The Value of a Set: Quality over Quantity


(You’ll have to excuse me if this isn’t as golden as anything that S-Kill writes, I’m not a top player.)

Hello everyone. I had a recent experience with fighting games that lead me to think about the value of a set in any fighting game you play.

I play Vampire Savior on GGPO and have been doing so for about a year and a half. I was a total scrub at first, trying to play the game on my keyboard and failing miserably. As time passed and I purchased a stick, I began to learn the game and play many a great set with a lot of good people. But just recently, I watched a set played and it made me wonder: “What makes for better improvement? Quality or Quantity?”

I hate to use Vampire Savior as my basis, because lots of people don’t play it, but it’s all I have really. I was watching a Japanese player (who used Q-Bee) play a Canadian player (who was using Bishamon). The Japanese player streaked the Candian player for 75 straight matches (I’m assuming more, because I left before their set ended). Now, the Japanese player was really skilled at the game. He was able to Advance Guard on reaction, could Instant Air Dash like any Guilty Gear player, and had a killer mixup game. The Canadian player, while more skilled than the average player, was not mixing up well, had poor defense and wasn’t able to keep the Japanese player from exacting his will upon him. But that wasn’t what bothered me. I felt the Canadian Bishamon player wasn’t learning anything during the set. I saw the same patterns over and over from him. He didn’t mixup his blockstrings, and had almost zero threat of throwing his opponent. Granted, his opponent was really skilled, but I think that is no excuse for lacking things in your game. Yet, he played 75+ matches with this person.

I asked myself “Why? You aren’t learning anything from these losses at all, because you are doing the same patterns and getting hit by the same things repeatedly.” Basically, I felt that this player wasn’t adapting to his opponent and learning their tendcies and correcting his own mistakes. Theory Fighter would suggest that both players would pick up on any mistakes that they made during the matches and adapt quickly, so as not lose. While I’m not trying to sound one sided, I felt like only one of these players was doing so: The Japanese player. Before I get accused of riding the Japanese players’s nuts, let me just say that this was one example that was really prominent to the point I’m trying to make.

The Canadian player did himself no favors by playing that amount of matches. Sometimes I think people get mired down in the fact that they’ve invested all of this time playing against other people that they forget how to invest their time practicing in a smart manner. It’s here where quality of a set takes precedence over the quantity of games played. If you lose 50 times and haven’t learned a single thing about that matchup, that person, or the mistakes that you yourself make, then you’ve just wasted that much of your time and haven’t really improved at all. A lot of players come up with the excuse of skill or even how Japanese players are just so far ahead that they are untouchable in terms of skill level. But I think that’s just a scrub’s excuse for losing that many times in a row. I think that people who say “all you need to do is practice a lot, then you will be good” are full of shit. It’s not how MUCH you practice, it’s how WELL you practice.

I hate to use myself as an example, since I’m not a top player, but it’s the only thing that comes to mind right now. I played Felicia against a pretty good Hsien-Ko player. I knew that her low strong was good for anti-air purposes, but I didn’t get how GOOD it really was before I saw that it stuffed almost all of Hsien-ko’s jump-ins, if not all of them. I noticed this about five games into my set with this player. From then on, for the rest of the set that I played with this person (about 25 games or so), I used her low strong to basically stuff anything that this player did with Hsien-Ko. And it forced him to stop jumping in at me or doing anything that required forward movement in the air. I adapted to my opponent and saw his tendencies, and then corrected any mistake I was previously making (IE not using low strong to beat it). And I did this within five matches of our set. So, although I played a really short set compared to the other one, I learned more than the Canadian player did. Granted, I wasn’t playing a Q-Bee player or even so a Japanese player, but my opponent was solid and could kill me without thinking if he wanted to. I used my practice time wisely instead of playing 75 games and not learning a single thing.

So, when playing, keep in mind a few things.

