Weekly Vortex: I’m Going to Die Edition

Dark Souls Title

In commemoration of the announcement of Dark Souls 2‘s release date, I have decided to do the unthinkable: a play through of Dark Souls at soul level one. There are no other restrictions on the run, I am just not going to be leveling up my character. Certain areas of the game, especially early on, will be incredibly difficult. Once I start getting my gear leveled up and flesh out my spell selection, I have a feeling that the difficulty will taper off quite a bit. I’ll be doing the run in the lightest armor that I can find for superior mobility, but I haven’t decided what kind of weapon I want to use yet. The pyromancer’s starting stats do put a bit of a limitation on exactly what can and can’t be used. At the moment, a broad axe that I wrenched from the cold carcass of a hollow is proving decent enough, but that will likely change.

I would also like to take this time to note a couple things that I really hope happen in Dark Souls 2. DS1 is an amazing game–easily one of my favorites, but it has a whole lot of flaws. The most glaring of which being the slowdown that it experiences… often. Even with the game installed, certain areas can’t be handled in a lag-free manner on the Xbox; I’ve not played the PS3 version of the title, but I can only imagine that it’s worse since the system is known for lag issues in the fighting game community. This lag really hurts. The game is beautiful in a very twisted, very bleak sort of way. I want to experience that beauty without having my frame rate stutter every time I round a corner in Blight Town, or wherever the new title takes me.

The controls could use some brushing up, too. I often find myself holding B with my right thumb, running with my left thumb and stretching my right index finger over to the right analogue stick to swap my view around. This has to be done because holding B is the only way to run. Let me remap the buttons, please! (I’d totally make pressing down one of the sticks the run button).

How far will I get next week? Will I ring both bells?! SLAY GWEN!? Or will the video contain nothing but me falling off of things for ten minutes? Tune in to find out!

Advertisements

Smite Brings a Fresh Face to MOBAs

Smite Title

Ever have that argument with your friend, “Hey man, I don’t care what you say, Freya could kick Hercules’ ass!” and then your friend is all like, “No way! Hercules has the best that both Man and God have to offer; he’d wreck Freya with his beefcake arms!”

No? No one has had that argument?

Well, get ready to start having it, because Hi-Rez Studios, makers of sci-fi shooter Global Agenda and downhill skiing simulator Tribes: Ascend, in partnership with… Georgia–yes, the state of Georgia–have brought to life the most satisfying God slug fest since King of the Monsters! Built with a standard free-to-play model, Smite offers an ever-growing roster of Gods from classic Greek, Roman, Mayan, Norse, Chinese and Egyptian mythologies and pits them against each other in battles inspired by modern MOBAs like League of Legends and DOTA 2. Every player begins with access to five core Gods, and every two weeks, five new Gods rotate in as free-to-play, just like in League of Legends. New Gods are unlocked through playing and winning matches, or through cash purchase if you so desire–currently, since the game is in Beta, Hi-Rez offers a package containing every current God, as well as every future God for a flat rate of 30 bucks, which is hard to pass up.

The MOBA market has seen great success lately, with DOTA 2 reigning supreme as the most played game on Steam at pretty much any hour of any day. Naturally, other companies have begun taking the formula and giving it their own spin to try and get in on this ridiculously successful genre. Smite takes the genre’s standard isometric view and trades it for a third-person view with a free-roaming camera and trades the typical RTS feel for an action or modern MMO feel–it’s a lot like a faster paced version of World of Warcraft PvP without the gear treadmill, which is a huge bonus for casual gamers. There’s also an alarming amount of information floating around the internet about effective character builds with each of the game’s Gods. The best site that I’ve found for information is Tier Monster, which keeps track of top Smite players, which Gods they’re playing and their most successful builds in an easy-to-use format.

Smite really shines when it comes to game mode offerings. As should be expected in any MOBA, you can compete in a three lane map of tower destruction. Want a more intimate, simplistic struggle? Switch it to a single lane version of classic MOBA action. There’s also a capture point mode, a single lane mode that only allows item purchases upon death, a team death match mode and a daily mode that provides a new challenge every day. Sometimes the daily challenges are pretty tame, but sometimes you start the match at max level with effectively unlimited cash, or sometimes everyone has to play as Hercules in a 5v5 death match–things can get pretty awesome pretty quickly.

If you’re looking for a new MOBA to sample, or just looking for a free game to try, Smite has a lot to offer. Play it for free through this link, now. Or, you can check it out through my friend referral page to get me sweet, sweet in-game currency.

