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On 2D vs. 3D Fighters

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On 2D vs. 3D Fighters

Unread postby icycalm » 18 Mar 2018 15:45

My Power Stone review: https://www.patreon.com/posts/17593825

It will eventually also be published in VGCULTURE2 with the title "On 2D vs. 3D Fighters". (Several VGART essays will be republished in this way, in part or in full, because they serve simultaneously as theory essays and reviews of specific games whose analysis helps in fleshing out a theoretical position).

What I would like to point out now is that I just added the following observation to it:

I wrote:That's why we see Street Fighter — a traditionally 2D series — and Tekken — a traditionally 3D series — finally converge to the point where, in their latest iterations — SF5 and Tekken 7 — they are practically indistinguishable, having both turned essentially 2.5D, with SF borrowing all that it could possibly borrow in the graphics department from 3D fighters, and Tekken swearing off 3D movement for good, with the up direction used for jumping and the down direction for crouching, just as with any 2D fighter.


Not sure when Tekken changed its movement system, or if it had always been like that, but my point stands regardless. There's no difference at all that I can see between these two games now -- at least not in regards to genre or even subgenre.

If you think I made a mistake or missed something, let me know. I've no doubt that my theses are solid, but perhaps I could use some help with the examples, because as mentioned in the essay, I've spent very little time playing 3D fighters especially (or "3D" fighters, as the case may be).
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Unread postby CTF » 28 Mar 2018 20:47

I have played 200-300 hours of both SF5 and Tekken 7 and I would like to maybe shed some light on this discussion. In Tekken 7, the up input is used both for jumping and for sidesteps and the down input is used for both crouching and sidesteps. If you tap up you will sidestep into the background and if you hold up you will jump. Similarly, if you tap down you will sidestep into the foreground and if you hold down you will crouch. In addition, double tapping in these directions will make your character walk continuously into the background/foreground. In general it is very rare for characters in Tekken to jump compared to a 2D fighter as the purpose of jumping in Tekken is different to that of 2D fighters. There are three exceptions to this rule, the two guest characters: Akuma from Street Fighter and Geese from King of Fighters, and Eliza which is a unique character that heavily borrows mechanics and inputs from 2D fighters. In any other match not featuring these three characters out of the 40 character roster you will rarely see any jumps at all (and most of the ones you will see will be used in a specific setup after a wall splat).

Other than sidestepping, 3D fighters usually have another key difference in how the hits are categorized. In Street Fighter you have high attacks which can be blocked standing or crouched, low attacks which can only be blocked crouching, overhead attacks which can only be blocked standing up and jumping attacks which function the same way as overheads. In Tekken, all attacks are either high, mid or low. Mid attacks can only be blocked standing up (much like overheads in 2D fighters) low attacks can only be blocked crouching (same as their 2D counterpart) but high attacks are different, high attacks can be blocked standing up but completely evaded while crouched. Which means that in Tekken if your opponent is throwing a series of 3 high attacks at you, you don't have to stand there and block, you can duck it and punish him. This has no counterpart in 2D fighters.

As for the key differences that these changes create in the matches themselves, I would say the most important thing is how it affects the way players defend during a match. In Street Fighter, if you are blocking your opponent's string you are probably going to remain in a blocking state until he does a move that is negative on block or the pushblock pushes you far enough out of harm's way. In Tekken, even if your opponent keeps pressing safe buttons in your face, you still have defensive options to outmaneuver him. Suppose you just blocked a move that is +4 on block and your opponent now has the initiative on you. In Street Fighter, it would be stupid to press any button in this case (unless it's an invincible reversal which only a select characters have access to), you would simply keep blocking until your opponent gives up his advantage on you. In Tekken, you have other options, you can keep blocking or you can sidestep to evade his next attack (this will lose to moves that catch sidesteps, called homing moves) or you can duck if you anticipate your opponent throwing a high attack (this will lose to a mid attack). This completely changes the pace of the matches.

In 2D fighters, there is a concept called blockstrings, it's a string that is completely safe on block that you can throw to pressure your opponent hoping he will either lose patience and press a button or not know the blockstring. This safe string you do also lets you hit confirm in case you hit and keeps the momentum on your side. In 3D fighters, this concept is almost non existent, there are usually no strings you can apply that are guaranteed to be safe because your opponent has other defensive options that he can apply between hits of the string. In Tekken, there are more opportunities for the momentum to shift and indeed in high level Tekken matches you will see constant momentum shifts between the players and in less predictable places.

The aforementioned blockstrings create something in 2D fighters that people sometimes refer to as "turns". It is common to hear stuff like "he didn't wait for his turn" or "he pressed a button too early" when talking about a game of Street Figher. That is because the definition between when you should attack and when you should defend is clearer. You weather your opponent's attempts to open you up, wait for your turn to strike back and then do a mix-up of your own. Because of how the basic universal movement options of Tekken work, this concept is a lot less defined and fights become more dynamic and varied. No longer you only have to wait and block during your opponent's turn, now you can catch his tendencies on offense, find a hole and surprise him with a well placed side step or a duck. Almost every single moment in a Tekken game you have a chance to predict and outsmart your opponent in ways that are impossible in a 2D fighter. Not only that, some moves can only be sidestepped right and some can only be sidestepped left which means you also have to know which direction to sidestep. This can make otherwise safe moves become punishable with proper 3D movement. Tekken also features moves that are called "crush" moves which are invulnerable to either high or low attacks during their animation which adds another of layer or responses to dealing with your opponent's offense.

