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How Spectacle Fighters Are Similar to Fighting Games

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FIGHTING GAME ARTICLE

Spectacle fighting games are one of the most underrated genres in terms of depth of mechanics. Games like God of War, Devil May Cry, and Bayonetta build their combat systems to be similar to fighting games, but the biggest difference is the number of enemies and the area upon which the fight is taking place. Being spatially aware of what is going on around a player is also important as an attacking enemy or map hazard may be present. With the combo systems, the flow of the game and awareness of the area around the character in comparison to fighting games becomes more and more similar.

Akin to games such as Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, or Dragon Ball FighterZ, spectacle fighters usually have set combos, whether it be chaining light attacks into heavy or just using a chain of any one kind of attack. Often these combos can lead to area-of-effect attacks that can damage many opponents in one area or more defensive attacks that surround the player.

Other moves may launch an enemy into the air and have the player follow. Many of these moves are similar to games such as Marvel vs. Capcom that have a focus of chaining a hit into launch the enemy into the air and then continuing a combo up high. The power of performing a launching combo is that it can help avoid attacks or enemies in both styles of games.

In Marvel vs. Capcom, a launch attack with a follow up can avoid an assist or persistent attacks such as a mine or slow-moving projectile, while in a games such as God of War these tactics can be used to avoid getting grouped up on by more monsters while singling out one tougher opponent.

The same can be said for area-of-effect; while they are not always the strongest move, they can be used to disrupt movement and the flow to get a break leading to reassessing a situation. Again, the same can be said for an attack that sounds the player; not always being the strongest can be used to halt many enemies from attacking at once, or stopping an opponent for attacking from behind.

A major part of creating combos is knowing how moves can be cancelled into one another. Usually, the anime style fighting games such as Guilty Gear, Dragon Ball FighterZ, and Undernight In-Birth focus on ‘cancels’ to perform combos; the same can be done in many other games also. Being able to perform cancels in both genres is important.

If an enemy in a spectacle fighter is supported by others, cancelling a combo into a launch attack with follow up may be the best bet to single out and avoid monsters, followed up by a dropping area-of-effect attack and then a movement ability can be a great way to reposition to a more advantageous area to continue the fight. At the same time, this move is powerful in a fighting game as air combos are much harder to defend against, and being able to continue them once on the ground can be a make or break situation of a fight, as it allows time for an opponent to reset.

I-Frames or Invincibility Frames come hand-in-hand for both styles of games. While finishing a combo or attack, many enemies in both will have an invincibility time so they can get up and reset. Normally these moments are quick but, if not paid attention to, can end up turning a battle. These moments are when the fight goes to a reset and both parties need to reassess and gauge how to continue.

This can also be said when the player gets the I-Frames as it is a way to reset or to launch a counter-attack in both games. However, understanding the Invincibility Frames is just the tip of the iceberg when understanding frame data, while also being some of the most important pieces of game data to understand.

Spatial awareness is important in both spectacle fighters and fighting games. Games such as Tekken, Dead or Alive, and Soul Calibur have a heavy reliance on map interactions, whether that is a breakable floor to continue combos and deal damage, wall splats to continue combos otherwise not doable, sending an enemy to another area and changing the arena, or knocking an opponent out of the ring for an instant win.

The same is important with the spectacle fighters; knowing where to stand, how to avoid and in which direction, and how to interact with an area can be very important. When getting trapped in a small corridor, different attacks and movements may be better to use while open areas may focus on more area-of-effect moves. Knowing where map hazards are and how to interact with them are important for staying alive, being able to kill enemies instantly, or getting the upper hand.

Boss battles have more of a similar flow to a fighting game, as reading the pattern of the opponent and capitalizing on their mistakes is how to play in both; whether the pattern is supposed to be the fight in a spectacle action game or not, that tactic is important. Spatial awareness also comes in as an important factor in battle because a boss battle has a wider range of attacks and more special attacks.

While games like Dark Souls may not be the traditional spectacle fighter action game like God of War or Devil May Cry, the games have a heavy emphasis on fighting game systems incorporating defence, timing, awareness, and offence. Waiting for the right opportunity and capitalizing on the moment is important.

The power of the spectacle fighter action games is that they offer rewards for combos and creative play, such as in Devil May Cry, which provides a rating and bonuses to creative play and long combos that do not repeat the same attacks, helping push players to understand the many different possibilities to battle and to make them get better at the game. Meanwhile, games such as God of War do not reward the player in the same manner but help add depth and fun to the game, allowing the developers to create more varied battles and intricate enemies. Bayonetta is another example that rewards players for creative combos and varied play.

Many moves in the spectacle fighter require specific button inputs, just like a fighting game. Being able to pull certain attacks at the right time to continue a combo is important and takes practice. The moves are not able to be picked up and executed right away; they take practice, experimenting, and patience, but once the skill is present, the game becomes more enjoyable as the player can assert more dominance on the enemies and help to gain meter for various abilities.

