If you’ve followed me on Twitter, you know that I’ve been posting long reads on Tuesdays about fighting games. They’ve ranged from how-to guides to strategy and philosophy. This column is a continuation of that.
I want to share my experiences with both new and intermediate players who might be stuck. If you read one of these and think, “Well, that was obvious,” then good! If you take something away from these articles, then that’s good too.
For those of you who have been following these, I’ve added a section called action items at the end of the article. These are a bit like homework – it’s something you can try immediately. Let me know what you think in the comments!
If you have any questions or suggestions for topics, feel free to ask me on Twitter at @LordKnightBB.[hr]
As events get larger, I find that being able to play the field to be more and more important.
What I mean by “the field” is the group of players you could possibly encounter in a bracket. They are by no means the “randoms” that the community refers to (i.e. weaker players, pot monsters, what have you). They are simply the unknowns – a potential match against an opponent you aren’t familiar with.
In a game where information is key, the field can be daunting, since the only information you have is hearsay and character matchup strategy. You have no information on the actual player. Hearsay, of course, is what you make of it. It is unreliable – you can’t guarantee that someone will play you the way they play against other players. Thus, I find that thorough understanding of character matchup strategy is crucial in this sort of setting.
That being said, just because you haven’t played a particular person before, that doesn’t mean you can’t walk into a set with assumptions of your opponent’s behavior. You’ll be pulling from your previous experience against the character, whatever your expectation is on the opponent’s skill level, and certain decisions that can happen during the match.
I like to start based on the character my opponent is playing. If you’ve prepared for the character beforehand, you’ll definitely have noted certain traits that people using that character have while playing matches. If you have ever played against a character, got hit by something for seemingly the millionth time, and shook your head while thinking, “Of course they did that,” you’ll know what I mean.
For example, I find that people who play “fast” characters and zoners tend to try to mash out of pressure a lot, so I try to use offense that counters whatever they like to use to escape. I wouldn’t necessarily break this down by character archetype, but rather by specific characters, since everyone can handle situations differently thanks to their specific toolset.
You can also think about the assumptions people will have about your character. When I played Mitsuru in Persona 4 Arena, people tried to bait my B+D a lot, since hers was especially large. I took note of this and would use other defensive options instead.
First off, I know some people like assuming what actions players take based on their supposed skill level, but I feel like that would be done regardless of whether you’re actively considering it or not. This isn’t a bad thing to do, but it’s something you would be doing anyway. This is along the lines of “this guy doesn’t block because he’s a beginner.” You’ll build these kinds of expectations with experience.
During the match, I’ll occasionally notice an especially striking decision from my opponent that I take note of, which could affect later decision making. In general, once the opponent does something once, that option is on the table forever. For example, a standard line of reasoning is that if someone hard baits my burst, I’ll assume that they will potentially try a hard bait – and I’ve maintained that line of thought for a long time.
However, if the opponent takes a burst, it can be too late. Burst is a valuable resource, and getting baited is a major critical point in the flow of a match. As I grew as a player, I started to note that you can see this sort of hard decision making earlier in the match – as in, just based on the spread of the opponent’s decision making, if I was getting comboed mid- to late-round, I would think, “Oh, this guy is probably going to try to hard bait my burst.”
I used burst as an example, but you can apply these sorts of assumptions when lacking player data to all sorts of situations and games.
There are ways to make assumptions about what a player will do even if you’ve never played them before.
1. Try thinking of one thing you notice people you haven’t played tend to bait a lot, and post it in the comments below.
2. Try thinking of one thing you notice people who play a certain character do a lot, find a counter to it, and post it in the comments below.[hr]
(Featured image courtesy of FGC: Rise of the Fighting Game Community)