The Fighting Game Diaries: We did (not) hold a tournament

I’ve mentioned on this blog before that I sometimes bring my PS4 to work, so that me and my friends can play fighting games before work starts. And sometimes after work. Or not depending on who reads this. But we do. We have a lot of fun.

For the longest time the pair of us have talked about letting the kids who come into the library to play fighting games. The initial plan was Guilty Gear Strive but then I got nervous about some of the character artwork. There was a brief flirtation with Xrd but it turns out some characters swear and sometimes Ino just takes her top off.  Then I shifted to Street Fighter, with a focus on Third Strike – of the older games it controls the smoothest and isn’t all that complicated (for kids pressing buttons) – the Alpha series being its own beast (explaining the Ism system – I barely get it). Those games never got played. In fact, tournaments didn’t happen. In part because I’m a terrible salesman, and in part because our old boss would not allow it, so I had to keep it on the down low.

I stupidly forgot to record any footage of the kids matches – so, in place of that are gifs of my friend beating me at fighting games and doing cool stuff in fighting games. She digs Granblue.

However, thanks to my friend being much better at talking to kids than me, we managed to do 8-person tournament. We did manage to do 4-person tournament before this, but 8 people allows for more play time and more time for patterns to emerge. It’s fun watching people who have not played these games play them – particularly kids and teens (it was two teens and six kids). They make their own meta in real time.

And there was a prize on the line. People will hang around for chocolate. And what game did they play for chocolate? And having fun. Fun was had.

Cha La Head Cha La: Thank Kami for Dragon Ball Fighter Z. Fighter Z has a lot of things going for it. It’s not that violent – all fighting games are inherently violent – but it’s incredibly tame in comparison to other games. It is visually spectacular – the characters look cool, even if people don’t know how to play it looks great in motion and it’s incredibly colourful and vibrant. It works wonders for kids to teenagers to potentially apprehensive parents.

She’s got a mean Cell.

They do be mashing: Another thing Fighter Z has going for it is that it allows people who don’t know about fighting games to do cool stuff. Taking Strive as an example, if you just mash the square button all that will happen is a character will stand in place doing a punch. Do that in Fighter Z and any character will do a full combo. The same applies to all the attacking buttons. Auto combos are wonderful things. In addition, the buttons in Fighter Z are all forward advancing – so if someone struggles with movement they will still be forward moving. All of this let everyone do something cool in a match – regardless of ability. That’s pretty great right there.

The time she went online and beat another person.

Some kids ran with light combos. Some kids ran with heavy and medium stuff. One person, the eventually winner did an excellent job of using heavy kicks and follow up dashes to keep the pressure up. I even saw a few vanishes being used – I didn’t mention those at any point. She did a really good job at figuring out how to keep and maintain pressure. She also did a good job with spacing – she got quite a few whiff punishes. In fact, she only lost her first characters in the final match – a worthy winner through and through.

The Age of Fire: Talking about the meta developing in real time. Some children remembered the X button (PS4 controllers) is used for fireballs. It did not take long for some of those children to figure out they could stand at one side of the screen and pelt the other person with fireballs. Or Ki Blasts, since we are talking about Dragon Ball. This was dealt with varying degrees of success. Some kids died in the corner, others threw ki blasts back and some navigated by their own means. No one complained about spamming or cheating though – so that was nice. In fact, there was no salt at all (at least with Fighter Z – more on that later). I’ll take that. Because to quote the great Infil Fighting Game Glossary on Zoning “Most new players really hate dealing with zoners, usually expressing their frustration by calling you a fireball spammer and unplugging their console.” None of that here.

She Spirit Bombed me (Genki Dama if you want that). So goddamn cool.

One of the cool things that happened was that all on their own, some kids figured out that fireballs could be done whilst jumping. This led to an avoiding of fireballs, a development in the fireball war and another way of stopping grounded ki blasts. I now realise, after thinking about it this was real life problem solving in action. A problem was presented, and ways to confront it, circumvent it or negate it were crafted on the fly. That’s pretty cool right there.

Unless Vegeta was picked. Because Vegeta can fire off 17 million ki blasts at once. Grounded or airborne. It can be quite troublesome do deal with. Particularly if a certain someone forgot to explain some mechanics…

Teaching is hard: I explained the basics of the game. That being light, medium and heavy attacks – movement – switching characters – using the bar for supers and blocking. It did not occur to me until I watched the kids play how much I missed. Nothing about anti airs, I cannot remember talking about super dashing, and I did not explain the full complexity of blocking – by which I mean high and low. I also forgot to talk about Dragon Rush. I sometimes forget just how much of these games is learned through time and becomes second nature. I have to be more aware of that. Much more. Lessons for next time. Or maybe I should just teach the basics and let the rest come naturally. I don’t know. Hopefully a good teacher will stop by here and give advice.

Playing the Street Fighter 6 demo – she went 6 and 3 against me.

Rule of Cool: When it came to picking characters I just told everyone who took part to pick whoever they thought looked cool. When people start out in these games, tier lists essentially mean nothing. If you don’t know to play the game properly yet, then what’s good isn’t known. So, just pick the characters that light a spark inside of you. That’s what happened here. Not a meta team in the bunch. Well, sort of. The winner had Lab Coat 21 run the show from point. Pretty funny in retrospect.

She has a mighty mean Cell.

No prior knowledge informed that pick though. Android 21 looks pretty cool, so people ran with her. I can dig that.  

One thing I didn’t realise – for the uninitiated it can be hard telling who is on whose team when combat get hectic. Some kids didn’t know who won – I had to check who was on which side to figure out who to advance in the tournament (sometimes actual work stuff came up – how dare). Because the difference between Vegito, Vegeta, Gogeta, Goku and Gohan (and everyone else with spiky hair) isn’t the greatest to those who don’t watch or have not watched Dragon Ball Z. Particularly with fireballs and side switches. This is less of a problem in games like Guilty Gear and Street Fighter. That’s something to think about.

It wasn’t a big problem though. Everyone still had fun. So that was nice. 

Blocking works: It’s not fancy, but it works. I made sure to tell everyone about blocking but its usage wasn’t that widespread. And I get that. Combos and supers look cool, blocking less so. But it’s fundamental. It’ll get you far. By blocking some of the time and taking hits when you can, you can easily reach mid rank. I know this because I’ve done this. But it is something that comes with playing a lot. The biggest thing about learning these games is time. Time to sit down and play them regularly. But, with kids just looking to have some fun with friends it’s all good. As long as they are having fun it’s all good. Blocking or no blocking.

Unless someone’s gloating about winning. After the tournament had finished, some other kids wanted to play fighting games and had a crack at Street Fighter 6. One child found dynamic controls and was spamming a combo with Dee-Jay (the other kid’s words). He wasn’t shy about telling the other kids about this. They asked me how to stop it. Behold, holding the back button. I held back with Lily (the character I’ve been playing with at home), and then hit drive impact followed by L1 three times. Rinse and repeat. Not much gloating afterwards.

Good job back button.

After that some kids went back to Dragon Ball – it is a great game for a first timer. The colourful nature of the combat and the characters (and backgrounds now I think about it) and the simplicity of the controls – it’s an easy way in. Also, there was one kid who knew his Dragon Ball – instantly identifying Cooler. That was cool.

All in all, I think we can call the tournament a success. The kids and teens who played had fun. Some said they would come back. Some said they would be willing to try different fighting games. And the winner got come chocolate. Actually, everyone did – we had a bunch left over from Easter Prizes, so it was given out here to all participants. The winner got the most though.

