Saturday, September 10, 2011

The End

Well, it's been fun. With more than a year and a half since my last post it has become clear that my enthusiasm for this blog is long dead. Much has happened to me and the scene since then but there has been no real compulsion to blog about any of it. Consider this the final retrospective.

For better or worse this waning interest has not extended to my passion for fighting games; if anything, I am more enamored of them now than when I began STSD. Along with my co-blogger I even traveled to Las Vegas to participate in EVO and I can't wait to go back, no matter how fiscally irresponsible it would be. I have sunk hundreds of hours into Street Fighter IV and improved considerably but can't shake the feeling that my goal of being competent is even further away than when I started. This probably merits some examination but that's not going to happen here. Suffice to say that no matter how I good I become at fighting games, I will always feel like a scrub.

For a while following the release of SFIV it appeared as though the sudden popularity might prove a fad, but the genre has seen a real resurgence. Now, more than three years after its release in arcades, the scene is stronger than it has been since the heyday of SFII. The huge roster of releases coming down the pipe next year demonstrates the industry's belief in its health, or at least short-term profitability. This glut may eventually doom the community to another ten year dry spell, or an unsustainable splintering of fan-bases, or some other unforeseen decline. However, at the moment, the future of our hobby is looking brighter than anyone could have dreamed a few short years ago; I for one am looking forward to getting bodied for years to come.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Scrubbing It Down - 1.23.10

It's approximately 2:00 in the morning and I need to get some rest for the tournament in 10 hours.

Street Fighter IV isn't my favorite fighting game, nor is it the one I'm best at, despite the hours of practice put in in the two weeks since deciding to attend At The Buzzer's 3rd SFIV event. The $20 entrance fee is rather steep, especially considering I have very little chance of placing in the top 3, but seeing how sparse the local scene is, I'm willing to drop the cash to compete in something resembling a community. Apparently the last one only had about 30 entrants.

After months of playing, sporadic bursts of intense interest in one game or another, I am finally putting myself out into the greater world of competitive Street Fighter. It will prove interesting; in the time since I started this blog, while I feel I have improved my game considerably, I have become no less of a scrub. My brain still freezes under pressure, my execution breaks down with my life bar and I tend to get punished hard for attempted aggression. On a scale of one to ten, one being someone who just picked up the game and ten being Justin Wong, I wouldn't put myself any higher than a three, and even that feels generous.

Despite my moderate success online, I cannot muster any confidence; the steep entrance fee will surely put off any random Flowchart Ken, likely only leaving all those 3500 Battle Point Bisons that inevitably humble me on PSN.

With such dim prospects, one may wonder why I am competing at all, instead of just going and playing casuals. While this sounds somewhat appealing, and almost certainly less embarrassing, the fact is that if I don't even try to level my game up, I will remain a scrub forever. I need to break out of my comfort zone, expose myself to loss and humiliation, in order to level up.

At the last Wednesday Night Fights, Alex Valle, fielding a call from a viewer, said that the same ten people are winning tournaments around the country and that this needs to change. SFIV has done a great job at getting new people to play fighting games, but what the community really can't survive without are new players who are willing to go beyond the flowchart. I want to be one of those players, to help the games I love prosper and to prove that not all scrubs are hopeless.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Beast Speaks, Eloquently

There can no longer be much doubt that Daigo Umehara, The Beast, is one of, if not the, best Street Fighter player ever. This Euro Gamer interview offers a rare glimpse at the humble, unassuming man behind the legend and offers a stark contrast to many of America's brash top players, John Choi excepted.

The following excerpt really stuck out to me, reaffirming some of my fears from here. Daigo sez:

"I find Western tournaments way more fun than those held in Japan. The players have a sense of ownership of the scene and feel that the tournaments they attend are their event and that they have to take part to make them the best they can be. At least, that's how it appears to me.

"By contrast, corporations usually lay on Japanese tournaments. The Japanese players take no responsibility: whatever happens is up to the host or sponsor. Western gamers at tournaments are very enthusiastic and eager to make it a great event because they have ownership. Regardless of the size of the event, none of the Western tournaments I've participated in have disappointed or bored me. I must say that I love the US tournaments best of all: they keep the pride and fighting spirit alive."

