An In-Depth Character Study: Crimson Viper’s Breasts

Crimson Viper’s character design was goofy when I first saw it. She definitely wasn’t one of the new Street Fighter 4 characters I liked. Over time though, her design grew on me. She’s not a great example of character design, but she’s pretty cool! She looks like Angelina Jolie, has a cool suit, some crazy hair and kicks fire! Also hey cleavage, right? I love cleavage. While I never buy games due to sex appeal, I can certainly appreciate it as an admittedly perverted, red blooded male!

Only her knockers are a fucking travesty upon God

This might seem like a silly thing to write about and I assure you, IT IS, but it’s also a fun little topic over a pet peeve of mine. I also think theres a little glean here about design — and a bit on anatomy! Also again, as a man, I can’t resist a good excuse to talk about breasts. So anyways, let me begin with the story of C. Viper’s breasts — or sorta just C. Viper in general. Viper was designed to be sexy. She was designed to be a sexy female to appeal to the American male and as a powerful rival to Chun-li. The SNK inspired design, the Jolie-face, and the boob window, all chosen to appeal to Americans. The problem is, the character was not well received. Response was mixed. Maybe it was her goofy hair, or how out of place she feels in a Street Fighter game filled with semi plausible Martial Artists…. or maybe it was her… Boobs? Apparently they thought that, because Capcom of Japan immediately axed her bust size.

Lets go over this again. To try and make the character more likeable, they SHRUNK her bust size. Now lets be clear here, I’m not saying every female character has big breasts — obviously not. I mean, I love big boobs and draw them more than I probably should, but the sizing of breasts can change many things about a character. You can look at Cammy and her frame and her breast size and see the opposite side of things (big boobs would make her look retarded). But with C. Viper….

  • The change was made for a nonsensical reason: Maybe American audiences were scared of big boobs on a woman who was supposed to be a MILF?
  • The change conflicts with the character’s visual design: The whole big cleavage and tie look calls for bigger breasts. If you don’ want to do big breasts, don’t use that outfit
  • The change was HORRIBLY and ABYSMALLY modeled.

A little goofy in the modeling department, but they seem to mesh well with her visual design

So lets take a look at Viper’s original set. Viper, like all of the SF4 original cast, suffers from design inexperience in her model. Most of the original cast has little modeling quirks. For a lot of the guys, it’s okay. Ryu looks ape-ish (he’s sorta supposed to though I guess), Guile looks like he kinda has down syndrome, and Blanka is just 100% awful. Chun-Li looks mostly good, but has giant hands and a super generic face. Viper still has a share of problems. Her boobs are a bit awkward. They’re not too big really, but they’re a little nonsensical and how they eat her tie kinda looks weird. She has has some awkward bits with her hips and exposed midriff. Her hips just don’t taper off right or something, I can’t exactly say. This is pretty consistent with the read of the SF4 modeling issues. When the console characters came out — or the Super characters, it was much easier to see they got their modeling skills on track, but anyways…

So the logic was that Viper didn’t come off as a believable fighter in the Street Fighter universe. That is pretty true. The idea was then to reduce her bust (which honestly wasn’t that big as far as games go), to something more “reasonable” to make her more plausible. Personally I’d have just had them tighten up her model in general, but what do they do instead?

My friend Kenny calls them the ‘hamburgers’. Awkward in every conceivable way and totally at odds with either of her first two outfits.

Well, here we have C. Vipers SF4 hack-job breast reduction. She could practically sue for malpractice. First, they start at her COLLAR BONE. This is an artifact of her bigger breasts. Even in that case, the model was anatomically wrong as her top wouldn’t have had those results on her cleavage, but they were plausible. Now? They just look wrong. And they taper down in an awkward, goofy way. They look like hamburger buns. Combine that with her poorly placed tie and she looks like she has a mutant uni-boob. Everything is wrong. They start to high, they aren’t shaped right, they’re too close together and look ugly (If you’re going to model breasts wrong, at least make it the sexy kind of wrong). Clearly the reduction was done by lassoing her chest and squishing them back. A real hack job.

