My friend Steve Gaynor has put up his review of the year in gaming over at his blog, Fullbright. He’s got some sharp points, but I really liked his commentary on Street Fighter 4 – one of my favourite games of the past year. It deserved quoting in full:

Street Fighter 4: Simply put, I haven’t laughed so much at probably any game as I have playing SF4 in the conference room over lunches at 2K Marin. The fact that humor in games is “hard to do” comes up fairly often– only because people think of “humor” as “jokes,” which lose their power after their first telling. But humor is when something funny happens, and games are the only entertainment medium capable of making funny things happen in completely unplanned and unexpected ways. In the right company, Street Fighter 4, with its cartoonish brutality, over-the-top animations, and always-surprising reversals of fortune is a consistent laugh riot. Thank you, Capcom.

(Emphasis my own).

This is Rose Ball:

To explain what’s going on:

this is Street Fighter IV, in practice mode versus mode. Both players are handicapped so they have a pixel of health, and both have selected Rose as their character. They are playing best of 9. At the beginning of each round, one of them “serves” by performing Rose’s “Soul Spark” move – a half-circle towards on the joystick, and a punch button. Then, they take it in turns to perform her “Soul Reflect”, which can reverse projectiles; this is a quarter-cirlce away on the stick, with a punch button. Whoever fails to time the parry correctly will get hit by the “ball”, and the other player will win the round.

So: they’re playing Pong, inside Street Fighter IV.

This is clearly awesome.

What I like most is that it’s consensual – there’s nothing to stop one of them just walking over and pounding the other player, bar good conduct. The game of Rose Ball only works if you both play fair. Later in the game, you’ll see one player move closer to the other, upping the difficultly of the game, as there’s less time to parry the ball.

It’s always interesting to see consensual games like Rose Ball emerge from other games. An obvious corollary is Cat and Mouse in the Project Gotham series; whilst it was a player-derived, consensual mode in PGR2, by the third and fourth games in the series, it turned into a fully fledged game mode.

See also some of the new consensual gameplay modes that people have made for Halo 3 – the four-team, eight-player racing game that is Rocket Race, or Grifball, the two-team ballgame that’s hugely popular online.

Consensual play – breaking the “official” rules in an agreed manner – is something that always emerges when you give players rule-based systems such as videogames. Few systems are robust enough to make it worthwhile, though. Cat and Mouse is quite fragile if someone doesn’t understand the rules; by contrast, the Halo 3-derived games are much more robust, as there’s more customisation of the rule-system available to players. These kind of games are important, though, because they require no modification or custom code, no downloads or installation; they’re just new layers of player-generated rules on top of pre-existing, developer-designed rules.

And: they usually turn out to be lots of fun, because anything that can survive the mill of hundreds, perhaps thousands of Xbox Live players playing – and refining – it is probably pretty good.

Hence the survival of Cat and Mouse into a canon game mode; hence the popularity of Griffball. And Rose Ball? I think that’s going to stay a novelty for relatively skilled players, but it’s still nice to know that such a thing is possible within systems like SF4.

An evening playing Street Fighter IV with Steve revealed that, whilst he’s got a pretty dangerous Cammy, and my Abel is not half bad, what SF4 really needs is some way of quantifying the amount of bullshit players sling at each other.

You know what I mean: those endless command-throws that have you swearing at the TV whilst your opponent giggles into their headmic; endless repeated moves that you should be able to block, even if right now you’re failing; all those moments where you realise your understanding of move-priority isn’t quite in line with the game’s.

That sort of thing. “Oh no,” Steve would say, “you hit me with your bullshit again!

What if we could take that bullshit and turn it into a game mechanic?

Enter: the Bullshit Meter.


You can see the Bullshit Meter up the side of the screen. The supposedly-accessible SF4 is already festooned in meters, so one more in the only available space we’ve got won’t make much difference, right?

Let’s do a crash course in all the meters on screen, just to clarify the Bullshit Meter’s purpose.

At the top, you’ve got your health bar. That starts full, and decreases when you take damage; when it’s empty, you’re KO’d.

At the bottom-left or bottom-right you’ve got your revenge/ultra meter. This starts empty, and fills up as you receive damage. When it’s half-full or more, you can perform an “Ultra combo”. Basically: taking damage will eventually allow you to perform your most powerful move.

At the bottom, you’ve got your super meter. This charges as you perform special moves, and serves various purposes around making specials more powerful (“EX attacks”), performing a “Super combo”, and cancelling Focus Attacks. We don’t have space to explain it here much more.

And at the side, we have the new, improved, Bullshit Meter. There are two ways to charge the Bullshit meter.

Firstly, by performing repeated moves. Every time a player performs two identical moves in a row, their opponent’s Bullshit Meter charges a little. Standard attacks (eg: repeated jabs) make barely any dent in it; special attacks (eg: Shoryukens) make a bit more of an increase.

If a player mixes up the power of their attacks, the increase in the Bullshit Meter goes up less than if they just repeated the same strength special. For example: Ken performing jab-Shoryuken into fierce-Shoryuken fills the Bullshit Meter much less than two fierce Shoryukens in a row.

The second way to fill your opponent’s Bullshit meter is through certain “Bullshit Attacks”. Every character has one (or more) moves designated as “Bullshit Attacks”, and these make significant impact on the Bullshit meter.

Examples of Bullshit Attacks include Ken’s Shoryuken (particularly in its Fierce variety), Zangief’s Spinning Piledriver, Abel’s Tornado Throw, Honda’s Ochio Throw, and practically every special El Fuerte has.

You can see that Ken players spamming Fierce SRK are going to get punished thricely by the new Bullshit Meter.

As a result of all this: performing Bullshit slowly fills your opponent’s Bullshit Meter. This has only one effect:

when your Bullshit Meter is totally full, hitting all six attack buttons at once (preferably with your fist) will instantly quit the match.

This can, of course, be combo’d with other attacks, as it uses all six buttons; for instance, performing an Ultra attack with six buttons, instead of three (eg: QCF, QCF+PPPKKK) will perform an Ultra Bullshit Ragequit Finish.

I don’t know if Capcom are listening, but I hope we can get the Bullshit Meter into a future title update for SF4.

Disclaimer: I love SF4 just as it is, thankyouverymuch, and you don’t need a Bullshit Meter to punish the hell out of any Flowchart Kens you come across. It was an entertaining-enough idea to wrap a game mechanic around, though, if only in jest.