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Posts Tagged ‘Virtua Fighter 5’

Ranked vs Player Matches

October 15th, 2008 No comments

Cross-posted from my VF5 Blog.

When I first started playing Virtua Fighter, I found ranked matches
intimidating. I had no ranking whatsoever, so I was starting at the
bottom of the barrel, and every loss that I would accrue weighed
heavily on my mind. “Oh my god!”, I thought, how can I be this bad?

Thinking
that you suck is one thing, but having a win/loss ratio sitting on your
screen as evidence of that fact is something else altogether. So, I
would spend the majority of my time online playing in player matches.
This offered me a few benefits. First and foremost, I would not have
any idea as to how good my opponent was prior to playing them. Seeing
someone with an impressive win ratio join your game can have a
psychological effect right off the bat, and set you up for a loss you
might not normally take. Second, without a rank showing on my opponent,
I was much more willing to request rematches, and, thirdly, in player
matches you can request rematches.

Rematches present a
great training opportunity. The most frustrating thing in the game is
having your opponent steamroll right over you, but if you really want
to improve, these are the people that you need to keep pestering for
rematches. As frustrating as it is, keep requesting a rematch and
trying to break down their offense and see if you can hang in there.
Whenever I request a rematch, I’m usually thinking about a few things
before the next match starts:

  • How did the opponent beat me?
  • Was
    he using some move that I’ve never seen before, in which case I need to
    block more? Was I getting predictable, and letting him exploit that?
    What about evades? Was I using that crutch far too often? Did he beat
    me using only 2P?

  • How can I counteract the above?
  • If
    I’m being predictable, I try to figure out new ways to achieve the same
    effect. For Brad players, a large part of our game revolves around
    moving in and out of his stances. If I’m constantly using KP to enter
    his stance, then I know that it’s time to either take a shift away from
    his stances and going for more juggles, or start using different
    strings to enter his stances, like 4P, 4PK, and 6P. Is my opponent
    always successfully blocking my moves? Then it’s time to start mixing
    up my rhythm and introducing some throws and charge moves into my
    offense.

  • Was I frustrated after losing? Why?
  • Usually
    the simple act of asking myself this question helps quell my
    frustration. Usually I’m frustrated because I lost, and I think that
    I’m capable of playing better. But how can I play better? What should I be doing differently? Return to the top two questions and reiterate.

Back
when I spent a lot of time practicing funk styles and dancing, many of
the old schoolers would persist the following statement: “To each one,
teach one”. The idea is that everyone should take the time and effort
to spread the knowledge, and teach someone else the tricks that you
have learned moving forward. Do you find that you’re on the other side
of the fence, and absolutely crushing someone in player matches? If a
rematch is requested, go for it again. My attitude is that I don’t pull
my punches when I’m playing newer players, because that will not help
them improve the same way that forcing them to think under pressure
will.

If you don’t like aggreeing to rematches just because it’s
helpful to the other player, do it for yourself. It is important to
play both stronger and weaker players; stronger players will force you
to adapt quickly under pressure, but weaker players will allow you the
opportunity to make use of the skills you have practiced, and to
properly set up for the moves and combo strings that you want to use
regularly. I wrote earlier that failure is only a failure if you don’t
learn something from the experience, and by the same token, a victory
is hollow if you don’t understand why you won. Make sure that
you are winning because you are executing your game plan, not because
you are flailing or taking advantage of a lower player’s bad habits.
Take playing weaker players as an opportunity to practice fixing the
bad habit that drives you nuts. It is by aggreeing to rematches in
player matches that I have been able to slowly eliminate some of the
wreckless dodging I’m doing, and fuzzy guard consistently after
connecting with the last hit of Brad’s PPK string.

That’s a
pretty strong case for player matches. Why even bother with ranking
then? Jerky VFDC captured some of the essence of ranked matches for me,
when I asked him for advice and he told me, “Play ranked matches
against strong players. They will build up your mental endurance”.
Ranked matches will force you to accept that you are playing someone
with a proven track record, and, with something on the line, you will
find that your play style changes considerably.