Here she straight up done me. The vanish catches me blocking the opposite way – done, absolutely done.

We’ll be trying this again. Hopefully we can make it into a regular thing.

The Fighting Game Diaries: (Not) On Floor 10

Since the last Fighting Game Diaries, Baiken has achieved a few things. She reached the mark of 1,000 wins. She achieved a character level of 100 – for which the game gave me a Baiken Master Badge – I don’t fully agree but I’ll take it. And finally, at long last she reached floor 10 of the Tower. For me that’s the big one.

Getting back to floor 9 and the 1,000th win, back to back. Pretty cool.

If by chance you have read previous posts on this blog, it might be apparent that floor 10 became something of an obsession. I know full well there are levels beyond floor 10, but I kept on getting close to floor 10. So much so that floor 10 became the goal. Well, the current goal. There wasn’t much sense in looking beyond floor 10 when I wasn’t there yet.

There are 2 chances that I had to get to floor 10 that stand out. I’m sure there are a bunch of straight up losses when I saw the chance to go up and just panicked and made a mess of it. But of the 2 that stand out, one caught me off guard. I beat a Zato player 2 – 1 (nothing major I thought) and then the second match against a Ky player was for promotion. It felt too quick. And I messed up, losing the first two matches before taking the third, all for nothing. At least in the moment. You can take things from any match but in the moment it felt hollow.

The second one was a set against an Ino player. This set I distinctly remember because it came down to a single hit. And I had it. And I messed it up. I did not cleanly input Baiken’s Gun Super. Final round, and Ino was in the middle of firing off a note. I saw it, I tried to get the gun off and I just didn’t. I must have hurried it, fumbled it or a combination of the two. The chance went, the match went with it. The second match was also close (and possibly still a chance at going up), but again, the Ino player saw it out while I didn’t. Come the third match my tendencies were figured out, my confidence had bottomed out and it wasn’t that close of a finish. I hung on to that for a while.

Then came the extended life of being a floor 8.5, before holding my own on 9. With some rare trips down to 7. Those didn’t last long though. Holding my own on 9 was a big deal. I was managing to climb back for 8 pretty quickly as well. It’s all progress. New base lines are nice.

The night before this happened I was sent back down to 8 after trials and tribulations against Asuka’s (they are everywhere – the tower, the park – it’s oop’s all Asuka’s). I got back to 9 but faced another relegation against – guess who – Asuka. Turns out all the matches before had done some good – I got out with a 3 – 0, in addition to another 3 – 0 against another Asuka. It’s a tough match up but it’s doable. The morning after I’m texting a friend and decide to play some Gear – I had some time. After avoiding some Asuka’s (fatigue more than anything else) I fought a Bridget. There was no promotion icon next to my name, no mention of it on the match screen. Everything said it was going to be a regular set in the tower.

It was a good set. The matches where close – exceedingly so in some cases. The set could have gone either way – those are the best ones. After a bad first round I get a 1 – 0 lead. That becomes a 2 – 0 lead before turning into a 3 – 0 win. I feel pretty good about it. I’m getting ready for the next set.

Finally making Floor 10. Pretty cool.

Well, it turned out the 3 – 0 rescue job against Asuka counted for more than just preserving my floor 9 status. The set against Bridget finishes and out of nowhere it’s the ranking update. I don’t quite know what to do. It’s sudden, it’s unexpected – I’m not prepared to see the words floor 10. I’m very excited. I text my friend – she keeps up with my progress and cheers me on – believes in me when I don’t. I walk around the room. I walk around floor 10. I don’t fight anyone – I just take in being there. I finally belong. I might get sent back down (late edit – I was – went 1 – 5 and back to 9 – won a match though, so that’s good), but I have made it. And that counts for something. It means I can make it again if the worst happens. I think I work better when I don’t know a promotion is coming.

An actual safe jump. Neat.

I know in the context of Strive floor 10 isn’t everything. It’s not the end. It’s taken me a while to get here. There are videos and comments on YouTube of people making it in 10 days (Celestial even), people getting there in 25 hours. None of that is stopping me feeling good about this. I’ve worked hard for this. I’ve put the time in for this. I’ve come a long way from when I started. And with Baiken, I can finally say (to a point) I’ve learned a fighting game character. Prior to this it would have been Yoshimitsu in Tekken 3, 5 and Tag Tournament but those where only ever AI matches. Baiken represents the first time that I have played with people and got a character to the point I can do stuff. It’s been a great journey so far.

The hit that got me there.

I think what has excited me the most is that throughout all of this, there has never been anything, even close to a character crisis. I’ve rolled with Baiken and stuck with Baiken. Even during the struggles, I went with Baiken. I’ve tried other characters for fun and none of them come close to her. I’ll only climb the ranks with another character once Baiken finishes her journey. Not before. No other character vibes with me like Baiken does. I dig that.

A few notes on ranked

I’ve spoken about this before in various posts, but I’ll take this chance to collect my thoughts on the Tower. The Tower…it can be a little volatile for a ranked mode. Sometimes. And sometimes it just confuses me. Like, in this post when I talked about beating the Asuka player to stay up. Prior to that I went 5 – 1 across two sets and then fought a Bridget player. I lost that set 3 – 0 and then it was the relegation set. I somehow went 5 – 4 and had a chance to be relegated. How often, in any context, in any competition can you win more than you lose and be threatened with relegation? I can’t imagine its many.

I have no gifs for this section so here are some random gifs from me playing Baiken.

You get a sense of when a promotion shot is coming – there is an upwards pointing arrow on your R-code and by your name. That’s good. It helps with knowing you’re doing good are and it helps with confidence. It if keeps up a promotion shot is on the cards. Conversely, there is nothing to indicate the opposite. You know when you’re on bad run, but you have no idea when the relegation shot is coming. It can be incredibly stressful to deal with.  Because sometimes it comes on far quicker than expected. One time I got to floor 9 from the night before. The day after I went back to the tower, completely fresh – no prior wins and losses on floor 9. I fight a Potemkin player. I lose 3 – 0. Okay, they were better than me, I can live with that. I am immediately relegated – no warning, no nothing. I think I learned on that day that if you have a good number of wins against an opponent (most of my wins are against Potemkin) the game expects you to win. And if you don’t you are judged, seemingly accordingly, at least according to the game.  The second most wins I have are against Bridget players. It probably explains the previous example of this.

This can also apply to being promoted. Like I mentioned in the post, I won one match 2 – 1 with no prior wins and losses and suddenly had a shot at promotion. This can lead to climbing floors too quickly, finding oneself out of their depth (happened to me) and then bouncing between floors. Because there comes a point where one is too good for lower floors but not quite good enough for higher floors because of the volatile nature of ranked, not enough time is spent on the higher floors but enough skill has been acquired to render the lower floors not that much of a challenge. Like, when that Potemkin sent me down I got back out of 8 real quick. Might have been 10 minutes of work. It would have been much better to hang around 9 and get more experience there.

Ranked is still fun, and more or less, I’ve found, I’ll get to a point where I belong. Eventually. I just wish it was less volatile. If I could change it, I would have it be a set amount of wins and losses sends one up and down. Like, say, 9. That’s three full sets. Win 9 matches, go up. Lose 9 matches, go down. Whichever gets reached first. I’d always know where I would stand, and there would be no surprises. But I guess no system is perfect. Knowing the number of losses could induce anxiety, particularly if that number is approaching. But I do think I would prefer that. Ah well, I’ll deal with what’s here.

