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: I do(n’t) have a backup character

Still striving with Baiken. The game has turned into the quest to reach floor 10. I’m not concerning myself with what comes after floor 10. I just want to get to floor 10. Then I’ll take it from there. So, while Baiken takes up the majority of my Strive time, I do on occasion head off to the Park to fight with other characters. Partly because the variety is nice, and partly because having a second character on deck does help. More knowledge of the game, and other characters can handle certain matchups better.

Baiken combo. Felt great.

Of the characters on Strive’s roster who aren’t Baiken I have tried Potemkin, Bridget, Testament, Goldlewis Dickinson, Zato, Ky and Sin Kiske and Ramlethal Valentine. Each of them has had their moments and have been fun to use. I picked up a few wins with Potemkin (5 wins), Bridget (14 wins), Testament (3 wins), Goldlewis (2 wins), Sin (11 wins) and Ramlethal (15 wins). Zato and Ky I went winless with but had some fun regardless. It’s hard not to have fun in the Park. No ranking points does help with that. It shouldn’t, but it does.

I baited a burst. About time.

A few almost made it though. I remember Bridget being a blast – I managed to beat a floor 10 Testament with her, despite not knowing the Blanka Ball move, Scoot and only knowing one of the yo-yo tosses. I mean, I got bodied after that, but I got one (this was when I was like floor 5 or 6). Potemkin and Sin though have made a bigger impression on me though.

Sin feels super fun to use. I’m beginning to think I have a thing for characters that yell out their moves. First Baiken, then Sin (BEAK DRIVVVVAAAAAAA!!!!). I do harbour a secret desire to have a good Potemkin – but boy do I suck at kara inputs. Same with charge inputs. Well, I’ve gotten a little better with charge inputs but kara inputs are something else entirely.

Always good to see FAB in action.

I do dig Potemkin. I love watching Potemkin’s go to work, and I do like fighting them. I know there is more than a few memes’ about Baiken and Potemkin fights. Baiken’s sure do love jumping attacks and Potemkin’s sure do love people jumping at them. It’s a fun cat and mouse game. Some of my favourite experiences in Strive have been fighting Potemkin. Also, some of my most traumatic experiences. But can’t have the fun stuff without the bad stuff. I know Potemkin isn’t considered to be one of the best characters, but when I’m stuck in the corner without a burst Potemkin is one of the most terrifying things in the game (I’d say Goldlewis is the other one). There is going to be a Garuda Impact, and there is either going to be a Potemkin Buster and they are going to go low with 2D and then there’s a juggle probably ending with a Heat Knuckle. It’s a fun guessing game for everyone involved.

And Snake Eyez. Just utter brilliance.

This may have turned into a love letter to Potemkin. Let’s keep writing it. He is completely different to Baiken – design, fighting style – everything. I think that’s part of the appeal – playing the game in a different way. I normally play characters who have a dash. Potemkin doesn’t have a dash. He does have Hammerfall and Mega Fist though, which can function as dashes. Well, not really but also yes. I would like to hit a Heavenly Potemkin Buster. Just once in my life.

However, Potemkin doesn’t have a Dragon Punch. He has a DP input but no DP. I do like DP’s. I do envy those who has DP’s. Wake up DP is one of my favourite things. Hell, the DP in general is one of my favourite fighting game moves. Of the characters I have tried out, Ky and Sin have a DP. If Baiken had a DP that would be nice.

Sin’s one of the few characters I’ve tried that has a meter. It’s not the most complicated meter in terms of management but it is something that’s new to me. It’s a fun challenge. I think from some of the footage I have you can see I can be guilty of burning through it. But those meter attacks have cool visual effects and feel like they hit like a truck. It’s fun to do them. Another reason I like Sin is that he has gotten me to use the throw button more. Confession time: I have almost 1,000 wins as Baiken and I barely throw. I know I should, but I don’t. It would help a lot. I should get on that. But perhaps it is the fact I am using a Kiske that compels me to throw, sometimes from a full screen sprint. It’s like their magic power. I like it.

