Diamond Rank Choices
Street Fighter 6 may still be at least six months away, but you wouldn’t know from the way Capcom has been rolling out the trailers, theme songs, show demos, and character reveals since the fighter’s official announcement. And for many people, (yer boy Moyse included), the legendary developer has done an amazing job at keeping the hype engines running on overdrive.
Every trailer, every roster reveal, and every playtest report, only heightens my anticipation for SF6. As regular readers will know, I’ve been playing fighting games since 1990. The drop of each and every iteration of the World Warriors has always been an event — bringing with it nerve-wracking excitement and the promise of many long nights, intense practice sessions, competitive online and offline tournaments, and, most importantly of all, the opportunity to choose new artwork for my fightstick.
Now, it needs to be made absolutely clear that I like 2016 release Street Fighter V. And, on occasion, I truly love Street Fighter V. But, inarguably, that game had a disastrous launch, perhaps the worst in mainline SF history. I don’t need to waste your time with the rap sheet, but in-game ads, two forms of digital currency, a lack of single-player interest, myriad “real money only” DLC, PC-invading kernels, Ken’s weird head, controller incompatibility, “censorship” controversies, and atrocious online at launch all saw SF6 stumble out of the starting blocks and struggle at the cash registers. To this day many players — both veterans and part-timers — agree that the game only really came together years on from its initial launch.
The Street Fighter 6 development team, led by new director Takayuki Nakayama, appears to have taken the poor launch of SFV to heart, openly stating that it wants to learn from the preceding game’s mistakes. This seems to be the case as, from what we’ve seen so far, Street Fighter 6 looks fantastic. It goes way beyond the awesome new visuals, with developer passion embedded deep into the overall “vibe” of the game.
From the urban art style to the overhauled mechanics, the fascinating roster, the bombastic pride, and the vivid visual effects, SF6 already looks like something special. And with a bonus year of development time in the bag, there is little reason for Capcom not to deliver a complete, feature-packed, and technically sound release come 2023.
Still, as Andre 3000 once told us, you can plan a preeetty picnic but you can’t predict the wea-ther. And while I don’t consider my own humble opinion the be-all and end-all of game design, I’ve gotten to thinking about some features, design theories, and style ideas that I’d like to both see (and not see) Capcom adopt for our next walk through the avenues and alleyways of the Street Fighter series. Of course, there are far more than five-to-ten attributes that go into making a modern classic. But, as food for thought, here are some points I feel would help ensure SF6 sits firmly in the S-Tier.
Enough yakkin’. Here are my five Do’s and Do Not Do’s for Street Fighter 6.
— Do —
Reward the player with unlocks. I get it. This is just “the industry” now, but it wasn’t two games ago that Street Fighter IV‘s home edition offered up a mighty nine awesome additional characters, all unlocked simply by completing arcade mode. Hoo boy, do those days feel like another lifetime ago, especially to long-term fighting game players.
Are we going to get free unlockable characters in SF6? Of course we aren’t, not in 2023 — but let us have something, character costumes, pretty profiles, nostalgia gear, custom announcers, retro character themes. People are going to buy the DLC, we already know that they are going to. And, as such, the bottom line is not going to end up deep in the red just because SF6 rewarded the players with some surprising bonuses, worthy rewards, and fun extras.
C’mon, Nostalgia Costumes. Let’s do it.
Improve in-game communication. Anyone who has played their fair share of online games (in any genre) has probably been party to toxic and highly abusive voice chat — a disappointing inevitability that is sometimes only avoidable via the opening of a private party. But while receiving miserable messages from miserable people is no fun, I do miss the easy ability to communicate with or compliment opponents, or ask quick questions about moves and/or setups.
If Street Fighter 6 offered the ability to send quick messages on the win screen, much like the ones in the lobby system, it would go some way toward building the community, alleviating hard feelings, educating players, reducing the stress of online ranked, or allowing an easy segue to lobby invites. Even if you didn’t want to bring back full-on text chat for toxicity reasons, then how about a simple coined message system? Just hit a button on the win screen and select canned comments from a drop-down menu: “Rematch?,” “Open a Lobby?,” “Add me,” “Nice Try,” “GGs,” or, (specifically for me), “I got Rekt, lol.”
It’s a small thing, but would go some way to helping people find training partners. It could offer an olive branch to struggling players, build a circle of online opponents, and perhaps even dilute some of that salt.
Improve Replay functionality. Replays are, essentially, class in session. They’re vital to play improvement, matchup education, and avoiding the repetition of common mistakes. So how about a redesigned Replay suite? One that includes the typical play, pause, and frame advance functions, but perhaps offers some basic editing tools, the ability to send friends in-game snippets, and, (as is the case for some releases), allows the player to jump in and re-take control of their character, giving them the chance to experiment with alternate strategies.
This “interactive replay” function is one of the best tools for teaching a player how to avoid falling into the same gimmick traps over and again, without necessarily having to recreate the exact circumstances in Training Mode. An interactive replay feature would help out those players struggling to learn a particular matchup, while offering experts a way to optimize their punishes.
The SSFIV replay suite was fairly comprehensive in regards to indexing, utilizing custom replay titles, and highly customizable searches. Please bring back some of these very basic but very useful features.
Embrace community help. If one can recall, several smaller developers and/or fans came up with useful fixes for problems in Street Fighter V, ranging from the notorious legacy controller bug to general online latency issues. In every instance, Capcom either refused the help of the fixer, or outright patched the game to break their fix. Now we all understand why an AAA company would not want unlicensed third-party software poking around within its code — but there has to be a happy compromise, surely?
If Street Fighter 6 has issues, and another developer — or even just a bedroom coder — is able to fix those issues, don’t slam the door on them. Don’t we all just want the game to run as optimally as possible? Reach out to them. Work with them. You don’t have to use their exact code, but at least explore what they did right and employ it within your own patch. If someone fixes an issue, find out how they did it, rather than literally breaking the repair. Oh, and pay them for their ingenuity. That’s equally as important.
The same goes for tournament ideas, bug fixes, or even suggestions for community events and local promotions. But perhaps take character rebalance suggestions, shall we say, under advisement.
Make. Ranked. Less. Stressful. At tournaments, on Twitter, during streams, and at locals, I heard the same thing over and again during SFV‘s entire lifetime: “I don’t play Ranked Mode. It’s too stressful/infuriating/unfair/bullshit.” To be honest, it’s tough to disagree. Street Fighter V Ranked is famously frustrating — whether it be rage-quitters, smurf accounts, bad connectivity, outclassed matchmaking, or the hair-pulling problem of losing hours’ worth of league points because one single set didn’t go your way. Ranked Mode isn’t fun, it’s a grind, it’s a chore… it’s not a game, it’s work.
Having stronger, more reliable netcode obviously helps with the lag issue, but the entire concept of ranked needs overhauling. Why should a player lose eight matches’ worth of points because of one poor set against a lower ranked/laggy player? Or why should someone in Bronze be endlessly matched up with the same Ultra Gold player? Why do network drops result in a points loss? Why can’t you earn something for an opponent’s RQ? How was smurfing allowed to become such a common practice?
This is perhaps the thorniest suggestion, as everyone has their own idea of how ranked “should” work. One thing I do know is that whether I’m talking to Bronze players or Ultimate Grand Masters, everyone finds SFV Ranked to be a big ol’ sigh — painfully unrewarding, unfairly punishing, and ultimately a mode best left abandoned if you want to simply enjoy the thrill of the fight. Whether it’s bringing back LP/PP, separating ranks for each character, or locking ranks once achieved — something has to give if SF6 is to avoid falling into the same teeth-gnashing status of its predecessor.
Hell, at least you don’t lose points simply for not playing. I see you, NetherRealm.
— Do Not Do —
Forgettable or bland presentation. You know what I think of when I think of Street Fighter V? Times New Roman. SFV has, without a doubt, the dullest and most forgettable presentation style in Street Fighter history. Boring fonts abound, with a mobile game-style menu system, a crushingly dull soundtrack, a staggeringly yawnsome story mode, and an overall lack of bespoke charisma. SFV, for want of a better term, has no distinct identity of its own. It’s just “the fifth Street Fighter.”
And, in just a handful of trailers and gameplay videos, SF6 already looks to be redressing the balance. There is more energy in Kimberly’s Super animation than in the entirety of SFV. No doubt. Know this and harness it. The Vs. screen walkout looks great, the urban/graffiti aesthetic is gorgeous, and the visual effects on special attacks are dazzling. Splatter the entire game in life — from the menus, to its story mode, to the music, to the end credits. Drown me in color, confidence, and pride.
Street Fighter, for the first time in years, feels alive.
“Hilarious” ill-fitting weirdos. Street Fighter has always had its fair share of oddities — just look at yer boy Blanka, for example. But, since SFIV, things have kinda gone off the deep end with “WaCky DooDZ” newcomers that are weirdly off-model. Whether it be Alien Abraham Lincoln G, bootleg Batman villain Fang, or the fucking catastrophe that is Abigail, recent years have seen the roster shaken up with ill-fitting clowns. Hell, even Blanka himself went from being a misunderstood jungle mutant to a costume-wearing, head-scratching, Saturday-morning-show sidekick.
I can hear folks already bleating “What, Moyse, you don’t like fun?” Sure, I like fun, but devise characters that fit tonally with your roster. Street Fighter 6 has a vibe that needs 100% less Top Hat-Wearing Alien Politicians or full-screen-sized men who behave like motor cars. If you want to bring in comic relief or introduce off-the-wall characters, that’s cool. But at least have them match the vibe, whether they’re laboratory experiments gone awry, or grandmasters who look like bollocks in a bag. Ask Street Fighter III, they’ll tell you how it’s done. Let’s just pump the brakes on the circus, just once.