I do want to mention here that I do like the R-code. I love that is shows the wins and not the losses. A player knows, at least roughly, the amount of losses. We don’t need reminding. Playing Dragon Ball Fighter Z online is different – seeing my player card broadcasting to everyone that I’ve won 7 but lost 30 – thanks game, really makes me feel good. I know I’m not doing good – no need to tell everyone else. The R-code just lists wins and all that good stuff. In fact, Strive in general (ranked volatility aside) is good at instilling confidence. There are little messages everywhere that just broadcast good vibes – badges being the “crystalisation of hard work, blood, sweat and tears”, your character being expression of your hopes, wishes and skill or how you can always change how you play by hard work and practice – nothing is set in stone. I dig all of it. It’s helped me a lot when I’ve been struggling with my performance.

The Fighting Game Diaries: (Not) Leaving before its done

My existence in the Tower (as of late) has involved bouncing between floors 9 and 8 (with the occasional sojourn down to 7). Which is great and it isn’t. I’d rather break through to 10 – been close to it three times now. But I can hold my own on and get out of out 8 (sometimes quickly). And breaking out of 7 isn’t tough at all. Hopefully 8 can be the new benchmark and I can go from there. That would be nice.

In the Tower, sets are three matches long. I (barring two occasions) always fight the full 3, regardless of what’s going to happen. The two occasions I bailed was when I was losing 2 – 0, got demoted and then got tea bagged on for reasons. I did not feel like continuing after that. The second was one match with some horrible lag spikes – I’ll take the L thanks – that connection was not good for playing on. Those aside, full sets all the way.

99.7% (roughly) of people I have fought are the same way – the full 3 matches are completed. Lately though, I’ve seen a few folks bail on the final set. I’ve been 2 – 0 up and people have left. In some cases it’s understandable – getting demoted sucks and I understand just wanting to do something else in that moment. And given how volatile the ranking system in Guilty Gear can be I can see bailing on the last match and coming back later. I understand that – you can vault between the floors like a yo-yo.

A fun set against an Anji player. Also this game can be cruel.

In other cases, though I see the same person who bailed hanging around the same floor. Why leave? There was no danger of demotion, so a possible extra loss isn’t a big deal. That leaving early can also affect the other person. It can delay and cost promotion opportunities. That extra win, making a set 3 – 0 and then following that up with another 3 – 0 on the back of some other successful sets would probably lead to a promotion. Instead, folks have to fight for longer to get the opportunity. Sometimes that opportunity is shanked, whereas if it came earlier it would have happened. That’s been the case with me and it’s a little frustrating.

I will admit me shitting the bed on a promotion chance is my fault. I can live with that. I should have played better. I can use that experience to be better next time. But it’s still a little annoying knowing that is full sets had been played, the promotion would have come. I need to put that out of my head though – I need to deal with the here and now. Ignore what could have been and focus on getting better now.

It does help to play the full set though. The extra match is good practice. You might win. You might learn how to respond to a deficit. A demotion isn’t the end of the world. Never know if you won’t fight.

I lost 2 -1 to a Giovanna player which sent me down to 7. The first two matches I was incredibly skittish – dropping inputs, mashing on wakeup – everything going wrong. The third match I calmed down, cleaned up my inputs and got the win. It was a good experience. A worthwhile experience. It could be for someone else too.

Trash Talk, or the lack of it: The way some people talk about fighting games, I figured there would be more of this. In game I mean. On the internet it’s all over the show. Okay, on Twitter. But playing Guilty Gear, in terms of social interaction, has been a pleasant experience for the most part. A simple exchanging of GG’s and WP’s is the standard. That’s nice. I can dig that.

Just a Baiken combo.

It happened on one occasion. I will say my definition of this is someone typing out a message. On one occasion someone did this. And it made me laugh. I fought someone in the Park and lost 3 – 5. Not the worst result. It was a fun set. Or so I thought. I said as much to said person.

Their response was the same, even though I was a “carried Baikentard.” They used Ramlethal.

That aside, nothing. Nothing at all. No comments on my playing, no comments on my internet connection (so I’m assuming that’s alright. Which is nice.) and no other comments on my character choice.

Still confuses me I got away with that. Figured Axel’s super would have I-frames.

In fact, the most recent interaction I had was someone saying my Baiken was pretty good. I returned the compliment with their Bedman? I like that. That was pretty cool. Interactions like that, I wouldn’t mind seeing more of them.

Granblue’s back (sort of): Granblue Fantasy Vs Rising isn’t here yet. While people are waiting for that, the original is still here and playable. There’s no rollback or crossplay, but its playable.

I was playing from roughly between 4.30 – 6.00pm GMT. All of the lobbies where empty, barring one in Osaka with two people in it, and one in Tokyo with seven people in it. No one anywhere else. It seems to be a ghost town on PS4, at least at that time. So, I headed off to Tokyo. With no rollback. One person said they couldn’t fight me (understandable – not a good connection) while one person gave me a chance, taking my D ranked Zeta versus their S ranked Bieliel. There were nine delay frames, but their name did say all ping okay, so we ran with it. They won 2 – 0 but I tried my best and I appreciated the time they gave me. They didn’t have to do that. They could have waited for someone to give them a better challenge. They gave me a chance. They even said I did good. I don’t think I did, but that was nice.

After that I headed off to ranked. This was limited to Europe. I fought the same person 9 or 10 times in a row. The game couldn’t find anyone else. Again, in Europe most countries are close to or an hour ahead of Great Britain. If there was a time for people to be around, that would be it. I played on a Friday, but I don’t think that would affect the number of people playing that much. It’s not like seeing all the different people playing Strive (even with the connection issues – although for me they have gotten a lot better lately), and even a game like say, Dragon Ball. I’ve played online there for a bit also, and that game is 5 years old and still has a full lobby of 64 people in the UK lobby.

May have lost the match, but I did hit the big super. That was cool.

I think the other person won more than I did (edit: they did – 13 played 5 to me). However, my win column went from 9 to 14 in about 45 minutes to an hour, and I got a promotion from E4 to D4. That was nice.

Bear in mind, the first time I played Granblue (essentially the first time I went online with a fighting game) I got like 9 ranked wins across a month or so. There’s a good chance there was like 70 losses accompanying that number. It wasn’t the best run of form. Turns out, my experience with Strive has made me better at fighting games. Even in the matches I lost, they were chances to win, much more than my first time with Granblue. The games are of a different pace but learning where to stand, how to block and a host of other things was of a huge help.

Look at me hit confirming into a super. I used to try and hit those raw. Look at the blocking and punishing afterwards. That rarely happened before. I even anti-aired a few attacks. Not in the above match but in other matches. Wonders never cease. Still bad at dealing with throws, and handing throws out. How can I practice that? That’s not rhetorical – I really need it. Throws aside though, everything is cleaned up and better. It’s nice to see that.

Undoubtedly I have gotten better at playing fighting games. Makes me feel more confident about trying new fighting games – I have a few transferable skills now. I should try playing more of them. Hopefully Melty Blood will go on sale again, that could be fun.

Notes and Asides:

There are gifs again! Gfycat might be dead (or at least looking that way) but my old Giphy account still works. I have to upload videos to YouTube first and make the gif that way (no files over 100MB in size allowed) but I can make gifs again. It’s nice.

The Fighting Game Diaries: (Not) Playing Other Games

My friend makes a return visit. She still thinks playing fighting games with me is cool. It’s still awesome. It’s still the best. While we do continue to play Guilty Gear (this time more on the Strive than the Xrd Rev 2), we have discovered the wonder and joy that is Dragon Ball Fighter Z. And we’ve played a little of the Street Fighter 6 demo. We’ve been going around the houses. It has been a lot of fun. I hope we can do it again.

My friend has said she wants to get better at fighting games. Rather than simply mashing, she does want to learn how buttons and commands work. The problem is time and means of playing. She has no means of playing these games at home – PS4’s are still expensive (like £140 still), and her laptop isn’t the best. We get 2 Saturdays in a month where we can play before work starts and sometimes she comes around to my house to play. That is a chance of a longer session – like 4 to 6 hours of game time. It’s not the everyday play that see’s massive improvement but it is something. And she has improved. You love to see it. I love to see it. Perhaps most importantly she still has fun. We both have fun. Particularly when she does well – she’s really happy in those moments. It’s nice. It’s wonderful.

One visit to my house – after spending an hour playing with my dog – saw us playing Strive and then Dragon Ball Fighter Z. We tried more stuff in Stive – I explained Bursting and Roman Cancelling. Then I went through character archetypes. I showed her Infil’s Fighting Game Glossary (just the best) while I showed her move cancelling. She read about it online and wondered what it was. Then we played a bunch of matches. I did win most of them – understandable because of the experience gap. One match that stood out was her playing as Sol and me playing as Happy Chaos. It turns out I don’t know how to reload. I don’t know the command. I fired off six bullets and then nothing. I had nothing. 6P’ed and Close Slashed into oblivion. It was funny to watch.

Bless Potemkin’s 6H.

Then we tried something new. She went online. We took a trip to the Park and we searched for a low ranked opponent. No point throwing her in against a level 700. She looked at the characters she like and ran with I-no first. Because guitar wielding witches are cool. We found a low level Bedman? We went 0 – 5. I then pulled out Baiken and went 1 – 5. Turns out, after a quick R-Code check their main character – level 620 and (I think) Celestial. Swing and a miss. Then there was a few Failed to Connect Messages and we decided to head off to the East Coast of America in search of an opponent. She switched to Potemkin. We got one. We had ourselves a Potemkin mirror match. She mashed a bit (as is tradition) but she was using commands. We got a lot of use out of 6H – covering half the screen has its benefits. And by hook or by crook, she won. My friend took on another human (who wasn’t me) and she beat them. Straight up. Such a good feeling. Such a good moment.

The set finished 1 – 1. We’ll take that. Because we got a win.

Then we tried Dragon Ball Fighter Z. I think we have found (so far) her favourite of these games. Partly because of how awesome the game looks – in artwork and in motion. Partly because of how the game controls. Also, it helped that neither of us has played this game beforehand. I got it on sale a few days before and waited until we got a chance with it.

First up we did a one on one. That went by way quicker than expected. I picked Cooler, she picked Goku and she completely washed me. Absolutely so. I was kicked across the screen, I was launched repeatedly and fun was had by all. Then we went to full teams, as the game is meant to be played and the whole thing was a blast. I’ve never really played a team fighter before – I have enough trouble learning one character, never mind two – three was out of the question. Turns out I’ve been missing out on a lot of fun. It’s a chaotic, maniac visual show – Dragon Ball Z has those naturally and you combine that with a 3 vs 3 anime fighter and it’s just wonderful.

The hight point was her, utterly by chance (her own admission) hitting me with the Spirit Bomb – it might be the coolest thing I’ve seen in a fighting game. We kicked each other through mountains, we flung Kamehamaha’s around and I found out regardless of the game I can’t tech throws for shit. It was great.

It’s so goddamn cool.

Dragon Ball Fighter Z has less directional inputs than the other games we have played. I think it’s only supers that have half circle inputs. Other moves have an either pressing a single direction, forward and circle as an example. Another thing is pressing a single button multiple times will do a combo – pressing square four times will do four hits in a row as an example. This doesn’t stop top players from showing out – because despite making controls easier, fighting game fundamentals are still stronger with those with experience and skill – but it does allow folks like me and my friend who don’t know what we are doing to see cool stuff happen on screen and have a lot of fun. I dig it. My friend dug it. We played again on a Saturday morning, and she had the same amount of fun. She is also incredibly fond of Perfect Cell – calling him strong. I don’t know if this aligns with the meta but there we are. Perfect Cell is strong.

Perfect Cell goes on a tear.

Last but not to be the least, the Street Fighter 6 demo. We played one match on the Saturday morning – it fit in just before the Dragon Ball session. We have played Street Fighter before – 3rd Strike and Street Fighter II (one of them). We have established my friend can mash. She has said Street Fighter (particularly II – that was a womping from her) rewards her mashing. Well, as a result of our best of 3 on Saturday my friend is now convinced every Street Fighter game is a mashers paradise. 3 – 0. Bear in mind I’ve played the demo before. She had not. She just beat me straight up. Fair play to her. She did good. She did great.

I stuck with the regular controls while she used the modern controls (similar to the Dragon Ball controls). Street Fighter 6 has three control types – the two mentioned and an incredibly simplified version where the AI assists with single button presses. I could try and argue that she won because she used the simplified controls – but no. The footage is here – lets look at how many times I press heavy buttons while she interrupts with lights. I mean, she didn’t know she was pressing lights but doesn’t change the fact I did not adjust to what she was doing. Again, I got outplayed.

When she went 2 up, she accurately stated why bother with the third match in a best of three. I said I wanted to play for pride. That went out the window. I honestly look forward to playing with her again. Dragon Ball FighterZ is too damn fun. Playing with her is too damn fun.

I should try and find a fight game local. In person is too good.

Notes and Asides:

Still no gifs – what with Gfycat’s downfall (still sad) and I’ve not found a new place to make them. Hopefully soon.

The Fighting Game Diaries: I have (not) come a long way

I’m still climbing the Tower (when the servers allow it). Well, stuck in a loop between floors 7, 8 and 9 – but I’m no longer stuck at 6 and 7 so that’s good. As a result of this, sometimes it can be a bit of a struggle to write these posts. There are only so many variations of plateauing and learning I can write. Let’s write something that’s a little different.

I have been playing Strive for either 4 or 5 months. It’s one of the two. At least consistently. There was a big gap when I first played Strive – I played the cross-play beta and then I waited for a sale. I still have some of those matches recorded from the cross-play beta. I figured it would be fun to compare one of those matches – my first ever win to one of my recent matches. Just to see what has changed – regarding how I play, what I do, the character I play and all that good stuff. So, let’s take a trip in a way back time machine to last year, when Strive was trialling cross play for the first time.

Back in the cross-play beta I was going to be a Ramlethal main. It didn’t turn out that way, but I still have a soft spot form Ram (when she has not got me stuck in the corner). I’d still like to put some effort into a Ram, but only when I’m done with Baiken. Maybe I’ll mess around in the Park sometime. Anyhow, first thing I notice about this match – Strive has two buttons. They are heavy slash and slash – and jumping and crouching variants of those moves. No other buttons will be pressed. Hell, no other buttons exist.

My movement in this match is limited. There’s a little bit of dashing and smattering of jumping. Quite a bit of my movement here is walking. It’s quite possibly the slowest Guilty Gear has ever been. It’s like I’m trying to play the game like Street Fighter almost. And there’s no comboing. Beyond the basic gatlings there is nothing – it’s slash into heavy slash and that’s it. I think I top out at a 2-hit combo. It did a job but a whole lot of stuff was left on the table.

The blocking is also spotty. I mean, it can still be (I’m terrible at blocking high to low still) but here I feel like I missed a lot of stuff I would now catch. And this was against pre-patch Bridget. Bridget has a lot more stuff to work with now. But, this was one of the first matches I played, so these things are to be expected.