Just run up and throw. The Kiske special.

Sin also looks cool as a character. Design wise, I dig him. I love his weapon. It’s like having a halberd user in Strive. It’s hard to turn down a halberd. Especially one with a flag waving around with every swing. It’s pretty awesome visually. It makes his fighting style both brutal and graceful. He hits like a truck, and the animation and sound design aids massively with that. Yet, with the flag flowing with each swing each attack is filled with beauty and grace. Beauty and grace that breaks faces. And as someone who used to wear jackets around his waist a lot, his design speaks to me on some level. And finally, as mentioned above the voice actor puts everything into his move names. It’s hard not to get excited when hearing Sin belting out those names.

Once I’m finished with Baiken (wherever that ends up), maybe I’ll spend more time with Potemkin and Sin. We’ll see. Because I have said in the past I’ve got a second character, only to keep on trucking with Baiken.

A Sin combo. Fun to do.

So yeah, we’ll see.

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: (Not) Confronting Things

A post all about learning lessons and dealing with problems. It can be hard, but it’s necessary. And it’s the only way to get better. It’s also a good way to learn a few things about yourself and your habits. Turns out I have a lot of stuff to fix. Well, better get to it.

Close run thing.

Watching replays: I’ve been doing more of this lately. It has taken me too long to do it consistently, but they do say better late than never. It can be hard watching yourself back, particularly when it goes wrong. Particularly when you watch yourself make an obvious mistake. But it’s necessary. Otherwise, I don’t realise these things. I don’t see these things during matches. It’s only with hindsight.

It’s akin to confronting the worst parts of yourself, shining a light onto them and gazing directly into them. Then you have to ask “why am I doing that? No, seriously, why? What is that in purpose of?”. It stings to see it, but it does help. It means there’s less chance of repeating that mistake. More chance to spot it happening in real time during the next match.

What this has taught me – I have been told this before but now I’ve finally learned – things have to be done with purpose. Every button press, every movement, every position in neutral – everything that happens in the match needs to be in service of something. The overall goal is the win – but there are lots of little things. Like hitting anti airs consistently, punishing a whiff, setting up a bait, executing a combo – one of those things might happen in a loss, but if I can execute those things consistently and I can see that in a replay, I can carry that over to other matches. It’s something I could miss if I don’t watch replays. Conversely, I might not see myself failing those things if I don’t watch replays, and then know to work on them.

A master class on blowing a match.

There isn’t much worse than seeing yourself do something in a match, and it’s without purpose. I can handle something badly executed – at least there is a purpose behind it. Something that isn’t achieving anything – and in a loss – it sucks. I was watching a loss against a GoldLewis player (a lost set even – there were chances to turn it around) and I hit a 5P at a distance. During the match I missed it. Watching the match back, it was incredibly noticeable, and noticeably bad. 5P isn’t a button that provokes a whiff – it’s far too short for that. At least at the range I was using it. It was not contesting anything, nor was it going to trade with anything GoldLewis was doing – could not have been either of those things. Maybe it was an attempt at the Gun Super – if that was the case it would have been easily blocked and a bad use of meter. It’s something to work on.

I have bad habits. I can fall too in love with jump attacks. If I get thrown it still spirals. My anti-airing is inconsistent. I should burst sooner. Blocking high to low remains a problem. Amongst other things. But rather than suspecting that, I know those things. I can work on those things. I can lab certain moves and try to figure out solutions. I need to do that with Potemkin – sorting out 2K and 2D is long overdue.

A match up I have improved in.

Eventually, I have to fight these dudes/dudettes: There are match ups that I struggle with. It is worth noting that I can struggle in any match up depending on the other players skill level. But on the whole, there are matches I feel comfortable with, matches that can go either way and matches that that scare me. I don’t want any part of that.

One of those matches. Also, the more I watch these – I barely even safe jump. I should fix that.

Nagoriyuki is the big one. Leo, Axl, (experienced) Chipp players and Sin Kiske are the others. I used to be terrified of Ramlethal and Testament, but I’ve gotten better at those matches. Not enough to be dominant, but enough that I can hold my own. Progress is nice. I can still get freaked out by GoldLewis but I’m not completely at sea now. Nagoriyuki though is his own special hell. Leo is close by. I think if I can better at dash blocking, Axl should be a better match up. I don’t think there is a bigger disparity better player skill levels than with Chipp. Inexperienced Chipp’s die in about 5 seconds, cause who needs blocking. Experienced Chipps players – can’t hit what you can’t see.

What this resulted in was me avoiding these matches in the Tower – contributing to the anxiety no doubt – because I would fight them in the Park. Since I’m fighting them in the Park to get used to them, I won’t fight them in the Tower. And eventually, I’ll get used to them and then I’ll fight them in the Tower. Slight problem – the higher you climb up the Tower, those characters are going to show up more and more. People tend to use good characters, who knew? Eventually, demons have to confronted, fought and conquered. I can’t run away forever. So, lately I have been fighting those characters in the Tower – anxiety or no. Sometimes it has gone well, sometimes it has gone badly. But I tried. And that’s enough, as long as I keep trying.

Super fun set – I do need to learn more ways of applying corner pressure though.

One night with promotion on the line I went straight for a Goldlewis and succeeded. A 2 – 1 set which was a lot of fun. I don’t know whether or not I’ll see that GoldLewis player again, but it was an incredibly fun set. On the other hand, I tried a promotion match against Sin and lost 3 – 0, so it goes both ways. I managed a 2 – 1 against a Nagoriyuki – not the best Nago, but a Nago still. I managed a 2 – 1 against a Happy Chaos despite lacking the match practice. I was 1 – 0 up against a Leo when a disconnect happened – it was almost 2 – 0 up until a fudged a round end. It isn’t going to always go well, there will be bad times. But I should fight. I have to fight. I can’t keep running forever. Confront the things that bother me and learn the match ups.

I’ll take any win against a Nago – hard work out there.

I think I’ll hang around: On the last fighting game diaries I mentioned that I was thinking about, rather than moving down a floor when demoted I would just hang around the floor I was demoted from, making that the new normal – getting used to that standard of opponent. I gave that plan a go.

One night on floor 8 I went from being on the verge of a promotion chance to getting demoted. It goes that way sometimes. As always, I was offered the chance to go down a floor or stay where I was. I stayed put. It ended with a promotion back to floor 8, so you could say that it worked. Admittedly it was touch and go at first – starting with a 1 – 2 set isn’t the best. Then I found a groove – I kept on fighting, reeled off a few good sets and got the promotion – against a Chipp player no less.

Whole lotta jumping going on.

Now, this is a single instance of this plan working. It might backfire later on. Well, the most it can backfire is with multiple demotions. That’s not the worst thing in the world. But I can deal with that. I’m used to that. And in the long run, it should be better for me if I consistently fight opponents of a higher and consistent rank rather than bouncing between floors constantly fighting opponents of different ranks.

This is a no eating establishment.

Might be worth continuing with this experiment.

Notes and Asides:

Still no gifs. Gfycat still won’t work, and I can’t get a reply from the help email. So, I don’t know. Looking kind of bleak on that front right now.

The Fighting Game Diaries: I have (no) ideas

This week is a bit of grab bag of topics. There’s no real through thread, just some stuff I have been thinking about or things that have happened to me. Which is nice. These posts do balance out the more focused ones. So, here’s a collection of ideas and thoughts that I may or may not have.

How good you want to be and matters of perception: Since I started playing Strive, I’ve realised that not everyone who plays these games is super awesome at them. I mean, I play them. That pretty much means anyone can play them.

I have been wondering lately about when people say, “but when I play a fighting game, everyone’s going to be good and I’m not”. Or something to that effect. I think I know where it comes from. Well, I have an idea. At least with me, and I’m going to guess for a few other folks the main source of fighting game content comes from fighting game tournaments and streamers who are good at the game. And if someone were to watch enough of that, their perception would be shaped so that they think everyone is like that. They all carry their combos, they all have perfect spacing and they all bait bursts with ease.

It takes maybe 10 minutes in ranked or open lobbies to challenge that idea. Folks here and there (me included) will drop combos. We will spectacularly waste a burst, resulting in a round 3 “if only I had my burst”. There’s lacklustre spacing, repeatedly jumping into 6p’s because this time it’s going to work. There are tons of stuff like that.

If only I’d kept that burst.

Not everyone is an EVO champ. A few people are, but not everyone. And because of that, everyone can play.

Learning to deal with disappointment: Based off the last Fighting Game Diaries, I have been trying to play Ranked Mode again. I am trying to get past the anxiety of dealing with ranked. That’s impossible – the anxiety is always going to be there. What I have to do is deal with the anxiety – learn to play and work with it. Accept it, play through it and then be comfortable with it (as much as possible). It’s never going to go away entirely. I know that now. Step one – acceptance.

Well, I’m trying to do this. There has been a demotion – but I did hang around floor 9 longer than I have before, so there’s progress. And on floor 8 I failed in a promotion match but I kept on going and got promoted later that night. That’s progress. But the bigger issue (surprisingly considering this post) hasn’t been the anxiety – as much as it’s there – but the servers. In the Park it has been (relatively) fine – I’ve been getting matches there. Mostly. Some disconnects and stuff but there have been matches.

Nothing quite like a close match. Not much else comes close to the emotions it elicts.

In Ranked though? Oh, it has been rough. Lots of failed connections. Connections that don’t even get off the ground. One night saw 5 or 6 back-to-back failed to connect to opponent messages. The number of games I do get aren’t really enough to give me the consistency I need to get better or deal with the anxiety. I’m assuming it’ll clear itself up – prior to this I’ve had a lot of good experiences with the servers – this is the first extended bad run that I have had. Fingers crossed.

One other thing – I have been wondering if I am playing Ranked, not to wrong, but in a way that is too rigid. Normally when I get demoted I go back down. What if I didn’t? What if I simply stopped paying attention to the number, hung around at the highest level I’ve reached and get acclimatised that way? There’s nothing stopping me doing that. One of my issues with Ranked is how quickly I can be shifted between floors, which means getting used to a level is tricky. I could simply ignore the number and just camp out at 9 until that becomes my new normal. Something for me to think about.

Always check the wire: After having a tidy, it is perhaps good practice to check that nothing near your gaming set up has come loose. Like, say, an ethernet cable. Oh boy. I can only say I’m terribly sorry to all my opponents on 21/03/2023. In particular a Ky player on floor 9 who got demoted. It wasn’t you. It was me.

This match took place with a cable plugged in. Thank heavens.

I’m going to get myself into the habit of checking the cable all the time now. I don’t want this happening again. It’s not good on my end, and it’s certainly not good for my opponents. And with the Strive severs being a little ropey lately, it did not make for a good night. I was already struggling to find matches – I didn’t need the matches I had being affected by connection issues (all my fault.)

So yeah, I’m checking the cable every night now. It’ll be better for everyone involved.

Notes and Asides:

Still no gifs. I’ve emailed Gfycat twice and got no response. It’s not great. I miss having gifs. I guess I could move to a new gif service but I’ve made 1429 gifs there and all the stats are there too. Starting over would be hard.

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: With(out) a little help from my friends

I don’t play video games with other people much. In person at least. Even with someone on the other end of a connection, my gaming is a mostly solitary experience. For the most part it still is. Last week though, I managed to play games with another person in the room. My friend, who is amazing (love her) is someone who I work with. She’s left for a new job, but she comes back to cover sometimes. I dig those days. Now, depending on who reads this – we came to work early so we could play on my PS4 I was bringing from home. We’ve been playing Guilty Gear. If my manager reads this – of course that has not been happening that’s a silly idea what a preposterous suggestion never ever why even suggest it. 

Anyhow we played Guilty Gear. We played both Strive and Xrd Revelator (later Rev 2). Strive first and Rev second. I knew what I was doing (to a degree – I got a long way to go still – more so in Strive than Xrd). She on the other hand had never played a fighting game before. Everything was brand new. I think in total we played for 4 – 5 hours across a few days. Seeing her play these games was a lot of fun. And I learned a few things along the way.

We mostly played Xrd Revelator and Rev 2 (went on sale at the right time). For a time, I wondered if I was being pushy and making her play these games. She said no and straight up admitted she was having a lot of fun. That was nice to hear. I suggested this in the first place because we are both feeling down. She isn’t feeling her new job at all, and I’ve been miserable since she has gone. So, I figured fighting games might help. Turns out they do.

All the matches in this post come from our last session. Unfortunately, silly me forgot to record her earlier wins (something I’m still annoyed about) but at least I got some of them.
The winning moment. Nice combo.

Flailing has its benefits, to a point: Since it was her first time playing these games, I kept things pretty simple. I talked her through the basic controls (using Baiken in training mode) – what the attacking buttons did, how to move and how to block (more on this later). I decided against explaining things like Burst and Roman Cancels – it felt like a lot to take in. And in the interest of fairness, I didn’t use those either. When it came to picking a character I said pick whoever you think looks cool and roll with it.

She’s a self-admitted masher. Turns out this helped more in Xrd (more on that later). And she switched characters a lot. All good though – we both had a lot of fun. I’ve only dealt with button mashers once before and that was in From Software PVP (mainly Dark Souls III) – turns out the counters are pretty similar. Her first character was Testament, cause Testament looks cool. I picked May – because I figured picking my main, Baiken and just bullying her would not be fun. She won with Testament – standing there mashing slash and heavy slash and I struggled to get in.

To a point. Once I got the timing down I could get in and do damage, while she couldn’t stop me doing that. I could also outspace and hit once I got that down to. I also remembered that May can throw a giant whale at people – so I did that once or twice. I tried teaching her Testaments fireballs and arbiter sign but she went back to mashing. Like in Souls PVP, if somebodies mashing let them do and catch them with pokes or let them burn themselves out. None of this stopped her enjoying it – anytime she hit me she got a kick out it. There was some trash talk. I dug it.

That being said she did beat me when I used Sin 2 -1 with Sol mainly hammering 6P. That happened.

Xrd is pretty fun. I dig it.
The winning moment. Look at that spacing for the final hit.

Things aren’t that simple: When we were playing Strive, my friend asked me how to block. I said you just hold back. She asked me what that meant – she didn’t get it. It was a sudden realisation – what might be understood by me might not be by others – particularly they are new to all of this. I’ve thought about it a fair bit since we played. Depending on what side of the screen you are on back will change direction. Also, how long would you back for? A few seconds, longer, just one? Me simply saying hold back really didn’t explain blocking. And it certainly didn’t explain blocking high and blocking low. A bad job on my part. This is something to remember for the future. A little definition will go a long way. After playing a few Strive matches, we headed off to Xrd, and found something rather cool.

I have to recognise that for everyone at some point, all of this new. Even the seemingly simplest stuff.

Stylish Controls work wonders: For all the things that can be said about Strive and its complexity (not doing that now), Strive still has controls that for brand new folks to fighting games can be a little tricky to work around. Things like quarter circles, half circles, pretzel motions – all that good stuff.

Revelator (is that a real word by the by?) and Rev 2 have two different control settings. Technical, which means moves have to inputted as standard and Stylish. What are Stylish controls? Stylish controls take out blocking – standing still makes blocking automatic and it takes out the motion inputs – just pressing buttons makes combos happen. As an example, with Johnny pressing X four times will get you a combo that ends in his That’s My Name Super – it’s pretty tight.

