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Opinion Piece: Blue Shells and YOU

CrimsonCavalier

Fuzzy Pickles
Joined
Mar 27, 2015
Location
United States
Gender
XY
First of all, let me say that Mario Kart is one of my favorite franchises out there. It’s also the only competitive multiplayer game that I can say that I’m very good at. I’m very good at Mario Kart. I suck at fighters, shooters, other racing games, sports games, etc., but Mario Kart is different. Maybe it’s because I love it so much that I get so into it. And maybe that has led me to become good at the game.



Either way, that’s just a side note.



The point is, I love Mario Kart. I’ve enjoyed the games ever since the Super Nintendo, and I’ve played every iteration since. I’ve had some I like more than others, but as a whole, I’ve enjoyed almost every single one. However, I have noticed a disturbing trend in the more recent versions of Mario Kart, specifically, Mario Kart Wii, Mario Kart 7, and especially, Mario Kart 8.



Mario Kart’s AI seems to punish you for being good. In the name of making the game “challenging”, the AI cheats. Now, Mario Kart has always been what we gamers call a “cheap” game, meaning to say the game cheats. Take for example Super Mario Kart, the original. In that game, the CPU controlled characters could use items whenever they wanted, at any point. That made the game extremely cheap and hard.



But lately the biggest culprits are “rubberbanding AI” and … the dreaded blue shell. Now, rubberbanding is more of a single-player issue. Instead of making the AI harder to beat, they make it so that no matter how good you, the player, are, you can never truly get away from the CPU characters. They will always catch up.



However, the biggest issue I have with the latest iterations of Mario Kart is the blue shell, and what it has become. The blue shell used to be the Holy Grail of Mario Kart items. When you got one, it was a game changer. Everyone feared the blue shell. If you were in first, you knew what was coming. The sound … the fear in your heart … the moments before impact…



But all that is gone. The blue shell has become a spammable item. It appears way too often in multiplayer matches. The fact that it hits everyone in its path before hitting the person in first place doesn’t change the fact that it’s overdone and unfair. If the item appeared extremely seldom, I wouldn’t be against it, but it appears way too often.



I don’t think it’s right that the person in last place can and does have a direct impact on who wins the race. The people in 1st and 2nd could be having the race of their lives, going back and forth, neck and neck into the final stretch, when the person in last place launches a blue shell and ruins it. No. This is wrong. The blue shell has too much power to be available so often.



If you’re not good enough to be deciding the winner of a race based on skill, you shouldn’t be able to do so with an item from last place. That’s all I’m trying to say. And I’m sorry if that’s harsh to those who aren’t that good at the game. Get better. For future iterations of Mario Kart, I hope Nintendo tones down the frequency at which the blue shell appears.



The game should be decided with skill. The items are great, and they do add an element of balance, because players who are perhaps a little less skilled can still be competitive. I agree with that. It’s what makes Mario Kart accessible to everyone. However, there has to be a limit, and I think we’ve reached that.
 

A Link In Time

Break the Ice!
ZD Legend
Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the blue shell appear less frequently in Mario Kart 8 than in other Mario Kart games? Having the blue shell move across the ground and hit anyone in its path is also better balance than simply having it fly up and hit the driver in first place. This change has made the blue shell a threat to everyone in a race.

I do agree with you on the AI, however. I actually feel that they got even worse in the most recent patch. The best way to ensure first is to pull as far away from the pack on the first lap. That way, you have some leeway if a blue shell and triple red shells come flying for you. Of course, that depends on the stage. I have no problem maintaining a lead on Wild Woods, but it's much harder on the likes of Baby Park or Cheeseland.
 

CrimsonCavalier

Fuzzy Pickles
Joined
Mar 27, 2015
Location
United States
Gender
XY
Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the blue shell appear less frequently in Mario Kart 8 than in other Mario Kart games? Having the blue shell move across the ground and hit anyone in its path is also better balance than simply having it fly up and hit the driver in first place. This change has made the blue shell a threat to everyone in a race.
The reason I wrote this was because I had gotten hit with two blue shells in the same race. It seems that no matter what, I'm seeing blue shells. And it isn't just something that happens to me. I see it all the time. And I know that it hitting everyone in its path makes it "more fair", but my biggest gripe with the blue shell in general is that a person is deciding the race when they have no hope of winning it. I don't think the person in last place should have a say in who wins. It really doesn't seem like a fair system, when the people up front are actually doing the hard work.
 

Musicfan

the shadow mage
Joined
Mar 6, 2011
Location
insanity
The reason I wrote this was because I had gotten hit with two blue shells in the same race. It seems that no matter what, I'm seeing blue shells. And it isn't just something that happens to me. I see it all the time. And I know that it hitting everyone in its path makes it "more fair", but my biggest gripe with the blue shell in general is that a person is deciding the race when they have no hope of winning it. I don't think the person in last place should have a say in who wins. It really doesn't seem like a fair system, when the people up front are actually doing the hard work.
Neither is 3 red shells a bullet bill a babom and all other item hitting you in frist. If you don't like it turn all Item off.
 

CrimsonCavalier

Fuzzy Pickles
Joined
Mar 27, 2015
Location
United States
Gender
XY
You can't turn them off online. And besides, I don't want to turn them off. Most of the items are fun, and actually, the items are what make Mario Kart different than just a regular racing game (I mean, one of the many things).

It's just an opinion piece on blue shells and being in last place and affecting the outcome of the race. I'm not saying Mario Kart is a bad game or anything.
 

Musicfan

the shadow mage
Joined
Mar 6, 2011
Location
insanity
If it makes you have to write something like this then don't play online.
Also blue shells do give the a chance for a higher rank. Just because you get a blue she'll does not meen you can not win.
 

octorok74

TETTAC
Joined
Sep 20, 2008
Location
Joliet, IL
Uh, I think you mean Battle Shells and I'm cool with them. I much prefer it to stay on the ground though and zip through everybody else until it gets to first. But I don't have a problem with them. My main beef comes from the game rubberbanding the AI to stay close to you. But the battle shell is a nice item to sort of throw a hurdle in the race and see how you respond.
 

Dan

Joined
Sep 19, 2011
Gender
V2 White Male
I still think it's reasonably balanced. Often you have 1st place, 2nd place and then the pack of racers all bombing the hell out of one another, neither individual managing to escape this death pack. So for situations like that the blue shell is giving the winner a spanking too, which is only fair since even the most skilled players can have difficulty escaping the pack and catching up to the top 3 positions.

The chance of players obtaining a blue shell has been reduced since Mario Kart wii which suffered really heavily in the balance department.
Sadly unless you play without weapons Mario Kart will never be balanced greatly as there are too many variables going on.
 

Mercedes

つ ◕_◕ ༽つ
Joined
Nov 12, 2007
In my head, the blue shell is just a red shell I threw really really well. Don't take this away from me. I need this!
 

misskitten

Hello Sweetie!
Joined
Jun 18, 2011
Location
Norway
Um, you do realise you can neutralise a blue shell with the horn if you manage to get it and keep it for the occasion a blue shell is about to hit you.
 

the8thark

ZD Champion
Joined
Oct 13, 2013
Location
Australia
I think it'd be better if everyone had one blue shell from the start of the game and could get no more. But it'd not take up the item slot. So you can get other items too. This would make the blue shell more tactical and less RNG. When do you use the blue shell? Right away or save it for the time someone uses theirs on you or wait till just before the race finish so you can scoot ahead for the win?
 

Cfrock

Keep it strong
Joined
Mar 17, 2012
Location
Liverpool, England
Now, rubberbanding is more of a single-player issue. Instead of making the AI harder to beat, they make it so that no matter how good you, the player, are, you can never truly get away from the CPU characters. They will always catch up.
I do agree with you on the AI, however. I actually feel that they got even worse in the most recent patch.
Rubberband AI was a huge problem in Mario Kart 64, but it's not been an issue since Mario Kart DS. The AI does not just magically catch up to you. I don't want to be 'that guy' who's all git gud, but the only way the AI can catch up to you is if you aren't very far ahead of them in the first place. Items can drag you down, mistakes can drag you down, AI using shortcuts can close the gap, but they do not just magically appear near to you, or speed up suddenly, if you get too far away. If it appears to be happening when you play the game then all I can say is that you just don't have the kind of lead you think you do.

The blue shell has become a spammable item. It appears way too often in multiplayer matches. The fact that it hits everyone in its path before hitting the person in first place doesn’t change the fact that it’s overdone and unfair. If the item appeared extremely seldom, I wouldn’t be against it, but it appears way too often.
A Link In Time sums up my response to this:
Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the blue shell appear less frequently in Mario Kart 8 than in other Mario Kart games?
I won't correct you because you are right. The developers set the blue shell to the same rarity as lightning in Mario Kart 8, making it the joint-rarest item in the game. Every so often there will be more than one in a race, but the blue shell appears significantly less often than it does in previous Mario Kart games. Usually, if two blue shells do get used in one race, you won't see another for several more races. I appreciate that different people will have different experiences with the items in Mario Kart 8 as there is that element of randomness, but 'spammable' is a hyperbole. The blue shell is far from a spammable item.

