This morning, Capcom announced a change to its rules regarding the upcoming Street Fighter 6 Capcom World Tour. This change, a seemingly simple rule regarding direction inputs, may have a widespread impact on not just Street Fighter 6, but the fighting game scene as a whole.
Don't close the tab, I'm serious! As it stands, several players woke up to find their go-to controller transformed into a $200 paperweight overnight. It's all kind-of complicated, so let's go through the current situation surrounding Street Fighter, hitboxes, fighting games, and what's perceived as 'cheating' in the world of light punches, medium punches, and (dare I say) heavy punches, too.
To start, Capcom announced via Twitter this morning that a change to its rules on leverless controllers has been made, directing those interested to an official blog post on the matter. A new rule has been added, and it's quite simple: if up and down directions are inputted at the same time, both inputs must be maintained, or both inputs must be rejected.
But what does this actually mean, you ask? Well, for 'typical' fighting game controllers – anything from your normal PS4 pad to your Hori fightstick with custom Sakura casing – you can usually only input one direction at a time. Pick up any controller you have near you right now, and using the D-pad, try to input both up and down at once. You can't do it. This is the norm that fighting games are created around. (You may be tempted to reach over to the analog stick, but we'll address that later).
Enter the leverless controller. Not so much a new challenger, but one that has become increasingly popular over the past few years, leverless controllers ditch the stick part of an arcade stick altogether, replacing it with a collection of buttons players can tap for their directional inputs. Like a keyboard, but built for fighting games. With a leverless controller, you can easily press up and down at once.
So what? They can input up and down at the same time. Who cares? Well, being able to do so opens the doors to techniques that your random friend on the rancid $50 arcade stick just can't do. For a Street Fighter 6 example, hitbox players are able to do Guile's Flash Kick special move quicker than regular players. This is because they can hold both their downwards and upward inputs at once, press kick, and immediately begin charging their next Flash Kick (see the linked video for visual reference).
On a stick or using a D-pad, you have to manually move the directional input from down to up, then back to down if you want another Flash Kick. As such, hitbox players have a quantifiable advantage over players not using a hitbox. We're not talking about the sort of high-level advantage that saw Smash players use malfunctioning controllers for obscure tech, we're talking about the sort of advantage your dad could take advantage of.
This reality has resulted in the rule change. According to the official rules post: "Capcom constantly studies and reviews new developments in controller technology, evaluating their advantages and disadvantages, while taking into consideration the differences between controller input and character behavior in the game, which finally leads us to making informed and justified adjustments to our controller usage rules to ensure the highest levels of competitive fairness." TLDR; the CapCops think this is unfair, so bye bye.
This, as you may have already assumed, has p**sed people off. Hitbox players with aspirations of Street Fighter excellence find themselves with a controller that is technically illegal in official Capcom Cup events, now being forced to swap out the board on their hitbox for one that follows these rules, or wait for some kind of firmware update from the creators. On that note, Hitbox (the creators of a popular brand of leverless controllers) has put out a statement that ensures a solution is on the way, which you can read in full below.
One aspect of its statement, noting that Capcom and Street Fighter "do not represent the community as a whole" is technically true. However, it fails to address an important historical precedent within the genre: like it or not, the scene tends to revolve around Street Fighter. It is an institution, bringing in interest from all parties ranging from the Moron Kombaters to the anime airdashers. Hitbox may feel strongly it is in the right, but Capcom has free rein to say "we don't care" and set rules as it likes. Chances are, with a substantial number of Hitbox users wanting to play Street Fighter 6, the controller manufacturer will have to dance to Capcom's tune.
This has also added more fire to the ongoing debate about whether leverless controllers are cheating. The reasoning goes: if your hardware lets you perform actions your opponent cannot do, then you're cheating. The counter-argument tends to be something along the lines of "the future is now old man," with numerous pros and casuals alike using the Hitbox, but there have been lacklustre official statements on the matter until now.
Yes, you can technically hold down on the D-pad and up on the analog stock on your PS4 controller, but Capcom isn't going to ban the console standard. Leverless controller users may have to hold the L here, or will they? Chances are if you're reading this, you're not a world class player (sorry). Terry "Capcom" Mcgee isn't going to bust down your door and test your Hitbox if you compete in an online tournament, and at a mid-large scale major event the tournament organizers will be putting out too many fires to check if your controller fits regulations. Until you hit Top 8, that is.
Ultimately, if this whole situation is an indicator of anything, it's that the time is now for fighting game developers to take a firm stance on whether leverless controllers are tools for cheaters and busters, or legitimate. Now that every damn company has a World Tour, it needs to be done, otherwise no progress will be made and we'll just have endless Twitter arguements until Justin Wong pulls of an infinite so easy a baby could do it and Capcom has to execute him on the spot like he's Gol D. Roger from One Piece.
Hungry for more Street Fighter 6 content, you rascal? Check out our pieces on Street Fighter 6's Crack problem, as well as the modding pioneers developing mode on this illicit early version of the game.