Viscant talks about it constantly; Sanford Kelly bitches out an entire coast for it; some players are celebrated for it. Character selections are a huge deal in fighting games. If you’ve been playing fighting games for a bit or a while, odds are really good that you look at the games from the point of view of tier list or match up list. There is nothing wrong with doing so. But tier lists do not give you an accurate representation what happens as games develop. If you aren’t looking at a tier list, then do you look at? Pay attention to the characters that are being played, pay attention to The Field.
“Well that’s a really fancy thing to make up. Aren’t you so cool?” I am not creating this concept and I am not all that cool. Collectible Card Game players use this idea constantly (albeit under a different name). Defined more technically The Field is: the sum of all characters being played in one location. When looking at the characters count both main and the secondary characters for each player. The crux of the idea is to have a clear list of the characters that you will face as a player. Similarly keep a close eye on the location for each field you are analyzing. Fields are locked into geographical locations because the players are locked into those geographical locations. Majors and locals are different fields since majors have players who travel from all of the country and the planet to compete. Play styles also factor into this in interesting ways. You may just get rushed down in one coast and lamed out on the other. Fields happen through a combination of the time and effort that goes into learning a character as well as having people who can teach you things first hand. Similarly picking up characters by watching them get played in front of you is a bit more interactive than just watching streams.
Applying the concept to Training mode
The immediate impact of understanding the Field affects the overall game. Odds are very small that every character will be used in any one tournament. If you compare the list of characters played to the characters in a tier list, you may find that it had very little influence on the characters you played against. On the other hand, the list of characters your opponents play always represent the list of all potential match ups you could play against in any one tournament or session. After each session or tournament write a small list of characters which you saw that time; make note on whether they player’s main character or secondary. After the first time you will have given yourself a concrete hit list.
This hit list will do a couple of important things for you as a player. The first of these comes from how you approach training mode. Some people use random select so that they have a different body every time. But as mentioned earlier the Field itself is not random. Instead of practicing against random bodies, prioritize your combos and set up practice from frequent matchups to the least. A set up which works against 4-5 characters in an 11 man field is always better than one for a character which is not present there. This isn’t an argument for never touching the rest of the cast. But if you give yourself an hour every day of training mode, you can divide the time in 20 minute intervals and spend them as “character in field #1/ character in field #2/ random select character.” Dividing time in this way ensures that in a week you practice against most of the characters in a given place and touch upon the other match ups.
Rethinking your character selection based on the Field
Take a close look at the characters or teams you play for either AE2012 or UMvC3; now make a list of all the good, even and bad match ups your characters have. Secondly make a quick list of all the characters or teams played in your area. Compare the two. Playing your current main character or team, how many match ups are good, even or bad? Now don’t give me any of this “well I know how to play my bad match ups.” A shitty match up will always be a shitty match up. If your current character has more bad match ups than good in your current field, why are you still playing the character?
This is one important aspect of character selection that goes somewhat ignored. The value of a character is dependent on the match ups you will put the character through. This works in similar ways for both AE2012 and UMvC3. For AE2012 let’s use Dhalsim as an example. The yoga man is notoriously bad against characters with divekicks. You may look at a match up chart and see those 6/4s telling you that flexing your stretch may not be a good idea. But if you look at your field and see no divekick characters, Dhalsim became that much better. You look at your field closer and see three different players on Ryu. This may just be the time to ride the curry express all the way into an unsuspecting group of players.
In UMvC3 you are afforded a lot more choices to attack any one field. If you still have people playing a lot of Wolverine, then your friendly neighborhood Hulk/Haggar/Sentinel team is right there to give you a high five. Of course if there is a high instance of Magneto/Doom in your area, this is not a great choice. But I’ll be damned if Vergil is not there to watch your back. There are plenty of very good assists, with good characters attached to them, which make UMvC3 a game involving a lot of research on both the team you play and the ones in your area. Hawkeye is a great example of a character change which benefits paying attention to a field. If you are playing either Dr.Doom with either beam or missile assists in a field with other Doom players and some Sentinel players, you can avoid yourself the stress of mirror matches by switching to Hawkeye assists. It may not have the same power as Doom’s beam, but the good match ups you get are well worth the effort.