Self-Help Seminar: Addressing and Correcting Bad Habits Part 4

 

Ibuki KO

Today I went online for some more ranked matches in an effort to continue correcting my bad habits with Ibuki. The matches were weird, but with the exception of a couple instances, I managed to not do anything that I’d deem the result of a bad habit. I did completely drop the ball in one of my final rounds (see if you can spot when things went south!), but I felt that overall, the matches were pretty good. They felt good, at least.

Tsumuji spacing was my main focus during the neutral periods, and it has been all week when off camera. Whenever there’s a period where nothing is really happening, I did my best to try and get into an effective range and make that spin kick work. It didn’t usually work, but, again, that’s the sort of thing that comes with practice and just a week of making an effort to include that in my overall approach with Ibuki just isn’t enough to really even have a grasp on how it should work. It will only get better from here.

 

Self-Help Seminar: Addressing and Correcting Bad Habits Part 3

Don-Chan Today’s segment is brief, but it’s one that I’m pretty excited about. On Friday, I contacted Dacidbro about his previous Tweet and he responded promptly. We exchanged a few emails over the course of which he gave me match pointers from my fight against Honda (uploaded Friday) as well as some general pointers. For ease of use, here’s the video again:

These notes come directly from Dacidbro with minor tweaks made to formatting:

Match 1 (2m)

Match win loss moments:

Round 1

  • Ibuki scores air hit, backs off for no reason (This is a plus frame moment, probably can at minimum meaty, at max aim for grab or cross under) 2:20
  • Footsies seemingly pressed at same timing twice in a row after dash, 2nd gets EX Headbutted 2:25
  • Too much sweep at footsies range, another gets EX Headbutted
  • Mix up looks effective, but I’m skeptical it would actually work offline/better opponent.  Looks reactable and strong punishable

Round 2

  • Forward dash into Honda hands 3:40 (Not sure what to say about this one, but the amount of health lost was massive.  Maybe a bad read).
  • Nice dp 3:50, he showed enough intention to meaty.
  • 3:51 I’m pretty sure there’s almost no reason he wouldn’t ex headbutt here, consider his risk reward.  Near no risk, win match reward.

Round 3

  • Really like the safe jump setup at 4m, he’s given plenty of proof he’ll use it.  Is ex headbutt punishable?
  • Beauty super 4m27s, kind of meter inefficient maybe?  Maybe there’s more places you could spend meter elsewhere to turn the tide more, but good super.
  • Should have gotten the meaty at 4:40.
  • Good dp 5m, good projectile 5:05.

Summary: Looks alright, the Honda was obviously pretty weak defensively and that let you get away with murder on mix up, either because of netplay or poor reaction time.  You picked up on his habit to EX Headbutt quick, and stifled his reward well.  You got off the sweep habit quick when he was punishing it.  Find more effective pokes to win footsies, maybe a top Ibuki could show you a few more tools to win footsies than sweep or jump.  Good start!

After a brief discussion on the topic of footsies, I mentioned that many top Ibuki players–Sako in particular–make use of LK tsumuji as a way to control space. In a way, it’s a lot like a fireball, or, even more specifically, Adon’s s.HK. If used at too long of a range, they’re easily punishable; if used too close, they’re also easily punishable, but there exists a sweet spot where all of these moves can be used to control mid screen. LK tsumuji can be used off of a lot of normals, f.LK works really well up close, c.MP works really well farther away. Each of these normals help to cover the move’s inherent weaknesses at those ranges where it isn’t quite so good. It can also be thrown raw, but only at that sweet spot, which I’m still trying to figure out. When I mentioned this stuff to Dacidbro, he had this to say:

“If they’re (top players) using LK spinkicks, find a way to be comfortable with it ASAP.  Already knowing one of their tools for it is great, you’re ahead of that curve then.  Notice which moves they are beating with it too, it might high profile lows or mids.”

And honestly, the tsumuji will go over some lows–potentially some mids, too, not sure yet–provided the spacing is correct–something that I hadn’t even considered! This is exactly the kind of thing that I had been hoping to learn from this series of articles. Check back Friday for another installment of this series where I will be applying some of the spacing tools that I’ve been working on! Also, I’ll be abusing netcode some more, because, as Dacidbro said to me when I nearly felt bad for running circles around my opponents who didn’t know how to stop me:

“If you know the pitfalls of something, abuse the shit out of it if the opponent lets you.  No problem with that.”

Self-Help Seminar: Addressing and Correcting Bad Habits Part 2

Ibuki KO

Tuesday I put up a post detailing my shortcomings with Ibuki and today’s video contains three matches where I try my best to correct some of those little problem areas. The act of correcting things that are so ingrained in my muscle memory takes a very real conscious effort, more than I really expected. Multiple times during the video I, for example, do a needless focus attack and then dash out of it and immediately say, “Why did I just do that?” This helps to further drive home the point that I often enter an auto pilot mode when playing Ibuki and instead of playing a reactionary opponent-based game, I just sort of do whatever I plan to do regardless of what’s happening on the screen.