What gets me even more so is the whole idea clashes with her design. Shrinking her breasts isn’t going to make her into a plausible SF style fighter. It might do it a LITTLE BIT (and let me be clear when I say a LITTLE BIT), but at the cost of damaging the design strengths of the character. If you are unwilling to change the whole design, it is better to embrace it’s uniqueness and strengths, rather than cutting corners and making a character lame. Now, the reduction didn’t destroy C. Viper, but I notice it every time I play. It as a desperate gesture that was only a net loss. In a way, making her breasts bigger would have been a better response. If she’s going to be embraced as an out of place character, you might as well roll with it I suppose… and actually I think we can see now that it would have been a good idea.

They’re a bit on the big side, but if you’re dressing like that, they’re supposed to be.

MVC3 fixes a ton of modeling issues on Viper. Her hips and midriff are actually kinda sexy now! But her BREASTS. They’re a bit on the sillier side, size wise, but we’re not talking SC4 Ivy here. I think the important thing is it LOOKS right. The design is MEANT to have big obnoxious knockers. They also gave her real cleavage. The breasts are properly spaced apart and gives room for the whole tie motif to work. They have some actual weight to them, too. In action, they don’t even look that huge either (you tend to exaggerate parts of models to look good in motion and from a distance)! Viper looks great in Marvel vs Capcom 3. Everyone else seemed to know what Viper’s boobs were supposed to be like outside of the SF4 team. Even the ending animation realizes it, even though it’s….. sorta on the extreme side.

If they wanted to dodge the whole big boob thing, they could have. Actually having anatomically correct smaller boobs would have been FAR less glaring. If you also look at her last two alternative costumes, she looks great. They de-emphasis her chest. They don’t demand big cleavage anymore. Both the combat suit and the scientist suit look great and are stylish. They mesh with the character and don’t require huge boobs. Huge boobs aren’t always great! In fact, even if you do them right, they can look kinda gross, like SC4 Ivy. They’re modeled right and hang right and have the right weight to them, but they’re so large and implausible that they look awkward… to my goofy tastes, awkwardly HOT, but something that is something better reserved for pornographic material and not a fighting game where you want a character to be taken seriously.

So I dunno what the final moral is here, but it’s not entirely about boobs I guess. Just kinda embrace the elements that define your character and don’t make half assed compromises? That and just have nice boobs. They won’t make me buy your game, but I’ll appreciate it. :3

Both of Viper’s newer outfits look great without looking boobly. Conversely, Ivy looks like a washed up porn star in her 30s. Which happens to be a thing I’m into, but really shouldn’t be in a game. They’re also at least anatomically correct, if implausibly sized.

edit: Oh hey, I was linked on Eventhubs.

Anyways to respond to some of the comments. To all ya’ll who think I’m sick (true), will die a virgin (impossible unless you have a time machine) or never get laid (it’s admittingly infrequent!), I posted an article, to the public, on breasts. The concept alone is incredibly silly and I had a lot of fun doing it and also have a lot of fun reading all the reactions. I’m sorta above being hurt or bothered by such silly internetness. I’ve had a game out for a few years that has constantly brought me comical hate mail. I adore it all. But please, continue to have fun, but if your intent is to be legitimately hurtful, it won’t work. I like what I do too much.

For all of you that enjoyed my rambling little essay, thanks! I’m far from the best writer out there (FAAAAR from it), but I’d like to think some of my content is good and/or amusing. The rest of my blog probably won’t be nearly as funny, but feel free to take a look. I write a decent bit on fighting games!

I wish to respond to some comments publically though. Some of it is good, some of it is comically bad and some of it has new information!

Josh writes…

Viper herself is a travesty unto god, her poorly designed breasts are just a miniscule part of that. I fucking hate Viper. She is the worst female character Capcom has ever, EVER created. Nothing about her is likeable, and I mean, at all. People always say that she’s a mom and that makes her likeable, that’s just plain not true. She’s a condescending selfish bitch who only cares about salary and has no qualms about cheating. Her daughter, if anything, is probably going to grow up to be just as much of a cunt as she is.

