Steep Learning Fighting Game

I was recently thinking about editors, comparing MS Word to vim + LaTeX. For the “industry leader” in text editing, MS Word sure doesn’t offer much to power users. Indeed, I would much sooner type e' than open up the symbol palette, hunt for é, double click, and close the palette. As would I prefer the longer \textit{...} to moving my mouse over to I and click (neglecting the Ctrl-I shortcut :-).

Vim has more advantages, like changing all your italics to bolds in a particular region with :s/textit/textbf/g. But this post isn’t about text editors; those tradeoffs have been many times explored: It’s about games.

All the one-on-one fighting games I’ve so far seen have been analogous to MS Word. They’re designed to allow someone to pick up the game and start playing immediately. This is a very important attribute of games. Games with a steep learning curve can lose the prospective player’s interest and consequently lose popularity1.

But there could be some merit to a fighting game with a steep learning curve. Counterstrike, after all, has a pretty steep curve, and it’s one of the most popular games in history.

This was all inspired by the mace-and-chain fight in Kill Bill (one of my favorite movies). The obvious way to control such a weapon is to have it automatically swinging overhead (or in one of several stances, à la Bushido Blade), and have several buttons issuing several kinds of attacks. That’s the MS Word way. The vim way might be rhythmically tapping or alternating buttons to exert the force to keep it swinging, and other buttons to lengthen and shorten your grip.

That would be tough to pick up—too tough to get anyone’s interest. To make it a good game, you’d have to add “easier” weapons into the game: a dagger, or just hand fighting. But you can’t dumb down the advanced weapons to make them easier to learn, because that takes away the power users’ power. Obviously an experienced mace-and-chain fighter could beat the pants off of any type of fist fighter. Just like in real life. :-)

Perhaps that will be my next experimental game. First, though, I should finish the one I’m working on now: a physics engine for the The Incredible Machine clone that Namaste and I are making2.

1And a lot of it, since the popularity of a multiplayer game, unlike other forms of software, is quadratically proportional to the number of players.

2And not like The Incredible Machine: Contraptions which is just like all the other games with “better” (in my opinion, much worse) graphics. A post of this coming soon!

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