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This Game is Not Made for My Style: a Fighting Game Casual's Salt Thread

BigNerdSam

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There's no TL;DR, I'm too scared to provide one, I am currently experiencing post-salt clarity - a note from after writing this thread.

Yeah this is a general complaint salt thread, but the only way I can vent this without harming my body is through constructive thinking and I think this is a genuine problem with Skullgirls so:

General Thoughts on why Skullgirls is not Casual-Friendly

So I am not a dedicated fighting game player, I am more of a casual "I just want to tune in, do a fun fight online, tune out" player. I am pretty bad at executing specials and combos and in most fighting games I rely on poking out an opponents opening attack or waiting for when the combo either ends in a wide hit or a heavy enough recovery that I can recover myself and find a hole in my opponent's new combo. I understand and have understood that Skullgirls is a high-speed fighter where to do good you have to execute a long, punishing combo without triggering the Drama Gauge. Skullgirls is absolutely incompatible with how I play fighting games.

Why did I pick up Skullgirls then? Blame the funny Canadians. Also blame the art for being good. Also blame the Fighting Game Development culture for making me want to support every fighting game with rollback netcode. Also blame me for wanting to play a cool video game with cool art that I have a high chance of being bad at.

Why am I writing this thread then, instead of logging into the Discord for a beginner's community or opening a beginner's lobby? Well it is about 6 PM PST as I am writing this, probably prime time to boot up a lobby with randos, and I am seeing nobody with a beginner's lobby. Also I don't like logging into community Discords if I'm just gonna ask "Yo who wants to play a game?" when the game itself has a lobby system for me to log in and ask "Yo, who wants to play a game?" and a button that basically asks everyone who wants to know, "Yo, who wants to play a game?" It feels like buying and using a Juicero. I don't want to turn on Discord just to find a match, let my phone idle while I play, and wake it up just to find someone else on Discord because I like playing with many different players over the course of a few hours.

I'm writing this thread to voice some complaints. I don't know if this is the correct forum for that, but I don't see a feedback forum and that is probably for the best:

1) There's No Apparent Skill Ranking or Matching

While I enjoy the ability to match with randos, I don't like that there is no apparent way for me to find out how skilled that player is. Now that I mention it, the online mode in Skullgirls is really basic and barebones, which I guess is just an artifact of when it was released as a 7th Gen indie game. While this is ideal for calling up a pal and playing a couple of online rounds while screwing around, this isn't how I play fighting games. I don't know how/if Skullgirls's online set up can accomodate some kind of ranking score for player skill and matching players based on that, but it would help with my occasional desire to play some casual Skullgirls.

In contrast, I have played a lot of casual Guilty Gear Strive and Dragon Ball Fighter Z online. Yes, I do wish the guy at Arc System Works who insists on the avatar-based menus would be fired/bullied by management into quitting (which is what Japanese companies apparently do instead of firing people), but I do very much enjoy the matchmaking in those games because they divide players by skill levels (floors in GGST, ranking and color in DBFZ). While I have run into a killer or two that appears in my player skill-tier, I also find plenty of close and even fights: meanwhile the kings that wipe me out are more often found in the free-match.

2) Skullgirls Wants Big Combos and Only Big Combos

Let's get back to that "I can't combo" problem. My hands suck at comboing, when I play Devil May Cry I score S-Ranks by getting enemies to clump together while I stall with enemy steps. That should be fine, I get by in Guilty Gear by poking through enemy attacks or exclusively throwing long-ranged attacks, before Wi-Fi players ruined the match making I got good at counter-slaps in Dragon Ball FighterZ. Also Skullgirls has the Drama Gauge where I can cancel a combo so I can try to get back on the offensive or rebuild my defense, so I should be able to scrape by in online mediocrity by relying on that, right?

I have had matches where, because of my opponent doing Umbrella's grappling tech or even by deliberate reset, the Drama Gauge and IPS is actually useless. I was recently fighting an Umbrella who, when I was able to activate IPS, responded by not being pushed away and just grappling me or continuing their combo. I understand that this is a thing that happens in older fighting games, I'm a big fan of that "HEY KID WANNA LEARN HOW TO DO AN INFINITE?" video, but I would imagine that the infinite combo tech would be extremely precise? Maybe only the monsters are playing Quick Match which is probably one of the most beginner-hostile situations I can imagine for a fighting game, where the fastest online matchmaking method is also the most vicious and high-skill matchmaking method. Maybe this is just a PS4 issue.

