While many professional circuits for competitive games boast rulesets against potential cheats and hacks, the fighting game community places particular emphasis in regards to controller legality. As a main method of making the genre “easier,” features like “turbo” are generally banned: but what happens when a controller itself renders move execution a veritable non-issue?
HitBox, an arcade stick brand known for their controversial button-only layout, announced a kickstarter for their upcoming “CrossUp” stick in late 2019. Unlike the HitBox, which boasts buttons in place of a joystick, the CrossUp uses a combination of both directional buttons and a joystick, at once, allowing for greater ease when performing difficult moves like Kazuya’s Electric Wind God Fist and Tekken’s Korean Backdashes.
Although the HitBox itself has taken the FGC by storm, as many competitors complain of wrist pain or difficulties with joystick inputs, many in the scene are voicing their displeasure with what the CrossUp entails - so much so, that the largest fighting game tournament in the world is taking notice.
The Evolution Championship Series is famous for being the biggest competitive fighting game event of all time, with official circuits like the Capcom Pro Tour awarding more points for top placements at the already prestigious affair. Given this status, it comes as little surprise that tournament organizers took note of the chaos surrounding the CrossUp controller, and presented the community with an opportunity for feedback concerning the device.
EVO’s official Twitter account published a post on September 24 as a means to “resolve the ambiguity around custom controllers,” linking to a “sneak peek” Google Doc of their official tournament ruleset in regards to modded sticks and gamepads.
In their document, EVO note the current confusion regarding customized controllers, stating that both players and manufacturers alike are unsure of their legality, which can inhibit both player performance and the release of potentially game-changing products. Thus far, EVO’s ruleset on the subject stands against activating “multiple game inputs from a single input mechanism,” including both chorded and sequential inputs, as well as simultaneous opposite cardinal directions (SOCD) like “Left+Right” or “Up+Down.”
As the CrossUp controller does not violate this SOCD rule by providing an SOCD cleaner and does not send multiple inputs at a time, EVO has ruled that it is tournament legal, thus far: but not everyone is pleased with this ruling.
The Community Argument
Some players argue that the CrossUp makes execution too easy across the board, rendering the impressive ability to string together difficult inputs, an awe-inspiring skill of days past; while others claim that the controller’s ability to bridge fighting games’ ease of access is worthy of celebration. Major community figureheads have likewise spoken out about the CrossUp’s legality, with the likes of FGC historian and commentator James Chen arguing that the stick will “revolutionize playing fighting games” and is more “interested in that we can make more meaningful execution.”
Names like tournament organizer and longtime competitor Alex Valle argue otherwise, calling for official circuits to release rules on controllers that introduce major changes to the execution barrier - a skill that he (and much of the community) praises in top players.
On 1 side, there’s a need to level the playing field by simplifying execution. Others want to maintain a level of execution difficulty due to risk/reward of specific moves. This is the real issue. Not talking about gameplay strategy, just execution. Execution is a skill I love.— Alex Valle ➡️⬇️↘️+WNF (@TheAlexValle) October 3, 2019
Although circuits like the Tekken World Tour have yet to speak out on the CrossUp, EVO organizer Joey Cuellar reminded attendees that EVO’s ruleset on modded controllers trumps those of competitive Tours - but with the CrossUp’s release yet to come about, and EVO’s ruling on the matter still pending, fans have an opportunity to speak up on an issue that many feel could bring about a major change to the fabric of the fighting game community.