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AaaA: s-kill’s Tournament Player Archetypes

September 25th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

This old Dom101 article came up in my interview with jchensor and i realized that i had more thoughts on it. I’d like to put them down paper, so to speak, in this “Article about an Article.” First, here’s a link to the original piece. Please read it and then come back.

Domination 101: Tournament Player Archetypes at Shoryuken

They’re in there, they’re playing, and they might even be pretty good. Without a “gameplan”, however, their goodness is limited to situational scenarios. Sure, maybe you can super through that fireball for massive damage, but unless you’ve also got some way to force or trick your opponent into actually throwing that fireball, you’re depending on them to hand you the win.

 
As you can tell from the quote above, this article was amazingly insightful to anyone without extensive tournament experience. It still holds up today, despite many of the specific examples having become outdated. However, the overall level of competition among the Street Fighter “middle class” has improved considerably over the years – partly due to fighting games becoming a niche hobby inbetween periods of mainstream success.

Even players who lose in qualifiers at Evo events are pretty well rounded now. It’s become more difficult to encapsulate everyone within s-kill’s original archetypes: the Scrub, the Turtle, Gimmicky Pete, the Stylist, and Grumpy Old Man. So i propose some modifications to the list.

Improv Players: There are still a lot of players who go into matches thinking that they can win without a gameplan. And it’s still a terrible idea. However, those players have gotten a lot more practice over the years in this unpredictable style of play. As long as their fundamentals are sound and as long as they keep a level head, they can do surprisingly well. The other side of the coin is that most recent fighting games have a much bigger character selection, which means that even the best players have to deal with the occasional S-Benimaru/Athena/Zangief team. Nobody has a gameplan against that madness.

Turtle Players: Depending on the game, this style of play is just as frustratingly effective as ever. However, turtle players need to account for a lot more shenanigans these days. Since everyone has access to Training Mode and everyone can practice those Custom Combo variations, even the best turtle players can’t block everything. Also, turtle players have to find a way to keep up with the opponent’s meter buildup rate because in modern fighting games that’s where all the damage potential lies. However, even though turtling requires kind of a lot of knowledge and effort these days, it’s still not popular among the audience. If the best turtle player wins three tournaments and the best aggressive player wins one, the aggressive player is still going to get more props.

“Gimmicky Pete” Players: In some ways it’s harder for these players to get by and in other ways it’s easier. Games are much more complicated these days than they were 15 years ago, so there’s more potential for crazy unpredictable tricks to be developed. By the same token, many of the best players have been at it for a long long time and it’s very rare to take them by surprise. It also depends on the format of the tournament, because lots of upsets happen under single match rules. In summary, it’s quite difficult for a gimmicky player to be consistent but then again these days there are so many gimmicks to choose from that it can still be done.

Stylish Players: Do these guys even exist anymore? It seems that almost every one of these players has learned that finding the right setup for their best combo is just as important as pulling off the combo itself. There are definitely some players who choose characters based on style but nobody even takes notice unless they place in top 8. Nowadays the stylish players show off their skills in combo videos instead, because it’s simply too difficult to make up for the handicap in tournament play. Those rare few combo video makers who do well in tournaments do it by simplifying their tactics and focusing on fundamentals. Nobody enters a tournament with the primary goal of showing off some new stylish combo. However, everyone sees value in style so a lot of top players incorporate minor stylistic elements into their gameplan to make things interesting whenever they earn a huge opening.

“Grumpy Old Man” Players: Surprisingly enough, these players are nowhere near as ghetto as the article makes them seem. For the most part they have kept up with the evolving technical standards of the games. They master the combos, they learn all the advanced techniques, and they put the time into practicing. What makes their seemingly mechanical/repetitive patterns dangerous is actually their choice of attacks to rely on. These players understand the fundamental difference between a trick and a tactic. A trick is something that works until the opponent adapts to it. A tactic is something that poses a threat regardless of the opponent’s familiariaty with it. Veteran players know how to set up and execute true 50/50 mixups which force the opponent to guess in order to avoid taking damage. Furthermore, veteran players implement these tactics in a way that minimizes the reciprocal risk. These players are never easy to beat because they tend to have solid fundamental skills, enough tournament experience to not panic under pressure, and generally pretty good instincts.

For the most part, these archetypes still exist today, but it’s gotten more difficult to label players. As the weaknesses of each style became more apparent, the players compensated by incorporating aspects of other styles into their individual arsenals.

