Hello all! I have been playing fighting games for a little while now (my favorite genre). After racking up so many hours playing all the Guilty Gears, Street Fighters (all series but Alpha), Tekken, VF4+, SoulCaliber2/4, KOF2002+, Fight Night, etc… with my friends (some who are better than others), I have come to the realization that there are certain, almost quantifiable ?traits? that the people playing (and winning) these games exhibit.
In pursuit of my lust to compartmentalize these ?traits? that winning players have I?ve assembled three categories of ?tools? available to a fighting game player, almost regardless of the game. These tools I will refer to as ?attributes?, and the categories as Tiers. Here I shall list each of them while providing a brief commentary of what each one means to us, the players, in terms of their relationships. I list these attributes and refer to them in a similar fashion (as nouns) that characters in an RPG would have; the 'characters' being you and me obviously. For example, saying ?a player with a high Skill (t1)...? would mean a player who has a relatively good grasp and practice of the concepts outlined under ?Skill?, with the (t1) meaning I have classified ?Skill? as a Tier 1 attribute. Many of these ideas may be cliche, but maybe you will read something that alters your perspective on fighting games as a competitive past-time. *** A bit of disclaimer: I do not claim to be a tourny contender or even very good at the games I reference and play. I do not expect my observations to hold up at higher levels of play, nor do I pretend to have (or that you will gain) some sort of competitive edge by knowing and/or focusing on these things in my fighting game ?career?. At the same time, this CAN be taken as ?food for thought? or maybe even insight into a personal revelation about one?s playing style. This is purely my opinion with little to no evidence to back it up. I compiled and shared this list simply out of my love for game theory, and frankly, I thought it would be a good read for y?all.*** Please enjoy! First Tier Attributes: These are the foundation of any player, and the first place a player seeking to improve their game should look (last reminder: this is all my opinion based on personal observations) These base-level attributes are the key to a good, all-around playing style. Often neglected by ?tech-heads? in favor of flashy high-level mechanics; I stand in the belief that, between two near-even players playing a ?balanced? game, the first tier attributes will take precedence determining the victor before the second, which comes before the third. 1. Skill: This is the actual ability to pull off a specific input on command, every time, from either side of the screen; Physical Dexterity. This most commonly refers to a player?s ability to pull off a move. This may sound simple, but for some people, low consistency in inputs hamper their potential to perform. This also varies based on control method (pad versus stick) or monitor delay. Thankfully, this is easily improved by simple practice. Skill improves Sakai (t1). 2. Technique: Technique is the ability to effectively (read: mercilessly) use your Skills (t1) to fell an opponent. It is a good grasp of the usefulness of one?s own arsenal compared to an opponent?s. I have seen players win matches using only a handful of different attacks, simply because they knew when and how to best use them; more so than their opponents, who were by no means poor players. Technique is a major part of effective combos. A well established Technique can only (usually) be felled by an equally honed Yomi (t1); but excels against Sekai (t1). 3. Reflex: Quite simply, what you have is what you got. In fighting games, at higher levels of play, sometimes only a moment of opportunity is presented to a player by mistake or fluke; but only a player with a high (fast) enough Reflex will be able to capitalize on such openings. Good Reflex can render safe moves into Punishable(t2). It can sometimes be augmented by substances (caffeine, anyone?), but a more effective way to cope with a naturally slow reflex is Experience (t2). 4. Focus: All of the attributes you have acquired / been born with are useless if you cannot combine them into a coherent battle plan. Focus is your ability to apply your Technique (t1) in response to your opponent at a moment?s notice. When your opponent makes the first action, any hesitation in counter-action lasting beyond your personal Reflex(t1) delay can usually be attributed to a lack of Focus. When people have a high Focus, they often can play with the flow of the match, instead of playing catch-up. Unfortunately, Focus is usually the most unstable attribute, able to be gained and lost multiple times throughout a match. Maintaining a good Focus will considerably raise a player?s longevity even against possibly better players! 5.Yomi: A quick shout out to David Serlin for introducing me to the term Yomi. Yomi means ?knowing the mind of your opponent?, or more specifically, knowing what they will do before they do it. In other words, pattern recognition. Yomi is being able to pick up on trends in attacking and defense your opponent follows. This is why Yomi is a good match-up against a strict Technique(t1). Techniques themselves are often based on offensive or defensive patterns- combos, that minimize risk and maximize reward. They are also usually consistent in their execution and timings. Such attacks are easily seen through by a measure of Yomi. Yomi greatly increases Punishment(t2), and is a product of Experience(t2) and Focus (t1). 