Enough said. Let's never lose the hype.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Waiting for Updates

Ever since Blazblue came out, I was waiting for a sequel. I still haven't found a character to main. Street Fighter IV, I just didn't want to look deep enough into to learn well (though i didn't have a main there, either).
Now that updates are on the way for both, things are perhaps looking up. If the rumors are to be believed, one of my favorite Street Fighter characters is going to be reintroduced in SFIV (Makoto), which may finally give me cause to actually learn her.
As for Blazblue, the recent location tests reveal that the new character Tsubaki has at least some resemblance to Holy Order Sol, and she has a command throw. I don't know if I'll play her, but that's pretty good news to start out with.
Though, the recent location tests also reveal that Tager and Hakumen, characters I have some interest in already, have seemingly been buffed relatively substantially.

I guess we'll see what's really up in a number of months when the updates are finally released to arcades.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Gangliated Utrophin Immuno Latency Toxin

First, a story:
Early this year I visited some friends at my alma matter, and one of my great joys was getting to play Guilty Gear with them again. I made that game a staple of our group, and I was happy to see that it continued on in my absence. The only match I remember, though, was with someone I had never met. He said he had played before, so I didn't really exercise restraint. He grumbled when I scored a Dragon Isntall Sekkai as Order Sol. He didn't like being Potemkin Busted. But he threw up his hands and shouted "Fuck this!" halfway through the first match where I chose A.B.A.

I felt bad. I love playing A.B.A. She is one of my favorites in the entire genre. She's complicated, poses great risk to the opponent and herself. And her ability to RTSD is outstanding. So when I gathered he simply couldn't deal with that kind of relentless assault, I felt like a jerk.
But I was also kind of pissed off. One of the great joys of fighting games, to me, is that if you never give up it is entirely possible to emerge victorious.

But that's neither here nor there, I'm trying to respond to Denton's post.

I play the entire cast of Guilty Gear, and I often play on random. That is partially so that I won't feel guilty if fate hands me one of my better characters (A.B.A., Baiken, Potemkin, and to some degree a scrubby Eddie). If I'm picking characters, I try to use those four sparingly. Because I know it can't be too fun dealing with their shit.
On that same note, it is hard for me to play Denton's Nu for very long. I still can't fathom how she comes together, I'm never sure how I can move to avoid the swords everywhere. But it'd be far more terrible if he stopped playing her because of that.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Excessive νdity – 08.11.09

As expected, Blazblue has taken over my life. Hardly a day goes by without a visit to the 13th hierarchical kingdom of Kagutsuchi, whether for a half hour beat down courtesy of Pkadden or an extended training mode session to practice my abysmal execution. Hell, even story mode sees play. Say what you will about the throw mechanics, burst system, jump frames or lack of variation in character strategies, the game has captured my attention as few before.

The most common complaint leveled against BB is invariably its balance issues, which, while often overstated, are undeniably present. I barely understand Arakune and could not play him if my life depended on it, but even I get how terrible it must be for Tager to face down the Crimson Swarm. Ara, nu, Rachel and, to a slightly lesser extent, Jin rule the roost, if general opinion and SBO qualification counts are any indication. With this in mind, and with no small trepidation, I must admit playing nu.

Now, before punching me in the face, let it be known that my choice was made upon watching the first videos of her unlocking, before her placement on the “Cosmic T-Rex” tier was known. Something about her Zone of the Enders-inspired design and Dizzy-reminiscent gameplay style sealed the deal before I had a chance to protest. Really, corny as it sounds, she chose me.

This is not to say nu never gives me pause. She’s rarely my first choice, and often does not make an appearance at all, given her ability to make many opponents leave lobbies, rage-quit mid-match and punch walls (true story). This, despite the fact that I do not even play her remotely well; my poor reflexes and tendency to fall back on simple, predictable tactics when under pressure are particularly large obstacles to advancing. However, even my meager skill with the phantom swords is enough to overcome seemingly competent players online.

