I've been a character coder for a long time now and have numerous personal and most likely, unsharable edits of characters that I have made throughout my coding experience.
I've run into many issues along the way with characters that were 20-40% complete and were tossed out because the authors got lazy and I've been able to use what they already had (sprites are the only thing I need) to create full working characters with some of my own personal techniques to develop fighting mechanics that are not often seen in characters.
These are some notes on character creation that may help your next creation fluidly fit in with any mugen collection.
If not, it can always be a good read, and food for thought.
1. One of the things that has annoyed me the most when coding characters, is an excess of Collision boxes and Hit boxes when they are not required. More collision and hit boxes does not mean more quality as I have assumed authors have suggested by their extreme detail when adding collision to their characters.
In Martial Arts theory there is a concept that the human body has an element of space which, when invaded, becomes threatening and is to be protected via martial arts training and techniques. This idea is called "The Gate". The Gate is recognized as personal space of the body that can be "closed" by defending against blows that would pass through and become dangerous, threatening, and fatal. The most Recognized Gate points of the body are The Head, The outer joints of the body, and the inner joints of the body. Which ever is furthest from the torso and abdomen at the time of defense is considered the first, or the outer gate. preferrably this is seen as Wrist to Wrist, ankle to ankle. The inner gate would be considered Knee to knee, elbow to elbow.
It's easy to understand that fighting games are not about realism, they're about gameplay. It's not as satisfying to lose because of realism, as it is to win because of gameplay mechanics and skill forgiveness.
When a player creates a character with extremely precise collision boxes, it can give the character a feeling of innate evasiveness. It also makes the character feel like a cheat, when punches and kicks are thrown that should have connected but simply didn't because you were 1 pixel off from actually connecting with the characters visible sprite. This can also be a desirable effect for some, but shouldn't be the basis for character creation as if all collision and hit boxes are as precise as they could be, many fights would be left feeling uneventful as the two players attempted to trade blows and most hit air. It's simply not as fun when you take the fight out of fighting games. For this reason, it shouldn't be the standard for character creation and should be kept uncommon; used as a unique character effect(or mechanic).
All that is required of a character to give an effective collision and hit effect is a single collision box reaching from head to toe, gate point to gate point, whether it be elbow(left arm) to wrist(right arm), or Knee(right leg) to ankle(left leg). Put simply, the gate points furthest from the body in whatever stance the character is in, are the boundaries for the collision box. One single collision box suffices and gives an effective range when considering that, if a character connects a blow within your gate, it is safe to assume they would have hit you, or have threatened your safety and for that your character takes damage. after all, this is a game, not reality, for that reason connecting a blow with the gate itself is enough to hurt your opponent, whereas in reality, threatening one's safety is not enough to actually cause bodily damage.
A single hit box is effective, but depending on the effect desired, many hit boxes is acceptable. A single hit box should cover the entire length of the limb or weapon being used, and the implied swing of the attack when taking into context the entire animation. For example, if your character swings their leg straight out and up, and it only hits once, the hit box on the triggering animation element should incorporate not just the current sprite of the leg, but also the whole distance traveled of the leg, creating a hit box extending from the toe down to the floor and back to the edge of the buttocks giving the effect of an actual kick.
2. The next issue that I've seen with characters is timing inconsistencies when creating animations for attacks and the pause time associated with each basic attack's Hit definition. Essentially there are three levels of basic attack. depending on what side of the fighting game genre you were brought up in these are, Low/Mid/High, Weak/Medium/Strong(or Fierce). with each increase in height, or force, the attack increases in damage, power gain, and length of animation. This is for the effect of character agility, and enable characters to create restricted combos relative to their limited agility. throughout my experience with creating characters I have my own personal preference that involves three types of agile MvC style character animation timing. An agile MvC character would have 12 tick total on weak/medium attacks, and a 16 tick total on strong attacks. where as a less agile character would use a 12/16/20 format for Weak/Med/Str. And an extremely agile character would have a format of 10/10/15. These are of course just personal preference and is not a suggestion but simply an example.
When deciding the pause time for an attack its best to know what kind of technique you want the character to use. Some MvC style characters use command code to interrupt an animation when a new command is entered, to create a quick combo effect that ignores pause times and full animation length. it's not a requirement but it can be an enhancement to their combo ability when used. If Command code is used to interrupt animation, most often, a time trigger is added to the command, to limit how long you must wait before putting in the command, to let the minimal length of the animation play out. This is to allow attacks to actually land and not just interrupt an attack because you entered a new command. Without the time trigger in the command code you could enter a combination fast enough to not even attack the opponent more than just the one last command entered at the end of the combo. this is under the assumption that you have not included move contact or any other such conditions that would help mitigate attack interruption.