Generally all I can identify in how I see my opponents play in Skullgirls, as well as videos of Skullgirls gameplay, is that the only way to play well is to catch your opponent in a combo and never let go. So from this my immediate idea is that I should learn how to combo, so I should look at the challenges to do combos.

2.5) How Do Combo???

This is where I pull away from Skullgirls for a little bit to talk about another fighting game I played: Under Night In-Birth. Under Night's combos are decently memed up as being overly complex, but that's only the high-difficulty combos challenges, the initial combo challenges are actually really simple, going over the magic system and eventually into cancels into specials and eventually into linking combos into the meme nightmares. I can pull off those combo challenges pretty well, but not perfectly as often require multiple attempts and reviews of the developer replay.

Taking a quick glance at the Skullgirls's Combo Trials, they immediately skip the magic system trial which I can understand, but I would appreciate if they were there as like a digital coach cheering me on for warming up. Looking at the first combo on the list (Filia 1), the combo as written is the following:

s.LP - Snip Snip
s.LK - Knee High
s.MP - Thinning Shears
c.MK - French Twist
c.HP - Queue Sting
Hairball [HK]
Fenrir Drive

I will now be a petty internet voice and tell the static media to go to hell. It is cute to have names for the normals, but that's just wasting space on the screen. Also I don't know off the top of my head what the input for Hairball or Fenrir Drive are, I fiddled with the controls until I found that the inputs I need to enter are 214HK and 214KK. Once I knew that it then became an issue of knowing what buttons I had to enter at what pace which, this being the first combo, wasn't too much of a problem. Once we move onto the next combo (Filia 2), the instructions start get quirky with asking for the j.MK - Bounce and Volume to only hit once before performing an Airball [HK]; then the combo after that (Filia 3) stops displaying normals's names, which saves on space but makes me realize that the normals were listed in the way that they were because the combo list can only cross out one row instead of striking off a single input. Good lord that was a run-on sentence, but that's how my brain feels looking at the combo sheets and trying to picture the input timing. Surely there's an input demo that plays the moves in order so I can follow along in lockstep, right?

Nope, there's nothing present in the settings or the inputs that displays a demonstration of the combo before I execute it. I can't tell if it's an engine limitation or a design decision by [REDACTED INDIVIDUAL], but it bothers me. Granted, it doesn't bother me as much as my second problem with the combo trials.

So I started playing a bunch of Skullgirls now of all times because I want to play as Umbrella. She's a little salt baby with some forward-planning puddle moves and grapple tech and after getting my ass kicked in online I think "Oh, I should try at least her first combo trial." Compared to Filia 1, Umbrella 1 confuses me in arrangement: instead of starting with a Magic into Special into Super like Filia 1, it is asking to perform the following:

c.LK, c.MK, c.HP
j.HK
s.LP, s.MP [2X], Slurp 'n' Slide
Retina Reflector [236+LPMP]

This looks closer to what Filia 3 would than it would any character's first trial. I can maybe understand wanting to keep a new character's combo trial on-par with your dedicated fanbase's skill level, but with the trials' lack of combo demos or even a warm-up close to Filia 1 I feel overwhelmed and just skip the combo trials that are supposed to be teaching me how to get good with the characters.

3) Drama, Infinite Prevention, Defense, Getting Hit, and I Guess I Died

So I can't combo and I'm fighting killer combo gods from probably SoCal or whatever is left of the iconic NYC China Place. Whatever, I played a bunch of the tutorials for the defensive techniques. This should work out, I know these tutorials by relative heart.

When you're beign comboed, the opponent's level 3 combos will result in your Drama Meter building up, a thin and almost unnoticable meter right under the health bars that blend into the UI when they're full. Once that's full, the moves will start to sound like ducks, which means I can just press an attack button and release an Infinity Breaker which should launch the opponent across the screen and give me a second of breathing room to recenter myself (mentally) and start a new approach or take the offensive.

That doesn't seem to be how this works. For one thing there seem to be combos that players do that do not max out the Drama Gauge until my opponent had already taken off 75% of my life and there even appear to be counters to Infinity breakers, as I have seen and done Infinity Breakers where the opponent not only remains next to me, but proceeds to perform a whole new combo from where they left off.

From the language and demostration of the Drama Gauge and IPS in the tutorial I would think that this is an answer for players who cannot combo: just annoyingly cancel your opponent's combos until you learn how to punish their openers. Make a scuffle out of their scrape across the floor. In reality, it seems that the Drama Gauge and IPS are forgotten in the design, as high-end combos circumvent the defensive system made to fight against combo-centric players.

