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Yeah, I got to go to E3 on Thursday, which was the last day, so nothing new was announced (at least as far as I know, I didn't see anything new).  I got a slight bit of swag (Zelda T-shirt, some weird tentacle monster from the new Sonic game, and some tote bags), and got to demo some stuff.  I'll take it from the top and try to go in the order that I saw stuff, but I'm probably going to jump around and forget stuff anyway (*edit* I did forget stuff and had to come back for MvC3, lol). 


1.  3DS 
Unfortunately, no pics.  Sorry guys.  The 3D effect would have been lost anyway, and they were strict as balls about any sort of pictures/filming (though I have a present for you guys in a minute).  It looks pretty awesome, but the majority of the demos didn't really do anything for me.  There was a Resident Evil video that really made the graphics shine (showcasing the power of the thing, even if it wasn't as impressive as I first hoped with all the talk of it being as powerful as a 360), and the Mario Kart video was cool (the added depth perception goes really well with racing games it seems), but playing a demo of a game where you use sliders on the touch screen to control the speed and depth of a submarine and navigate it through a stage, ALL SIDESCROLLING, doesn't make use of what it can do.  The Kid Icarus game?  The video demo showed it playing like a rail shooter (looked a lot like Sin and Punishment), but there were points where it seemed like you would be able to run around the environment at you leisure.  It's a very cool looking game, but it also doesn't really make any use of the 3D. 

So far, it's come across as just a gimmick.  Taking 3D pictures is sort of cool, but playing Nintendogs in 3D is the same as playing it in 2D.  *Shrug* 

I would say give it a year to see what developers do with it, and maybe they'll show off just how powerful it is.  It's hard to judge when the majority of the demos were quick rehashes of games like Kingdom Hearts that are going to pretty much just be ported (though it's cool to see it rendering last generation graphics X2 images for 3D). 

One more thing.  There's a few viewing angles that work, but stray too far off to one side and the 3D degrades into horrible double vision.  It shouldn't be a problem, but you need to know how it works. 



2.  Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword 
Waited in line for like an hour for this.  I don't know wtf is with people complaining about the graphics - they look fine, with one exception: 


Dude looks like a lady.  Fix that eye liner and make his lips and cheek bones less feminine will ya? 

It's strange since the other artwork for him looks like this, which isn't as bad (though he could use a bit more muscle on his chest if he swings that sword around all day - not really visible in this shot). 




Anyway, the gameplay.  I didn't bother to mess around too much with any one thing, so I barely tried that beetle thing out (seems fun to play with and that thing really enhances the potential for cool/difficult puzzles when you think about it), and I also barely used the whip (didn't like it from what I got out of it).  I rolled a bomb just to see how it'd work, but I didn't get any sort of spin on it (I hope it's possible in the final version).  The slingshot is just "point and shoot" at the screen, but the bow-drawing is pretty cool - it's just strange to get used to how you're supposed to hold the remote+nunchuck and it felt counter-intuitive to how I'd naturally try to hold it if I had a bow in my hands. 

As for the swordplay, here's a little clip I managed to snag of someone else when no one was looking (the attendant was too busy helping the guy that was playing and no one else stopped me): 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIF_MO6jHUE 

Here's one from gametrailers because this guy didn't get this far: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGbJelgsJF4&annotation_id=annotation_204043&feature=iv 

So, from my experience, I can tell you that the way you naturally hold the remote affects what you're going to be able to accomplish.  I naturally held the remote pointing upward, making Link hold it over his head in a "high guard" position.  From that stance, Link can easily do a vertical cut, or a diagonal, but you CAN'T do a horizontal, even if you move the remote directly left/right, because he's already holding it over his head.  If you want to cut horizontally, you have to move the sword over to one side and then make the cut.  As you can see from the video of the first guy, he knows what he's doing, but still has problems sometimes getting Link to cut the way he wants. 

And while my girlfriend didn't have this problem when she did the demo, I couldn't get Link to thrust properly (he kept slashing, even when I made very deliberate attempts to get the remote to register a stabbing motion).  That scorpion in the second video needs to be stabbed in the eye after you cut apart his claws, and accidentally slashing and bouncing off of his face actually caused me to die from the lag.  Yeah, I died playing the demo because of some control issues. 

With some tweaks it'll be great as it's a big step up from Twilight Princess, but I don't want any controller issues.  I don't care if it doesn't come out till next summer - get that stuff working more consistently and I'll be really impressed.  Just don't mess up the story or other game play elements some how. 

I have to give it credit for being really accurate as to matching the sword position to the remote position.  A few quick flicks of the wrist and that stupid eyeball door was gone, without accidentally slashing.  Extra points for that. 

  


3.  Kirby's Epic Yarn (-1 for the title, you already have an "Epic Mickey" game, and "epic" started being stupid last year) 
It's a pretty cute game, and no difficulty here as it's Kirby (traditionally easy), though I'm not sure if you can even die in this game (wtf?).  It's cool because it's multiplayer, and the teamwork options leave the game open to some cool challenges if they want to put them in (though I don't know if that's going to happen).  Has the potential to be cool, but it's not going to be anything amazing from what I can see (though it's pretty creative - there's a part where Kirby fuses with his partner and turns into a contraption that Team Rocket would use, fully equipped with a missile launcher in its mouth and Team Rocket's signature Rocket Punch arms). 



4.  Golden Sun 
Plays just like the other 2 games, but now everything is modeled out in 3D.  Didn't see anything new/exciting, but they didn't screw up any of the things the last 2 games had going for them, so that's a win.  I'm still looking forward to it.  I'm wondering who the new main characters are though, and why they look so much like the other characters (the earth adept looks a lot like Issac and the fire adept looks a little like Garret).  Also, since there were only 3 characters shown off, I noticed some wind based healing psynergy that's basically a clone of the "wish" spells.  Huh? 



5.  Sonic Colors 
I saw the Sega booth and wanted to go over to play Sonic 4, but then saw Sonic Colors (DS and Wii) and played those instead (I've already seen Sonic 4 stuff online anyway).  I was surprised - the demo didn't suck. 
I think the DS one and the Wii one are going to be the same with some slight playstyle differences - the DS one utilizes both screens for the action, so you'll literally run from one screen to the other as you play.  I kinda like this and kinda don't...  unless they come up with a good reason for it, I think it'll be stupid.  Otherwise, the game play is the same great fast-paced stuff everyone has been wanting out of Sonic. 
The Wii one?  It actually kicked butt (though there were some changes to make it easier for newbs, like not being able to fall off of rails anymore when grinding - the attendant said the only way to get off of a rail is to jump yourself).  Both include a meter that I'm pretty sure is for dashing (at least I noticed that in the DS version) and might have other uses.  No more stopping your run to charge into a ball and get more speed - you just hit a button and dash like a madman.  Also, there's a button to slide (it's not like the little front flip roll in Sonic Adventure 2 but it accomplishes the same thing without losing too much speed unless you hold it for a while), and if used in the air, you'll do a fastfall attack (like Sonic's Dair!).  Being able to fastfall a jump AND THEN DASH OUT OF IT really helps you to keep going fast, which is what Sonic is all about (I saw a newb repeatedly jumping off of a spring just to get hit by missiles that were being fired, that I easily got past by just fast falling onto the platform after the jump and then dashing).  If you press the jump button in the air, you'll actually do a small double jump instead of homing attacking nothing and getting yourself killed, but if you're close enough to an enemy to get a lock on cursor, you can do a homing attack as normal. 
The cool thing is that while some parts of the game play like Sonic Adventure 2, some parts will have the camera move to where it's side scrolling, and then it's just like the classics we grew up with. 

I only have one gripe with the Wii version - there's some maneuver you can do where Sonic will drill through the ground, and then you aim where he goes with the remote.  The remote+nunchuck controls feel fluid in every instance except for this, but it's not all that bad and you can get used to it very quickly and not have a problem - it's getting Sonic to initiate the move that sucks.  You have to wave the remote around, and sometimes it doesn't respond properly.  You can just do it a few times till he does it right, but in a game where you're trying to be fast, it sucks to have to stop because you ran into a wall instead of drilling through it. 

This demo actually made me have expectations of the Sonic franchise again.  Don't disappoint!  (Also, wtf is with the weird tentacle monsters Sonic is friends with now?) 



6.  Playstation Move 
I didn't get to try Kiect/Natal (not that I really wanted to), but I tried this out to compare it to the Wii.  I think it offended the booth chick when she started trying to explain the controls and I said "I have a Wii at home, so this is pretty intuitive - I think I got it." 
Honestly...  it's a Wii Remote rip off with a squishy, colorful butt plug on the end.  That's it.  If it's more sensitive, I didn't notice, especially with the demos they set up.  Honestly Sony, you could have done better than dancing and FPS to demo this thing (last I checked, you used your hips and legs when dancing, and shooting by pointing at the screen was mastered years ago by games like House of the Dead, which Wii was remastering before you cashed in on this idea).  I'm sure it'll be great, but they didn't make it look like that.  The demo I got to play was for a pretty awesome game called Kung Fu Rider, that absolutely DID NOT NEED MOTION CONTROLS! 

You play a really stupid/funny looking dude (part of his charm) that rides an office chair down the street (with lots of hills) and collects items while jumping over cars, grinding on rails, and roundhouse kicking people in suits that are after him for some reason (probably a stupid one, but it makes it that much funnier).  Like I said, it's pretty cool. 

Except that you move forward by making a familiar obscene motion with the remote (No More Heroes), and you jump by lifting the remote upward quickly - why make you jump by using a motion that could easily be registered as the motion to just keep moving forward (though to give it credit, it responded EVERY time I wanted to jump, so bonus points for working correctly despite being set up to fail)?  Kick by pressing a button, duck by pressing a button... the motion controls were just to steer left/right, jump, and pick up speed by wanking. 

Good job demoing something that's supposed to beat the competition with the same type of gimmicky stuff the competition was berated for producing a year or two ago. 

It works.  It works WELL.  It's also a cheap gimmick that they don't need, because if it wasn't just a gimmick to them, they would have thought of more creative ways to use it. 

Wait a year and see where they take it. 



7.  Castlevania 
Did you play Lament of Innocence?  This is like that, but with nicer visuals and some refinements to the combat system.  It's pretty hack and slash... seems like it plays like God of War, but with 1 whip instead of 2 whip-sword thingies (and I say it seems because I played more Castlevania in 5 minutes yesterday than I've played any God of War game).  It didn't really get expanded on in the demo, but you get exp when you kill stuff that you can use to buy moves, and you'll get traditional Castlevania items to use, like the throwing daggers.  When you land a hit on an enemy, there's a few frames of slowdown that'll give you enough time to dodge out of the way if you're about to be hit by something (you can dodge cancel stuff in this time) - makes 1v1 battles with enemies turn into poke fests if you're fighting something strong since you can just get a hit and get away safely, but it helps when you're ganged up on since you wont get punished for attacking.  As long as they build the combat around that it'll work out well, but they run the risk of making things too easy if you're willing to play patient, and that'll also be a bit boring.  It's very nice visually, but otherwise it feels generic.  I'm not happy, but it's so early in development that there's still potential for that to change (and if Kojima is working on it, we'll hope that the story is good, even if he is a Twilight fan  http://kotaku.com/5395393/hideo-kojima-a-huge-fan-of-twilight-will-judge-your-fan-art). 



