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Playing to Learn

Discussion in 'Brawl Competitive Discussion' started by MookieRah, Jun 17, 2008.

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  1. MookieRah

    MookieRah
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    Kinda Sorta OK at Smash

    Joined:
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    Messages:
    5,380
    Location:
    Umeå, Sweden

    I wrote up a guide back in 2006. Seeing as how we got a bunch of new peeps in on the scene I figured I could update it a little and repost it here. Hopefully it will be a catalyst to improving the metagame.

    Introduction

    Playing to learn is a process of analyzing one's play and addressing the problems in it during friendly play. Either a player analyzes his performance in play or uses tools such as recording devices to look at his matches objectively to find out errors or possible improvements in play. Once something is discovered through analysis a player can then focus on fixing or creating a new strategy based off his analysis. In this experimental phase the player is only trying to improve ONE thing. He is experimenting against an opponent who is playing to win. It is imperative to realize that in order to get to the experimenting phase he has to identify something worth trying or improving. The experiment phase is not randomly trying to do weird or crazy things. There is usually always something that they can work on to improve, and if they want to progress in skill as quickly as possible they have to play to learn in order to improve.

    Before one can learn he must first have a good estimate at where he is at.

    Stages of Developement

    This is a quick and basic rundown of the tiers of skill you would encounter in competitive games. This isn't scientific by any means, so don't try to force yourself into a category if you float in between them. This is simply an easy way to gauge your level of skill.

    Newbie/Beginner ~ Someone who has barely played the game. Struggles with the most basic of concepts, and is still adjusting to the controls.

    Casual Novice ~ A player who understands all of the basic concepts of the game. They understand or at least know of pretty much all of the basic options as presented in the instruction manual. A casual novice knows little or virtually nothing of the competitive scene, and will not truly progress past this stage until they discover it and then choose to reach a higher level of play.

    Novice ~ A player who has a good understanding of the lower level skills, and is currently in the process of learning and experimenting higher end techniques. This is a very influential stage in ones development, because a lot of players tend to get overwhelmed. It's easy for humble players to realize that in the grand scheme of things, they aren't good. A cocky player will see his improvement at this point and attribute this as him having some incredible innate talent to smash, and is liable to believe that he will be at pro level within a month, or perhaps even a few weeks. Regardless of one's mindset, it is at this point is when people usually attend their first tournament, and that can make or break the player.

    Intermediate ~ I would gander to say that most competitive players fall into this category. At this point a player has pretty much hammered out all the low end stuff, has a good understanding of the higher level stuff, and is beginning to dabble into various "nuances" in play.

    Journeyman ~ Someone who has hit the plateau stage in their development. At this point your progression comes to pretty much a halt, because the player has developed most of the tech skill he will ever have. The things that he is to learn is not clear-cut techniques as most of what is left to learn is abstract concepts such as observation, positioning, and mind games. Most of what is left to learn are simply nuances in play.

    Semi-Pro ~ Someone whom has progressed through several plateaus, and can see most of all the underlying things going on in matches. They can more easily gauge themselves in comparison of the pros cause they are at a high enough maturity to see the mastery that the pros have.

    Pro ~ Ones who have mastered pretty much all there is to know about their game. Their understanding of the game as well as how to manipulate players is incredible.

    Super Pros ~ Even amongst pros there are some that stand out. This is the most exclusive class, as very very very few reach it. While I would have one feel positive about it, it might not be possible for some people to reach this level of play. Only a few have attained this level worldwide, and only a few will ever reach this stage.

    Once a player knows where he is in his play then it's easier to know what he needs to do to improve. In the next section I will discuss ways to progress through each category.

    Learning Strategies and Progressing for Early Stages

    In the beginning learning is easy and intuitive. The first two levels of development are easily attained by simply playing the game. Most players who aren't aware of a large competitive scene will typically not progress beyond those two stages, because they are unknowing of the larger community outside of their local scene. Once one has discovered the community and reads up on the wealth of knowledge that is available and then actively chooses to take his game to the next level, the importance of good learning strategies come into play.

    In Super Smash Brothers Brawl there are a handful of basic techniques that are obvious to casual players; however, there are a lot of hidden techniques in play that were either simply unexplained or completely unintentional. The smash community, and I'm assuming many other communities of the fighting game genre, refer to the mastery of these skills as tech skill. In the early levels of play tech skill should be the primary focus. One needs to be able to do what is expected or standard with one's character before he can begin to address issues of higher level play.

