Fighting Games: Casual=Button Mashing?

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setzer777
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Fighting Games: Casual=Button Mashing?

Postby setzer777 » Wed Oct 31, 2012 8:54 pm UTC

My girlfriend is not a fan of fighting games, and we've had an ongoing light-hearted debate about whether they're "all the same" and just "button mashers". I know that they really aren't, but it has made me wonder about something else.

I'm quite a casual fighting game player - I don't really pull off combos, and in some games I can't even get the dragon punch motion down consistently. I certainly don't study invincibility frames or hitboxes. At my level of play, am I doing anything besides button mashing? I suppose defensively there's strategy in how to block or avoid enemy attacks, but offensively it's harder to pin down. If I'm playing against the computer I can't exactly play mind-games with it*, and though I feel like I have reasons for choosing the specific attacks I do, I can't really articulate them, or justify why I choose one attack over another.


*I'm assuming that most fighting game AIs aren't designed to respond to patterns in your fighting style, but rather just respond in a scripted way to whatever you're doing at the moment.
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Re: Fighting Games: Casual=Button Mashing?

Postby Zcorp » Wed Oct 31, 2012 9:10 pm UTC

Define Button Mashing.

Possible definition: "Randomly pressing buttons with the hope of creating good effect. Sometimes noticing a pattern to your mash and trying to repeat it but little interest and nearly no precision in executing specific maneuvers."

At the least you are probably making a decision on when to mash buttons to attack vs move your fighter. As you are probably not sitting there just mashing when the opponent isn't adjacent to you. Unless you are specifically trying to keep that distance and hit them with ranged attacks, at which point you are attempting to be precise.

When adjacent to the enemy if you genuinely don't really know how to perform specific moves or even attempt to execute them, then yes you are probably primarily mashing.

In my personal experience I've never seen anyone I'd describe as a 'casual gamer' ever put effort into fighting games nor play them for any significant length of time. Primarily just engaging in them for the social aspect.

Edit: I suppose the important part is separating the players intent and ability to execute. In my head a button masher has neither much intent nor ability to execute. But it could easily mean ability and no intent or intent and no ability. The result of these differences is very similar.
Last edited by Zcorp on Wed Oct 31, 2012 9:19 pm UTC, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Fighting Games: Casual=Button Mashing?

Postby omgryebread » Wed Oct 31, 2012 9:14 pm UTC

I wouldn't quite say it's all button mashing, though it certainly sometimes is. When I play Tekken, I'm actually literally button mashing. When I play Virtua Fighter though, it's more like how you described, which I think is something like playing chess where you know the rules of chess, but not any strategy. It's easy enough to know that taking a queen is generally a good thing, and I can even conceptualize a gambit in which I sacrifice my queen, but I don't have the depth and understanding of chess's underlying strategy to play it on a real level.

I like opening by moving my queen's pawn two spaces because that feels good to me, not because I've studied openings and know that the specific opening will set me up for a position where I can castle and take his bishop 12 turns later. Likewise, I play Eileen because she feels good, not because of any deep reasoning (I think in the PS3 version I usually play, Eileen was top tier. I'm certainly not nearly good enough to take advantage of that, though.)
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Re: Fighting Games: Casual=Button Mashing?

Postby setzer777 » Wed Oct 31, 2012 9:26 pm UTC

Zcorp: I'm not that bad, it's more that I usually can't verbally justify why I choose the attack pattern I do when I'm on the offense.

For example, suppose I'm playing against an opponent (human or computer) and we're both in the neutral position. I choose to throw a slow fireball and dash in behind it. I could also do a jump-in, spam projectiles to try to bait a jump-in, or approach on the ground. I can't really say which of those is the better option. On the defense I feel like I can learn stuff (I can get a feel for how to avoid enemy attacks and how vulnerable the enemy is after missing/getting blocked), but on the offense I feel more like I'm choosing stuff semi-randomly. It seems like a big chunk of offensive strategy revolves around combos, and I simply lack the manual dexterity to execute them most of the time (even in training).
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Re: Fighting Games: Casual=Button Mashing?

Postby Zcorp » Wed Oct 31, 2012 9:36 pm UTC

setzer777 wrote: It seems like a big chunk of offensive strategy revolves around combos, and I simply lack the manual dexterity to execute them most of the time (even in training).

This is probably the key statement then. You don't button mash, you instead don't have a strong grasp of the games tactics or strategy nor seemingly a significant interest to learn it. Which probably comes from the lack of ability to execute (manual dexterity).

This is quite different from button mashing in the way I would use the term.

