Talk Sport: Street Fighter IV vs. StarCraft 2

By Quintin Smith on May 3rd, 2010 at 1:00 pm.

Him on the right is actually what Quinns looks like.

There’s something distinctly feminine about choosing to get really good at a game. Unlike the very male experience of playing whatever, whenever, basically playing as much as you can get, basically waddling around the game shop with your trousers round your ankles, choosing to get good at a game requires commitment, or even devotion. More difficultly, it also requires that you choose a suitor.

When I was living in Edinburgh my flatmate and I spent the better part of six months trying a ton of different fighting games. We were searching for something we could play together to settle disputes, a game which might simplify the awkwardness that arose whenever I chose not to pay bills or my grubby cohabitant left toenail clippings on the toilet seat.

For a while the closest we got was Virtua Fighter 5, where we got as far as choosing our characters (mine, his) and perhaps half an hour each of rote move memorisation before losing interest.

Incidentally (since any dedicated PC gamers are unlikely to experience it), as one of the first Japanese games to appear on the PS3 with its new fangled hard drive, Virtua Fighter 5 has the most astonishingly awkward initial start-up sequence of all time. It goes like this:

VF5: Now loading Virtua Fighter 5.
You: OK.
VF5: Would you like to load save data?
You: Uh. Yes?
VF5: There is no save data.
You: Oh, right. OK.
VF5: Would you like to not load the save data that isn’t there?
You: …no?
VF5: Not loading save data.
You: Right.
VF5: Now loading Virtua Fighter 5. Welcome, to Virtua Fighter 5.
You: Cool.
VF5: There is no save data.

(If this is ringing any bells for you, it’s because Penny Arcade got there years ago.)

WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THAT GUY'S ARM!

Eventually Street Fighter IV was released, and my flatmate fell for it pretty much instantly. It had it all- this game was massively sophisticated, it was beautiful, and it even had a sense of humour. We were charmed.

But it didn’t stick for me, which was kind of crushing. I’d always told myself that if the right fighting game came along I’d give it my time, and yet here was unquestionably the “right” fighting game- how could anyone get it more right? But I couldn’t be bothered to train. Every time my planned special move failed to materialise I felt like flinging the game disc under a truck, and every time my flatmate kicked my ass I felt like flinging him under a truck. I could have done it, too. He wasn’t very big.

But there were no trucks. There was only me, and defeat, and the occasional success that would always be chased up by another quick defeat. With hindsight it seems obvious that SFIV didn’t hold my interest because I was never any good at it, but I know that’s wrong. Sucking at a game isn’t a problem. Not wanting to get better at it is a problem, and the idea of getting good at SFIV didn’t appeal at all.

I figured out why eventually, but only because I started seeing– uh, playing StarCraft 2.

Blanka could defeat them!

Don’t think that because it’s an RTS StarCraft 2 is somehow softer than Street Fighter IV. SC2 is a fierce, hungry game that demands superhuman multitasking ability and an animal rate of clicks per minute. That it has a reputation for superfast rushes is testament to that. The game is brutal, and I suck, and I love it.

A lot of critics of StarCraft use the word “rush” in a derogatory sense as if the prevalence of rushes somehow makes the game more crude, so I just want to quickly clarify things. StarCraft 2 is only a game about rushes in the sense that Street Fighter IV is a game about punches. Throwing your arms up in despair as your base is overwhelmed by a seemingly unstoppable rush is every bit as idiotic as shaking your head in sad disdain when your SFIV opponent KOs you by playing aggressively and simply punching your face many times.

The actual game of SC2 isn’t in those climactic rushes, but in predicting, scouting and defending against them. If you find yourself overwhelmed by a hopeless rush, you lost the match minutes ago. You were just too inexperienced to know it.

To get back on track, going between these two games actually taught me what I enjoy about hyper-competitive titles. The reason StarCraft 2 stuck while Street Fighter 4 didn’t is because if I’m looking to settle down with something that brands itself as an e-sport, then I need it to behave like a sport. If I’m going to spend a serious amount of my time on a game, I need it to be a multi-faceted experience that rewards every ounce of obsession I load into it.

Street Fighter IV (and the modern fighting game in general) is all pop and twitch. The mechanics are hopelessly nuanced, obviously, and the game itself remains a completely fascinating construct that excels at drenching individual minutes in adrenaline, but it’s less good at giving you everything else that traditionally orbits a sport.

There’s a reason Blizzard chose to market StarCraft 2 with the most astonishingly competent and entertaining match commentaries I’ve ever heard for a videogame, and that reason is because the game supports it.

If you listen to commentaries of SFIV tournament matches, despite the fact that each match plays out much more quickly you still hear the commentators filling seconds by talking about what the players might be aiming for, or what their chosen characters are good at, or simply calling out special moves as they happen. “Oh! Sonic boom! Oh, EX-flash kick! Yeah, Guile’s a very defensive character, he wants to keep Balrog way out of range.”

I need to get into fighting (i.e. Beating) Quinns at SC2 again.

It’s not their fault, it’s just that everything happens so hopelessly quickly. For all the talk of high level SFIV play being like a chess match and any obvious parallels with, say, boxing, there’s no escaping that the game is primarily down to honed reflexes.

It doesn’t matter how fun Street Fighter IV is. I understand now that that’s not all I’m in this for.

When I first started playing StarCraft 2 I couldn’t get hypothetical problems out of my head. As a Zerg player I kept thinking about how I could use the Infestor, a complex unit I always avoided, and I wondered about things like potential build orders if I found my opponent was teching straight for Air units. I’d dream up potential solutions while I was walking around town, and in going home and testing them I began zeroing in on tactics that made me marginally less shit.

At the same time I learned the benefits of watching replays of matches where I’d gotten panned, because I’d always come away with some trick or idea (hard not to when SC2 lets you watch how your opponent moved his camera and cursor). By contrast, you can watch a replay of yourself sucking at Street Fighter IV and often see where you went wrong- ‘I should have blocked there, should have cancelled my focus attack when I saw my opponent move like that’- but putting anything into practice is a nightmare. Better to just play the game and let skill come to you.

This isn’t about one game having a steeper difficulty curve than the other. Both are equally intimidating in that respect. It’s about one of these games being better at existing outside of the screen. Playing StarCraft 2 encourages you to talk about matches you’ve had or tactics, and talking about StarCraft 2 makes you understand the game more. This is before we’ve even gotten into the social aspect of finding a 2v2 partner or forming a 3v3 or 4v4 team.

As an obsession, Street Fighter IV is less well rounded, contained as it is in its spectacular visuals and sweaty arcade stick. Ironically, it’s StarCraft 2 that’s more suited to the imagery of being knocked down by the aged sensei and listening to what he has to say.

Chun-li really has let herself go.

A few years back I got sent to cover the filming of Sky’s (then soon-to-be-launched, now dead) XLEAGUE.tv e-sports channel. It was a bit like attending a circus organised by TV executives and cameramen, with a few gamers being kept in the back like prize freaks.

The whole miserable spectacle had been brought about, I discovered, by the recent transformation of televised Poker into a huge cash cow. A few months prior there had been a high-powered meeting of Sky executives, and they’d decided that if the sedate game of Poker could be compulsive viewing, why couldn’t the same be said for videogames? Two years and however much money later, XLEAGUE.tv was closed down. It had failed.

I feel like the difference between StarCraft 2 and Street Fighter IV might help explain why, not least because of StarCraft’s televised success in Korea.

Games are designed to be entertaining to play. Sports, broadly speaking, are entertaining to play, but also to watch and discuss, two extra elements that require a very different type of design (design that SC2 leans towards more than SFIV). Of course, existing as they do in the real world, real-life sports have to try less hard- human contact automatically enlivens and expands on any game. Nobody would watch televised virtual poker, for example, while everyone would watch Gears of War multiplayer if it was somehow brought to life, chainsaws and all.