8.  Marvel vs Capcom 3
They had a huge section for this with a ton of setups, but the majority of the setups were private for members of the press - you'll probably find all sorts of info all over the web anyway, so I'll keep it brief and talk about the stuff I got out of my 1 match (that didn't last too long because the guy I played against was probably there all day, or possibly for multiple days, practicing, and could already combo for 1/2 hp with no problem).  

Very few playable characters in the demo, and when he picked his characters, I couldn't pick the same ones (probably just to make people show off everyone instead of always picking Dante/Deadpool/ect).  You can airblock (screw you SF4), and you can AIRDASH (woot for Guilty Gear players).  The guy I played against said it's just like TvC (which I've played only once), but there's no Burst Mechanic (I made sure to ask about that).  Considering that you have 3 characters to work with it's not really necessary for something like that since it would stall the games out, but not being able to escape could be a problem if they don't work on balancing the game out or iron out every kink in the damage scaling system (getting comboed for 50% of a character's hp during the demo, by someone that wasn't fully utilizing the wallbounce mechanics or doing any sort of oki work, tells me that there's a possibility of some seriously strong attack strings).  In order to combat the "slippery slope" aspect of 3v3 combat (losing a character puts you at a big disadvantage when you think about it), your last character gets a slight damage boost, but you've probably already heard about all of that.  I'm pretty happy that you can instant airdash (like in Guilty Gear), but I actually couldn't do it on their sensitive fight sticks (seems like every time I tried to block I would jump instead, and any time I tried to airdash off-the-ground I would just super jump).  The guy I played against had no trouble with it though, so chalk it up to me not playing stick.  Overall, I think it has potential, but I'm still not very interested.  Since it's a teamwork based game there's little diversity in character playstyle - it seems to all comes down to how you can use your assists and that new launcher button to keep combos going for high damage once you get your poke, and then all the moves you use to space with seem the same... and everyone seems to rushdown the same way with blockstring pressure.  But, because it's a demo, I'm still going to look into this game - I did only play it once, and there were only a few characters present.  Let's hope all the time spent on this game was spent balancing it and thinking of different ways to build the characters.  I just don't feel excited rushing someone down exactly the same way over and over again when I can rush you down with like 20 different pressure options in Guilty Gear.

It plays fast, it's going to have a bunch of characters, and it's taking a few steps in the right direction, but while it's fun to play, I don't know if it's going to be worth spending the time to get good at, or how long it's going to feel fun.  Maybe you guys should make the timer last a little bit longer, seeing as how most fighting games only have 1 hp meter per 99 seconds and get 2-3 matches?  It sucks having time run out because you have to deplete 3 health bars in 99 seconds, and then not even get a second round...  and some more time WOULD make a burst mechanic fit the game a little bit better (if you only get 1 per match or have to spend several meters), which would also serve to help balance things (further reduce the effects of slippery slope if 70%+ combos exist since you wont automatically lose a character if you get hit first).



And now for some stuff I looked into slightly but didn't really care for:  

1.  Square Enix 
I was hoping for info on FFXIII Versus, but nothing was announced as far as I know.  I don't care about FFXIV, and while there were some other cool looking games in development, I didn't care enough to spend time looking into them.  I have a booklet from them with info on Deus Ex (seems like it might have a cool story now that I think about it, but I don't know anything about what kind of game it is),  Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep (I don't have a PSP), Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded (that's a remake right?  *Shrug*), The 3rd Birthday (saw a trailer that didn't explain anything), Front Mission Evolved (honestly looks kinda cool), and more stuff that I'm not really interested in looking up just to write about.  Honestly, I came to this booth after walking past 10+ booths from companies all making generic cookie cutter MMORPGS, so I didn't have any patience left for that sort of thing.  Square is cool, but nothing "wow-ed" me. 

2.  RockBand/Guitar Hero 
DIE ALREADY!  No one cares. 
Actually, there's 1 thing that some people might be interested in - some company is making a Guitar Hero rip off with controllers that actually have strings on them and seem to play like real guitars. 
Or you could just buy a real guitar and get chicks.  Whatever. 

3.  Microsoft 
They probably have a bunch of cool shooters coming out, but I don't play many shooters so I didn't look into it.  The Microsoft section was basically The Sims 3 + every sports game that EA is working on, with booths for FPSs that happen to be coming out on 360 all around it but not actually inside their enclosed area.  DERP 
When these guys publish something besides a sports game or a shooter, I get interested, but I didn't see ANYTHING at E3, and I didn't have time to check out Kinect because they started checking people's IDs for once, and I had to leave (got my girlfriend in using my boss's pass - we almost got boned once). 

4.  I just wanted to mention that the section that was for FIFA 11 had the games turned off and was instead showing a World Cup match.  : ) 


That's it I guess.  As cool as E3 was, the best parts of my day came from unrelated stuff, like seeing my teacher at E3 (he mentioned that the new character rigging teacher just got off of working on Avatar), and the Video Games Live concert I went to after (highly recommend it for anyone that hasn't gone!  Check out PBS on July 31 for a public broadcast of the show!). 


That's it guys.   If you want anything, ask questions and I'll do my best to answer with what I found out about things.
Tags: TheRealBobMan, E3

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

*ahem*

I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaaack, and better than ever. With school over for the year, I’ll be writing again for AiB about once a week all summer. So buy your C2C mugs and t-shirts!

Today what I have for you guys isn’t really a Coast to Coast; that will be starting up soon. Instead, I wanted to treat you all to all of the information I could dig up about this year’s E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo), along with some bold predictions, hopeful wishing and, of course, a completely objective analysis of some of the biggest companies’ showings without a trace of bias whatsoever. Because that’s how I roll.

So what do you say we get this started? Here’s how it’s going to work: I’m splitting the article up into sections for the big three (Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo), along with a fourth section for any notable third parties I may have missed. Ready?



Continue reading Special Coast to Coast: E3 Preview

After some serious thought, I have come to the conclusion that when talking about "momentum" as it relates to competition, whether it be in videogames, combat, or sports, one must see it as a function of rhythm, involving mental status, and emotion.  These things should not be confused for one another.

"Rhythm is manifested in the world in such things as dance and music, pipes and strings.  These are all harmonious rhythms.

In the field of martial arts, there are rhythms and harmonies in archery, gunnery, and even horsemanship.  In all arts and sciences, rhythm is not to be ignored.

There is even rhythm in being empty." 

-Miyamoto Musashi (If you didn't know, he's the guy that never lost a duel in 16 years, beating more than 60 people - that story of a guy who stopped using a sword and started battling with a ship's oar, which was referenced in Soul Calibur 2, was about this dude)



Rhythm can be derived from spacing (relative to opponent), positioning (relative to terrain), weapons (tools, or in the case of videogames, your moves/ablilities), etc.  The tempo is then derived from the rhythm - the two locked in combat weigh their abilities with their given tools, and make moves based on their perception of what the other will do, as well as what their capabilities are and position (if you don't know what spacing is, look it up).  Tempo follows as it involves the speed that the things occur, but it does not determine the rhythm - tempo can be altered to match a change in the rhythm, with the goal being to either know the opponent's rhythm and beat it with another rhythm, or to manipulate it.  One should not get caught up in the tempo, mistaking it for the rhythm of combat, or thinking that fast or slow is "right."  "In martial arts, speed is not the true Way.  As far as speed is concerned, the question of fast or slow in anything derives from failure to harmonize with the rhythm."  -Musashi

That alone deserves some thought and reflection.

Listen to the following performances of the same piece of music.  This player's tempo is way too fast (maybe he's doing it for some sort of conditioning for his hand speed?), and you don't get any sense of music - it just sounds like noise: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17eY339td4M&feature=related

Now, listen to this player: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Azo68LgdqTQ
The agitation that the music was written to convey is easily heard and felt - it is lost in the other performance, just by altering the tempo and not following the proper rhythm.

Then too, one can miss the proper rhythms by being obsessed with the tempo.  It's quite common for players of higher performance and standing to be asked "before and after" questions by up and coming players - "I've been practicing like crazy; how did I do compared to when I played you 3 months ago at such and such tournament?"
"Well... you're playing faster."

The speed can be utilized, but only if harmonious with the rhythm, and only if used where appropriate.  In a Chipp vs Potemkin match in Guilty Gear, there is no reason for Potemkin to play Chipp's game of speed, just as there's no reason for Chipp to slow down - they each want that of the other player, since a Potemkin trying to play fast will miss his opportunities, and a Chipp playing slow has no advantage.

The perception of what the other person will do already ties in with mental status, but when considering momentum, one's own mental status is more important.  This is where emotion ties in - it is as much "sickness" as thought is.  If you have to think about what you will do next, and how to do it, you're too late in your actions.  If you're thinking too much about what the opponent will do, your mind is in the wrong place and can be manipulated.  In the same way, emotion is an "infection".  One can become "entranced" by certain moods, and thus manipulated.


Momentum seems to be the culmination of rhythm with pre-conceived notions of "winning" or "losing", including tempo (as momentum has to do with physical movement, and where there's movement, there's speed, or tempo), and the emotion of the moment.


Thinking back to what it means to win and lose, granting a combat advantage (in the form of having more damage) could be considered "losing", but if you have not yet "lost", there is no "losing", just "not winning."  In videogames like Smash, this is exemplified because of the differences in the "slippery slope" effect - you have no hard disadvantage in this case, though you are pressured by the timer, which in effect means that if both people play a perfect game and neither can be hit by the other, the one that landed the first blow wins.  A more tangible example would be in a game like Starcraft where one player went for a Zergling rush against someone that went for early turtle in anticipation - the Zerg player is now lacking resources because he/she lost the troops that were sent (that took resources to build), while the base defense remains.


Getting back to momentum, one can see that exists because of "sickness" of the mind - by allowing yourself to think that you are losing or that you have a disadvantage, you give the opposition an advantage.  When you really think about it, in real combat, if you were hit in the first place, you have a very high likelyhood of losing (either being killed in the first strike, or soon after by either the wound itself, or not being able to defend against subsequent wounds because of the first one - again, the "slippery slope" effect).  In competition like Smash, the first hit does not determine the winner.


So then, one's own perception of the flow of combat directly influences "momentum", without necessarially changing rhythm.  Once you apply mood - that is, the energy that flows through the crowd watching an intense match, you can see more opportunities for one to become "infected" - led astray by the "momentum" of the match.