Conclusion 1) Skullgirls is Not Casual-Friendly

I would like to make two things clear with that subheader: I do not want Skullgirls to change for me, while I am salty that I suck at Skullgirls when picking the fastest matchmaking mode, I think that Skullgirls's gameplay remaining as pure as it was since it released on the Sony Playstation 3 ten years ago is special and if this thread changed Skullgirls's fundamental play that I will volunteer to be publicly lynched by the community; I want Skullgirls to be much easier for casuals to have a fun match in without having to personally call the community. Does that sound confusing, backhanded, and like I want the entire Costco cart in one box that isn't too heavy? Yes, I am writing this entire manifesto in a single sitting like I have to submit this college paper in five hours and twenty minutes alongside three other finals. How did I pass Spanish I? I am off topic.

The problems I'm specifically pointing at are that the combo trials aren't as intuitive as I would like, the fastest online matchmaker has nothing but experts in it, and unless the defensive mechanics are not as abandoned as I think they are from my quickmatches they need additional explainations and tutorials. The thing is, keeping the current Skullgirls alive, I'm not sure how fixable these issues are: the announcements of new DLC characters in Annie, Umbrella, and Black Dahlia show that development is focused on bringing new content to feed the currrent community and I'm not sure how much the team can spare to go back to old content and modes to fix the accessibility problems I am facing. There are two solutions I am thinking depending on how capable the the current Skullgirls teams might be.

Conclusion 2) Mending the Old

I first played Skullgirls on the PS3 with a Dualshock 3 on a CRT, I would have rather played on the Sixaxis Boomerang than a baby Playstation Controller, and I abandoned it because I still didn't understand fighting games back then: this was in 2012, I had graduated highschool around that time, bumming around with artist friends and thinking that [REDACTED] was a genius. It is now 2022, I currently hold college degrees and I would like for that previously mentioned individual to be forgotten. Ten years have passed and I have spent this evening playing Skullgirls Second Encore on my Sony PlayStation 5. I think Mrs. Victoria is burned into my OLED television.

This game is older than nieces I have, who are old enough to make superficial political ideas and scalloped potatoes. I honestly don't know if Hidden Variable or Future Club have the ability to go back to decade-old content written by [REDACTED] and fix decisions that I honestly should slap past me for thinking were just tough love rather than short-sighted elitism. Particularly I doubt that the Skullgirls engine can accept a new online menu interface or a new display style for combo trials that wouldn't somehow mess up the actual netcode or HUD in some fashion. I don't mean to say that I don't think Hidden Variable and Future Club aren't skilled, I just don't know how old and fucked the old code might be compared to the new code, or if their current programming staff can spare or make the time to revise old code, or if the original Skullgirls documentation necessary to make those changes even exists anymore (for all I know [REDACTED] could have deleted them out of spite). I know changing some interfaces sounds superficial and that they have added tutorials for Annie and Umbrella, so they should know how to make a new tutorial interface: I just have no experience or skill in game development to make assumptions like "yeah they can totally make the combo trial HUD look like Under Night."

It would probably be more sensible if they had a team or the community assemble a set of higher-level tutorials that covered stronger defensive tactics or safe approaches for new players.

Now before you tell me to go onto YouTube or look up a guide myself, I want to make one thing clear.

Accessibility is not linking to a website that is not a part of the game. I don't care what BBS board, Magazine Secrets, or arcade restroom memories you have of learning about Akuma in Super Turbo or how to do Sub-Zero's Fatality memories you want to pass on, the year is 2022. Macaulay Caulkin is 41-years old. We live in an age where I could email Ed Boon right now and ask him to lie to me about Ermac. Guilty Gear currently has a feature where players can share combo recipies in the game itself. A fighting game doesn't have to hide critical gameplay features for me to go onto YouTube to find a "DID YOU KNOW" short about Big Band's taunt allowing him to execute TUBA TUBA.

That's what Tik Tok is for anyways.

Conclusion 3) I Break What I Said in Conclusion 1 and Suggest New Changes to Fundamental Skullgirls Systems

I am not even sure how fundamental a change I'm about to say is, I just picture this being a problem with boomers that clicked out of this thread when I reminded them that Skullgirls is ten years old.

