Not even a full two weeks after first burning his hellish path through the streets of Gotham and other famed DC locales, Scorpion has been deemed ban-worthy by top Mortal Kombat players and casual players alike. With Evo 2013 looming just over the horizon, calls to ban a just-released character–presumably to prevent the character from flooding streams at this year’s largest tournament–comes off as knee-jerk reaction to many. A couple of days ago, GGA Slips posted on the Test Your Might forum with some insight on how the current Scorpion situation ties in with Super Turbo‘s Vega:
I think we are jumping the gun on this. Is Scorp cheap? No doubt. Does he break the pace and rules of the game? Obviously. Is he broken? Maybe. Should we ban him because nobody likes playing against him and Reo bodied a handful of players on a stream? No. He is a high mobility low damage character. I’ve made this point in another thread, but this concept isn’t foreign to fighting games. I’ll give a clear example. Super Turbo Vega is undoubtedly one of the ‘cheapest’ character[s] in ST. He doesn’t play by any of the rules. Zoning him is out of the question because of [how fast his wall dive is]. He’s hard to anti air because he’s got the fastest jump in the game and his jumping fierce can beat even some anti airs. He has a flip kick which is [a] good anti air and a good reversal. He has a vortex to where if it hits, you could guess wrong until you die. Sound familiar? Yet we don’t see the Capcom players banning Vega. They all agreed the character plays by his own set of rules and everyone will have to learn how to fight against him.
Slips suggest that we must simply learn the Scorpion matchup. A fair suggestion, no doubt, as Injustice is an extremely matchup-heavy game. One can’t expect much from a Flash fighting a Green Lantern, for example, as that’s just a flat-out terrible matchup. We must, then, adapt to fight against Scorpion and some players have already begun to do so:
While this tech may prove useful in the future, should the ninja not be banned, let’s consider what makes something “ban worthy.” Regardless of what game, or even what genre of game in which two parties intend to compete, exactly what makes a character, stage, or tactic worthy of a ban remains unchanged: it must undermine the essence of the game. Video games are unique in the realm of competition in that they don’t have rules in the same way that sports have rules. Nowhere does there exist a massive tome of exactly what rules apply to competitive video gaming, and such a tome can’t exist because the rules of video games are assumed to reside within the game itself. The “rules,” if they must be called that, are simply the mechanics of the game in question. These mechanics are literally programmed into the game and allow it to run as it does and, therefore, cannot be broken. Exceptions to these mechanics would be some sort of glitch, but even Marvel vs. Capcom 3‘s DHC glitch remained a “fair tactic” until it was made obsolete by a quickly-released Ultimate version of the game that fixed the issue.
So in order to be worthy of a ban, the character, stage or tactic must directly interfere with the intention of the game’s mechanics. For such a judgment to be made, we must consider what the developers of the game intended when designing it for consumption by the hungry masses. This is where things begin to blur, but in specific instances clear-enough lines can be drawn to help us figure out the developers’ intent. Since Scorpion inspired me to pen this article, let Injustice be the example to further explain the point at which I’m getting.
When the fellows at NetherRealm sat down at their collective desks and began to design this game, they had in mind something that worked as an amalgamation of all the things they’d developed before–a magnum opus of violence and flashy graphics. Previous titles involved the destruction of background items and the knocking of ragdolled bodies through roofs and walls for the purpose of aesthetics. After all, It ‘s rather satisfying to hit your opponents so hard that their bent bodies break through stone and metal, causing a crash of debris to erupt over the fighting arena as you move in for your next blow. Pretty though it may have been, these stage transitions and blown-apart statues meant very little when it came to actual game play, so the creative powers that be called for a change. As a result of their new design philosophy, we now have interactive objects that can be torn from the walls and ceilings and tossed to cause beautiful bodily harm to our opponents and we have stages that swap back and forth as players slam tightly-curled fists into one another. Wrap a cape around it, slap a mask on it and you’ve got the basic framework for Injustice.
So if the basic framework for a game revolves around the importance not only of character selection, but also stage selection with your character in mind, and we suddenly add to the mix a character that can circumvent most, if not all of the nuances that make each stage what it is, we have, gentle readers, the makings of something literally “game breaking.” Scorpion, quite simply, breaks the game. More specifically, Scorpion’s Teleport Punch breaks the game.
Ignore his full screen, tracking unblockable; ignore the absurd hit box on his j.3; ignore the ridiculous active frames on his j.1; ignore his vortex; ignore the fact that he honestly doesn’t belong in a game dedicated to DC characters; instead, focus on the fact that if the Scorpion player anticipates the use of an interactive object–the very foundation of the game itself–he can Teleport Punch to dodge the flying generator-or-whatever, hit its thrower and follow with a full combo that leads into a vortex setup. Every other tool that Scorpion possesses merely makes him high tier. Tier placement shouldn’t dictate which character is or isn’t banned unless a character is so good that every tournament ends with a top 8 dominated by that character, and even then, one should be cautious and allow things to settle down a bit before jumping on the ban-wagon. It was only two short years ago, let us not forget, that an influx of Yun and Yang poured onto EVO streams. Even the mighty Daigo Umehara felt Yun so strong that he erred from his signature Ryu. Was it the divekick? Probably. The divekick was, and still is, even after nerfs, quite good. But it never actually stepped beyond the boundaries set by the Capcom developers at the game’s inception. The twins were an instance when a ban wasn’t necessary, the fights just sucked. They effectively ruined a year of EVO because such a vast number of players decided to switch from their cherished mains and move on to those always-delicious flavors of the month.
Bans in fighting games, then, are pretty rare. David Sirlin wrote a section in his guide, “Playing to Win” centered entirely around the banning of Akuma in ST, and this excerpt further drives home my point:
Occasionally, the secret characters are the best in the game as in the game Marvel vs. Capcom 1. Big deal. That’s the way that game is. Live with it. But Super Turbo was the first version of Street Fighter to ever have a secret character: the untouchably good Akuma. Most characters in that game cannot beat Akuma. I don’t mean it’s a tough match–I mean they cannot ever, ever, ever, ever win. Akuma is “broken” in that his air fireball move is something the game simply wasn’t designed to handle. He is not merely the best character in the game, but is at least ten times better than other characters. This case is so extreme that all top players in America immediately realized that all tournaments would be Akuma vs. Akuma only, and so the character was banned with basically no debate and has been ever since. I believe this was the correct decision.
So is Scorpion ten times better than the rest of the cast? Absolutely not. But he does have his Teleport Punch, which breaks the game in a manner similar to Akuma’s air fireball in ST. It pains me to say, as I have spent the last two weeks joyously training as Scorpion (and intending to main him at EVO), that we are left with two real choices: drastically alter/remove Teleport Punch–likely at the cost of removing his vortex game–or leave Teleport Punch as it is and ban Scorpion. Regardless of what ends up happening, even if he remains legal at EVO 2013, I now have a moral obligation to play someone else; perhaps Green Lantern and I will make it out of pools.