6. Stamina: Seldom does anyone playing a fighting game play only one round or match. Serious tests of mettle can drag on, potentially far beyond a player?s prime playing condition. Stamina is the length of that prime. Outside of it, players begin to loose the reliability of their attributes, except for Experience(t2). Both mental and physical, Stamina is only noticed when it is absent. A high Stamina will allow a player to use his or her attributes more fully when a less prepared opponent cannot. 7. Sakai: Sakai, translated from Japanese, means ?bloodlust?, and is a term I use to describe a player?s ability to be unpredictable. This greatly contrasts Technique (t1) and Yomi (t1) in that actions based on Sakai seem almost random; with an irregular Rhythm (t2) and inefficient movements. Skill (t1) is a major bonus for Sakai. Being able to pull off moves that would/could not normally be used at any given time or speed aids in doing what Sakai does best: catching people off guard. Reflex, to an extent, can minimize the effects of a Sakai-based offence, but is often not reliable enough to instigate an attack against the opponent yourself. Sakai?s true weakness is a disciplined Technique (t1). In a battle of ?random? versus ?efficient?, efficient wins the vast majority of the time. And there you have the first tier of attributes. Again, these things are, in my opinion, the most important set of characteristics a player will have. If, by chance, two players are roughly equal in tier one attributes, I believe the match will usually be decided in tier 2 (again, assuming the game is balanced). Second Tier attributes: The Second tier is where players? differences in Tier one become evident. Building off of them, yet independent, Tier two represents a more advanced grasp of individual game mechanics. The difference is that, while Tier One is concerned with landing a hit, tier two is probing for an opening in the enemy?s defense, while closing one?s own (holes in defence). Most Tier two attributes are closely linked with Expierence(t2). 1. Timing: All attacks have startup, active, and recovery frames. Timing is learning these ?safe? moments and capitalizing on them, via Countering (t3) and Punishment (t2). Timing is gained almost exclusively from Experience (t2), but requires Skill (t1) to execute, and is the best tool for breaking an opponent?s Rhythm (t3). 2. Experience: Simply playing a game long enough has benefits to a player. Common combos, counters and game specific mechanics are memorized. A good Experience peels away all of a player?s infeasible options, making all actions more deliberate, as many permutations of a situation have been played before and the player knows what to expect, more or less. This makes enemy Technique less effective. Experience also lessens fatigue on one?s Stamina by aiding Conservation (t2). 3. Mixup: Most fighting games have at least high, mei-level, and low attacks, with similar corresponding blocking types. Mixup refers to a player?s ability to attack (and combo) in a way requiring an active block. Defending against a player with a high Mixup is a gamble at best. Mixup is influenced mostly by personal practice, but also fortified with Sekai (t1). 4. Punishment: Building off of Timing (t2), punishment preys primarily on recovery frames. Players who posses higher ?levels? of Punishment are capable of dealing consistent, safe damage, after defending unsafe attacks. The highest levels of Punishment with Reflex (t1) and Experience (t2) contribute to Counter (t3). 5. Conservation: After a player matures and has a good grasp and control of most of the tier 1 attributes, they are capable of effective Conservation. A defensive attribute, players who develop conservation are able to cease attacking of their own desire. A concept foreign to ?scrubs?, Conservation often is used either to rest and regain Stamina (t1), attain Spacing (t2), or to disrupt an opponent?s Yomi (t1). Conservation leads to mind games. 6. Spacing: Great and extensive Experience (t2) and practice grants the player a sense of ?zoning?, where one?s character?s strengths are best exploited and vice-versa. To a casual player, a victorious player with a great sense of Spacing will appear to be ?lucky? more than good at the game. Everything seems to go their way, and their attacks often take priority. This is of course not luck, but Spacing (both an offensive and defensive attribute) at work. Spacing has a symbiotic relationship with Technique (t1), in that an increase in one benefits the other?s effectiveness more than itself. 7. Follow-up: A fairly one-dimensional attribute only linked with Skill (t1), Experience (t2), and, to a lesser extent, Reflex (t1), follow up is strictly maximizing damage or position after a successful hit. Not really the same as combo-ing, as Follow-up is often unsafe if not used with discretion. 8. Technical Knowledge: For most players, the difference in Technical Knowledge will only manifest itself in a players? Technical Application (t3). Technical knowledge is an understanding of game mechanics unattainable by simply playing the game. Technical Knowledge is itself a learning tool that can aid in a players formulation of Technique (t1) outside of a match, but during is actually fairly useless.
I have assembled the third tier, but won’t bother typing them up unless someone who actually managed to read this finds these actually helpful/intiresting…
Thanks for reading! Criticism is welcome!