Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Rapid Improvement: Part 2

In part 2 of this series, I want to focus on the next thing that causes beginners to lose games: Basic execution of special moves. There are two components to this.

1) reliable: Can you consistently do the move in training mode?
2) atomic: Do you think of it as one single action instead of a sequence of steps?

I'm sure everyone can identify with the first part. "My opponent is jumping in, but I don't want to risk doing a dragon punch because I'm afraid I'll screw it up". You must have a strong command of the mechanics of doing the moves that you want to do. You simply cannot compete otherwise. I've seen beginners have a difficult time with what seem to be straightforward moves like Guile's flash kick:

* Insufficient charge
* Press button too early and get a hopping knee
* Press button too late and get a jumping kick
* Move joystick too slowly to up position
* Move joystick to forward position instead of up

Regardless of why they fail at execution, the impact of the failure is clear. Assume that you deal 15 damage on successful execution of a flash kick (to simplify I won't even go into the positional advantage of setting up a crossup afterwards). But if you fail, you eat a jump roundhouse, low roundhouse combo for 20 damage.

If you fail your flash kick half the time, then on average you are losing 5 damage per flashkick. Clearly blocking is better than taking 5 damage. The conclusion from this is: It's not worth trying for special moves unless you know you can do them.

Atomic is the term I use when a move or sequence of moves is so ingrained that you cease to think of it as a series of joystick movements and button presses, and instead think of it as one "thing" to do.

It takes a lot of time and effort to think about what your next move has to be in a sequence. Here's an example from my personal play in another game, Virtua Fighter. In that game, the character Wolf has a combo whose stick motions are back, torward, punch + kick, torward, kick, up torward, punch + kick, towards, kick.

At first when I was learning this, I would get about one third of the way through the sequence on muscle memory, and then I'd have to think "what's next?", and remember the next series of button presses. By the time by brain finished remembering what was next in the sequence, I'd have very little time to actually execute.

If you can precache the entire sequence of desired moves into muscle memory, then you don't need to waste time thinking about how to do them during combat. This frees up a ton of time and attention on other things.

Level 2: The one hundred drill
In this drill, you go into training mode and do the move in question unil you have one hundred successes on each side, each day, for one week. So for example

flash kick, right hand side: 20 failures, 100 successes
flash kick, left hand side: 50 failures, 100 successes

Do this every day for one week, rain or shine, even if you are sick or tired. This will drill into into your muscle memory. You may be wondering why moves like flash kick, which are symmetrical, need to be drilled on both sides? The reason is that in play, you will be starting from a different blocking position on each side. So in play, the moves are different because they start from defensive crouch (which is different on each side).

Write down how many failures and how many successes you had each day, on what side. Post it on a public blog to track your improvement.

In the second week, do the same, but first to fifty successes.

After the second week drill is completed, do runs to twenty once a week to keep yourself in shape.


XSPR said...

I think the idea to have drills so you have something to focus on while practicing is useful. I hope Execution Aid Version 2 helps in this exact effort.

Anonymous said...

These have been a great help, keep it up.

Grits'N'Gravy said...

Hey Julien, I linked to your blog from mine ( I hope it's cool. I am just giving people some more ideas about practicing.

Eric said...

Thought I should add to the praise: I just bought my first Street Fighter game (sfIV) this week and I am so happy that I did. However, with this blog I may actually stop being a sucky player and improve.

You've been the only reliable source of beginner information I can find, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Much love from a scrub.

Royal Lance Wolfen said...

This is a very good suggestion of training. Definitely linkable.