The scariest thing about Skullgirls, at least from my point of view, is the combos. Everyone online feels like they have Touch-of-Death and the defensive systems I learned from the tutorials is not helpful in countering them. While I kind of want some insane fix to the Drama Gauge, like changing the max Drama from 240 to 100 or adding 90 frames of post-Infinity Breaker Invulnerability period to make non-combo play slightly more doable, that also sounds disruptive to the purity of Skullgirls's naturally high combo ceiling.

When I do think of a Drama Gauge and Infinity Breaker upgrade however, my brain then calls up another fighting game: Capcom vs SNK 2. While I still do not know how the grooves work, or why they have to be named after the two publishers and not "ORIGINAL" "EXTRA" and such, I do understand a fundamental idea of selecting a variation of that character. The idea I'm kind of cooking is "Why not make a groove system that ranges from 'Original Combo' where they remain as combo-heavy as they are now to a heavier groove where defensive play is a whole lot stronger, but attacks are so strong that they naturally force enemies away with even a basic combo?" Why not make it a scale from heaviest defense were you can barely combo, but have a strong defensive play to an even faster combo style that would put the fear of god in me if they didn't sacrifice all of their defense. Again, I do not have the game design knowledge to whole-heartedly recommend this, my degrees were not in game design, they were in education.

Conclusion 4) Final Statements

I cannot say I know or can bring myself to care if these criticisms are really heard by Hidden Variable or Future Club. For all I know I'm probably going to get a lot of "You really spent three hours writing this because you suck at Skullgirls?" (yes) "Nah you don't know what you're talking about." (probably not) "The game's fine, shut up." (no u) "Why did you have to remind me that 2012 was ten years ago?" (lol lmao) and "GTAB." (I'm sorry for wasting your time mods) My point in writing this was that I haven't heard a very vocal criticism on the casual accessibility of Skullgirls, a problem I am probably only now noticing as someone who is into casually playing simplified Arc System Works games and an occasional newbie lobby of a French Bread title: I wasn't sure if this type of complaint was really made, known, or understood. If I boot up Skullgirls in a year and discover some kind of offense/defense slider or hear that they added new tutorials or redid the combo trials, I would be pleasantly surprised; and if not then I would probably still turn on Quick Play like the idiot I am and get my entire backside handed to me in a to-go box.

Really this entire thread was written in a general stream of consciousness and salt from being marginally bad at fighting games. All I can hope for in posting this is that you remember me when you write the save points in Cerebella: Shut Up and Jam Gaiden.

Please do not make that game if your only intent is copy pasting this thread on the save points, actually have a point to your shitpost fangame.
 
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missingno

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Quite a lot to unpack here, I won't try to go over everything point by point but I do want to address a couple things.

While SG makes a few steps to offer beginners the tools to learn the game, it was way ahead of the curve back in 2012, it's no Fantasy Strike or DBFZ. And in an era where seemingly every publisher is trying to make each game simpler than the last, I appreciate that SG still has that old school meanness in it. Maybe it's not the game you're looking for, but then there's no shortage of those other games out there.

1) There's No Apparent Skill Ranking or Matching
From what I've been told, Quick Match actually does have TrueSkill under the hood. But since the playerbase is kind of small, when it doesn't find the perfect match right away it widens its search parameters until it finds whoever's available. Tight matchmaking has always been difficult for fighting games, you need a large enough playerbase to be able to be picky about both rank and ping. Just not something you can realistically expect out of an old indie game.

2) Skullgirls Wants Big Combos and Only Big Combos

[...]

I have had matches where, because of my opponent doing Umbrella's grappling tech or even by deliberate reset, the Drama Gauge and IPS is actually useless. I was recently fighting an Umbrella who, when I was able to activate IPS, responded by not being pushed away and just grappling me or continuing their combo. I understand that this is a thing that happens in older fighting games, I'm a big fan of that "HEY KID WANNA LEARN HOW TO DO AN INFINITE?" video, but I would imagine that the infinite combo tech would be extremely precise? Maybe only the monsters are playing Quick Match which is probably one of the most beginner-hostile situations I can imagine for a fighting game, where the fastest online matchmaking method is also the most vicious and high-skill matchmaking method. Maybe this is just a PS4 issue.

[...]

When you're beign comboed, the opponent's level 3 combos will result in your Drama Meter building up, a thin and almost unnoticable meter right under the health bars that blend into the UI when they're full. Once that's full, the moves will start to sound like ducks, which means I can just press an attack button and release an Infinity Breaker which should launch the opponent across the screen and give me a second of breathing room to recenter myself (mentally) and start a new approach or take the offensive.