There are still general categories in effect today. For example, we call someone a “technical player” when they have detailed knowledge of the game engine or even memorize frame data, and then base their decisions on game analysis. We call someone a “mindgames specialist” when they focus more on outplaying their human opponent by manipulating patterns and otherwise psyching them out. We call someone a “training mode junkie” when they rely heavily on extremely lethal offensive sequences which require a lot of practice to perform consistently, such as Magneto’s resets or Genei Jin variations. However, the key word in the first sentence is “general” because the best players incorporate all of these tools into their arsenal. Everyone who looks up to them realizes the importance of being versatile.

I want to wrap this up with a little anecdote. A while ago, omni told me a story about making it really far in some oldschool tournament, to the point where he knew everyone who was still in it. He was hanging out with AfroCole, who said something along the lines of, “This is the part where you eliminate all your friends.”

Now i’m sure a lot of people would hear that and interpret it as deep social commentary or whatever (which is an interesting take on it). It does suck having to take out your friends when you know how much they want to win. Personally, when it comes to tournaments, there are certain people against whom i simply can’t bring myself to play seriously. But i’m pretty sure what Cole actually said was: (click)

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  1. Pokey86
    September 26th, 2010 at 01:27 | #1

    That’sa good article,enjoyed reading it (& the linked article)

    I’ve always suffered on fundementals & match up design, that said when you refer to “gameplan” do you mean that people go in to tournies with the intent of employing the above styles? for example someone might enter a tourny under the basis that he’ll focus heavily on turtling? (I’m aware the best players can play multiple styles, wouldn’tsurprise me if it was in the same match/round :P) Or is gameplan reffered to in an example of playing in a fashion that allows your opponents to make mistakes, Like say for example playing zangief & giving the opponent free damage in a situsation that is not completely safe, so that you can use that later as a punish situation?

    My knowledge is limitted regarding this, however at present because the internet allows for efficient sharing of match-up strategy iv’e always thought now that the key to winning with alot of characters is generating situations in which you are forcing safe offence situation. Along with this obviously execution, reaction & fundemental ability reinforcing this.

    Take for example Akuma, in the highest level of play people are intent on scoring a knockdown so they can initiate the “Vortex” & force a constant string of 50/50 (Hell, sometimes 33/66 in favour of attacker) once the vortex has been broken it’s immediately falls on the Akuma to score his knockdown again.

    This is to the point that there pretty much isn’t an Akuma that doesn’tplay in this style. (Though i could be wrong, i haven’t seen one)

    We all know Zangiefs core goal is scoring a knockdown to start his severe offence.

    Sakuras goal is turning minor pokes in to full B&B’s to which she has some of the strongest

    What i’m trying to get at, it seems that tournament leve lplayers are more along thelines of who can perform their particular characters best strategy most effectively, coupled with match-up knowledge.

    It just seems that at one point no one deviates from a particular characters style of play.

    But like i said i could well be ignorant to this subject, i certain;y haven’t been in this community long enough to make a well informed decision.

  2. September 26th, 2010 at 01:49 | #2

    All that stuff you said would be true if the game came with instructions explaining each character’s “best strategy” but that’s not it works. In reality it can take years for a character to fully develop.

    I mean, Akuma’s vortex was discovered relatively late. Before that, he was mostly a runaway character.

    At some point, someone stepped up and declared that trying to set up the vortex is a better gameplan than running away the entire match. And by “declared” i mean “proved by succeeding with it in a tournament.”

    A gameplan isn’t one flowchart that you use against everyone. It’s a dynamic thing that you adjust based on what you know about the opponent’s character and what you know about the opponent.

    It’s also based on your strengths as a player. Kurahashi and Muteki, probably the two best ST Guile players in the world, don’t have the same gameplan. And they’ve been playing that game for 15 years.

    Having a solid gameplan isn’t as easy as memorizing one paragraph on a cue card. That’s why a lot of people don’t bother coming up with one.

  3. Pokey86
    September 26th, 2010 at 02:12 | #3

    Cheers for the answer.

    You’re right, i’m probably basing this off some characters, i imagine there area fair few characters that have multiple effective playstyles.

    By best strategy i meant “best known strategy” to which Akuma is an example as once someone discovered (Or proved) the effectiveness of the Vortex then pretty much every formiddable character stopped the runaway & starting playing in a more hit & run style (Aggressive whilst at an advantage, defensive on neutral)

    I mean it’s well possible someone will discover a better playstyle for Akuma & then i envision all the top tiers emigrating to that.

    Same can be said for Sakura, originally her core playstyle was pressing in to her EX Tatsu mixup, however now herplaystyle is pretty much solely based on defensive play, safe meter building & turning her pokes in to long string combos (Far LK -> HP SRK -> FADC -> B&B)

    But then Saks is hardly high tier.

    Just watched a few vids from the above players… Both were damn good, it’s funny, Guile mirrors are just as terrible then as they are now.