The here and now. There is a lot more movement, and it looks a lot more decisive. There is dashing, there’s running, there’s jumping. There’s air dashing (both ways). Much more dynamic than when I first started.

I’m using a lot more buttons. I’m now cancelling into moves. There are actual combos. I know I’m not meant to be judging right now, but I am noticing drops here, so that’s stuff to work on. But the fact there is thing being dropped means I am trying to things, which is contrasted to the first fight where I wasn’t trying to do much at all – just slash and heavy slash. Now there’s tatami, kabari and jumping attacks – it’s a world away. I’m also using Roman Cancels – wonders never cease.

The blocking is also much improved. Well, at least in this match. There are a few lapses but here when I am forced to defend I hold up a lot better and take less unnecessary damage. Overall, it’s just much better across the board. The progress is nice.

There is still a ways to go. But rather than a constant focus on what I am lacking and need to do, it does help to acknowledge the progress that has happened. There will be time to focus on what I need to do. But constantly doing that could lead to feelings of unhappiness – constantly thinking about what isn’t there. Reflecting on progress, even for a moment will provide moments of happiness, and that’s always good.

I’ve come a pretty far way from where I was. That’s good. That’s to be celebrated. For now, I’m better than I was. I’ll take it. I’ll celebrate it. It’s good stuff.

All of this progress (however much it is) has only come from playing the game. As much as learning combos and stuff is a skill, learning how to fight is a skill. It’s been said before by plenty of folks but everyone has a plan until they get hit in the mouth. A fair amount of the previously mentioned progress has come from being hit in the mouth and learning how to react to it. It comes with time. Sitting in practice mode will only do so much. Street Fighter 6 is coming out soonish. It’s probably going to bring in a bunch of new folks (says he, the 5 month Strive player). Some of those people are going to go straight to YouTube and the lab, practicing all the combos, learning all the frame data and then they will go online. And lose to some dude who knows how to do a punch, a kick and a dragon punch because the latter has been fighting and knows how to carry themselves in a fight. Just fight folks right away. It’ll do a world of good.

Notes and Asides:

It turns out sat some point Gfycat was bought out by Snapchap and the staff was (apparently) gutted. Hence no responses from support and the endless encoding. Fuck me it sucks. I loved making all those gifs. Hopefully I can save them. Sad to see Gfycat in this state. It deserved so much better.

The Fighting Game Diaries: Me and My Friend Learn Mashing Does(n’t) Work

My friend, who has made a previous appearance on the fighting game dairies appears once more. Always cause for celebration. This time she came to my house to play fighting games, so no taking the PS4 to work. Not that that happened anyway.

This time around, owing to the extended time we had we played a whole bunch of stuff. As always Xrd Rev (2) lead off, and then we headed off to Street Fighter (a medley of Third Strike, II Turbo and one match of Alpha III). We then stopped off at Granblue Fantasy Vs. And as before, thoughts were vocalised, and things where learned.

Giving Technical Controls a go: Xrd always makes for a good start. She likes Xrd, and the stylish controls let her do a lot of stuff and have a lot of fun. This time around we did one match – she played Sol and I played Johnny. She did some mashing, did some cool combos and won the first round. I adjusted, used slash and far slash more to out space the mash and took it from there.

She has mentioned that she would like to try the technical controls. I showed her training mode and combo practice with Sol in Xrd and let her have a go. She managed to pull off Gun Flame successfully – yay! Then she got a bit bored. I mean, I do sometimes forget that these controls can be tricky for newcomers. But the fact she can pull of Gun Flame means she can do Bandit Bringer and Bandit Revolver – it’s the same quarter circle but with kick instead of punch.

One thing she did bring up – on the screen the buttons say P, K, S and HS. And D is there to. On the controller its square, cross, triangle and circle. And R1. That is a little confusing now I think about it. There is an option to switch it to the latter in the game – I might do that for next time.

Street Fighting: We then checked out Street Fighter. Thanks to the 30th Anniversary Edition, there is a whole bunch of Street Fighter games in one place. The most time was spent with Third Strike and Street Fighter II. We pretty much ran through every character in both games – I think that speaks to how much fun we had. Aside from Alpha 3. It turns out, the Alpha III character selection screen has a hidden timer. It’s frustrating for anyone who has not seen the cast before and wants to see who’s who. Although the same applies to Third Strike, except Third Strike has a visible timer. I’m not in an arcade anymore – let me take my time.

Compared to the matches in Guilty Gear, and later Granblue the matches in Street Fighter where a lot more even. I edged Third Strike. In Street Fighter II though, and this is not an exaggeration she kicked the shit out of me. I got to like 9 – 2 in her favour. I got bodied.

Getting Yun’ed.

In Third Strike my friend finally started to block with some consistency. This time I gave a more detailed explanation of blocking and how it functions – certainly more detailed than just hold back. It worked – she blocked out extended attacks – high and low. Didn’t her long to get used to it either – one or two matches and she had it. And in her mashing she managed to parry a few times as well. I managed some parries as well – by the by, parrying in Third Strike feels so good to do. She also threw me a good few times – I can’t throw people in Third Strike (I should look it up) but she can. She doesn’t know how she can but she can. She also managed, with Necro to throw me as Yun whilst I was in the middle of Gen’ei Jin. Won the match too. She’s a god.

(Gif of Hugo Super should be here – see note at the end.)

And for the first time in any game, she did supers. She hit me with Hugo’s super – the one with two 360 inputs – I can’t even do those. It was amazing – I had my own will it kill moment in my head before the final hit. And we both found out Chun Li has amazing buttons that go 17 miles – just stand in neutral and poke people to death. My friend digs supers – even when I was winning matches with them. She thinks they look cool – I agree. Super moves a pretty great – satisfying to pull off and visually pleasing. It’s a good combination.

Where I find out Chun Li has good buttons.

Thanks to Makoto I managed to pull ahead – but the whole thing was a close-run thing. My friend did say whether it was her or me she liked seeing a match end on a super. Super’s are pretty cool.

Mashers Paradise: Not Street Fighter II. Not even remotely close. A shit kicking is what it was. It’s possibly the most one sided one of these sessions have been. What was interesting about this was her reasoning for this. Now, bear in mind I’m not the best player of Street Fighter II (clearly) – so what follows is skewed by that. But also bear in mind up until this point my friend has played Strive, Xrd (Revelator and Rev 2), Third Strike and (after this) Granblue. And she is a self-admitted masher.

Paraphrasing her, she said of all those games Street Fighter II was the easiest one to play because… it rewards her mashing more than any other game. I mentioned to her that this surprised me. If you play fighting games, particularly modern ones you might be familiar with some opinions of some people who play older fighting games. They can harp on about how the new games are too simple and they can be solved by mashing. By contrast, the old games are too complex to mash – you had to precise all the time, due to the complexity, which apparently all modern fighting games have binned.

This happened a lot. Also, she discovered the joy of the double KO.

Then there’s my friend, with her limited experience mashing away to her hearts content and winning at Street Fighter II. I was trying to do spacing and all that good stuff, and she just mashed and ran me over. It was fun to see. It was a lot of fun.

Also, while I am on Street Fighter II. When people complain about Strive damage – after Street Fighter II I don’t want to hear it. I’ve never seen a throw in Strive take half a health bar. Sometimes more. There are times in Street Fighter II when even Season 1 Sol Badguy would be saying “guys, that’s too much damage. Y’all gotta turn that down.”

