Team games- Woes and Expectations

team game woes.pngMarvel vs Capcom 2 was a “happy accident”, where Capcom just shoved everything into a single space, and somehow, something good emerged from all that chaos. While many people are busy talking about character models and aesthetics, I’m really excited to see the unique experience MvC2 created being taken to different, interesting directions. Even if each direction is so different from the others, I can still see the logic behind each and every game. This only shows that the genre still has plenty of room to grow and develop, and as far as I see it, the games are not in competition with each other but explore unique corners of the possible design space.

Here are 2 great things I’m sure I’ll be getting from each upcoming title:
1. It’s going to feel good to be able to press buttons and do flashy things.
2. No matter how the explored, finalized state of high level play looks, the exploration phase is going to be a blast, and justify the purchase on its own.

And here are things that I’m personally worried about, based on my experience with the older games, and that I hope to see the upcoming titles address:

1. Combo length- One of the things I didn’t like in the MVC3 titles is that the combos were too long. This lead to so many seconds in every match where it’s just one player doing the same inputs and the other player waiting for the combo to finish. There was no interaction between the two players and no interesting decisions to make, not compared to what happens before the initial hit at least.

2. Combo inflexibility- While the combo systems themselves are very free form, the team format actually creates a final state of inflexibility. Think about a 1v1 game: If you have an easy combo that does 32% damage and a hard combo that does 33% damage, then you can do fine in the game if you can’t do the hard combo, as the difference between them is not going to have a huge impact on the overall result every time you land a hit. But in how team games are built, the difference is between killing a character and not killing a character. In a 1v1 game you don’t care you have 66% life or 67% life as you can still use all your tools, but in a team game getting that 100% on the first character you hit is a big deal, as it removes tools and options from the remaining characters. So while doing a basic combo is easy, you can expect a big difference in effectiveness if you can’t pull off that hard combo that gets the kill.

3. The lame-duck problems- Sirlin explained it well so I should just let you read what he wrote. (Taken from

So MvC2 had a problem in one direction, and MvC3 tried to fix it but ended up creating a problem in the opposite direction- Turning your character into a super strong and super fast machine of death via X-Factor, as effective as it is to balance the odds, does not create a deep, interesting experience.

Another facet of this problem is that each character in a team game is designed to function with all the team mechanics available, i.e. alongside assists and DHCs. Comebacks or not, when a MVC3 match comes down to the last character, the lack of options is glaring, and it’s very clear when you watch footage of the last character in each team with both X-Factors wasted. 1v1 MvC3 is not a fun game to play.

I’m not exactly sure what would be an ideal and elegant solution to this myself, but it seems that each game takes a different approach to fix this:

*MvCI gives you the infinity stones. i.e. tools that cannot be taken away from your team, and gives you access to a stone powerup for a limited time when you take enough damage.

*DBFZ completely changes pushblock, which helps solo characters. It also tries to tweak the X-Factor mechanic from MvC3 (called Sparking Blast here), reducing the bad influence it has on the neutral phase, but still allowing it to be effective enough to allow comebacks. This means no speed boost, less power boost, lasting a very long time at level 3, and the activation also functioning as a combo breaking Burst. While level 1 XF was still effective enough to secure an important kill in MvC3, in DBFZ the level 1 Sparking Blasts ends so fast that it’s only functional a Burst, which you might as well save for the last character as a level 3.

4. Bursts being tied to super meter- The single mechanic which doesn’t even begin to make sense to me in MvCI is this. Bursts are usually tied in games to a meter that fills faster when you get hit (that’s when you need the burst) while super fills up when you are on the offensive. Burst costing meter only seems to make bad situations even worse, and reward the player who is in a more favorable position. A powerful zoning team can become unstoppable if they can keep you out while building super meter, and when you finally land a hit on them, they can just burst to safety, and repeat the process. It also encourages both players to sit on their meters rather than do fun things with it like supers.

I’m eager to see how both games will shape up, and if they manage to avoid my personal pet peeves mentioned here.