Overall Gameplay Analysis
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Overall Gameplay Analysis
03/19/2011 09:08 PM EDT
Over the past couple of weeks, I have been really digging in to the Mortal Kombat demo and analyzing moves, combos, damage scaling, etc. and would like to point out some of my findings in hopes that the Mortal Kombat team can make some adjustments before shipping or have a patch ready soon thereafter.

Issue #1: Scorpion
Wow, I know, a character--but, unfortunately, it's true. It's not that Scorpion cannot be defeated, it's just that it's too easy for him to apply pressure to opponents. On top of that, his combos, for the amount of damage that they do, are far too easy to pull off. Here is an example--anytime you hit someone with a Spear, you are guaranteed 45% damage by doing the following--

Straight Jump-up Pop-up,Dash,Blade Overhead,Jumping Kick,Teleport,Jumping Kick,Teleport,Jumping Kick,Air Throw.

This combo does require a bit of timing, but is far too easy to pull off to merit that kind of damage. The response that some might give for this will lead me to the next point why Scorpion needs heavy tweaking before the final title: meter use.

Enhanced Specials are a big part of this game, except for the fact that they don't really matter for Scorpion. Enhanced versions of special moves, for other characters, increase the attacks' range and damage, but with Scorpion, his Spear can hit an opponent a full-screen away, his Teleport goes to the other side of the screen, and his Hellfire attack will hit wherever an opponent is standing and is unblockable. This, in combination with Scorpion having easy combos that deliver massive damage, means that it's not very advantageous to use your meter for Enhanced Specials. This leaves Scorpion almost always with a breaker and an X-Ray attack, and because your opponent will constantly need to use his/her meter to use a combo breaker to stop Scorpion's massive, easily executed, high damage combos, Scorpion always has the meter advantage. So, even though an opponent can use a Combo Breaker to stop these crazy combos, they then lose the ability to perform Enhanced Specials, and no longer have the option of performing an X-Ray attack--this is not balanced.

Issue #2: Damage Scaling
This is one that I have been trying to work out for a while now. Unfortunately, I still do not have the slightest clue how the damage scaling works in Mortal Kombat. It appears that characters have individual damage scaling, as well as additional scaling for use with certain moves within a combo, and other factors I have been unable to determine through testing. Here is an example:

I have determined, without a doubt, that a Straight Jump-up Pop-up is 5% damage, a Blade Overhead is 5% damage, and the Torment canned combo (Square,Square,Square) is 12% damage. Perform the following combos with Scorpion (with your opponent in the corner)--

Combo #1 - Straight Jump-up Pop-Up,Blade Overhead,Square,Square,Square
[5 hits 20% damage]

Combo #2 - Blade Overhead,Straight Jump-up Pop-up,Square,Square,Square
[5 hits 16% damage]

The only difference between these combos is changing the order of the first two moves--these combos should both net the same amount of damage, yet they do not. Why the additional damage scaling on the Blade Overhead when it starts a combo? Both the Blade Overhead and the Straight Jump-up Pop-up are 5% damage, are pop-up attacks, are unsafe, and require you to be extremely close to your opponent to land them. Why the 4% damage difference between them?

So, maybe it's that character specific pop-up attacks are considered dangerous because they lead to combos, so additional damage scaling is applied, but the problem with that answer is that other characters with certain special moves having the same properties as the Blade Overhead, do not share this additional damage scaling. Below are comparable combo examples with Mileena:

Mileena's straight Jump-up Pop-up is worth 5% (just like Scorpion and every other character), her Splits move is worth 7% (is comparable to Scorpion's Blade Overhead), and her Smacked Around canned combo is worth 11%. Perform the following combos with Mileena (with your opponent in the corner)--

Combo #1 - Straight Jump-up Pop-up,Splits,Square,Square,Triangle
[5 hits 21% damage]
Combo #2 - Splits,Straight Jump-up Pop-up,Square,Square,Triangle
[5 hits 21% damage]

Compare Mileena's Combo #1 to Scorpion's Combo #1, both contain a Straight Jump-up Pop-up, which every character has, and all do 5% damage. Both have a character-specific pop-up attack, and both have a canned 3-hit combo. Same thing with both character's Combo #2, and yet, by switching the order of the attacks, Scorpion's combo is subject to some mystery damage scaling, or Mileena is breaking the rule. This is just a couple of examples of wierd damage scaling--the full list of oddities goes on and on.