What I'm getting at, then, is that one's own perception influences momentum, and if one chooses so, there will be no momentum.  One flows with rhythm and should not ignore it, but also controls his or her own rhythm.  What one's rhythm should be comes from much practice and experience, and is constantly changing, but momentum only exists when one perceives it.  One can be infected by the mood of the spectators, and let momentum shift in his/her own favor or in the favor of the opponent, but only if he/she allows it.

Then, if one percieves a sense of a "shift of momentum in his or her favor", or in actuality, an opportunity to act on the rhythm of the opponent falling out of place or coming apart, one must do so.  When and where one should press his/her advantage is also changing - one should not see a "shift in momentum" and carelessly act upon it - one can have a sense of advantage that is skewed by the mood.


Therefore, one must not mistake momentum for rhythm or rhythm for momentum.  If the rhythm allows for something, it can be made so - once one applies emotion, it becomes harder to distinguish the exact rhythm and things fall out of order.  One's rhythm can be predicted or controlled.

One will go from having victory in his grasp to being defeated in an instant.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYnz-CsHmdk

Practicing Reaction and Focus

Honestly, you just have to practice the game you want to get good at, but different types of practice work for different things.  When Brawl first came out, I saw people left and right saying that playing with the comps makes you worse...  it CAN cause you to develop stupid habits, especially if you're new to competitive play, but that doesn't mean they're worthless.

First off, you have to consider that if you don't know every single move that every character can do in the game, YOU NEED TO PRACTICE.  It's stupid to enter a tournament and not know that Meta Knight has Shuttle Loop.

Assuming that (because that's extremely basic), it helps to know the full animation of each move of each character - that's part of learning each matchup.  Further practice will lead you to begin to see the full animation behind each move, which then means your actions (from spacing to offense/defense) can become more refined.  Even further practice, especially if you develop your focus, can lead to reactively punishing many more of your opponents options than you initially could.  If you react to the startup of a move, you're reacting faster than if you react to the end of the move.  Your brain might register what you see in 8-15 frames, but if you don't recognize an attack until it's 7th frame starts up, you're 15-22 frames behind.  If you react closer to the startup, you can time things much better.

When playing Melee, I decided one day when just beating up on some comps (I used to have time to play at least 30min a day just to keep up on my tech skill if nothing else - no sense in missing an L-cancel and not getting that next hit beacuse of it), I realized that I could throw out Marth's counter on reaction to comp Falco's stupid attempts to Fsmash - not just predicting their AI, but literally waiting for the Fsmash to come out, seeing the startup, and throwing out counter (it's really not hard to do).  I also noticed the timing gave me that sexy powershield flash (probably due to the startup time of Marth's counter)- at that point, I decided to learn to powershield Falco's laser, and other projectiles.

By the end of that day, I had a controller in each hand and was basically playing Pong with myself using Falco's laser.
By the end of the week, I could powershield Falco's laser once in a while.
By the end of the month, I could powershield it much more consistently, and could do it to other projectiles too.  At this point, I began to apply it in matches vs. my friends to see how it'd hold up.


Sure, it looks stupid to just run from the comp, have it take 2 steps and fire a laser>repeat, but when you spend the time conditioning yourself to listen for the "click" of his gun, and you get used to the speed of the laser itself, you can really learn how to time your shield.  Same even for Fox's laser, though I never tried to reflect more than the first shot.  Many high level players will just walk toward their opponents, powershield/spotdodge(grabs) on reaction, and get a hit/grab in.  Good luck with that if you're not used to what the moves are yet.


Even M2K practiced with comps in preparation for MLG Orlando: http://allisbrawl.com/blogpost.aspx?id=65990&page=2

Overall, players need to stop their whining that they can't practice with comps because they're stupid.  That attitude is much like the attitude newby artists have when they take their first drawing class and have to do blind contour drawings.  "WTF IS THE POINT OF DRAWING IF I CAN'T LOOK AT MY PAPER?!"

Get over it.  How can you draw anything if you can't draw a line as you see it?  Blind contour drawings are good for that - they force you to turn off the part of your brain with all of the heirarchical associations you've built up all your life telling you how things "should" look and make you draw what you see.  They come out like crap when your hand-eye coordination with a pencil is still developing, but with some practice you really learn how to develop some serious line quality (not that this is the only way to learn this).


Playing with comps can be like that.  They act stupid.  They drop combos.  They react perfectly toward mixups and perfect shield everything (though they tend to block the first hit of multi-hit attacks and then get hit by the rest).
But they throw attacks at you, which means you can practice your reaction.  You can practice blocking effectively (not on prediction since they don't mind-game; on reaction).  You can practice reading moves.  You can (to some extent) practice pressure... just not in Smash since the training mode options suck.

Reading > Predicting 100% of the time.


And there's one good thing about comps in this respect.

They don't get tired.

If you really have the drive, you can push the limits of your reactions by practicing against a comp on the highest difficulty settings.  You can see just how long you can focus before you start to feel mentally fatiuged or screw up... and then you can keep going.

As far as practicing methods, when you're in a tournament, you can always focus on the match you're watching - it's easy to see things that the players might miss as they're under the mental stress of a match.  You just might see a moment in a game like SF4 where you saw the startup of one guy's attack, and the other guy reacted late with a bad move and got punished where you would have reacted quickly enough to throw out an uppercut and get the hit.  Sometimes you want to watch a match to learn tricks you might not know, sometimes to analyze a player's mind-games, but sometimes you just want to work on your focus.  It's different when you're playing (since you're paying attention to more things at once), but it's a different perspective on gameplay.  Focus as if you were playing the matchup you're watching.

Other methods of practice I've used were playing in Slo-Mo and Lightning Melee.  I didn't like Slo-Mo much, but it helps you to see what follow ups are possible based on bad DI if nothing else (you can literally see when the comps end their hit stun - and it's great because you know that comps are stupid, yet have perfect reactions, so you know that with certain DI, this WILL work - if your opponent ever DIs stupidly, you don't want to miss your follow up just because you assumed he wouldn't have bad DI, or wouldn't be holding the control stick in the wrong direction when hit because he/she was trying to hit you).  I actually played nothing but Lightning Melee for a week once... it took me a day to get used to the timing in normal speed after that, but my hit-confirming was faster and my overall gameplay steered toward the Guilty Gear standard of RTSD (rush that **** down).  When you want to pressure, it's good that you can move at full speed without mistakes.

Once, I was practicing Soul Calibur 2 for a small local Blockbuster tournament.  I wasn't as concerned with playing smart as I am now, so I focused on getting near-perfect reactions.  I cranked the computer difficulty up to the highest (Extremely Hard?) and just played in training mode - matches never ended, so I had to constantly focus.  Maybe every 20-30 minutes or so, I'd switch the matchup to another character and work on that.  Getting that much practice basically made it so that I learned the startup of the majority of that character's moves, and also made it so that I strained my ability to focus.  After doing that for maybe 2 hours a day for a week (lol highschool... so much time to do what you want), I could go into Arcade mode at the same difficulty and basically just guard impact against the comp (having it perfectly do it back to me) for the duration of a match and have it time out before either of us landed a hit.   I had to see my optometrist on one of my practice days... she flipped at how dry my eyes were because I wasn't blinking for so long at a time -- no joke.

There are definitely more efficient ways to spend your time (learning more important concepts), but having that degree of focus under my belt and the ability to read the majority of moves in the game ment that when I went to the tournament, I was able to get perfects against many players in friendlies (I lost by the way - I went with Charade for lulz-mindgames, but got stuck with horrible matchups).  Such skills might not be the little bit extra you need to beat the guy at the top, but they help to ensure that you don't lose earlier to newbies.  Conversly, if your opponents aren't as consistent near the top due to a lack of practice, this might be what you need to climb to the top, while some lower players focus on "skill" in fighting games as getting inputs perfect and would stand toe-to-toe with you in this respect.  It's a shame to lose at the top because you didn't practice hard enough, but it's just sad to lose to a player with no understanding of the game because he/she doesn't make input mistakes, even if he/she gives you the stupidest openings at every opportunity.  Too bad you're still whiffing your L-cancels or screwing up your autocancels and giving just as many openings to this type of player.


Otherwise, comps can always just be sandbags for you.  What's the point in not perfectly knowing the range of your attacks?  You don't want to throw out a move on reaction that should beat the other move, only to have it out-spaced by your opponent, whiff, and leave you open.  Know every pixel of range on your grab, on your Ftilt, on your opponent's up-B, and on everything in the game.


Otherwise, I'd recommend playing games like StarCraft.  What you learn about how to play that game wont really transfer to fighting games (unless you're learning core concepts like the ones in "The Art of War," "The Six Secret Teachings," etc.), but the focus you'll develop is a definite plus (learning to micromanage your units and gaining some finger dexterity on the way).  Stretch your concentration thin, and keep it that way for as long as possible.  Got a headache?  Good.  Give yourself some mental pushups any time you screw up - you need them.


TL;DR:  Practice mentally as you would practice physically - push yourself.  Focus hard, and do it for as long as possible.  When you can't do it anymore, do it more.  How you do it is up to you, but there's more than one way to learn a specific technique.  If all you want to learn is the startup animation of moves, who says you can't get that from comps if you don't have people to play with?

How well do you focus?  Want to see what your reaction time is?

http://www.humanbenchmark.com/tests/reactiontime/index.php

Go ahead and give it a shot.  Do it twice, and only twice.  Do it the first time (I think you have to do it 10 times) to see what it's like, then a second to get your score.  I'm sure the 2nd was better than the first.

This is just a number by the way.  Don't hold onto it to tightly...

Reaction time is something that can be improved, though there are limitations.  If you react slowly, you can eventually improve on that through exercise and dieting (making sure your body is doing it right), and working on your ability to focus and react accordingly through repetition.

Let's say you went and took that test 10 times.  I'm sure you'd score better than before.  100 times?  Sure, your average score should be higher than what you scored when you took it the 2nd time.  It's not so much that your reaction time has improved, but that you've conditioned yourself to respond to the stimulus.

So while your actual reaction time can improve (it's more the biochemical reactions in your nervous system responding better due to being in good health and being worked like a muscle), you can also condition your reaction to the stimulus, and install a sense of hierarchical association in what to do when stimulated in such ways.

Basically, if you put in the effort to learn the stimuli you know are coming, your overall reaction time will improve because you'll react to the startup of the stimulus rather than a later portion.  If you're prepared ahead of time knowing what to do in each scenario, you'll have the advantage.

However, having this level of extreme focus is physically and mentally demanding.  Your ability to focus on such events is somewhat limited in the same way that a sprinter can't keep up the pace for extended periods of time.  You're going to want to practice a number of things to get the most out of all of this.

Just a heads up, this was inspired by an article I found on Dustloop that was actually posted on shoryuken.com.  I'd post it, but I can't find the link anymore.

Focus Bursts
This concept came from the article I read.  You know that it's demanding to focus for extended periods of time, so you don't want to focus for the entire match for every match of a tournament if you don't need to - you'll get burned out before the finals.  Therefore, the article proposed using your focus at key parts of matches.  It shouldn't be a foreign concept to just "not focus" or hold back during matches with randoms, or players you don't have to go full throttle against - there are plenty of other techniques to beat people, and if they work, save your energy.  Make them waste theirs or get angry.  Spam taunts, mind-****, etc.

So, when do you focus?  A really basic example would be playing a scrub in SF4 who picks Ken, and only ever goes for sweeps, uppercuts, or grabs (that's basically what I do when I can't play Sakura since I don't know the game, though it's not like I know how to play her anyway besides throwing out EX Tatsu for stun/damage when I get a poke in, and then comboing out of that with that jumping move). You know it's going to be one of those 3 against this type of player, so you focus for what comes out. Honestly, you can just block on wakeup out of whichever option you get hit with first - if they go for the sweep, you're blocking low, and then you respace. If they go for the grab and you're focusing, you grab break (not focus attacking - I know some idiot is going to skip to this sentence and say "DERP YOU CAN'T GRAB BREAK IF YOU WERE ATTACKING".  I mean focusing on the startup of the grab, reacting to the animation of the arm comming out to grab you, and breaking in time). If they go for the uppercut, you punish on landing since you blocked.

And one Guilty Gear example that I can use from personal experience is one time I played a comp with May. The comp had low hp, and I landed a 5HS on block, which has 5 frame advantage. I dash in and input 63214 ready to hit the K for my command grab, which is a setup for my "bread and butter combo" and end the match, but I HELD THE HS BUTTON. I saw the comp start to attack (would have beaten my grab since I was dashing in), so I released HS instead of hitting K, which caused me to negative edge my overdrive (63214H), which has invincible startup and beat the incoming attack.  [Negative edging is just using the 1 to 0 input the game registers when you release a button to use attacks - in Guilty Gear, you can use specials and overdrives via negative edge, and possibly other things too (just not normals).  Basically, I had the input ready and was in a situation where I could throw out one of two attacks - had the comp blocked, my grab would have made me end the match.  The comp attacked, so I used my super, which has some invincibility on it (making it effective for beating out attacks, especially if you already see them starting because you know it's going to hit and not waste your meter).]

Another example would be tech chasing in Melee with Fox's down throw.  You always could just make a prediction, but you have to account for teching away, toward, or neutral, or missing a tech and wake up attacking, standing up, rolling left, or rolling right, and on top of that, where they DI-ed out of the d-throw before the tech/missed tech.  If you wait a second to see what your opponent does (and where he/she lands), you might not get another grab depending on what happens, but you'll be better prepared to get at least some reward out of it, provided you're really focusing.  Going for the prediction COULD get you another grab or a hit if it's successful (lots of options to account for, so statistically speaking, maybe it's not a good idea), but reacting to what your opponent does means you're going to be in his/her face, and you're better prepared to punish mistakes that you might miss if you predicted wrong.  In the end, you're more consistent.

Another example is wavedashing out of your shine when you tower someone with Falco in Melee.  You could jump straight out of the shine to go for the next hit, but depending on DI you might not be able to get in close enough - getting that extra wavedash in there (even if you do it in place) means you can dash just before you jump and increase the horizontal range.  In the end you're cutting the lag from reflector, but also leaving some time to watch DI and chase it.  You can just do the wavedash and then chase the DI for the next hit (hopefully to repeat the process with Dair), or if you focus early enough, you could catch the DI as you wavedash and have even greater range where you could get to the enemy in time for the next hit (and get more loops in for more damage).
This next example is complicated up the butt, to where other Guilty Gear players said it was convoluted and hard to follow.  Skip to the next bold section (the tl;dr section) if you don't want to put up with it or even try to understand it all.

Let's say I'm Millia and my opponent is a Baiken - she just ended a combo with her j.D which has blowback/knockdown, so now I'm on-the-ground in a corner, and Baiken is midscreen. Let's say that instead of instant-airdashing over and FRCing a tatami mat in my face (it's a rather safe pressure option for 25% tension), she just rushes me down. It is at this moment that I know to focus.

It is highly likely that Baiken would throw out a 6(forward)K. It has grab invulnerability on startup, protecting her from being out-prioritized by the instant startup on grabs if I were to go for one, which is a good option for me since I have no invincible uppercut. If she starts it late on purpose it could punish a backdash, and if she throws it meaty and forces me to block, I'm at a frame disadvantage of 2.

I could go for an "option select" of kick + directional heavyslash (which would be a grab, I would go with "away" for the direction). Basically, Guilty Gear will throw out the lowest of the buttons pressed in the order of punch, kick, slash, heavyslash, so in the event that my grab didn't come out, I would throw a kick instead of a heavyslash. It starts on frame 5, meaning it'd beat Baiken's 6K. If Baiken rushed in with a different move, I'd win by grabbing before it came out, and if Baiken went for the safer oki option of 6K, I still have her beat.

So I need to be focusing on what happens, because my reaction is different. If I land the 5K that comes out, I combo differently than if I land the grab, and the kick is going to happen WAY faster than the grab animation, so I need to focus on the startup of the kick. If I see that startup, I know to throw out the next move in the combo, but if it doesn't, I know something either went wrong, or I got my grab in (and if it's the grab, I have time to slow down and react normally).

Now, Baiken would want to focus in the event that she knew this was coming. She could easily dash break (use faultless defense to cancel the dash animation into a guard without lag) in my face, knowing full well that both of our characters are tied for the 2nd worst grab range in the game, so if she's out of range to grab, so am I. Her guard would be up for that kick, and unfortunately for me, Baiken can throw out attacks during guard stun (she's somewhat of a counter based character) to try to punish me.

If I know this is coming, I need to keep focusing, because if I carelessly go for a blockstring, I could get punished. I could easily just go with the input that I'd use to combo if the kick went through and just fix myself if I saw the grab start up because it wouldn't mess me up, but then I'd risk getting punished by these counters. In the event that I throw out the kick and JUST the kick, I could probably react properly if I saw Baiken's counters start up and not get punished.

All of this can happen in the span of 30 frames, and it's tiring to think about as it is - imagine doing this for the whole match, every match, all day at a tournament.

TL;DR:  Learn when you need to focus, so that you wont have to tire yourself out by focusing on every moment of every match.  In this way, you wont be fatigued when an important or difficult match comes up.  Situations in which you would want to focus would be ones where your options are restricted, or you restrict your opponents options, since they pose immediate rewards or punishments (i.e. wakeup or during a mixup).  In this way, you can capitalize on crucial moments and keep the momentum of the match, rather than giving your opponents options and having to fire every brain cell for every moment of the match to keep up.  If you can keep control via oki and only have to think when it comes to getting that hit (or not getting hit on wakeup), do it then - end everything in knockdown and keep your advantage without having to worry about all the other stuff that comes up.

I can't give you much more information on this concept as I can't find the article anymore, and I can't be expected to tell you when you need to focus and when you don't - you have to learn that on your own.  However, anyone who has ever found themselves getting mentally fatigued fron playing too much should look into this when it comes to tournaments, and understand why higher level players usually let lower practice matches roll off of their backs.  It's a warmup - you're practicing your inputs and such, and not caring so much about the other details.  If the other aspects of your game are high enough, they can cover you against lesser players, so you can play "by the book" and do fine.  Save your brain cells for well rounded players of high skill levels.  If my combos are consistent and pose higher rewards than the ones you do, I might not have to focus so much on your spacing if it's poor, or if I can catch you with certain mixups, which do require focus, but for an overall shorter duration.

And if they're fearful of your skill level to begin with, or you've successfully mind-fed them, odds are they'll make poor decisions that you can take advantage of.

 

 

Article image © MLG Media.

If you're dead IRL, you can't take action, make decisions, or do anything.  Being able to make decisions and act is one of the biggest parts of being alive.  In any conflict, it's usually better to have your life and make an effort to change things you don't like than to die trying to change them.  You can argue that your death might be able to have greater influence toward change, but that's debatable and circumstantial.  In the end, being alive to keep making attempts at something is probably better than to die trying the same methods over and over again.

In competition, if there's something that gets you out of the game, it should be a top priority to avoid that.  Not playing means you're not competing, and not competing means you're not winning.

Striking out in baseball is bad, but it's equally bad to hit the ball in a way that's easy for the other team to catch or to tag you out with, even if it's a reliable way to hit.  The game progresses as 3 players are "out" on a team, and you only score when batting.  You lose if you're not getting points and the game progresses to the end, but if you can keep the other team from getting points, not all is lost.  Essentially, you can't win if you don't get points, but you can't lose if you never have players get "out".  BUT, with the way the game is designed, if you're not getting outs, you're getting points (players take bases, advance every turn, and at the slowest you get a point every turn after the 4th turn if no one on your team is out).  If there's a way to consistently not get "out", it would be a good thing.  Since you can actually score a home run - getting a point and preventing an "out", that seems to be the most desirable course of action, if you could consistently do it.  However, not all competition is like this.

In a traditional fighting game, you don't lose until you run out of HP.  Therefore, if you're hitting me, you're not necessarially winning if I'm hitting you back.  If I'm not hitting you, it doesn't matter as long as you're not hitting me - neither of us is winning, but at the least, I'm not losing, which means I have more chances to win (Smash is a little different since you could be an idiot and jump off the stage, costing yourself a stock, which means you're losing, so you have to account for that as well).  Yes, this promotes waiting/stalling/slowness at the very core, because there is no motivation that goes beyond the motivation to not lose - if you attack because you want to win, you're losing because you risk getting hit if all I do is make sure I don't get hit and get hits when I'm 100% guaranteed to hit you when you can't hit me back.  Most games have something that helps to keep this in check (i.e. time limits) so that the games don't degenerate into staring contests, since the motivation is to win, and you can always win later if you don't lose.  A time limit helps here because you must now make some attempt to land a hit, or it's a stalemate, and no one wins.

So in the end, when you think about it, landing attacks safely is the highest priority, because you have to do something to make your opponent lose, while making sure your opponent can't do anything to make you lose.  This is where spacing comes in (when there are attacks that have different sizes/priorities, and the stage has somewhat open movement).  This leads to actual "mind-games" (not the "lolol you can dash back and forth and its a mind game cause they go wtf") in situations where an option that isn't the safest could beat the safest option of your opponent, yet your opponent has an option to counter that one.  This leads to pressure and okizemi (keeping the advantage when one is gained, a.k.a. you actually land an attack).  This leads to everything.


In the end, if you don't think about the rules of the game you're playing, you can't consider yourself to be playing with any intent to win.  Games exist for entertainment, so that's not a bad thing.  If you're happy with losing, it doesn't matter, does it?

But those of you that want to win...  give it a second thought.  Understand what it means to win and lose.



TL;DR:  Think about what you want.  If what you want involves winning at something, make sure you understand what that means.  If your goal isn't to always win (i.e., you don't care about consistently being #1), it's not so important... but if winning at any time has any meaning, it's not going to make you lose to understand the difference between winning and losing.