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Re: Fighting Games: Casual=Button Mashing?

Postby setzer777 » Wed Oct 31, 2012 10:23 pm UTC

Yeah, another issue is that in a lot of games I mainly play against the computer, since it's difficult to find opponents at my level. But then I wonder whether the tactics I do know matter at all against an AI.

I guess the question comes down to how well the computer can simulate lower-level play. Like if the AI is blocking a series of quick attacks, does the variation actually matter, or is it just programmed to randomly fail to block x% of attacks, regardless of how "tricky" they are to block? How does an AI usually decide whether to successfully block/counter an attack?

Edit: I guess I worry that against the computer any tactics I do attempt at my level are pointless, and I might as well just button-mash (or play purely reactive). I wonder if it's like earlier chess AIs that when set to a lower difficulty would just randomly alternate between playing perfectly and making really stupid mistakes, rather than making natural-seeming mistakes.
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Re: Fighting Games: Casual=Button Mashing?

Postby EmptySet » Fri Nov 02, 2012 8:19 am UTC

setzer777 wrote:On the defense I feel like I can learn stuff (I can get a feel for how to avoid enemy attacks and how vulnerable the enemy is after missing/getting blocked), but on the offense I feel more like I'm choosing stuff semi-randomly. It seems like a big chunk of offensive strategy revolves around combos, and I simply lack the manual dexterity to execute them most of the time (even in training).


Choosing things semi-randomly isn't a bad strategy against human players, as always doing the same thing in the same situation can make you predictable. Mind you, people often fall into a pattern even when they feel like they're doing things "semi-randomly".

setzer777 wrote:I guess the question comes down to how well the computer can simulate lower-level play. Like if the AI is blocking a series of quick attacks, does the variation actually matter, or is it just programmed to randomly fail to block x% of attacks, regardless of how "tricky" they are to block? How does an AI usually decide whether to successfully block/counter an attack?

Edit: I guess I worry that against the computer any tactics I do attempt at my level are pointless, and I might as well just button-mash (or play purely reactive). I wonder if it's like earlier chess AIs that when set to a lower difficulty would just randomly alternate between playing perfectly and making really stupid mistakes, rather than making natural-seeming mistakes.


In general, fighting game AI is poor at mimicking human players, and in many cases can actually train you into bad habits. Exactly how it's handled varies from game to game. It's a difficult programming problem because of the tension between making it competent, making it play like a human, and not making it too predictable or exploitable.

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Re: Fighting Games: Casual=Button Mashing?

Postby Kag » Fri Nov 02, 2012 1:26 pm UTC

setzer777 wrote:It seems like a big chunk of offensive strategy revolves around combos, and I simply lack the manual dexterity to execute them most of the time (even in training).


Sort of. Combos give you much higher rewards for successfully executing offense, and sometimes put you in a better situation for continuing aggression, but most of the strategy comes before that. It's mostly trying to create situations where your opponent has to make a guess about which way to block or teching throws, or tricking them into pressing buttons at the wrong time. It's definitely a lot less intuitive than figuring out when they've done something unsafe and you can punish.
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Re: Fighting Games: Casual=Button Mashing?

Postby eviloatmeal » Sun Nov 04, 2012 11:17 pm UTC

setzer777 wrote:I could also do a jump-in, spam projectiles to try to bait a jump-in, or approach on the ground. I can't really say which of those is the better option.

You could look at damage output and a few other factors such as push-back and frame data, but that would be missing the fundamental point of the fighting game: The better option in that situation is doing ANY of them. The advantage is intrinsically in the option, not which one you pick.

This is the basic concept of what is known as a "mix-up", which simply put is anything you do in a position where your opponent has to guess how to react.

As for "button mashing", any versus game has this at the lowest level of play. If you've never played Street Fighter before, your first time is going to be spent hitting arbitrary sequences of buttons. Same for Starcraft. Your first game of Starcraft is going to be spent putting arbitrary buildings in arbitrary places and building an army of whatever units. Your first game of chess will be just the same. You'll arbitrarily move the pieces around within the framework of the rules without understanding whether or not you're getting closer to a check mate. That doesn't mean it applies to all skill levels.

There is a way to apply the same logic to any genre; "Counterstrike is just mashing spacebar to jump around and pointing and clicking on the bad guys", "Racing games are just pressing left or right whenever there is a left or a right turn", "JRPGs are just scrolling through text and mashing the 'fight' button during random encounters", "platformers are just running and jumping, you don't even need more than two buttons for that".

You can deconstruct any genre to an absurd generalisation, and anyone who has played any game of the genre would know that it's completely inaccurate.