An understanding of this, I think, will be the foundation of whatever causes e-sports to really take off worldwide, or at least what will stop people from continuing to try and drum up public interest when there’s nothing to be interested in. Until then, well. Get ready to watch an awful lot more investors wasting their money. If you need me, I’ll be playing StarCraft 2.

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129 Comments »

  1. Mr_Day says:

    “and yet here was unquestionably the “right” fighting game- how could anyone get it more right?”

    Capcom – “With more characters and locations! Also, we made the online bit into a mode we call ‘not shit’! Also, We put a ‘Super’ at the begining! Remember, like we used to.”

    • Gwyn says:

      (Reply fail before, let’s try again.)

      SFIV isn’t a good example of a ‘pro-friendly’ fighter. It addressed the problems that casuals had with SF3 – namely that parrying allowed an expert to utterly demolish a casual in a risk-free way that wasn’t really fun to either player. SFIV was built with the goal of reducing the skill difference between the hardcore and the casuals, so they could all compete online.

      Which is really good design, so we’re clear. It doesn’t make for exciting tournaments*, compared to 3rd Strike, but that’s not its point. It’s design philosophy centers around people who don’t practice.

      *I know this begs the question: Daigo is himself exciting to watch, because he metagames his opponent. If not for him, you’d just be bored to tears.

    • Steven Hutton says:

      @Gwyn in response to: “It’s design philosophy centers around people who don’t practice.”

      That’s not true. I mean, I just disagree really strongly. Every character in SFIV and I mean EVERY character has a game built around difficult links. Sometime (in fact often) they’re as tight as a one frame input window. (For the uninitiated; That means you have one sixtyth of a second to input the command).

      These require hours of practice to get nailed down so you can do them consistently and if you can’t do them you simply can’t compete at the game. Even the “beginner” character Ryu has tricky one frame links in his “bread and butter” go to damage combos.

      And this is before you get to tricky stuff like focus-attack-dash-cancels. Which is a complicated input for a really simple action.

      I’ve spent some little time on fighting game forums with the release of Super Street Fighter and I’ve even seen people say “if you can’t do links you’re not playing Street Fighter”.

      I find it hard to accept that a game that requires the player to spend £150 on an arcade stick and then spend hours doing tedious execution drills in order to play at all seriously can ever be considered casual.

      This ties in nicely to why Street Fighter will never make for good television. You can watch a game of star craft and imagine yourself doing all of those things. All it requires are clicks of the mouse, you don’t need any special skills. But most of the stuff you see in tournament street fighter play is way beyond the ability of the typical observer to replicate or even understand. Most of the people watching probably don’t even know that a link combo is a thing. And they certainly wont own the specialised equipment (arcade stick) required to play the game even if they do. That’s before you get into really esoteric stuff like option selects, frame traps and reversals.

      This, incidentally, is why I don’t like starcraft. There’s too much micromanaging and focusing on clicking a thousand times a minute. It’s another tedious execution skill i have to learn before I can access the actual game. As if you asked chess players to performs a difficult acrobatic manouver before moving each piece.

      I prefer Dawn of War 2 for multiplayer.

  2. MD says:

    Quinns articles are always a highlight for me, and this one’s no exception. I’m quite sceptical of your thesis though, specifically that “there’s no escaping that the game is primarily down to honed reflexes”. I don’t have the experience to dispute this based on my own understanding, but having read a fair bit of what David Sirlin (http://www.sirlin.net/) has written about fighting games, I’m convinced that at a high enough level of play your statement is a long way from the truth. (I’m assuming here that SFIV isn’t dramatically shallower than the classic Street Fighter games, which is admittedly a pretty big assumption to make. If I’m wrong, let me know!) Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s not the case at low levels, and it’s quite possible that the ‘real game’ kicks in at too high a level for most of us to ever appreciate it. If any hardcore Street Fighter players are reading this, I’d be very interested to hear their perspective on this.

    • Quintin Smith says:

      Yeah. Reflexes is probably the wrong word, or at least a misguiding one. I’m really referring to the whole collection of memorised attacks and learned responses that I’d categorise under “reflex” reactions.

      As I say in the article, I’d never dream of arguing that Street Fighter 4 is shallow. It’s the opposite. The problem is that all the complexities are buried so deeply that even match commentators struggle to bring them to the surface.

    • Jaz says:

      I have to consciously remember to use my dragon punch (the flying uppercut thinger) when my opponent uses a long leaping kick or has just downed me. It’s not a reflex so much as a really quick decision. That said, there really isn’t much to comment on when you’re watching two players *think*. At least in StarCraft you can see each side sweeping their units into position, or queuing up units (or did I read somewhere that pros don’t queue up units?).

      Does anyone else wish that you could see your opponent’s mouse cursor in RTS games, by the way?

    • MD says:

      @ Quinns: Fair enough. So by “primarily down to” are you pretty much saying that they’re a necessary condition for anything deeper to occur, and as well as being a massive hurdle for the player to overcome they also serve to obscure the spectator’s ability to comprehend and appreciate that depth? Or are you [also?] suggesting that the depth, ultimately, is pretty mechanical, and learning to play welll is more a matter of reflex conditioning (in your broader sense) than on-the-fly creativity?

      (Sorry to press the issue, I’m just genuinely interested in your perspective, and I’m not sure whether I’ve fully understood it. As I said, I’m coming from a position of ignorant curiosity; I’m a politics/philosophy major who enjoys reading popular science, and at the moment I feel about as qualified to an opinion as I do in scientific debates.)

    • MD says:

      By “reflex conditioning” I mean an incredibly complex series of pre-determined responses, I guess — like chess if it was just simple enough for a human to approach it purely by exploring the space of possible positions, and the appropriate response in each case — but still complex enough for this to be a massive and almost never-ending task.

    • b0rsuk says:

      There’s your problem – you took Sirlin seriously. He’s a hypocrite and a scrub by his own definition:

      http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20060222/sirlin_01.shtml

      He complained that you need 40 players to access endgame areas. According to him, that’s not skill. He would like to play the game the way *HE* likes it, not the way that is effective. He rages on that in WOW, Time > Skill. Funny words from someone who said you should do everything you can to win ! Apparently he doesn’t see the irony.
      —-

      Back to rockpapershotgun. The article is right in many points. You can’t really learn anything from watching a SF4 replay, except perhaps “I should’ve had better reflexes”.

    • Syu says:

      I believe calling it “reflex” or “response” is oversimplifying it. Many attacks execute in so few frames that’s impossible to respond to them after it has happened. You have to be aware of all the available options your opponent’s character has at any given moment against your character, and try to predict his next move. Of course, your opponent is also trying to predict your next move, and that’s when the mind games get really interesting. The commentators can’t bring this up because it happens too fast, but they are aware of it, as are the other players watching (which is why you’ll often see the crowd react to moves that don’t look spectacular, such as a simple high punch, but in reality was a really clever reading by one of the players).

