Fighting games are a big dividing line in the gaming community. On the one hand, you have the people who've practiced and understand the games, on another you have people who just mash buttons and have a good time, and then you have everybody else caught in the middle. That "middle" group is probably the hardest to make games for, considering they're also the largest part of gamers as a whole--they want to improve and fully enjoy the games they play, but the barriers in their way can be more intimidating than they'd like.
Capcom's Senior Vice President Christian Svensson recently commented on Capcom's efforts to bring in newer players, and how sometimes Capcom tries too hard to appeal to that crowd, often to their detriment:
"I’d say we have varying levels of success in making sure there’s enough content and fun in the mechanics even if you don’t know how to plink, FADC or DHC... I think with the introduction of so many new systems [in Street Fighter X Tekken] (gems, pandora, etc.) I think we probably overcomplicated things and it worked against that objective."
While some fighting games, like Skullgirls or Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown have provided excellent and in-depth training modes to help players learn the ropes, Svensson believes Capcom has fallen behind in this regard.
Knowing why and when you should use a technique is just as, if not more important than knowing how to do it
"I strongly agree that we have not done a good job of truly teaching new players about the basics of fighting game strategy in our current crop of titles. This has been a hot button conversation with the producers in the past and some have embraced it. In the case of SF3: Online Edition, we tried to put in challenges and trials that would have explained a bit more of the 'why' as opposed to just the 'how' in traditional training modes but we probably didn’t go as far as we could have.
"We need to provide the right tools for new players to learn enough that they’re motivated to take the 'next steps' in their developing love for fighting games. I’d like to think we can do better in the future."
It's shocking, because Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution revolutionized fighting game training modes in 2002, but very few games have followed its example.
One of the key things about learning fighting games that developers forget is that it's not the moves that people really have trouble with. It's not the combos or the controls or the inputs that need to be taught--players will learn all those on their own. The mental aspect of fighting games is what really needs to be taught, and that's what actually wins matches and makes the player feel like they've learned something.
But not always
A friend of mine (who doesn't play fighting games much) pointed this out to me a few years back when Street Fighter IV was released: if a fighting game has a mechanic that "gives newer players a chance to fight back," it's actually doing the opposite--experienced players will be able to exploit this "easier" mechanic and use it to gain an even greater advantage.
For me, it all comes back to the mental aspect and how that can only be taught with experience (or having friends who aren't douchebags and will actually teach you), but what do you think? What steps can Capcom and other fighting game developers take to make fighters more accessible to new players while maintaining their games' competitive edge?