Defining Hype: A Look at Evo 2014 USFIV Finals

Since Evo 2014 still lingers in the minds of fighting game fans, I want to spend some time today discussing a topic that came up this year during the top 8 for Ultra Street Fighter IV: what makes any given fighting game match “hype”? There are a couple of obvious answers to this: incredibly close matches and ridiculous comebacks and the tension that these moments create, but are these the only causes? And since these don’t happen all that often, how do we derive “hype” from a match where neither of the things are present?

First, let’s talk about the Ultra Street Fighter IV portion of Evo 2014. This year, nearly 2,000 people went to Vegas to compete in the largest fighting game tournament in the world. Once the weekend whittled those 2000 down to the best 8, we all had high expectations for what we’d see. We all had our favorite players, mine were Snake Eyez because his Zangief has some of the best footsies around, plus he’s from the States, and Sako because, well, I just really like Sako. He plays Ibuki… sometimes.

Everyone in the top 8 went on to play at near-perfect levels and the crowd met each of these perfect matches that ended in a time over–and there were plenty of them–with a golf clap, a rustling of chairs and a few stray coughs that soon faded behind the booming loudspeakers pumping the sounds of fists and fireballs into the room. The scene was tense to the point of bursting, but not because of what was going on on the screen. It had a lot more to do with what wasn’t going on: no one was making mistakes. Everyone played too well and the room of spectators knew that on some level they wanted to see Fuudo or Bonchan or whoever just do something incredibly risky and stupid and have it work because that would have been unexpected. That would have put some people on their feet.

When my buddy Menno turned to me after the first few players had been eliminated and said “there’s no hype” I had a hard time finding a way to disagree with him. For all the cerebral plays that were happening on screen, all of the small considerations behind every button press, there wasn’t a whole lot of excitement to milk out of two top players locked in eternal footsies until the clock inevitably ran out during Fei Long’s Ultra for the tenth time. I found myself not quite bored, but close enough to boredom to look at my phone and check the time way more often than I would have if the hype levels had been cranked up a notch or two.

Hype is a whiff punish that combos its way to an Ultra. Hype is an unsafe mix-up that works. Hype is an unsafe mix-up that doesn’t work. Hype is taking risks. Hype is making mistakes. Any of these things could have added a degree of excitement to what was unfolding on the screen.

Don’t get me wrong, I can watch Street Fighter all day, but I’d much rather see a player like Smug show complete disrespect for his opponent while he’s rushing that shit down than watch the meticulously-calculated fireballs of any top shoto player. And the fact that the game favors defensive play more than ever has only served to suck more hype from high-level play. So is this potential lack of hype when players play “too well” a bad thing? For people who have been following tournaments for a while, no, not at all. While we may not leap from our chairs and shout every time JWong nails someone with Rufus’ crouching fierce, we can respect the entirety of what we see happening before and after that fierce was carefully calculated.

Maybe all of this is why Marvel vs. Capcom, more often than not, ends up being the most exciting event at any given tournament. The game moves so quickly that players have to rely on instincts more than they would like, which leads to some knee-jerk reactions that allow for openings in play, which, well, you can see where this is going. If people are forced to think quicker than is reasonably possible, they’re going to make mistakes. Even looking back at older, faster versions of Street Fighter shows similar results. The same calculation goes into every choice, but everything happens at far greater speeds, which not only serves to provide increased excitement, but also allows players more room to fuck up because we’re human and humans do that.

So let’s raise a toast to people who make poor decisions. Without them, life would just be footsies.

The Yang Reset That Nearly Made My Brain Explode

Sad Decapre

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are mine alone and do not represent the opinions of any organization for whom I produce written or video content.

A couple of weeks ago, I put together a post where I called Ultra Street Fighter IV a buggy mess. Sadly, I still stand by that statement–in spite of my love for the game–and today I have a perfect addition to the growing list of things that need to be patched, please, for the love of god. Capcom, notice us senpai, etc.

In my previous post, I alluded to a glitch that I couldn’t quite put a name to and that I couldn’t re-create because I had only seen it a couple of times, usually after a couple of beers and almost always online, so I wasn’t certain that the glitch was, in fact, a glitch and not some combination of beer-haze and lag. In that post, I described the glitch thusly:

I’ve run into a strange error involving character placement. It’s difficult to explain and I’ve not yet been recording when the glitch has occurred (you’ll all be the first to see it when I do catch it on film), but if certain moves hit at certain angles and force a character to move, say, forward (so that the attacker should land in front) sometimes the attacker actually lands behind. I’ve seen this from Rolento (vs. Decapre) and Dudley (vs. Ibuki) which makes me think that it could be something to do with small hurtboxes. It’s confusing, though. It’s a lot like a fake cross-up, but the attacker nearly touches the ground behind the defender before swapping to the back, or the other way around. I have tried to recreate the incident, but I can’t.

Quite the chunk of text, but it turns out that this sort of thing is a known issue and actually came up on Reddit late last week, so I included some footage in the most recent Weekend Roundup over at Shoryuken.com. Here’s the video, featuring Empire Arcadia’s Dieminion making Yang seemingly teleport from one side of a previously-reset Oni to the other without actually moving:

 

A Redditor named Hyunkel provided feedback on how this (likely) works, which can be viewed in the video’s description, but I’ll go ahead and stick it here for ease of access:

The thing is, Yang’s st.HK looks like it’s moving forward (like E.Ryu’s st.MK for example) when in fact, it stays in the same place and just have a big ass animation (and hit box).

In that situation, you have to look at where Yang is before hitting that button and block accordingly, the same way a fake cross up works.

As Hyunkel states, this bug appears to happen when someone uses an attack with a forward-moving animation that doesn’t actually move the character’s hurtbox. Since the hurtbox doesn’t move, the character’s actual location on the screen doesn’t change, it only appears to change thanks to the “forward-moving” attack. In the case of the video above, Yang’s standing roundhouse causes the skater to look as though he has started to move forward to perform the kick. During that false forward momentum, Oni lands “behind” him. Once the attack is over, Yang switches back to the side from which his attack began and, bingo bango, free combo because who in the fuck could possibly be ready for that?

If we were ready, through some mystical somehow, we could easily punish abusers of this bug. It is, after all, a reset just like any other reset. Resets take advantage of defenders who aren’t prepared for them and don’t have time to react. That’s why so many resets involve truncated combos of some variety. It’s easy to assume that your opponent will continue hitting with the current combo rather than switching over to a different one halfway through, so it’s almost out of habit that we mindlessly hold down back and, if playing Street Fighter IV, slap jab and short in rhythm with their attacks, because crouch-teching has been known to break combos, discover electricity and cure cancer*.

So it’s good to pay close attention while being combo’d, especially if resets are common within the current string. As Ibuki, I frequently reset with command runs, often ones that place me behind my opponent. And they work a lot more than I’d expect, so I do them more than I probably should. When we expect a reset, we can punish it with a jab into a combo, a raw dragon punch, a throw, or any number of other things, but we have to know that it could be coming. Therein lies the problem with this Yang reset. I’ve see it happen when fighting both Rolento and Dudley, so that means that there’s a chance that any button that causes false forward momentum (can I coin that term?) could result in this glitch if performed directly under a falling opponent, as Mr. Landon did in the clip.

So do we start a list of these false momentum buttons to keep on our growing phone note pads to check before each match? It might be wise since more FADC pass-through bugs are being discovered all the time and none of them were removed with the Ultra update, in spite of them being documented and alarmingly easy to re-produce. We’d be waiting for Godot if we expected a much squirrelier (what? that’s probably a word) error to be remedied.

I’ll get it started:

Buttons that may give you cancer after landing from an aerial recovery:

  1. Yang – s.HK

 

* Crouch-teching has not been proven to do any of these things and is currently awaiting FDA approval. Please use crouch-teching at your own risk.

Happy Fourth of July! Let’s Celebrate With Ultra Street Fighter IV!

Every firework-blooded, apple pie-eating man and woman across this great nation spent today celebrating the most important birthday of all by launching explosives toward the heavens as if to say “You’re next!”