This comment gave me a good laugh. This is the type of comment that is extremely fun to write and I bet Josh felt so good getting all that out that he went off to do manly things like punching bear. I got nothing to really add to it, but the sheer venom in his words made me laugh out loud.

HtH writes…

Yo dude the scientist outfit isnt like that ingame, it has gigantic cleavage:

Man, Capcom, thats weak. Your original design was much classier. Still, from this one screen shot it looks like a big improvement! It doesn’t necessarily look good (it might be, but I’d need to play with that outfit on. Which I won’t since I don’t buy costume packs), but they seem to at least be reasonably shaped and her tie doesn’t totally wreck her cleavage (though it’s still goofy. Her boobs need to SPREAD for it to work optimally, MVC3 style). I’d still prefer the classier concept art, but I suppose I can’t complain

Biggz writes…

You do realize C. VIper has the largest bust out of all of the street fighters? Look it up on Her bust is 98, compared to ibuki’s 95 and chun’s 88.

do your homework before you write an article .

Oh my god oh my god oh my god this comment is amazing. I don’t think I need to explain to anyone but Biggs that the bust size in the bio does not match the bust size of the model. They do not measure the model to create these numbers. They are artistic interpretations. Whats more though, it shows that Capcom was committed originally to Viper’s cleavage, only to abruptly give up in a moment of desperation. Either way, Biggz’s comment is amazing in it’s sheer idiocy. Also on the topic…

Doug writes…

Biggz, the biggest bust in the game is actually… Rufus’s. 180cm, delicious.

(Also, Rose’s is 96, which is almost as big as Viper’s)

Delicious indeed.

On eventhubs, some folks are talking about my own artwork. If you’re trying to hurt my feelings or something, HAHA, JOKES ON YOU: I KNOW MY ART SUCKS! Nice try! My artwork is a hobby, and yes, it is very flawed. I don’t fancy my self an illustrator and I am not aiming to ever be an professional illustrator. What I draw has no bearing at all on C. Viper’s breasts. They are a result of poor modeling in a professional capacity. They were also changed for a reason that is exceedingly ignorant. My art is something done every few months as a hobby, while money is sunk to pay professional artists to assets for a several million dollar game and these assets got signed off by management. Whats worse is MANAGEMENT TOLD THE BREASTS TO BE BUTCHERED.

Now, I’ll be totally fair here. Art is hard. Breasts are hard (well, when you draw them. Touching is another matter). Deadlines are rough. There is a lot to get done and often you gotta let things go. The only thing that was absolutely dumb was the last minute bust reduction. The SF4 artists have gone on to improve their skills and make awesome models in Super. I don’t want to imply any of them are talentless hacks. They’re way better than I am, obviously (I shouldn’t even need to SAY this, but just so it’s absolutely clear). If I put my art in a multi million dollar retail game, I couldn’t complain if someone laughed at it! It doesn’t belong there! They’ve also obviously gotten a better feel for what they’re doing with the newer characters.

But all of this does not mean C. Viper’s breasts are okay.

Just because I’m also probably a lousy director, that doesn’t mean I can’t say Plan 9 from Outerspace is an awful movie. I’ve seen what other professionals have done in the field and I know Plan 9 is bad. Do think her breasts are fine, or do you think they just should not be criticized? Both positions are equally laughable and I don’t think I need to explain why. What sort of breast TERRORIST would defend those things? It’s not like I’m yelling at the artists or pretending I could do any better — they’ll never know this is written and no, I can’t. I’m just taking a goofy flaw in a character model and making a comically big deal out of it. It’s not like I’m hurting her breast’s feelings or something. :)

Anyways, thats it for now! G’night folks!

Edit2: A few more tidbits, this time fro Eventhubs comments

Batsu writes…

Viper’s fine they way she is. People will complain about anything. People just need to STFU. And dude is wrong about Viper not appealing to many, everybody I know likes Viper. The guy behind that article is just a chump.

Terrornaut writes…

I know a ton of people that hate Viper’s design, or can’t get over her hair.

Its all varied.

