist with Create-a-Soul. But on further inspection these different models have revealed different properties as well. The hitboxes and ranges of moves change, however slightly, for custom characters, which is one of the many reasons why they’re not used in tournaments. To actually balance them each version of each character would probably end up with a slightly altered movelist, like the  human and robot versions of the ninjas in Mortal Kombat 9 (where they have the same moves, but with slightly different properties). That would effectively double the amount of balancing and testing needed, and you’d still end up with one version being better than the other most of the time.

御剣の頭を金髪に塗ってください(笑 Please dye Mitsurugi’s hair blond 😛 RT @BeowulfNecro: is arthur going back in the korean version?

Unfortunately, old man Samurai is more resilient than old white dude pretending to be a Samurai. I doubt we’ll see Arthur again.

Maybe send a petition to Nintendo? Just kidding 😛 They won’t like that. @YoshiCookie: Please make a version for Wii 2 and have Link return.

Since they started development a good 6 months before the new Nintendo console is being announced, and with (I’d assume) no knowledge of its capabilities, it makes sense that Namco is sticking with the ps3 and 360 for now. Maybe when the Wii 2 or whatever they call it is a real thing they can talk about a port. But I wouldn’t get my hopes up. This was one of my predictions that even I doubted would ever happen.

Seems like many people like bare-knuckled fighting. @SGTDororo: Heihachi fights with his fist it be cool to see another character like that.

と言うことは検討した方がいいのかな~ Hmm.. Maybe I should consider it. @ajTwist: I agree with “fight like Heihachi” Someone who doesn’t use a weapon.

You said it the best. SC is a weapon based fighting game! >:[ RT @iTheShirt: SC has always been all about the weapons though. And he was a promotional chara from another game. :\

Heihachi was alright, but, as I’ve said before, I’d be more interested in a return of Valeria’s fighting style from Soulcalibur 3. Kicking people with metal shoes is better.

I demanded a lot of things about his design. I think he’s cool! RT @Legendere: algol is a true man and cool he is the creator from soul edge and soul calibur it give people he like him

Here’s where I think Daishi falls flat. I find Algol to have a really boring design, but with unique and interesting moves. If he returns I hope he at least gets a second costume, and can be fully customized like the rest of the cast.

He’s a worthy addition to the cast, if only for being so different. In his current state he’s not very good, but like many other Daishi characters he oozes potential.

そうだね。中に入ってるんじゃ… Maybe it’s Rock inside…RT @jodace0710: that rock has the same techniques of SC2 berserker.

Make that official and Rock has squeezed his way into every Soulcalibur game (just like Mina). That’s more than Siegfried.

They’re still not going to be in Soulcalibur 5. :/

たまに見ているよ. I check out 8WR.com sometimes. @Adnan199X: thank you for replying! And many votes are from 8wayrun.com, a competitive SC community

That reminds me! Some one at 8WR is using an icon of me and Amy mixed together…

I’d like to dedicate this entire post to WuHT, who helped convince me to keep going after I wasn’t quite feeling it anymore. Good on him for getting noticed, I guess.

Asuka put in instead of Jun, Julia instead of Michelle, Christie instead of Eddie.. say anymore and Harada’s gonna kill me! @LoveLinstella It’s not right that some characters of the series disappear because someone becomes attached to them! Can you understand?

Although some characters disappear — though at least this isn’t King of Fighters, where characters get removed without warning in every version of the game — the important thing to note about Tekken is that at least their move lists stayed in the game. And eventually most of the characters came back anyway, so whatever. I’m sure that by Soulcalibur 6 we’ll have most of the old cast back, dlc or not.

Character creation should remain. But I’m not sure about your request for skimpy and fetish outfits… RT @GeradCup_G3: 次回作では、ハイレグレオタード(水着)、スクール水着、ブルマ体操着などといった、フェティシズム志向が強いコスチューム(パーツ)もぜひ、ご用意していただきたいです。

According to google translate, this guy is asking for outfits that are both fetishistic and anachronistic. I’m all for one of those.

And who doesn’t want Mitsurugi in his gym clothes?

木人?…なるほどね~。Mokujin? I’ll think about it. @Furzy1290: We need a “Mokujin” character! 🙂 I liked charade best but any character would be cool!

Like the custom characters and their altered move properties, the eventual problem a Charade-like character could have is that it would potentially limit how character-specific some moves could be. Olcadan would, at least, without him sprouting extra body parts when needed.

Not to say it couldn’t be done. It could; but it may end up being way more work than the developers bargained for. I’d still love to have Olcadan back, but if that means sacrificing the overall uniqueness of characters then I’d live without him.

I’m still more than a week behind, but I’ve got some stuff to fill the gaps with, more general updates to make things easier to keep track of. Hopefully I get time in the next couple of days for more updates.