I’ve been working on a series of short articles aimed at beginning to average players, like me. Like many other players, I hit a plateau and struggled to understand why I wasn’t improving, and why I always seemed to lose to the same people over and over. This is not meant to be quintessential truth, but rather some findings that have been relevant to my game-play. Hopefully some of these concepts and ideas will be helpful and useful for some.
Part I - Spacing.
Seth Killian wrote a wonderful article on “controlling space” in The Dojo (found here: http://forums.shoryuken.com/showthread.php?t=34761) and it covers actual control of space, and the potential of controlling space. Reading that article is a huge step in the right direction. My goal here is to break down the concept a little bit more and to explain why it is such an important idea.
This concept is fairly easy to define: Maintaining the optimum position on screen in order to control the outcome of the match.
That’s basically it. However basic the concept might appear, it is the corner-stone of Street Fighter 2. Without a proper understanding of your character’s range and options, you will systematically lose to good players. There is no “fix-all” solution. Every character in the game has a specific best position in every match up.
Dictator, for example, enjoys being about a character’s width away from Ryu/Ken. Why?
Because it is the easiest distance from which to punish “psychic DP” attempts, or to stuff Fireballs, Hurricane Kicks and any number of moves. You keep applying pressure with the highest amount of reward for the smallest amount of risk.
Correct spacing facilitates using normals, specials, cross ups and combos.
I’m sure many of you have encountered players that seem to stuff everything you do. You jump against Blanka only for him to use standing strong and shut down whatever it is you were trying to do. You tried a crouching short with Guile and Boxer stuffed it with his crouching forward. You tried to do a cross up with Dictator only to realize you were too close and go sailing past the opponent and essentially do nothing, or worse, give up your advantage.
Being positioned properly denies your opponent many of his options. It shuts down entire avenues that they might have otherwise taken. A classic example is Guile being about mid screen, sitting on a down charge. If he throws a Sonic Boom, and you jump at him, you’ll eat his cr.FP for free. If you wait, you’ll take some chip damage. If you jump too early, you’ll eat the Flash Kick. If I’m Ryu and react to his Sonic Boom with a Fireball, Guile will walk up and back-fist me. Spacing, spacing, spacing. If the opponent is bad, they will keep trying the same patterns, and keep failing. Since we are working under the assumption that your opponent is competent, they will then switch their strategy and adapt to you.
Correct spacing gives you options, while at the same time, removing those of your opponents. Every other facet of the game is directly affected by your understanding and mastery of the space your character occupies. Pro tip: you shouldn’t be looking at your own character. You put him there. Always watch your opponent so you can react.
Also, it bears mentioning: know at all times where you are located in a stage. What I mean by that is “How close am I to the middle or the corners?” Why is this important? Because it lets you know which moves are safe to do and which are not. Once cornered, the spacing changes, the push-back from moves also change. Getting yourself cornered because you weren’t sure where you were is silly and will cost you games that should have otherwise been yours.
In the same vein, holding back (<-) all the time is not a good habit. If someone throws a move, even from a significant distance, it will put you in block animation, if only for a moment. This will often allow players to keep you where you are. You want to stay mobile. Neutral is a good place to have your stick. If you know your and your opponent’s range, you are keeping a close eye on them, and your spacing is correct, you do not need to always be holding back. This is not exclusive to non-charge characters either. A mobile Dictator is a scary proposition. A dictator sitting in the corner holding d/b, not so much.
But how do you know you are in the right spot?
Observation, Study, Practice and Patience get you there. Observe really good players. We all have amazing resources available at our fingertips. Youtube, streetfighterdojo, srk. It’s all there, available at the cost of some of your time. If you’re lucky enough to bump into someone that’s better than you are online, don’t waste the opportunity. Watch them play when you’re in the lobby. There are a lot of amazing players online. I can say first-hand I learned a lot by watching DGV play.
Study what those players do, and what they don’t do. Where are they standing? Why? Try and model your game-play after them. Try and live the game along with them. Notice how mobile they are on screen, where they position themselves, if they run away or are aggressive. Practice what you’ve learned. Make a conscious effort to adjust your spacing. Correct it when it’s off. You will try new things, and some will work, but most won’t. Street Fighter is a thinking man’s game, and you cannot improve by going into auto-pilot.
Be patient. You will not suddenly become amazing at it. It will get frustrating. There will be lapses. You will lose a fair bit. Old habits die hard, and retraining yourself is difficult, but the effort is well worth it, and you will get better.