A Fist Full of Dice

I originally published this opinion piece in 2015 on Noobgrind, a computer game website, but since that has gone I’m posting it here. Whilst the original article’s focus was about computer games, this article is more about my influences, how old games led me to martial arts and my RPG designs. Part 1 = https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2019/11/18/way-of-the-exploding-fist-lookback/

This is the third article in the series exploring the impact of the game Way of the Exploding Fist (Commodore 64) had on me, and the path it lead me down. Due to my dad’s interest in computing I’d had access to decent home computers as well as a big collection of games for years, and in 1987 he bought an Amiga 500 resulting in me being given the C64 all to myself; a couple of years later I was given the Amiga. Due to living in a seaside resort I had access to many arcades, but I only had a tiny amount of pocket money. So when I visited the arcades with my mates I generally watched, preferring to save what little pocket money I had towards buying a new computer game.

The first arcade game I felt compelled to play was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT), even though it was just a variation on such classics as Double Dragon, it was different, because it was TMNT! So that anomaly was understandable to me, since I was such a fan of the cartoon, but I was quite surprised to be hit by the virtual tsunami that was Street Fighter 2 (SF2) in 1991. The first Street Fighter (SF) looked okay in the arcades, I’d never played it and in retrospect it seems odd that I don’t recall anybody ever mentioning it at school; the 8-bit version of SF on the C64 looked horrid.

After playing a few games of SF2 I was horrified to find out that somebody else could join in beat me and take over, since I had limited funds I was not keen on this design approach. I also quickly realised the financial implications of trying to figure out hidden moves. My paper-round money was already failing to cover my three main hobbies: computer games, tabletop role-playing, and wargaming, so I made the sensible but frustrating decision to watch other people play SF2, and like my days watching Way of the Exploding Fist, maybe I’d learn, but without the financial cost. I got to see some pretty spectacular players who’d said they spent quite a lot of money getting that good. Watching helped me develop a better understanding of the depth of the game, but it also gave me an appreciation of the calibre of opponents that could easily beat me. In 1993 I finally got to play the game lots when a friend got SF2 for his Sega Mega Drive.

I had an appreciation of the diverse martial art styles that SF2 included. Although the game included mystical abilities, it was cool see how they had integrated them into a characters martial arts style, enhancing them without commandeering them. Granted the plot of SF2 was extremely simple, but it didn’t matter, as the playability was exceptional.  In 1992 I was introduced to Mortal Kombat (MK), which was an impressive evening of watching a crowd of people challenge each other. Personally I preferred the more in depth fighting in SF2, but I quickly became a fan of the MK game and universe; not that MK was an amazing story, but it seemed to have more to it, and in particular Outworld, it felt more fleshed out that SF2. Mentioning that SF 2 story is simple is a bit obvious, but the reason why I mention this is that a few years later this concept is flipped for me, when in 1994 a tabletop role-playing company called White Wolf released a role-playing game called Street Fighter (SFRPG).

The Street Fighter universe had been expanded in manga and anime. My friends and I particularly enjoyed Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie (1994). Like a lot of popular settings (IP), lots of things get produced, adding ideas and variety to the original idea; although not always a good thing.

Ryuandken Sf2 GIF - Ryuandken Ken Ryu GIFs

At the time White Wolf was known for its flagship game Vampire: the Masquerade, one of the many games set in the World of Darkness; I was an avid player and collector of these games. In the various World Darkness, games players could play characters (monsters) with incredible powers. The games tried to focus on storytelling and role-playing; a character’s story was the priority, not their powers; of course some groups focused on the power, not that there is anything innately wrong with that the group agrees. So upon acquiring SFRPG I was not surprised to find that the designers had managed to lay the foundations for an interesting gaming world based off the simple SF2 story. I am not claiming that White Wolf had written a masterpiece of world building, instead they had captured the essence of what had made the Street Fighter series so good. Although a gaming group could do whatever they wanted, the base focus of the game was all about a fighter’s journey to improve, set in a world of rampant crime and obscure mystics.

Typically the initial response to the RPG was a quick list of surprise comments, followed by ridicule, followed by questions. I was the Games Master / Storyteller (GM / ST) for several groups, and I also chatted with several other gamers at my local gaming shop, so I got to talk to a lot of people. My answers highlighted how intriguing M. Bison’s Shadoloo was, how similar to other secret societies/criminal empires, asking them what they thought Bison was up to. I’d explain an important game mechanic, that characters used Chi to activate certain powers, they could gain Chi points back by making Honor rolls. So if Bison had no honour, how could he regain Chi? Many role players I spoke with were willing to give the game a go, and generally they quite enjoyed it.

