Since the last entry in this series I was struggling to come up with a specific topic to discuss. There's a lot to cover in Street Fighter outside of just the mechanics and learning process. Grinding is a term that many RPG fans are familiar with (drug dealers too, but that's a whole other can of worms). If you want to level up, you fight goblins and boars for hours before you fight the dungeon boss. Fighting games are very much the same way. You want to have a chance to beat Daigo or Justin Wong? Those guys have 10+ years of grinding under their belts. They've trained with the optional bosses like Omega Weapon and Ragu Ragula on an every day basis. You better train and learn and get experience as much as possible if you hope to stand a chance.
The point? No matter how good you are, everyone loses online. And by everyone, I mean everyone. I hadn't sat through a whole episode of Gootecks and Mike's Excellent Adventure series in awhile, so I watched their latest episode.
I don't think I've ever seen a video that captures what it's like playing online so well. Winning doesn't feel like an accomplishment and losing doesn't feel like failure. In certain instances you can tell they got mindfucked because they knew the online factor was coming. It's like driving drunk (not that I would know...), you feel fine and in control at the beginning, but the longer you go the harder it is to maintain that control until you have that feeling that shit is going to hit the fan and there's nothing you can do to stop it.
In the beginning of every match they feel out their opponents, trying to predict if they'll do anything and playing footsies or zoning a bit. They're thinking and trying to strategize together. The match goes on and they gain a bit of momentum, earning the life lead or pushing their opponents towards the corner. Their opponents sense the danger and then turn on the juice, using all of the tactics anybody who's not used to playing online wouldn't be used to. Random throws, dash in EX moves, neutral jumping for no reason, random air specials, full screen specials, block strings that lead to reversals...just stuff that doesn't make any sense.
Unless you play online. Then it makes perfect sense. They block your bread and butter combo (BnB)? Why not shoryuken? Why not mash jab during block strings? Or, what if you mash standing jab and walk forward while trying to mash shoryuken? They'd never expect that. Unless they play online.
What happens when someone who plays offline tries to play online is the game they think they know changes online. All of a sudden those things you've learned in the training room and in match up videos don't work online. You can't tic throw because you're eating jabs and shorts. You can't frame trap because you're getting shoryu'd. You can't go for overheads because you're getting thrown.
It doesn't seem fair that, despite your skill and knowledge, these guys still manage to somehow beat you. So you're forced to play down to their level. Get real fundamental. Stop block stringing, start blocking, don't go for set ups, just good old fashioned block and punish. That'll work most of the time, but it won't always end up in your favor. Despite playing smart or playing safe, you might still lose.
Lag is a huge part of it, as it can cause dropped inputs. There's nothing worse than getting your inputs dropped in a game that requires such specific timing. You might block a LP shoryu and go for a throw to punish it. Only, lag occurs when you try to throw so instead of throwing you're just standing there and he's mashing shoryu again. He looks like a genius and you look like a scrub now. Next time around you just block because you're scared you might get punished for trying to punish again. Now you get thrown. Funny how that works, right?
Meta-game. The game within the game. You're not playing Street Fighter as you know it anymore, now you're playing Street Fighter online. It looks like regular Street Fighter and has similar inputs to regular Street Fighter, but it is not regular Street Fighter by any stretch of the imagination. It's a different game. One that, if you want to keep playing online to win, you'll be forced to learn. People are convinced that this just equates to mashing inputs. While that is a large part of it, that's not it entirely. Abusing things with fast start up, using specials that are hard to punish, and relying on 50/50's for damage (shoryu or block after a blocked jump in HK or cross up) are all a part of the online meta-game.
If you've no experience with this, it'll be hard to beat the first time around. When Mike refers to people playing dumb or that he's about to 'go dumb,' this is what he's talking about. The problem with this is he is obviously not as experienced at it as the people he's playing are. If you're pretty good racing with an automatic (I can hear the gearheads and car junkies shaking their heads) and try to beat people using a manual, you're not going to do as well. It's still driving, but the mechanics have changed. They're experienced with it and you're not. One of my favorite quotes by Mark Twain applies very well here:
"Never try to argue with a stupid person. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience."
