How far should homebrew rules go?

Stian: This is quite the difficult discussion to make, as I really do not mind the idea of homebrew rules. As one who has played a lot of tabletop RP, I am no stranger to tinkering with a game for a better experience for the players, which I personally have done myself as a DM. You could say that the rise of J-RPG came from basically changing the traditional RPG-setting, which makes it an important step in video game history.

However, I find it hard to make homebrew rules in the realms of video games work and also disheartening to add when making reviews. When I talk about a game, I’d like to discuss what it offers in its untouched package. This is why I do not care about mods for example, as I believe the game itself should offer a quality experience in itself. The same goes for homebrew rules, which is especially true for the fighting-games tournament. Akuma from Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, Jinpachi from Tekken 5 (console version), some tournaments outright banned uses of certain glitches in Super Smash Brothers Melee. Despite clear issues with these aspects, should we not acknowledge the issues that the games have?

Casper: This discussion is spurred on by my comments about Dead by Daylight, isn’t it? I do suppose that warrants a better explanation.

What…. is this graphical mess? (Dead by Daylight)

When playing online, I generally accept that the onus is on the developer to make sure their competitive environment is competitive, lest their game dies out quickly after release. You can’t really tweak anything there, but you indeed see this back in secluded tournaments where certain characters end up banned.

Competitive games need an involved developer to stimulate the meta OR they need tournaments that take the initiative to set up custom rules. I remember watching tournaments without this and seeing the brackets grow more homogenous as the finals approached. I guess it makes sense that Superman is the strongest character in Injustice, but it made for a really boring tournament.

I’d even argue that some titles should not have homebrew rules at all……. (The Last Blade 2)

With that in mind, I don’t think it’s too strange to follow the same logic and set up some custom rules to make sure your gaming sessions with friends are as fun as possible, even if that goes against the way the developer designed its systems.

S: I suppose that is true, as it is important to make sure that everyone has a good time. However, is it not somewhat annoying that a character is banned, yet sits there in the options taunting you? I would also argue that some characters could be banned because the player does not know better. I remember when some of my friends complained about Ike being broken in Super Smash Brothers Brawl, yet wanted to play as Meta Knight.

Nothing quite beats painting the battlefield! (Splatoon 2)

I agree that it is important to have some agreement for playing a game in multiplayer so that everyone can have a good time, but how much homebrew rules should be required before you play something else? I can understand that someone wants to challenge themselves in bizarre ways in singleplayer titles, like not using the sword in the original Zelda. Although, in competitive games, it is harder to agree upon clear rules. Especially, if you just want to hit a match online and cannot do it with friends.

C: I see what you mean and think it’s worth making a distinction. When my friends and I play Dead by Daylight, the game drops all its ranked game limitations and gives you complete freedom. You can equip characters with every perk and item in the game, which allows for some insane combinations. You could be instant-killing people left and right, which would only be possible in ranked play if you wasted an ungodly amount of time grinding and the items to pull it off would be rare and finite.

Stian does not play Dead by Daylight, so instead he went for some Runbow.

Dead by Daylight is an active game that continues to receive patches and updates to this day, but for unranked play, the developer doesn’t enforce its usual rules, nor gives players the reins to do so themselves. So, to keep that in check, we made some small rules to limit what kind of stuff you can bring into a match: no instant-kill stuff, only epic perks that are generic or belong to your killer, 2 epics + 2 rares. This is necessary to keep games at all balanced, as otherwise the player who can find the most broken combos would always win.

This is in contrast to what you describe, where it sounds more like people were fed up with playing against a player that pulled ahead of them in terms of skill. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Meta Knight in Smash Bros. myself, but I don’t play against tournament-level players. If somebody challenges you to a game they speedrun or play at a competitive level, it’s probably safer to suggest a different game than to try and set up a bunch of rules to handicap them as much as possible.

Felt this article needed more love for 2-button fighting games. (Pocket Rumble)

S: I honestly do not mind Meta Knight in Brawl myself, but he is regarded as a broken character and banned from most tournaments and honestly, for good reasons. However, you do bring up a good point to this discussion here. Similarly, to a game of chess, for example, I believe a video game should conduct a clear form of balance as well as reward skills. Otherwise, you could just play Snakes and Ladders with rolling a dice being the only needed skill.

This is where I believe a veteran player should be able to let and maybe help others learn the rules and mechanics of a game, and not take advantage of their superior knowledge of it. Here, I often had a homebrew rule in fighting-games that players got to learn combos and important moves, and generally get comfortable with the character they selected, before taking on an actual match. After that though, no mercy. This is where it is important to remember that playing a game should be fun for everyone, be they new, adequate or skilled in a game.

No issues with screencheat here at least! We really should have Fragmental on homeconsoles…

I suppose that homebrew can help this, in order for anyone to be able to enjoy a title with anyone regardless of skills. I do not believe homebrew should excuse bad game-design and instead be rightfully acknowledged, but similar to an RP-rulebook, there is nothing wrong tinkering with it if there is enough base-game to enjoy, right?

C:  Even better, I like it when a game just has these options in the design itself. Have you ever played Nightfire? Maybe TimeSplitters 2? Those games have so many customization tools in their multiplayer modes, so you never need to work around the game and make up your own stuff.

Halo 3 was another landmark game in this regard, with the customisation options and map-building tools leading to entirely new modes that have since become standard features for the games that followed. It’s a design challenge for sure, but I sure appreciate it more than having to pinky swear on the rules and hope nobody tries to sneak in some overpowered edge case.

This is not Halo 3, but one fantastic Star Wars game in its own right, with tons of customisation! (Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy)

S: I believe it can be possible. Even though I do not mind it, screencheat was a common issue for many in the early days of console-shooters, but thanks to the broader possibilities of the internet, this have been less of a problem. Thus, making optional rules to turn on or off within a game, should be much easier to tinker with these days. Heck, even Smash has a handicap-mode should that be required to balance out between veterans and newcomers. Until then, I suppose we need to choose companions with caution and agree that honesty and loyalty goes over all! Or just pick another game.

Published by Slionr

A guy who likes to talk about video games and loves tabletop gaming. You can always follow me on twitter: @GSlionr

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