Over the years I have run several SFRPG campaigns, all were fun and some were even good. I think it is noteworthy to consider that the majority of people know little to nothing about martial arts in real life, and even those that do know some things tended to only trained for a few months. What is great is that SF2 had educated its players enough that they know what different styles roughly look like, as well as what sort of techniques are used; granted SF2 added fireballs and the like to the mix, but did so without ruining the martial style. This SF2 education was an interesting bonus, as it generally affects a player’s ability to role-play better, since it reduced learning a setting, combat and powers. I loved that many SF2 players trying out SFRPG were pretty much veterans when it came to describing their character’s attacks, and understanding what was happening in a detailed fight. The combat mechanics in the role-playing game were surprisingly effective (but not perfect). They allowed players to quickly learn how to play, and with the combat cards a bout could be carried out quite quickly, all in all, very efficient just like SF2. Interestingly the combat mechanics had some key differences to the other World of Darkness games, a few years later an optional book was added to the World of Darkness beautifully entitled Combat.

street fighter video GIF

I was disappointed with how the Combat book mostly handled Mage: the Ascension. Effectively it did not add anything, suggesting Mages can perform True Magick like Stunts is IMHO pointless, since that is what a Mage game is basically like anyway. I do understand why this approach was taken, I am not saying it is worthless/garbage, just disappointing to me. Whilst there are a few special maneuvers for a character with Do 3+, which was nice, but, since Do was basically an Akashic Brotherhood (now: Akashayana) special skill. I think this approach sadly reduced a setting with infinite potential and options to cliché views of ‘Asians are best at martial arts’, ignoring the numerous world cultures with exceptional fighting systems, and the commonality of violence and the human body. This is partly why I have experimented with various ways of integrating the SFRPG mechanics and Combat Cards with other games, my own games, and for the last few years Mage.

Mage SFRPG

Debates about tabletop role-playing game systems is a major part of that hobby, mechanics matter and add to that so much of what we know is from movies/games/books and not personal practice. The designers of any role-playing system need to acknowledge the fact that truly simulating reality is far too complicated, never mind the fact that so much is not understood, therefore a game needs to be easy to understand, and usually quick to play whilst not sacrificing too much realism. My point linking back to the previous paragraph about game accessibility, reducing player learning requirements, and helping players understand game events, I think overall SFRPG did a great job.

I personally found the core rules for SFRPG to be overall good. Whilst the expansion books introduced new great things, unfortunately it also added some garbage into the game. In interviews it has been explained how rushed the game line was, sadly this shows, which is a shame because if more time had been given to the designers some of the garbage would likely have instead been more great additions. The most famous example is the: Cartwheel kick, in was so clearly broken it took most players only a few seconds to figure out that it was godly. Likewise the magic shows in Savate. This lack of playtesting stands out, and is a disgrace to the quality of SF2 combat. Fortunately all role-playing game mechanics can be altered by groups introducing house rules, and generally a veteran gaming group can run a good campaign despite any rubbish game mechanics or bad story/world design. Having worked at a games company I have a good appreciation for the difficulties of hitting deadlines, costs of running a company and how easy it is too miss things, which is why playtesting is so important. Ideally a product should have as few problems as possible.

A call back to the previous article regarding Gene Lebell and Bruce Lee. It is a shame that Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) had not happened decades earlier. So many RPGs could have been fixed in regards to the martial art clichés. This is one of the interesting things about Street Fighter 2, for all the made up and fantasy aspects, the game has a diverse range of fighting techniques shown; granted no ground game, but at least grappling is a core part. I think this has helped SFRPG stand out against other RPGs, for example Palladium’s Ninjas and Superspies. The Contenders expansion added many styles and maneuvers, of particular note is groundfighting, but there are other gems like Chi Push.

The SFRPG rulebooks were full colour, which was very unusual for that time. Although the books had a distinctive White Wolf design with the flavour text and story snippets, the layout of the SFRPG books were more exciting/dynamic looking than their other games. The artwork was mixed, whilst some pieces were great, others were less so.