What the above situation is telling me is that the fighting engine, damage scaling, etc. is set up to handle specific situations discovered by the testing team during development, which means that they will constantly need to patch new situations as they are discovered by the community. Basically, this proves that there is not an overall rules engine that is determining damage scaling, limiting pop-up attacks or special moves within a single combo, so this game is bound to be plagued by situations that find their way around the individual rules.

Another obvious example of the lack of a solid rules engine is the fact that it limits Scorpion to two Spears within any combo (the second Spear drags your opponent to the ground, ending the combo), but you can do upwards of 5-6 Teleports in a single combo. (if the game has a rule that only two of the same special move can be performed in any one comb, which appears to be the case, why does the teleport dodge this rule?)Another bizarre example is performing the following combos with Scorpion (with your opponent in the corner)--

Combo #1 - Straight Jump-up Pop-up,Straight Jump-up Pop-up,Blade Overhead,Blade Overhead
Combo #2 - Triangle,Square+Triangle,Spear,Straight Jump-up Pop-up
OR - Triangle,Square+Triangle,Spear,Blade Overhead

The first combo allows you to perform three pop-up attacks before stopping the combo on the fourth pop-up, yet in the second combo, the game stops the combo on the first pop-up. This, again, seems to point to the team addressing individual issues they have found rather than having a solid rules engine that handles specific attack types and their uses in a combo.

Issue #3: Recovery Frames, Start-up Frames and Overall Character Attributes
The characters' attack speeds wildly vary, but every character has the same amount of health, the same walking speed, and the same jump height/arc. This can be a problem, as the characters with faster move start-ups seem to have an extreme advantage, since the characters are very similar in every other way. As already discussed several times, but I'll say it anyway, Cage has an outrageous poke attack that causes so much block stun, and has such a quick start-up time, that you can perform the move quickly over and over and the opponent cannot escape it without the use of a Combo Breaker. I've seen me do it...lol.

When breaking down a fighting game in this manner, one hopes to see a pattern form that echoes the existence of an overall rule engine that regulates the overall gameplay. It is concerning when there appear to be unknown variables, inconsistent at that, that appear to be addressing issues in the fighting engine.

This post isn't to bash the game--I love this game, and I can't wait until it comes out, but my findings have me nervous that this is going to be yet another broken MK game that's hot for a couple of months, but ultimately cannot support tournament-level play or friendly competetive play after the new-game shine wears off. I'm unsure what NRS' abilities are to tweak the game on the fly, as they have said, but what I'm seeing appears to be a more deeply-rooted issue with the game's fighting engine.

What do you all think? Am I crazy or do these things concern you as well?
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RE: Overall Gameplay Analysis
03/20/2011 01:41 AM EDT
A good post that sheds some light into the inner workings of the engine. While I have not played the demo, I can address your concerns for damage scaling inconsistencies and Johnny's super-poke for one reason: the team has publicly commented on them and have said that they've been fixed. Now, what the team says and what the team actually does are two different things entirely, but just the fact that they've acknowledged them leaves sufficient confidence that they are taking note of issues and addressing them.

What I can't comment on with confidence is Scorpion's ease of playability in comparison to the other characters in the demo. Just by watching people play the demo, I would automatically assume the team specifically tailored Scorpion in such a way so as to give new players confidence in their ability to win. I don't think it'd be too far fetched to assume that most people are going to pick Scorpion as their first character in the game, so I would figure that NRS made him that way on purpose.
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RE: Overall Gameplay Analysis
03/20/2011 02:00 AM EDT
Scorpion is definitely top tier in the demo for sure with Mileena at the bottom. As for balance, I don't think there will be any lol. I'm pretty sure that you will see 2-3 characters that will dominate in the tourney scene. It has pretty much been like this for previous 2d MKs. Your third issue is very insightful. Frame data and hitboxes will play a much bigger role, which will affect matchups and style of play. As for damage scaling, I don't know enough about it in this game to comment on it. All I know is that it is there.
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RE: Overall Gameplay Analysis
03/20/2011 02:56 AM EDT
The damage scaling is something that needs to be fixed, but knowing the MK team's track record.....

I'd say that the JP launcher shouldn't reduce the damage as much as a regular pop up because you probably won't be able to get that move in as much as a normal pop up.

btw, I love how every other day there is a new "best character" in the demo. When it first came out it was Cage, then Subby's Ice Clone was deemed overpowered and now Scorpion. Its a good sign right?
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RE: Overall Gameplay Analysis
03/20/2011 04:09 AM EDT
SubMan799 Wrote:
The damage scaling is something that needs to be fixed, but knowing the MK team's track record.....