And in those alpha vids posted…is chun li bigger all around there? Waist, thighs, arms? Should have kept the face from there. Kind of cherub thing goin on. Face looked so much better there. Also looks higher detail though, so maybe they had to cut it down. I definately like it, but don’t mind the changes, aside from tranny-li-face at some angles (her recovery from game over countdown, shudder)

Also smaller, but more pronounced chest?

Batsu writes…

“I know a ton of people that hate Viper’s design, or can’t get over her hair.”

Well I don’t…Most of the internet enjoys Viper and Viper players. Sounds to me like dude who wrote that article want’s her to be Mai or some Dead orAlive b!tch.

She’s fine the way she is. Like, she doesn’t have big anime knockers and a strange hair design. Get over it.

So the beautiful baller Terrornaut tries to reasonably state “You know, I think maybe you don’t have an adequate sample size, I know some people who don’t like C. Viper”. Batsu replies that I want some anime chick and that C Viper is fine because she doesn’t need big breasts or stupid hair and everyone likes her. Not only does Batsu clearly lack reading comprehension, but he clearly has never actually looked at C. Vipers hair… and since he’s defending her malformed breasts (which is more the problem. Size is a stylistic issue), I think he may lack any comprehension. Of course this ignores the fact I like C. Viper and often play her! I like her stupid hair too! The issue is, RESPONSE WAS BAD. But don’t take my word for it!

Yoshinori Ono writes, after Comic Com…

With all due respect to him, he’s a great character, but honestly we thought Crimson Viper would be a big hit here,” Ono said. “We got a lot of marketing data and a lot of advice from our U.S. branch in creating that character. She was kind of custom-tailored for the States and we thought people would like her.

If I dug around enough I’m pretty sure I could find other articles displaying Capcom’s disappointment at her reception. That doesn’t mean people don’t like her, or people haven’t grown to like her, but man, I’m not making shit up here.

Heres a bit that has little to do with anything…

Assy02 writes…

“Who cares were man” Stupidest comment i ever heard.A real man wouldn’t make big deals over a person chest.Just little boys and there games is all i see

Utils writes…

A real man hits the spacebar after punctuation marks.

Assy02 writes…

A real man can find something better to say than something stupid like hits the “hit spacebar after punctuation marks”.Like if your gonna insult someone come up with something better :P

Something better? Dude, that was the best. It is a shame Assy02 can’t understand the awesomeness of the burn Util laid upon him. It screams “You don’t put enough effort into your sentences, so why should I take you seriously?” I’m not one to talk about having proper grammar (I find my own to be embarrassingly lacking), but come on folks, that’s the least you can do for your fellow reader.

Too Much Talking Episode 8: The “Meat Eating Robot” Episode

Featuring: Kayin, Paul, Patito, Crouton, April, Jessica

Too Much Talking #8 “Meat Eating Robot” 12/18/10

Paul is back (and likely will e regularly) to talk with us about pretentiousness indie games and some stuff about Relic RPGs and morality systems. We also touch on meat eating robots, how publishers affect the industry and what our dream games would be! Hope you enjoy! Be sure to leave feedback if you can!

RSS Feed / iTunes Feed

Too Much Talking Episode 7: The “Gratuitous Spoilers” Episode

Featuring: Kayin, Paul, Patito, Crouton, April, Eric, AJ

Too Much Talking #7 “Gratuitous Spoilers” 12/11/10

Holy crap, we got Paul, the voice of The Kid hangin’ out with us over skype. Like old times! Not that any of you would realize these were like old times, but trust me, them times be old. Anyways we spoil tons of stuff about the Dark Tower and the Talisman, so if you care a lot I’d skip a good bunch once we declare a spoiler warning. It goes on for a good while! Spoilers abound! We also talk about Silent Hill and Frictional Games, Super Meat Boy and……… Dreams? Yeah, sure, whatever.