These two (and perhaps more soon) posts were inspired by a Tweet that @Dacidbro sent out last Friday:

Dacidbro Tweet

I immediately–but not immediately enough–sent him a link to this site in hopes for some pointers on how to improve my Ibuki. In just a few minutes, as expected, Mr. Bro had become overrun with Tweets and he asked that I please hit him up again in a week, which happens to be today. So I took time this week to do what I could for myself, not only to make Dacidbro’s job easier in the event that he isn’t again over-booked on giving advice, but because I haven’t really taken the time to honestly reflect on how I play in quite a while. In so doing, a lot of concerning words came up: habit, routine and muscle memory being among the worst. Muscle memory isn’t always bad, but in conjunction with “habit” and “routine,” yeah, it can be. In this time I’ve realized that Ibuki has almost become a rhythm game to me. I can watch a replay of myself playing from months ago and know exactly what I’m going to do at every point, regardless of how the opponent reacts. This is a weakness that needs to be overcome, but can’t be overcome easily.

So what do i do? A break from SF4 isn’t really the best approach, I don’t think, but effectively maining a different character for a little while may help me break from routine and actually play matches in an adaptive (read: correct) manner. As it stands, I see patterns in my opponents. I call out the patterns. Do I act accordingly? I mean, sometimes, sure, but not usually. Not, especially, in a best out of 3 ranked match when I’d rather just finish my pattern and get a win or a loss and move on to the next match. Stepping out of my comfort zone as Ibuki and into, say, Sakura, Makoto, Chun-Li, any of these characters that I can sort of play, will allow me a fresh set of eyes with which to view Street Fighter. I don’t need a break from the game, I need a break from routine within the game. I could even go so far as to pick up an entirely new character, someone incredibly fresh that I’ve not only no idea how to play, but also no idea how to play against–Yun comes to mind. This would also help me learn a matchup, which seems worthwhile.

All of this self-reflection also made me ask myself the hardest question of all: what do I actually want out of not only gaming, but also this site? Gaming is, always has been and always will be a passion of mine. I can’t remember a time without games and I hope very much that I never have to face a time when I can’t play them anymore. They’re my favorite childhood toy that, for whatever reason, is still acceptable to play with for the rest of my life. So as a gamer, I seek enjoyment, I seek relaxation. I seek a good story from time to time and I seek a means of competing against other people in something that I greatly enjoy without having to leave the comfort of my sectional sofa, falling apart though it may be.

Competitive play is something that I’ve only in recent years begun to embrace. I used to be terrified of fighting other players. I now find comfort in besting someone at their own game (hoho!) and would like to continue playing at a competitive level in fighting games. By continue, I mean that I’d like to go to EVO again, but do better. I’d like to enter closer-to-home tournaments and get experience, meet people, network. And that’s honestly why the blog began. It was a means for me to say things that I want to say, with or without an audience in an effort to make myself a better gamer and, I hope, a better writer–and perhaps meet some interesting people in the process. The blog itself was a step out of a comfort zone and it has, I believe, changed me for the better, making me more comfortable with how I choose to spend my free time; perhaps the stepping from my comfort zone within fighting games themselves, then, will offer me a real solution to my bad habits and help to mold me into a better player.

Self-Help Seminar: Addressing and Correcting Bad Habits Part 1

Don-Chan

I’ve been recording and editing videos of myself playing fighting games for about six months. Often when cutting up clips, I look at the same fights multiple times to make sure that everything syncs up well and looks as clean as it can. In so doing, it’s hard not to notice the times when I made a bad decision, or a series of bad decisions, or, perhaps, a series of really good decisions just in time to claw my way back to a V. The whole process of watching, editing, cutting and re-cutting videos of oneself demands self-reflection, and I’ve been doing a serious amount of that lately–so much so, that I decided to put together a list of ways to improve my Ibuki and, through that, my overall fighting prowess.

Bad Habits

This seems like the best place to begin and the place from which the most positive results can be accrued. Everyone who plays fighting games develops bad habits. Noticing what said bad habits are is the first step to correcting them. Here are some of the things that have become a part of my regular routine with Ibuki that just shouldn’t happen.

1) Ending combos with EX tsumuji outside of the corner

  • Habit developed when I learned that EX tsumuji causes a juggle state and allows for a follow-up in the corner. It’s just muscle memory gone wrong.
  • Does allow for setups, but the setups typically don’t work and aren’t safe.
  • Neck breaker allows for many more different setups that are safe.
  • MK tsumuji allows for many different setups which are also safe.
  • These safer, better setups don’t require meter.

2) Too much focus attack “auto piloting”

  • Habit developed as a result of learning to FADC through fireballs and certain normals, now I just do it for no reason. Constantly.
  • Causes a lot of problems against characters who can break armor at range through multi-hit moves or special move properties.
  • Makes spacing control difficult as I constantly give up screen space to no gain, or dash headlong into a throw or other counter.

3) Unnecessary back dashes

  • Habit developed as a result of trying to correct my FADC auto piloting.
  • Now I just sort of alternate between FADC auto piloting and randomly back dashing, again, for no reason.
  • As above, this gives up screen real estate that should be fought for.

4) It’s time to stop relying on target combo 4 (LP>MP>HP)

  • Habit developed because target combos are incredibly easy and reliable and were, therefore, the first kind of combos that I learned in the SF4 engine.
  • Target combos, like this one, dramatically scale down combo damage.
  • This combo in particular only works on certain cast members and only at point blank range and sometimes only when they are standing.
  • Consider replacement with different hit confirm strings that not only offer more damage, but also work on a wider variety of characters. Try MP, MP, MK instead.

Execution

I’ve always loved training mode, sometimes more than actually fighting. I spent an absurd amount of time in the lab with Arakune’s CS1 iteration because bug loops fascinated me. This took place around the time that I really got into fighting games again, so execution has become my focal point. I enjoy incredibly long combos, even when performed in a vacuum.  That said, there’s no reason that I shouldn’t be able to learn the stuff from the following short list.

1) Get used to starting block strings and hit confirms with c.LK

  • It’s a low and It’s a better starter than c.LP for that reason alone.
  • The link timing shouldn’t be much different if any different at all. It’s just a matter of changing muscle memory.

2) Learn to Super Jump cancel into Ultra 2

  • As it stands, I rarely ever use Ibuki’s Ultra which is wasted free damage.
  • Regardless of where the Ultra begins on the screen, Ibuki always carries her opponent all the way to the corner and has okizeme options on their wakeup.
  • Can be performed off of any normal that can be Super Jump canceled, including target combos.
  • Offers huge damage.

3) Learn MK tsumuji setups

  • Neck breaker will not cause a hard knockdown for much longer, so this will become the combo ender of choice.
  • High-level Ibuki players, like Sako, rarely ever use neck breaker at all, which hints at the superiority of MK tsumuji.

Matchups

While I could always use practice with every matchup, these in particular cause the most problems. In looking at the list, I noticed that all of the non-grapplers are able to vary their jump arcs mid-air through the use of a command normal (divekicks, elbow drop) or a special (flame kick) or vastly alter their jump arcs through a stance swap or super jump. This struck me as interesting, as I had only considered the fact that I didn’t know how to deal with the characters on the ground, but when combined with my complete lack of knowledge on how to deal with, say, Gen’s crossup potential, my inexperience becomes even more apparent.

  1. Viper
  2. Yun/Yang
  3. Rufus
  4. Gen
  5. Guy
  6. All Grapplers

Footsies

Overall, my ground game isn’t all that strong. Here are a couple of things to work on that could stand to improve that and get me used to actually playing the footsies game correctly.

  1. Use LK tsumuji as a spacing tool.
  2. Use option select command runs and tsumujis off of c.MP for mixup and pressure options at a distance.

Check back Friday for part two of this series as I begin implementing the changes that I’ve listed here. Based on the results that I see, this may become a permanent staple on the blog.

The Weirdest Weekly Vortex Yet

Ibuki KO

I hate mirror matches. I particularly hate mirror matches when I’m playing Ibuki. She has a whole lot of options and everyone plays her differently. I go into the match expecting people to play like me and I can only assume that they go in with similar expectations. This creates some hilarious situations. There’s usually a point when both of us do a jump back kunai, sometimes the blades even collide midair. There’s usually a point when one of us “accidently” throws a raw neckbreaker and it hits for no good reason. There’s usually a point when some setup completely backfires. Win or lose, I always feel a little dirty after an Ibuki-off, and a seriously hilarious one ends this week’s video.

The first two matches are weird, too. I mean, they’re against a Seth who doesn’t play balls-out offense and a Zangief. The Seth kind of caught me off guard so I spent a good amount of time at a safe distance, tossing knives at him because he let me, why not? Then Gief hops up to get a piece of my vortex and I end up doing the same sort of stuff to him. Totally an entertaining video to record and well-worth a view.