After a hype cycle of over a year, Divekick is finally out and making the rounds — and I wanted to know how it has held up so far as a competitive fighting game. Naturally, I sought out Adelheid Stark.
Adelheid Stark is perhaps best known for her Guilty Gear and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 play, but lately she has been Divekicking up a storm online and offline, breaking top 5 on the leaderboard and winning the PAX 2013 Divekick tournament. She has also been churning out a ton of Divekick data on Twitter — including finding the odd bug here and there — so I couldn’t think of anyone better to dish on the early state of competitive Divekick from a player’s perspective.
Patrick Miller: You’ve been putting a LOT of work into Divekick lately. Why? What do you find so appealing in Divekick as an accomplished tournament FG player? Do you think it’ll hold up a year from now?
Adelheid Stark: Divekick is a fun game that a lot of people can get into. It’s a game I can play with my friends who are weaker at fighting games, and I still pretty much always beat them, but they don’t feel frustrated because they at least understand why they’re losing. I can get a lot of good matches online, and right now I’m nursing an injury and can’t move around too much, so that’s really good for me.
PM: What’s the skill curve like compared to your other games? Where does execution come in to play? What do you practice?
AS: I’d say the skill curve is a lot nicer than most games. There is certainly room to just be a lot better than people, but up to a certain point it’s easy to compete. Execution mostly comes from weird buffering tricks, kara techniques, and not accidentally buffering specials when you’re trying to quickly press different buttons quickly, haha. Most of my “tech” is just observations of the opponent and knowing what I can punish with Trick (S-Kill’s air special). Oh, and doing kara K~D to do trick, which causes you to gain meter before using trick and then kick immediately out of the trick. I feel like a total badass every time I use this to trick when I don’t quite have enough meter for it, and my opponent just gets hit by it.
PM: Do you see anything on the horizon that will change the game a year from now?
AS: There’s a lot of weird interaction and glitch techniques in this game, so it’s certainly possible, but I kind of doubt anything will change too drastically. There’s some techniques I have my eye on, but they’re all just small tricks and extra ways to call people out, so while I definitely see the metagame (I’m sorry, Keits (ed. note: Good thing he’s not the SRK EIC any more…)) growing more intricate, I doubt we’ll have anything blow the game open.
PM: It seems to me that Divekick is really about studying matchups and matchup-specific setups. How does that change the way you practice the game?
AS: This is completely true, but it’s also kinda true of most games. Stuff you can do sometimes doesn’t work on some people. So I wouldn’t say it’s too different, because Divekick, much like other fighting games, is a fighting game. You need to be aware of your opponent’s options and you may specifically be able to do things that counter them that don’t work on other people, but it all comes together very naturally and unobtrusively.
PM: How do you see balance playing out so far? any particularly painful matchups? Who’s the most slept-on char/gem combo?
AS: There are a lot of particularly painful matchups in this game. I generally feel that the best matchup in the game is S-Kill vs Jefailey, which is impossible to lose if played correctly, with Shoals vs Jefailey coming in at a close “9.8 to 0.2” second. But the thing is, all the strongest characters don’t really have unwinnable matchups. S-Kill vs Dive is kinda bad for me but if I get the right reads I’ll still win that fight. As for most slept on char/gem combo, I dunno about combo but I still maintain S-Kill’s being slept on. Markman too. People realize Markman is good but people aren’t picking him, which is crazy.
PM: Also, is it just me, or are Baz mirrors terrible? Can you consistently punish mash kickback?
AS: Aim your lightning at their feet. You can land in front of their bolt and yours keeps going to hit them. It’s really consistent in punishing that. Baz mirrors can be silly but they’re not that bad, especially with the new patch making double kick factor not be double KO.
PM: Any thoughts on the new balance patch?
AS: Not enough Kenny buffs. Kenny needs for S-Kill and Stream stances to be able to cancel air spirit bullet into a kick. I actually don’t understand why they can’t. Shoals stance should get the same, or let her kick after kick > spirit bullet. It can now, but only if spirit bullet doesn’t turn around which is a crazy bug that makes no sense.
PM: Who else do you see playing seriously? Who’s gonna place top 8 at Divekick Evo 2014?
AS: Paul Kugler may be psychic, but I’m certainly not, and I don’t have that much foresight. A lot of people are taking it seriously, but… We’ll see. As for online warriors coming out of nowhere, I doubt they’ll crack it that much. The difference between online and off is really quite profound, even in Divekick.
PM: You’ve been playing at in-person events too, right? How does the netplay hold up for competitive practice?
AS: For practice is is pretty good but it is not perfect. The difference in the reads you get matters a lot. Because everything in this game has very little or no startup to it, GGPO doesn’t go very far towards helping you play a realistic match against your opponent, I feel. I’m very discerning in the matches I take, refusing matches with anyone I have a ping over 95 with, but especially when fighting the fastest characters, it can be kind of unreasonable to try the same stuff I’d do offline.
Even with just 5 frames of lag, a Redacted is moving very choppy up and down and it’s hard to see what they’re doing. When fighting the S-Kill mirror, offline I can hold my ground and even just stand knowing that if they try to Trick I can Parry on reaction, but online, maybe I can’t, because it takes longer for me to see what I’m supposed to be reacting to. Rushdown from Kick and Markman is a lot crazier to deal with online for much of the same reasons. That sort of thing really changes the dynamic. You can certainly practice some things but it’s not the same, and it can condition you into bad habits by doing unsafe stuff that nevertheless the opponent does not see in time to punish because of lag.
PM: Many SRK readers cited Divekick as the game they’d start FG newbies out on. Would you agree? Do you see new players quickly picking up the game and getting competitive early on?
AS: Divekick is a very easy game to get into, to be certain, but… New players are not going to be that competitive in it, I feel. Spacing and mindgames, the sort of reads you get, are something that translates very well from prior fighting games. They’ll have an easier time having fun and getting some wins than if they played street fighter, but to say “anyone can pick this up and be competitive” is not really accurate.
PM: Have you found any of your Divekick practice changing the way you approach and play other fighting games? How about the other way around — are there any games that prepped you for Divekick?
AS: I wouldn’t say it changes my approach. I think Divekick may teach people an appreciation for spacing, but playing Divekick doesn’t necessarily make you more knowledgeable of other fighting games past a given level because the specifics of your pokes and options don’t transfer. And because I pretty much just play anime games, like Guilty Gear and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, I experience the “neutral game” a bit less frequently, so there’s more of a disconnect there. But conversely, I think every game I’ve ever played has helped me appreciate spacing as much as I do, which has informed how I play Divekick, haha!
PM: Hypothetically speaking, if IG was doing Divekick: Hyper Fighting, what would you want added or tweaked? A training mode with Protractor overlay, perhaps?
AS: Kenny buffs. The ones I talked about before. They need to happen. Training mode would be great, with opponent playback and the ability to force certain stances for Kenny so you can practice stance specific advanced techniques. (I like Kenny a lot, even if I don’t play him in tourney.)
I want there to be a character who holds their arm in front of their head while standing, to block headshots. (Headshots would still be possible if the foot spawned in their head or if they were doing something, of course.) I just think it’d be funny.
PM: Dream match time: who would you want to play an ft10 set with, and in what game? Why?
AS: There’s a Japanese Venom (from Guilty Gear) player, Fino. I really like watching him play. I’d love to get to fight him, ’cause I play Venom too and I want to experience it for myself, hahaha. Of course, there’s also the person who made me start playing Venom, N-Otoko… I’d love to play him, too.
PM: Thanks for your time!
AS: Thank you for having me!