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The Executive Barrier Extended: Peak Effort

There was an idea I left out when it came to idea of smoothing out the executive requirements of a game. I suppose that is appropriate because this is even more theoretical than my claim that the most competitive players in a real time games are ones that either enjoy execution or multiple avenues of improvement. The idea here is one that I can only intuit to possibly be true through experience, though I admit I can entirely be wrong. My idea is that of Peak Effort, the theory that, motivation being equal, effort at the highest levels of play across good and successful games is roughly equal. This probably sounds pretty crazy! We can look at Street Fighter 2 and Street Fighter 4 and see 4 has way more links and combos and difficult things to do. Even though that is true, we see much more precise spacing, and developed sequences of pressure and tricks and what have you in Street Fighter 2, all of which is executively demanding. Watch a pro Japanese Ken use an air hurricane kick to do practically anything he wants and do so CONSISTENTLY. Players do not exude effort proportional to the requirements of the game, they exude effort proportional to their desire to win.

This is another idea I refer to “Squeezing optimization out of a stone”. Games certainly do not take equal effort to initially get good at and in the beginning stages of a game, one is focusing on big, fundamental ideas. These ideas might be tough as hell to do, or easy, but regardless, they greatly increase your win percentage. Learning how to block, or learning to always build SCVs, or whatever massively increase your win rate Sometimes even double it (or more)! As one becomes a highly skilled players, the rewards for new facets of information and skill are much smaller. Still, players do not ‘burn’ excess effort due to diminishing returns, they just become content with smaller optimizations. They will find them ANYWHERE they possibly can.

Let me throw up a much hated exploit. Wave dashing in Smash Bros Melee is, outside of competitive play, universally reviled. Why? I have no idea. It’s not even that powerful of a technique, especially considering the effort. You jump and slam a diagonal direction down in the direction you wanna go and press R. The air dodge mechanic than makes you slide across the ground. It’s a less good version of Guilty Gear’s run (it’s of limited direction and is execution intensive) and a better version of Street Fighter’s dash (you can attack and defend out of it like in Guilty Gear). It’s certainly a GOOD technique, as position in games is paramount — but it’s not the majority of the reason why good players win. In fact, I think people loathe it because it’s the most apparent thing that top Melee players do. Combine that with it’s difficulty, the fact it’s kinda stupid and the fact that it’s a glitch/exploit (though apparently nintendo knew of it?), people get really pissed over it. Yet the simple technique of SHFFLing accounts for the fast majority of the reason pro players beat casuals. It’s a technique thats easy and transparent. They just do a ton of fast air to ground attacks and you die.

What wave dashing DOES is it find ways to squeeze optimization out of a rock. It is a mechanic that strong players can use to create new situations where they have an advantage. A lot of middle ground players likely actually harm their game by focusing on this technique too much. Hell, in terms of ‘squeezing optimization from a rock’, wave dashing is a huge find. As much as it offends a lot of people, look up a list of ‘advanced techniques’ for Smash. Look how minor these advantages are. People need a way to make use of all their potential effort. Say what you will about Smash (I sorta think it’s a stupid, janky game that is only playable on accident, personally), but the community has a lot of competitive motivation.

Kara throws in street fighter, or tiny map movement optimizations in fighting games are also similar. In SF4 you might be kara throwing or extending combos, and in SF2 you might be practicing safe jump timings. To be fair though, these things are not necessarily even. Smash for example is pretty stupid, because it starts out easy and then almost immediately becomes incredibly hard. SF2’s branch of games have a pretty good gradient after a moderate initial investment. SF4 has an easier initial investment, but a very large middle investment before smoothing out somewhat well.

It is clearly STILL very important to design a well designed game with a good execution curve for accessibility and encouragement. Also controlling the rewards of optimization. If intensely difficult optimizations increase a players chances to win 50% over players who don’t, the game will likely suffer for being inaccessible. If these optimizations give a 1% advantage, top players will likely get bored and switch games. If they give say, 5-10% that might feel right. I’m making up these percentages, but the idea is that you can still control the accessibility of your game while allowing the most competitive players to make use of their potential effort. If you don’t let them, they’ll probably play something else.