The internet, admittedly a place no sane person should ever go, tells me I should be ashamed for playing such a “cheap,” “over-powered,” character. Apparently, being “too easy to learn” is a cardinal sin and “scrubs” are ruining the game with her. (Then again, Jin, Hakumen, Noel and Arakune are supposedly doing the same thing, so at least she is in good company.) Random, anonymous strangers have deemed the damage output too high, her mobility too good and her zoning too impenetrable given her escape options. Questionable credentials aside, they are probably right.

I feel guilty playing nu. Even knowing that apologizing for character choice is unnecessary and counter-productive, it bothers me in a way that no amount of Playing To Win can alleviate. Being at such a serious disadvantage at 2/3 of a screen is a foreign concept to most players and I do not always push that strength for fear of driving them away (pun intended). No one likes feeling powerless and being safely zoned from so far is the fastest way to make that happen. Though characters like Dhalsim are also most comfortable in similar positions, they cannot pressure as effectively or punish a mistake for 40%+.

In the grand scheme of top-tier characters, there are certainly more dominating, arguably broken fighters that were still accepted by their communities: 3rd Strike Chun, #Reload Eddie, SFIV Sagat, MvC2 Magneto/Psylocke/Sentinel, etc. Yet in my endless quest to improve, there is a strong desire for legitimacy and the respect of my opponents. I do not want to receive messages saying “I lost to nu, not to you” or to leave a trail of ill will for my friend’s PSN account (who is kind enough to let me play).

Perhaps to compensate, my two sub characters are currently Hakumen and Tager, arguably the worst in the game. I greatly enjoy their simple combos and punishing range, surprising unsuspecting opponents with sudden bursts of activity. Yet, as much fun as hitting 360 grabs and super counters is, it feels like time that could be better spent with nu practicing throw-dash timing and Tiger Knee Crescent Sabers.

The inevitable, and greatly anticipated, patch/revision/sequel is sure to tone down my main squeeze, perhaps even to the point of respectability, or at least fewer snide remarks. Coupled with buffs for the less capable members of the cast and a smaller, more dedicated player base that comes with iterating a fighting game, this will probably alleviate my tier shame. Hopefully. However, I really just need to get over the guilt; it is just another obstacle to getting better. Whatever changes Arc System Works deem fit, I will keep playing nu, only maybe less frequently than I should.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pros’ Woes – 06.29.09

Shortly after his big win at the SBO quals, Live On 3 took a few minutes to talk with Combofiend about the event. At one point, DJ Wheat referred to him as a pro fighting gamer, a description that Peter took issue with, clarifying that he is not paid to play. Street Fighter is his hobby, his passion, but it is not how he makes a living.

To hear some people talk, fighting games should look to more popular competitive endeavors for direction. First-person shooters tend to be a prime example, perhaps due to the shared “e-sport” designation. Counter-Strike, Quake and Halo tournaments are often large-scale events, complete with live coverage, professional players and corporate sponsors. The latter are particularly important as large monetary incentives ensure that the stakes are high and the tension is real; this forces more cut-throat competition and ostensibly better performances. Putting people’s livelihoods on the line is a surefire way to create hype.

Interest in fighters has dropped off severely since their heyday in the early to mid 90s and it is a safe bet that most fans would like to see some of that popularity recaptured. However, I have to question whether big money is really the best way to go about increasing attention. The only reason the genre survives to this day is love of the game; money matches and cash prizes are a large part of the scene, but they are not la raison d’être. Not to say that is the case with FPSes, but I feel as though the fighting game scene, though small, does a great job of sustaining itself on the dedication of the community. Evo is not a monetized event, it exists and thrives solely because people like Seth Killian, Joey Cuellar and the Cannon brothers work to create a place for enthusiasts can come together and geek out.

It would be a real shame to lose that sense of community by introducing threats to players’ living wages. There is enough pressure to represent yourself and your character as it is, why add the stress of fulfilling an endorsement? Money introduces a greater incentive to hide information and strategies, stifling growth of the general knowledge base and further scaring off new players. Friendly rivalries would turn bitter. Dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria.

I understand the draw of expanding the genre to the point where professionals can exist; hell, at times it sounds like a dream job. Keeping the games we love healthy obviously requires funding on top of all the commitment. I just hope that this current fighter resurgence and push to make them more mainstream does not sacrifice some of the things that make the scene so great.