That doesn't seem to be how this works. For one thing there seem to be combos that players do that do not max out the Drama Gauge until my opponent had already taken off 75% of my life and there even appear to be counters to Infinity breakers, as I have seen and done Infinity Breakers where the opponent not only remains next to me, but proceeds to perform a whole new combo from where they left off.

From the language and demostration of the Drama Gauge and IPS in the tutorial I would think that this is an answer for players who cannot combo: just annoyingly cancel your opponent's combos until you learn how to punish their openers. Make a scuffle out of their scrape across the floor. In reality, it seems that the Drama Gauge and IPS are forgotten in the design, as high-end combos circumvent the defensive system made to fight against combo-centric players.
What you're seeing are resets, intentionally ending a combo early in order to go for a mixup that'll lead to a brand new combo. Resets are a risk/reward tradeoff, you can get a lot more damage if it works but you risk them blocking it or even punishing with a reversal.


It's precisely because Undizzy puts a hard limit on combos that resets become so important to get that real big big damage. It's not ignoring Undizzy, the mechanic is designed to encourage taking this risk.

As for Bursts, yes those can be baited and punished. That's a staple of every game that has Bursts in it, ever since Guilty Gear XX (2002). Nothing is ever free, everything has counterplay somewhere.
 

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Apart from what missingno already covered, I'll just quickly add on with responding to a couple of other points:

2.5) How Do Combo???
The trials are definitely not good for learning combos. I think it's a fair criticism, since there are no other character-specific combo teaching resources in the game, so it is natural for people to think that is where you are supposed to learn combos. However; they are just meant to be challenges for players to complete rather than intended to be a library of useful combos.

The recommended resource to learn combos, and most other aspects of Skullgirls, is the Mizuumi wiki. For example, since you mentioned it, here are the Umbrella primer combos from there:


A basic ground chain combo ending in sweep. Unsafe on block.

2LK 2MK 2HK

A basic ground chain combo ending in a special cancel. Also unsafe on block.

2LK 2MK 2HK 236LP

A basic ground chain combo ending in a super cancel.

2LK 2MK 2HK 236LP 623PP

Much easier for you to build your way up to her real combos. (Although it is worth to note that since Umbrella is pretty new, her combo section is not as well-developed as the other characters yet, but is definitely good enough to get you started.)

I think criticisms on the SG's in-game tutorials are very valid. This game was, as you said, made 10 years ago. The tutorials at launch were pretty much the best tutorials you could get in any fighting game, but since then there has been tutorial features that were introduced in other fighters that could be adopted to make it better. Unfortunately, it's not in the devs' priority yet, as they are probably concentrating on delivering all the Season 1 characters.

3) Drama, Infinite Prevention, Defense, Getting Hit, and I Guess I Died

So I can't combo and I'm fighting killer combo gods from probably SoCal or whatever is left of the iconic NYC China Place. Whatever, I played a bunch of the tutorials for the defensive techniques. This should work out, I know these tutorials by relative heart.

The majority of current SG players are new players just like you lol. They aren't old Chinatown Fair veterans that were shaped in the fire of the arcades, just normal console gamers who like the game and put in time and effort to learn it. You can do it too.

I think the problem is you have been learning hard, not learning smart. The in-game tutorials as we have established are not perfect, but there are plenty of resources available for you to take advantage of. Apart from this forum, you could also use the official Discord channel which has a very active and helpful beginner channel. Other players can help guide you to good learning resources and answer you questions. 3 hours spent there would certainly be a lot more productive than 3 hours spent writing this essay. :p



One more thing I want to add is, yes, Skullgirls is a very combo-centric game. It's also what many like to call a "killing game"; if you play at an intermediate level upward, a lot of the time you WILL be spending trapped in a combo, and even when you are let go you will get put in an ambiguous reset which can put you right back in another combo if you guess/read wrong. The game punishes you hard for messing up, but it also makes you feel like the most powerful MF in the world when you do something right. That's the appeal of the game and why most of us play it.

It's certainly not everyone, but if you have watched this game being played at a decent level and you think it looks sick, I think it's worth sticking with and the learning process (once you have started learning the right way) can be very rewarding. Maybe in the future, they may Strive-ify the game in a sequel and dumb it down completely to get more casual players on board. But, for now, I doubt the game will receive any major updates that would change its core identity.
 
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