People who only play online are much better at playing Street Fighter than those who are used to playing offline because they are two different styles and methods. Offline, you would never do 4 blocked shoryukens in a row (unless you suck), but you might online because you know lag makes it hard to punish blocked shoryukens. As someone who primarily plays offline, you have no experience with this. You know you should be able to punish that blocked shoryuken. Alas, you're online, and people take advantage of it. It's not fair, but that's the reality of the situation. There is no honor in online Street Fighter. People are ruthless and will use anything and everything to their advantage for a win. It's a hard shift to deal with if you're used to smart, offline play.
Granted, not everybody plays that way online, but there are those that do and will beat you with it. You have to chalk those losses up to online, move on, and adapt. Online is a great way to get a bunch of experience with a wide variety of players. If you can put up with the inherent flaws with playing Street Fighter online, it can be a great learning tool to improve. However, if you don't have to play online...
"Offline is soooo much better!" - Every arcade junkie ever.
It really is.
If you have a local arcade or offline community, you should make every attempt to join it and participate in it. You'll make friends with many similar interests and, more importantly to this series, improve exponentially. With so many like-minded people focused and determined to improve, everyone will push each other to get better. You won't have to deal with the online meta-game and you'll have people who push you to improve that you can play on an even playing field.
If you're a 3rd Strike enthusiast like I am, you've probably heard the Denjin Video Podcast by Gootecks with Pyrolee. It's an excellent listen for anyone who's passionate about improving at fighting games because Pyro describes what it's like to have a small community of driven players push each other to improve. He talks about the inner-rivalries of the group he played with and how they were constantly seeking out new information from players they've played or seen (specifically the Japanese arcade scene). He talks about how he was a scrub who didn't know anything, to playing in his first tournament and losing horribly, to slowly improving and gaining rivals, to eventually becoming arguably the best 3rd Strike player in America. He credits the community he played with and their devotion to getting better. And, for as great as he is, he talks about going overseas to play and compete against the Japanese and quickly realizing he still has a long way to go.
Which brings me to the point of all this and the blog series in general:
Do you want to get better at Street Fighter? How far do you want to go? Would you like to be able to compete online? Would you like to place in tournaments? Is it just to impress your friends or girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife? How far you want to go depends entirely on you.
My goal has been simple from the very start. I want to be able to beat everybody. I don't aim to be the best or the one who wins the most. I just want to be able to beat anyone I play. If I can do that I can be satisfied with my skill level. In order to do that though, it's going to require a lot of time and effort, as well as patience and dedication.
I've been training mostly by myself for the last 2 years, trying to isolate what makes me good and what makes me bad. I thought for awhile that I could improve by simply playing non-stop online all the time. The problem is you don't have an outside perspective or people pushing you. It's hard to push yourself and motivate yourself when you're the only one doing so. There are times you may lose interest or motivation. That means any effort and time you put into achieving your goals was mostly wasted.
Dtoid once had a Street Fighter community of about 15 or 16 different players, both on 360 and PS3 (though the PS3 side was considerably smaller with only 5 or 6 playing consistently). It is my intent to garner enough interest in Dtoiders again to build up a strong community where we can compete, learn, and improve together. Not just Street Fighter either. WryGuy loves his KoF, I know CharAznable and Usedtabe were very active with Tekken, and a ton of the SF4 guys loved MvC3.
If you guys are really interested in getting better, these blogs are a great starting point, but the real growth is in building a community of focused players. The foundation is there, the only thing that's required is participation. I'm more than happy to teach/show people what I know one-on-one, and I'm sure there are others here who would do the same.
I'm on 3rd Strike exclusively these days, but I'll get back on SF4 once Ultra drops and to anyone that's interested in learning either, my gamer tag is: o KD Alpha o
The gauntlet has been thrown down, but who will accept the challenge? Next time on Street Fighter Learning And Education Time Blog: Tier Lists and Terminology
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About KD Alphaone of us since 7:17 PM on 11.21.2006
Been a member of Dtoid since June 2006, but I don't really like the front page since it's become a jumbled mess of overwhelming content I could care less about. I'm mostly active on the forums these days. I'm here for video games, not social commentary. If you really want to get to know me, head over to Super Street Fighter IV or Gears of War 3 threads.
Favorite games: FFVIII, Street Fighter Alpha 3, Super Street Fighter IV, Tetris Attack, Super Mario World, Chrono Trigger, Star Fox 64, Tekken 3, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Breath of Fire IV, Dragon Quest VIII, NBA 2K12, Gears of War 3, Geometry Wars 2, Vagrant Story, Lumines Live.