Our own Sabre0001, the beating heart at the centre of the Limerick fighting game scene has posted a musing on the gems system over on his esports blog, for your enjoyment it’s reproduced here, but don’t forget to visit his site for more:
Street Fighter X Tekken (SFxT) has received a lot of press and a lot of promotion of late, though not always for the right reasons. The latest announcement is an unusual one – a gem system. Essentially, this allows people to customise and tailor characters to suit their playstyle. On the surface, it sounds interesting and beneficial. However, when some of the gems are detailed, a few eyebrows may be raised…
The same ones are being highlighted time and time again. There are two reasons for this. They are the ones that have been detailed in trailers or gameplay videos, but they are also the ones that cause most concern. The idea of allowing players to burn meter in order to auto-block or auto-tech throws is a strange one. These are going to have an impact in matches and, competitively, could have a detrimental effect. Matches may no longer come down to who is calm under pressure and pulls off a clutch read or counter, but who has certain gems stacked or the meter to use them.
While this does open up strategical elements: having meter to use, similar to how players would try to keep two bars in Street Fighter 4 to allow for a Focus Attack Dash Cancel (FADC) into Ultra, it penalises those who go for outright damage. The combo system in SFxT is an interesting one and requires meter to tag characters in and out to extend combos. Perhaps this is Capcom’s way of stepping in to ensure that people don’t try 60-100% combos.
There was an interesting point raised on Cross Counter Live (http://t.co/0KfCXg5n), where it was highlighted that when players at home pick Ryu, they have the same tools at their disposal as the top players in the world. If you draw a comparison to other professional games, and even mainstream sports, everything should be a level playing field. Poker became huge because anyone could participate or begin to play. People could play among friends and have the same showdowns, albeit on a different scale, as professional tournaments. Players should be able to emulate their idols or develop from beginner to competitor without having to shop at the same store as their idol.
The greatest games, and certainly the best competitive games, should be easy to learn but hard to master. It should be very easy for a beginner to come in and do something, but there should be layers of depth. Only the best will master games, but anyone can compete and learn. Any sport has this setup. The basics and fundamentals are very easy to learn, but there are more complicated plays or systems and so on that can be used to unlock the opposing player or team. Gems will not contribute to this; they pose a barrier instead as there will be certain mixes that work better than others and it becomes too difficult to learn the properties of every gem and combination.
The final point that illustrates that gems have no place in the competitive fighting game circuit is that of balance. It is difficult enough to balance a limited cast of characters, as most developers including Capcom have illustrated in the past. However, hundreds of gems and potentially thousands of combinations give reason for concern. There will be subsets that will be better than all the others and these will be exploited.
Will it succeed in a casual market? Who knows…Mortal Kombat had an automatic blocking system of sorts, and people became tired of it. Capcom are stepping onto dangerous territory. The fighting game market is becoming saturated once again. Games will fail and if pushed too far the market may collapse once more. Where will SFxT lie when the dust settles?