Sakurai On The Importance Of Balancing The Next Super Smash Bros.

By Sato . December 30, 2013 . 8:30am

Director Masahiro Sakurai has always placed a great deal of importance on balancing games in the Super Smash Bros. series, and he won’t be making any exceptions for the upcoming Wii U and 3DS game. In this week’s issue of Famitsu, Sakurai talks about the importance of balance in his feature column.

 

“Now that Sunday’s day off is past, I’m currently working on the character adjustment for Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U,” says Sakurai. “At the moment, Bowser is very strong. He’s really strong. Fans of Smash Bros. probably never saw him as too much of a strong character, but this time, his ability to knock others out is very strong!”

 

Sakurai goes on to mention that Bowser’s Smash attacks, special attacks, and aerial attacks now have quite the ability to send opponents flying through the air, and the best part about this is that it feels great. This great feeling is what he’d like to focus on for the upcoming Smash Bros. game, and is putting more care into that part of the game than ever.

 

However, having strong attacks are also something that must be carefully balanced, Sakurai says, as it may feel unfair to opponents if they’re too overpowered. So, to meet the right standards, Sakurai and the rest of the development team have been spending a lot of time adjusting stronger attacks to see what works best.

 

“Doing things like simply ‘lowering the performance’ can make games lose its fun,” says Sakurai. “Additionally, making a strong attack weaker can take away from the ‘good feeling’. By making adjustments that get rid of all advantages and disadvantages, it can turn a game into a mediocre one without any challenge.”

 

According to Sakurai, this is something you can feel while playing other competitive games. He compares it to the depth of working on an RPG title, where there’s a lot of things that are taken into consideration, such as obstacles and what players need to do in order to clear certain areas. Simply making enemies stronger or weaker doesn’t solve the problem.

 

“Rather than directly weakening an attack’s advantageous parts, we’re putting effort into keeping them strong, while adding other weaknesses to them,” Sakurai explains. “Like giving the attacks punishable openings, or weakening the character’s mobility or recovery rate. We’re making comprehensive adjustments to characters, even for parts that might seem completely irrelevant.”

 

Sakurai also talks about the difficulty in adjusting balances for things such as four player free-for-alls and 1-on-1 fights, as their circumstances are completely different. This can’t be helped at times, he says. For example, some attacks such as Captain Falcon’s “Falcon Punch” might work well when there’s more players, but might not ever hit during a 1-on-1 fight.

 

“The game balance of Super Smash Bros. Brawl started six years before its release, and it most likely goes back even further during its time of development, and it’s never been reformed even through the updates afterwards,” says Sakurai. “We’re at a stage where we’d like to release the new title as soon as possible, and offer something more enjoyable than ever.”


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  • XiaomuArisu

    Does Link looks different then he did in the trailer???

    • NBXX

      He forgot hes make up

      • XiaomuArisu

        He looks less cel-shaded now…maybe its my imagination

        • http://momentsreprieve.com/index/ Aushria

          Bowser looks to have a more significant amount of detail on his model as well now..

        • NBXX

          really? i thought they didn’t use enough Eye liner on him this time

  • Prinnydoom

    Man villager and mario are laying on the pain. Nut punch and then slingshot to the face, nice.

    • PreyMantis

      Man, I feel sorry for Bowser…

      • KoRLumen

        When you’ve been exploded, dunked in lava, had all the flesh burned right off, been squished, mutilated, and more for so many years, I’m sure he really doesn’t mind too much.

    • hazelnut1112

      The ultimate Dennis the Menace combo.

  • Spirit Macardi

    Holy crap, Mario fights dirty! I know he constantly kidnaps the princess, but that’s no reason to punch Bowser right in his Koopa Troopas x3

  • Namuro

    Ouch… I’ll bet Bowser didn’t see that one comin’.

  • http://youtube.com/user/Chubunater Chubunato

    I love articles like this. Its interesting to see what developers view on balance is.

    • FlyingPony

      True, and I like his approach in balancing.

      Instead of making a powerful, satisfying attack less powerful and less fun to use, he opt to give it a weakness so people will want to use it and feel great when able to pull it off, but be careful to not spam the attack because it can backfire against the user.

      Smart approach from Sakurai part.

      • Asura

        I like the approach where they get outside play testers who are good at the game to play test. But since Sakurai hates anyone who is competent at Smash I doubt that will happen.

  • Bunzi

    Hopefully this will be the first game Link isn’t bottom tier in, than.

    • Rasputing

      I thought he was pretty good in the first two.

      • Asura

        He wasn’t. Though he wasn’t the very bottom of the barrel, but far from ‘pretty good’.

    • KoRLumen

      Hopefully Zelda and Ganondorf also get bumped up! :C

  • http://momentsreprieve.com/index/ Aushria

    Did he just lamp-shade Captain Falcon’s return?
    He’s been in all of the game’s thus far, but so far we’ve had no mention of his for Smash 4 (3DS) and 5 (Wii U).

    • s07195

      I actually think it’s Super Smash Brothers 4 Wii U and 4 3DS.
      I think the pun is intentional.

      • http://momentsreprieve.com/index/ Aushria

        Nope. Sakurai has previously stated that 3DS is 4 and Wii U is 5, they are both separate entries in the series and only share the same roster.

        • KoRLumen

          Source? I don’t recall ever seeing him state this in an interview or anything otherwise.

        • Heisst

          Let’s not make things up.

          • http://momentsreprieve.com/index/ Aushria

            Not making things up, go and do some research. He considers them the next TWO entries.

            I read it several months ago, and most people seemed to have completely disregarded it. Currently looking around for where I read it; which was likely Neogaf.

            Edit: Eh, I was mistaken on the 4 and 5, but he DIDcall them “Separate entries in the series.”

            Which does imply they are considered an entirely separate products as far as he is concerned.

          • KoRLumen

            Only about as separate as Pokemon X is from Y. You could technically consider them separate, but they are indeed more or less the same game.

          • Heisst

            That’s why they have different names.

            But they’re not ”4 and 5”, the only difference so far is the stages.

        • Beat

          No, her said they are the same game except they will have different stages, and maybe different extra features.

          • DoctorButler

            If they have the same roster, it’s the same game.

    • Smashbro29

      Everyone from the N64 game is a given for as long as they call it smash bros.

  • Chaos_Knight

    I think if they were to release a demo on the eShop, Sakurai should consider taking feedback. That’s what Capcom does with SFIV.

    • http://momentsreprieve.com/index/ Aushria

      That is actually a really good idea! Not only would it hype the daylights out of the fanbase, but it would also provide valuable input for the mid-to-last leg of development.

      • Chaos_Knight

        I forgot to mention they should have location tests, again what Capcom does with SFIV. Maybe at Best Buy or Gamestop.

        • idrawrobots

          I wouldn’t be surprised if BestBuy had post e3 demos like 2013.

    • subsamuel01

      Doubt it would happen, I don’t see sakurai releasing a demo. They barely released information on Brawl while it was in development, a demo seems highly unlikely even though it would benefit the game a lot.

    • hazelnut1112

      Rather see it demoed via playtests and send feedback after that. A demo release on eShop would be less exciting because there are people that get burned out by playing too much of a demo.

  • idrawrobots

    Balance Smallance. I don’t pick characters for how powerful they are. I pick them because they are fun to use.

    • KoRLumen

      It’s still an undeniably important part of the game. Just look at All-Stars. The balancing in that game is all over the place, it’s ridiculous.

      • idrawrobots

        Yes balance of some sort is important for the sake of having fun with the game. If Game & Watch took no damage and could 1 hit everyone it would not be fun. But a match between Jiggly and Meta Knight is still fun to me, especially if I am Puff.

      • http://www.hamstapowah.com/ Zaron

        All Stars also covers itself a bit by making 4 player free for alls the norm with little to no exception. The game’s weakest point is that in one on one, almost everyone is sort of garbage unless their name is Kratos or something.

    • Minos

      How DARE you to have fun with Smash Bros?

      I bet you don’t even look at the Character tier place before deciding if you are gonna use him.

      • http://www.hamstapowah.com/ Zaron

        My main was Yoshi until Brawl, and I only stopped using him because his jump felt wrong compared to the previous games.

