Friday, August 13, 2010 at 9:54PM
Who doesn't love to freestyle. Doing it off the cuff. Off the top of one's head. Off the tip of the tongue. Freestyling also includes playing a video game offhand, improvisational, and extemporaneously in the spur of the moment. It's like seeing a dance move and just trying it out for yourself. It's like throwing your fingers down on the piano keys and just making it work. Just making it music. It's like filling in the blanks like mad libs and walking away a poet. For all these reasons freestyling is a very important part of the concept of play.
To put it in more familiar terms, to freestyle is to play a video game primarily using tactics and/or actions of self expression rather than using strategy and/or a playing to win attitude. With a child like ignorance and innocence, sometimes I wish I lived in a world that allowed me to overcome great obstacles and challenges just by tackling it head on, figuring a few things out, and achieving total victory using my own personal style of play. Often heard comments like "I can do THAT" or "THAT doesn't look hard" sit side by side with the freestyler. These are the common sentiments of those that are completely inexperienced and ignorant of just how much work it takes to be great. Great things are generally accomplished after great practice, study, and discipline. To explain it using the DKART system, freestyling involves little LTM, MM, and analyze knowledge skills and relies mainly on STM, reflex, Tier.1 adaptation, and dexterity skills.
Freestyling is the opposite of playing with a strategy. This is not to say that there isn't a degree of wiggle room when executing highly effective strategies. Even in tightly designed gameplay challenges like the Mega Man 10 boss fights, there's still a bit of room to throw in your personal style into the mix.
Some have expressed that a game is deep or has a lot of strategy when you have to think moves ahead. Thinking about game depth as counters and back and forth counters is a much better way to define game depth. But for the purpose of example, if thinking moves head involves using your understanding of the game rules and actions (LTM), then certainly freestyling involves simply reacting to what's immediately presented.
With that said, you cannot freestyle in a game that isn't' deep or in a game that's very linear. For example, all of the skill testing games my brother and I designed and posted at the top of this blog are strict skill challenges. There's little to no room for expression because there's no other option than to do your best getting as many points as possible the one way each game allows. Z-rox (see list here) is a very simple puzzle game where there is no room for strategy or freestyling. Where there is no capacity for strategy for a video game, there is no capacity for freestyling. Likewise, sandbox "games" and gaming toys (no goals), support unbounded self expression. Playing around in these environments does not count as freestyling. With no rules, goals, or guidelines to direct and measure player actions, in an open environment anything goes.
Furthermore, if you play a competitive multiplayer game (or a really tough computer AI) the freedom you have to freestyle or do anything at all can be severely restricted. Take a game like Marvel vs Capcom 2 for example. From the first instant of a match, if you fight a strong enough opponent, you can be swept away in an infinite combo until you die. And when your next character comes out, if you're not careful, you can get swept away again. And again. See video here. Or here.
The more complexities a game has the more unique it becomes because each complexity is a game rule that can change the way the game is played. Though building up our MM and LTM may take a long time, without them we wouldn't be able to overcome increasingly complex, nuanced, and interesting gameplay challenges. Learning when to put away the urge to freestyle and really embrace strategy is a key step to taking your game to the next-level.
The following MM10 boss battles on hard mode actually are not very complicated, especially compared to playing a fighting game or many head to head multiplayer games. Knowledge is power, and once you know the boss's tricks, you should be able to take them on yourself. The hardest part about overcoming these challenges is learning their tricks because the game doesn't teach you. Capcom simply gives players the keys and lets us crash, burn, and learn.
I'll wrap up this project in part 4.