    • jsdn says:

      Having played in tournaments of both fighting games and RTS I’d say reflex is a good word. Fighting games are less like Chess and more like solving a Rubik’s Cube several times a round. You’re presented with a situation (your opponent is doing X move) and you need to solve it as fast as possible (do Y move, that exploits X, and opens up to Z). It’s 90% instinctive knowledge of the mechanics, and 10% psychology.
      Are RTS games different? Well, sort of. The differing skill sets of the genres certainly use different parts of the brain. Being able to quickly tactically analyze a battlefield and then make the correct judgements on how to micromanage your army is definitely much deeper than trying to find an opening in a fighting game. As you’re learning an RTS, it’s quite a bit more cerebral than a fighting game ever is, but as you start to perfect it it does come down to the same 90% instinctive knowledge of game mechanics.
      So at high level play, the main difference is then that anything can happen at any time in fighting games. A commentator can’t make many assumptions on who will win or who will do what, and even if they could they wouldn’t be able to speak it in time for it to matter. RTS games are the opposite, very many assumptions can be made constantly, and there’s time enough to speak them. Those mechanics are the reason why most gamers gravitate towards fighting games as opposed to RTS. When they watch their base get torn apart by zerglings, and they know there’s nothing they can do about it, they get angry. They don’t know why they lost, so they call you a rushing fag or whatever. Fighting games are more obvious, you lost because he punched you more. Not to say fighting games won’t make gamers angry, but that it’s far more obvious what you did right or what you did wrong.
      In closing I’ll say that since RTS games have much more mathematical variables involved they thus have a much higher skillcap and ever evolving plays (great for esports), but those big comebacks in fighting games are the pinnacle of competitive gaming.

    • Gwyn says:

      SFIV isn’t really deep at all where it matters. If Ryu or Sagat sits in a corner and throws fireballs, only about 3 other characters are capable of getting in close to do damage – and even then they have to commit to something very risky. Everyone else is fucked.

      Once you try to become good at SFIV, you realise how insanely narrow the scope for effective tactics is. The same tactics work on it now as did on arcade release. There’s no play evolution because it’s really a tiny, tiny game. I haven’t played Super so I dunno what they fixed in that mechanic-wise.

    • MD says:

      Interesting responses, thanks guys.

      Just a quick point though, in reply to b0rsuk:

      There’s your problem – you took Sirlin seriously. He’s a hypocrite and a scrub by his own definition:

      http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20060222/sirlin_01.shtml

      He complained that you need 40 players to access endgame areas. According to him, that’s not skill. He would like to play the game the way *HE* likes it, not the way that is effective. He rages on that in WOW, Time > Skill. Funny words from someone who said you should do everything you can to win ! Apparently he doesn’t see the irony.

      I’m in a bit of a hurry right now, so it’s possible that I’ve missed something, but I don’t follow your point. Sirlin defines a ‘scrub’ as “a player who is handicapped by self-imposed rules that the game knows nothing about. A scrub does not play to win.” In his WoW article, he basically seems to be arguing that WoW is rubbish and is teaching its players the wrong lessons. I see no hypocrisy there; he seems to pretty unambiguously be raging at the game itself, not directly at its players. He’d be a hypocrite if he was trying to convince the players to play sub-optimally in order to make ‘skill’ more important than the game’s natural preference for ‘time invested’, but he’s not — he’s approaching the problem (as he sees it) by criticizing the game, and his proposed solution is to create a better game. That seems entirely consistent with his competitive gaming philosophy as he’s presented it elsewhere.

  3. mrmud says:

    “most astonishingly competent and entertaining match commentaries”

    Huh, the battle reports were fine I guess but they are no Day9 Daily.

    • jsdn says:

      Day9 Daily is post-game analysis, not match commentary. Though he also has excellent match commentary (casting), there’s many others who are just as good.

  4. Acidburns says:

    Do you think a Starcraft show would work in the UK? There was that Total War TV show on a while back. I vaguely remember the BBC doing some beat em up show called Fight Box? I never watched it but I imagine it was pretty dire.

    • Quintin Smith says:

      I stumbled across a programme recently which had kids dueling these mechanical spider-looking things in a Pokemon stylee. After a few seconds my eyes focused and I realised the robots were computer generated and had been superimposed on the screen, meaning the kids were screaming and cheering at an empty arena. It was horrible.

      A StarCraft show would only work in the UK if the populace had even half as much interest in the game as they do in Korea. I mean, live SC matches in South Korea have in the past drawn more than 100,000 actual flesh and blood spectators. How many spectators would you get in England for a StarCraft final? 1,000? 100? 15?

    • Mr_Day says:

      @ Quinns

      Is it bad of me if I said “15, and then only newspaper journalists waiting to see if someone says ‘cunt’”?

      I wonder why Korea is so accepting of gamers – any attempt to bring that acceptance over here will probably fall foul of a media that seems pre-disposed to slandering another medium if they find they can’t exploit it.

      Though I am pretty much basing that on Charlie Brooker’s description of how the same newspapers that run page 3 girls will have a go at television for having too much sex on it. I’ll shush now.

    • Daniel Klein says:

      I don’t have any data about the UK, but I know that there have been OSL finals watching sessions organized in California by TeamLiquid fans that went rather high into the triple digits. And that was just a bunch of nerds sitting in a bar that had graciously agreed to let them stream internet video onto a big screen. There is interest, and it’ll only grow.

      The community of English StarCraft commentators is also big and thriving. Again, TeamLiquid is your hub for everything StarCraft, but SC2GG also houses a few pretty good commentators. The first famous (internet-famous!) western commentator was probably Ireland’s Klazart, who recently retired from the scene. There is of course also Nick “Tasteless” Plott who moved to South Korea and, for a season or two, provided English commentary on GOM.tv matches, until GOM.tv was killed by KESPA for making eyes at Blizzard. What I’m saying is that there already is a pool (a spawning pool if you will) of English commentators to draw from; people who know the game inside out, people who’ve sometimes uploaded 1000+ commented matches to YouTube, who know how to be entertaining under pressure, to give (more or less) insightful commentary and explain what is going on.

      Me, I’ve been playing some SC2. Not as much as I’d want to, but yeah, I’ve chosen my suitor. I want to get REALLY good at this game. I was REALLY good at Warcraft 3, back in the day, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t be able to do SC2. Okay, I’m an old man now, and Korean SC pros tend to burn out around 22 (I’m approaching 30 at a frightful rate), but hey.

      Oh, and to expand on Quinns’ original point of SFIV (which I’ve also played some off, but never really got into) and SC2: I find that learning in SFIV happens roughly only on one axis, call it reflexes, instinct, whatever. There might be a little bit of anticipation going on as well, as in “oh yeah, he’ll probably Shoryuken after this so I shouldn’t jump over it”, but that, too, is on a less than conscious level. In SC2 you have a shitload of things going on, but the types of difficulties these things represent are very different. Hellion micro might require incredible reflexes and quickness of fingers, and so might Stalker blink micro, but then there is the question of “when is it okay to go back to my base in the middle of a fight to build more buildings/tech/produce from my warpgates” (if you’re going back to your base to build from non-warpgate structures, learn hotkeys post-haste) and the good old “what counters what and how” question, and then there’s positioning, guesstimating combat odds (the process of going OMG OMG that’s a fucking LOT of hydras to okay that’s probably 120 upkeep with workers, my 140 mixed warpgate army can probably push that back), and so much more.

      And yeah, reflexes don’t translate well to the viewer. SFIV is pretty to look at, but there’s only so much you can say about it. In SC2, you can always think ahead, as a viewer, to what will happen next–will he scout the hidden stargate? Will three voids be enough to take out the expansion? What will happen if that huge ball of marauder/marine runs into the high templar heavy protoss army? Also, the twitchy little reflex things that go on in SFIV play out in miliseconds; stalker blink micro you can watch in action and marvel at all the 2hp stalkers blinking behind the army and firing merrily away.

      And speaking of that, I need to go work on my blink micro now.

    • Daniel Klein says:

      Reporting back. Blink micro didn’t happen. For some reason researched charge out of templar archives and then never built enough stalkers for blink to be a valid investment. Did crush a fast expanding terran with a four warpgate rush though, so go me! :D

  5. Magic H8 Ball says:

    There’s something distinctly feminine about choosing to get really good at a game.

    Wait, what?

    • Lobotomist says:

      Haha..

      But that is so true.

      I was gamer my whole life. My first game was a small LCD game..you know. Remember those.