 

Original image courtesy of YQ.

Learning how to learn is a cruicial ability in life, and it's something you can practice with games.  I touched on this earlier in my "What is your Approach" article, but I feel it needs a more in-depth analysis.


You want to break down each aspect of gameplay: the rock/paper/scissors game that is made avalible when both players take action at once (ie Fox grabs while Falcon jabs, or Marth uses his upB while Peach throws out Toad), spacing/zoning (being in just the right place relative to your opponent to minimize his successful options and maximize yours, yet also being able to swiftly switch back and forth should you wish to bait attacks), valuation (being able to evaluate your options and your opponents on the fly to know what each of you can do and what your best through worst options are) and psychology (knowing what your opponent would do based on the situation at hand, or what they think you would do based on what you think he/she would do), reading moves (reaction time and experience with the game) and focus, and technical skill (getting your inputs as close to perfect as possible, not dropping combos or making mistakes, and having more viable options); then find which skills you're lacking in and practice them until they're up to a certain par.

Technical skill is game specific, so while it might be easier to train your hands to be fast if they're already fast from playing another game, this is something that doesn't transfer between games as well.

Reading moves is game specific, whereas your ability to react and focus transfers well.  As you gain familiarity with the moves of the characters in the new game, you'll be more attuned to dealing with them.

Valuation and Psychology build on top of all of your other skills, but they transfer the most.  A basic understanding of each of the other aspects of gameplay will let you rock experienced, though not incredibly skilled opponents even if you've just picked up the game.  I picked up Tekken for the first time a few weeks ago against a guy that's pretty skilled at it and has been playing it for years...  10 minutes of learning what one characters moves are later, and I actually win a few rounds here and there.

Spacing and Zoning are game specific as they are matchup specific, and in Smash, stage specific as well.  This will come with more experience, but will make a large difference with only a few hours of time invested in a game if you're making the effort to learn it.  True understanding and mastery will take time, but simply spending a few 1/2 hour sessions of playing different characters against different characters can make a difference if you learn...

The rock/paper/scissors element.  Uppercuts are invincible on startup and beat other attacks.  Blocking beats uppercuts as they're laggy and get punished when they don't hit.  Grabs beat blocking since they hit you anyway.  Fast attacks tend to beat grabs before they come out, or in Guilty Gear where grabs are instant, jumping beats grabs.  Knowing which character has what properties on what moves is huge for learning matchups, and it's important for valuation/psychology - opening with one move might let him combo for 80% of my hp, but it's super risky, whereas a much safer move will only offer 25% with the best follow ups.  If I only have 10% hp left, the safer move is probably the better choice, but that's to be expected, so he might throw out the unsafe move just to mess me up.

So one day I was walking home when I was transported to the mystical town of Vagarnia.  Everyone looked like Donkey Kong and smelled like Wario... it was really weird.  Anyway, I tripped on a tomato and broke my pinkie finger, so I went to the hospital.  They gave me a soda.  I don't think anyone is even reading this.  You guys suck.

Once you have a solid understanding of the basics of the rock/paper/scissors element, you can work on learning to read and react to certain moves, because it offers countering opportunities to attacks your opponents make - knowing the rock/paper/scissors first is great because you can immediately begin to interrupt other moves with your moves and land hits when you both attack, whereas reading/reacting counts on you to bait and punish... and it can be harder to bait/punish someone experienced.  You can also work on your spacing and fingering skills, so that your girlfriend will like you and you'll be able to work on your matchups.

Then your valuation skills should increase, and increase further as your techincal skill improves (you'll have a better understanding of the follow ups to each move, to know what your opponent will get from each option he/she chooses in the best case scenario for him/her).  This is where you get into the psychology of it all and try to predict your opponent where you can't read him/her.  You want to know when that shuttle loop is coming, when that fart is coming, when that block is coming, and when your butt starts hurting because you fapped to furry M-preg too much.

And thats no good.

So you want to eat a lot of soy beans because they give you gas... that's how you win with Wario.  Then a couple of clowns that were up to no good, started making trouble in my neighborhood.  We got in one little fight and my mom got scared and said, "You can't use Marth because he has a broken forward air". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PHENQiJFzI

I think it's important to mention that in the end, not getting hit is better than always going for the highest damage output, because you can't die if you don't get hit.  Find the safest way to do the most damage, and make sure you get the best follow up for each poke you land (or in Brawl, just play Metaknight because he has broken priority and disjointed range, and the best recovery with 2 glides and 5 airjumps).  Hell, just start planking.  It's super hard to punish - make sure you counterpick Pokemon Stadium 1 and Uair through the floor since only like 3 characters in the game can even hit you if you do that.

Here's an example of how to read: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mGiNAPkCMI

TL;DR
You want to learn how to learn - they don't teach you that in school.  First, break down a task and realize what different skills are required.  Then learn how to learn each task quickly, and learn how they relate to eachother.  This way, you can consistently pick up new tasks/talents quicker.


In this way, you can apply what you learn from videogames and porn to real life.  Make sure you use lots of lotion.  GG.


Also, you can't counterpick Metaknight IRL, so if you play him, actually learn something instead of trying to win based off of how good he is.  People that know what they're doing that pick Metaknight will beat you, so just ragequit IRL.  You're just wasting my oxygen anyway.

http://www.youtube.com/verify_age?next_url=/watch%3Fv%3DT9uC1lqGBXs


And I can't wait to see this movie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgrKLjoWcbs
by TheRealBobMan Mar 23 2010, 8:40PM
Have you ever had a bad day?
Have you ever had a bad round in a set?
Have you ever had a bad set on a bad day during a tournament, and got knocked into losers early?  How did you feel then?
Have you ever SDed twice in your first match of your first set in a tournament?  How did you do for the rest of the set?
Have you ever been laughed at for making such mistakes?

Was it... frustrating?

Continue reading Frustrated?
Kill it with FIRE!
"Those who use fire as an aid to the attack show intelligence; those who use water as an aid to the attack gain an accession of strength. By means of water, an enemy may be intercepted, but not robbed of all his belongings."  -Sun Tzu

Continue reading Kill it with FIRE!
BlazBlue
I've played BlazBlue a total of 5 times now, and I'd say I'm doing quite well.  Granted, I have experience with many games, including Guilty Gear (same developers), so I know what to look for.  Here's how the process has played out so far.


Step 1:  Hear about BB being revealed at AX2008.

Step 2:  Hear about people getting into it months down the road; learn about the game a bit through reading and watching videos (accumulating knowledge).

Step 3:  Play it for the first time at AX2009 (2 or 3 times).  Get used to how it feels.  Decide I'm going to start with Bang.

Step 4:  Play it day one of Rina's going away tournament (2 or 3 times).  Make a conscious effort to learn the buttons and a few moves - from here I realize that Bang's nails give him the same spacing tool as Millia's hairpins in Guilty Gear, but with added effects.

Step 5:  Play it day two of Rina's going away tournament at the arcade.  So, it's my 3rd time playing, and I beat some guy at the arcade 3 times in a row - he didn't understand bursting, so he didn't know that doing it causes you to take extra damage for the rest of the match.  I can't combo because I don't know any Bread and Butter combos yet (or even which moves gatling into eachother), and I barely know how to throw nails (gaining experience figuring out which one is good every circumstance), but my spacing experience transfers over from Guilty Gear and I'm able to play safe and get openings.  Granted, I can't take full advantage of each opening, but because the guy bursts early, even my 1 hit rewards for proper spacing build up and I can win.

Step 6:  Read up on it a bit more, look into the mechanics further than just knowing about bursting.  I now understand a bit of how damage scales, how grabs work, etc.

Step 7:  I play it at a friend's house (he recently got the game for his birthday).  I get about 5 minutes with training mode while my friends are busy, so I have time to learn a combo (just one simple combo) and learn each and every one of my normals and what they do.  Playing with them helped me to learn the matchups, and now I have a combo to take advantage of every opening I get - which is a lot because I already know how to space safely.  They know the game better than that other player, so I'm not winning much (we eventually start taking turns playing online), but I can keep up with them and some of the online players.

Step 8:  Watch some videos of Bang players.  Just boosting my ability to see what's going on so that I can follow up even better, or maybe I'll learn a combo I don't know (I really didn't, but I was looking for some).

Step 9:  Play for the 5th time, just the other week (he's had it for like 3 weeks now).  I know my moves, and I can consistently use that combo, so now I work on my mixups.  I realize that I have some overheads, a sweep, my drives can punish if I use the block frames correctly (even with a teleport to attack from behind, but I don't know the input yet - I get it on accident sometimes, but I know it's there), and I finally learn how to grab (and use my command grab).  Now instead of fishing for an opening, landing a hit, repeating, I land a hit and combo (get a reward for it) and end the combo in knockdown.  From here I can mixup for further openings and keep the match in my favor with even less risk (I'm not approaching for every opening now, we're playing an okizemi game, more skill that has transfered over from playing Millia in Guilty Gear).  At this point I can consistently win vs. my friend, we're going 50:50 when he plays his main, and I have much less experience - I just know what I'm doing.



See how it has played out for me?  First I got used to the game.  Then I learned my moves (still getting used to the game).  Then, my knowledge from another game transferred over, so I was able to practice my spacing and learn it quickly (even some technical skill transferred over - I can instant airdash with no problems).  From there, I learned a simple combo to take advantage of every opportunity I can get from my spacing.  Then I used my knowledge to be able to apply mixups - I can make him think I'm going to grab on wakeup and jab him for the combo, or I can make him think I'm going to jab and grab him.  I can go high low or middle too, or I can even anticipate an attack on wakeup and punish with the block frames on drive.  He guesses wrong, I get a follow up without having to fight for it (this wakeup game is called okizemi).  If I know what he's going to do (Yomi), I can keep the pressure on and keep my advantage.  I can push this further in a way similar to what I can do with Millia in Guilty Gear too.  Bang's nail using the 236B input bounces and has a second hitbox in the air - it's not as useful as Millia's moves with delayed hitboxes, but I can throw one of those after I get a knockdown to apply further pressure.  You want to jump to avoid my grab, you're going to get hit by that explosion and give me a follow up.  Or maybe you're playing Tager, in which case you're tall enough to where that's going to hit, so you have to use a move with invincible startup, backdash (invincibility), or block.


If you started playing BlazBlue, where would you start?  Would you have spent hours in training mode working on combos?  Great, you know how to take away 50% of my life, provided you understood that it's a true combo if the "heat" meter stays red (when it's red, that means it's untechable), or that you know that grabs can be broken, or command grabs can be broken when comboed into.  Now you just have to land the hit necessary to start that combo... but can you get past your opponent's spacing?

Maybe you started practicing with people.  Your spacing is pretty good, but every time you get an opening, you gattling your jab into itself 4 times before landing 2 other hits.  That combo SUCKS.  You're prorating heavily and scaling your damage down with those jabs, so that follow up doesn't do anything for you.

