The Fighting Game Diaries: Things I Have (Not) Learned

Since resuming playing fighting games with Granblue Fantasy Vs after a long break (years long) from fighting games, and my continuing efforts with Guilty Gear Strive (a year into it’s life), I have picked up a few things. Some things mechanical and some things relating to opinions I read about fighting games. I figured it wouldn’t be a bad idea to round up a few of these. This is not exhaustive – there are more things but this post has gotten pretty chunky already.

Also, most of this relates to Strive, with a smidgen about Granblue (begins with R and rhymes with hack). So, here are a few things I have learned (or not) about fighting games.

They aren’t that scary, and not all that different from other games: Some people will say “fighting games are too hard to play”. I’ve said that to myself, I listened as other people espoused that opinion. Because those opinions are based off fighting games at a high level. There is a difference between learning a fighting game and playing a fighting game.

A fun time.

Learning a fighting game is an intimidating process. That requires a lot of effort and dedication. Playing a fighting game is simply picking up a controller and pressing buttons. Anyone can play a fighting game. It’s fun. It’s exciting – buttons are pressed and cool things happen. Everyone can dig that. Granted, at some point higher level players will be run into and difficulty curve goes up, but that applies to any game. Even in single player – the level of challenge goes up. Playing Strive hasn’t felt that different to any other game I’ve played – progress is made then roadblocks are encountered and practiced and the process repeats. I will admit that unlike most games fighting games don’t have a difficulty ceiling – the curve goes as high as players can push it, whereas AI in games definitely has ceiling which can be reached. When starting out, those levels are but distant dreams. Anyone can press buttons and have fun.

That being said, this does require a fighting game that has…

Rollback is a must (Crossplay helps as well): And well implemented rollback at that. A good, steady connection goes along way. Both for playing the game and the games longevity. Much easier to have a good match when delays and player teleports are kept to a minimum. And as the game grows old and people leave, rollback lets players find other players in farther flung regions because the net code allows such matches to occur. Let’s tell the story of Granblue Fantasy Vs and Guilty Gear Strive, from the viewpoint of a late comer.

Granblue has delay based netcode, not rollback. I played it for the first time this year. When I stepped into Granblue, I was waiting like 5 – 10 minutes to find folks in ranked. The net code couldn’t go that far, so European matches all the time. Sometimes I would find folks on my level, but a common occurrence was the game giving up and finding whoever was around, from ranks B, A and S. That went well. I know I ended up with 9 wins, and probably like 70 losses.

This is fine.

Strive on the other hand, a year into the game, rollback and cross play (Cross Play Beta was the first time I played), there’s multiple people in ranked, there’s plenty of people in the park – all cross multiple levels. I’ve had time to learn and not get comboed into oblivion from the get-go. Except when I try to fight higher levelled people in the park. But that’s on me, and I’m cool with that.

Luckily more and more fighting games are getting rollback, both old and new. Some have cross play, but some don’t, but again, I think that’s becoming more common also.

It’s a beautiful thing.

Blocks and punishes go a long way: The Tower in Strive is 10 floors. I’ve made it to the point I bounce between 7 and 6. So, not great but pretty decent. I’ve made it that far by blocking some of the time, spacing some of the time and punishing some of the time. Hold back some of the time (for blocking), and attack some of the time (basic combos will do – like slash, slash, heavy slash) and progress will come.

In retrospect I should have used meter to defend, but alls well that ends well.

Turns out, there are a bunch of people who buy fighting games, and they refuse to block because they… bought a fighting game and not a blocking game? I don’t know, but they won’t block. Blocking ensures you live longer and by living longer more chances to do damage present themselves. By not blocking, there are more chances to get hit, and some those hits will be counter attacks. They hurt.

At some point offence will need to be diversified (that’s where I am – I will admit though the wall that comes with opponents who know better combos, spacing and offence in general – also better defence – is pretty solid – but again, it’s not like that at the start – assuming rollback is there), but to make a start massive combos aren’t needed. The basics go a long way.

We’re not in Limgrave anymore: What I’m about to write is going to sound stupid so bear with me. But, years of playing Souls games may have warped my brain. I main Baiken. I get in trouble when I fight May because in my head, May has an Anchor and that’s a heavy weapon. Baiken has a Katana which is a light weapon. I sometimes think my slashes are going to beat May’s slashes and they don’t because sometimes I default to Souls logic where big weapon is slow and small weapon is quick. It’s probably lost me more fights than I would like to admit.

It’s something I have to work on. Another thing I have to work on (also a carryover from Souls) is being aware of all the buttons and meters. I can and do forget about stuff. In Souls, I have to keep an eye on health and stamina. Sometimes I have a magic meter. My attack buttons are R1 and R2. I will occasionally press L2.

Either thats a light anchor or May has the strength of Elden Lord Godfrey. Also the only May fight I have on deck is with Testament. Sorry about that.

Meanwhile, in Strive I have 5 attack buttons. I have a special meter, a burst meter and a risc guage. That special meter helps with special attacks and roman cancels. It’s a lot to keep track of. Sometimes I rely too much on the slash buttons (because they are the sword buttons and in Souls you use a sword a lot). I have to remind myself to try and use the roman cancel button. I’m getting there, but there is a lot to learn.

As a reminder, none of this mattered when I was getting started. This is only mattering as I advance through the game. Which is fine – advancing means meeting more challenges. Again, getting started in Strive wasn’t that hard at all, even with my limited experience.

My brain and my hands (don’t) talk to each other: I have moments when I know something I’ve tried before does not work. It’s been blocked and punished before. It will be blocked and punished again. Sometimes it doesn’t even combo. My brain is saying all of this. Practically yelling all of this. Yet, my hands are like “what’s that now? Let’s do it again. Damn, didn’t work.” Brain says the same thing, and yet the hands do the same thing too. It’s amazing how I can call out how it’s not going to work (again) when I’m halfway through it (again.)

I’m getting a little better at it now. There are a few things I’ve more or less stopped doing, and there are some things I have to stop doing. Still, there are moments when the wires get crossed and my brain and my hands do it all over again. This also applies to what opponents do to me – I can see what’s coming, know what I have to do… and then don’t do it. Or do something that makes the whole thing worse.

Gotta keep working at it. It’ll happen still, because of human nature. But I can work at reducing it as much as possible.

It’s beyond winning and losing: This is something that has taken some getting used to. I’m not fully there, but I’m trying to get there. It’s hard because almost everything and everyone conveys the idea that winning is the best and losing is the worst. You don’t want to be a loser; you want to be a winner.

I can’t always win though. That’s an impossible goal. And at some point there will be a lot of losses. Whether that’s because the opponent is better than me, or I’m trying new things, or I’m messing around with a new character – there will be losses. They don’t have to be a bad thing though. Pulling off that new thing, learning something (either from the opponent or yourself) – all that’s good. And a match can be fun and end in a loss. Getting hung up on wins and feeling the urge to constantly win is probably going to lead to some bad feelings. It’s best to (try and and) let go and have fun and learn. 

Like Baiken says, “There’s no winning or losing. Just knowing yourself.” It’s a constant journey to figure things out. I wonder when I’ll get there fully.

Notes and Asides:

I have mentioned on this blog how much I dig Third Strike. I only have access to Third Strike through the 30th Anniversary Edition of Street Fighter on PS4. I tried going online once, with an ethernet cable.

I lost. That’s fine. That netcode isn’t fine though. I don’t want to slog through that.

Never again. The character select screen lagged. The whole thing is… after Strive, I don’t care how good a game is – I’m not playing it if it looks like that.


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