      Loved the game. Played it a lot (it was the only thing than)

      But than comes my sister. Those LCD games had limited score due to the way they displayed it.

      So it gets to 9999999 , and it resets to zero.

      Guess who got it reseted to 0 ?

      Other time i played Super Mario on gameboy. Than my sister figured it out… well dont need to tell you how that went.

      Note that my sister is not interested in gaming at all. And i have been trying to keep it that way too ;)

      So being really really good at single game (while completely ignoring others) yea , its very feminine.

    • Paul B says:

      I suppose this must explain all those female pro-gamers, or at least all the women on World of Warcraft (I assume they’re women).

    • Robert says:

      The fact that there a lot less female gamers in absolute sense might have something to do with that…

      In any case, I suspect that reactions like this, are in part why Quinns made the analogy. To elicit response from the ‘hardcore’ crowd that is very territorial. Or at least, that is my interpretation, by projecting my ideas on him.

    • Lobotomist says:

      I am classical animator by profession.

      Did you know that in time when they still hand colored every frame of animation. This was almost exclusively done by females ?

      Apparently they were only ones consistent and patient enough to do the job.

      Being good at single game takes exactly that – consistency and tolerance to repetitious tasks.

    • Nick says:

      —-> Joke

      —-> your head

    • Paul B says:

      @Robert – Actually I was kind of agreeing with the statement, though in a conflicted kind of way. In the case of pro-gaming there does seem to be a disproportionate number of women who go on to that level, enough for the creation of women’s leagues.

      But, I agree, being good at one game does not mean you are hardcore, or want to play at pro level. The two seem to be mutually exclusive. I’m more interested in what this says about “masculine” gaming – are we men more interested in getting good at a range of games (or am I over-thinking this throwaway line by Quinns :) )

  6. teo says:

    Nice article!

    SFIV isn’t good as a spectator game, just like CS isn’t good as a spectator game. I think StarCraft is more fun to watch than to play and I know a lot of other people think that way too. I’ve tried introducing people to pro SC but it was hard with the graphics being what they were etc. but a lot of people are giving it a chance now with SC2, I think it could actually take off. It’s a fun game to watch

    • Mr Labbes says:

      To be honest, I always liked match commentaries in CS. It does give you some insight on map “features” you wouldn’t get otherwise.
      Also, they were pretty entertaining, at least most of them

    • MD says:

      Mr Labbes, have you got any links to awesome and — more importantly — well commentated CS matches? I’ve never found CS interesting as a spectator sport, (to my eyes the action itself is pretty bland to watch — a string of headshots is no match for a sweet air rocket, regardless of how skilful the former might have been) but I can see myself getting into it with good enough commentary.

    • boldoran says:

      I really enjoy watching SC2 match commentaries. Yet I don’t think I will start playing it online.

    • Mr Labbes says:

      MD, I’m afraid my days of CS have been over for years, but Gamestar (the German magazine) had pro gamers comment on games in the German league, and those were pretty good. Not sure they are available online, though.

    • MD says:

      No worries, I might do a bit of searching and see what I can find!

  7. Jaz says:

    I was enjoying some TF2 commentary a while back, but there are lots of gaps there as people move into position. You get commentators drifting off and talking about how good players are and how medics should stay safe, and then missing really interesting bits and bobs.

    If any of you have 30 mins spare and you want to see some cool slice of e-sports, I’d watch these TF2 commentaries for the excellent final moments:

    http://communityfortress.com/tf2/news/extv-dignitas-vs-www-esh-asrock-tourney.php

    • MD says:

      Speaking of FPS, I’ve actually found Quake to be a surprisingly entertaining spectator sport, when commentated well. It’s no good if you’ve just got someone telling you what you’re seeing, but when there’s a shoutcaster with a deep knowledge of the game who’s also good at communicating (or even better, two of these with complementary styles) it can be great fun to watch good players dueling. I’m honestly not sure how deep the game really is (at my level it’s really pretty shallow — not so much chess with guns as noughts and crosses — but it definitely goes deeper than this at a high level. I’m pretty sure the chess comparison is a massive exaggeration though, and I think a more apt analogy would be with a ball sport, though I’m not sure which one), but it’s certainly a lot deeper than most people seem to think, and for me it’s a nice combination of action and relatively comprehensible tactics.

    • mrmud says:

      I always enjoyed the ESReality folks when they were casting ESWC for q3.

  8. ChaosSmurf says:

    Capital C’s <3

    Incidentally, Blizzard's own commentary was good, but it has nothing on various community efforts such as Day[9], Tasteless, Artosis, et al. Tastetosis often do the BlizzCon casting at it's an absolute joy.

    • Quintin Smith says:

      INTERESTING. I will investigate this.

    • mrmud says:

      Yea, you definitely should. They are quite fantastic.

    • Daniel Klein says:

      Must give another shout out to my personal hero Day[9] here. If you haven’t watched his 100th Day 9 Daily (linked to from this place, amongst many others), do so right now. Since Livestreams sucks ass, he’s been migrating his recorded shows to blip.tv recently. Find them here. There’s a LOT of SC1 games in that one, but some of the SC2 ones from 100 on are there too. You can find all his SC2 casts (minus a few that he hasn’t uploaded yet) here: Striderdoom’s Livestream.

      From the old sc2gg crew, Diggity and Rise have been doing a lot of brilliant SC2 casting recently. For comedy value you should definitely check out Diggity’s 1000th commentary, an epictary actually.

  9. Aubrey says:

    I’ve fallen for StreetFighter IV, hard. I can’t comment on SC2 (Never got past optimal build orders in multiplayer) but I end up discussing it plenty – option selects, traps, mind games, frame advantage – there’s plenty of nerdy shit to get your brain stuck into. Plenty of “what if” conversations you’ll be having, trying to come to terms with other people’s tactics.

    And I also like how short form it is. In a < 5 minute match there's still such a range of expression and drama. That's not to say it's not there in SC2 – just that they're very different stretches of time.

    Anyway. I don't know. Games are fun, is all. And competitive games just have something which feels fundamentally timeless which a lot of other games don't. They're not really artifacts to be consumed… to "grok" and move on (unless they're broken). They're merely a communication medium between two constantly adjusting, infinitely interesting opponents.

  10. cyrenic says:

    “By contrast, you can watch a replay of yourself sucking at Street Fighter IV and often see where you went wrong- ‘I should have blocked there, should have cancelled my focus attack when I saw my opponent move like that’- but putting anything into practice is a nightmare. Better to just play the game and let skill come to you.”

    It’s funny because I often think the same thing about RTS’s that rely heavily on APM (actions per minute) like Starcraft. I can watch a replay and know exactly what I did wrong, but when I go back and try to play better I invariably can’t keep up with the action. It feels like there’s a wall I’m hitting that I have no hope of getting past; I’m at the upper end of how fast I can react to stuff. Basically my RTS reflexes are pretty crap, as much as I love the genre.

    This is probably why I’ve spent so much time playing DotA-likes. They’re very RTS’y and are way less reliant on APM.

  11. Magic H8 Ball says:

    cyrenic said:
    This is probably why I’ve spent so much time playing DotA-likes. They’re very RTS’y and are way less reliant on APM.

    You must’ve been playing it with some odd people. DotA is one of the most hardcore micro-intensive games out there.

    • ChaosSmurf says:

      One unit vs. 200, I think I agree with him.

      I don’t see how they’re much like RTSs other than the camera angle, though.

    • jsdn says:

      I think he confused terms and meant multitasking/macro. DotA has high APM but comparitively very little to keep aware of.

  12. Rob Zacny says:

    I don’t think it is merely a matter of interest. It’s also about circumstances. When you have PC gaming in the UK and US primarily taking place in the private home, the sporting aspect of the game will never be as apparent as it is in a heavily urbanized country where people do their gaming in public computer cafes.