Or maybe you've never played a fighting game with air dashing before, so your mobility is lacking compared to other players - you just can't keep up.  Maybe you get used to airdashing quickly and can keep up, but you can't instant airdash, so some of your follow up opportunities are still being missed.  : (

Maybe you're good at landing your sweep, but every time you go to punish, you get punished yourself.  Boy, it sure would help if you knew about wakeup invincibility...  on that note, maybe it'd help if you knew about startup invincibility on most distortion drives too - that'd keep you from blindly rushing down someone who has 50% heat with your laggy attacks.


Another thing to consider is... where would you go right after you started?  Maybe you picked up an overall sense of everything to begin with...which skill will help you more?  Maybe you learned one skill really well... which supplements that one in a way that'll cause your performance to improve most in a short period?



So now what?
Break it down, work on each individual aspect of your game.  If I had to prioritize, I would say that learning these in this order will give you the greatest advantage when starting a game from scratch.


Game Mechanics (if you know your fall speed, you're not going to SD in Melee.  If you know how burst works, you're not going to take an extra 50% damage for the rest of the match in BB.  Basically, you're not going to screw yourself over, and you'll eventually learn new tricks to screw your opponents over)

Spacing (don't get hit - save for games with ring outs, you literally cannot lose if you don't take damage)

Combos (if applicable, knowing a simple combo magnifies the reward for landing a hit - more advanced combos will come later after you learn some technical skill, but increasing the reward for each successful hit you land will do wonders for your game)

Yomi (If you know what your opponent is going to do based on his spacing, patterns, or just intuition, you're able to counter and keep your advantage or obtain one.  You're going to get even more openings because of this, or be able to perform bigger follow ups, provided you have some...  True yomi is considered to be "mind reading", but it can be developed through experience.  The key here is that in many situations, people will condition you to react a certain way and bait you to do something they're going to punish - you have to just know that this is what they're doing when they do it and act accordingly.  Trying to develop an understanding of every option that's avalible to both players, their consequences, their counters, counters to those counters, and counters to the counters to the first counter, will help here.  Every option you're aware of being able to take is another option that might be useful, or even the best option at the time - and from there, the psychology of  "what does he think I think he thinks I'm going to do?" comes in)

Technical Skill  (it's necessary to get even greater rewards for your openings, and to give yourself more tools for acquiring those openings safely.  Everything should come naturally - you shouldn't have to focus on performing a difficult input during a match, so once your technical skill is second nature, you'll have greater follow up opportunities, safer approaches, and more viable options)



I have another example to throw showing how knowledge makes a difference.  Last night, I played a buit of GG with some friends, and one is an Axl main.  I'm playing May right now, and both of us have the common weakness of having moves with slow startup.  The difference was, I knew the framerate data, he didn't really know it for the both of us.  Another thing he didn't know was that using Faultless defense (you use special meter in exchange for not taking chip damage, and I'm pretty sure it reduces the amount your guard gauge fills up) puts you in longer block stun.

Out of many of my pokes, I got block strings - last night, I started to end them against him with my 5HS, which has a 5 frame advantage on block.  He would faultless my block strings, leaving me with a sizeable frame advantage.  Knowing that his moves were slow to start up, and that Axl doesn't even have any moves with throw invulnerability, I went for my command throw "Overhead Kiss" out of the majority of my block strings (tick throwing).  Basically, his best option would have been to try to throw out his fastest attack, or to jump out, but he didn't know that was the best way to avoid the grabs.  Now, I'm not sure just what kind of window I had, but I know that my command grab has several frames of startup (vs a normal grab which has instant startup), and I know you can't grab someone for 6 frames after they're in active hit/block stun.

Now, my command grab prorates the damage I do, but it sets up for a free combo called "Lame loop".  Out of my grab, expect to lose at least 1/3 of your hp (more if I spend tension to loop past 3 iterations).  Out of a counterhit (a non-prorated setup), expect to lose about 1/2 your hp, if not more (matchup and tension spending dependent).

So basically, out of the majority of my blockstrings, I got to take away 1/3 of his hp.  That's besides any times I actually hit him, or landed a counterhit.  Awesome.


We can both combo, though we're both somewhat lacking in technical skill (we both play high damage characters, though he has many inputs with difficult timing involving FRCs and using aerials off the ground, aka, tiger knees, and I have many inputs that require buffering a charge in a short period of time in the middle of a block or attack string - we would consistantly do more damage if our technical skill was higher, but we both can combo enough to where we're using our characters's abilities correctly).  Spacing wise, I have more experience with the game than he does, so I can get past the fact that his character is great at spacing and mine has a hard time spacing (I have to fish for counterhits for the majority of my combo setups).  If he has time to practice up and get more experience, he'll do much better vs me since his character should be able to space the hell out of me.  The matchup is going to get a little wierd at that point - I'm going to consistently rape him in damage if I do land a poke, whereas he can poke the hell out of me, but his uber damaging combos require tension and some difficult setups.  After yesterday, he knows what not to do, so the knowledge advantage is gone...

But that doesn't mean I can't turn my frame advantage into a yomi game.  : )
I know he wants to jump out, so I punish with something else instead of going for my command throw, ect...




Sorry this has little to do with smash guys.  It's more about the concepts here that you should familiarize yourself with than "here's something you can do in Smash", because if you learn to apply this, it'll help you in every game you play.


*Edit*

Guess what?  It's been a few months since this was written, and I've since found that Axl does have a move with throw invulnerable startup.  I guess I need to pay closer attention to the framerate lists.  The yomi game out of a blockstring is now a little more complicated, because it's one of his specials, and it's easily punishable if I bait him to do it (though it's a setup for a combo if I let myself get hit by it).

But this tells you something.  Have you ever seen data this detailed on AiB or SWF?

http://www.dustloop.com/data/ac/axl.html


You probably haven't.  I know because I've looked for it.  If you want to be good, not even the best, you need to care about this kind of stuff.  Get off your butts and practice.  : )
Part 2 of the article posted just a few weeks go, titled "What is your Approach", that actually had nothing to do with in-game approaching.  : )
It's a little awkward since this was just a long example of approaching one game with experience from another behind you, so while it's not as informative, and it feels totally disjointed when separated, it's still a good supplement.

It is also very important that you realize that this was never intended to be a guide on transitioning from Brawl to Melee; I just used that as an example.  More experienced players will probably rip this apart (as will some scrubs), but I honestly don't care.  If you're a scrub, not learning anything from this wont help you, and if you're better than me, you probably wouldn't learn much from this anyway since it's not really directed towards you.


Let's start with crossing over from Brawl to Melee, since it seems like many people started with Brawl and are possibly interested in picking Melee up.

Brawl to Melee:  Where to begin?
First off, you absolutely need to just play the game and feel how different it is.  Movement speed is faster, fallspeed is faster, you can cut your lag on aerials (L-cancel) causing game play to move even faster than that, there's no momentum canceling, there's more hitstun... lots of differences.  Also, even if you play the same character in Brawl and Melee, the properties of his/her moves are different, so you'll have to relearn what they do.

Now that you have a feel for the game (and this should be natural by like the 2nd or 3rd time you've played, even if you're not perfect), you need to start working on improving your game play.  Where do you want to start?

"Where do I want to start?  I don't know where to begin!"


Well, you're on AiB, so you don't even have to go looking for a resource.  I'll tell you what you can start with.

Technical skill
Tech/DI chasing (the closest to Yomi you'll get with Smash, Yomi being the act of mind reading)
Edgeguarding
Recovery
Spacing
Reaction time
Knowledge
Mechanics
Adaptation

Needs to be broken down a little bit further right?  I'm sure you know what all of these are if you played Brawl (some of these are self explanatory too), but there are some huge differences.

Technical Skill
This is first because it seems like everyone starts here.  Really, it's important, and if you're coming off of Brawl you probably could start here.  However, technical skill is not the way to be the best - it's just necessary to bring your game to a certain level.  Having the most technical skill around doesn't guarantee that you're good.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPF14ntYqqs

Or maybe you are good... and you're just showing off?  : )

One time at a tournament I went to, I brought along a little adapter that allows one to use a PS2 controller on the GC (and therefore the Wii).  I brought it for Guilty Gear, but we decided to mess around and try using it on Brawl/Melee.  Pat attempted to use it and didn't like the feel, saying it was unresponsive, and having a difficult time performing moves that were quite technical but would normally give him no problem.
Then MikeHaze grabs the controller and consistently DSHLs with Fox for about 5 seconds straight.  We all got a good laugh.

Now, MikeHaze is pretty damn good (and that feels like an understatement), but was he #1 at Melee?  No.

But his manual dexterity and adaptation allowed him to deal with that situation with ease.  He can pull off some amazing tricks, but that doesn't make you the best.  You only need the skill to pull off what you need to do to win.  Every extra option you have puts you a step closer to winning because you have more options that can work in more scenarios, but that isn't the end-all ability that makes you win consistently.


Let me put it this way.  You need to L-cancel consistently to be able to perform many combos in Melee, and the reduced lag certainly doesn't hurt in keeping you from being punished, but do you absolutely need to L-cancel to play Jigglypuff effectively?  I'm worse now that my technical skill has dropped, but my Jigglypuff is still fine - I'm in the air 90% of the time, and most of my other skills haven't deteriorated.

Or when I play Bowser...  heh, what combos do I need to worry about.  It's just like playing Brawl.  : )

J/K, but you get my point.  I'm not wavedashing much with Bowser (more now that I worked out some stuff messing around like a month ago, realized that you can fullhop Fair, double jump Fair, and then waveland if your timing is perfect - it looks sexy), and I don't need to focus too much on DI chasing or anything of the sort because you're just landing a hit, spacing, landing a hit... it's really a lot like playing Brawl, but faster.


If you want to practice your technical skill right away, you need experience with your fallspeed and moves to know how to L-cancel, but Link is a good character to start with to see if you're even doing it right.  Wavedashing?  Start with Luigi.  Boost grabbing?  Start with Kirby.


Technical skill is the sort of thing you'll get practice in as you go - you only need to go out of your way for at the beginning to make sure you're doing it right, or when you're trying out a new trick (such as that Fair Fair waveland thing I mentioned above, the timing is strict, and I'll never dream of using it in a match unless I can do it reliably in practice).

Playing even 20 minutes a day against comps is good enough practice for your technical skill when you're playing Melee.  The comps might not DI properly, but you can work on stringing your moves together, you can work on not messing up those L-cancels, and you can work on powershielding projectiles just because you feel like it.  Really, they might not DI in the best way possible to avoid follow ups, but when you play a match and your opponent intentionally DIs differently, what are you going to do?  Miss the follow up because you didn't practice it because pros wouldn't do it differently?  How stupid is that?

And if you played a character with some degree of technical skill in Brawl (Diddy infinite?), you might pick it up a bit faster in Melee, though I honestly think that playing Melee will help you to FIND technical skill in Brawl.  I wouldn't be as good with the tires/bike as I am, without practicing regularly, if I hadn't used Link so much in Melee.

Edgeguarding
This doesn't apply in other games, and it's different in Melee than it is in Brawl.  Everyone generally recovers better in Brawl than in Melee, but the approach is pretty much the same - just don't be reckless and get yourself killed in the process.  Basically, you need to practice it, but you need to know when it's effective to do so - you can practice your crazy intercepts on comps, but don't bother picking Marth, standing on the edge, and using Dtilt/Fsmash until the comp dies - they wont recover past like 20% from this because they're idiots, and the rest of your game will suffer because of your easy wins vs. the comps.  That said, you can still work on spikes and other techniques that really wont work, so long as you don't rely on them.  Know that you could probably Uthrow to Dair spike a comp Falco at the edge with Marth if he DIs stupidly because it'll pwn newbs and help you beat them more consistently, but also know that attempting it against a competent opponent will get you punished.

Recovery 
Recovery is a lot different now, right?  As you adjust to the differences in mechanics, you'll just get better at this.  It's just one of those skills that builds up over time - you'll get better from playing competent opponents though - you'll learn to approach the edge in ways that'll mindgame them into edgeguarding poorly, and learn to approach the edge from positions where you have more options.  If the same recovery always works, you'll never learn anything new.
Comps are relentless with this, but they're also pretty stupid about it.  They'll perfectly time a jab as you come back to the edge just to piss you off, and yet, wont take opportunities to kill you because they don't know how.

Mechanics/Knowledge
You're on AiB, so check out the forums.  You can also try out SWF if you want - look up the major differences (like crouch canceling) so that you can learn them.  If you're still trying to momentum cancel while I'm crouch canceling everything, you're falling way behind.  If you don't know that Peach's Dsmash comes out on frame 5, you're going to get punished by it a lot.  If you didn't know that Fox's reflector has set knockback, you'd never think to try to shinespike someone with it.  Learn all that you can - you can do this by spending time messing around, or by looking up what other people have documented on some forums like I explained above.  This is a crucial step - you'll never catch up unless you know what others know, and you'll have a hard time surpassing them if you don't discover something they don't know.  R&D is critical near the top of the metagame if you get that far, and it will certainly help if you find something useful even when you're nowhere near ready to win a tournament.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hdoz-RnvMiI&NR=1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7dTYVM6E_s
(Really, they demonstrate technical skill, but you need to know this is possible before you can do it right?)


Spacing
Spacing is pretty crucial in any fighting game, right?  Since Smash has so much freedom of movement, you really have to get used to your character's movement speeds.  Jiggs is fast in the air, Fox is fast on the ground, Marth has disjointed range.  You'll learn to space your attacks vs. comps, but proper positional spacing comes from playing other people.  Comps just walk towards you, so they're worthless in this respect, but at least you can work on landing those tippers or finding out just how far away you can be and still land Pound.  If your spacing is lacking, you need to make a conscious effort to move into the correct spot until it becomes natural.

Spacing is truly a key component of Smash.  Proper spacing means the difference between a hit and a whiff, on both your end and the opponent's.  Don't get hit, every time you land a hit, combo and reap the rewards.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdHSj9q_P7I


As simple as this seems to be, spacing really is important.  Smash might be one of the few games I know of where you can die without even getting hit once, but that probably wont happen in a tournament match.  You have to land hits if you want to defeat your opponents, and you wont lose if you don't get hit.

Really, I would say the best spacing practice comes from playing other people, though that doesn't mean playing with comps will absolutely make you worse every time you do it.  If you can't beat a comp, any human player you can beat is most likely not worth playing against.

Coming into Melee from Brawl, this will probably feel the most intuitive to you, and you should pick it up pretty fast, despite the physics being totally different.  I would go as far as to say part of the reason my Jiggs hasn't deteriorated as much as my other characters is because I play Wario, who spaces kind of like Jiggs.


Tech/DI chasing
A crucial aspect of Smash, since most other fighting games have nothing like directional influence in any form (there are some - you can begin to DI a juggle in Soul Calibur 2 past 1 hit in the air).  You have to learn how far they can go in which direction after any hit at any percentage... it's really a matter more of adaptation than memorization.  You know it's possible to go for this or that, so you do what's appropriate based on the DI you see.  Having the reaction time to see what DI your opponent used is one of the key components - did he go left or right or up out of my Dthrow?  I better not mess up or I'll lose my chaingrab.
I just knocked my opponent onto a platform.  Will he stand, or rolldodge to one side?  I put myself in the proper position (spacing) and watch what he's doing (reaction time + tech chasing) and I'll land Rest.

Can you see how it's coming together?
Sometimes you don't have enough time to space to where it's going to work - now it's like yomi.  You have to just know what they're going to do and punish accordingly - just don't always assume this is the case when you actually have the time to think about it, because you can mess up and miss your chance.  You know when you watch someone like DSF play and he ALWAYS gets that punish or chaingrab?  It's because he's not guessing every time the chance comes up...

Yomi does play a big role in other fighting games, but in Smash there are fewer circumstances where you have to make an educated guess to get your follow up since you can actually react.  However, I'm sure everyone's seen some videos of tournament matches with hilarious mindgames... examples?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jteRL6oxw1E&feature=channel_page

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52NjqqxW3xM&feature=channel_page


Reaction Time
A very helpful trait in any scenario, but having the fastest reaction time isn't enough - it just brings more to the table.  This will improve as you focus during any serious match against a competent opponent, and your ability to react will improve as you become more familiar with the game.  When you start playing Melee, moves like Fox's blaster just seem to happen, but as you keep playing, you'll see the startup an hour before the hitbox comes out, and now powershielding that lightning fast projectile isn't even hard (though there's little point if he fires more than one shot, it's pretty stylish if a Fox player tries to get that extra 2% tacked on at the end of a combo by firing, and you tech and powershield it).

You can go out of your way to learn to spot the parts of moves that are telegraphed - that falls under knowlege in all honesty, but combine it with your ever improving reaction time and you're moving up in the world - so much more becomes possible.
And with high end reaction time, you can go as far as to powershield Falco's SHL while wavedashing back and forth with Luigi.  That won't make you the best player around, but damn will that piss off a Falco player.  : )

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6FV_2z0Vkc


Adaptation
It's a skill that comes with experience.  The more you're familiar with, the easier you can adapt.  If someone starts doing something you've never seen before, you're more likely to adapt if you can figure out what they're doing and why.  When everyone plays by the book, even if they're a little quirky, it's not that hard to adapt to their playstyles.  Spend some time messing around and doing your research - if you know a certain property or mechanic about the game that you didn't before, and you one day run into someone that can abuse it effectively, you're more likely to find a way around it.



Is this really going to help me out?
Try it and tell me if it did.  -_-;

Do you notice how I left comboing out?  It's certainly a specific skill when it comes to fighting games, but with Smash, it really falls under having the technical skill to actually have a window in which you can follow up, the reaction time to properly DI/Tech chase, and proper spacing so that you'll land that first hit.  You put it all together and you can now make your follow up assault... and maybe keep it up.

In the event that you really want to focus on one skill over another, it can be hard to get into the swing of things since everything builds up.  You're going to get punished for your bad spacing every time, so you'll never even have the opportunity to work on your tech skill.  This will force you to learn better spacing, but let's say while you're working on that, you actually land a hit or get an opening for one.  Now what?  You can't L-cancel yet, so your reward is much smaller than it should be since you can't really combo.

You can work around it.  Play Jiggs - you focus on your aerial spacing with little worry of technical skill.  You land that hit?  Great, keep flying at them with Bair and wall of pain.  Landed a grab below a platform?  Great, Uthrow and tech chase for Rest.  Don't even have to worry about messing up that L-cancel.

Play Bowser - every hit is a freaking reward, and you don't really need to worry about follow ups.  Worry about L-canceling that Fair and using upB out of shield properly.  Play smart, develop those techniques.  It's not like you're going to become the next Gimpyfish, but learning a character whose gameplay revolves around certain aspects will help you to learn those skills.

Then, you can play Luigi.  Now you're working wavedashing into your game (he's got a damn good one), and L-canceling will help you to work on your combos.

It's less apparent in Smash how doing this will make a difference, but you'd notice if you played Guilty Gear.  Millia has sexy Oki, May will rape you out of successful pokes though she's not very good at poking, Venom seems to have pretty amazing shield pressure options... coming into May out of playing Millia and Baiken, as well as having experience with Wario's bike/tires, I pretty much know how I want to space with May's dolphin hoops (Millia's strong Oki comes from using a delayed independent hitbox (like May's hoops, and this is a topic I'll get into with a later article) to pressure a guard (or another viable option to escape getting hit), and having multiple ways to punish those options).  I'm still dropping combos, though I'll john that it's just from messing up inputs since I switch controllers too much (I prefer the GC control stick to the PS2 D-pad), yet I can keep up because I manage to land way more pokes than I should need to when playing May.



In the long run, if you see that a character is strong in a specific area, or relies on a specific area of gameplay, learning that character will make you better, either because it works, or out of pure necessity (you have to L-cancel when you play Bowser or you really wont stand much of a chance).  On that note, if you actually do try to make that transition, it might be easy to start with a character that moves like your Brawl main (since you wont be overwhelmed by losing a stock due to getting comboed because of your bad spacing, every 5 seconds), until you experiment around and find the character you really want to play.


Anyway, this probably isn't as good a read as the last one, but that's because this chunk was cut out, and was barely altered after having a lot of it explained in the previous one.  Part 3 is coming up soon to wrap it all up, and then we'll get into something more direct...
What is your approach?

It seems as if many of the people I talk to lack certain perspectives when it comes to learning something - that is, they haven't quite learned how to learn.  When trying to get good at videogames, I see a lot of people do the same exact thing over and over again without any improvement (DERP), and wonder what's going wrong.  I see it a lot when it comes to stuff besides videogames, but that's outside the scope of this website.


You can get quite far on just practicing and being gung-ho, but if that isn't doing it for you, break it down and actually THINK.  I don't mean "what am I doing wrong?"  You should already be thinking that, as well as "What am I doing right?"  You need to think about every aspect of everything, really learn what you're trying to accomplish.  When you're playing a videogame in competition, it's the same as playing football in the NFL, Curling at the Olympics, or playing Chess - know the freaking game.  Know what your limitations are, know what the rules are, and learn every thing you can before you think you can win.

However, some of you make this sort of effort and are still having trouble.  You put in time and effort, but no results.  What's going wrong?  Break it down.  There are many aspects to each game - you'll learn faster from the start if you know what to learn, and you'll improve faster if you know what to improve on.  Those of you that have prior experience are at an advantage.