Am I practicing smart? Or am I practicing just to practice?- This is a common misconception. When you are playing a set against someone, you should be learning and adapting your gamestyle to fit the character matchup and the person you are playing. If you have played sixty games and lost all 60 in a row, then you might want to re-evaluate what it is YOU are doing wrong, instead of what it is that your opponent is doing right. This brings me to my next point

What am I doing (or not doing) that I’m losing? You should be asking yourself this every match when you lose. While you don’t dwell on your losses, you should definitely take the time to reflect upon them. Record your matches, if you can. Then watch them later. If you aren’t saying “Why didn’t I do this instead of this?” or “I need to work on doing ____ in ____ situation.”, then you aren’t learning a damned thing and should probably resign yourself to never improving. Maybe your mixup game needs work? Are your anti-airs lacking? Maybe your reactions to block strings aren’t so good. There’s ALWAYS something you can work on, even if you are able to win the majority of your matches in the set. Don’t be so ignorant as to assume that just because you won that you didn’t make mistakes. You should be learning something in every match. There has to be something that gave you difficulty. Find the problem, and solve it.

How is the quality of my opponent affecting my game? Before I get called an elitist douchebag, let me just re-itorate that I am not a top player. But when you are practicing, think about the quality of the opponent that you are playing. If you’re playing a scrub and you are crushing them every time, then you’re not spending your time effectively. All you’re doing is getting execution practice. If your opponent isn’t making you think, then you have no buisness playing against them. Now, the opposite is also true. If you are playing someone that is leagues better than you and you are getting crushed every time, then you need to re-evaluate your competition. I’m not saying don’t ever play someone good, because the list of benefits is enormous for you. What I’m saying is, don’t waste their time and more importantly your time by going for a long set if you’re not learning anything about the matchup, player…etc etc.

Am I playing a two-player game or a one-player game? Ed Ma said this in a recent Street Fighter Podcast and I agree with him whole-heartedly. When you are practicing, you need to play the game as a “two-player game” instead of a “one-player game.” Basically, you need to think about both sides of the coin when you’re playing. What character is your opponent playing? What are they capable of? What can your character do to counter their character? What are your opponents tendencies? What are your tendencies? A lot of people are very very guilty of playing a “one-player game”. Basically, they are guilty of only thinking abou what they themselves are going to do, and almost completely forget about their opponent’s capabilities. For instance (and I’ll use a good example, lol), I saw a match of SFIV with BustaBust versus a Balrog player (I think it might have been Keno or Shogo, I’m not sure). Busta was down BIG and the Balrog player kept on attacking him with reckless abandon, despite having a big lifelead. Now, while I myself don’t believe in sitting on a lead, I can see its advantages in certain situations against certain characters. What happened in the match? Busta pulls a huge comeback and steals the round from his opponent. Why? Because his opponent was playing a one-player game. He was fixated on the fact that Busta was on the ropes and didn’t stop to think about where he was on the stage, what Busta could do to counter his strategy (despite his low life), and what Abel was capable of doing to beat up Balrog. It’s here where playing a “two-player” game can really help you. When you practice, you need to be constantly aware of what can happen in a match. Things can go horribly wrong if you get tunnel vision during a fight. Until that screen says KO, the match is NOT over. Momentum can shift, and if you’re playing a one-player game, you may not be able to shift it back in time for you to win the round. I’ve seen so many players give up huge life leads because they got tunnel vision.

So, think about these things when you play, ladies and gentlemen. I hope this helps and I’m more than up for discussion if you feel I’m a complete idiot and all of my ideas are stupid.



Excellent little read man. Having a whole perspective based off playing like a two player game is what seperates from the casuals and pros. People who are struggling definetly need to read this.:smokin:


I feel like I’ve plateaued in BlazBlue, and I’m not happy with my game as it stands. This essay really opened my eyes to the way I should be thinking about my practice sessions with friends and I can see myself improving in the future. I’m already thinking actively when I play, but I need to expand on that. Thanks for the read, even though it interrupted my readings for class…:razz: