I think fighting games have the perfect gameplay design. I’m not a huge fan of the fighting game genre, but I think the mechanics used in fighters is something many games could learn from. Keep in mind, I’m not a game designer, so my ideas are not incredibly specific. However, I do think they are specific enough to get my point across.
Most fighting games have a core 4 actions that players can use: crouching attacks, standing attacks, jumping attacks, and grabs/throws. And each of those actions can be countered or blocked by crouching guard, standing guard, or grab counters. It’s essentially a slightly more complicated version of rock-paper-scissors, but instead of guessing, players have a small window to react. This complex, hectic rock-paper-scissors game is what allows every battle to be unique and exciting.
So, how do you apply this rock-paper-scissors mechanic to an action game like Zelda, or a shooter like Uncharted? Well, the one thing these games lack that is present in fighters is a dynamic defensive system. These games need something equivalent to a fighting game’s crouching and standing block, different ways for players to defend against different types of attacks. And if they choose the wrong defensive maneuver, they’ll get punished. This applies to not just the player, but the enemy AI as well. Enemies have to utilize their defenses as much as the player.
Fighting games (specifically Street Fighter and Tekken) also utilize an automatic health regeneration system. Many people are of the belief that health regen makes games too easy. Again, that’s not the case for fighting games. Even though players receive a full health bar at the start of each battle, many people think fighting games are some of the hardest games to play. If players actually manage to win a fight, they probably don’t have much more than a quarter of their health remaining by the end of the match. But you can’t just give players all their health back after defeating an enemy in Zelda, so how does it apply in a game like that? Again, I’m not an expert in game design, but I know at least one solution that would work.
Elder Scrolls utilizes a system that allows players to regain their health by “waiting.” The wait system makes in-game time go by at roughly one hour per second. After waiting for as little as the minimum one hour, players will have a full health and magic meter. The catch is, players cannot wait when enemies are nearby. This prevents players from using the feature mid-battle to come back in full health. It also just makes sense, because if a player waited for an hour mid-battle, they would be standing in place for an hour while an enemy was attacking them. There are two key components to this type of health regeneration:
- Enemies are not nearby
- Players cannot be moving
Other games use somewhat similar styles of health regeneration, such as Shadow of the Colossus. The player can regain health by remaining still and crouching. There aren’t really enemies trying to kill you in Shadow of the Colossus, but I think it’s still applicable.
What it all comes down to is making each encounter with an enemy a battle that really challenges players, but is still fun. With a combat system that utilizes a variety of attacks and defenses by both the player and the computer, each battle will be unique and challenging. By giving players the ability to enter each encounter with their full health, the frustration of entering combat with almost no health is eliminated, making the game more enjoyable.
There are many more aspects of fighting games that other genres can benefit from, but I think these two are some of the most important, and will improve games more than the others.
Do you agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment, or contact me in whichever way is easiest for you.