    The people who create e-sports consistently make the mistake of thinking that just because tons of people love a game, they would love a sport of that game. But we have no context for thinking of our games as sports. I play at the desk in my office. I do not venture down to my gym, pub, or coffee house for a 2v2 session with my friends. But what if there were more of a culture of in-person, casually competitive play?

    That, I think, is where a game can start taking root as a sport, and that’s where they are running into problems.

  13. bookwormat says:

    I have a lot of fun playing Street Fighter IV against the AI, but as a PC gamer it is a complete mystery to me how this can work as a competitive game:

    There seem to be no balance patches or any kind of post-game support. There is no patch for about a year, and then some balance changes are made _once_, and released as a new, full priced game.

    Anyone knows how this works? How do they know that this ONE balance change works, before the whole community tested them? And don’t they split the whole community each time they release a patch as a new game?

    • Warskull says:

      You get it right or your game dies. Fighting games have been around for a long time and are designed specifically for competitive play. A number of studios have gotten really good at making them. In contrast many other games are very poorly designed for competitive play. If a game can last that long with minimal patch, its a testament to the design and balancing that went into it before release. Many PC developers undervalue this kind of design and balancing.

  14. Spacewalk says:

    Doesn’t anyone play Bushido Blade any more?

  15. metal_spider says:

    … and with this, RPS has just sealed the fate of Super Street Fighter 4′s non-release on the PC.
    —-

    From the perspective of an SF4PC fan (yes, they do exist… unlike tooth fairies), it definitely seems to the casual observer that the onscreen characters are just throwing punches and kicks and fireballs until someone gets knocked out.

    It takes quite a bit of game knowledge to understand how certain players don’t ever do certain things when playing against certain characters, i.e. Honda can NEVER do a straight-up buttslam vs Zangief as he will definitely be launched into a spinning pile driver if Zangief just blocks it. The nuances of specific character-to-character matchups aren’t very evident in a match that ends in less than 99s. This is unlike more drawn out genres where commentators can use the lull in action to speculate on player decisions as well as to give viewers an insight as to why something is or isn’t tactically sound.

    Different games cater to different folks, I guess. Pretty difficult task trying to justify what works and what doesn’t when it comes to something as radically unlike as these 2 games.

    • kikito says:

      I am a SFIV PC player and I play exclusively with DAN, who I control using my laptop’s keyboard.

  16. Lobotomist says:

    Great article.

    I feel much the same way about SFIV.
    Not being good, and not wanting to get better.

    As for SC2 , i suck at RTS , and dont like them either….

    For some reason i am quite good at BFBC2 ? Dont know why. I am usually mid level at other competitive shooters.

    But only games i am truly good at are arcade racing games. Wipeout and such :D

  17. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    There’s something distinctly feminine about choosing to get really good at a game. Unlike the very male experience of playing whatever, whenever, basically playing as much as you can get, basically waddling around the game shop with your trousers round your ankles, choosing to get good at a game requires commitment, or even devotion. More difficultly, it also requires that you choose a suitor.

    Feminine? Yeah, right. It’s men who can be seen focusing to the point of obsession to accomplish mastery of a game.

    Of course that’s not what you mean, hence why you shouldn’t use that awful analogy right there.

  18. pkt-zer0 says:

    I guess it needs to be said: SF4 is NOTHING COMPARED TO STARCRAFT 2.

  19. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    I will agree with this, I love RTS games, but am so shit at them online its beyond not funny, I am much more suited to FPS games like CS1.6 and CSS I can dominate matches thanks to my Mongoose on Crack hyperactive FPS game-style.
    But All the CS matches I won, I can only remember maybe one time I killed 2-3 people with one bullet from a AWP. But I clearly remember in WC3:TFT When I played as undead, all I built was 4 meat wagons and 12 necromances with Skeletal mages and walked up to his base, and ‘showed him how it was done’ – however I could never come back to this wonderful glorious victory because of my extreme ineptness with it, It didn’t stop me trying though and boy did I have fun, even if I was but a fraction better than absolute crap

  20. gnodab says:

    the right fighting game is actually a lovely old SNES title called WeaponLord, if memory serves me right. no reflexes or button mashing, but pure and brutal tactical warfare. It is perfect.
    and i guess this is the reason it was a commercial failure…

  21. Tim James says:

    I’m still reeling from “more difficultly” in the first paragraph.

  22. BooleanBob says:

    Bizarre gender politics intro aside, I really enjoyed your article, Quinns.
    I also agree with your argument – with SFIV, for example, there’s just me, and me sucking, and the speed the game moves at obfuscating all of the split-split-second strategising and decision-making that informs high-level play*.
    Whereas with me and, oh, Company of Heroes, there’s me, and me still sucking, but there’s also a wealth of time in a given replay to follow the tactics and micro and macro and trash talk (there’s no time for mind games in the middle of a round of Blazblue!).
    Another difference (to get well out of my comfort zone and perhaps start talking impenetrable shite (I lie, of course; impenetrable shite is my most comfortable zone of all)) is how we ‘comprehend’ the games and their component parts. That is: when we look at an RTS, the key strategic decisions are linked to the creation and action of units, whereas with a fighter, yes, you have ‘a’ unit, but all the decisions – all the playing – relate to the exectuion of moves. It’s objects vs processes. And in the spectatorship of sport – where we start caring about a game beyond the playing of it – we may appreciate a spectacular piece of skill or technique, a pass or a cross, but we form real attachment to players, objects acting as sympathetic masters of those processes.
    And just so – although I can’t really put my finger on why – when it comes to the digestion of a competitive game, the latter just tickles my brain in a way that the former never will. Or: I can fall in love with the Sd.Kfz Puma, and the designation is appropriate, because my mental impression of it is as a little creature, all bravery and bluster, capable of outrunning the AT guns that hard-counter it and sinking vicious little fangs into the meaty flanks of the ubiquitous yankee riflemen. And in so loving it, and the ponderous Churchill AVRE, and the rocket-vomiting Calliope (more like Callolope, am I right guys??), the wider attachment (beyond ‘mere’ fun, or depth, or balance) you speak of is formed. But I could never give my heart to a/the spinning bird kick , nor the use of off-map artillery support. Nice to see a good use of one, sure, but they’re still just process. There’s no sympathetic element there. No ‘little space marine that could’ story.
    *obvious exceptions abound.
    EDIT: I really hate how making edits Wall-O-Textifies a post. Anyone know a way to avoid this? (Apart from not fucking up when writing your post in the first place, to whichever smartypants was going to say that.)

  23. Vandelay says:

    Great article, as ever, from Quinns. I had a similar thing happen to me with the release of SF4 on PC. This was a game I decided that I wanted to get really good at, but I ended up just doing the standard thing in a beat ‘em up game and button spam – which only gets you so far, even against the AI. There was some barrier that just stopped me getting that incentive to improve and I felt that the game itself did very little to help the player. Even the training sections for each character seem to get impossible for the average player (okay, me) beyond the second or third levels. This feeds into something Quinns talks about with SF4 as a spectator sport, as I would go online and look at videos of people completing these trails, but still remaining bemused what these players were doing than simply making the same button presses I was making.

    The controls also felt as if they were really not based around a controller, after numerous attempts to pull off special moves and ultras, and only designed for the hardcore people with their fight sticks. I ended up feeling glad that I bought the game and supported the release of a fighting game on the PC, but wishing they had of released something a bit less competitive.