Character creation was quite straightforward, particularly for players familiar with other White Wolf games. Choosing a character’s special moves list was an interesting and fun part of the process, since it would be a major part of the character’s abilities and development. Interestingly the game encouraged players to declare the names for their moves, just like Hadoken in the computer game. Whilst not everybody chose to do this, nobody complained about it being silly, I put this down to the fact that SF 2 had taught players that this was a somewhat normal the thing to do.

Even after writing several of the negative points about the tabletop RPG, I still think that overall the core SFRPG was brilliant, providing players with a great toolset to explore the intriguing world of SF2. Along with the animated movie it is nice to know that some game tie-ins aren’t complete garbage. Whilst there have been other good martial art role-playing games, my players and I still fondly recall many great Street Fighter gaming sessions and rate it as our favourite of the genre. Every few years we play it again, playing with new ideas and house rules.

The Street Fighter series has millions of fans, but a few of us crave more than just the fights. We are also nostalgic about the espionage of the World Warrior circuit, rising up in rank, to more epic stories of training under Ryu, discovering new/lost techniques, and I suspect in a few cases usurping Bison to take over Shadoloo! I’d love a great computer RPG set in the SF world, whilst I doubt that will happen, maybe one day soon.

From Way of the Exploding Fist to Street Fighter RPG 3 part series

Part 1 = https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2019/11/18/way-of-the-exploding-fist-lookback/

Part 2 = https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2019/11/18/fist-2-exploring-mystical-fighting/

Part 3 = https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2019/11/18/a-fist-full-of-dice/

Fist 2 Exploring Mystical Fighting

I originally published this opinion piece in 2016 on Noobgrind, a computer game website, but since that has gone I’m posting it here. Whilst the original article’s focus was about computer games, this article is more about my influences, how old games led me to martial arts and my RPG designs. Part 1 = https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2019/11/18/way-of-the-exploding-fist-lookback/

Continuing on from my previous article TODO about my favourite 8-bit fighter, the amazing Way of the Exploding Fist, or Fist for short. The follow-on to that gem is Fist 2: The Legend Continues (1986), which took the then brilliant animation and clean fighting system of Fist and made a quite different game. This new direction split the fans of the first game, since some people just wanted Fist with extra features and improvements. Thankfully for young me, Fist 2 was everything I didn’t know I wanted, adventure with some depth. Castlevania and Metroid were both released in 1986; interestingly Fist 2 can be considered a basic Metroidvania.

A crucial combat mechanic difference between Fist and Fist 2 was the introduction of a health bar; this was probably an influence from Yie Ar Kung-Fu. Otherwise combat had the same depth as Fist.

Fist II - The Legend Continues

Exploration had been added in to the mix of Fist 2. I imagined that all the time I had spent playing Fist had really been preparation for this new game. That my character was now leaving the temple, exploring the wider world and utilising all that training to defeat real enemies. That the stakes were higher, the fights were not just friendly sparring matches. I am sure a lot of people can relate to the idea/feeling they got when playing the GTA series; the freedom of a sandbox world with some depth, plus also the visual depth and in particular the jump from GTA 1 or 2 to GTA 3 and later games.

Whilst it is true that there had been exploration games that included fighting before Fist 2, they were done in a limited way, such as the Bruce Lee video game on the C64. Okay, a quick tangent since I wrote in the last article that Bruce Lee hadn’t been a big impact as a kid. Firstly I didn’t see any of his movies until a few years later; then they had an impact. The Bruce Lee game came out in 1984, but it was really a platform game with two attacks. Even at the age of 8, the game’s plot seemed randomly thrown together, it was quite poor; granted back then the vast majority of computer games plots were not considered important, but a good one helped. The problems were: the game was too easy, lacked game depth, and was not really a fighting game. At least the movement of the character was good, feeling both responsive and quick.

In the playground at school, Bruce Lee’s name was used all the time, so I had a vague idea of who this person was, despite him dying the year that I was born. To have his name associated with what could barely be called a fighting game was odd to me, even considering how young I was. In these days we were used to the idea that games with film or celebrity tie-ins are nearly always garbage; this is often still the case. Considering how many things over the years have metaphorically sucked the Chi from the Bruce’s Lee legend, this game overview shouldn’t be a surprise. Given what I have learned over the years about Bruce’s diverse training, including with the incredible “Judo” Gene LeBell, who was effectively the first Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter, it is another reason why the Bruce Lee game was such a disappointment.

