Musing: If I Made a Fighting Game / Suspending Disbelief

For those of you that have read the blog since the start, you probably know I like fighting games.  One of my qualms with the genre comes from inconsistent tone with the source material.  In short, I think if a game looks realistic, it should feel equally realistic.

Graphics are improving in today’s age, but there are still strange disconnects between the mortality of the character.  I’ll use the gritty turn of the Tomb Raider franchise as an example, Lara treats a wound from a piece of steel puncturing her flesh, but then not ten minutes later she shrugs off bullet wounds like a champ.

People will say ‘it’s just a video game’ but I really don’t think that’s an excuse.  The same goes for writing a book.  Suspension of disbelief is crucial in fantasy.  I’ve mentioned in past posts the ‘Oh, come on!’ factor.  You still need to preserve the realism of the medium.


I’m pretty sure if someone got hit like this, the fight would be over. Just saying.

Let’s take Mortal Kombat for example, in the recent incarnations they introduced something called X-Rays.  In these key bodily functions are shattered and ninety percent of them would kill a normal human.  Broken spine, broken neck, smashed organs… etc.  They should be fatalities in all respects.

Mortal Kombat has always had some weird things like burning people alive, dragging someone across the screen with a bladed dagger and weapons live swords slicing through flesh with no repercussions outside of some lost health.

Allow me to reference the Playstation (one) era game called Bushido Blade.  It took the other extreme of fighting games.  For those of you unfamiliar, it was a realistic sword fighting game.  A clean hit to the body kills your character in one hit.  If your arm got hit, you couldn’t use it.  If your leg got stabbed you’d limp.

The problem with Bushido Blade was that it might as well have been a rock paper scissors game to ninety percent of the player base.

The thing about fighting games is that everything else about the system is well balanced and makes sense, built around two people having fun.  So how do we preserve the fun and the realism?  The Problem comes not from the bar denoting health, but more what it represents.


Yeah…. uh… not only is Cassandra dead if she doesn’t dodge this, she’s cut in half.

It makes a little more sense in Street Fighter.  I mean people can endure getting punched several times before they are rendered unconscious.  For the sake of argument, I want to talk about weapon fighting.

It is understood that in sword fighting everything is centered around the idea of scoring a killing strike.  But what happens before that decisive strike?  That’s right, defense.

The thing is, you can make a convincing replication of sword fighting by applying the concept of a health bar onto the very real concept of defense.  People do things to keep themselves from being killed by that dreaded decisive strike.  This is irrefutably accurate.  So the converted health bar could represent armor durability, the amount of energy someone has to dodge a strike or the mental focus required to parry.  To emulate the dynamic of an armed combatant, this could be automated (like a health bar) so instead of being ‘hit’ by an attack, clean strikes are ‘absorbed’ by this defense.

Once you run out of defense, the next clean hit kills you.  Makes sense right?

This is why it baffles me that games like Soul Calibur haven’t adopted this approach and if someone from Namco is reading this, feel free to steal the idea.   (I would like some credit at least, though.  I even have some ideas for a new franchise– hint hint!)

This is actually relevant to writing.  Finding ways to keep danger relevant without making your character feel invulnerable is a key factor in fantasy.  Keeping such consistencies will make your writing more immersive, I promise.



2 thoughts on “Musing: If I Made a Fighting Game / Suspending Disbelief

  1. It’s been too long since I left a comment here, so I’d be a fool to let this one slip by. Well, more of a fool, but you get the idea.

    That sure sounds like an interesting idea for a mock fighting game system — and yeah, it WOULD go a long way towards adding some “honesty” into stuff like Soulcalibur. Plus, if we’re talking armor, then it would mean a bigger emphasis on customization; drop armor entirely and become a speedster with a glass jaw, or turn into a mobile fortress. Granted it wouldn’t help against, say, lightsabers, but what are the chances of those showing up?

    You know what’s always gotten to me about fighting games, though? Combatants can fight just as well at 10% health as they can at 100%. I’m lucky enough to have never been in a real street fight, but I’d guess that after taking a bunch of hits, you’re probably not going to be able to fight with full efficiency. I don’t know how you’d balance that in an actual game — it seems more sensible from a writing perspective, at the very least — but it’s something worth considering, right? Then again, it’d make YouTube-ready comebacks a whole lot harder.

    Also, I’ve always thought that some kind of psyche meter would be cool, but Under Night In-Birth and the ArcSys fighters kind of tap that. In under night, a strong offense = a brief power boost, which is like a guy at the top of his game feeling himself. In the ArcSys games, cowardly, panicky play = negative penalty = lose your meter = make a bad situation worse. So in some ways, the “psychology of battle” is in the genre already. That’s pretty cool.

    Also, also? I tried a little bit of the Street Fighter V beta. Not a whole lot, but enough to say that it feels goooooooooooooooood. So look forward to that, I suppose.

    • Mark of the Wolves’ TOP system started that. You could decide which third of your health you fought best in. But that’s an excellent point. Some people fight better when the tank it’s almost empty while others back on winning with a full tank. In terms of writing, these are important details when it comes to personality. When does your character shine, when do they struggle?

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