    Often times people adhere to ineffective methods of improvement. The most common would be spending hours and hours trying to perfect a single technique. When building tech skill, one needs to realize that they are building muscle memory, specifically fine motor skill. While playing for hours and hours isn't ineffective, there are other easier and better methods that require less time and is also less likely to lend themselves to habits in play.

    The best way I have found to improve your tech is simple. Practice a technique or many techniques for 10-15 minutes at a time and take a short break (anywhere from 10-30 minutes). It's that simple. Oddly enough I stumbled upon this method while using a very similar method of studying for classes. I would study for 15 minutes and smash for 5-10. All of the sudden my tech skill is increasing faster from less time spent practicing.

    Of course, being able to do something doesn't equate to doing it well or by any means knowing how to truly implement it. A lot of practice must be done in a competitive setting against friends and fellow crew mates. After you learn "how" to do something you have to learn "how to use" it. A lot of noobs will claim a certain "tried and true" high level tech is useless, and/or that they have beaten "pros" who use those techniques. Obviously this is not true, but people often don't realize that you have to "learn" how to use techniques the same way you learned how to properly use all the other basic techniques.

    Plateaus

    A player who focuses himself on learning tech skill will inevitably hit a wall, or a plateau. They stumble onto this plateau because they run out of tech skill to practice. The only thing they are left with is nuances in play.

    Once a player gets to the point that you hit plateaus it is a sign that you are becoming a more mature smasher, in terms of level of play. Often times this frustrates players, cause the things that further your improvement are more abstract and conceptual things as opposed to simply practicing tech skill. A lot of players will hit their first plateau and not know what to do. Others make the transition more seem less, as mind games, strategies, and just general game psychology comes naturally to them. A lot of times the players who had a harder time with tech skill tend to improve faster once they hit their first plateau. It's important for those who have a hard time in the beginning to know that they may not fall behind to some of their contemporaries in the long run, and that players who are progressing quickly in the beginning that they might hit some rough spots. Whatever the case, whatever the cause, players need to know that they will hit a plateau, and that their skills won't continue to increase as rapidly as before.

    Once players hit a plateau they seem to improve in stages rather than gradually. Sometimes one will stop playing for a while, come back, and just end up being better than before for no apparent reason. My theory on this is that during your absence of playing you somehow manage to drop habits of bad play. Also, it's the same as the previous concept with tech skill, that practicing in small amounts and having down time is more effective than non-stop playing. These are all just theories, but this is the most common way I myself and others I have talked to have improved, and it's still a mystery to me as to why it happens this way.

    The best way to progress once a player hits the plateau stage is to focus on his observation skills. At this level analyzing matches and decisions in play are key. Learning small things, like individual player habits with a given character, go a LONG way towards breaching the next level. Being able to quickly identify habits and patterns is the first step towards learning how to control players and establish the flow of the match. Simply put, observation skill is what dictates your personal growth. I very much recommend that players record their matches and analyze them. It makes it INCREDIBLY easy to pinpoint your problems as well as things you can expand and improve upon.

    Once a player has discovered something he can improve upon he can move to an experimental stage. A few key things one should know: your opponent needs to be playing to win. If both players are experimenting it's hard to gauge how effective their new strategy is. To truly gauge it's effectiveness it should be up against someone whom is focusing on winning and not learning in any way. Another thing to remember is that one needs to focus on one problem at a time. A player can be easily frustrated if he spreads himself too thin. Take it slow, and easy, and you will improve.
     
  2. MookieRah

    MookieRah
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    Kinda Sorta OK at Smash

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2004
    Messages:
    5,380
    Location:
    Umeå, Sweden

    Experimenting and Learning
    *Disclaimer - I use Melee terms cause most people know them and most Brawl techs are character specific.

    As stated in the above paragraph you should always work on one thing at a time. Whether you are experimenting with new techniques, or if you are working on observational skills, it is always a good idea to devote the training to just one thing. When one is trying to improve their observational skills one should pick out one thing to take note of and stick with it. The goal of training your observational skills is to not be able to see everything on the screen at once, it is to learn how to organize the information that you see as to not be overwhelmed.

    If you have every had high school or early level college psychology classes then you have heard of how the human brain, on average, can store around seven things in it's short term memory. No matter what you do, you cannot train your brain to store more than seven things. To make up for that, our brain can organize information into what is known as a "chunk." By "chunking" information you can group several things into one category so that it only takes up one slot out of your seven available.