    And now Starcraft 2 is coming up to release I having those same desires to get really good at it. I’ve watched quite a few competitive games (I can recommend the current HDH Invitational tournament, which is being run by HD Starcraft and Husky) and the skill levels seem much more defined. I can instantly see what the top class players are doing compared to those further down. Their positioning of units and buildings, the use of scouting to gather intel, the use of abilities, timing the attacks, and switching to new build to counter what your opponent is doing is all instantly understandable when you watch the pros play. I could imagine playing the game and creating my own tactics to combat different builds and different unit mixes, encouraging me to play out matches in my mind even when away from the game. Looking at Street Fighter 4, it seems as if there is a very set way of doing everything and the only way to even be competent is to be able to develop those instant reflexes to counter particular moves. I imagine SC2 does have optimal ways of dealing with situations, but there is a sense that these techniques are constantly developing and evolving, particularly in these early days.

    Quinns is making me even more looking forward to SC2 with what he is saying here. It sounds like just what I am looking for. I just hope Blizzard get around to giving me a beta key.

    • Vandelay says:

      Oh, and what happened to the rest of this feature:

      http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2010/03/01/three-world-war-part-1/#more-26216

    • BooleanBob says:

      Good points, Vandelay. I think I was driving at a similar thing but failed to articulate it in a readable way.

      Also concur re the 3 world war feature. Was disappointed not to see writeups for the other sides. While we’re on the subject, where’s the rest of the No Iron Saga grumble mumble mumble (/disquiet quietly dissipates).

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Vandelay: I went away on holiday before the 2nd part had a chance to get done, and no-one was playing the Beta when I got back. It’s on my things to do do, though I suspect my angle may be why I stopped playing for a bit.

      We continued the AI war diary in a special place where you’re not allowed to see.

      KG

    • BooleanBob says:

      Oh, man. Crushing.

      You’ve crushed me.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      “The controls also felt as if they were really not based around a controller, after numerous attempts to pull off special moves and ultras, and only designed for the hardcore people with their fight sticks.”

      That’s not the case at all, in fact, there’s been plenty of people criticizing SF4 for its lenient input system. There’s quite a lot of stuff you can get away with, especially on keyboard. The game doesn’t explain any of that, though.

  24. Dan says:

    David Sirlin is a monumental twatwaffle.

  25. Kael says:

    I can attest to this. Day9 looks to be filling Nick’s shoes in SC2. Also, weird how you notice the same people on the Internet everywhere, *wave at ChaosSmurf*

  26. Lambchops says:

    The reason StarCraft 2 stuck while Street Fighter 4 didn’t is because if I’m looking to settle down with something that brands itself as an e-sport, then I need it to behave like a sport. If I’m going to spend a serious amount of my time on a game, I need it to be a multi-faceted experience that rewards every ounce of obsession I load into it.

    I wonder if this is partially the reason why I don’t tend to play competitive multiplayer games or obsess over getting “good” at them. The only multiplayer game I’ve ver got decent at in the last few years was Mario Kart and that was pretty much through aping my flatmate’s style of playe (as he was rather good at it) so I could actually give him a half decent game.

    To get back to my point; the one obeession I have that is bigger than gaming for me is sport. I watch it, I play it competitively at club level (fairly low standard squash and badminton but I do try!) and it’s the only other pastime I have that takes up more hours than gaming. Perhaps I don’t take a competitive stance to gaming because I’m looking for something different to sport?

  27. GRIMDARK says:

    I’m sorry, but your blog posting shows that you have absolutely zero understanding of fighting games and the underlying strategy therein. Just because I don’t have the prerequisite “actions per minute” required to be competitive in RTS and have little understanding of them doesn’t mean I’m going to write an article about how poor of an e-sport they are. I suggest you don’t criticize something until you have acquired a healthy understanding. If you have problems with basic execution, then you obviously have not acquired the level necessary to appreciate the amount of strategy involved.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Grimdark: Er… isn’t that exactly what Quinns is saying?

      As in, until you’re a dcent player, watching a game of Street Fighter isn’t very interesting. Most people watching a sport won’t be an expert. Since it’s harder to watch one – as in, parse the game in a meaningful way – than the other, Starcraft is a far better game for a audience, therefore is a better contender for professional, commercial E-sports.

      In other words, he’s saying that you could enjoy watching a SC2 game – because it’s possible to be explained by a commentator, etc – more than he could enjoy watching a SF2 tournament.

      KG

    • Lilliput King says:

      “As in, until you’re a dcent player, watching a game of Street Fighter isn’t very interesting. Most people watching a sport won’t be an expert. Since it’s harder to watch one – as in, parse the game in a meaningful way – than the other, Starcraft is a far better game for a audience, therefore is a better contender for professional, commercial E-sports.”

      Not sure KG. Easy to understand stuff like this;

      “For all the talk of high level SFIV play being like a chess match and any obvious parallels with, say, boxing, there’s no escaping that the game is primarily down to honed reflexes.”

      as genre-bashing. It’s not really accurate, either *grumblesniff*

      Besides, maybe the issue isn’t so much one of game, but one of public attitude. If you know the ‘rules’ of SF4 and watch a match, you’ll get more out of it than someone who doesn’t know the rules, yes. But the same is largely true of Starcraft. And football. And hockey, basketball and professional breakdancing competitions. E-sports won’t take off in a really big way ’till everyone knows the rules, because without that knowledge, it’s impossible to appreciate the nuance no matter what speed the game plays out.

      I’d say this applies with or without a commentator. They can’t hope to explain why mugumboot23 is being so very clever to those with literally no idea without missing out on the action and ultimately being boring. Knowing the rules of the game is the entry point to being able to enjoy watching the game. Which is why I reckon pretty much anything could take off and become the country-wide e-sports obsession. Just down to place, time and luck. (I don’t think I’m alone in this either. Might be why all those suits are throwing money around trying to make it happen. One of them eventually will, and the money will roll in)

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Liliput King: And you’ll notice Quinns said a lot more than the one sentence you’ve quoted,.

      KG

    • Lilliput King says:

      “Street Fighter IV (and the modern fighting game in general) is all pop and twitch.”

      He does indeed.

      I’m not really fussed, but I think GRIMDARK and Gonzo further down might have a point, is all.

  28. john t says:

    Don’t forget HD Starcraft and Husky who are in the midst of casting an epic invitational tournament:

    http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/viewmessage.php?topic_id=118879

    • Psychopomp says:

      Was about to bring up those two. They’re both good commentators, though I prefer Husky

    • Vandelay says:

      I actually prefer HD. He is a little less shouty. I also find he explains the game really well for those that aren’t familiar with it. His early commentaries he did after the beta was released were a great introduction to the game and many of the concepts and strategies being used. Husky seems to piss about with the game a bit more, which is a good diversion but less interesting when you are watching someone else do it rather than yourself.

      HDH Invitational seems to be pretty good, although I haven’t seen any games that have lived up to some of the other games I have watched yet. The recent match between Day9 and his brother was pretty epic though. Some of Day9′s post game comments sounded pretty interesting too, so I may have to check out his videos too.

    • Daniel Klein says:

      I was considering to mention the two, and I’m loving the HDH Invitational Tournament, but I feel that as commentators, they have quite a way to go still. This isn’t meant to be a put-down of Husky and HD, but more of a comment on just how stupidly good the average SC2 commentator these days is. They have nice chemistry going on between each other, but their insight, attention to things happening in the game, and general knowledge of the current state of the SC2 metagame isn’t where it should be. Still, it’s early days for these two–I don’t think they’ve done any SC1 commentating before this, so we should give them some time to get up to speed.

  29. Generico says:

    Oh Starcraft 2…

    Why can’t I quit you?

  30. Auspex says:

    Starcraft to me is like the guitar. I’d absolutely love to be amazing at it but I cannot be bothered becoming amazing at it.

