LordKnight Explains: Conditioning, Part 1

By on October 21, 2015 at 1:28 pm
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Hi everyone!

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.

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Conditioning is a basic part of fighters, but it applies to many factors of the game.

To get started, I’d like to start with the importance of establishment. Seeing that word might seem strange, but this is an extremely important factor in a match. Establishment is about letting your opponent know what is guaranteed, and determining the basic amount of knowledge your opponent has. In a game with ambiguous situations, understanding that you can set limits with guaranteed situations is crucial. Consider the following points:

  • Neutral
  • Offense and Defense
  • Punishes

Each of these points have guarantees associated with them. Understanding what situations are constant in matchups will give you a big edge in your play.

Neutral

In neutral, your character may have the ability to always be in control of certain situations depending on spacing, positioning, meter, etc. Establishing these moments as situations where you are in complete control limit your opponent’s options and can potentially make them avoid the situation altogether.

The classic example is anti-airs. Once you’re able to react to a jump-in and anti-air consistently, a competent opponent will either stop or try to do something to change their aerial momentum. The main point here is to have certain situations go from neutral – as in you versus the opponent vying for positioning, with no one having a clear advantage – to you gaining the upper-hand in guaranteed situations.

Offense and Defense

Offense and defense tend to split into two different types of situations – blockstrings and knockdowns.

I want to discuss standard offense first. You may already know this, but frame traps are a great example of establishing constants. You can structure blockstrings to be absolutes against the opponent’s defensive toolset – things like backdashes, reversals, alpha counters/counter assaults, etc.

A good example is Jin’s C dragon punch in BlazBlue – it’s common knowledge among more experienced players that you can set up offense while baiting his DP by inputting [2A > 5B > 44]. If Jin blocks, you do your string, but if he does his special, you’ll backdash. The end result is that, at higher levels, you won’t often see Jin players gamble waking up with this move, as it’s already established that this option exists and has low risk attached to it.

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Try to avoid this (image c/o Dustloop)

Knockdowns are quite similar; the main difference is that the amount of advantage you have to work with is usually more than a pressure string. A safe jump can cover the same reversal options I described above, but the danger is that you can also set up mixups simultaneously. If you can find ways to let your opponent know that you can handle their defensive options while getting different types of mixups, not only will you have a strong situation in your favor, but you can potentially open up more offensive options depending on your character.

Important note: Some people cannot be conditioned.

I noticed that a lot of mid-level players have a problem realizing that there are some people who just don’t understand what you’re doing or refuse to give up the situation, and that’s fine. I have heard people complain or mention, “I keep baiting his DP, but he keeps on doing it, so I can’t do other things. What do I do?” The answer is to keep doing the established thing that has been working the whole time.

The difficult point is realizing that your opponent can not be conditioned. Recognizing this takes judgement and experience. If you haven’t already, I think you should take a quick peek at my previous article from last Tuesday about establishing player assumptions, because you can judge whether or not someone can be conditioned based on their skill level. An advanced player will already understand established points in the matchup, and probably won’t test you. As far as beginner and intermediate level players, I find that you often have to test the waters. I’ve ran into players who make decisions that aren’t optimal “because they work,” which isn’t wrong, per se, but can be filtered through easily. 

Punishes

I think this last point is an obvious one, but often gets overlooked. Taking a guaranteed punish is a big deal, for a similar reason as taking a guaranteed situation in neutral. The only difference is you get guaranteed damage, which leads into a guaranteed situation.

When developing punishes, you’re trying to optimize damage, positioning, and the following situation. This, of course, is dependent on your character.

Punishes matter because it’s another way for you to discourage your opponent from certain actions. Going back to knockdowns, if you safe jump your opponent’s reversal and land a fat punish into the same safe jump, your opponent should be greatly discouraged from gambling with a reversal again.

I have to add, while you can get away with a few sloppy and/or non-optimized punishes in some games, you should really know your punishes in Street Fighter and Guilty Gear. In the end, it’s always best to go for the strongest punish available.

Conclusion

In a game with ambiguous situations, take things that are guaranteed! This is the first step in getting your opponent to act the way you want them to.

I also want to reiterate that some people can’t be conditioned, but that’s all right.

Action Steps

Normally, I’d ask questions and ask for you to post in the comments, but you should definitely be hitting the lab with this one…especially if you punish DPs with throws in Street Fighter!

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(Featured image courtesy of FGC: Rise of the Fighting Game Community)