    When it comes to interpreting data, the brain works the same way. I learned this from DDR actually. When I first started I couldn't make out the arrows. I could see all of the arrows, but my brain couldn't keep track of them. Over time my brain began to organize what I saw. Instead of seeing individual arrows, I began to see patterns of arrows. Then I could keep track of 7 patterns instead of 7 arrows. As I progressed in skill the patterns became a lot more complex, but I could still track seven of them. The same holds true for smash. One can only keep tabs on so many things at once, but just like memory we can also chunk incoming data.

    When integrating new techniques and tricks to your repertoire it's a lot easier for you to implement things one at a time. For instance, if you are new to Melee you would want to learn l-canceling and wavedashing. Now, it's alright to learn how to do these things simaltaneously in training mode, but trying to implement BOTH into your game at the same time is not only typically slower, but it's also more frustrating and stressful. Whenever one is frustrated and/or stressed one's peformance drops and it is even harder to learn. By sticking to the one at a time learning strategy you can avoid that stress as well as implement things faster and with a deeper understanding.

    I can't stress enough that you should dedicate your training with one thing at a time. It really is faster, and the quality of your training is greater.

    Being a Proactive Player

    There is a key difference between players who pros and players whom are simply good. One of the KEY differences is that a pro is proactive while a good player is reactive.

    Reactive play is simply reacting to what your opponent does. Reactive play requires little thought, but it can only get you so far. One cannot control the flow of the match with purely reactive play. Often times we find ourselves in situations where we are overwhelmed by our opponent. It's at times like these that we become reactive, and that usually spells doom. So how does one be proactive?

    Bein proactive starts before the match begins. It's all about visualizing your victory and giving yourself goals. My most common goal is to take advanatage of ALL of my opponents mistake. By giving myself a goal I am able to see these oppertunities with more clarity than I would if I just went into the match without thought. It is a good idea to practice this mindset, because it's amazing how such a small thing like that can affect a player. Like I said before, a player's mindset can make or break him. Once the mindset has been established and the match begins, the proactive player pokes and prods his opponent in order to figure out how to effectively engage him. The proactive player uses his experience and his observational skills in order to completely shut his opponent out.

    Proactive play is dependent on experience and observation.

    With experience the proactive player can position himself on the stage to the benefit of himself and the detriment to his opponent. With experience the proactive player knows how to space his attacks in order to get the most out of them.

    With observation the proactive player can discover patterns and habits his opponent has. Once discovered these patterns are exploited. Some patterns are simply bad habits, such as always using the second jump immediately after they are thrown off the stage, while others are a pattern based on a strategy the opponent is using. A mind game, is simply the use of observation to detect a pattern in an opponents strategy and baiting them, as a feint, to punish their pattern.

    Through observation the proactive player adjusts his entire game to his opponent. When a proactive player adjusts his game to his opponent it makes him much harder to be predicted by his opponent. The proactive player realizes that he is just as susceptible to his opponents and makes an attempt to be as unpredictable as possible. The only time it is good to be predictable is if it is through the use of an effective brick wall, or a strategy that has a very specific counter that is foiling your opponent and demoralizing him.

    Handling Stress and Your Morale

    In order to be able to play well in a tournament setting, one has to be experienced in handling the stress of it. If a player has never been to a tournament, he is very liable of letting the pressure getting to him. It's almost guaranteed to happen. Dealing with stress is something that differs from person to person, some handle it better than others. Some get completely locked up and have a hard time even holding a controller. There is no easy way to fix this, one has to attend many tournaments until one is used to it. There are some things you can do to lighten the load.

    Make sure to play plenty of friendly matches and learn how to play against the wide array of players attending. If you can gauge how you stand on a friendly level you will feel better about how you will perform at the tournament. It's a good idea for a player to do some preliminary scouting before hand. Look before you leap. I was at a tournament in Texas, a rather notable melee tournament that went by the name of MOAST3. I got in, got my name tag, paid the cash, and walked into the gaming area. There were A LOT of people there, and I was somewhat overwhelmed. I soon saw a station with a guy who was seemingly looking for someone to play. I stop by and play him in a few matches. I was thrashed, and thrashed hard. Not only did he beat my best character by a large margin, he was playing one of the worst characters in the game (Bowser). He shut out all of my mains, and the only character of mine that fazed him was my Mewtwo. Later I discovered my opponent was Arash, one of the best Bowsers in the US, and a rather old school west coast player. Even still those matches influenced me incredibly. I could no longer play with my main, and I was sticking with Mewtwo. This wasn't a terrible turn of events, seeing as how I have made my name in the community with Mewtwo, but I no longer was able to play effectively with my other mains for quite some time. It is VERY important to know your opponent beforehand, or you just might walk away with some serious damage to your morale.