Viscant is a great example of this. Right before Evo he said regular MvC3 was Wolverine and Phoenix. If you take a second look at his team of Wesker/Haggar/ Phoenix, it seems to be there solely for the purpose of sticking it the game’s BFFS. Aside from taking care of the most popular team, I also put a bullet in the general way in which Vanilla was being played. The game was for incredibly aggressive at that point. His team could run away from other aggressors, convert off of an invincible assist and build five bars by dying. Viscant essentially counter-picked an entire tournament and rode it for all it was worth (which was apparently an Evo championship).
**The off beaten path is sometimes the best one**
As games progress strategies rise and fall by the wayside. MvC2 is a good example of this. Duc Duo did not join Evos from 2002-2004. Suddenly in 2005 there is one Spiral team and it just happened to beat Yipes for first place. Spiral/Sentinel had fallen out of favor at that time while still remaining incredibly good at shutting down MSP. This was Duc’s team. But hey, sometimes strange things happen and bringing something old is bringing something new. Kusoru’s team is one to keep in mind with this. On paper it may not look like the best thing. But looking at the field is as much about finding the best match ups possible as it is about finding holes. In two year’s time Kusoru’s team may be brand new tech against what is being played.
A character that is not getting heavy play in your area is worth considering. If that character has the right match ups, or if it is something with an incredibly strong mix up (Seth, Viper, El Fuerte, Jill, MODOK etc.), then you may find yourself with a mid tier character becoming a surgical knife. Regardless of how odd something is on screen, keep it in mind because it is always something you can come back to in later years. At the end of the day the person winning and losing is you. It is fun to explore characters to the fullest but they are not the ones spending hours in training mode and traveling to tournaments. Turn the character select screen into your weapons and your opponent’s character choices as the problem that needs to get worked.
Working on this with current information
Season’s Beatings just ended this weekend and we get some fresh top 8 results. Thanks to both USD and Iantothemax we can do some exercises on this topic. These are the top 8 results for Evo and Season’s Beatings for AE and UMvC3:
- Akuma, Gouken, Ryu
- Ryu, Akuma
- Balrog, T.Hawk
- Magneto/Doctor Doom/Phoenix, Magneto/Dormammu/Doctor Doom
- Morrigan/Doctor Doom/Hawkeye, Wesker/Hawkeye/Ryu, Doctor Doom/Akuma/Morrigan)
- She-Hulk/Spencer/Hawkeye, Nova/Spencer/Hawkeye
- MODOK/Captain America/Taskmaster
- Spencer/Vergil/Frank West, Wolverine/Storm/Akuma
Zero/Vergil/Hawkeye, Zero/Dante/Vergil, Zero/Morrigan/Doctor Doom, Zero/Doctor Doom/Amaterasu
Magneto/Dormammu/Doctor Doom, Magneto/Doctor Doom/Phoenix, Doctor Doom/Dormammu/Sentinel
Nova/Dante/Strider Hiryu [/details]
Yes I understand that it is just the top 8 lists sans the player names. But these games grow on sniping tech from other people, so it isn’t a far stretch to look at a these list as potentially match ups you may face at your next major. Therefore given these lists, we can ask some hard questions about what we are doing:
Which character or characters give you the best odds against a random opponent from those lists?
Which characters would be a good secondary to cover the bad match ups of the first?
Which team gives you the best odd against a random opponent form those lists?
Which teams should you learn as a secondary to cover bad match ups?
Which assists should you look at to help against those bad match ups?
I presented this problem to one of my local players and he said that for AE, learning Ryu, Cammy and Fei Long gave you the best spread of good match ups for the time invested in learning the characters (although when I asked him the characters picked were against the entire field as opposed to a concentrated list like this one). In a similar vein I asked Viscant which team I should learn regardless of executional barriers and he mentioned Viper/Dante/Strider. Given these lists you could either go top tier or find those holes for the match ups. Which way you attack a field depends on your preference (finding the best match ups or the characters not being played); and ultimately looking at the field is to work your player knowledge to your advantage and open up the character select screen to more characters.