This is Rose Ball:

To explain what’s going on:

this is Street Fighter IV, in practice mode versus mode. Both players are handicapped so they have a pixel of health, and both have selected Rose as their character. They are playing best of 9. At the beginning of each round, one of them “serves” by performing Rose’s “Soul Spark” move – a half-circle towards on the joystick, and a punch button. Then, they take it in turns to perform her “Soul Reflect”, which can reverse projectiles; this is a quarter-cirlce away on the stick, with a punch button. Whoever fails to time the parry correctly will get hit by the “ball”, and the other player will win the round.

So: they’re playing Pong, inside Street Fighter IV.

This is clearly awesome.

What I like most is that it’s consensual – there’s nothing to stop one of them just walking over and pounding the other player, bar good conduct. The game of Rose Ball only works if you both play fair. Later in the game, you’ll see one player move closer to the other, upping the difficultly of the game, as there’s less time to parry the ball.

It’s always interesting to see consensual games like Rose Ball emerge from other games. An obvious corollary is Cat and Mouse in the Project Gotham series; whilst it was a player-derived, consensual mode in PGR2, by the third and fourth games in the series, it turned into a fully fledged game mode.

See also some of the new consensual gameplay modes that people have made for Halo 3 – the four-team, eight-player racing game that is Rocket Race, or Grifball, the two-team ballgame that’s hugely popular online.

Consensual play – breaking the “official” rules in an agreed manner – is something that always emerges when you give players rule-based systems such as videogames. Few systems are robust enough to make it worthwhile, though. Cat and Mouse is quite fragile if someone doesn’t understand the rules; by contrast, the Halo 3-derived games are much more robust, as there’s more customisation of the rule-system available to players. These kind of games are important, though, because they require no modification or custom code, no downloads or installation; they’re just new layers of player-generated rules on top of pre-existing, developer-designed rules.

And: they usually turn out to be lots of fun, because anything that can survive the mill of hundreds, perhaps thousands of Xbox Live players playing – and refining – it is probably pretty good.

Hence the survival of Cat and Mouse into a canon game mode; hence the popularity of Griffball. And Rose Ball? I think that’s going to stay a novelty for relatively skilled players, but it’s still nice to know that such a thing is possible within systems like SF4.

7 comments on this entry.

  • Scott | 9 Apr 2009

    We used to play a mode called “Gentleman’s Duel” in Halo. 1 hit kills, rockets only. Two players stand as far away from each other as possible, at opposing ends of the map if possible. Each takes aim. On the count of 3, they fire. First fella to catch a rocket from 1000 yards loses.

  • ryan | 10 Apr 2009

    I’ve played several thousand games of Rocket Race, it’s a great game provided certain honor rules (what you call consensual play) are observed.

    The game was basically killed in regular matchmaking because honor rules usually weren’t observed, and thus easily griefed. But it has lived on in customs where peer pressure/group norms keep things in check.

  • Mark Jaquith | 10 Apr 2009

    My family played Energy Sword Arena in Halo 2.

    We’d play on the Lockout level, which is centered around a medium-sized square arena with multiple entry points. Everyone would have the energy sword. There would be a predetermined order. The first two people would enter the arena. One sword slash would do you in. The next person in the rotation would then immediately enter and challenge the victor. Everyone else would patiently stand around, outside the arena, waiting their turn. The victor has to be aware of the order, so he knows where his next enemy is coming from. Some of the entry points are high, so sometimes you’d kill someone, and then turn around to look for the next person entering the ring, and you’d get slashed from above, because that person had already jumped in before the other person’s body had hit the floor. Bunches of fun.

  • TychoTychoTycho | 12 Apr 2009

    I play manhunt in GTA IV. You turn off the radar, give a description of your location, and try not to get killed. It’s kind of like Marco Polo.

  • Shibbs | 12 Apr 2009

    Try out Joust in TimeSplitters 2. Chasm stage in Gladiator mode, one hit kill, melee only. One dude stands on one end of the bridge and the other proclaims their battle cry and the other does theirs, and joust. A normal game to 5 takes about 20 mins.

  • d3v | 13 Apr 2009

    That’s technically not a “practice mode game” since you can’t get KO’ed in practice mode (it’s versus mode set to best of 7).

  • Tom | 13 Apr 2009

    You’re bang on, d3v; I’ll correct that ASAP.