Posted by: Junahu | May 28, 2012

Movesets of the Past [#8]

After almost two years (already!?), you lucky sods are finally getting a new Movesets of the Past. Courtesy of yours truly, a man who is never wrong about anything; Junahu Juna Jameson

For those who turned up late to the party, Movesets of the Past is exactly what it sounds like, a retrospective look at a moveset that isn’t new. There are plenty of awesome movesets out there that haven’t gotten their fair shake yet, and today’s MotP will shake at least one of them dry. So let’s dive into the distant past… of MYM11

Hey! It’s Yuffie! This spritely, iconic Ninja Thief, hails from the equally iconic RPG: Final-Fantasy-VII. Yuffie is an entirely optional character who uses her inept wiles to worm her way into stealing people’s Materia. Materia are small orbs of crystalised souls that form the basis of all magic in the world. Cloud and company would certainly have a tough time saving “Earth” without their Materia.

In the moveset, created by half_silver, Yuffie equips and uses Materia, hides out in the background under the cover of smoke, and lays traps in the vain hopes of nabbing the foe’s own source of power, their own ‘Materia’.

From the perspective of expecting a wicked cool new take on Brawl or a new exploitable genre for MYM, Half_Silver’s Yuffie… does not exactly revolutionise the second coming of Christ. She is the world’s most obvious trap-character, with some background play in the mix.

And from the “Junahu likes tangibly real movesets” perspective, Yuffie engages in a few too many traps-on-tilts antics to be considered pragmatic.

So Yuffie occupies an awkward halfway house approach, trying to satisfy both approaches, by sacrificing both approaches. It’s self defeating, but that’s not at all why I want to talk about this moveset today. It’s probably a few months too late to jump on that bus anyway.

It’s the third, and oft neglected arm of Movesetting that makes this moveset so endearing. The third, mysterious quality that seperates real movesets from punch clock shlop. I’m talking, of course, about the subtle art of giving a shit about the character you’re making a moveset out of.

So, let’s do a good old fashioned countdown (countup?), of the five ways this otherwise rushed moveset gives a shit, in a climate that has all but run out of shits to give. You may want to consider this a follow up to my old article on characterisation.

#1 First Person Narration

Choosing the correct tone to use in bringing your moveset across is a decision that very few people even bother acknowledging. So many people use their own descriptive voice, which is all well and good for some run-of-the-mill pile of crap, but runs dry when used on anything more significant. Yuffie just happens to use her own voice to bring across her often deluded sense of superiority and kookiness, but there are certainly many other ways to go about it. For a recent example of a great alternate writing style, try Cryogonal.

Being in first person has many advantages when it comes to portraying the character in question, not least in that the way the character tells you things, can often say much more about her, than what she’s actually saying. It’s all in the tone, and Yuffie’s exhuberance is almost immediately recognisable.

1st person narration also raises a tricky question; is the character lieing to us? Are they getting the facts right? With a dry, authoritive writing style, readers can safely assume everything they’re being told is the truth, but with the character in question delivering the descriptions, things become more muddled. Characters have personalities and quirks and weaknesses after all. The character could be overselling certain aspects of the moveset, or underselling others. They may even forget, or deliberately withold information from the reader.

#2 Character/Author interaction

In case you haven’t actually seen the moveset, I’ll lay things out for you; Yuffie engages in some meta narration by personally talking to the author himself. While the author articulates the finer points of each attack, Yuffie peps things up, oversells herself and even calls him out on the more tedious aspects of MYMing.

What’s going on here, is that the ‘author’ represents the moveset itself, or rather the circumstances surrounding its own rushed creation process, while Yuffie is the Id, the ego, the muse, reacting to and occassionally argueing against the interpretation that’s being built around her. It’s played completely light hearted, but the meta elements force a kind of self reflection on the set, asking the reader to think perhaps a little harder about the character they’re reading about.

Beyond that, Yuffie’s personal participation in the moveset gives it a very reliable sense of context, and the two voices at play here usually succeed in keeping the reader sufficiently engaged.

#3 Cohesion between writing and presentation

Probably a product of a rushed production, Yuffie’s presentational style has a disparate divide between the two voices. The contrast of Yuffie’s interjections, in both a literal and visual sense, break into what would otherwise be a normal looking, normal sounding moveset. The generally basic and undercooked presentation of the author’s own text gives that voice an almost exasperated feeling to it.

This is the almost unheard of art of having a presentational style that fits with and enhances the writing itself. It’s messy enough for readers to believe two people wrote the set, but uniform enough so that it doesn’t degrade into a stream-of-consciousness style affair.

#4 Raising interest in the character, instead of info dumping

This is a problem so many movesets have. The average reader has little patience for reading about all the specific adventures of your favourite character. And some characters can barely get past their own introductions without throwing terms at the reader that they specifically have to look up to understand.

Yuffie is a surprisingly complicated character, involving a fair range of themes. Father vs daughter, progress vs traditionalism, pride vs comfort, conviction vs ideals, and the impact of the loss of culture. But the various subplots of the game, the infamous Wutai theft, or even a basic biography of her origins, are not even mentioned within the moveset. Instead, the reader is given the most basic of introductions, touching on the things that most readily reflect on the way she fights. The reader then learns about Yuffie herself through the moveset. It’s completely spoiler free, obviously not for half_silver’s benefit, but for the reader’s. The intention is to peak the reader’s curiosity, and perhaps inspire them to go out and learn more about the character and story. And if the reader doesn’t want to do that, at least they won’t feel like information was rammed down their throats.

#5 Having the Character do things they would do, rather than things they have done.

One of the shortest routes to characterisation, has always been the old “put the iconic things in, make the player want to do the iconic things”. This is an approach that is best used sparingly. Of course players want to do the things their character is known for, but they’d probably rather have a moveset that feels like a cohesive whole, and achieving that involves exploring how Smash Bros sees your character. Archetypes, stereotypes, subversions and inversions. Find out where your character fits in, in relation to everyone else in the game. Through doing this you can create moves and strategies that make sense for the character in this enviroment.

Of course, Yuffie still uses iconic moves from her past. Yuffie steals Materia from the opponent, but that’s surprisingly underplayed, in favour of establishing real ways for Yuffie, and foes, to actually use Materia (thus giving her good reason to want to deprive her foe of access to the Materia in the first place). Yuffie also traps the foe under a falling cage, but there’s more depth in the harder to notice traps, such as the pitfall and beartrap, making the obvious cage more of a trick than a trap. Basically what I’m saying is that the entire moveset works towards Yuffie’s characterisation, not just one or two iconic things connected via generic filler animations. There’s flow in the sense that the player’s motivations will lead them towards what they (and Yuffie) consider a goal, with both the goal and the path taken being improvised by the player, rather than dictated by flowchart.

Characterisation is such a tricky process, that it’s usually much better to just make sure it works on the player’s end, instead of worrying about the where’s and why’s. You could argue that because Yuffie steals Materia from the foe, it implies the ludicrous idea that every universe involves materia. Or you can just realise that, as a visual indicator of stealing elements of the foe’s moveset, little glowing orbs that do things when used like items probably make enough sense to the player. Real world logic and Smash Bros logic are different things, after all.

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Responses

  1. 3 for neutral entrance.

    So, let’s do a good old fashioned countdown (countup?), of the five ways this otherwise rushed moveset gives a shit, in a climate that has all but run out of shits to give.

    -2

    So many people use their own descriptive voice, which is all well and good for some run-of-the-mill pile of crap, but runs dry when used on anything more significant.

    -2

    #4 Raising interest in the character, instead of info dumping

    +2

    #5 Having the Character do things they would do

    +2

    rather than things they have done.

    -1

    Of course, Yuffie still uses iconic moves from her past.

    +1

  2. Yeah, I can taste the irony of whinging about people not caring, when I myself am by far the worst offender.

    It was probably phrased poorly, but if you’re making a set for a character you really like, it makes sense to tailor everything around that character, including the way it is presented, and the way it is written. Readers can totally pick up on your tone, and if they feel the author really enjoyed the moveset, they’re more likely to too.

    I try to avoid contriving too much of the moveset and the way it plays in order to crowbar in some specific part of the character (or worse, game). It’d be tragic to work in one specific detail at the cost of making the whole thing feel bizarre. That ended up happening in Cap’n Bowser, with Bowser Spaces and Dice brought in to represent the Mario Party series, and I payed pretty dearly for that


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