There were also several side scrolling beat ‘em ups over those early years, but they were not really exploration games. Whilst I did enjoy games like Kung Fu Master (C64 1985), Double Dragon (Arcade 1987), etc., I found them to be too simple, as they generally only had a few attacks. They were quite formulaic, because the opponents generally only did one or two things themselves, easily identifiable enemies allowed a player to recognise what attack type was incoming. These types of games were often about repeating the whole process to get a higher score and complete quicker; often completing the game quicker gave bonus points based upon how much time was left. Overall fun, but not as interesting as Fist 2.

Before my tangent I had mentioned exploration. For me, the idea that a good fighting simulator could form the foundation of an adventure game was amazing. A step up from the classic text based adventures such as The Hobbit, Zork, Adventureland (Vic 20), etc.; fun but not as visually immersive. The idea that you could find and fight nuanced opponents was refreshing, plus it seemed more like the TV series Kung Fu, or the few martial art movies I had managed to watch. Also these were not like a ‘boss fight’, requiring a specific set of criteria to be performed, which typically made all the normal attacks effectively useless. Each one-on-one duel felt legitimate, since they had the full range of attacks that my character did.

In addition to enemies there were certain zones that had environmental obstacles that required a character to have more health in order to survive. Special scrolls (trigrams) were hidden away throughout the game that made a character tougher. Also temples could be found that allowed you to heal through resting, plus were used to activate scrolls. Some temples were locked away, and these required that the character have already found a certain number of scrolls to gain access to them. So between the combat, environment, as well as locked areas, the game promoted exploration in regards to trying to become as tough as possible; hence the Metroidvania association.

Fist 2 map plus screenshot from Spectrum version.

It’s not that this game was innovative, it is more that this game was well done, as well as followed up on a game I adored and meant a lot to me. Fist 2 helped form a huge part of my life-time interests. It was years till I played another good martial arts exploration game that had a big impact on me; that game was Oni, although that game received mixed criticism, I loved it. It was a few years later when another game hit that sweet spot for me, with Jade Empire. A special mention goes to Tenchu: Stealth Assassins, even though the core of that game’s design is stealth.

Whilst there have been lots of excellent games over the years fulfilling exploration and role-play, for some reason it is rare for those game types to be mixed with empty hand martial arts, and theme matters.

A few years after playing Fist 2 I went to high school, at aged 11 I was introduced to Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) and the role-playing games (RPG) in general. I loved RPG, like most role-players in part because of reading The Hobbit and then Lord of the Rings, but also because I wanted to play the wandering martial artist, like in the TV show Kung Fu or the game Fist 2. This would lead me to one of my favourite games Street Fighter 2 (SF2) and later SFRPG.

From Way of the Exploding Fist to Street Fighter RPG 3 part series

Part 1 = https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2019/11/18/way-of-the-exploding-fist-lookback/

Part 2 = https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2019/11/18/fist-2-exploring-mystical-fighting/

Part 3 = https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2019/11/18/a-fist-full-of-dice/

Way of the Exploding Fist Lookback

I originally published this opinion piece in 2015 on Noobgrind, a computer game website, but since that has gone I’m posting it here. Whilst the original article’s focus was about computer games, this article is more about my influences, how old games led me to martial arts and my RPG designs.

For me Way of the Exploding Fist (WotEF / Fist) is the Mario of 8-bit fighting games! Okay, considering the cultural weight of Mario, maybe that is too strong a statement, but I do consider this game to be of that design calibre. Later beat ‘em up games like Street Fighter weren’t quite the gem, especially the 8-bit version on the Commodore 64; IMHO, not until Street Fighter 2 did things improve. Today there are many iconic fighting series, but in the mid-80s there was nothing, then Fist came out! The game received a 93% from Zzap! 64 magazine in August 1985 and game of the year, plus according to the wiki page it apparently went on to become the bestselling game for both ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC

Why write about a game from thirty years ago? The classic answer of it being helpful to know our roots, to understand how they influence us; even if we are not aware, which is often the case 😉 I would urge any budding game designer to check this game out, to see what the creator Gregg Barnett did with a good design, an emphasis on game-play, and a clean interface. Additionally this was achieved with a very limited amount of processing power. Also maybe check out some other quirky game ideas like Attack of the Phantom Karate Devils, if only for its novel approach to reducing the need to draw lots of graphics on the screen.

For many reasons this game carries great importance for me. It wasn’t Bruce Lee or other martial artist movies, which made me obsess with martial arts. In 1985 my dad purchased this amazing game for our Commodore 64, the title sounded just so exciting: ‘Way of the Exploding Fist’ or the simple punchy ‘Fist’. Thankfully due to my dad, even at 9 years of age I had a tiny frame of reference in understanding how difficult combat training is; my dad is ex-military and he had studied several different styles of fighting, and he’d started teaching me. Although I was already interested in martial arts, there was unfortunately limited access to media on any style in the early 80s in the UK, and we did not have enough money to pay for lessons. Crucially for me Fist wasn’t a platformer, or a game with just a few basic attacks, no, this was my first proper fighting game, and it is more like a fighting simulator.

Anecdotes aside, the graphics and imagery were incredible, yes dated now, but in its time quite impressive. I loved how crisp the game-play felt, the fantastic movement of the character led to a great sense of tactile feedback, and the attacks felt brilliant; for me game-play is the most important factor in any game. The game had 16 moves, enough that a fight felt strategic, not formulaic. Like so many people I believe that even a point-and-click or text-based adventure needs a good feeling of interactivity, and the graphic user interface (GUI) is a key part of this. Some people criticised the game in regards to how a character turned around, but I consider this criticism to be unfair since turning was just another thing to practice; besides you could attack someone behind you. In comparison to other games of the time Fist was spectacular. The music and sound effects were great, carrying that great combination of quality, feeling right and being distinctive. The music evokes strong memories of the game, and still carries importance for me; I’ve been humming it for decades!

Although a game called Karate Champ (KC) actually came before Fist, I didn’t come across it until afterwards, so it didn’t have any impact on me. KC had so many firsts to it, and can be considered the basis for all the fighting games to come. Whilst the arcade game, Warrior, came out in 1979, it looks and plays barely like anything in the fighting game genre. Even though it was made just a year earlier, KC was not as fluid or well-paced, nor as graphical or musically as impressive as Fist.

https://thumbs.gfycat.com/TiredBeneficialGoose.webp

On a side note Yie Ar Kung-Fu came out the same year as Fist, which I also liked, it was fast, quite fluid, but the martial arts style was more like Wire-fu (Wuxia), plus most opponents had weapons. Crucially I thought it didn’t have that feeling of tactile weight, despite there being a brief pause to indicate that a hit had landed and seeing that the opponent’s health bar went down a bit, but otherwise there was no physical effect to the opponent. Interestingly this game fits what later became the foundation of later fighting games. In contrast Fist follows the rules of full contact point sparring with the fight pausing after a successful hit on a point scoring area, thus there are no health bars, and this approach has barely been used since. Since Yie Ar Kung-Fu felt quite different it provided a good alternative style of gameplay, and whilst I did enjoy playing it a lot, just not as much as Fist.

Besides the excellent 1 on 1 game play, Fist also included an odd bonus level that involved a charging bull? I guess this bonus level was inspired by Masutatsu Oyama, the founder of Kyokushin Karate, who had fought many bulls! Whilst I believe Karate Champ was probably the first game to include such bonus levels, it was years later when Mortal Kombat (MK) and Street Fighter 2 (SF2) in particular became known for popularising this level concept.

Fist included the cool and important ability to fake an attack. This does not refer to the simple idea of moving as a feint, although this can be a valid tactic in many games. What I mean is that attacks could be started but not completed; this was possible due to the great control system, which was all the better with a great micro-switch joystick. I find this particularly useful when playing against another person, plus it did seem to affect the computer controlled competitor. Nowadays whilst some games include the ability to feint, this important part of real fighting is not seen as a core feature in all fighting games, I wonder why this is?

The game was accessible due to a combination of being: well presented, there were no hidden moves, nor complicated sequences, but crucially I believe the game flow and speed elevated it.  Like any good fighting game the timing was absolutely critical, and the well animated sprites allowed for good control of the timing, and therefore distance management became the first thing to consider. Because this is an important part of real fighting, it should be no surprise that this is often discussed as a crucial factor in all fighting games. Sadly there are games that lack the combination of fluid animation and character control; the amount of bad SF2 or MK clones are a testament to this issue. In some games, attacks with long animations are annoying, especially if you cannot do anything. Ideally a game should always a player to try something.

I love fighting games, I have no issue with games like Street Fighter with hidden moves, special attacks, nor the detailed list of techniques like in Tekken. It is not uncommon for new players to  complain about too such games being too complicated, requiring a lot of effort to learn even the basics. A modern game like Fist would got some way to providing a stepping stone in to the fighting game genre. I’ve heard it said that the UFC games maybe fulfils this a little bit, and the general fight fan is much better educated these days, but the UFC games are still somewhat complicated, since after all they are simulating Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).