Ok… you can have Hakan. I know some of y’all really miss that oily mf’er.
Monopolizing tournaments. Street Fighter‘s competitive scene has always been grassroots. It was in 1991 and it has remained so in the ensuing decades. But we are now in a new era, one where Sony PlayStation, of all companies, owns Evo. As is the case for everything, capitalism smelled the money and plunged its hands right in. Is that inherently bad? Well, no, we’ve just had Evo return with one of the finest tournaments it has ever heralded, but the money men so need to understand the core root of the competitive scene, and be wary of squeezing out the fun and identity in favor of complete control.
With Street Fighter 6, Capcom is very likely to look for full control of the entire tournament scene, much as it did with its draconian plans for Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, (before the game fell on its ass). Capcom has already made a play to request any and all remaining SFV tournaments officially register with dad, whether the affair hosts 10 or 10,000 attendees. And, with SF6, it’s almost a sure thing that Capcom will make the MvC:I play once again. If this motion isn’t to throttle the competitive scene entirely, then Capcom needs to play fair with its rules of engagement, and offer up just as much reward as it is asking Tournament Organizers (TOs) to sacrifice in freedoms.
TOs need more than a roll of posters and a bunch of flyers. They need to be offered insurance, solid marketing, and decent pool payouts. Capcom needs to compromise with a promoter’s needs as much as its own, and not let this become a vanilla situation where every tournament worldwide becomes indistinguishable from the next, all plastered in Capcom’s “DIY SF6 Tournament Kit.” Having Capcom in a TO’s corner in an official capacity could be great for the competitive scene, but the developer needs to lay easy on the whip, trust in the TOs, and offer real, tangible, and attractive benefits for those who choose to work alongside them, while not lawyering up against small-run locals who do not.
Overcomplicated lobbies. There’s a real trend at the moment to make multiplayer lobbies in fighting games almost a game in themselves. In particular, Guilty Gear Strive and DNF Duel both feature lobbies based around controlling cute lil’ avatars within open spaces, sitting at arcade units, performing dances, and literally queuing up for their turn at the monitor. From a design standpoint, they’re very creative, and look great… But… honestly… I just wanna play the game.
While lobbies can have great features — message boards, in-match chat, peanut gallery emotes, match scoring, and other fun ideas — a lot of the time, the literal “walking around” can be time-consuming, and sometimes quite wasteful. In DNF Duel, players spectating a match are not always aware of other players, ready and waiting at other units in the room. This can occasionally leave you sitting in a lobby with five people, all of whom want a game, but none of whom can see that you’re actually ready to rock.
For Street Fighter 6, you can dress your lobbies up, you can have spectator galleries, you can add fun features, and you can even consider distractions and communicative tools. But, honestly, just keep it simple. It flows better and it makes it so much clearer to everyone in attendance who is ready to go, who is just spectating, and who is next in line for a good ol’ slap.
Do. Not. Implement. Metaverse/NFTs. Capcom. You know I love you. You see this list? All of the above Do’s and Do Not Do’s? You can ignore them, you can ignore all of them, as long as you promise me and the faithful SF fanbase one measly vow: That Street Fighter 6 will not support NFTs or any other in-game metaverse junk. We don’t want an exclusive headband with a serial number on it. We don’t want shit you can “take into other Capcom titles.” You can keep it. You can keep all of it, Jack.
While this news seems staggeringly evasive to many studios, the gaming community at large has made it clear that they do not want NFTs in their video games. It’s been proven time and time again. The numbers do not lie. The FGC is red hot for Street Fighter 6, and each and every passing reveal only stokes the hype engine. You know this. We know you know this. And we know that you are brimming with confidence about SF6 because of this positive response.
But, all of this positivity, all of it, you can still wipe it all away in a single tweet. Just ask Troy Baker, Just ask Sega, Just ask Team17. Just ask Ubisoft. Leave it alone, man. SF6 looks awesome. We can’t wait to check it out. It looks awesome. Don’t blow it. Stay the fucking course. Leave it alone. Don’t do it.
So there it is. Submitted for your approval. Is this a guide to making a perfect Street Fighter? Of course not. Are these the be-all and end-all factors of ensuring SF6 is a success? Hardly. But I do think that these are all points to be considered, lessons to be learned, and tactics to be adopted in the marketing, selling, and supporting of the next title in Capcom’s legendary fight franchise.
If you have any Do’s/Don’t’s of your own, I’m interested in hearing them, so hit us up in the comments. Thanks for taking the time to peruse my thoughts. I’ll see you at the business end of Juri’s legs.
Street Fighter 6 launches in 2023 on PlayStation, PC, and Xbox platforms.