I’ve seen some folks online grumble about these types of controls – takes the skill out of the game, means people don’t have to learn and they should learn. I guess I can see those points of view (well, not really anymore), but when you see someone laugh and smile and get stupidly excited about all the cool stuff happening on screen, you get them. Like when my friend did so much cool shit. She was flipping and dipping with Sol Badguy doing dragon punch air combos. The best was when she played Potemkin and I played Slayer. She hit me with the Heavenly Potemkin Buster. I jumped in and she got me. Straight up. Just the coolest thing. I lost, and I was so fine with it. Heavenly Potemkin Busters are to be cherished. I dug all of it. It was so awesome seeing her excited at the cool shit happening on screen. I even started saying “damn she’s good” whenever something awesome happened.

Talking about these types of controls – they don’t stop someone from learning regular controls later on. And if people never learn regular controls? So, what… I guess? It’s folks having fun with video games. Just roll with it.

Potemkin got some big limbs.
The winning moment. Damn she’s good.

We take those: Initially,when my friend won, she would apologise and say she was just mashing and got lucky. That’s not a problem I said. You won; a win is a win. And as is said in fighting games, no matter the nature of the win, we take those. I have some incredibly scruffy and scuffed wins in Strive that while lucky, I’m taking them. And she should take her wins. If someone can’t get past the mash, that’s their problem not her’s. She got those wins, and that’s to be celebrated.

We take those.

Sol Cooldude: My friend played a fair few characters. Even though she did best with Potemkin, the one she liked the most was Sol Badguy. Two main reasons – in Sol’s intro for Xrd, he loads his weapon by flipping a bullet from his mouth – it’s incredibly cool. It’s one of the few intros she would not skip purposely. And his second name is Badguy. It counts for a lot. His name is Sol Badguy – that’s cool. And he’s not the Badguy. That makes it cooler somehow.

So yeah, I guess if she ever picks up Guilty Gear proper she’ll be a Sol main. She also thinks Johnny is cool – she has said she wants to fight cowboy hat pirate man again. In fact, she liked Sol so much that if I lost when playing as Sol she wasn’t as happy – because Sol lost.

One of the main reasons I (and now my friend) dig Guilty Gear is the characters. From the visuals, to the names, to the animations, to the voice acting – the cast of Guilty Gear is always exemplary. And characters sell fighting games – both in a financial sense and in a garnering interest sense. It’s what got me to buy Strive over other fighting games. And it’s part of what got my friend excited and having fun.

I had honestly forgotten what it’s like to have someone else in a room when playing a video game – it’s been so long. It’s an incredible stupid amount of fun. Hearing another voice – wait, you can do that? How’d you do that? Aww c’mon now! Just one more hit! – hearing laughter and happiness, just the general vibe of doing something super awesome with a friend you love. Damn it’s good. Thank you – thank you for an excellent time. It’s truly appreciated.

The Fighting Game Diaries: Things I do(n’t) like

I’ve found a lot of things to like in fighting games. There are things to dislike, but the majority has been positive. Which is sort of amazing, considering how long it took me to commit to them and how anxious I can get when fighting other people (still). But the good stuff makes it all worth it. Here are somethings I like with one thing I’m not the biggest fan of. Fighting games are tight.

Long Sets: The long set is special. Due to match limits, it doesn’t happen in ranked. I don’t think there’s a comparison in other games – due to relatively short match times a large number of matches can be fit into a session – and the one-on-one nature of fighting games – leads to deeply personal experience.

It’s magic. In a short set one player can be overwhelmed early on and the set slips away. I’ve done it – I’ve been down 2 – 0 and finally got to grips at in the third match. I’ve done it to other people – I’m sure they would have caught onto to me if there were more matches. In the long set there is the chance to adjust and come back – you can be down 3 – 0 but then find yourself 3 – 4, 3 – 5. And then that can be reversed as the other person gets used to your tendencies. It’s a constant back and forth, constant problem solving and planning – just wonderful.

What’s also magic is the wordless communication that can occur. To expand on the tendencies point – because of the amount of matches played you begin to know what the other person is going to do and vice versa. Beyond stuff that effects the match, it can lead to some funny moments – like two Baiken’s parrying at the same time. Or two Baiken’s trying to finish a match with gun shots. Or two Baiken’s…Baiken mirrors are the definition of fighting over the last brain cell – there great.