Does knowing how to play other games really make a difference?
Yes.  Your skills will transfer over.  This is why TheMasterer in PurePwnage says "You must pwn at all games."  Being great at Halo won't help you play Brawl as much as being great at Melee would, but at least you'll know what to look for.  And if you ever play another FPS, you already know what to look for.  When it comes to FPS, once you learn the properties of the weapons and the maps, the skill of getting a headshot is transferable.  You can't transfer that over to Melee, but maybe your reaction time will have improved - that's a plus.  Maybe you're experienced with mindgames/yomi at this point - they know you have a positional advantage if you do this, so they expect it and counter, so you move somewhere else to counter that counter - that transfers to other games.  Maybe you played Starcraft?  Different controller for sure, but your intense button micro should help you to pick up Melee faster.  You can focus on the ins and outs of the game play without worrying too much about your technical skill holding you back since you'll pick it up quickly. 

I want you to try thinking in terms of individual skill sets that you can practice, so that you'll realize what activities will help you to practice which skills, and what practice will do more or less for you in the long run - you'll be more efficient that way.

It is at this point that I want to tell you all that this article has been rewritten.  As a whole, it was too long to be put on the front page because few people like to stare at a wall of text.  For those of you that want to read the original version, you can go here:



http://allisbrawl.com/forum/topic.aspx?id=106540



Now, since my 2 examples of ways to approach learning a new game have been cut out (they will be posted at a later date on the front page, so don't worry), I feel that I need to give you something more substantial than "Don't be stupid, learn the game, suck less." 


I wonder, what is the first thing you do when you pick up a new game that you intend to be really good at (like, top 10 tournament placing good)?  Have you ever thought about it yourself?  Do you just pick up the game and start playing?  Do you go into training mode?

There's no right answer, but the best answer definitely depends on your prior experience.  I do think you'll get more out of just starting the game up and playing it, but how long you're just messing around playing arcade mode or vs comps or whatever the hell you want to do is what matters.  Once you've learned the basic barebones mechanics from playing the game, whether it be learning that you can airdodge in smash or learning what a burst is in BB, you need to at least look into the specifics.  I don't mean reading framerate data for a few hours once you learn what the buttons do - I mean making an effort to learn that first character you decided you're going to start with, and at this point it doesn't even matter who that is or if you're going to change your mind in 30 minutes.

I'll just pretend we're picking up Brawl for the first time here, and that we've never played before (hard to imagine since I've been playing Smash since SSB64 came out).  Let's go right into versus mode because we're assuming you want to get as good at the competitive aspects as possible, as fast as possible.  You pick a character... let's say Link (because he's Link, and he's cool).  You turn on a comp, set it to lvl 3 because that's the default.  Turn off items because you know its convention, pick battlefield.

So if you're like most young kids when you start, you're just holding the analog stick towards the comp and pressing buttons because you want to win your first game.  If you're trying to learn what you're doing, you're pressing the buttons to see what they do ("how do I jump?  How do I attack?  How do I shot web?  O lookie, I can roll!").  You're probably getting hit by the comp every few moments, but you're probably hitting the comp back as you figure out what attacks you have.  Maybe you notice you have F-tilt, your smashes, grab, and some of the B moves, but odds are you don't realize what's making certain things happen right away.  You might just barely realize what tilts are by the end of the first match, and you've probably SDed at least once because you don't fully know how fallspeed and recovery work.  You play again and start paying closer attention to what your character does and how the moves work.  Now you start actually trying to kill the computer.  You win a match, switch characters.

You pick Wario.  The game starts and "Whoa, I move fast!"  Yeah, compared to Link, you're moving pretty damn fast in the air.  Then you notice that the comp Marth you're playing against keeps hitting you through your moves, and maybe you get frustrated.  You know it's because he has a sword and you don't, but you don't know what his moves are like that well to be able to punish them, or what your own are to know what your best options are, so you start messing around again.  Your tools are totally different, you move faster and are harder to control, Marth has his sword which is "cheap" compared to your bare hands (assuming you'd be quite scrubby if you've never played a fighting game before), and you have no projectiles.  Wario sucks, let's pick someone else.

You go through the character roster looking for someone you like, and once you find that character, you just start playing.  You want to be the best like no one ever was, but you're off to a slow start.  That character you picked is working well for you, but you don't even know why.  You just know that he/she is good, so you're trying to get good with him/her.



Let's say you start the game up having played some Guilty Gear and entered a few local tourneys.  You don't know what Brawl is like, but you were competitive at another fighting game, so you have an advantage.  No idea who you want to main, but you played Millia (just using her for a specific example since I actually know how she works), so you're looking for similar tools since that'll be familiar.

You pick Link at first, and you set up vs a lvl 3 comp because that's the default setting.  You start up and hit each button once to see what they do, realize you've only done like 4 different moves (jab, neutral B, jump, and grab, besides blocking).  Wow, there's a separate block button.  WOW, I don't have hp???  Wtf, there's only one gatling (his jab combo) and they can escape it?  No moves link together?  Wtf is this?  How do I kill the guy?
You you mess around until you learn the fundamentals of the game.  You realize you win by ring out - not by damage.  You realize that you have a dodge mechanic, and you realize that it's not the standard 2D fighter you're used to (instead of front/back movement, it's full on left/right).

So at the back of your mind, you think "I wonder if there's any move that I could use to kill at lower damage", and with good reason.  You start trying to gimp the computer instead of working on your spacing game.  You win because it's a stupid comp.


Now, you go into training mode.  With a few minutes, you realize how tilts work, and you figure out your other B moves.  "Ok, I have a projectile, and... oh lookie, Bombs!"  You have a move that's a separate hitbox that you can throw upwards into the air and have it come back down as you're doing something else.  "Oh dude, a boomerang?"
At this point, you realize you have something similar to Millia - her 236H move was an attack with delayed startup that you could activate and then have pressure while you did something else.  You keep going and see how grabs don't have instant startup, and overall learn all your moves.  You don't like Link because he's way too damn slow compared to Millia.

You switch to Wario to see if he's any faster (because you'd like a character that actually has endurance compared to Millia, lol).  You jump around, see that he's freaking fast in the air (Millia is a rushdown character with 2 airdashes), so you decide to actually learn this character first.  You go through and learn all of his moves.  "Whoa, he has a motorcycle, that's pretty cool."  You realize you can throw it into the air and it'll come back down and bounce multiple times, while staying an active hitbox.  You figure this guy is perfect to start with because he fits the bill.  He has an active hitbox which is separate from yourself (similar tools), he's fast in the air (like Millia), and he's heavy (cool bonus).  You also notice his bite, which is a grab, and that it can be held out for a while.

You play another match with a computer, crank the difficulty up to 5 because 3 wasn't an issue, even though you didn't really know what you were doing.  Now, things are quite different even though you have similar tools - you're not just trying to cause knockdown so you can set the bike up for pressure because no such method to do so exists for this character, and even if it did, you realize this game has teching in it.  You're resourceful, so you get the comp off the stage, pull a bike, and throw it off.  Success!  The comp is too stupid to recover correctly, wastes its jumps trying to get past the bike, and dies.  Repeat X2.  Wow.

One more game, crank it up to 9 because this feels too easy.  Now you're having a hard time getting the comp off the stage, and it's smarter, so it's not just getting gimped every time you do so.  It seems to have perfect blocking and dodging, and it always punishes you.  Maybe you shouldn't have cranked it so far so quickly, but you keep going, landing hits once in a while.  At this point you've noticed that the comp isn't comboing you very much either - I guess that's just the way this game is?  Instead of going for a safe poke and then getting the highest reward possible out of it, you have to build damage with whatever works, and then make an effort to send them past the blast line.  However, you do notice that some moves do link together just barely, no matter how fast you try to airdodge away, so maybe some 2 hit combos are possible.  The comp lives till like 200% because you're not used to it.  You lose, but you took off a stock.
ONE MORE TIME!

As you're playing this time, you notice that moves are doing less damage and knockback as you do them over and over (you're Dair spamming since it seems to work well vs the comp - they perfect block the first hit, but get hit by the rest, or if they keep their shield up, you Bite them), so you come to realize that's how the game works.  Now you're looking closer at the moves, trying to see exactly what properties each one has.  Maybe some have the ability to link into something else, maybe some do low damage but are kills, maybe some do high damage but suck for killing - you don't know yet, but you're working on it.


At this point, let's stop and break it down.  With this prior experience, you're getting further, but for what reason exactly?
First off, you know that a crucial tactic is to find the safest way to deal as much damage as possible, or maybe in this case, the safest way to kill without doing much damage (why do damage when you don't have to?).  You haven't found any combos, but you know they could exist.  You've noticed that stronger moves tend to be a bit slower overall, but if you can combo into them, even if it's just that 2nd hit, it's rewarding - once they're ready to die, why risk that Dsmash by itself when you can Fair into Fsmash?

You know you punish shields with a grab, and you know you get around grabs with a dodge, but having played Wario, you know a more effective move - you use the bite instead of a grab, it punishes dodges too.  You know you can throw the bike for that long lasting hitbox, and if they block, you can try to grab to punish anyway - though it is risky to pull the bike out.


The biggest difference here is that you had a feeling of where to start and where you were going next.  You still have a lot to learn, but your foundation is solid from the first time you started playing.

Anyway, I have a feeling this is longer than it originally was, so I have to cut it off here.  There are certain aspects to quick improvement that expand beyond seeing the basics faster and learning the game - if you know what okizemi is at the start, you know to look for tools to utilize it, and if you're playing a game that actually supports it (like transitioning from Guilty Gear to BlazBlue), the improvement is astronomically faster - you don't have to work at spacing right from the start to land hits if you know how to keep oki in your favor from your first knockdown.  Think rock paper scissors, only guessing right gets you another combo, guessing wrong means you have to back off and approach again, and both of you guessing wrong could go either way (you see it faster and keep the advantage or your opponent sees it and takes it from you).

Think of it this way - if you don't know what moves you have to space around with, but you know how to knock the guy down repeatedly and continuously do damage, you're still winning.  Once you learn to space, and that's your main focus at this point, you now know how to get that first knockdown.  The whole match isn't dependent on you getting a single knockdown so that you have a chance to win - now it's an even match, but if you get a knockdown, you have a serious advantage.  Make sense?

If you play Brawl (or any game) and are wondering why you're not getting better, I encourage you to take a second look at how you're approaching the game.  The rabbit-hole goes much deeper than this... you'll get more info out of me in the coming weeks.


And if you want something to read while you wait, look up Sirlin's "Playing to Win".

It's that time again. We've got new additions to the AiB Content Team.

First of all, to everyone who applied, thank you. You remind everyone of why AiB is so great -- because it has a brilliant community behind it. Neal, JV, Peachy and I want to thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to apply to write for this site. There were many incredible applications, hence the long time it took us to come to a decision about who to select.

Well, we've come to a decision, and all of the members you see below are simply fantastic. We were highly impressed by what they sent in, and we're excited to see what they'll bring to the site. They've got lofty expectations to meet. Let's cheer them on.

Without further ado... the brand-new members of the All is Brawl Content Team.



Continue reading The. New. Content. Team.