    So instead I play it (very badly) by myself, too insecure to play it with anyone else even though I’m told that’s the best way to improve,

  31. Lambchops says:

    On a commentary related sidenote I would totally buy a Moto GP game if there was some way to get it to feature the Cox and Parrish commentary team (UK Moto GP commentators). Though I’d probably just end up crashing from laughing if they managed to pull off Coxisms properly. Any commentator that uses similies like “he’s going to be as busy as a Greek treasurer” deserves respect.

  32. Psychopomp says:

    Question:Am I the only one who’s absolutely baffled about ‘toss getting an on-screen reminder about their warp gates, but Zerg not getting a reminder about spawn larva?

    • Janxer says:

      Wait, how exactly does protoss get a reminder about their warpgates? I play protoss and I have to continuously guess if the warpgates are done cooling down.

    • Psychopomp says:

      The right side of the screen, there’s a small button that tells you how many are available. Clicking it, or pressing Y selects all of them.

    • Daniel Klein says:

      True, this is an advantage of warpgates over hatcheries. On the other hand, you can macro entirely with hotkeys even while pressing an attack, and you can rally your newly built units to the front, while us warpgate toss need to go back to the nearest pylon, warp units in there (one keypress and one click per unit, as opposed to just one keypress per unit for you guys) (or one keypress per TWO units if you’re building lings ;P), select them, and send them off to the front. This is a SERIOUS drain on my concentration during long, micro-intensive attacks, so I think it balances out nicely.

    • Psychopomp says:

      1)I actually play ‘toss

      2)Hold down shift if you’re trying to warp in multiple of the same unit. You can do the same thing with spells.

      3)The problem is that if a zerg player misses his spawn larva the second it’s available, it’s a straight macro loss. Unlike chrono boost, or the terran’s command center, you literally cannot make up for missing it, without having a second hatchery in your main.

    • Janxer says:

      Last I checked that only showed how many warpgates you have, and not how many are currently off cooldown.
      On the other hand, that was a while ago, so if you’re suggesting what I think you’re suggesting…
      *walks off and tests*

    • Psychopomp says:

      Yeah, that button only shows how many are off cooldown.

  33. manveruppd says:

    I don’t think SF4 is more reliant on reflexes than SC2, after all, both SC2 and its predecessor are notoriously click-happy. More so than any other RTS afaik. I always imagine that pro players change to a new mouse every match because they’ve worn out the previous one’s buttons! :)

    I think it’s more to do with the fact that in games such as SF4, the “cerebral” aspects of it (planning what to do or how to respond to an opponent’s move) all happen in fractions of a second, so there’s no time for a commentator to go through the various options available to each player and try to predict which one they’re going to take. Also, because each move in fighting games is pretty much self-contained, there are only short-term tactical decisions to make, so there’s less for a commentator to talk about. I’m not saying there’s no thinking involved in fighting games, just that you’re only ever thinking about the next 3″ (if that!) than about the next 10′.

    Slight OT, but by far the best spectator-friendly game out there imho is Guild Wars. When I was in a competitive guild we would often all sit on our vent and watch a tournament match together, discussing it live, and there was quite a lot to talk about. There were some people making podcasts of the matches with commentary as well, but none of them gained a huge following, partly due to NCSoft’s failure to establish it as an independent e-sport. (ANet ran their own tournaments with prizes, but to my knowledge there has only ever been one GW tournament that wasn’t organised by them).

    What made it so much fun to watch was that, like RTS games, you had the medium- and long-term tactical aspects of the game to talk about (medium-term tactics being things like the team’s movement on the map etc., long-term meaning stuff like each team’s build and eventual win strategies), but it also has those short-term moments of absolutely brilliant twitch-based gameplay that you can notice and go WOAH! at, such as a healer managing to save a team member against overwhelming odds, or (something I saw in a tournament once) a warrior interruping his own self-healing skill five times in a row in order to fake out a ranger who was trying to interrupt it.

  34. Yhgtd says:

    I might be shallow but I found the Blizzard commentary videos more entertaining, simply because the commentators sound professional. That Day[9] guy instantly gave me a “dude in his mother’s basement” vibe and that’s kind of a turn off, I couldn’t watch further than a few seconds.

  35. Gutfried says:

    It think that Beat ‘em ups make poor spectator sports, but that doesn’t make them less sporting.

    As a traditional sports comparison, I watched the olympic fencing in Beijing with a friend who is competent in the sport. I am uninitiated. There was no way I could follow it, but he was rapt. The sport moves too fast, the motions and instruments are too subtle for even his fevered, targeted commentary to get through to me. It’s a sport, but it’s awful to watch as someone who isn’t involved. Periods of poking and dullness followed by burst of unreadable action.

    Is it less of a sport than sprinting, with it’s pure action and it’s single drive, or than football in it’s relative ease to be watched? I don’t think so, but it will never be a sport watched in pubs with fantastic commentary.

    • manveruppd says:

      You’ve hit on absolutely the PERFECT analogy there! :) I’m a fencer too and even I think it’s much less fun to watch than, say, football, even though (or perhaps BECAUSE OF!) it moves at about x100 the speed!

    • archonsod says:

      Beat em ups tend to excel in the area of spectacle though, which makes them fun to watch. Starcraft on the other hand is pretty dull. It’s like watching a cricket match, long periods of boredom interspersed with some interesting bits. SF is more like football, it’s fast moving, full of flashy moves and usually over before anyone gets bored.

    • FunkyBadger says:

      I actually thought the fencing at t’Olympics worked realy well – beatifully set, as well, in those darkened halls. I lot of the subtleties were lost, but there’s enough pure athleticism on show – especially in sabre – to make it compelling.

      Tae-Kwon Do, on the other hand, was an embaressment from start to finish.

    • manveruppd says:

      The hall, especially the dark background behind the fencers, was amazing, but the main problem was and still is that it’s hard to see the blades on tv (especially standard definition, but even in HD is only 25fps!), so the FIE’s extraordinary efforts to make the sport more “tv-friendly” are doomed to failure at best, and damaging to the sport at worst.

      I don’t mind the silly perspex masks they made mandatory for all top-level events (I’ll never fence at that level anyway, you can still use the old-fashioned mesh masks for normal competitions), even though the first generation steamed up so you couldn’t see, the perspex panel needs replacing every year due to scratching, and there are still doubts about their reliability (someone got hurt quite recently from a shattered mask!). But the changes they’ve done to the timings of the electrical equipment are pretty dodgy. A lot of fencers were screaming for blood after they were first introduced, and they’re still controversial today. The increased contact time for foil was, I suppose, good, cause flick hits had to be stopped somehow, but I think they went to far, and it’s led to people just crouching like preying mantises and using the bib of their mask to shield their body, which is silly – they’re making the bib part of the target area to deal with it as of this year, meaning extra cost to sow conductive material onto your mask, and an extra little wire to connect it to your lamé to have to worry about! Sabre, otoh has been completely ruined – the cut-out time for the box has been shortened so much that you NEVER get double hits anymore, which has made parrying completely useless!

      Anyway, rant over and sorry for the hijack – this had absolutely nothing to do with with Street Fighter, Star Craft, or indeed any kind of computer game! :)

  36. Kirian says:

    “There’s something distinctly feminine about choosing to get really good at a game.”

    Sounds like, wait for it, you need more iron.

    I’m here all week.
    Tip your writers.

  37. Gwyn says:

    SFIV isn’t a good example of a ‘pro-friendly’ fighter. It addressed the problems that casuals had with SF3 – namely that parrying allowed an expert to utterly demolish a casual in a risk-free way that wasn’t really fun to either player. SFIV was built with the goal of reducing the skill difference between the hardcore and the casuals, so they could all compete online.

    Which is really good design, so we’re clear. It doesn’t make for exciting tournaments*, compared to 3rd Strike, but that’s not its point. It’s design philosophy centers around people who don’t practice.