I don’t think it’s right that the person in last place can and does have a direct impact on who wins the race.
This is also an exaggeration. First, the impact a blue shell has on the race depends entirely on when it is used. Used at the end of the third lap, it can take a victory from one player who earned it and give it to someone else, but blue shells often get used in the first or second lap, leaving a skilled player with more than enough time to recover their position. How far ahead first place is is also important. It's common for a player to get hit by a blue shell and still be in first place afterwards because their lead was simply big enough.

Second, the items you get from boxes are determined by a number of factors: your position, the distance between you and the person ahead of you, and the items other players near you have got. This is why you often see three or four people in consecutive positions all get mushrooms or green shells at the same time, and also why it is possible to get a Bullet Bill in third if second and first are miles ahead. That said, there are some items restricted to certain positions. Lightning, for example, is only acquirable if you are in twelfth, eleventh, or, very rarely, in tenth. You only get the star if you are in about seventh or lower. And the blue shell is obtainable only by players between fourth and eighth place, and, as I said previously, is as rare as lightning.

This repeated assertion that the blue shell allows the player in last place to determine the race is false. The only way to have a blue shell in last is if you get one while in fourth – eighth and fall back to last. It is not given to players at the very back, specifically because it is useless to them. The blue shell is awarded to players in the middle because they will benefit most from it. I'll explain this in my next point, as it is related to the overall design of Mario Kart games.


The game should be decided with skill. The items are great, and they do add an element of balance, because players who are perhaps a little less skilled can still be competitive. I agree with that. It’s what makes Mario Kart accessible to everyone. However, there has to be a limit, and I think we’ve reached that.
Mario Kart is never really about who's the most skilled player. Skill is a big factor in the game, and a skilled player will always do better than an unskilled one, but the games are designed to maximise the amount of time players spend competing directly with one another. What this means is that items were included in Mario Kart specifically to keep all players within reach of one another. One player getting miles ahead of the others is not what the developers intended Mario Kart to be about. It happens often because, as I said, skill is an important factor, but many items exist to dampen the effect of individual player skill. Lightning, the star, Bullet Bills, and the blue shell all serves this purpose.

Th blue shell is a deliberate measure to stop the player in first getting too far ahead of the pack. It isn't awarded to players in second or third because they are leading the pack and can probably close the gap with shells or skill. It isn't awarded to players at the back of the pack, like last place, because it wouldn't help them close the distance. This is why those in the lowest positions get Bullet Bills and lightning instead, because those items will actually help them gain positions. The blue shell is given to players in the middle because lightning would give those players too big an advantage, and mushrooms or regular shells might not give them enough. The blue shell finds a healthy balance. By hitting any player who touches it, it can clear a path and help a middle-ranked player gain a position or two, but its main function, hitting first place, is done to hold the players at the front back a few seconds to allow everyone else to catch up. It, like every other item, is designed to keep all of the racers in as tight a group as possible so that the race will be more competitive and so that unskilled players can still have a chance to do well. That's what Mario Kart is all about.

That's not to say the blue shell is perfect. Far from it. But Mario Kart 8 has made a huge effort to balance it out, and the blue shell is not nearly as devastating as it once was.
First, you do not spin out for as long as you used to when you get hit by one, meaning it slows you down a lot less.
Second, you have more defenses against blue shells in Mario Kart 8. Misskitten mentioned the super horn which was introduced specifically to destroy the blue shell, but you can also use mushrooms to boost away (this requires accurate timing, but, with practice, can become a reliable method of escape) and you will also be protected from it by stars and Bullet Bills (though, admittedly, I don't think it's actually possible to still be a Bullet Bill if you use one to get to first place).
Third, it has been set to the same frequency as lightning. This makes it the joint-rarest item in the whole game. As I said, you do occasionally see two in one race, but this is extremely rare and often compensated by none appearing in the next race.
Fourth, it only flies for a specific distance. If you have a strong enough lead, the shell will vanish before it hits you.
Fifth, you can also be a despicable excuse for a human being and deliberately drop down to second when you see that someone has a blue shell, causing it to go after the player who overtakes you. But only bad people do that. Very bad people with no friends.

The point is that the blue shell, while frustrating as it can be, serves a function within the grand design of Mario Kart, and (imminent controversy) it serves it well. I get that you find it frustrating, but there's no need to exaggerate and make it sound worse than it is to get that point across; we all know what it's like to get hit by one on the finish line on lap three. We've all been there. And it sucks. But the blue shell isn't a 'screw you for being good', and Nintendo have done good work in reducing its power for Mario Kart 8. It's never been less frustrating than it is in this game and, for the first time, I actually don't mind it.
 

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