Suddenly you’ll notice that you start consistently falling back to your perceived safe
moves whenever you are down a round in a ranked match. For the longest
time, I could not shake my habit of spamming 3PP as soon as I noticed
that I was getting low on life. Why? It’s not a good move, but for some
reason, I mentally perceived that it was safe and would get me out of trouble. Against good players, it just led me to more punishment.

One
other benefit of ranked matches – you can do chores in between each
match. I manage to get everything done around the house and
play Virtua Fighter because I can complete everything I need to do in
between each match. Yah, this is a silly reason to play ranked, but it
makes a difference to me.

Train in player matches, and then put
what you’ve learned into motion in ranked matches. In player matches
you will get the opportunity to play consistently against the same
person, and this will provide you many opportunities to adapt to their
style, exploit their weakness, and then have the tables turned as they
adapt to you. Once you feel like you’re winning consistently, switch
over to ranked and play there for a while. When you start to feel like
you’re getting stale and predictable, switch back into player and play
multiple matches against people that are able to pick apart your game.
You will be stronger for it.

Above all, remember the importance
of requesting rematches – everytime you feel yourself getting
frustrated, force yourself to reflect on why you are frustrated, how
you lost, and hit that button to request another match.

That’s
all for now. As an aside, if anyone reading has something specific that
they would like me to cover, drop a comment and let me know. I very
much enjoy the opportunity to write about different aspects of Brad
Burns and Virtua Fighter as a whole, and every chance to write about
something is a chance to learn it a second time, as I’m required to
break it down and think the whole thing through from start to finish.

Lastly, if you’re looking for matches, don’t hesitate to add me on XBL. My gamertag is Deathsushi, and I’m always up for games.

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My crutches

October 10th, 2008 No comments

Cross-posted from my VF5 blog

I’m going to do something that tournament players are often not able to afford doing. I’m going to expose what I perceive my own weaknesses to be.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to Tony Familia about Brad, and some of the tricks that he finds useful. We were talking in the Shoutbox at VFDC, a chat program that everyone on the site can see from most of the pages, but Tony requested that we switch the discussion to PM. His logic was fairly sound – he didn’t want to have his opponents gain too much of an insight into how to defeat him right before NYG7, a decent sized tournament and Virtua Fighter gathering (that I couldn’t make).

I don’t fault Tony with this at all, and would probably take the same approach if I was going to be playing in an upcoming tournament. However, I’m a firm believer in what I call the “liquid strategy” approach to gaming. I believe that if I can expose my own weaknesses to people, that will encourage them to exploit that part of my game. In turn, I will be forced to either continue losing, or adapt my strategies to adjust with what my opponents are now using against me. This process of adaptation is what makes for a strong player, and so this is what I hope to do.

Virtua Fighter can in many ways be seen as having an optimal way of playing. Although there are many different choices that you can make at any given point in the game, for specific situations, there is almost always one “best” action to take (naturally once your opponent starts to get wise to this, you will have to adapt, but let’s keep things simple for now).

The flipside to moves that I use too much are moves and techniques that I use when I shouldn’t. As an example, Brad is disadvantaged by 5 frames after he hits his opponent with the last kick in his PPK string (two jabs followed by a low kick). At 5 frames of disadvantage, Brad is able to perform a fuzzy guard, and avoid any throw attempt while still managing to block any mid-attack that the opponent can hit him with (for those new to the game, a fuzzy guard is performed by holding down just long enough to have Brad enter his ducking animation, then releasing down while continuing to hold guard). The problem is that I’m cheating these optimal plays, and am resorting to tricks that work against lower level players, but get me crushed against players of higher skill.

Let’s get on to my crutches:

  • Tech-roll recovery
  • Almost everytime I recover with a tech-roll, I automatically input Bra’d PK string. There’s a couple of reasons that I do this. The string starts with his fastest move, an 11-frame jab, meaning that it can interupt a lot of heavier moves that opponents will throw out. It is also semi-circular, which can punish a lot of people trying to evade to crush whatever rising attack I’m doing. Generally speaking though, there should never be an automatic combination or input that I’m entering upon tech-rolling, aside from holding down the guard button (and even then I should be careful).