        -tier junkies have collective aneurysm-

    • SlickRoach

      I’ve always loved joke/weird characters so those are the first ones I choose, like G&W or Olimar. Can’t wait to see this final roster.

      • idrawrobots

        Me too. I really like playing as Wario, throwing and eating my motorcycle.

    • kingsharkboi

      Picking based on “fun factor” is very important even in competition, “Powerful” status is constantly changing. You typically want a strong connection to your character and their style in order for things to “click”, be it casual or tourney play.
      And don’t forget, sticking with a character despite others’ perceptions (yes, including the tier lists on a wiki) contributes to that character’s growth and you may end up proving everyone wrong in the long run. This is how fighting games work. Just look at the most recent Street Fighter EVO champ…a Gen player!

    • Smashbro29

      Part of the fun of a character is the powerful feeling you get by using them. Don’t talk about it like it’s a black and white issue.

    • Lalum

      A balanced game is good for both casual and competitive players.

    • Slayven19

      For the record competition is fun for lots of people. For instance I’m competitive in sports but I wouldn’t play them if I didn’t have fun.

      • KoRLumen

        This, so much this.

        For some reason, people seem so convinced that competition and fun are mutually exclusive.

        • DoctorButler

          To me, it seems the “I only play for fun” excuse is rationalization, like when a little kid crosses his arms and proclaims “I didn’t REALLY want it!”

          They lost fair-and-square, but cannot admit to fault; that they have failed in any way, so they seek to undermine the opponent’s achievement.

          If you truly have no desire to learn how to play video-games, fine, then don’t. But don’t come onto articles about our games, and poke fun at people for being better than you at something.

          Seriously, how ass-backwards is that?

          • KoRLumen

            Indeed.

            Though I understand playing against a skilled Smasher when you’re a casual can be somewhat frustrating, it should be a source of motivation to become better.

  • RagingTiger44

    So game balance for SSBB started six years before development? Somehow Metaknight slipped through…

    • KoRLumen

      Once you learn the matchup, Metaknight really isn’t that big a deal.

      • RagingTiger44

        I guess. I never did get a chance to learn it. I have moved on to Project M and he’s a different character (Move have less duration and priority, etc.).

        • KoRLumen

          Yeah, I barely play Brawl nowadays, partly because PM is such a fresh experience. It’s like Smash 3.5, or 2.5, depending on how you look at it.

      • Asura

        That’s the understatement of the century…

    • Minos

      Metaknight is only Dangerous one on one.

      • RagingTiger44

        That’s all my friends ever played.

        • http://www.hamstapowah.com/ Zaron

          Fortunately all of my friends suck at Meta Knight. c:

      • British_Otaku

        In competitive fighters, one and one is often the only thing that exists, Metaknight was banned for a reason in tournaments I’m guessing.

        • KoRLumen

          Smash does have Doubles brackets, so there’s that.

          Metaknight was unbanned some time ago, since I did see M2K and a few others using him at a tourney. I guess it depends on who’s hosting it, though.

          Still, even in singles, a lot of moves out-prioritize his specials and it’s not too difficult to punish if you know what you’re doing.

          The thing about Smash is that it’s always possible to outplay an opponent no matter who they’re playing if you play the metagame correctly. The difficulty varies between matchups, but that’s what separates a good player and a not-so-good one.

          • British_Otaku

            Hence, I said “often”, you do have a point that there is a lot of room for alternative takes from tournament organisers.

          • Asura

            You can play better than the opponent is not a good argument against MK being significantly better than the vast majority of the rest of the characters.
            He’s still ridiculously good. Sakurai was never good at getting balance into any of the Smash games unfortunately.

            But golly do I love playing Melee Bowser and Mewtwo. Even if they’re pretty bad, they’re just so fun!

          • KoRLumen

            True, MK does have have a general advantage over most of the cast, but if you refer to the advantage charts, most of them hover over the 55-60 range. That is, he isn’t actually as good as you think he is. Characters with projectiles and disjoint hitboxes can shut down a lot of his options, and he’s light, so it doesn’t take too many hits to kill him. The real problem is his almost non-existent lag before and after hits, and even on landing, that is, his speed.