    Often times in my smash career something has come along and totally destroyed me. These utter and complete defeats not only made me question my skill, but at the same time destroyed my confidence with the characters that I played with. After this utter defeat I just couldn't play as well with the characters that got ***** previously. How can one match cause so much damage? It's really simple, I started doubting myself. When one starts doubting himself and fears a match before it even happens, it DRASTICALLY decreases one's chances of winning. In psychology it is known as a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe it will happen then you subconsciously are going to help make it happen. Your morale, as well as your skill, dictates your performance.

    The opposite is also true. If you are confident and feel that you can win, your chances of winning increase tremendously. If a player is feeling down, he should find someone whom is less skilled to warm up on. This is important, cause it allows a player to center himself and re-establishes his ability in a controlled and friendly environment. Once you have regained your composure you can then perform to the best of your abilities.

    Before I move onto the next section there is something I need to address. Playing to learn is something that is awesome to do at tournaments given the right situation, but it is NOT a good idea to do in a serious match. Serious matches should be entirely "play to win", EVEN if you are a shoe-in. It's also good to adjust to "play to win" in friendlies before you start matches. It's never good for a player to make these adjustments when something is on the line. To play to learn in a serious match is simply foolish.
     
    LuckyCandy7 likes this.
  3. MookieRah

    MookieRah
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    Kinda Sorta OK at Smash

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2004
    Messages:
    5,380
    Location:
    Umeå, Sweden

    Establishing Momentum

    If you watch competitive matches you will often find that there are distinct periods in which one player is in control and the other is on the ropes. In high level matches these periods are much more brief and tend to fluctuate constantly during the match. In a match with someone who is vastly superior in skill versus someone of lesser skill you will likely see the highly skilled person dominate the entire match. At first glance, one would probably just assume that he was in control because he was simply a better player, and to an extent they would be right, but there is a lot more going on there than meets the eye.

    Every seasoned tournament vet is very aware of the concept of momentum and the flow of the match. These concepts are very important in matches, because they have significant psychological effects. If one was to establish the flow of the match and hold it, one gains momentum. The more momentum one has, the harder it is for the opponent to overcome it.

    Imagine that taking control of the flow is rolling a small snowball down a hill. The longer it rolls, the bigger it gets. Imagine that your opponent has to stop that snowball. Obviously, the larger the snowball, the harder it is to stop it. In effect, the opponent has to stop this psychological snowball. The longer you hold momentum the opponent begins to feel as if he has little control over the match, and if the opponent does not have a strong resolve he will in effect give up.

    Brick Walls

    So how does one take control of the flow and establish momentum? The answer is that almost anything can, but it has to be done properly. The most commonly used method is to establish a brick wall. A brick wall is a strategy or tactic that has a specific counter. The purpose of the brick wall is to put up an elaborate illusion that one is untouchable. Inexperienced players are easily stifled by brick walls, because they are unaware of the methods used to counter them, or they aren't prepared to fight the psychological battle it takes to effectively fight against them.

    Brick walls can be as simple as abusing one move over and over, or it could be elaborate, such as an impeccable zoning/spacing game. Once you establish a brick wall your goal is to maintain it as long as possible. If your opponent finds a way to break down your brick wall, you should try to quickly establish another brick wall while you still control the flow of the match. At worst, one's opponent will be very agitated, but at best the opponent will feel completely hopeless.

    The following are some examples of fairly common brick walls:

    Tech chasing.
    Spamming tilts and/or aerials with good spacing.
    Shield grabbing.
    Gimping.
    Camping, or otherwise forcing your opponent to approach.
    Abusing stage mechanics.
    Low Strong. (Muahah!)

    Like I said, almost everything can be a brick wall when done right. Just make sure to tailor it to your opponent.

    Mind Games

    My favorite way of establishing momentum is to actively trick my opponent and make them feel stupid. This is done by making use of good observational skills and abusing your opponents patterns and consistent mistakes, as well as just being unpredictable and tricky. In other words, using mind games. The effectiveness of this strategy is that it constantly makes your opponent second guess himself and have a hard time figuring out what you will do.

    Ironically, the "tricky" things I mentioned could simply be inferior strategies, or something that usually just wouldn't work. For instance, short hopping at your opponent without attacking and grabbing once you land is generally a bad idea; however, if you have been playing an elaborate aerial pressure game that is also the last thing your opponent would expect you to do. If you succeed with this mind game then your opponent has something else to think about, will you keep up with your aerial game or will you go for another trick grab? It definitely throws a wrench in your opponents gears by being tricky and unpredictable.