Tekken, Dragon Ball FighterZ, Soul Calibur, and many others have special attacks and rage modes, and the same is said for the spectacle fighter action game. As the player gets hurt and/or deals damage, they can charge up a meter to unleash a special attack, often being a finisher or used to deal massive damage.

The same can be said for a rage mode: Devil May Cry has the devil trigger state, and God of War has a rage mode; both give additional effects, new attacks, and stronger damage along with health regeneration, the same as fighting games. In these special states, new combo potentials are available and can turn the tide of a match; the same is with the special attacks as they can massively damage or kill an enemy.

Both styles of games have their positives and negatives, some more basic than others, but depth is considered with both games. Titles such as God of War, Devil May Cry, and Onechanbara often get called button mashers and lack any amount of depth.

While this point is true on easy difficulties, on harder ones the player will need to have a better understanding of how the game works to get the most out of it. The genres still offer depth if the player wants to delve into the game and find what makes them tick. Games should not always be taken at face value as the basic combos can only get the player so far.

Dragon Ball FighterZ, The King of Fighters 14, and Tekken 7 are good examples of having auto combos but they only go so far, are easily defended, do not deal much damage, and can use up some of the player’s meter when not intending to do so.

These systems are meant to help a player become actuated in the game, and introduce the flow, giving players of different skill levels a way to have fun. Similar to fighting games, understanding spatial awareness, mechanics, and combos lead to dealing more damage and safer situations. Both deserve to be delved into and understood to get the most of the games.

A graduate of Game Development with a specialization in animation. A true love for all things creative especially Game Design and Story.

E3 2019

Gender and Race Representation at E3 2019

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E3 2019 Diversity (Deathloop, Wolfenstein Youngblood, Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order)

Despite making up around half of the gaming population, women remain underrepresented in video games. More Hispanic and Black people refer to themselves as “gamers” than white people, yet minorities remain a rarity in modern titles. E3, which recently came to a close for another year, is gaming’s largest annual event, demonstrating the interests of the industry. Therefore, the statistics from E3 are a fairly accurate representation of the industry as a whole. OnlySP has broken down five of the main conferences from E3 2019 to see how each publisher represents women and people of colour in the games showcased, as well as their presenters.

Some of the shows from the event—the PC Gaming Show, Kinda Funny Games Showcase, EA Play, and the Devolver Digital Big Fancy Press Conference—have been excluded. Previously released games receiving updates or trailers at the event, such as Fallout 76 or Final Fantasy XIV Online, were also excluded from the statistics.

Each conference is broken down into seven categories for gender:

  • Male: where the game features only a male protagonist (Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order)
  • Female: where the game features only a female protagonist (Wolfenstein: Youngblood)
  • Player Choice: where the game allows a fully customisable character (The Outer Worlds)
  • Both: where the game allows the player to control both a male and female character, but not customise their preference (Marvel’s Avengers)
  • Ambiguous: where the protagonist’s gender is unclear (Ori and the Will of the Wisps)
  • None: where the game does not feature a gendered character, including racing games (Microsoft Flight Simulator)
  • Unknown: where the game’s protagonist is yet to be revealed (Elden Ring)

The last five categories are repeated for race within games; protagonists whose race is evident are identified as such.

Microsoft

E3 Chart - Microsoft 2

Microsoft kicked off the main press conferences this year with far more games than the conferences to follow. Out of a total of 29 applicable games, almost a third featured only male protagonists. Thankfully, female representation is not totally out of the question—with 24% of Microsoft’s games allowing full character customisation and 10% featuring both male and female protagonists—but only three games with a sole female protagonist is a disappointing statistic.

Unfortunately, representation among the presenters at Microsoft’s conference does not inspire much hope either, with two of nine being women (one of whom appeared alongside a man). This is sadly representative of the company as a whole, with women making up only 26.6 percent of Microsoft’s employees.

In terms of race representation within its games, Microsoft is not achieving great results. While nine of the games showcased featured Caucasian protagonists, only one had an African-American lead. Thankfully, at least, Microsoft is still allowing the player to decide the race of their character in 21% of its games. Microsoft’s presenters were also mostly white—mostly American, with two Brits, one Canadian, and an Australian—with only one African-American presenter.

While Microsoft’s representation at E3 is better than most of the conferences that followed, it still has a long way to go.

E3 Chart - Demographics - Microsoft

Demographics of protagonists in games shown at Microsoft’s conference.

Bethesda

E3 Chart - Bethesda 2

Bethesda’s conference was short on new titles this year, with only six upcoming games showcased, but it had the strongest showing in terms of character representation. Only one of the six titles—Doom Eternal—featured a single male protagonist, and, that aside, the game is shaping up to be something special.

Both of the upcoming Wolfenstein games—Youngblood and Cyberpilot—feature female protagonists, and while two female-centric games is not a hugely impressive statistic, as an overall indicator it is quite impressive when compared to Bethesda’s other games. Two of the six games—Commander Keen and Deathloop—allow the player to select between a pre-determined male or female character; and in the case of Deathloop, both characters are African-American, so Bethesda’s representation expands beyond gender. However, only one title with a confirmed non-white character is not a very impressive statistic.

The same praise cannot be applied to the presenters of Bethesda’s conference, either; only two of the 17 presenters were female—one of whom has become a bit of an icon following the show. Of the 17 presenters, more than half were American, with only two Japanese presenters, two French, one Swedish, and one Puerto Rican–American. Considering Bethesda’s support of women and minorities in the past, seeing such little representation among its staff is a disappointing statistic.

E3 Chart - Demographics - Bethesda

Demographics of protagonists in games shown at Bethesda’s conference.

Ubisoft

E3 Chart - Ubisoft 2

In regard to giving the player choice, Ubisoft easily beats the competition, with three of its eight new titles featuring full character customisation and two allowing the player to select between a male and female character. Diversity of representation, however, ends there; Ubisoft did not showcase a single female-led video game during its E3 showcase this year. Of the three games allowing character customisation, two—Rainbow Six Quarantine and Roller Champions—are multiplayer games; and of the two allowing both male and female, one is Watch Dogs Legion, which lets players choose between dozens of characters in their operation. Whether or not such a concept will lead to positive representation is yet to be seen. While no games from Ubisoft star an African-American in the leading role, hopefully the developer can achieve positive diversity by taking notes from its 2017 title Watch Dogs 2.

For its presenters, Ubisoft is better than its competition, with females making up four of the conference’s 14 on-stage personalities, but that statistic is still disappointing. If 29% is the best that the industry can do, it still has a long way to go in the years to come.

E3 Chart - Demographics - Ubisoft

Demographics of protagonists in games shown at Ubisoft’s conference.

Square Enix

E3 Chart - Square Enix 2

Square Enix may have had the most disappointing press conference this year in regard to gender representation. Of its 14 games, not a single had only a female protagonist, while over half centred around males. To the publisher’s credit, several of these games feature, in some segments, playable female characters, but to have so many male-centric games without a single sole female protagonist is incredibly disappointing.

Thankfully, five games shown at Square Enix’s conference allow the player to select between a male or female. However, even in some of these games, representation is not entirely clear—only one of the five main playable characters in Marvel’s Avengers, for example, is female, as is only one of the three in Outriders.

Unfortunately, the disappointment of diversity is only exemplified with the conference’s presenters. Only one of the show’s nine presenters was female, with her appearance taking place at the very end of the show alongside a male presenter. Square Enix has a long way to go with its female representation.

E3 Chart - Demographics - Square Enix

Demographics of protagonists in games shown at Square Enix’s conference.

Nintendo

E3 Chart - Nintendo 2

Historically, Nintendo is not known for strong female characters—Princess Peach is the figurehead for the damsel-in-distress trope—but it has made strides in this area with strong characters such as Zelda in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Unfortunately, none of these characters have been allowed to represent their own video game, constantly being shadowed by the male protagonist.

While six of the 17 new Nintendo games shown during its Direct this year featured male protagonists, not a single game featured a female protagonist. With three games allowing full customisation and six giving the choice between male and female, not all hope is lost with Nintendo, but diverse representation is better than customised representation. Being forced to take on different perspectives—as females must do when playing 35% of Nintendo’s games—is more beneficial to the player than choosing to play as an undefined character.

Nintendo only had three presenters during its presentation—deputy general manager Yoshiaki Koizumi, president of Nintendo of America Doug Bowser, and general manager Shinya Takahashi—but seeing some more representation of its female staff (as it does rather well during its Nintendo Treehouse live stream later in the show) would be encouraging.

E3 Chart - Demographics - Nintendo

Demographics of protagonists in games shown at Nintendo’s conference.


Overall

As a whole, E3 2019 was rather disappointing. While a third of the games showcased at the five conferences above featured only male protagonists, only 7% featured female protagonists. While developers are improving in regard to player choice—allowing either full customisation or the selection of a male or female character—diverse representation is a necessity moving forward, and the industry needs to look at improving.

Presenters Demographic

Demographics of presenters at the five conferences during E3 2019.

In terms of race representation, the statistics are even more abysmal. While an Americanised show is expected due to the location of E3, some diversity would be appreciated; with over half of the presenters being American, the companies are failing to demonstrate their diverse talent. The same can be said about the games; as seen below, 27% of protagonists in games are Caucasian, while 3% (only two games) feature African-Americans as lead characters. As aforementioned, developers are seeing improvement in allowing players to customise or select their characters, but specified diversity is a change that the industry requires.

E3 Chart - Games Demographics

Demographics of protagonists in the games showcased at the five conferences during E3 2019.

The industry has a long way to go.

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