            That’s where the meta comes into play.

          • DoctorButler

            Yeah, the problem is that he has so much mobility that his weaknesses never come into play.

          • DoctorButler

            “The thing about every video-game ever created is ”

            Fixed that for you.

          • KoRLumen

            Thanks.

  • http://crono-trigger.tumblr.com/ SilverCrono

    Captain Falcon confirmed?!

    Also, I absolutely love the amount of care that Sakurai and his team seem to be putting into these games. It shows that they really want this franchise to do well and their love will most likely shine through the game. I’m thinking it’ll already be better than Brawl… At least, I’m hoping.

    • Asura

      It’s not hard to be better than Brawl. They also spat into the face of anyone who place half-competitively, which is not in line with wanting the franchise to do well.

      I really wish I could love Sakurai again, but his contempt for competitive players really bred a lot of contempt for Sakurai.

      • idrawrobots

        Brawl is by far my favorite game in the series. Great characters, a fantastic and beautiful single/co-op campaign, fun challenges, and tons of collectibles.

        • Asura

          Mixed into a terrible awful fighting engine. Which is the most important part of it all for people who are fighting game fans.

  • ChiffonCake

    >Director Masahiro Sakurai has always placed a great deal of importance on balancing games in the Super Smash Bros. series

    What? Is this for real?

  • Epic Markell Joshua

    A demo would be fantastic but one can dream i’m just glad this game is faster than brawl i didn’t enjoy the gameplay of it at all hope to hear some details of online as well.

  • M’iau M’iaut

    Folks, lets operate this thread with the understanding the original audience and the new competitive audience does ask for different things from a fighter/brawler. Respect from both sides, please.

    • Asura

      “original audience and the new competitive audience”
      Is this an accidental phrasing or something else? “New competitive” vs “original”? What exactly is this referring to? Smash has ALWAYS originally had both competitive and non-competitive audiences, even back in 64.

      • Linhua

        … I think what he means by ‘Original’ is ‘Target Audience’; the original audience that Nintendo was attempting to cater to.

        … Competition isn’t really in Nintendo’s Blood. They’ve always been about the Fun Factor over anything.

        … it just so happens that this Super Smash Brothers series seemed to catch the eyes of the competitive audience.

        … the attraction of the Competitive audience was clearly an accident… however, i’m pretty sure Nintendo doesn’t mind providing a little for both groups where they can.

        … in a sense… doing what they normally do and making sure to keep a balance in the game-play seems to automatically provide for the Competitive audience.

        … clearly, that fell through in Brawl with the tripping and lack of the accidental Wave-Dashing mechanic.

        … but it appears now that Sakurai is well aware of the Competitive audience and is trying to do his best to keep them satisfied with these new tweaks of balance.

        … the reason for the Mod’s post is because clearly, the Competitive Audience is taking over the conversation here… and that is because the news above is leaning more toward that audience… so it’s not really their fault for branching out ideas on how to expand on this game competitively or not… but I believe he wants everyone to respect both sides so as not to scare away the Original(Target) Audience.

        … the Mod understands that Nintendo does not mind the two audiences sharing the space for this game. They just don’t want the target Audience being replaced completely… then this game would be the black sheep of the bunch.

        … I am pleased to be both the Original AND Competitive audience for this game so all news regarding this game is pleasant news for me.

        • kingsharkboi

          fyi it’s good to consider that 64 and Melee were made with all types of gamers in mind, both soft and hardcore (not an accident). This is why there were deep mechanics in each of those games (especially Melee) for hardcores to utilize, just like any other fighting game.
          It’s hard to believe Sakurai was NOT aware of the competitive audience long before this. Brawl’s lack of advanced mechanics was more like a “deletion” of advanced mechanics. Everything in Brawl’s engine seems like an intentional alteration of infamous skillful Smash antics…plus tripping to guarantee randomness.

          The best answer I can come up with regarding these strange decisions is “post-2006 Nintendo”. Nintendo might’ve pressured Sakurai to make as casual a game as possible because they clearly printed money even at the expense of “scary” hardcore gameplay. Now, Nintendo is in a position where they need to win back the hardcore, hopefully they get the message especially after the EVO stream fight.