But I’m doing that later. For now, I’ve got a collection of the most patriotic Ultra Street Fighter IV matches that you’ve ever laid your Uncle Sam-lovin’ eyes on. So put on your bald eagle boxer shorts, grab a Coors (the Banquet version, not the Light version, because America doesn’t do half-assed flavor) and get ready to watch the Sonic Booms fly. For Freedom. For America.

Evolution 2014 or How I Got My First Media Pass

Last year, I attended Evo as a competitor. It went about as well as I had planned for it to go. I beat the first guy that I fought–a Chun player who was somehow more of a nervous wreck than I was–won my second match by default because no one showed up to fight me and proceeded to lose to the following two players–a Ryu and a Honda with insane turtling skills. In short, I made it to a fourth match at my first major tournament and then spent the rest of the weekend just being in Vegas. Not a bad run, really.

As my frequent readers know, I was picked up as a content writer for Shoryuken.com back in December of last year in what I still consider one of my biggest accomplishments. From mid-December on, I produced a few articles per month for SRK, but my nerves typically got the better of me and prevented me from really settling into a rhythm that allowed me to produce content for them a daily basis.

Fast forward to the release of Ultra Street Fighter IV. Suddenly, a whole lot of content hit YouTube, Twitter and other social media outlets and it was all for a game that I understand on an intimate level. I was comfortable writing up everything that came through. I started taking all of the YouTube content that I could find and producing a daily roundup for Ultra, which you may have seen. This ran for three entire weeks before content slowed down enough to warrant switching over to the current schedule of two roundups per week.

During this period, writing up other things that came my way felt a lot more natural, so I started producing a few articles per day, which always got pushed through to the front page. During this period, the editor and one of the site’s owners approached me about stepping up in the SRK food chain to a sort of assistant editor position, which meant better compensation for what I’m already doing for them with the added benefit (responsibility, if you must) of keeping up this kind of reporting even when Ultra news has fully died down.

Naturally, I took their offer.

So what does this have to do with Evo 2014? Well, yesterday I received an e-mail from famed Akuma player Kineda who let the writers all know that the last day to sign up for a Media badge had finally come and if we intended to head to Evo this year, we might as well do so with the added benefit of free entry and the ability to photograph and record the event as well as interview players. In a -very- last minute decision, I signed up.

So be sure and check out SRK’s coverage of this year’s Evolution 2014 Championship Series, because I’ll be in charge of creating a great deal of that content.

Wish me luck and I’ll see you guys Friday!

On the Scene! Episode 4 is Live With More Ultra Street Fighter IV Ibuki Ranked Matches!

The newest episode of On the Scene! just went live! I decided to not include the training lobby between matches because that made the video way longer than I intended. It’s a style that I’ll keep weaving in from time to time, but this week I wanted to get back to my roots. That means that I cut together some of the silliest matches that I’ve had! I’ll leave you guys to check it out. I hope you like it!

Ultra Street Fighter IV: My Favorite Buggy Mess

Sad Decapre

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are mine alone and do not represent the opinions of any organization for whom I produce written or video content.

Before I get started today, I just want to let you guys know that I couldn’t be happier to finally have my digital hands on a copy of Ultra Street Fighter IV. The hype that had been building since my first Ono Shoryuken last year at Evo finally manifested itself in an updated version of one of my favorite games of all time. I have fun every time I play it and I expect to continue to do so for many months to come. That doesn’t mean that the update is perfect.

I’ve been putting together the community roundup posts over at SRK since the game’s release and in so doing I’ve seen some pretty dark corners of the Ultra update. A great number of these bugs have  to do with FADC dash-throughs and involve weird hitbox and hurtbox interactions. Many of these are new, but even more of them remained in the game from the days of Arcade Edition ver. 2012. If you’ve not seen these before, here’s a video that NurseLee compiled which appeared on Shoryuken.com’s front page yesterday:

This isn’t even close to a comprehensive list. In fact, there’s an entire thread on the SRK forums dedicated to this problem. The real kicker? The original post was created 11 months ago. That means that the glitch has been public knowledge for almost a year, which means we knew about this stuff before the Ultra update was even announced.

This particular bug isn’t game-breaking. Sure, the dash-throughs could potentially land someone that final mix-up to take that final round of that final match in winners finals (did I say “final” enough?) but it’s not likely. Gambling 2 meter for this kind of opportunity, especially when each specific instance only works on a handful of the cast anyway, just isn’t something to get overly upset about when it comes right down to the competition aspect of the game. But why are these bugs still there at all and how do more of them keep getting introduced?

The dash-throughs aren’t the only oddities that I’ve seen in abundance, either. Over the course of several evenings of casual sets with my local FGC, I’ve run into a strange error involving character placement. It’s difficult to explain and I’ve not yet been recording when the glitch has occurred (you’ll all be the first to see it when I do catch it on film), but if certain moves hit at certain angles and force a character to move, say, forward (so that the attacker should land in front) sometimes the attacker actually lands behind. I’ve seen this from Rolento (vs. Decapre) and Dudley (vs. Ibuki) which makes me think that it could be something to do with small hurtboxes. It’s confusing, though. It’s a lot like a fake crossup, but the attacker nearly touches the ground behind the defender before swapping to the back, or the other way around. I have tried to recreate the incident, but I can’t. This makes me think that it’s an inconsistent kind of bug and that’s much worse than one that can be produced repeatedly for a couple a reasons: first, it’s harder to pin down what’s causing it; and second, people can’t train against it or have any way to anticipate it.

And finally, what about Elena’s inconsistent hurtbox that Wolfkrone found within the first days of the update? If this problem exists, I’m certain that it’s not exclusive to Elena, as none of the other bugs seem to be isolated incidents.

Bugs in fighting games are an interesting beast to discuss. We so readily forget that the entire idea of combos came from a bug way back in the days of Street Fighter II. Had that bug not been expanded upon purposefully by developers like Capcom, we likely wouldn’t have the fighting games that we play today, as characters able to do nothing but throw fireballs at one another and punch every once in a while sounds like little more than a re-skin of Pong. No one wants to play a re-skin of Pong. Kara cancels started out as a bug, too. So could these wonky hitbox issues be semi-intentional since many of them made the transition from Arcade Edition ver. 2012 over to Ultra? Or am I just giving Capcom too much credit here?

Take every bit of this (and a great deal more that I’m all but certain I’ve missed) and combine it with the fact that every new character and every new stage added in the Ultra update were transferred over from the failed Street Fighter X Tekken and therefore aren’t “new” at all. What? Oh, right, Decapre wasn’t. She’s a completely new charac–

Wait, no she isn’t. She’s Cammy wearing an alternate costume and enhanced with Raven’s particle effects from, you guessed it, Street Fighter X Tekken. Now, I love Decapre. She’s a character fun enough to main, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that Capcom built her up as much as they did, then teased a fan favorite like R. Mika before finally showing her to us. If Capcom’s goal was to piss off a whole lot of people, they succeeded. But we’ve all heard this issue discussed more times than we’d like, so I’ll leave you with this final thought:

Are we, the first handful of FGC loyals who slammed down fifteen bucks, simply beta testing a product due to release two months from now? Will these problems even be addressed in the physical release of the game? Will we be waiting for a 2015 or, worse, a 2016 iteration of the game before we see these problems fixed?

I guess we’ll know more in August. I’ll see you guys Friday.

Sources: NurseLee, SRK Forums, Wolfkrone

On the Scene! Episode 3 is Live!

IbukiRooftop

I love the new training mode fight request feature in Ultra. There’s a very good chance that all future ranked match videos will follow the format that I used today. I kept the footage all in one take, because it didn’t feel right to edit out one particularly painful match (even though its… wow. It’s brutal, y’all.) It ended up being a particularly long video–my longest, actually–but when I can bounce so rapidly from a match where I try something and screw it up to training mode where I show you what it should have looked like, that’s just… I’ve been wanting this for a long time and I didn’t even know it.

The video is a return to Ibuki. I am still in the process of adjusting my muscle memory to the new chains that I should be using to maximize damage output. I’m also still getting used to the idea that landing a Super in a match should be happening a lot more than it used to. Since a couple of her target combos end with her in the air and her opponent ready to be juggled, Capcom’s intent is apparent: stop throwing knives at them so much on the ground; save them for the air!

I’ll see you next week!