I think my favourite moment was when she told me – as she was crouching in the corner, and I had low health – don’t come near me – I’m going to hit you. I went near her, and she hit me low. She won. Yeah, she said she would, and she did it. And she did the same again in another match. I should have listened.    

It got to the point where I stopped recording her wins – normally I record her wins, but she was just winning so many. You love to see it.

Looking the part: And finally, we come to Granblue Fantasy Vs. For the most part this was one sided – I got out to 9 – 0 match lead. My friend was enjoying herself though (again, ran through most of the characters) and was pleased whenever there was a close round. Then came the final match. I played with Ladiva and she played with Zeta.

I forgot how much fun Granblue can be. Hooray for Rollback (when it arrives). Also, my friends corner pressure – good stuff.

Out of all our play time, I think this was the most excited and happy I heard and saw her. She was downright ecstatic at points. I think I’ve mentioned she mashes. We watched the replay back. This time around, she said there where points and moments where she looked like a fighting game player. Not someone mashing – someone playing the game. She had a combo of 12 hits – she’s down 3, 4, 5 hits – never 12! She got so excited when she saw the 12 come up – there was an audible noise of glee. Specials were happening with some consistency – fireballs, Zeta’s thrust attacks – all that good stuff. Granblue has a dedicated block button. She liked that. She had some consistent blocking. She liked that. She commented on the replay how pleased she was with some of her blocks.

You love to see it. You truly do. I’m getting a little emotional writing this. We’ve been playing for a while; she’s been trying to do more and more stuff and she saw all of that come together. She was so happy that she did that, and I was so happy for her too.

You love to see it.

Notes and Asides:

This post is launching without Gifs because Gfycat is having a moment. Once it starts working again I’ll put them in.

The Fighting Game Diaries: I did (not) climb a mountain

Last week in Strive I got to 500 wins with Baiken. I don’t know how I got there. I don’t know. 500 is a big number (relatively). I’m a little confused that I’ve made it this far. I’m a little scared. 500 is a lot, but it’s also a reminder of how far there is to go. In many ways this journey has barely begun. A mountain has been climbed. Many taller, more treacherous mountains are in the distance. I guess I should be able to climb those too (in theory – foreshadowing).

500th win. It’s pretty good.

I’ve been thinking about the journey – where and when it started, how it’s going and where and when (if) it’s going to finish. I’ve had this realisation before, but now it has become clearer. I cannot look at this like a, let’s call it a traditional sports journey. Those journey’s end with someone winning and being number one. And in some cases, unless that happens the whole thing is a failure. An unfair and harsh viewpoint, but it’s out there. In all honesty, for 99% of fighting game players (me included) – that win isn’t coming. That would be winning EVO, and I’m not saying you reading this cannot do it (go for it, why not) but odds on for most of us, it’s not happening. The skill and luck to get that far is… it’s hard to process.

The way I have to look at this journey (and sorry if this is pretentious) is akin to a Monk seeking enlightenment (wonder why I vibe with Baiken). It’s not a competition – well, it is but it’s not. It’s a quest to learn new things, be a little better than I was before and come to a realisation – whether that’s a level I’m aiming for, studying and mastering a new combo and simply learning how to counter a move. If I look at this only in terms of winning and losing – I’ll lose myself. I’ve lost so much – I went 0 – 20 Vs a Testament a few days ago (I try so hard but that match up for me is incredibly difficult) – that if I reduced this to such a binary level I’d have quit so long ago. The winning and losing is secondary to learning – about the game, the character and myself.

I should probably stop conceding so much space and start dash blocking. And timing jump in better. I can be done, but with Testament’s 6P covering an area about the size of the Pacific Ocean, it’s tricky.
That said I can get wins here and there. Still, this set ended 14 – 3 to the Testament. Still, better than 20 – 0. Also, after this I went to training, set up a Testament to 6P and spent half an hour practicing with it. Felt good.

All of that being said, as much as I try to maintain that way of thinking I can find myself slipping. I still get anxious fighting other people – both in the park and tower. It’s more pronounced in the tower but I can still feel it in the park. It’s been a while since I’ve been in the tower. I can even feel it in wins, and after successes. I suspect it’s always going to be there – something I’m going to have to deal with. To live with and to mitigate. I’m the sort of person that would be in Celestial and still I’d wonder if I’m good. I’ll never be sure of it. You can tell me I’m good, and I’m going to do my best to deflect and downplay.

On the plus side, finally didn’t fall for the raw super. Progress.

The game says I’m on floor 8 but I don’t buy it. That’s affecting me. I need to stop thinking in terms of numbers and ranks and I need to look at it sorely as that learning process. Once the numbers and ranks lose their meanings, then the anxiety should lessen. It’s just taking a while to get to that point. It’s hard – years of education and society have reinforced the idea that the higher number is better, and if you aren’t the higher number…well, that’s terrible. You should be the higher number. I need to get past it.

I know all of that makes it seems like I’m not having fun. But I am. Sort of. It’s complicated. There are times things are really enjoyable, even in the losses. I’m learning and cool stuff happens. That’s great. There are other times where from match 2 or 3 I’m cranky. I’m getting a little scrubby, then I’m flubbing inputs and then the whole thing feels like a wash out. One night this week I went 7 – 12 vs a I-no. It should have been fun. But by match 2 I was already mumbling about bullshit. It wasn’t bullshit – I wasn’t doing good. But in the moment that perspective wasn’t there and I probably, by my mentality, ruined what should have been a lot of fun. And the rest of the night was losing 38 matches whilst winning 11. That’s… not great.

I sometimes feel like I’ve peaked, and this it all I’ll ever be. An (apparently) floor 8 that gets wins here and there but nothing more. I don’t know how good or bad that is. I mean, I’ve made it further than I ever thought I would (it’s 500 wins – that’s not the worst in the world) but getting beyond feels like something else. It’s a struggle – I’m struggling. I know it – I struggle to vary my offence – I try and practice more advanced combos and stuff but I have trouble executing them and I default to my basic stuff that I can do. I hold out on defence but eventually it crumbles. A saving grace is I can beat people I’m (in theory) meant to beat. Floors 6’s and 7’s I’m normally good against – so there’s a base line. I need to figure out how to raise it.

I guess I should still celebrate doing cool stuff.

You can tell I’m focusing on the numbers. This is now a quest to escape the tyranny of numbers. Ignore the wins, ignore the losses – just keep playing the game, keep learning, don’t get too up or too down about it. It’s going to take some time. I’m going have to stop checking the win column. I’m going to have to stop getting invested in the little win loss tabs at the end of matches. I’m going to have to stop focusing on other people’s levels and progress – judge myself against myself and how I’m getting better or going to get better.

Not the cleanest, but I like the determination I showed. I should carry that forward.

To go back to the Monk and Enlightenment metaphor – for some monks that take a while to get there. In some cases 60+ years. It’s going to take a while. Hopefully not that long, but there’s going to be some adjustment. Both in terms of inputs and skill, and mind set.

Better get to it.

The Fighting Game Diaries: All I can(not) do

At some point I was meant to make a post about game of the year and all that stuff. Still haven’t made that post. There are a few games coming out I would be interested in. But they aren’t fighting games. I have gotten interested in things before and those interests have been fleeting. This fighting game interest doesn’t feel like a fleeting thing though – we’ll see. It has been apparent here just how much the Fighting Game Diaries have taken over everything. Starting with Granblue and working my way to Strive has been pretty special.

Doing stuff in fighting games is cool.