    How can you beat this? Easy, knock me down with a move that I can tech-roll, feint a follow-up attack, and then just duck and guard. As the entire combo string is high, I’ll whiff both attacks right over you and find myself in the undesirable position of being about 11 frames at disadvantage. Almost enough for a guaranteed throw!

  • Lack of defense, too much abare
  • Abare is a japense term used by the Virtua Fighter community, and means (I believe) wreckless. The term is generally applied when someone attacks from a disadvantage. The greater disadvantage you have, in terms of frames, the less likely you are to successfully hit your opponent, and the more likely they are to successfully hit you.

    My big problem is that whenever my opponent successfully blocks or ducks under my PK string, I instinctively either evade and attack or enter 2P. This will work some of the time, but if we go to the command list and look up how much disadvantage I have on PK being blocked, it’s quite large – 8 frames. The upshot of this is that the opponent has a very large window to hit me out of either of these two approaches. What’s the correct thing to do? Evade, enter a throw-escape, and guard. This will allow me to avoid being thrown, evade any initial attack (thus leaving the opponent at a disadvantage) and block and circular attack.

    How can you beat this? Easy. Since I’m playing wrecklessly whenever I whiff or get a PK blocked, start by going for your fastest mid, which, at 14 frames, will crush my low punch. If I get wise to that and start evading, you can use either a circular, or delay your attack (which will cause me to enter a failed evade animation, and let you hit me successfully).

  • Always evading to the background
  • For whatever reason I always evade to the background (up on the controller). This is more a force of habit than anything else, and is generally because I find it easier to guarantee an evade with this direction. Hitting down on my controller makes me feel more inclined to enter a duck rather than to successfully evade.

    Why is this bad? Because a very skilled opponent knows that some of their moves are only half-circular, and will automatically hit me when I evade in a specific direction. By adjusting their stance to ensure that the circular property of their move matches the direction that I’m evading in, they will ensure a large number of free hits against me.

    How can you beat this? Determine which moves your character has that are half circular, and learn to recognize which direction they will sweep through based on your stance. Brad has a half-circular move that is the start of his Lumpini combination, executed with 4P. By learning which direction this move will come out in (circular through the foreground or the background), you can adjust Brad’s stance accordingly and guarantee free hits against me when I evade up.

  • Reversal everytime my opponent rises
  • Brad has only one really useful reversal, and it’s mostly only applicable in one scenario. By inputting 1P+K, Brad is able to catch mid-kicks and reverse them. The only time you can really rely on seeing a mid-kick from the opponent is when you have knocked them down. In this situation, Brad can reverse almost every rising mid-kick. This is a great boon, and really intimidates your opponents. By using good yomi, you can scare your opponents into rising holding the block button, opening up your entire wake-up game.

    However, too much of anything is bad, and that applies in droves to Brad’s reversal. First of all, this is a gamble at the best of times. Even if I know that my opponent will always use a rising kick, I still have to guess whether or not they will go mid or low. If they go low and I enter the reversal input, I will get hit with a counter hit, taking extra damage and finding myself at an even worse disadvantage. If my opponent elects simly to rise, I still enter the failed reversal animation, and my opponent gets to be the first one to press the attack.

    How can you beat this? Easy. Just rise with low kicks. Don’t feel like doing that? Just rise and wait for my failed reversal animation (Brad will raise his knee and hit his elbow against it). Once you see that, throw my ass across the ring. That’s all there is to it. This is really the worst habit I have, and there is no excuse for throwing reversals out more than once or twice a match, or if the opponent really has no ability to play intelligently. Punish me for this and help me learn!