In general I feel the 3D movement makes the matches in Tekken less "turn based". Your ways of defending and punishing your opponent's habits as well as how you apply pressure because of this majorly change how 2D and 3D fighters play and feel. This makes for fights that are more dynamic as every single moment you have more choices and more variables to consider which in turn makes the flow of the battle feel more natural and reactive thus making your interactions with your opponent more interesting. In a high level Tekken match, you will see the players not just blocking their opponents moves, but also using the full 3D range of motion as well as ducking to evade their attacks and fight back in ways that either cannot be (side steps) or are currently not implemented (ducking to avoid high attacks) in 2D fighting games.

Hope this helps fill in some blanks about the appeal of 3D fighters. There are also many aspects of 2D fighters that are almost non existent in 3D fighters like cross-ups, projectiles, less left-right mix-ups in general and a totally different zoning game among others. All these differences are enough to still distinguish between these two subgenres for the fighting game community. If you would like me to elaborate, clarify or answer some questions you don't think I have answered I would do so gladly.
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Unread postby icycalm » 28 Mar 2018 21:00

Thanks for the analysis. I'll post that on the frontpage too along with the MMO one.

For my purposes, this is the most interesting point:

CTF wrote:There are 3 exceptions to this rule, the 2 guest characters: Akuma from Street Fighter and Geese from King of Fighters and Eliza which is a unique character that heavily borrows mechanics and inputs from 2D fighters.


This tells me that the distinctions between 2D and 3D fighters have blurred to such an extent, that they can freely borrow mechanics from each other, something that was unthinkable 10 or 15 years ago.

So if the 2D and 3D fighters have not YET completely fused into a new 2.5D subgenre, it is obvious that they are on the way to doing so, and eventually will. All we are waiting for is the designers to figure out how to maximize complexity in the new, rule-blending genre.

Am I wrong? Are projectile attacks somehow impossible to make work in this sort of mixed 2.5D fighter?
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Unread postby icycalm » 28 Mar 2018 21:02

Killian says you could just sidestep them, in a 3D game, but isn't that the same as jumping over them? If they come fast enough, it will be a challenge to sidestep them, no?
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Unread postby icycalm » 28 Mar 2018 21:07

By the way, if these games adopted a twin-stick controller, as I propose in the essay, then I think the blending of the genres, and the adoption of ALL the types of moves from both of them, could happen a great deal easier.
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Unread postby CTF » 28 Mar 2018 22:41

As for the guest characters in Tekken, the reaction to them has been mixed. There is a significant portion of the Tekken community that hates these characters and their inclusion because they bend the rules of the game too much. Many people feel as if matches containing these characters are "not really Tekken" as they change how the game looks and plays by an extreme amount. Notice how in the set you linked in the Discord chat one of the players is playing two out of the three characters I listed (the third one was not available at the time if I recall correctly).

As for the blending of the genres, something like the ducking mechanic can be included in a hybrid of both fairly easily but you are correct in recognizing the projectile-based aspects of it to be the real challenge to fuse.

As Killian says, fireballs in Tekken are a lot less useful than they are in 2D fighters. In 2D fighters they are used to very effectively control space and limit your opponent's actions but in a 3D fighter the sidestep nullifies a big part of that which is why you would see Akuma in Tekken throwing a quarter of the fireballs you will see him throw in Street Fighter. The reason why the sidestep is so effective at dealing with fireballs is that it is pretty instant, fast, and relatively safe. In Street Fighter, you cannot block while you jump, so when you choose to jump over a fireball you are essentially leaving yourself open to anti-air moves for a fairly long period of time. Jumping in 2D fighters takes way more time than a sidestep and a badly timed jump when mistakenly predicting a fireball will give your opponent a fairly lenient window of opportunity to react and punish your mistake. Compare that to a quick side step which doesn't leave you open to a heavy punish and happens so fast that your opponent practically needs to predict one to punish it (as opposed to reacting to a bad jump in Street Fighter). Also, jumps in 2D games go much higher as opposed to 3D games in which the jump is a less important and represented tool. 3D fighters tend to try and be more realistic with this aspect as the jump height of characters in 2D fighters compared to their size is very exaggerated.

I guess the concept of "homing" fireballs which track on the z-axis only is something that can be toyed with by competent designers but I am not aware of any attempt to do so yet and the way jumps are handled will need to change to accommodate that. The main hurdle to jump in fusing these two subgenres is indeed how to reconcile Street Fighter's focus on its zoning and long-range options compared to Tekken's emphasis on more realistic short-range fights.

Twin-stick controls are a very interesting idea but will only be successful if it's made by master designers. There are many pitfalls I can see to this approach and it will take a fair bit of experimenting and fine-tuning to get something that works. That could very well be the future of fighting games, maybe soon an ambitious enough developer will take up the glove and attempt this.
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Unread postby icycalm » 29 Mar 2018 00:34

The twin-stick fighter was done last year by Ubi, and it's For Honor. It works beautifully. I checked your library and you don't have it, so it makes sense that you think it hasn't been done yet (just as I didn't know how Tekken 7 works, because I haven't played it).

You should get it at some point. I don't think you'll be disappointed. The only drawback is that's it's not terribly deep, but neither was SF2 when it appeared, and it's the start of a new genre. It's a whole new experience.
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Unread postby CTF » 29 Mar 2018 20:13

Yeah, I overlooked For Honor, I haven't heard about it in a while so it slipped off my mind. I'll get it next time I'm in the mood for a new fighting game, it sounds super unique and interesting.
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Unread postby icycalm » 10 Apr 2018 14:46

quash via Discord after reading both my essay and this thread:

quash wrote:I re-read the review and read the thread
CTF is right about the distinction of "turns" being less defined in 3D fighters but neglects how 2D fighters have also gone in that direction with Just Defend
That overall supports your point though
Now I'm curious as to why Power Stone 2 is worse than 1
I haven't played either in awhile
Maybe I should revisit them since I do own them both
See if I can find the answer myself
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