On a final note, remember, motivation is critical in the idea of Peak Effort. Star Craft is probably the most skill demanding game out there because of the fact it’s a paid Korean sport. If your game can’t generate interest or motivate players to be competitive (Good match making!) it doesn’t matter how well you do the rest.

The Executive Barrier

Hey guys, remember that Platforms and Pitfalls podcast? Well, 3 casts in a row have failed to properly record, though I was only on the last one of those. Fortunately I remember a chunk of my talking points about the “grind” that many people feel exist in games (Even non-RPGs). So I’m going to cover some of that information and some new stuff. This will probably be a bit sloppy and meandering, but if you’ve read this blog before, you’ll realize this is pretty standard. Anyways…

The executive barrier exists in many games. It is the requirement a game puts on those poor fingers of yours for you to succeed or win. This concept exists in most real time video games and is usually how difficulty is manifested in a game. Mastery of manual execution and improvement is one of those things that makes the brain release happy chemicals for hardcore gamers. The industry has strove to find ways to emulate this feeling of success and mastery without actually requiring the player to possess any real skill. This is both interesting and useful for often disappointing for the hardcore! Firstly here, I want to write about competitive gaming.

Starcraft, Quake and Street Fighter

What do these games have in common? For one, they’re all successful competitive games. Secondly, they probably have the most competitive player base of their respective genres. Halo may get more players, but Quake’s community is ravenously competitive. Starcraft and Street Fighter (outside of Japan at least) stand alone in their genre. Thirdly, all three games have a very high executive barrier to play competitively. In fact, to some extent all three are hard to even play at ANY level. Many would argue against that inaccessibility. So have many developers! Yet few have managed to make much of a dent and even when they do, the executive barrier is merely masked. Games like Halo and Smash Bros are not easy games to play well, but are easy to pick up. In many cases (like the entire RTS genre), the competition fails in it’s entirety. One would think that the most accessible games would be the most popular, but this is unintuitively false in most cases.

The strength of an online gaming community rests on its most competitive players.

A community without a competitive backbone stagnates and dies. Even more so, deeply competitive players are needed for a game community to sign. Rivalries and new opponents spark interest and push tactics forward. Cool new tactics make casual or spectating players go “Wow! I wanna do that”! They keep the game relevant and in peoples minds. You should know how this works, even from silly little Facebook games. Not even evil ones, just the fact that you are driven to play Bejeweled Blitz again because someone just beat your score. Competitive players and communities cause this same effect at a greater level.

So why the executive barrier? Games can be difficulty strategically and be mentally taxing! Well oddly enough, and you’ll have to take my word for this, it is exceedingly rare that players who are more focused on the mental aspect are deeply competitive in real time genres. I don’t wish to say these people don’t exist — I know quite a number of them — but they are not in enough number to drive a communities growth and survival. Your typical competitive monster enjoys the dexterous demands of games. We can see this by looking at what games are hugely popular competitively. We can even look at Smash Bros and see what that community valued (high difficulty techniques in Melee), despite it’s lower end of accessibility. But more importantly, competitive players seem to enjoy multiple avenues of improvement.

A lot of players talk about wanting to play a game for the STRATEGY. Some people don’t care at all for that and go play DDR. But the deeply competitive player seems to do it all and while they may (and often do) have a preference for one avenue of skill, they seem to enjoy it all. Even at a lower level of play, multiple avenues of improvement allow players to always have something to improve at. Raising APM in Starcraft, movement techniques in Quake, or combos in Street Fighter. Or they could work on strategy and knowledge. They can, in the most successful games, work on one of a vast array of avenues of improvement. Improvement is addictive in a lot of ways.