    Are mirrors ever good :P

  4. September 26th, 2010 at 02:20 | #4
  5. September 26th, 2010 at 16:30 | #5

    Also i think you’re interpreting this way too rigidly. Akuma players haven’t stopped running away when it suits them. They’ve just developed a better offense to complement their defense.

    But that line is flexible. He has some matchups where he needs to rely heavily on the vortex and other matchups where he’s way better off running away. I’m sure if you asked the top 5 Akuma players in the world, there would be some disagreement in those choices.

    Then there’s also the question of what do you do if you’re winning/losing? For instance if you get off to a 50% life lead, should you use the vortex to finish them off or should you conservatively protect your lead by running away? Again, i’m sure you’d get different answers from different players.

    Finally, there’s the omnipresent issue of your human opponent. If his roommate happens to be an Akuma player with a giant Alex Valle / RTSD motivational poster hanging on his wall, he probably has quite a bit of experience dealing with the vortex. Running away from that guy would be a way better gameplan.

    I mean obviously the concensus “recommended Akuma flowchart” would be a good start (if it existed), but you still have to be able to adapt and think for yourself if you want a truly effective tournament gameplan.

  6. Crysalim
    September 26th, 2010 at 22:50 | #6

    I really like how you referenced Seth’s old articles here. Back in the early 2000’s the internet was so great for people looking to get that edge. I wonder, has it changed over the years? It seems as though people want to keep their tactics and style to themselves, these days. I wish more Killian’s and err well, Maj’s, would come out of the woodwork to write articles like this :)

  7. Doctorcow
    September 27th, 2010 at 00:34 | #7

    Seth’s tone of writing comes across as rather angry and negative in those old Domination 101 articles. Even when he’s explaining the strengths of a certain archetype, it just has to be by citing how bad it must be to play against that particular style.

    I much prefer the constructive, positive vibe here in sonichurricane.

  8. September 27th, 2010 at 12:20 | #8

    Oh, that never bothered me. I just assumed he was acting the role of a grizzled drill sargeant or something. Plus you have to remember that in the early days of the online community, people were way too resistant to the notion that beating their friends doesn’t make them good at Street Fighter.

    Seth’s whole crusade was to make people understand that when they lose, it’s because they need to improve something – not because their opponent is playing the game “wrong” or doing something “unfair.” So he went with the angry coach routine. No big deal; just look past it.

  9. Kareem
    September 28th, 2010 at 07:30 | #9

    I’ve always wondered myself about gameplans. I know my matchups, and I know what works based on experience but if someone were to ask me “what do you do in this mtchup” I have a really hard time expressing in words what my gameplan would be. I start with an idea about my opponents moveset and when different situations arise I know the answers to them.

    I’ve always wondered if others really have a clear plan; a full laid out strategy, when they begin a match. I’m sure they do, but I find it hard to do that. Every player is different, and while you can account for your opponents moveset, the human factor is too much of a variable to have clear laid out steps of what you want to do.

    Maybe that means I fall into the improv category. That’s how I started out at least. But with experience I weed out the bad to create a tool box of valid tactics to use. The way I put it together though depends on the player I’m facing, sometimes moreso than the character.

    Also, the muteki vs kurahashi mirror is one of the sickest matches I’ve seen, mirror or no. Did you catch that kara roundhouse into flashkick for that little extra range needed to go through and touch him.

  10. Bob Sagat
    September 28th, 2010 at 11:31 | #10

    When some of us Dutchies (like Kareem here) went to France to compete at Stunfest, I had to take out one of our own. I sucked, but we played to win.

  11. Tarnish
    September 28th, 2010 at 12:25 | #11

    @Kareem

    I know for a while people have been saying that it’s standing RH, but Marsgatti and I were talking at Evo. We’re both certain he kara’d a sobat kick instead. That’s what Mars has been doing recently to achieve that same effect, and apparently both of those start up frames look similar?

  12. September 29th, 2010 at 02:30 | #12

    I don’t think you necessarily need to have your entire gameplan verbalized in your mind. As long as you know where to steer the match to give yourself an advantage, you’re in pretty good shape. The whole point of having a gameplan is to gain control of the match, instead of just going in there totally unprepared and trying to wing it.

    But it’s fine if you can’t explain your gameplan to someone else. For instance, Valle is pretty terrible at theory fighter, but he knows exactly how he wants to play every round before it starts. He doesn’t push the first button that comes to mind, or jump whenever the thought occurs.

    It’s better to have a plan and adjust it on the fly, than to have no plan and make it up as you go. There’s a fine line between these two, but it’s real.

  1. September 25th, 2010 at 20:33 | #1
  2. October 3rd, 2010 at 00:31 | #2
  3. October 9th, 2010 at 21:35 | #3
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