Some fighting games involve actually mashing a button, but there is nothing arbitrary about this. Mashing 'A' in Melty Blood serves to break out of block strings by hitting the opponent in an opening, mashing during hyper combos in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 which increases damage. You could even argue that Street Fighter 4 has instances where mashing a button does something useful, certain special moves that are multi-hit combos only when you keep pressing the attack button, like Juri's dive kick, will come out correctly if you just mash the button, so it makes sense to do that rather than trying to time it and risk failing.
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Re: Fighting Games: Casual=Button Mashing?

Postby philsov » Mon Nov 05, 2012 2:54 pm UTC

At my level of play, am I doing anything besides button mashing?


On the offense? Possibly. There's nuances in the quick, lighter hit versus the slower and heavier hit, but if you blanket all those as "attack", then, yeah.

On the defense? No way. Your opponent is coming at you with a jump kick to the face. Your vertical swing will hit them before they hit you. Your horizontal swing and kick moves will have you be ineffectual and eat boot. In a mashing scenario, you get hit 66% of the time. In a non-mashing scenario, you get hit 0% of the time.
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Re: Fighting Games: Casual=Button Mashing?

Postby Magnanimous » Mon Nov 05, 2012 3:01 pm UTC

I define "button mashing" as not paying attention to what the opponent is doing and just hitting attack buttons. So, blocking attacks and punishing/etc means you're not really button mashing in my book.

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Re: Fighting Games: Casual=Button Mashing?

Postby setzer777 » Thu Nov 29, 2012 5:49 pm UTC

Thanks for the detailed replies! I suppose I'm not completely mashing, I just normally can't get the full payoff that long combos grant.

Since I do mostly play the AI (especially since some of the games I play are mostly dead online), does anyone know if AIs typically have any rhyme or reason to whether they successfully block attacks? Do the programmers at least try to make them more likely to mess up in mix-up situations, or is it such that I might as well boringly spam some obvious attack over and over until the RNG decides to fail the block?
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Re: Fighting Games: Casual=Button Mashing?

Postby Menacing Spike » Thu Nov 29, 2012 6:43 pm UTC

Kag wrote:tricking them into pressing buttons at the wrong time. .


I have an amusing anectode about that. Was playing Samurai Kirby with my little sister (context: two players have to react as fast as they can to a signal by pressing the attack button), she was incredibly tense, at the edge of her seat, waiting for the prompt. I noisily smashed a key that didn't do anything, and she immediately followed suit. She was pissed.
This illustrates the spirit of fighting games, I think.

setzer777 wrote:Thanks for the detailed replies! I suppose I'm not completely mashing, I just normally can't get the full payoff that long combos grant.

Since I do mostly play the AI (especially since some of the games I play are mostly dead online), does anyone know if AIs typically have any rhyme or reason to whether they successfully block attacks? Do the programmers at least try to make them more likely to mess up in mix-up situations, or is it such that I might as well boringly spam some obvious attack over and over until the RNG decides to fail the block?

Designers tend to have AI be resilient to repetition but I don't know much beyond that.

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Re: Fighting Games: Casual=Button Mashing?

Postby EmptySet » Fri Nov 30, 2012 7:59 am UTC

setzer777 wrote:Since I do mostly play the AI (especially since some of the games I play are mostly dead online), does anyone know if AIs typically have any rhyme or reason to whether they successfully block attacks? Do the programmers at least try to make them more likely to mess up in mix-up situations, or is it such that I might as well boringly spam some obvious attack over and over until the RNG decides to fail the block?


This varies from game to game. I know that some games definitely have the Blocking Roulette, making the best option to spam light/safe attacks until the computer forgets to block. In more modern games this is probably something developers at least try to avoid, but they don't always succeed very well. Even if they avoid that specific problem, in a lot of games the best strategy against the CPU is to spam a certain strategy or move which is far more effective than it should be due to a quirk of the AI.

It's also worth noting that fighting game AI often isn't the biggest priority, because it's difficult to program well and most fighting game fans are expected to strongly prefer playing against humans anyway.

Menacing Spike wrote:
Kag wrote:tricking them into pressing buttons at the wrong time. .


I have an amusing anectode about that. Was playing Samurai Kirby with my little sister (context: two players have to react as fast as they can to a signal by pressing the attack button), she was incredibly tense, at the edge of her seat, waiting for the prompt. I noisily smashed a key that didn't do anything, and she immediately followed suit. She was pissed.
This illustrates the spirit of fighting games, I think.


I've actually used the same tactic in several games, by tapping the face of the pad to make a noise instead of a button.


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