          • Asura

            Nah, it was Sakurai’s choice to make Brawl what it was. He has made recent comments too about how he doesn’t want Smash to be competitive anymore.

  • Go2hell66

    No one does balancing better than ArcSys

    Follow their example, have loke tests. Let all the best players have some hands on time with the game. Get feedback. Tweak game for the next loke test and add the game mechanics one by one. Rinse and repeat.

    Arcsys knows whats up. take notes nintendo

    • Bunzi

      Keep in mind, Arc System keeps its rosters pretty small for the most part – Tekken’s team, of which a number are working on this game, has a lot of experience balancing a huge cast, and Tag 2 for example is considered one of the best balanced fighting games out there.

      You’re right, though, they need to involve the community to get things down tight, and Nintendo’s never been big on that.

      • colorblindnightmare

        I kinda disagree on the whole small cast thing, for both guilty gear and Blazblue they started out small but both rosters are pretty packed now. As of chronophantasma there are 23 characters in roster, that’s still pretty respectable in terms of how well balanced the game is.

  • hazelnut1112

    This is great, and I heard Sakurai saying that balance won’t be much of a hassle this time around since he has Bamco devs helping out with the game. Which is a great things because they come from Tekken and Soul Calibur teams. Just glad he has that extra help to get this done right on release.

  • Lalum

    Please buff Zelda.

    • mike dickson

      GANONDORF : NOOOO!!

      • Linhua

        LOL

      • KoRLumen

        Speaking of ganondorf, he is in desperate need of a revamp. He’s always portrayed as an exceptional warlock and swordsman, and he’s well known for using a trident as well.

        I’d be willing to bet that if ganondorf used his trident instead of his fists, he’d make for a very interesting character.

        • mike dickson

          not gonna lie that would be sick

        • DoctorButler

          It be nice to see Ganon as a unique character, instead of Falcon’s glacial-clone.

  • 3PointDecoupage

    Thats good. Bowser was always terrible.
    I hope Pit and Meta knight got nerfed.

  • TheBlackKnight3

    Bowser has always been my favorite character. Glad he’s getting a lot of attention!

  • Jpro Walkom

    I think Sakurai unintentionally just revealed Captain Falcon. Then again he was coming back anyway and i think we all knew that.

  • Jpro Walkom

    after you make Bowser stronger… do the same with Sonic.

  • AndyLC

    Punch in the balls, followed by an imminent slingshot to the eye…

  • XaviIniesta

    Interesting how Sakurai speaks of the importance of balancing with the same mentality and meticulousness of a competitive fighting game developer. Yet he says that he doesn’t consider Smash Brothers to be competitive, or a fighting game.

    Well regardless, that can only be a good thing whether you play the game more casually or more competitively. Namco being part of the development is probably a very good thing as well, due to their experience with Tekken and Soul calibur.

    I hope he is open to the possibility of a balancing patch in the future though, if people feel it’s needed. But as he mentioned, the other games in the series were never patched, so it might not be necessary.

    • idrawrobots

      If there are patches made for this game I would hope that you could switch between the different patch settings.

  • Ni ~UNREAL BLACK THINGS~

    >says that don’t want smash to turn into a competitive fighting game and even go as far to ban evo streams
    >now speaks like the game is beign turned into a competitive fg.
    sakurai and nintendo logic.

    well, this one going to be my first time playing smash.so let’s jus wait and see if is my kind of game

    • Asura

      Honestly, he is talking of balancing it from just the viewpoint of his own mind (and hopefully his team). If he has actual competent playtesters come in and give advice I’ll be amazed and super happy. I highly doubt that will happen.

      He is balancing it from the perspective of a brawler. Honestly, he has probably always done that to his games, which in turn is why every Smash game thus far has been poorly balanced.

      • J_Joestar

        well he has the Tekken team backing him up this time right? hopefully they can help it from a competitive perspective.

      • DoctorButler

        Members of the Tekken dev-team are working on it. It’s being co-developed by Namco.

    • DoctorButler

      Smash is everyone’s kind of game.

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