Artificial Reward

Artificial reward is a tool to reward a player in a way that is pleasing to the brain. The improvement described above can be used to The most obvious example of this is RPGs. Improvement is ‘given’ to the player through a game mechanic. Rising numbers for a casual player (non competitive ‘casual’ not Wii ‘casual’) can be very very rewarding. The entire MMO RPG genre is based on a combination of this and the social aspect. One or the other can bring someone back to the game, creating something that is very sticky and satisfying for a lot of players. The reward system is also clever. Consistency of rising levels combined with inconsistent rewards from drops create a really good effect, as anyone who’s read about a Skinner’s Box would know. Many of these games are also not necessarily devoid of skill or real rewards. There are many super competitive WoW players and while the grind might not be their favorite part, they can still enjoy other aspects of the game. Many games are now also relying on the so called ‘visceral’ feel to make people feel like they achieved something. Play God of War or Call of Duty — while these games have their hard points, even easy conquests feel like an accomplishment sheerly through presentation. This can be pretty shallow, but rarely does it detract from fun. Such presentation is usually only a net gain, besides when it feels forced and artificial. Even IWBTG accomplishes this. The game is presented to seem harder than it is. While it is truly a hard game, it is a VERY beatable game. People still ask if anyone has ever beaten it, which is funny because thousands of people surely have. Even the fixed screens are used to give a discrete reward, compared to scrolling which is vague. Since each screen is so hard and usually has something funny happen, each new screen is it’s own reward. Bringing up IWBTG leads into…

The Mixed Approach and management of the Executive Barrier

Many games realize now that you can mix artificial and real rewards in a single game. This is controversial among competitive folks (myself included) who often hate artificial boundaries or time sinks, but competitive players are the most likely to deal with one thing they don’t like to do something they do like. League of Legends combines MOBA gameplay with a leveling system. This helps maintain a community and a player base that spans various skill levels. Even bad players have something to look forward to. TF2’s hat and item bullshit in theory exist without hurting the actual game (though in practice…), but give casuals something to look forward to each week. Since your drop limit resets each week, players are prompted to at least play weekly! Blizzard also worked this into their Laddering system with Starcraft 2. By putting players into smaller “Divisions”, they allow improvement to be easier to track. Bonus pools (Google it) give an intensive to come back and help ‘artificially’ inflate your rank. WoW succeeds at this with many high level raids and PVP activities that are level and skill intensive. Many games also go for the visual flair. Single Player wise, DMC or Bayonetta are both hard AND flashy. Competitively, Street Fighter’s ultras are clearly to appeal to the ‘cool’ factor of casuals and the fact that you get it by losing insures you always have a chance to try it. Many designers also realize that if they cannot reduce the executive barrier safely in their game, that they can streamline it. Starcraft 2 is a great example. Many players scoffed at features like Auto Mine, better path finding, Multi Building Select and Unlimited Sized unit groups when they were announced, claiming they would detract from the skill of the game. Blizzard was careful though! They instead included new micro and macro mechanics that were designed to feel great. Better spells and abilities across the board and more ways to harass and micro units. What they streamlined out were skills that made the game less accessible. Constantly sending workers to mine and managing 10 different construction buildings is hard and REQUIRED to play at a basic level. Now a player can play in bronze and actually play the game. He might not use his chronoboost, or call all the MULES he should and thus will still loose to better players, but his matches against other Bronze players will be less of a farce.

As a designer what one would want to do is not stifle the executive layer — that would just stifle the motivations of many of your most important players. Instead you want to streamline it. You want to make paths of improvement be more apparent. You want to prevent the player from being crippled when merely playing at a low level. You want to prevent what feels like ‘roadblocks’ to improvement. In a perfect world, where you care about accessibility, you would try and make it so the executive barrier is more of a slope and, at it’s most extreme levels, an optional one with limited, but definite rewards. There is no ultimate point to all this, just trying to cover some of the Platform and Pitfalls information while covering some other information. At the very least I hope you can see why many games are moving in this direction and why execution in games is not an element that could simply be excised without loss.

An Aside on Skill

This isn’t exactly related to the above, but I figure I might as well type it up now anyways. I’ve had a lot of people refer to Super Meat Boy as a game with a lot of “luck”. While I would argue that some aspects of the game introduce more “luck” (note the quote marks) into it than necessary, by and large, the game is not about “luck”. The ideas that it is a matter of luck as to whether you will ultimately succeed at all the trials in front of you in a row is a misunderstanding of the concept of skill. It is true that you can “luck” your way through an area or that you know you can do something but you have to wait until you are “lucky” enough to do all these somethings in a row, but this “luck” rests purely on you. This “luck” is merely variance in your skill.