I'd say that the JP launcher shouldn't reduce the damage as much as a regular pop up because you probably won't be able to get that move in as much as a normal pop up.

btw, I love how every other day there is a new "best character" in the demo. When it first came out it was Cage, then Subby's Ice Clone was deemed overpowered and now Scorpion. Its a good sign right?


IMO, Cage is the worst character. I think people jump to conclusions because of how easy it is to juggle and put together moves. Cage needs to be up-close to do his work, but that can be a problem against the other three characters as they have much better moves to rush down or play zoning.

Cage's fireball is all he has for distance, but nothing that can cover ground quickly and safely. Even if he does get something like a shadow kick in, there is no way to follow it up. A comparative example would be Mileena's Ball Roll--both moves are specials, are extremely unsafe, and cover great ground, but the Shadow Kick leads to nothing, while Mileena's Ball Roll leads to 30-40% damage.

In terms of combos, Cage's are fairly easy to pull off, but the setup required for those combos are what makes him weak. Scorpion getting 40% from across the screen with a spear is too much. While Cage pretty much needs to be standing directly next to a non-jumping, unblocking opponent to get his 30-40%. He's good, but I just think the other characters have more balanced layout to handle the majority of situations.

However, Cage's X-Ray needs addressed ASAP. 40% stand-alone, and can easily be followed-up to put it in the 60-70% range. Also, because the start-up frames for a lot of the moves are slow, one can almost execute the X-Ray when they see a flinch and get it to land. And because the meter builds so quickly (especially when you are getting pummeled), Cage can pretty much pull off a miracle comeback with one combo.

Certain characters currently have imbalances, but overall Scorpion's specials make him superior--not because of their damage, but how you can manage a match with them. Couple that with his easy, massive combos, and you always seem to have meter advantage over the other three characters.

They can fix Cage by nerfing his X-Ray, and making it so you can't follow it up with such a big combo, and take care of that poke string that causes far too much block stun, but I'm not sure how they will handle Scorpion. I think first things first--limit his teleports like every other special move in the game:

1 per combo, the second use of any one special move in a combo ends the combo.

From there, I would say make the Hell Fire blockable and that would balance it out quite a bit. Having the Hell Fire be unblockable, and having a spear that covers the screen will force your opponent to jump, which then you can startup a flurry of teleports. Bad situation.
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RE: Overall Gameplay Analysis
03/20/2011 09:51 AM EDT
Scorpion is my fav so I can give my opinion the best about him (from the viewpoint of a decent to mediocre level but experienced player, lol) as I've been maining him since MK1 first came out. I do think the Hellfire should stay unblockable but ONLY because it IS insanely easy to just move out of the way of and see coming. Not to mention it is (in this game) Scorpion's best if not ONLY counter for Sub-Zero's classic Ice-Clone and Duck Block combination or the "Scorpion Proof Ice Turtle Technique" (as I call it) that he had in MK3-4. If your opponent tries to turtle (which in EVERY other MK pre-overhead attacks was always Scorpion's biggest Achilles' Heel) you can set them on fire for minimal damage but it at least does it's job of shaking them out of their defense (possibly throw off their whole gameplan when they realize they are no longer completely untouchable). His other moves do nothing to a clever and clone happy sub-zero as if he does the clone and you do the teleport... yeah you may hit but Sub-Zero but you will get frozen (bad for you) and you could try spearing him exactly when he does it but you need "Cracker jack timing, Wang." The spear is fast but not THAT fast.

Scorpion's spear and teleport I think SHOULD stay as they are in their full UMK3 glory as making his spear NOT cover full screen would make no sense and his teleport being stopped by walls like it was in MK1-2 was.. well... imo really really dumb. Also Scorpion's spear and teleport are so brutal if they land because they are SOOO punishable if he misses or mistimes them. For example you can now punch Scorpion out of the teleport before it lands with a fairly quick basic attack (even Sub-Zero who most deem to be too slow can do this easily). To land a teleport you have to be mid-combo or be sneaky or you WILL get hurt... badly if the opponent knows what they are doing. The spear they've improved I will admit. Not nearly as punishable as before because it recovers slightly quicker but still pretty punishable/avoidable. ALL of his specials are nasty because he telegraphs them way way more than almost anybody else. Though now I think Sub-Zero holds the title for most telegraphing before a special (not the best title to hold) so some of these may now be somewhat moot points.