The Granblue experiment wasn’t great – but it was a start. Granblue is being updated with Rollback and Crossplay sometime this year – so I might be back. The Strive experiment has gone on for far longer, been far more fun and seen way, way more progress. I’m still nowhere near where I want to be, and I do need to give more time to the game to get to that point – but I have made it far further than I thought I ever would. Maining Baiken, I’ve made it to floor 9 in the Tower (there’s 10 floors so not the worst effort), I’ve amassed 420 wins as of this posting. For my first extended run at a fighting game in years – I’ll take it. Early losses didn’t leave me wanting to get out – and early successes didn’t go to my head – it was always going to get tougher.

It has been surprising how much I have taken to fighting games – both in the playing of them and the watching of them. I had occasionally watched fighting games before this – in fits and bursts. I watched them for fun – pleasant distractions. I still watch for this reason; except I watch a whole lot more and I pay a lot more attention. I now know actual players and tournaments whereas before I would only know what the game was and who some of the characters are. I know what’s happening on the screen – what players are doing, what players are trying to do and sometimes what goes wrong. I mean, they are all better than me, and I can’t do what they do, or I’m too stupid or slow to notice the things in an actual match but watching matches where I’m not involved I do get it – miles ahead of where I was before. Pleasantly so – the extra knowledge is nice.

Things to work on.
But I finally managed to super unconventionally. Progress.

I’ve kept playing the game – I’ve been playing more recently even. I’ve decided that given my current ability, and the current state of my inputs (nowhere near as clean as I want them to be or need them to be) – I need to play more. It’s not negotiable – my previous play time was enough to get me to a point, but that point is no longer enough. The game says I’m on floor 9 of the tower but I’m not. I know I’m not. My fights against floor 9’s and floor 10’s are more than enough proof of that. The only way I’m going to believe that is by playing more, cleaning up my inputs and getting better. That’s only going to happen with more opportunities to play and learn, watch replays and all that good stuff. It’s going to take a while – there’s going to be more losses – but the only way is through.

Things to work on.
But I finally parried Bandit Bringer. Progress.

It’s been a barren run recently. It’s been pretty terrible. I’m struggling to buy a win. There are moments where good things happen – I’ve managed a few parries lately but on the whole, not great. I’m in dire need of varying my combo routes and I’m struggling with that – I don’t think I know how to change things. I guess I’m just to have to do it. Instead of following up tatami with 2S maybe follow it up with 5K and go from there. Just something different. Try and use more tether – I massively underuse it. Just learn a basic tether combo and roll with that. I can try and learn something more damaging later. Something has to change – what’s happening right now can’t break through to higher levels. Not a chance.

I also have to learn how to deal with throws. I can’t. If somebody runs up and starts throwing me it’s over. It’s a massive mental block right now. I know what I’m meant to do – either tech it, back dash it or jump it. Each should yield a counter hit. Except I get in my own head, and I keep thinking but what if they just press a button and don’t grab? Then I’m in trouble. And then I get grabbed. Again. And again. And again. I genuinely don’t know to rectify it. Because the situations it comes up aren’t easily repeatable in training – at least for me, cause I’m also bad at delivering throws – unless I just set a character to throw, throw, throw and try to figure out something from there. Might be worth a shot. Or learn when a throw is coming. There has to be patterns to this that I’m not seeing.

Couldn’t do this before.

There has been progress. There just needs to be more now. The saving grace is I’ve come through situations like this before, and therefore I should be able to do it again. It is a struggle, but it’s a fun one. Because the rewards are earned. And the progress is tangible. Back to it. Wallowing ain’t gonna solve shit. Fighting and practicing will. I’d better get to it.

Notes and Asides:

Since I wrote this, I’ve had few good nights. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the park, so the tower has been neglected, so I’m still on floor 9. I should head back there. There are still losses – but I decided to approach the game with a different mindset. I’ve been thinking more and more about why I’m doing things, and what I am trying to accomplish. Actions need purpose, and I don’t think I’ve been thinking enough about that. And when a set snowballs, I get very far away from that. As an example, I fought a Faust with a 1,000 wins in the Park. I lost 5 – 0. But I wasn’t feeling down. Because there where close matches and because I was thinking about everything. Thinking about my movement, thinking about my goals for the matches and thinking about what I was doing and the responses it provoked from the Faust player. The game is a lot more fun this way.

The Fighting Game Diaries: I’m (not) the one in charge

Depending on the opponent, when I play a long set in the Park I can get found out. Sometimes that happens early, sometimes it happens near the middle. In either case, the set snowballs and I wash out. It’s brutal. It’s something for me to improve – having a more developed and nuanced offence, that can respond to change when necessary. It’s a process.

In some cases, and cases that never cease to surprise me when a set happens and I’m the one who’s watching the other person wash out. I’ve figured the opponent out and I watched them not change much at all. It’s a bizarre thing to see from the other side. I’ve had a few 5 – 0’s, two 10 – 0’s and one 20 – 0. The latter three were eye opening.

In some way it’s nice to know that despite my constant talking down of myself, I’m not the worst at this game. There are people that (as of right now at least) that I know more than, can figure out and that I am better than. It’s kind of nice. And any type of ego boost I get from this is immediately checked by fighting a level 10 in the park and getting molly womped. It all comes together.

I’m not yet used to the concept of me trouncing someone. It feels weird. I have heard that eventually, in fighting games there will be a day where you are not the nail but the hammer. I didn’t that would happen based on my experiences. I mean, I have a bunch of 3 – 0’s in the Tower but 3 – 0 isn’t that bad of beat down. It’s not 10 – 0. 10 – 0 is something else – it can still be a good experience (more on this later) but it can be terrible. I’ve had one vs a Giovanna and one vs a Chipp. Let’s talk about the Chipp one.

Chipp Zanuff is one of those characters were the difference between an inexperienced and experienced player is colossal. If you don’t know, Chipps health bar isn’t exactly robust. Despite Chipp’s best efforts, he’s never going to tank hits. Some inexperienced players won’t block, and if they cannot run Chipp’s offensive in a way that keeps him out of harm’s way it can get real bad real quick. Experienced Chipp players on the other hand have strong defence and run an offense that is hard to stop – can’t hit what you can’t see.

The Chipp player in the set didn’t do much in the way of defence. For the life of me, I could not get the Chipp player to block Baiken’s 2HS consistently, no matter how hard I tried. It eventually got to the point I just wanted them to block it, even semi-consistently. Blocking that move is a good idea – it’s good to counter against. If it’s not followed with a tatami (not always guaranteed safety, but works a lot of the time), it leaves Baiken incredibly vulnerable. At this time, I was not always following up 2HS with tatami, so there would have been opportunities for counter hits. They maybe, blocked it 3 times. In a 10-match set. It was surreal after a while. Just kept on hitting.

The end of the set sticks with me. The Chipp player went for a massive super – except it was raw and I stood there with Baiken, blocked it, and wrapped up 10 – 0 kicking Chipp in the shin. An extravagant super, casually blocked, hit with a 2K and Chipp just slumps to the floor. It felt a little sad.

The 20 – 0 set (against a Bridget) was a little different to the Chipp set. While it was similarly one sided, the Bridget player did learn something. Through the course of this set, I had set myself a goal of after hitting jumping slash hit yozansen – it’s a guaranteed combo I don’t do nearly often enough and when I do my execution is spotty. So, I took to the air more than a few times. I kept on trying to do the combo. Eventually, I stopped getting chances to practice my move. Because the Bridget player, despite the lop-sided score figured out how to anti-air me. They learned something as the match developed. That’s awesome. That’s great.