    Establishing Fear

    Another effective way of garnering momentum is to establish fear in your opponent. Several characters in Melee and Brawl have powerful moves that lead to low percent kills. The best example of a character that is capable of abusing this strategy would be Marth. In both Melee and Brawl, Marth is feared for his devastating tipped forward smash. Because of the power of this move, people tend to fear it. Remember the section where I discussed giving yourself goals in a match? Well, here is a great application for that. By setting your goal in a match to getting as many tippers as possible, you are more likely to land them, and you would be more aware of opportunities to land them.

    This is a riskier strategy than the others; however, the rewards it reaps are very much worth that risk. Unlike most brick walls, it will likely never deteriate if you establish this early on in your set, because this is the kind of thing that will be stuck in the back of their mind even after you lose the flow of the match. If done in conjunction with brick walls and mind games it could destroy the opponent's morale completely. This kind of strategy can quickly dominate a player, and also is the kind of thing that will linger long after your match is over. It can literally cause a person that would have done well at a tournament to completely flop.

    Once fear is established, or one has taken a considerable amount of momentum, you can easily toy with your opponent. I remember seeing some very old but legendary Melee vids of Wes (the east coast Samus player) in which he would walk around and catch people in forward smashes. This would never, ever, work when I tried it. Why? Well, it was because I tried it on people who weren't scared of me, and I would try it when I wasn't in control of the match. In order for that to ever work on anyone that is at least decent, you would have to demoralize or scare them effectively and to the point that they second guess everything they do.

    As a side note, it was this realization that was the catalyst for everything in this essay. Without Marth and his dangerous tippers and me being in a funny mood one day, I probably wouldn't have stumbled onto the importance of observation, momentum, and the general psychology behind high level play. I learned something very important then, the goal of competitive play is not simply to win, but to dominate the opponent. Let me be the first one to tell you, dominating someone in a match feels very good.

    Regaining Momentum

    Everything that I have mentioned in the previous section can be done to you as well. Being able to redirect the flow of the match is just as important as taking control of it. This is where your mentality becomes your shield, and why I stressed the importance of having a strong positive mentality early on in the essay. A positive attitude allows you to keep going and to keep analyzing the situation when things look the bleakest. Remember, if you give up, you will lose. If you keep going, you may perform a miracle. Amazing comebacks have happened many times, and they will continue to happen.

    Never Give Up, Never Surrender

    Yes, for those wondering I just quoted Galaxy Quest. Get over it. Anyways, I've said this many times, and even though you are probably sick of reading it, I will devote another paragraph to it. If you give up you will lose. If you give up you have no chance of victory. If you give up, you will likely suffer damage to your morale that will affect your other matches. Don't give up, if not for the sake of your current match, but for the sake of your morale. Even if I have lost a match, I feel far better if I gave it my all than I would if I gave up half way through.

    Always Analyze Your Situation

    Logic is your weapon against fear and doubt. If you are being shut out by a brick wall, mind games, or just fear itself, work it out in your head. If you feel your opponent is untouchable, realize that feeling is betraying you. No strategy is untouchable, it's just an illusion. Don't allow yourself to fall prey to it. No matter how daunted you get, keep changing up your approach until you find something that works.

    If someone is tricky, keep tabs on what they are doing. Are they moving around a lot? If they are moving around then they seem like they are on the offensive; however, they could simply be trying to trick you into thinking that, and are using the movement to camouflage their true intentions. Are they using unorthodox tactics and strategies? If so, even though it does force you to be on your toes and think more than normal, these strategies are still inferior to the stuff you are used to. They usually have an easy counter, and the only reason it is working is more than likely a pattern that you have displayed in your play. Adapt to the situation, and shut out his strategy and then put the pressure on him.

    If someone gets you scared, keep analyzing. If you are afraid, they are probably banking on that fear to help them out. They may try to bring in some of the above mentioned unorthodox strategies to throw you off more. Strengthen your resolve, let your logic do the thinking, and push fear to the back of your mind. Make sure that you aren't being too careful, and try to play as normal as possible. Try to use their strategy against them. If they rely on a single move, like a Marth tipper, then position yourself to where it is hard to land, or at least to where it minimizes it's effectiveness against you. Whatever you do, you have to maintain being a proactive player, because whenever you slip into just reacting you are one step closer to losing the match.

    Learning Strategies for Momentum

    Now that you have an understanding of the flow of the match and momentum you are ready to work on improving your ability to both take control of the flow and prevent the flow from damaging your morale. Here are some things you can do to help.

