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Road to EVO 2K11 Mid-Point Check-in

For those of you who had been following the QuarterSave podcast before its abrupt hiatus, or read the review of the Mad Catz Tournament Edition FightStick, you’ll know that I’ve been in training for some time. As a life-long fan of both Vegas and Street Fighter, after watching last year’s EVO streamed online I came up with the idea of “how far could one VERY average player get with one year of training.” Well my friends, we’re coming up on the half-way point now that we’re into the new-year, and that seems a pretty apt point to provide you all with a check-in.

As expected, and noted through the podcasts, the change to the fightstick from a pad was a harsh reset on any progress made. While it might seem like the time I spent in the arcades would directly influence the play on the console with the fightstick, there was a good 2-3 month period there were even the most basic of actions (quarter-circles) were frustratingly uneven to pull off with any form of reliability. Moving from a pad to a fightstick took a lot of grinding, in that you just need to play, A LOT. It was suggested by one of my friends/trainers that I throw on a movie and spend a good two hours just doing hadoukens over and over and over. While I haven’t gone to that length YET, it is seeming like there are some motions (dragon punch in particular) that still might require that level of grinding to get on lock-down for regular use in the tournament.

Along with the challenges of changing inputs, the character development has been a struggle as well. The original intention was to play as Ibuki, A) because she’s a ninja, and that’s awesome. B) because I’d played her once or twice back in the Third Strike era.

Ibuki - Super Street Fighter IV

Unfortunately the character has undergone some harsh changes in the modern era, i.e. her neck breaker (which used to slide right under fireballs and provide a devastating counter-attack) now only works as a dodge when EX’d.

On an interesting side note, the amount of slang terminology that you’ll pick up just through fighting online, or having a regular weekly game with friends is pretty amazing. That also became vital when it got to the point of perusing forum posts for pro-tips on characters, but we’ll get to that later.

With Ibuki proving to be a rather ineffective choice, particularly for my play style, a plethora of new options were presented in the form of recommendations from friends. As of this writing I’m currently working on my Bison. Bison is a great choice as I tend to be a more defensive player, and his larger health quotient, strong single-hit attacks, air-defenses, and turtle-esque nature as a charge-character (meaning you’ll need to be holding down or back for a few seconds to execute and action) play to my strengths.

M. Bison - Super Street Fighter IV

The other major obstacle for a tournament, and unfortunately this is a major time sink, is being aware of how all the other players in the game work. I found out rather quickly that even if you have your character on lock-down, one character that you’ve never faced before can walk in and ruin your day. For me it was the introduction of Gen into our weekly fight-night rotation. Never having fought a Gen online I was routinely decimated by a series of attacks I had no idea even existed in the game (Wizard Kicks mainly, as I eventually came to call them). In order to try and combat my lack of knowledge with the characters I’ve spent time in the training modes getting to learn their basic attacks and combos. Playing “random v. random” matches online during fight nights also helps by forcing you to play as characters you wouldn’t normally select. Then during this year’s New Year’s Eve party, we came up with a particularly brutal variation on that. During the fighter selection now we will let the opponent select the character. This means that player one gets to choose the first character, some strategy required to pick someone that your opponent is particularly poor with, and that player two has to employ strategy to pick a character that theirs has a feature to give them an edge in the match.

Knowledge is power in the game of Street Fighter. Execution of the move-lists is a smaller portion of the tournament-level play then I ever would have guessed. In the end, what it comes down to is knowledge; knowledge of your character, your opponent, combos, match-ups, strengths, weaknesses, counters, distances of attacks, priorities, and yes the move-lists too. The interesting part to me was the realization that you didn’t need to be constantly throwing out “special moves” in order to win. Instead a well-timed light-punch could be the deciding factor between a win and a devastating loss.

Where to get such knowledge though? Thankfully thousands of other players out there are more than happy to provide insight into their addiction. The SRK forums in particular have been a great resource, providing an untold wealth of knowledge. At its deepest darkest levels it will explain to you pixel counts, hit-box information, and all kinds of wacky behind-the-scenes non-sense that is still light-years above my head. However, for the basic user getting started there are plenty of strategy guides, suggestions for combos to utilize, character decision and match-up help, plus the community has been welcoming and friendly.

That was probably the most surprising thing of all. Compared to the amount of hate mail I was getting on Xbox Live for winning a match (which we considered for a time becoming a weekly segment on the podcast), the forum-folk have been surprisingly welcoming. There’s a section for newbs at every turn, and the people in there aren’t just a series of trolls looking into making you feel like a complete ass-hat for not knowing when to employ Bison’s Ultra 2. Instead they welcome you into the fold with welcome-arms, and help you to build your knowledge. No question is too stupid here, and the pro-level players are eager to help you on your way.

In that way Street Fighter has revitalized my love of the gaming community. As sappy and sad as it may sound, it’s heart-warming to see gamers helping gamers. While I enjoy a bit of trash-talk from time to time in my gaming, it’s really something special to see someone asking a basic question and getting a straight answer from someone that’s already been doing this awhile. It’s encouraging to see people share their love of the game in a way that help builds interest in continuing forward and growing the community, rather than a bunch of elitist snobs keeping it as some kind of closed-circuit boys club.

To conclude, the training continues. It will still be sometime before I feel confident in even proceeding past the first round of the tournament in this year’s EVO, but with a series of solid players helping with the training, the SRK forums community assisting with questions during the day, and the new FightStick provided by Mad Catz, I’m starting to feel more confident that I can make a presence at the show.

Considering the recent hiatus of the podcast, expect a few more written-updates of the progress of the training in the months to come. I definitely want to keep you all apprised of the progress that I’m making on the way to the tournament.