So, while I did not get to freely practice my jumping slash yosanzen I did get to practice something else. I got to practice going into Supers. I’m bad at going into super from hits, I’m bad at Super’ing at what seem to be random moments, I’m bad with supers. It goes a long way towards explaining why I get caught out by people doing wake up super or a super out of the blue – I’m bad at doing it so I cannot see when other people are doing it to me. So, at some point in the Bridget set I decided to try and do supers outside of where I thought they should be done – not just at the end of huge combos or just for wall breaks. It turns out I can do this. I did it twice – but that’s more than I’ve done it before – progress.

The two I managed to hit where one off a 2D. I forced that one. I saw a Japanese player do it once (a player called Koto, I know nothing more about them than that – they are my favourite Baiken to watch) I charged in with the intent of hitting 2D and trying to super off it. Hence the counter hit. Super happy to pull it off.

The other one was from a close slash into 2S. I didn’t even know if it would work – figured I’d send it and see what happened. I was pleasantly surprised.

Getting all these wins… it’s a mixed bag. Winning does feel good – particularly after a run of bad form. After a bunch of losses, I’ll take some wins. But, fighting against someone who is more inexperienced, and that inexperience shows gets a little old (I’m aware of how not good I am, and I am saying this – I’ve been the inexperienced person in this scenario – I apologise for hypocrisy). I normally call those sets at 10, the Bridget one went to 20 because they kept on going and they were learning. In the Chipp set – nothing was changing. It gets a little old to pull the same thing off over and over again – I should have tried new stuff. It gets to the point I want competition. No matter how anxious I get when fighting people of my level and above (350 wins later – it’s still a little scary) I want to do it. That’s where the fun is. I lost to a Sol 10 – 5 and it was way more fun and exciting. Winning alone does not make fun. Winning with learning and competition – that’s were it’s at. Hell, learning and competition alone have value. A lost set where something new is learned can be more valuable than a winning set.

Notes and Asides:

My character level with Baiken (as of 05/02/2023) is 84. I remember at some point (about level 80) getting stressed about my level. I could see floor 10 folks on level 50, 60 and I felt terrible. How can I be that bad? I was languishing on floors 6 and 7 (floor 6.5 honestly). Then I fought the Chipp player. No offence to them – but seeing them being level 65 and being on floor 2 was like – you know what, I’m not that bad. Now I’m not concerned – this is my own journey and my own progress – the character level will take care of itself. But, like how can you be level 65 and floor 2? Tons of time spent in the park?

That being said, my first 30 levels with Baiken were gained by me wandering into the park, finding a level 1,000 Faust and losing 30 – 0. If I would have gone to the tower like a normal person and fought equal levelled players I’d probably be around the 50 level. Think I answered my own question about levels there. Ah well. All part of the journey. In retrospect I don’t mind it – I learned how to respond to losses a lot better.

The Fighting Game Diaries: It’s (not) the little things

While learning a fighting game, there will be pitfalls – like learning anything. These can be mastering a new move or combo, struggling against a character or player – a whole bunch of stuff. Sometimes these pitfalls end up being pretty deep. The sort of deep that induces the wondering of “what if I can’t do this?”, “is this beyond me?”, “what am I meant to do?”. It’s a dark place. It’s a little lonely, and a little scary. In some cases, downright terrifying (it can be applied to things other than video games). In that place I find myself clinging to anything positive, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem.

All of that is to say during my time with Strive I have been inside my head a good few times. But, I have, as of late accomplished a few things that I had done before. I have been trying to do. In some cases, I have not done things I have been trying to do – but I have been trying them. And that’s fine. The first step to doing is trying. With that there will be failing. I gotta keep trying. It’s all progress – no matter how small each individual step is.

I have finally made myself use the roman cancel system. I somehow gained over 200 wins while ignoring them. Well, ignoring is the wrong word. Forgetting they are there would be more appropriate. But I played enough people who are good at the game, and I realised they have to be used to unlock higher level stuff. Spending so much time not using them means I do have make myself do it. Sometimes that means saying it out loud. Recently, I managed to get a good one. Well, for me. I got a Faust in the corner and did a simple Baiken combo – close slash, heavy slash, kabari and follow up. A nice four hitter. However, this time I roman cancelled after the kabari follow up. Faust hung in the air, I got two or three more hits, the wall splat, and Fust went through the wall. I was very excited. It came after a rank down also – and I still enjoyed it. That might be the best part. Rank downs normally get me feeling cranky – here I got on with it and learned something new. That’s almost as much progress as the mechanical progress in the game.

I dig this.

I also managed to roman cancel, run under someone and then hit them back across to the other side I’d never managed it before, and I managed it here. Again, super excited.

Not massively impressive – but I’m trying new stuff and getting better her and there. I’ll take it.

I mean, I have messed up a few times. A roman cancel in the middle of nowhere, a roman cancel at the wrong time or a missed roman cancel. But the more I try the more I chance I have of improving with the system. It’s all good.

I made improvements in the combo department. It’s not like watching a master (not even close), but now I can actually string attacks together. It started in training mode and eventually it bled into matches. Right now, I have only 2 or 3 combo routes, none of them are aerial so there is lots of work to be done. But I can now string attacks together in a way I could not before. It feels pretty good. Much work to be done, but the work done so far feels pretty good.

In retrospect I could have cancelled after the kabari follow up – but progress is progress. Initally I would do slash – slash – far slash and that was that.

I have also incorporated punching and kicking more into my offence. I used to depend a lot on the slash buttons – I put that down to being a Souls player and seeing that Baiken has a sword, let’s use the sword a lot! But now I have been using punches and kicks. Mainly punches. It can help to get out of a jam, where a slash would take too long to warm up. However, I have encountered another problem – turns out punch can be mashed. I sometimes mash. A lot. It gets me out of a jam, but it means I can’t combo off it, and I am probably in another jam not long after. Something else to work on.

All of these little bits of progress did result in me getting back to floor 8 after a cycle of 7 – 6 – 7 – 6- 7 – 6 (repeat as necessary). Which should be good. Right? Progress is good. However, I know what happens when I fight 9 and 10’s in the park. It’s pretty obvious which of us is the floor 8 (or 7, or 6 – there’s a chance I’ll be back down there) and who isn’t. I can make a decent start, but then I get overwhelmed, my inputs get sloppy and it’s not hard to watch a set snowball to 0 – 5 and worse. Occasionally I sneak a win here and there – I went 3 – 5 in Baiken mirror match with a floor 9, which is okay but that’s the best it’s gotten.

Not many people read this blog. I mainly write these posts because I like writing. It’s a good place to express myself and my thoughts. Honestly, it scares me seeing how far away I am from the 9’s and the 10’s. Never mind the Celestials. It scares me because of how good they are, and it scares me because I don’t think I know (right now) how to get that good. I mean it shouldn’t – because it’s a video game, and that’s low on the list of things to be anxious about – but I know I feel it. I watch YouTube videos of people who are good at the game, and sometimes it feels like we are playing different games. It’s not just the mechanical skill – it’s the mental game. Knowing what’s coming, setting things up, conditioning someone – it’s so much more than I am capable of (right now).

That’s not counting the characters I struggle with (Hello Nagoriyuki, Ramlethal, Testament (post patch – we playing Ikaruga now) and Leo!) – all common at the higher levels.

I love Strive’s Soundtrack.

I guess all I can do is keep pushing on and figure this stuff out. And cling on to all the bits of progress I make.  Never stop just go – don’t care how many more scars I get. That’s cheesy I know but damn it, Ky’s theme is so good. And thematic for the post – I think it works.