His enhanced specials are useful but yes I agree that he doesn't need to use them like the other characters do. It makes him able to actually land a Hellfire on a mobile opponent who isn't asleep (not to mention his normal Hellfire does NOT hit an opponent on the ground for extra dmg on the end of combos like it could before but the enhanced does so spending bar to do that extra bit while they are on the ground is useful), his teleport punch is a little trickier to block and punish but is no longer helpful in combos (a decent trade off imo), his spear is kinda cool in that it makes you able to still spear someone even if you get hit (which if you're problem in the fight has been being able to land a spear in the first place suddenly makes it VITAL because you can wait for your opponent to throw a projectile or something, spend a bar, and deliberately take the damage from their attack to spear them and finally combo... very useful actually), his leg takedown... I have yet to find a useful purpose for this or the normal one but then again I've never liked this move. Someone else care to enlighten me on why they keep bringing it back or how I can implement it better in my strategy?? lol

As for the damage scaling.. yes it is kind of random. They should definitely limit his teleporting to a certain number like 2 or 3 to a combo which certainly wouldn't hurt me much as I can't even DO the 5-6 teleport string because I can never land a Pop-up JP to START a combo. Nobody not even a Beginner AI stands still that long, lol. My best combo that I can do (inconsistently as I'm experimenting on the perfect timing for it as his harder combos require this somewhat) is Square, Square, Spear, Pop-up JP, Dash and wait like a sec. then B+Triangle, JK, Teleport, JK, Teleport, JK, Airthrow. Which is 12 hits and does a staggering 49% damage. Timing the JK, Teleports is kinda iffy but I only use 2 teleports so limiting him to 2 or 3 is fine by me. He would still not be nerfed to all hell.

As he is my fav. and my main I would definitely not want him to be toned down too much but limiting his teleporting to 2 per combo is more than fair. Most other specials cannot be used more than twice as far as I know. So limiting it to two would limit him from being able to 60+% damage without even using his BAR without crippling him from being able to fight and feel like a bad ass Scorpion. ALL of the characters in this game look AMAZING and full of potential and while Scorpion is definitely overpowered on the demo I think if they capped the teleport to twice (three time max) the other characters will be more than able to match him if they are improved a little. Still haven't even seen Kung Lao or most of the others in Check's hands! They could be even MORE overbearing than Scorpion and he may need to not need ES moves to do his crazy damage as a trade off just to compete with them, lol!

I however am NOT claiming to be super f'ng awesome at the game however. By most "Hardcore" player's standards I would be mediocre AT BEST I think. I do however know Scorpion's many many weaknesses and strengths as I have lost many many times because of those weaknesses to players on my same level or higher. I stomp all of my friends with him because most of them don't even play fighting games. lol. So I would like to hear a more hardcore player's thoughts on what I've stated above. Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised and some will agree... OR I'll just get called a "scrub" or an idiot and shown where I am wrong on everything. Either way I'm sure it will be enlightening, lol.
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RE: Overall Gameplay Analysis
03/20/2011 12:37 PM EDT
All they really need to do with Scorp is scale his combos after a spear, make Hellfire a blockable low attack and maybe limit the Teleport Punch to two or three in a combo.

The thing with Scorp's spear is that its completely punishable. He's a high risk high reward character. Same deal with his Hellfire. If he misses he's screwed. One dodged Spear can lead to losing around half your health.

And Cage's X-Ray definitely needs dressing. It deals a ridiculous amount of damage, though I don't think you can combo out of it. Besides the Shadow Flip I couldn't land anything else.
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RE: Overall Gameplay Analysis
03/20/2011 07:05 PM EDT
As of right now I'm not too worried. These 4 characters will get more tweaking in the final build than any other character because of all of the feedback. The other thing is that a lot of these crazy combos that check is pulling off are really hard for me. That Scorpion jump kick teleport series is really hard and I can never get it right. If I'm having trouble I think the general players will as well so I think pros might have trouble in tournaments but casuals won't run into many problems. Johnny Cage's x-ray is also kind of tough to combo afterwards. You have to dash in and get that pop up kick just right.