    Know Yourself

    Do you really know yourself? Do you know your habits? Do you know your tendencies? Do you know how you react when pressured? These are important questions you should ask from time to time. If you are having problems identifying these things there are two things you can do. One is ask a friend that you play. Hopefully he is willing to tell you about your problem areas and tell you what kind of patterns you typically fall into. If you don't have a friend like that, or want to supplement your knowledge of yourself even further, watch videos of your play. Look at them with the same eye you would an opponent. Analyze it, and detect holes in your play.

    Know Your Opponent

    Do you know your opponent well? If you do, what kind of person is he? Is he timid, confident, laid back? These are very important things to take into the equation. It determines how they will react in given situations. In general timid people tend to be more careful, but more susceptible to giving up. Confident people tend to gain control of momentum, but often lose it quickly if they get too complacent. Laid back people are sort of random. If you know the person well before hand you have an idea as to how things could play out. If you don't, don't worry too much about it, you can figure out what kind of person they are in the fight, and if you don't know them then they likely won't know you either.

    Overcome Your Fears

    Do you hate a certain matchup? A certain move? A certain stage? If so, it would do you a lot of good to practice and fight against the things that you are most afraid of. Training against them will help you find effective strategies, get you used to your problem areas, and also boosts your confidence. Tournaments are a lot less scary when you are not worried about running into *enter character here*.

    Practice Yo Stuff Mangz

    Do you not have a favorite brick wall strategy? You should at least have one, if not many. While some brick wall strategies are concocted on the fly for a specific opponent, there are many that you can learn by just investigating your character. Peruse the character specific threads at the smashboards, that's a good place to start. Remember, try one brick wall at a time.

    If you been working on your observational skills for a while I recommend to start trying to work on being tricky and unpredictable. Develop a good sense for mind games, and get into the habit of thinking that way in your matches. Mind games are different than training other things, because it's so situational. It really has to become a habit, but you have to consciously try to do it for a good while before it becomes second nature. Establishing fear is in the same boat as developing mind games. A good way to practice these things is to set goals to be tricky/instill fear during practice matches and not worry at all about the outcome.

    The Rest?

    Everyone is different. Some people find developing tech skill is easy, while some struggle with it. Some people are capable of realizing and understanding mind games and observation skills early on. All in all, there are many many other ways of improving yourself I haven't mentioned. I can only vouch that these things have seriously helped my play, and helped me progress to the level I am now. I feel as if many people get so bogged down in "play to win" that they never spend time trying to learn. It is possible to purely play to win and become an incredible player, but that doesn't work for everyone. Playing to win doesn't mean that one should focus so much on winning that they lose sight of the big picture, which is becoming the best player they can be. Hopefully by reading this your mind has become open to many ways of learning and improving, and if some of these methods don't work great for you that you will seek other ways of improvement. In any case, I wish you, the reader, success in your gaming and non gaming endeavors.
     
    LuckyCandy7 likes this.
  4. Kashakunaki

    Kashakunaki
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    Smash Master

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    May 22, 2006
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    I'd like to say that this is pure genius, I am going to book mark this, and thank you.

    I actually just recently went to my first out of state tournament (by recently I mean three or four days ago). I placed 7th out of 130 people at ArizonaOneTwoStep to my surprise.

    I went in with a confident attitude, but at the same time I couldn't help but feel I was not ready. I was actually considering to stop playing Smash. I had hit a wall. I played Melee and now I play Brawl. I hit your said plateau and I attempted to surpass it but failed.

    I would ask people for advice, I'd give advice, I'd attempt to analyze my play but it all failed. Only responses I ever got were, "you suck," or, "I don't know," or something similar. It was rather demoralizing.

    However, I believe going to this tournament gave me the key necessary to opening the door to the next level of play. In my matches I started to think more seriously, more critically. I remained entirely unpredictable while at the same time baiting my opponents into making mistakes and punishing them severely for it. It felt good.

    I realized that I am in fact capable of pushing myself to that next level, so that is what I'm going to do. This read came at the right time. Thank you.
     
  5. AquaTech

    AquaTech
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    We hit the potjack

    Joined:
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    Austin, TX
    Although I'd like to think I'm really good, truth is I fall into the intermediate category.
     
  6. sallas09

    sallas09
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    Smash Cadet

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2008
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    Location:
    Lynn, Massachusetts
    Wow. This is unbelievable advice. You make great points, many of which still apply to me. Im starting the tournament scene soon, so hopefully what I read can help me make myself a better player. Thanks.
     
  7. Morrigan

    Morrigan
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    /!\<br>\¡/

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    This is a very nice guide. Why was it ignored?
     
  8. MookieRah

    MookieRah
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    Kinda Sorta OK at Smash

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    It wasn't ignored. It's just that even stuff that is good still gets pushed back by new posts and stuff. It's how forums work and junt.
     
  9. Morrigan

    Morrigan
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    /!\<br>\¡/

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    I know. "Ignored" wasn't the word I wanted to use, but nothing else came to mind. It's just that 50% of the people see a wall of text and leave.

    (You should include that to the Casual/Novice part lol).
     
  10. Jigglymaster

    Jigglymaster
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    Smash Hero

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    As GI.Joe says, knowing is half the battle.
     
  11. Vyse

    Vyse
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    Faith, Hope, Love, Luck

    • Back Roomer
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    I like how you've addressed the fact that many people are blind to 'learning to win'. It frustrated me to no end when in the very early days of Brawl, my friend got really good with ZSS, beating everybody. I started talking about how good he was, but as soon as I started talking about learning advanced techniques, like B-sticking, he completely shut me off, saying he wasn't going to bother.

    A couple of weeks later (And I had not played it since then), he threw his controller at the wall when I beat his ZSS with dedede, Diddy Kong and Captain Falcon.

    People say that the term 'Mindgames' gets thrown around too often, and maybe that's true, but its only because not everybody is willing to explain what they mean like you have in this guide. It's not a matter of just 'You gotta use mindgames' and expecting somebody to get better, which is what impresses me about this guide, since it's saying exactly that.

    Reaching plateaus is something I too have experienced many times playing Melee (Not so much with Brawl because the tournament scene has yet to start in Aus). However, every time I go back and watch past crew battles I've participated in, I too can see how I've been able to break past each successive plateau of skill.

    NOT 'Playing to learn' during a serious match is a lesson I learned the hard way when I lost the final stocks of a 28 stock crew battle at a tournament called 'SQUAT 3'. I had been practicing wall teching with Falco for a while, and I managed to wall tech a Peach D-smash edgeguard during the match. I was like 'OMFG I JUST WALLTECH'D' because back then, that was when everybody and their smash friend was first learning how to walltech.

    FOOLISHLY, I tried to do it again whilst recovering a second time when I could have just avoided the situation entirely.

    Playing to learn and playing to win is definitely something to keep in mind.
    Mindset is everything.
     
  12. metroid1117

    metroid1117
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    Smash Master

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  13. GeorgeTHPS

    GeorgeTHPS
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    Smash Journeyman

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    Or you could just teach people about the shine stall, MookieRah. And take them to Burger World.
     
  14. Percon

    Percon
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    Smash Lord

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    Great guide. Not much else to say really, other than I appreciate the effort you (at one point) put into it.
     
  15. D13

    D13
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    Good guide. When I'm older, I'll look back on this again if I decide to enter the tournament scene.
     
  16. DarkLeviathan89

    DarkLeviathan89
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    Smash Lord

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    Very good read, I believe a lot of the sections can or will apply to me as I try to become a better player. Thanks for the wonderful advice.

    And I agree with whoever said that this should be added to SamuraiPanda's thread.
     
  17. Organous

    Organous
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    Smash Apprentice

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    These are definitely good words, and you should be praised for bringing them. Yet, I am unaffected. Strangely, I've actually heard many things like this many times and even got praised for repeating them to others. I believe I have a good baseline mindset for gaming, and I'm pretty much as high as I'm ever going to get without actually competing in a tournament. Thus, even though I imagine it's going to cost me $200 with gas, food, entry, and whatever else I happen to need, I'm going into the first tournament where I'm not confident I'm going to win.
    Yes, I'm not confident I'm going to win. I probably will lose, and that's ok. We all know the phrase "that which does not kill you makes you stronger." Well, because I am not actually going to die, become bankrupt, or otherwise become significantly hurt by the experience, I'm going to invest time and money in going a competitive environment with the hopes of learning.
    This is where I would disagree with you on the extent of playing to learn. Of course you need to do whatever you can to win when something is on the line, but you should never stop learning. This, I believe, is what keeps the pros at the position they are in. You make mention of observing the opponents while playing, noticing their habits, and this I figure can aid in your own self-discovery. Besides, this seems to be what develops the meta-game, as well. Yes, I'm going to lose, but since the point of this expedition is not to win but to learn, my mission will be accomplished.

