I hate Skullgirls IPS system

I really really really am starting to hate this system. For those who don’t know, Skullgirls’ IPS stands for “Infinite Protection System” and is the system the game uses to make sure you’re not doing infinite combos. It does this by detecting looped sequences and ‘discrete’ parts of combos. If you do an ‘infinite’ the other player can hit a button to burst out of it.To quote Mike Z…

I’m not sure why people think this IPS is complicated […] the rules are still simple to explain – “don’t start a chain with something you already hit with, and your combo is always legit.” You get 2 free sections before moves are even counted toward this limit (your first and second chains) and one more free section where moves are kept track of but the limit isn’t enforced yet (the entirety of your jump if you’re in the air, or your next chain if you aren’t). That’s it. You can determine exactly whether or not a combo is possible just by writing it out: “Did I already use s.LP? OK, can’t start another chain with that.” And if something doesn’t work, the hitsparks change color and you immediately know which move caused it. You also immediately know why, because the ONLY THING that would cause it is you having used that move before.
“Don’t start a chain with something you’ve already hit with” is the only rule. The exception is your first jumpin sequence, first ground chain and first air combo.

Okay, so it stops infinites and dumb loops, right? Well, no. It really doesn’t help any problem at all, and makes certain problems worse. All it succeeds at is limiting the length of combos. Not to a reasonable length either, just enough to make sure they eventually have to end. What the system demands is very carefully planned and practiced combos with very few liberties. Adding an extra jab somewhere can lead to another part of the combo not working. It stifles mid-match creativity. It doesn’t even stop loops. As a Parasoul player, most of my combos have this segment…

… LP->MP->HP->HP->LP Tear Shot
LP->MP->HP->HP->LP Tear Shot(sometimes allowed when starting in the ‘free section’)
c.LP->MP->HP->HP->LP Tear Shot
LK->MP->HP->HP->LP Tear Shot
c.LK->MP->HP->HP->LP Tear Shot

It looks sometiming like this. And you might go “That’s not too bad”, but then it gets included in a competent combo and you get this. Desk shows another ‘loop’ with Cerabella. You also get issues where the order of segments effect the IPS. For example (to make up a fake combo), something like, Launcher -> j.LP – .j.MP – j.HP relaunch j.MP – j.HP would trigger IPS, but j.MP – jHP relaunch j.LP – j.MP – j.HP would not. It’s a quirky, dumb thing that’s hard to keep track of mid match, leading to a reliance on pre-canned combos you read online, just like every other game.

So what does the IPS do for us?

Well, it makes sure combos end, like I said, but so does gravity, increasing pushback and hitstun decay. Does it do anything better? Well, for one it’s very deterministic. Gravity, hitstun and pushback are very “analog” and hard to track. IPS is super reliable, which IS a plus. But what else does it do?

*Promotes very long combos where players can continue until all their buttons are exhausted.
*Makes improving combos on the spot very difficult.
*Makes combo corrections for things like height and stuff very difficult since one errant move throws off the whole combo.
*Makes improvisation much harder in general.
*Makes memorization harder, since loops have to be ‘obfuscated’ from the IPS.

It really doesn’t have any positive qualities outside of it’s very clear, obvious deterministic nature. Everything else seems like a straight con. Funny enough, I still get messages from people when I complain about it saying that it promotes creative combos when that is so obviously not true. It has all the old problems of any old system, just slightly rearranged and much more rigid. It almost makes me wonder if these players are even good enough at the game to know what they’re talking about. “Lemme just copy combos like I always did but the devs tell me it’s more creative so imma think I’m bein’ more creative!” Okay maybe that’s being a little unfair, but whatever.

While the system sounds good on paper, in practice it seems like a hamfisted, awkward solution to a non-problem. Alas, Guilty Gear will continue to have the best combo system out of any chain combo based game. A shame too, because I like the rest of the game soooooo much.

9 thoughts on “I hate Skullgirls IPS system

  1. “It really doesn’t help any problem at all, and makes certain problems worth.”

    Should be “worse”?

  2. Spent the weekend thinking about this. I get your criticisms, and they’re concise and valid and whatnot, but I still like IPS. It goes off of chain starters, which admittedly is something a newbie isn’t going to follow but is something I get like right away. I like how move properties don’t ever need to be nerfed by virtue of enabling an infinite.

    So this is the Lorax saying “I see your point” all non-confrontationally. ;)

  3. A little late here, but something to consider. Move properties can still need to be nerfed by virtue of allowing super long chains in which they are the crutch off. So again, IPS doesn’t solve many problems. It merely displaces them.

  4. @johnsonic7

    I still don’t think the system is the best way to do things. It’ll always feel arbitrary and dumb and now it’ll probably kick in on accident more often. That said, instead of being obnoxious AND not doing it’s job, it will now be obnoxious and kinda do it’s job. Even if it’s a little bit more obnoxious to butt up against, it’ll be for the better. Shorter combos will make the game easier to get into and extend matches and not be…… boring to be comboed in.

    The whole patch list in general seems great.

  5. A very intelligently written article, kudos and thank you for clearly explaining your points.

    I have a few comments:

    – “Okay, so it stops infinites and dumb loops, right? Well, no.” This is…factually wrong. I realize the IPS as it is now is too nice with respect to repetition with tiny variations, which is why it’s changing in the patch, but it still does exactly what it says on the tin – prevents infinites. Which is more than you can say about the system in many other games, including GG. And if LP[chain] c.LP[chain] LK[chain] c.LK[chain] and then NOTHING ELSE WORKS is a loop, then what ISN’T a loop? Where do you draw the line, at two different moves? Three? Is it a loop as long as each rep ends with the same move? The common definition of a loop that I’m used to is “[stuff]xN”.

    – I’m surprised you like GG’s combo system if you don’t like this, since I feel *exactly* your sentiments about GG’s system…adding an extra P at the beginning of a combo can make the middle or the end no longer work, and it annoys the crap out of me given how much I like GG otherwise. I feel like GG’s system is incredibly restrictive and beyond 7 or so hits you MUST know EXACTLY what combo you want to do including what the starter was. Compared to MvC2 it feels like you have to rehearse every little thing. SG’s system was designed explicitly so that doing different *starters* doesn’t affect your combo, and even doing a different ground or air combo doesn’t change what is possible later. You have a long time to adjust, comparatively.

    – The order IPS suggests for combos is the order you generally want for maximizing damage or meter gain anyway…in your fictitious example, LP->MP->HP, MP->HP would do less damage than MP->HP, LP->MP->HP because two of the more-damaging moves come earlier and thus are subject to less damage scaling. And again, at the beginning of the combo what you do is irrelevant, so I feel like you’re talking about longer/optimized combos specifically, in which case if you are optimizing why are you purposefully doing less damage? (^.^)

    “Well, it makes sure combos end, like I said, but so does gravity, increasing pushback and hitstun decay.” That’s totally false – gravity is what MAKES basketball combos work in HnK, increased pushback is what MAKES wallbounce jab infinites work in Sengoku Basara, and hitstun decay fails to prevent infinites in MvC3/GG/HnK/pick any other game you wish. Even systems that forcibly end combos like MK’s Maximum Damage and MvC2’s undizzies fail to prevent truly infinite combos (Blackheart’s delayed 2-hit pillar juggle can be repeated forever even without exploiting other undizzy bugs) because none of those systems take into account what you have done thus far in the combo. The IPS is the first one besides One Must Fall 2097 to do that.

    If you really think this is a solution to a “non-problem” pick any easy loop you like in SG and imagine if it were repeatable for 100% damage with no variation and no escape. That’s a very real problem that exists in *all* the other systems but *does not exist here*, leaving you free to focus on all the other annoyances you mention. Isn’t that nice? :^)

    I’m confused by your point about it being “hard to keep track of”. For the first (on average) 6-10 button presses, nothing you do is limited at all. Past that, no matter what game you’re playing, you have to know approximately what you want to do…by the time you get to that spot either you know what combo you wanted or you don’t. Optimization in *any* system ultimately results in “this is what you do if you want it to work and do the most damage/build the most meter/etc”…IMO SG is just more transparent about the rules under which players operate.

    Mike Z

  6. Wow holy shit, Mike Z. So real quick, awesome game, I <3 you (even if I disagree with you a bit here) and thanks for not falling to the temptation of screaming wildly at criticism like some creators do.

    First off, as my last comment says, the patch changes look good. Seems like it will at least adequately do it's job. I of course don't know yet, but we'll see when the patch comes out. But okay yes, you're right, it does what it says on the tin. But it also permeates the system at a deep enough level that it's more than that. It's the primary barrier to whether combos work or not. Like gravity in most games, or push back or whatever. It is the restrictive force. I guess another problem here is definitely the whole 'loop' definitions and I guess I have to be honest -- I kinda like loops. The Dust Loop was my favoritest combo ever. I sorta, to begin with, don't see a practical different between 'loops' and "combos" either, assuming both at least reach a termination point. But even that said, I think when you have combos with like, Cerabella doing her Ground to Air grab over and over again with different filler, to most players, it feels about the same as being "looped". It's an entirely subjective feelings. So I dunno where this leaves us! I guess my own fuzzy feeling of what's a "loop" includes stuff I do in most SG combos I know. Basically going back to the same linker as much as possible. So I dunno, I guess this particular point is a bit too fuzzy for me to even really agree or disagree. It's mostly semantics.

    As for GG characters, I definitely found that true sometimes. Some characters had combos that seemed to have higher chaos functions (Slayer comes to mind, but his bullshit might become intuitive to long time players? I dunno)than others, while others could be a bit more adaptive. Playing Johnny I felt the only thing I needed to remember was One Hit Ensenga setups and even those I could sometimes make up on the spot. Whats more, if an adjustment prevents me from maximizing damage, it doesn't necessarily end the combo in a puff of pink.I think part of this might have to be how different players internalize combos. I rarely have met anyone on the fence about IPS. Seems very love it or hate it and that probably is a reflection of how people approach memorization.

    Gotta take the rebuke on my fictitious example. I admit it wasn't at all the best.

    But I can look at the combos that were being done in SG and compare them to GG or MvC3 and go "Yeah that works so much better". While HnK definitely had super practical infinites in a 1v1 game, GG really didn't and both SG and Marvel seem to have pretty reliable kill combos. After the patch this probably won't be the case, but at the time the article was written, it really did seem like "Yeah, this is... mostly what I'm used to in every other game". And it's not that I'm saying SGs without an IPS would work, but more that the IPS system (even post patch) doesn't really provide what I find to be a ton of benefit over more conventional systems and a lot of stuff that annoys me better.

    As for the memory thing, well... Definitely, at a high level of play, none of this matters. Highly trained, honed, robot mode. But as a more... Casually-competitive/semi retired position like me, where some improvisation helps fill the gaps of memory, it becomes very annoying. Though I will certainly agree that it's more transparent which DOES have benefits.

    Anyways, I really appreciate the very indepth, polite rebuke and I guess I have to admit this comes down to something as fuzzy and subjective as how it 'feels'. As someone who usually likes to thoroughly explain something, that feels really lame, but it's the best I can offer. Finding out guilty gear rubs you the wrong way in the same way SG rubs me is actually very interesting to me and explains a lot.

  7. “For the first (on average) 6-10 button presses, nothing you do is limited at all.”
    “beyond 7 or so hits you MUST know EXACTLY what combo you want”

    I’ll start with these quotes because it will show you where I’m coming from. I think that’s just a crazy amount of button presses. I don’t really like long combos. So my argument is at least partly a taste thing.

    “adding an extra P at the beginning of a combo can make the middle or the end no longer work”

    This seems to be the case with SG. What am I missing here?

    “SG’s system was designed explicitly so that doing different *starters* doesn’t affect your combo, and even doing a different ground or air combo doesn’t change what is possible later. You have a long time to adjust, comparatively.”
    “And again, at the beginning of the combo what you do is irrelevant”
    “because none of those systems take into account what you have done thus far in the combo.”

    I hope this doesn’t seem unfair. Like I’m just catching you in a semantic error or something, but what am I supposed to be getting here? You’re giving me conflicting reports on how IPS does and is supposed to work.
    In my experience, IPS makes me consider heavily what I’ve already done in a combo–What I started with and what I what I linked off of each launcher/ground bounce. This is exceptionally hard in a game full of relaunching and resetting. In most combo-heavy games, I feel like I only have to consider the move itself outside of any context to see how it affects my combo. What AND when I use a move WITHIN a combo is the extra, on-the-spot memorization I feel from SG, and it is frustrating.

    I feel there are some other objectively weak components to IPS. You seem to rag pretty hard on GG (which is mostly fine) but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen anything close to an infinite in that game outside of Slayer and Eddy. In GG you see how much damage you’re doing, how far the opponent is getting knocked back, how much you’re getting pushed back and how far they are off the ground. All those things tell you how ‘stable’ your combo is. If it’s starting to feel weak, you end it. I don’t get any of that in Skullgirls. I have to remember what I did earlier and that’s it. There are no visual cues.
    This ties directly into how strange IPS feels in general. Like I mentioned with GG, all those physics things are directly tied to how the characters control and the mechanics operate during most all of the gameplay. With IPS, ‘what move I used to link off of a launcher’ is only vaguely related to that sort of thing. That idea exists only within combos. Then this is extended into the IPS bursts. For some reason the character getting comboed gets powered up if some weird rule is broken. I implore you to consider other possibilities.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *