Weekly Vortex: Goin’ Garfield!

Don-Chan

What happens when JoshingJosh and I take on the internet this week? The same thing that happens every week: four matches, tons of ridiculous commentary, some wins, some losses, some dropped combos and Josh getting salty when I win.

We had a particularly interesting match against a Vega that seems worth noting (probably the best match in the video). He did a lot of wall dive shenanigans, as can be expected from Vega, but my method of dealing with the dives could stand a rework. While focus attacking handles things if he chooses to do the attack follow-up, it doesn’t stop the command throw. A better option that I’ve seen employed at high level play, is to meet him in the air with an air throw, or a jumping fierce. If done early enough, this tactic doesn’t give Vega time to do anything but flip wildly into my waiting arms–what? It’s not weird.

The Vega matchup also serves to show the importance of option select neckbreakers when setting up vortex; without this approach, Vega gets away from any hard knockdown for free with his evasive flips and essentially resets the situation back to neutral–a place where he has a clear advantage over several members of the cast.

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Delayed Wakeup and Ibuki’s Ultra Changelog Discussion

Ibuki KO

While the exact details have yet to be released, Ultra Street Fighter 4‘s delayed wakeup mechanic, revealed in an interview with Famitsu, stands to change the game entirely. Generally speaking, I’m concerned that the pacing of the game will slow down. I do agree that the game has become a series of fast-paced knockdowns followed by setups. Safe jumps, ambiguous crossups, you name it: getting knocked down right now in SF4 sucks and it’s very difficult to avoid being knocked down. We have to keep in mind, though, that the game released in its original form over four years ago. The game’s pacing—and everyone’s reliance on knockdown setups—is the way that it is because of over four years of discovery, adaptation to the engine and familiarity with the systems already in place. Combine the ability to delay wakeup with the addition of red focus (which initially excited me), and Ultra stands to turn into an even more defensive game than AE with everyone scared to approach after a knockdown for fear of eating a full red focus combo or a delayed dragon punch into Ultra.

The removal of a predictable outcome from hard knockdowns is a cause for concern as it gives the defender an advantage over the attacker, which should never be the case if the attacker has gone so far as to score a hard knockdown. The defender now has a very basic mindgame to employ against his assailant–will I delay my wakeup or not? I fear a world where this rudimentary mindgame may be enough to prevent players from attacking downed opponents entirely, especially in high-level play, in favor of sticking to the neutral game.

As an Ibuki player, I live for hard knockdowns. Nearly every setup used by Ibuki revolves around neck breaker, MK tsumuji, raida (in the corner), sweep or throw. We’ve got lots of options. But if, suddenly, hard knockdowns are made to be such that they no longer produce an expected outcome, our offense becomes much harder to maintain. As a momentum character, Ibuki begins to really take control of the match once she lands the first hard knockdown. This momentum will soon be removed. This will naturally affect the entire cast, but I fear vortex characters will feel the effects of this system change more than anyone else (looking at you, too, Akuma).

After much deliberation, I’ve also come to the conclusion that the removal of the hard knockdown status on all of Ibuki’s neck breaker variants (save the EX version) now seems pointless. A vortex character can’t rightly vortex their opponent if the opponent doesn’t get up after an expected period of time. With delayed wakeup in mind, this nerf seems unnecessary.

Taking a closer look at her overall changes, very little good is on the horizon for little ol’ Ibuki:

Ibuki Official Changes (From SRK):

Guard bug where El Fuerte’s 6+MK would cross over fixed

A bug fix, nothing more.

 Hammer Kick (6+MK) hitbox expanded downward; changed from +3 to +2 on block

The change to this move’s vertical hitbox is weird. My only guess for the thought behind the change is to prevent the move from sometimes hopping over downed characters with incredibly small hurt boxes, but these instances were not common to begin with. The frame data change is mostly negligible, though it does make getting that first jab out after a blocked overhead just a little riskier.

Target Combo 4 (LP → MP → HP near opponent) 2nd hit hitbox expanded downward

This is a welcome change, but more details are needed to see if this is actually going to work the way that it works in my head. As it stands, TC4 whiffs on several members of the cast when they’re crouching. I expect this change to make the move no longer whiff in these situations, which will help make Ibuki more consistent in all matchups. Overall, this feels more like a bug fix than anything else.

L Kunai throw angle now slightly weaker

Every patch messes with the angle of this projectile. As with many of the previously-listed changes, more information is needed to truly determine whether or not this can be considered a nerf or a buff. My initial fear is that this angular change will be yet another strike against her already-suffering vortex game in the Ultra update; if the angle changes sharply enough, ambiguous kunai tosses will no longer exist.

L, M and H Tsujigoe recovery reduced by 6F

Ah, Tsujigoe. Have you ever even seen this move? Chances are, if you’re not an Ibuki player, you haven’t. I have a hard time believing that this change will matter at all, as I seriously doubt that a mere six frame recovery buff on this awkward command jump will give it any purpose other than what it already has: making your opponent think you just broke the game by adding another move to it.

L, M and H Neck Breaker now cause soft knockdown instead of hard knockdown

With delayed wakeup in place, this nerf seems unnecessary. Wake up timings won’t be predictable as-is and this change merely adds insult to injury.

All versions of Tsumuji hitbox slightly expanded downward

I’m not entirely sure what to make of this. All that I can think is that there are some times when, if I’m incredibly far away (approaching tip-range), the last hit of a tsumuji will whiff. I suppose this may fix that issue, but, again, I’ll need to see this change in action to be sure of it’s impact.

M Tsumuji recovery increased by 1F

This makes the move -1 on block and +13 on hit. I don’t see the point in this change, as it doesn’t alter what can or can’t punish the move.

EX Kazegiri invincibility time increased from 6F to 7F

Early on, when the most basic mock-up changelogs were released for this update, they promised “improved defensive options” for Ibuki. I’m all for more invulnerability frames on her dragon punch, and feel that she desperately needs a full-invuln option for wakeup at the cost of meter. As it stands, she doesn’t have any way to force people to respect her on wakeup. This will stop meaty attacks, but it already does that. One frame in either direction won’t really change much of anything.

Obviously, none of these changes are final. Location testing has only recently started and will continue to take place for quite some time before the game reaches a final state. I am optimistic that they’ll revert Ibuki’s neck breaker to its AE form as the removal of it’s hard knockdown, as I’ve stated a couple of times already, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense with the addition of the delayed wakeup option. That in mind, I fear that the vortex as a whole is on its way out regardless of any character-specific tweaks. With the new systems in place, the game looks to be heading toward a very heavy favoring of characters with good footsies options, an area where Ibuki is seriously lacking.

I don’t currently plan to drop her as it’s way too early to tell how all of this will play out. But I do intend to spend some time with a few other characters while I wait for Ultra to release, just in case. Currently on my mind are Chun-Li, a character that I mained before moving on to Ibuki and still play regularly, though to a much lesser degree of mastery; Rose, a character that I’ve always loved but never bothered to learn much beyond how to combo into her super; Evil Ryu, because Sako inspired me to main Ibuki and he also plays Evil Ryu (plus, Oinfrar3DO recently posted an excellent article about how to approach him); or Blanka because trolling is fun sometimes.

Hardcore Music is Great, What About Hardcore ARPGs?

Path of Exist Title

I’ve only ever made hardcore characters in Terraria. Everything always started out so well, too: I’d have nearly a whole suit of copper armor and a sturdy, wooden single room shack overlooking some cliffs; it wasn’t much, but it kept the zombies at bay.  I’d start my third day full of zest and vigor. Pick in hand, I’d hop into the starting shaft of my hellevator to harvest some more minerals, only to find that I hadn’t built it quite straight enough and my unsuspecting body would splatter across the pixelated chasm I’d created (someone really needs to regulate hellevator construction). Lately, I’ve been passively watching several Path of Exile streams, just leaving them on in the background as I do my daily internetting, and in so doing, I’ve noticed a trend: every popular streamer runs characters in the Nemesis League. Why a hardcore league? Because the potential for a catastrophe to occur draws viewers! But there has to be more to it than that. There has to be something else. I’ve heard over and over that hardcore is way more fun than softcore could ever be, but why? I don’t want to lose my character when I die and the threat of death from problems like desynchronization or, in my case, a random drop of internet service is very real and no one will help recover your character if you lose it that way or any other way. Once a hardcore character dies it’s just dead. That’s it.

The best piece of advice for people looking to get into hardcore in a game like this is not to pretend you won’t die. You’ll die. The game isn’t about building up a single character in hardcore, instead, it’s about building up a stash–a small empire of sorts, the spoils of which can ideally support an entire line of successors. I’ve read that it’s best to think of the game not as an ARPG in the classic sense, but more of a Roguelike. Roguelikes are all about permanent death and working your slow path through randomly (or procedurally) generated dungeons that are generally incredibly difficult to actually finish. Sometimes you’ll win, but you usually won’t. It’s more about the journey.

I decided to give it a shot today and I still haven’t died! I am, however, only at the Ledge on normal difficulty, which I plan to farm a little bit to get some experience before moving forward. I’m running Etup’s Scion axe Spectral Throw build because it looks like a relatively safe, defensive build capable of dealing a lot of damage when necessary. I’m still at a loss for exactly what is so magical about hardcore mode in games like this, but I’ll let you guys know if I figure it out.

How far will I make it? Cast your vote in the blog’s first ever poll!

Weekly Vortex: Birthday Edition!

Ibuki KO

A couple of weeks ago, RaspingJosh and I hooked up two headsets to my computer and used two different forms of audio input and two different recording programs (because, so far as I can tell from lots of intensive Googling, no software exists currently to mix two usb audio inputs in Windows 7) to allow both of us to do commentary for some ranked matches over a few a whole lot of beers. The most difficult part of editing this stuff together was syncing the audio tracks and there are a couple of points when this difficulty becomes obvious. I won’t point them out, but trust me, they exist. The problem stems from Windows Movie Maker not being able to edit sound clips beyond two decimal places after the second. At more than one point, I just really needed the audio to start at 39.235 seconds instead of 39.23 or 39.24 seconds. Overall, it turned out rather well and the matches are, for the most part, pretty damn funny. I hope you guys enjoy it!

 

Celebrate Guy Fawkes Night in Style with COD: Ghosts

Call of Duty Fawkes

Remember, remember!
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!

While the gunpowder treason may never be forgot, I can think of at least one reason why it might be overlooked this year. Just as Madden has been releasing a new version annually for as long as I or anyone else can remember, so too has Call of Duty. This year’s release comes just six days after Halloween and sports the seasonally appropriate subtitle Ghosts.

Kidding.

Fairweather FPS fans–myself included–have found ourselves back in the trenches serving as fodder for the teeming masses of COD enthusiasts eager to whet their blades against our unsuspecting throats. This year’s title, produced by Infinity Ward, promises destructible terrain through the new dynamic map system, the ability to customize player characters beyond their loadout and a story mode involving space travel.

This wildly successful series doesn’t need an introduction, nor does it need any sort of reviewer to help move units. In fact, Black Ops 2, last year’s addition to the series (from Treyarch) reached 500 million dollars in sales in the first 24 hours, which proves that the Call of Duty name has become so trusted that swarms of gamers will throw down sixty bucks any time an updated version hits the shelves without a second thought, and rightfully so. The series provides an incredible amount of fun for the price tag. Because of this, the ad campaign has taken an interesting turn in recent years, straying from showing actual gameplay footage, instead opting to throw “real gamers” into the battlefield to show how much fun you and your buddies are going to have pumping lead into bad guys while Frank Sinatra blares in the background. I honestly can’t wait.

 

Lag, Desynchronization and why “Rubber Banding” is a Good Thing

Rubber Bands 2

If you’ve ever played an online game, you’ve almost certainly been in the middle of a really important battle and swung your weapon to deal the final blow to your enemy only to have the game hiccup and say that your sword arm was just a little slower than you thought and, instead of ending the life of whatever orc, goblin or other player you were fighting, they, in fact, ended yours.  It turns out that your computer thought something different was happening than the server, and since your computer can’t be trusted, the server-side wins out. This sort of problem comes from the necessity for the local game client to predict what will actually happen in the game world once you issue a command. This command is sent to the server and the server either gives you a green light and lets you keep doing what you’re doing, or says, “hey, you aren’t supposed to be here!” and rolls things back slightly. The faster a game moves, the more noticeable this problem becomes.

The issue arises because the internet, though it has come a long way since the days of Geocities, AngelFire and 56k, still isn’t instant and has to maintain a (slightly) delayed conversation with your computer for the duration of any online gaming session. Oddly enough, this issue doesn’t only apply to gaming. In September, NASA released a video revealing that they have a similar problem when exploring space remotely and how they intend to use predictive technology similar to that used by the online gaming industry to make their rovers more responsive and easier to maneuver.

No one can argue that desynchronization is good… well, except maybe Hammerdins in Diablo 2 current “fix” for this problem–“Rubber Banding”–is worse than the problem itself. Perhaps the genre of game most affected by this problem is the isometric ARPG–Diablo series, Torchlight series, Path of Exile due to the sheer speed, amount of movement and enemy interaction that takes place. The server has a lot to keep up with and the local client has to make a lot of predictions. Directly following the release of Diablo 3, people everywhere on computers of all specs and internet connections ranging from corn-husk to T1 saw the problem manifest. “It’s 2012,” the player who just lost his level 70 hardcore character began, “can a company with Blizzard’s wallet seriously not fix this?” At the moment, the answer is “not really.”

If the local game client predicted a certain action, but the server wasn’t able to allow it for some reason–characters weren’t actually where they appeared, for example–desynchronization would occur. If this desynchronization isn’t dealt with properly, player characters, monsters, even items dropped by slain enemies can wind up in completely wrong places. So the server rolls things back slightly, rarely more than a couple of seconds. It feels terrible; it feels unresponsive, but the alternative–invisible monsters–is much worse. If the servers didn’t correct this desynchronization, hidden enemies  would rain arrows on unsuspecting players from places that the player can’t see. Players would swing swords at enemies and never land a blow, all because the player’s local client thinks things are where they aren’t. Though it feels clunky, rubber banding is the best, current fix for this situation as it allows us to see the game as the server sees it, even if we are a couple of seconds behind from time to time.