Okay, those are the major crutches that I’m currently working through. I have a lot of things that I think I do fairly effectively, but the next post I want to focus on moves and stances of Brad’s that I don’t use enough and would like to introduce more into my standard arsenal. Top of that list? Sway-back (4P+K+G). Stay tuned!

Charged attacks and you..

September 30th, 2008 No comments

One of the things that I rarely see used in online play are charge moves. Most characters have at least one move that can be charged up, prior to releasing. Once you’ve fully charged the move, it will automatically execute, and usually the properties are altered in some way. Usually these are automatic guard stuns, meaning that even if the opponent blocks the movie, they will still be staggered and have their guard broken.

Using a charge move requires a little bit of finesse, and is not something that you want to use frequently. At best, the move should be used sparingly, and as a way of mixing up the rhythm of your fighting pattern.

Let’s touch on that for a second. Every match in Virtua Fighter, at its core, has a particular rhythm behind it. Combo strings follow a certain rhythm and timing, and most players learn to anticipate and react based on this timing. As you get to know the characters a little better, you learn where their combos can be broken, and where you need input your own counter-attacks to recapture the advantage in a round. Good players learn to feel this rhythm, even if they’re not explicitly aware of it, and to adapt to the rhythm that the opponent is using. Great players take this one step further, and learn to change up there rhythm to increase the difficulty in reacting to their actions.

It should be obvious at this point where charge moves fit in – they offer one more way for you to mix-up your rhythm and keep your opponent from adapting to your pattern and timing.

So, how do you use them? The first step in a game like Virtua Fighter is to establish a baseline of expectation for your opponent. What I mean is that you start by using combos and moves that are generally safe, and do not provide a lot of room for your opponent to punish you. For Brad, some of these moves and combos are PPK, PP into stance, KP, and 6P. These moves provide safe options to begin your offense from, and do not leave a large amount of room open to be punished.

The reason that you want to establish a baseline of expectation using moves like this are so that your opponent becomes trained to expect them. Good strategy in Virtua Fighter 5 involves training the opponent to expect certain things, and then deviating from those expectations to catch the opponent off guard and punish them.

Our ultimate goal in setting this baseline, is to get the opponent to start robotically blocking each part of the sequence. After getting hit with the third hit in the PPK series over and over, the opponent is gradually going to become trained to block low after seeing two punches. It is at this point that we start to introduce new moves. Remember the golden rule – don’t change what is working. If your opponent is not able to deal with what you are doing, then you should not change it. Let them adapt first, and then change up your gameplan.

Once you’ve managed to get your opponent to block each part of the sequence, mix things up by introducing a charged move. Brad’s charge move fits in fairly well with the above mentioned sequence, and the new string to introduce is PP, 6, K (charge). This comes out as two punches, then entering into his ducking stance, and lastly, fully charging his knee. If you have trained your opponent correctly, they will sit their blindly waiting for the last kick, only to eat a fully charged knee and then be comboed.

Why not just use a throw instead? This is a good question – the short answer is because this is different than a throw. The long answer has many reasons. A succesfully charged attack like Brad’s knee will break either standing or ducking guard. The knee will enable a combo, whereas a throw will not. Perhaps most important of all, it’s good to do different things. The more varied you can make your attack, the more difficult it will be for your opponent to figure out how to deal with it.

You want to use charges sparingly, and mainly as a way to prevent your opponent from getting comfortable with any particular method of blocking. Make the opponent uncomfortable defending, and you will be one step closer to winning the match.

The alternative to fully charging is to partially delay your attacks. This will not alter the properties of the move, but it does provide another alternative to mix-up your rhythm. The ideal situation that you are aiming for is to unload your move right as your opponent realizes that they have a chance to strike and knock you out of your combo. If you have correctly judged your opponent, you will be awarded a counterhit, and can punish accordingly.

Charge moves can also provide the opportunity for good okizeme. That is – wake up games. Each time you knock your opponent down, a guessing game begins. Will your opponent rise with a mid or low kick? Will they roll away? Will they tech roll? Or will they stand up and block. When I’ve knocked my opponent down, I’m aiming to train them to rise and block. By punishing them for rising and attacking, you can set imbue your opponents with the need to block when they rise. Once you’ve accomplished this, you can start introducing charged attacks, once again, as a way to punish your opponent for rising and blocking.