An alternative style to coding a character in the MvC Style would be to reduce the ticks of the basic attack animations and reduce the player 1 pause time of basic attack hit definitions. This can be preferrable when the desired effect of the character is to be less agile but have more endurance. when I say less agile and more endurance, It's because the character isn't able to reduce animation times of basic attacks through command code, but is able to continue a combo much further beyond the limit of stateno code in a command, which most of the time restricts a character to only having a limited combo ability. The effect can make a character appear less agile but have more endurance as they can continue to punch and kick to keep a character locked in a corner or blocking for extended periods.
If using stateno command code, I suggest a p1 pause time of 10 and a p2 of 10. If using the alternative I would suggest p1 anywhere from 4-8 and p2 anywhere from 10-14. This will not be of any use to you if you are not ensuring that the animation times of basic attacks are quick enough to allow for pause time and still hit the enemy before p2 pause time ends. for this very reason, its best to make sure that the animation time of the animation element that includes the hit box, plus the total animation time up to the animation element that includes the hit box on each basic attack, plus the p1 pause time, is less than or equal to the p2 pause time of all basic attacks.
This formula will help explain
(Hitbox anim) + (Animtime to Hitbox anim) + (p1 pausetime) <= (p2 pausetime)
This method will allow for endless combinations between basic attacks. It's easy to assume this character would be unbalanced considering they could combo forever and never allow you to fight back, I'll explain how that is not true. The limit is now set on the players ability to seamlessly combo the moves together with perfect timing. As long as the p2 pausetime is at least equal, player1 will have to enter the next command in the combo immediately after the previous attack ends (assuming that you have removed ctrl on basic attacks) and when they do, player 2 will have an opportunity to block against the next attack, if player 1 is at least 1 tick off from perfect timing, that's a sixtieth of a second; very easy to assume player 1 is not going to make a seamless combo. Because of this scenario, it is acceptable to increase p2 pausetime by up to 6 ticks over. 6 ticks over equation, allows for a tenth of a second reaction time for player 1 to attack again after the animation of the previous attack ends.
Simply put, there are many coding techniques to creating characters, and some are easier than others. some more advantageous in specific situations than others. Just make sure your character is coded well enough to at least combo using their basic attacks.
3. The easiest yet most overlooked Hyper to code for all characters is a combo attack. What I mean is, a simple animation of combined basic attacks that are either all blocked or all taken by a character. I still don't understand it, but I have seen so many characters that have really awesome projectile hypers, helper hypers, and special effect hypers, but have not even a single combo hyper. In my opinion combination hypers are the coolest, especially when authors get really creative with the attacks that are used.
If you are struggling to think of that new hyper for your character, and they don't have at least one combination attack hyper, please put one in there. It's not lazy, it's just simplistic. and simplicity is not a bad thing. Martial arts > special effects, personal opinion, your future arguments are invalid lolz.
4. There is a plethora of Fighting mechanics, that allows for uniqueness in each fighter, but a lot of unrecognized mechanics exist and are not being used. We all know the slide kick mechanic. hits low, gets us close to our enemy, and can possibly avoid mid height projectiles. well what about the dragon kick? hits high, gets us close, might not avoid projectiles, but can if given the capability. Adding the ability of using special moves in the air is always a good addition to a characters ability to get close, hit approaching aerial enemies, and counter projectile spammers.
Another one which is my favorite is the glancing blow passed the enemy. This one has been sort of phased out of many creations because people misinterpret the effect as a mistake. What I'm talking about is a dashing attack, that initially hits the target, has a collision box on it, but the last animation in the move has no collision box so that the character passes by the enemy and ends up behind them. This effect is great for getting behind characters that are blocking, and forcing them to think about their block strategy instead of just holding the joystick back with one hand, reaching into a bag chips and then taking a swig of their drink before even thinking about going offensive.
The main point here is to think outside the box and come up with special attack mechanics that are unique and give your character a unique advantage on the stage. This kind of thinking is what gave Scorpion from MKII that sneaky jump off the screen and punch you from behind mechanic. That's the kind of thing that will make your character memorable.
5. Too many or too little sprites for animations. Now this will always be an issue that is a preference for each person, but there are some things that everyone can agree on. There's no point in wasting time creating 20+ sprites for a single weak basic attack now is there? Okay, I thinks that's about as far as it goes for agreement in this section. But seriously, why put any more than 2-3 transitional sprites in a weak basic attack? The only person that will care is you, everyone else will be more interested in your greater works, like the amazing custom sprites for hypers, and specials. even then, an excess of sprites gets wasted on the authors opinion of what is enough. whereas, too little sprites can make your character look like they belong in a hi-res title for tiger handheld. if your reading over this and thinking "well what do you suggest spriters do?" I say, don't worry about what I have to say, in the end, its what you feel like spriting. if you want to make 200 sprites for one hyper, go right ahead. But if you don't that's fine too. Really all I'm saying is that spriters should be a little more reasonable, and not trying to out-do each other. Mugen is a fighting game, not an art gallery.
Anyway I guess that's all I have to say for now. I can't think of any other outstanding aspects of character creation that I've not had a chance to vent on.
If you actually read all this, I appreciate your patience, and will to read. If you didn't well you should probably go back to kindergarten because this was a quicker read than Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham.