Parappa takes the Mic: The Delicate Balance between Casual & Hardcore

Well, here’s a little something that needs to be heard. We’re hot on the heels on the Street Fighter V release. I’m glad two years flew by so quickly. We’ve seen some current gen step ups in the FGC since then and there’s nothing like that feeling of anticipated hype. This calls attention to something important.

This topic has been touched upon a few times before, but I think the point needs to be driven home for a lot of us to truly understand it. In addition, I’ll skip through a few pertaining subjects as well. Now, before I dive into the matter, take in the pre-release atmosphere. Just think how exciting it is during this time. The guessing game of who’s making it in, how the game mechanics will work, how the story will progress. It’s the one time both casual & hardcore fans are on even ground. Unless, of course, you got your copy early... just saying. Even still, stuff like the trailers to a leak list for KOF14 or speculating what other characters will show up down the road in SF5 is very hype. I usually dismiss speculation talk altogether since it’s obsolete once we get the final product, but this time around I’ve made a guess list of the chances of everyone making it in for SF5 (I called Rainbow Mika for the day 1 cut). Once the game drops, that’s all out the window.

Once a game ages about a month or so, you start to feel the fizz out. Might be sooner for some people. By that time your fair-weather players are already bored, they separate themselves from the fans of the game. This is just the start of the brain teaser for developers trying to strike a compromise let alone a perfect balance between the casual & hardcore players. Obviously, in the present day, a game’s life is extended via patches & DLC, although the true appreciation might be split. Patch notes are vital intel for competition, while someone playing at a friend’s house hasn’t a clue as to what a +2 on block does for Ermac now. The life blood of any fighter are the characters & roster size, so it’s a no brainer to just add DLC characters to shake things up, bring in a larger crowd with say… a guest character from another series?

Old joke, but yeah... here's your MKXL roster.

Talk about your slippery slope. We see it in full effect with MKX right now. From SM4SH to Tekken 7, there’ve been a lot of eye popping new challengers these past couple of months. With that, the intensity in the debate of where do guest characters belong in fighters has risen to an all time high. It takes me back to my forum crawling days on Capcom Unity where I’d dwell in the Darkstalkers topics. Practically every week, it would burst into a flame war about whether Dante should be in the next Darkstalkers if it ever got out, straight up ridiculous. I’ll spare that can of worms for another day so that I can briefly state my view on this potential term paper. The mainstays & fan favorites of the franchise are a must; I’m a big believer that no outsider or oddball in a series should get in beforehand without a REALLY good reason. Long awaited/highly demanded concepts (a la Tremor) within the universe should have priority over a guest character. Lastly, it has to fit in with the universe. Otherwise, it’s a waste of a roster spot that could’ve been used for someone better, even another guest character. Other than that, I’m alright... especially if the character is very well done.

It gets tiresome just as a community member, so imagine giving the OK to Karin over Alex in the first cut. On one side, you hear these fans -- who probably never picked up a Street Fighter in their life -- screaming for goldilocks & that irritates the actual players to straight bashing the character. This isn’t the first time & damn sure won’t be the last, so here's a little side note, boys and girls: if the character in question is at least solid... ease up a bit, alright? It makes martyrs out of the character & its fans. I do understand the pain; I remember wishlists back on Capcom Unity saying Devil & Evil Ryu should be in SFxT… really? These are tangent results from cramped rosters where guests & clones take precedence over unique concepts. However, the hardcore crowd is just as guilty. You can get pretty jaded & dismissive once you peek behind the curtain into the raw mechanics. When you get swept up in talk of frame data, tiers, etc., you forget about the mystique & lore of the universe you’re playing in. Someone like Nemesis takes a reputation hit because it’s painful to watch what he can’t do in UMVC3.

The higher skilled percentile of the FGC can whine just as much as our babyfaces. A new game comes along, there’s always change & that threatens the old way, for better or worse. As players, it can be detrimental to become jaded if the changes are not bad (this has been the issue with Melee in the Smash world). I’ve touched on this before; some players don’t make the transition because the game mechanics are different. You take a shot to your pride depending how good you are & it does make or break the experience for you. For a fighting game, though, the gap between casual & hardcore needs to be bridged in order to give that much more life to a game. The talk about ‘watering down the game’ so noobs can beat the pros needs to cease. Do you really think that a 2-3 frame leniency (if it stays) in SF5 is going to level the playfield so much that a scrub is gonna knock off a Japanese god in a pressure situation? You still have decision making, establishing neutral, meter management, even execution still. SF4 suffered from an execution barrier. By the time Arcade Edition dropped, the disconnect was big enough that every update catered to hardcore only. It left everyone outside in the dust. I wouldn’t and we shouldn’t be spoonfed when it comes to difficulty, but games like KOF & Virtua Fighter don’t pick up players because of that barrier. There’s something to be said about the advanced meta in Super Smash Bros. and how simple the controls/inputs are. Moreover, you have Divekick that was made specifically for cutting out that gap & used 2 buttons to decide how good you are with all those aspects I’ve stated above.

My execution monsters, “OG” players, diehards… I have no doubt that you will scratch your itch even if links aren’t strict in SF5 or if KOF14 is changing some things around to make the game more approachable. My button mashers, Sweet 16s, tryhards… respect the game, respect your vets and respect yourselves. If pleasing everyone was easy, there wouldn’t be a single complaint in existence. With all that said, I’m still a fan, so when the developers really screw up, they deserve what’s coming to them. Have fun everyone, I’m gonna hang up my Parappa hat for a little bit and step into the hyperbolic time chamber. Don’t know when I’ll be back, so until next time… Rise Up.

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