    *I know this begs the question: Daigo is himself exciting to watch, because he metagames his opponent. If not for him, you’d just be bored to tears.

  38. Benjamin says:

    I don’t think you really understand what’s going on in fighting games. Yes, reflexes are a big part of the game, but they are far from the only part or the most important part. The players with the best reflexes are rarely seen at the top of the tournament bracket.

    This is worth looking at for a better understanding of high-level fighting game tactics: http://sonichurricane.com/?page_id=1702

  39. Benjamin says:

    Perhaps a better way to express what I was trying to say: good reflexes are necessary to take advantage of opportunities, but they never create opportunities. That’s where the strategy (or tactics if you prefer) of fighting games comes in; leveraging certain threats to provoke a desired response, gradually, through a series of superior decisions/reads, pushing the opponent into an increasingly dire tactical position where you need less and less reflexive/reading ability to deal significant damage, and, conversely, they need to take big risks to reset the situation. Recognizing and exploiting your opponent’s tendencies is massively important; it’s mastery of this skill which allows a player like Daigo to dominate, far more than strong reflexes. Simply moving into a certain range can cause your opponent to walk forward/back/do a certain move which could be the start of a series of increasingly favorable interactions which result in your victory.

  40. DrGonzo says:

    I think you don’t understand SFIV. It’s more about learning every possible move your opponent could make at any point. I think that is where the chess analogy comes from.

  41. PASTRIES says:

    “There’s something distinctly feminine about choosing to get really good at a game. Unlike the very male experience of playing whatever, whenever, basically playing as much as you can get, basically waddling around the game shop with your trousers round your ankles, choosing to get good at a game requires commitment, or even devotion.”

    while i’m not convinced that it even makes sense to claim that different ways of approaching games are either masculine or feminine, the above statement doesn’t exactly ring true to me.

    waddling around the game shop tasting a bit of everything on offer doesn’t seem very masculine – at the risk of perpetuating some classic stereotypes, the experience of playing most games on offer is actually distinctly submissive. players submit to jumping through whatever tedious hoops god of war III or grand theft auto 4 or heavy rain put in front of you. submit to the game and be rewarded with a cutscene, or points, or an achievement.

    games that actually provide space for the player to “get really good at” are rare – these are the games like street fighter 4 or smash brothers or starcraft, games that the player can inject himself into and actually play in an individual and expressive way. no one submits to the single player game of street fighter 4 – if you play it all, you play against other people, FUCKING the game itself in an attempt at dominance.

  42. Thants says:

    I don’t know if they’ve gotten better, but I watched the first couple Blizzard Battle Reports and… wow, the commentary is so so bad. The one guy in particular, I swear they took someone who’s only vaguely heard of RTS games and told him that if he ever stopped talking for even a second his family would be killed.

    • RedFred says:

      I love nonsensical commentators!

      I also want to love SFIV but just can’t. It’s soo foreign to me. But it’s oh so pretty!

    • Thants says:

      OK, looking at it again it was actually the lead designer. Regardless though, he was very annoying.

  43. luckystriker says:

    I play a lot of the SC2 beta and watch a lot of the broadcasted games. For anyone interested, the link that follows contains the most mind blowingly awesome game to date! Seriously, check it out O_O

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xwtwz3Cbd7Y (part 1)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOBw0n-AbDI (part 2)

    • Quintin Smith says:

      That’s extraordinary. Holy crap. The saltiest, most stubborn defense I’ve ever seen. That was GG territory.

    • Daniel Klein says:

      Just watched that one as well. Amazing. Never give up, eh. I would have so ragequitted in Lzgamer’s position about a hundred times. Spoilers follow:

      Nocturn should also have won about a hundred times. I’m not sure if there is one thing he should have done differently; I guess when the early game pressure didn’t pan out, he should have dialled it down and gotten his expansion up and secured, but there really wasn’t one clear-cut moment where you’d say, okay, now the early game pressure failed. It seemed to win him the game all this time.

      From the point of view of someone who has a good friend that just LOVES to do cheesy early game rushes with Terran, let me tell you: this was a nightmarish game. What LzGamer did there was no mean feat of endurance and concentration. Amazing, really.

    • luckystriker says:

      Having watched it a couple of times, I’m convinced the turning point was LZGamer’s single cloaked Banshee that took out 12 or so of Nocturn’s SCVs.

  44. Spacegirl says:

    I don’t 100% agree with your assessment of FIghting Game commentary, it’s just that most of it is totally horrible.

    The better commentators are capable of commenting on the more “metagame” or higher level strategies of the players, as opposed to just reacting to the moves.

    You are right, though, that most of the game happens so fast, you really can only react. That’s true of any fighting game.

    I don’t really think SF4 is that reflex intensive tho. At high levels, some ppl can hit confirm some crazy ass stuff, but that shit is largely unnecessary for any non-pro level person. The same goes for most of the crazy hard multiple-link combos. Largely unnecessary, pro ppl dont even do them some because of their unreliability / difficulty.

    SF4 is mostly a game of zoning. It’s about staying in the optimal ranges for your character vs their character and then when you get in close or knock-em down, it’s about your mix-up / pressure game or your defense of such.

    This sort of stuff is really the “meat” of the game, and doesn’t require insane technical skill (although that of course helps.)

    All of this provided you are capable of doing Quarter Circle, SRK and Charge motions :)

  45. uberman says:

    In terms of commentary – I disagree that the speed of the game / sport / event has anything to do with how deeply you can comment on it. All you need to do is stop giving a blow by blow analysis for a few moments while you comment on some of the deeper tactics being used. In sports commentary this happens all the time. Look at real life fighting sports like MMA or boxing. When all that’s going on is the action then you will sometimes get a running description, but good commentators are happy to leave that alone and do some analysis when appropriate. Just because a special move or a counter might happen in fractions of a second, it doesn’t mean that commentators can’t talk about it after it happened.

    In my opinion, it says more about the quality of commentator than it does the game.

  46. Chandra Pratap says:

    The actual game of SC2 isn’t in those climactic rushes, but in predicting, scouting and defending against them. If you find yourself overwhelmed by a hopeless rush, you lost the match minutes ago. You were just too inexperienced to know it…..

  47. eiger says:

    I’ve been playing games competitively (tournaments, etc) for about 15 years, started with Quake1, all through the Quakes and various others (including Starcraft) and I’ve noticed one thing – no matter how much we have tried, how close we’ve come, how popular a game has been.. we’ve never quite reached the critical mass required for a game to become mainstream.

    We can talk and discuss all we want, but at the end of the day, we need the right game, with the right elements, with the right depth and popularity .. for that game to properly break into the mainstream .. and I honestly think starcraft 2 has a chance of that in either Europe or America (or both I hope).

    I barely play yet I am getting sucked into all the little sunday cups of the Starcraft beta, hungrily watching for streams of the best players getting demolished by noname outsiders..

    Fingers crossed

  48. Sneakerous says:

    I feel compelled to defend Day 9. He is anything but a basement-dweller. He attended Harvey Mudd University, one of those most prestigious and selective science/engineering undergrad schools out there, and is now a graduate student as USC. He also works a job while going to school IIRC and has a girlfriend. So no, he’s not a basement dweller – and I highly suggest listening to his show because he’s extremely knowledgeable, passionate and eloquent, if a bit corny.

  49. Sneakerous says:

    I feel compelled to defend Day 9. He is anything but a basement-dweller. He attended Harvey Mudd College, one of those most prestigious and selective science/engineering undergrad schools out there, and is now a graduate student as USC. He also works a job while going to school IIRC and has a girlfriend. So no, he’s not a basement dweller – and I highly suggest listening to his show because he’s extremely knowledgeable, passionate and eloquent, if a bit corny.