So what is “skill”? Or rather, what does it mean to “grow in skill” or “improve?”

  • To increase performance. Lower times, faster scores, bigger combos, more wins. Most people’s definition stops here.

What is variance? It is the chance yo have at succeeding at any given task. For example, through luck, one could juggle 3 balls for a few passes before luck runs out. As you improve, your performance increases (you are smoother and last longer), but this is also related to variance. You become less likely to fail. Eventually a juggler gets to the points where 3 ball juggling possesses virtually no variance. In theory they could juggle indefinitely. Chances are they would fail eventually, but for all intents and purposes, their skill at that task is high enough that the variance is practically 0. When you improve at a sport, let’s say golf… you don’t just hit the ball further, you hit it further more consistently. You require less lucky shots to do what you are theoretically capable of. In Super Meat Boy, most stages are beaten before variance reaches 0. This is the “luck” people feel, but it is different from actual luck. Bejeweled Blitz requires a lot of luck, because if you don’t start with or make an early multiplier, you’ll never get a high score. That is not under your control. That is real luck. The luck elements in Super Meat Boy include missiles and evil meat boys and the like — homing, somewhat unpredictable elements — but even these can be bested consistently with a proper plan. I think the problem with Meat Boy is people get through most the game purely on their luck. It’s also possible in IWBTG. They never learn to play properly (which, unlike IWBTG, is actually important in SMB)! In Super Meat Boy, learning the plow through stages for the best time shows you how all elements are put together to interact in predictable ways that are often favorable to you. If you tip toe through the levels or rely on alt characters too often, you cripple yourself until you get stuck at the more demanding areas of the game. I’ve had people bitch about the length of The End, but if you’ve played the game properly, you’d realize The End is made up of the fairest and most reliable jumps in the game. No homing BS or anything. But to the player who has gotten by on luck, it’s all the same. Do not confuse luck with your own failing. It might be hard to tell if it’s you or a game, but if you’re talking about Super Meat Boy, it’s you. There are some unfair and arguably poorly made bits in the game, but not for the reasons of “luck”… only for being too demanding.

Too Much Talking Episode 6: The “Candy Corn” Episode

Featuring: Kayin, Patito, Crouton, April, Ben, Bill

Too Much Talking #6 “Candy Corn” 12/04/10

After getting all hopped up on Candy Corn, we have a new podcast to present to ya’ll! This episode covers some weird topics like old DOS sound technology and The Wikipedia Contingency Plan (with some time machine talk!). We also talk a bit Super Meat Boy and why reviewers aren’t a particularly good source for opinions these days despite their best efforts! Mix that with a bit of Digital Downloads and jRPGs and you got a podcast!

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Art: Zero Gravity: Rory McLochlainn

Well this was a fun little challenge. I’ve been tinkering with this for about two weeks (though I only really sunk a lot of time into it over the last week). I watched all of Super Dimensional Fortress Macross while drawing it (which hasn’t aged well!). Anyways, heres the post from DA. Not a lot of fluff for this one.

Another Picture of Rory McLochlainn, the legless starship mechanic.

So anyways, when I was coming up with theoretical spaceships for the future of the Brave Earth setting as a thought experiment, I settled on the fact that ships would use rotational gravity (as seen in 2001). If they used rotational gravity, parts of the ship would exist at zero G, one of those parts being much of the engine room and such. I thought up a picture a few months ago of Rory drifting with her legs disconnected, working on something and I actually got to drawing it. I’m very happy with the background. It’s not perfect (it’s a bit muddy, for sure), but it has a lot of cool things going on. I’m feeling much more comfortable at tackling backgrounds these days.

Her legs were supposed to be in the background but I decided their was no room, compositionally for them, especially when I didn’t want the room she was floating in to look huge. This was also one of my first experimentations with perspective. While the picture is far from perfect, I feel very happy that I was able to tackle something that seemed so far out of my skill level and do a a ‘decent’ job at it.

Posted in: Art