Charge attacks should be used sparingly, and when the time is right, you’ll feel it. I find myself using them at most once every 3 or 4 matches, simply because they put you at a high risk, and you need to know that you have got your opponent pegged correctly on their block.

That’s all for now, but I’ll post again soon with the other aspect of rhyhtm and mix-ups that are important – throws.

On Failure

September 27th, 2008 No comments

This is the first cross-post from my other blog, related to Virtua Fighter, a fighting game that I play, built with a rich-decision tree and a very well-defined, but complex strategy behind it.

Posts that I make related to Virtua Fighter 5 will all be tagged with the corresponding category, so feel free to ignore them if you don’t know what the game is about, or aren’t interested.

—-

If there’s one thing that you need to become accustomed to, in order to continue improving, it is failure.

A player that I have come across a number of times, named V MIRZA, has written in his XBox Live Bio that “I know my skill level.  If you’re better than me, I won’t try”.  After the second match that we played in which he just gave up, I grew frustrated, and messaged him.

“Why do you play VF5?” I asked.

His reply was something to the effect of “Because it’s a game requiring skill, is good quality and isn’t flashy or stupid like DoA”.

An excellent reply I thought – these are the key reasons someone should play.  So “Why don’t you try to actually play then?” I returned.  His repsonse was telling.  “I get worried that I’ll lose and won’t get better”.

There it is.  Loss and failure are funny things.  In many ways, they are counter-intuitive to the way we think about improvement.  If I’m improving, why do I keep failing?  In every skill-based pursuit I’ve ever tried to improve at, I have found that the formula is inevitably one step backwards, and two steps forwards.  The tricky part is that we often greatly perceive the step backwards, and only slightly notice the movement forward.

A loss  only truly becomes failure when we are unwilling to take stock of why we lost, and how we can improve from it.  Every single loss that you experience during your quest to improve and grow, as a VF5 player, is an opportunity to learn about your own weaknesses, and a chance to grow as a skilled fighter.

V MIRZA’s comment is a common attitude.  There are a lot of people out there that will avoid losing in many ways.  Some players will do what V MIRZA does, and simply give up.  If you’ve given up, you can then take comfort in the claim that your loss wasn’t because you tried your best and lost, it was simply because you weren’t trying.  Some players will blame their losses on luck, or lag.  Some players will make ridiculous comments like “I prefer fighting people with variety, instead of canned combos”.  This just means that they enjoy fighting people that they can beat.

If you truly want to become the best player possible, it is essential that you be willing to look at your own losses with a honest introspection.  There is nothing that will provide you greater insight into how you can improve, than by reviewing your own matches, and seeing what your opponent is exploiting.  

Over at VFDC, people have made complaints about a player named Unico711.  Unico plays a very unique Brad.  He doesn’t approach Brad the same way I do, and uses a very limited moveset.  The first time I played him, I couldn’t understand why his level was so high – the first round that we fought, all he did was 2P me.  After I adapted to that, he changed up his attack, and started using DM P+K, and full circular sweeps.  And so on.  People complain about the fact that all he does is low sweep spam, and DM P+K spam.  But this isn’t something you should ever complain about.  You should either determine why you are losing to someone that is spamming moves, or look to this player as someone that you can hone your skills against.  Next time you lose and are tempted to say something like this, stop yourself, and ask why you really lost.  We don’t lose because our opponent was “cheap” and just used 2P.  We lost because we were unable to adapt to that method of attack.

One of the people that I respect the most for this approach to gaming is David Sirlin.  His blog/book about playing to win advocates an approach like this one, where you do not blame your losses on something like the moves your opponent used, or their attitude, but solely focus your view inwards, and attempt to resolve any issues from there.  You can read more about his point of view in his excellent book (freely available on his website), here.

That’s all for now.