The developer of Soulcalibur explains why it doesn’t release frame data

In the world of fighting games, frame data is used by advanced players who want to level up their skills. It’s the numbers – a lot of numbers – that let you know how attacks actually work under the hood, how fast they are and how long it takes to recover from them after a block, among other things.

But not all games reveal the frame date to players. One such game is Soulcalibur 6. Why?

In a recently-published and rather illuminating Q&A with Project Soul, the developers explained the decision to withhold frame data from players, saying: “As Project Soul, not releasing frame data is part of our policy.”

First up, figuring out frame data and sharing it within the community is a fun part of the game experience, Project Soul said. “If we released the data officially we would be undermining this experience that many enjoy.”

Secondly, according to Project Soul, releasing the data would put off newcomers to the series “by giving the vibe that the frame data must be studied closely for the game to be enjoyable which is not what we are aiming for”.

It’s this second point I think is particularly interesting. Fighting games have always struggled to properly explain themselves in-game. Some games are better at this than others. Microsoft’s Killer Instinct for Xbox One, for example, does an admirable job of getting newcomers up to speed and breaking down some of the more complex mechanics of the genre.

But for so many fighting games, throwing tutorials, combo challenges and character-specific hints at the player in an “everything you need to know” fashion is the answer. But this, Project Soul is saying here, can have the opposite of the intended effect. It can overwhelm and even put off newcomers, which I think is a fair point.

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So while fighting game aficionados would no doubt prefer Soulcalibur 6 to reveal official frame data (modders have even created a frame data overlay app for the PC version of the game), I can understand the developer’s position here. In any case, it sounds like the developer is having a proper think about it all.

“Having said that, we also are aware that the fighting game scene is becoming more and more competitive each passing day and that many players would enjoy an official release of the frame data,” Project Soul said.

“If we were to provide the data, it should be done properly with all the necessary information and explanation. We are not sure if we will be releasing it, but we are open to the idea and are looking into it.”

There’s a lot more interesting stuff in the Q&A, by the way, including Project Soul’s thoughts on the use of created characters in ranked matches (“we are looking into a solution to players using custom characters to gain unfair advantages”) and other balance concerns.

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