Another classic fighting debate is addressed by this Fist’s design, should button mashing be allowed? Although it was possible to button mash in Fist, learning the game could overcome the wild approach. This approach gave new players a chance to compete; their button mashing elevated my gameplay, and in turn helped them. I call this a successful design approach.

Commodore 64

After a few weeks of extensive playing of Way of the Exploding Fist I got in trouble for misbehaving. I was banned from playing the computer for a few days, which at that age seemed like a lifetime! Since I dabbled in programming I was not banned from using the computer, just playing on it, so this gave me what I considered at the time, a creative workaround. I loaded the game and patiently waited, after a mini eternity I was rewarded with a successful load and the awesome music started. After about twenty seconds the computer would play against itself, so I could watch two competitors fight each other, with each attack being given added emphasis due to their kiai (spirit shouts). I had watched for an hour by the time my dad found out what I was doing, impressively he was not angry since I had not technically broken the rules. In fact he was amused by the fact that I was making my punishment more intense on myself, by having the object of my desire in such close proximity, but not being allowed to interact with it! When I explained I was watching the timing and distant management of the game he smiled, because he understood that this simple point fighting karate game actually did a great job in making this the focal part of the game.

There is no real end to Fist, just like with real martial arts. Although I am not sure if the approach was due to design as metaphor, or more to do with just allowing a player to keep going to aim for a super high score.

The review from Zzap 64 Issue 4 August 1985 can be found here. For more information check of the game details on the wiki page. Whilst writing this article I found out that the music for this game was taken from Dance of the Yao Tribe, I had never looked it up until now; maybe that shows that a bit of hard work looking in to things you like can pay off? 😉

From Way of the Exploding Fist to Street Fighter RPG 3 part series

Part 1 = https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2019/11/18/way-of-the-exploding-fist-lookback/

Part 2 = https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2019/11/18/fist-2-exploring-mystical-fighting/

Part 3 = https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2019/11/18/a-fist-full-of-dice/

 

8-bit era & review From Bedrooms to Billions

I recently watched the documentary From Bedrooms to Billions by Anthony and Nicola Caulfield. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I am looking forward to watching their new film The Amiga Years.

I have posted an article on NoobGrind about it, but whilst writing it I wrote several paragraphs explaining why this documentary meant to so much to me. However, given the size of that article, typical for me, I decided to cut the non-pertinent information from there, but decided to put it here.

My early childhood of growing up in England was dominated by the home computing revolution that took place at the start of the 80s. I was fortunate to have a father who had an interest in electronics, which lead him in to this new home computing hobby.

We started out with a Commodore Vic 20, then upgraded to a Commodore 64; I got my own Commodore 16. A few of our neighbours also got computers, one friend’s house had a Spectrum 48k, whilst another had various Amstrads, and another friend had an Atari 2600. At school we had a BBC Micro. Also living in Blackpool meant I could visit the arcade and compare those machines. So I was exposed to a multitude of systems, and I guess this is why I’ve tried to avoid being dedicated to just one system.

Commodore 64
One of my old Commodore 64 machines. Sadly I don’t have my original one, nor the vast game library I had.

I am not so obsessed with nostalgia that I want to return to those technologically inferior days. I have no issue with retro gaming, my main criteria is that the game has to be good. I acknowledge that some of the games that I have really enjoyed decades ago are of certainly of their era. It certainly wouldn’t make sense to insist that a player in the here and now has to play the ancient games; the term ‘has to’ is nasty. I think even old classics should generally be talked about only in context of their era.

A classic game that can still work well today is Street Fighter 2. It was amazing when it was released, and even with all the developments in the years since, it is still a great game. Whilst Way of the Exploding Fist came out years earlier, and was amazing when it was released, I can appreciate that the game is of its era. I did play it last year and I quite enjoyed it, but I don’t think most gamers would. I’ve previously written about how these two games helped form my role-playing passion, links below.

I ran a computer shop in the mid-90s, and I can recall chats about whether in the future there would be big interest in documentaries about the spread of computer gaming. It was agreed that computing would continue to develop, that interest would increase, but a few regular customers said they thought gaming would always be niche. The majority of my regulars thought the idea that gaming wouldn’t keep expanding was ludicrous, but those who thought gaming would stay relatively small pointed out how biased we were. A fair point to raise, but even back then the game sales figures showed a big trend towards ongoing expansion. This was during the period I referred to at the time as era of the Doom-virus; every PC sold, or even brought in to the shop for repairs, normally went out with the freeware 7 levels of Doom.

 —

Given that I was dabbling with coding from 6 years of age, and trying to learn 6502 assembler at 8, I did ponder whether I should feel regret at not managing to make a game in that time period. I think it is fair to say I was a bit too young for the 8bit bubble. At the time I certainly never heard of young kids making games, whilst there were a few teenagers, even they were rare. By the time I was about 9 years old the Amiga was coming out, at the time I felt like what little progress I’d made had become pointless. When I went to high school at aged 11 I discovered AD&D and other role-playing games, and for many years I had little interest in computing. I actually felt weary of the subject, in part due to the terrible ‘I.T.’ lessons.

A few years ago I read Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers, which highlights the importance of being in the right place at the right time, and what a small window it usually is. Crucially, since I did eventually go on to study programming and work at a games company, I did achieve major goals.

You can read my NoobGrind article here.

From Bedrooms to Billions

Follow-on review The Amiga Years

Way of the Exploding Fist 3 part series

Part 1 = https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2015/10/25/noobgrind-article-way-of-the-exploding-fist-is-the-mario-of-8-bit-fighting-games/

Part 2 = https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2015/11/16/fist-2-on-noobgrind-and-current-life/

Part 3 = https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2015/12/06/street-fighter-rpg-look-back/

 

Street Fighter RPG look back

EDIT 2019 Noobgrind has gone, so I have added the articles to this site.

Updated: From Way of the Exploding Fist to Street Fighter RPG 3 part series

Part 1 = https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2019/11/18/way-of-the-exploding-fist-lookback/

Part 2 = https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2019/11/18/fist-2-exploring-mystical-fighting/

Part 3 = https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2019/11/18/a-fist-full-of-dice/

Old Post: It took a lot of effort to get this article completed, mostly due to pain and sleep issues. At least it was fun remembering so many gaming sessions, some serious, some silly, but all enjoyable.

Street Fighter is an amazing role-playing game, a flawed gem. Despite the problem of some awful game mechanics, as well as the lack of obvious depth to the setting, I found the game to be a good framework to build from. Just like other RPGs, the expansion books were helpful in expanding the setting, and adding new mechanics, but the common issue of power creep is quite evident with the Player’s Guide. In fact some of the new Special Maneuvers were clearly not playtested much, or the single playtest missed the point, Cartwheel Kick in particular seems to joyfully abandon all pretence of balance.

It would be cherry-picking of me to ignore the few role-players that I spoke with that had immediately dismissed the idea of playing the Street Fighter RPG. Nearly all of those I recall were not people I normally gamed with, so it is hard to say what to type of gamers they were, or their preferences. Over the years I have pondered whether there is anything special that could be taken/learned from those chats, to be fair to them I assume that many of them were fun-loving gamers who have tried all sorts of games. Maybe they didn’t play SF2 much, maybe they preferred to stick to one RPG system, and quite likely they were not interested in martial arts; I suspect it is the normal combination of different factors that just happen to put them off.

My take away from the Street Fighter RPG is that it was a good experiment. In the world of maybes this game could have become a big hit, maybe if they had not been rushed, maybe decent playtesting would have fixed problems, maybe making the game a bigger priority for company resources. I’d recommend the game, but just using the core rulebook at first. One day I should sort out my own big list of house rules to publish, although that’s a low priority.

In summary, like with any RPG, it helps if the people you are playing the games want to play, stay engrossed, and don’t get bogged down in rule debates. This of course is the ultimate truth about RPGs, but also a bit of a cop-out 😉

Noobgrind article: Way of the Exploding Fist is the Mario of 8-bit fighting games

I wrote an article for NoobGrind about one of my favourite games from my childhood Way of the Exploding Fist. This is the first in a three part series, which goes in a direction that may surprise many readers 😉

EDIT 2019 Noobgrind has gone, so I have added the articles to this site.

Updated: From Way of the Exploding Fist to Street Fighter RPG 3 part series

Part 1 = https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2019/11/18/way-of-the-exploding-fist-lookback/

Part 2 = https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2019/11/18/fist-2-exploring-mystical-fighting/

Part 3 = https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2019/11/18/a-fist-full-of-dice/