Right now the game seems way more balanced than MvC3. In this game the big combos require knowledge and perfect timing to execute and pull of something ridiculous.
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RE: Overall Gameplay Analysis
03/20/2011 07:32 PM EDT
I think this games biggest game breaker is the wall. I think wall combos will be just as ridiculous as before. They need to get something in there that changes the timing or added hit stun decay or something. Generally the man in the corner should get burned, but not that badly.
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RE: Overall Gameplay Analysis
03/20/2011 08:04 PM EDT
jbthrash Wrote:
Right now the game seems way more balanced than MvC3. In this game the big combos require knowledge and perfect timing to execute and pull of something ridiculous.


Well with only four characters in the demo it better be balanced!

Completely agree with you on the balancing part. I could perform 100% combos with Sentinel in the first couple of days the game was out which is insane!
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RE: Overall Gameplay Analysis
03/21/2011 02:58 AM EDT
Yeah... I think the general consensus is that balance and MvC3 do not belong in the same sentence but then again my biggest complaint about any Capcom game is the subjective health between characters giving way to much of an edge to some and completely destroying others that could otherwise compete with everyone else if it weren't for low stamina.

As for MK balancing... wall combos need to be eliminated nearly all together. They were always the big thing that made MK look broken and not tournament worthy IMO (however little my opinion may count for). Other fighters don't have that kind of thing quite to the same magnitude. Yeah you may score one or two more hits but not like what Check or the others can do, lol. That's ridiculous.

Although I will say that most of the super abusive combos I've seen thus far could almost never be used in a real fight. The require way way too much ideal situation for that. Hey I just happened to be lucky enough to have the wall EXACTLY where and when I needed it OR hey it's a good thing my opponent never decides to move slightly or hit me or DO ANYTHING when I walk up to them and jump straight up so I can land a Pop-up JP without using my freeze/spear first so I can use it later in the combo to do CRAZY damage. Realistically those combos are awesome but rarely useful for the most part. I want to see combos that you can do ANYTIME regardless of conditions, position, set-up, etc. against a moving, fighting opponent. When I see those in the 40%+ damage range I will be more inclined to get excited. So far all the 40%+ damage stuff that falls into that criteria require at least experienced but mediocre player timing or better. Certainly nothing that casuals could do like it is in MvC3 were I've seen my casual friends do INSANE combos (including full team air attack ones) just by mashing vigorously.
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RE: Overall Gameplay Analysis
03/21/2011 03:18 AM EDT
I actually like wall combos, they add another element to the game. Trying to get my opponent into the corner while trying to stay out of it myself. While some characters need space to retreat but they have to keep track of how much space they have. It could be more important to certain characters then others. As long as they aren't 100%s or something so powerful that it becomes the main focus of the game.
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RE: Overall Gameplay Analysis
03/21/2011 04:35 PM EDT
Deathology Wrote:
I actually like wall combos, they add another element to the game. Trying to get my opponent into the corner while trying to stay out of it myself. While some characters need space to retreat but they have to keep track of how much space they have. It could be more important to certain characters then others. As long as they aren't 100%s or something so powerful that it becomes the main focus of the game.


For the most part I agree. I think the man in the corner should be at a disadvantage. It adds an extra strategy to the game and it favors the aggressor. However, in MKvsDC there where 80 to 100 percent wall combos. That shit doesn't work for me. Just messing around I was able to add an extra 15 percent to some of my combos when my opponent was up against the wall. This usually happens when doing a combo with a launcher in it.
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RE: Overall Gameplay Analysis
03/21/2011 05:56 PM EDT
I don't really want 80s-100s either, i'd want it to be more but not a ridiculous amount. Actually, I think think the amount of damage you can do from a combo should be reduced in general. I like that they're long but the amount of damage you can get off one hit means one match has a very small amount of play time. Especially since a lot of these have easy set ups.
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RE: Overall Gameplay Analysis
03/21/2011 06:26 PM EDT
Don't get stuck in the corner. There's a reason you don't want to be stuck in the corner. Wall combos have always been more damaging than standard combos in every fighter on the market. MK is no different.
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RE: Overall Gameplay Analysis
03/24/2011 01:11 AM EDT
Bloodfang Wrote:
Check or the others can do, lol. That's ridiculous.
.


"Check and the others" helped test this game(confirmed in the TTT PAX interview.) I consider Check's MK2011 Demo combo videos as one of the greatest examples of trolling ever seen on the internet even if it is unintentional
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RE: Overall Gameplay Analysis
03/27/2011 02:32 AM EDT
What do you mean by trolling?
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