A match from the Potemkin set. The last round was highway robbery which I can only apologise for.

I had a fun long set against a Potemkin player. I got out to a 5 -2 lead, then it became 8 – 6 because they caught onto my jumping with Baiken and started catching that. Then I worked around that to take the last 2 matches. It was an exhilarating experience – pretty much unmatched in any other game I’ve played.

Stuff done in fighting games is cooler than in other games: I would like to think I have done some cool stuff in video games. Felling a boss with a certain attack, doing some pretty neat platforming, or just being stylish – stuff like that. For some reason, doing cool stuff in a fighting game feels cooler than doing it in other games. I think it has something to do with it being against a human and not an AI. Or maybe it’s the inputs required for certain combo chains. Doing something cool in a fighting game feels great.

It can be a big combo, it could be a read or just some neat spacing – getting any of those to work in a fighting game is… so damn good. Even me, with my meagre comboing – nailing a 6 hitter is just wonderful. And those rare times I get higher, boy howdy.

It ain’t much but it feels mighty good.

Getting a read maybe the best though. I’m pretty slow when it comes to these games so I don’t do it too often but when it happens, damn. Like, in this gif for some reason I knew that the Axel player was going to swing on wake up. Nothing conscious, but I must have picked it up during the set. So, I take the shot and get Baiken’s gun ready and kablamo – there it is. Damn it’s good.

The match.
Had a hunch they would swing on wake up.

Learning Stuff: In one of the previous fighting game diaries I wrote that I could not figure out comboing, beyond the basic gatlings. Cancelling moves confused me, when to cancel moves confused me and timing button presses was a mystery. The whole thing confused me.

Well, things have gotten better. I’m still not fully confident I know how the timing works – I’m just used to certain things and I’m running with that. My combo skills are still limited in comparison to other folks, but despite that I’m still very happy. Incredibly happy. I’ve worked on this. I’ve practiced this. I’ve made progress with this. Tangible progress. Here is me playing with Baiken early on against a Bridget player –

That’s some scuffed corner pressure. And now if there’s bar its straight into super, or roman cancelling to maintain pressure. It’s nice to see. It’s nice to be able to do it. There’s room for improvement, as always but from where I was, I’m feeling pretty good.

How does this tower work again?: The Tower in Strive is where ranked game play exists. The actual fighting of people is not what stresses me out the most – it’s the nature of the promotions and demotions. I still haven’t figured out how and when they happen, or when to expect them. That’s why I’m not the biggest fan of ranked right now. And it goes both ways – getting demoted quickly means I don’t have time to adjust to the new level, and the same applies to getting promoted too quickly – I’m out of my depth. I’ve been demoted after losing a single set 3 – 0 and I’ve been promoted after winning 5 in a row – it all feels too sudden. I’d rather have a cumulative situation – say, 10 wins gets a promotion, and 10 losses gets a demotion. But, it is what is and I’m going to have to roll with it. Well, not right now. I’m sick as a dog so I’m sticking to the park until I’m feeling better.

New character shenanigans: No matter what happens, I always go back to Baiken. I dig her. But I do like, on occasion taking a new character to the Park and messing around with them. This time around I’ve been using Sin Kiske. Apparently, Sin’s not the best according to tier lists and what not. He is incredibly fun to use though, he looks cool and his moves look cool. That’s enough. Also, massive props to his voice actor – the guy goes all out.

This match (and the set) wasn’t exactly high quality GGST – look at all the counter hits. Mighty fun though. I think what I like the most is how much impact Sin’s moves have – he looks and feels like he hits like a truck. An incredibly quick and heavy truck. I’m tempted to spend a little more time with him – because now I know what his supers are (that’s why I was not using supers – didn’t know them – sometimes I should do more than a quick glance at the move list). Baiken’s still the main, but Sin is a lot of fun to play as.

Beak Drriiiivvveeeeeer!!!!!!