    Ok, yeah, that was way too ranty for an intermediate. Just a couple final notes. 1) I've already been somewhat exposed to a hardcore tournament scene with the Dragon Ball Z card game, though that obviously isn't as hardcore as something like Magic or Counter-Strike. 2) I think the word you were looking for was "morale," not "moral." Yes, I just made this entire post so I could have a reason to correct your spelling error. :D
     
  18. Sonic The Hedgedawg

    Sonic The Hedgedawg
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    I'd like to say that I fall into the semi-pro category since I can go to a tournament without COMPLETELY embarassing myself, but, the fact is, I might have to be a journeyman... meh.

    Too many years of jumping using up and now it's set in
     
  19. SamuraiPanda

    SamuraiPanda
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    Smash Hero

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    Very, very, very good thread. When I get around to updating the sticky sometime soon, this will become the very first thread listed.
     
  20. Vyse

    Vyse
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    Faith, Hope, Love, Luck

    • Back Roomer
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    Hahaha.
    It's Isai in disguise.
     
  21. Sonic The Hedgedawg

    Sonic The Hedgedawg
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    Smash Hero

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    nope... but as a jigglypuff main in melee, I never could quite get used to using anything but up to jump... if I used x or y, I couldn't c-stick her aerials very well.

    Besides, I just like it better, so sue me :p
     
  22. MookieRah

    MookieRah
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    Kinda Sorta OK at Smash

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    You can learn in a very serious match in which your goal is not to learn but to win; however, you learn a lot more from experimenting and trying new things which you haven't mastered, and this is something you shouldn't do when facing someone in a tournament match. The only time where it would be a good idea in a serious match is if everything else you have done hasn't been effective.
    Your observational skills should be used in every match and should actually improve whether or not your goal is to practice, experiment, or if you are playing seriously.
    Yes, this is what develops the meta game. Ever notice why the best players tend to do unique things that others don't do or haven't done yet? They are constantly experimenting and working with all their options to better themselves. I know you weren't arguing this point, but this is merely for others reading.
    Since you haven't been to a tournament, you don't realize this yet. You will have PLENTY of time to play friendly matches if you attend a well organized tournament match. You need to play as many friendly matches as possible, ask for advice, and do everything you can. At a tournament you typically have the option to play people of various skill levels, so you can test new things out on guys less skilled than you, and then see how it goes against someone as skilled or better.

    When you are actually in a tournament match though, don't try experimenting, just stick to what you know. You shouldn't be trying to throw out something new when you haven't implemented it yet unless the situation is dire.
     
  23. Ulevo

    Ulevo
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    Exceptional read with solid advice Mookie. I'll be adding it to my guide in the near future. :)
     
  24. Foxy

    Foxy
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    Smash Master

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    Smells like some Sirlinnnnnnnnnnn
     
  25. SketchHurricane

    SketchHurricane
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    Smash Ace

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    This goes up there with the "how not to lose" thread for things every smasher should internalize. Good stuff. I'll probably re-read later and add my 2 cents.
     
  26. Doggalina

    Doggalina
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    Smash Lord

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    That's the first thing I thought when I read this. I was reminded of this article: http://www.sirlin.net/archive/playing-to-win-part-3-not-playing-to-win/

    And great thread, Mookie. I haven't been to a tournament yet, but I plan on doing so now that I can drive. Luckily, I have a group of friends that takes Smash as seriously as I do. They read the boards and implement new techniques just as I do. Actually, I think that having a group that grows with you helps everybody in the group grow faster.
     
  27. MookieRah

    MookieRah
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    Kinda Sorta OK at Smash

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    I actually have the 2006 melee version of this guide on sirlin.net's forums. A LOT of my mentality of competitive gaming comes from Sirlin. Truly an awesome dude, I really need to buy his book.

    That said, Sirlin didn't cover everything (nor did he intend to) as his articles are about the philosophy of "play to win" which was designed to educate people to not be scrubs. While it did educate people to some extent the finer points of high level play, that wasn't his goal. My goal with this was to establish a ground work for people who don't know how to properly train so that they can become better faster.
     
  28. Tristan_win

    Tristan_win
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    Not dead.

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    You know… I think I read the original copy of this back in 06 when I was first started to learn about Smash competitive play and I have to say I’ve drawn a lot more from this this time around.

    Mainly because when I first read this I was only a novice but now I feel as if I’ve well reached journeyman level. It’s a shame though I didn’t reach this level of thought process until the later months of Melee and that I’m now becoming what I feel to be a note worthy player after smash prime.

    Oh well if the competitive scene continues to live in a year or two I’ll most likely reach pro status.

    I’ll make my name in Brawl.
     
  29. Crizthakidd

    Crizthakidd
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    Smash Champion

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    omg dude i seriously want to thank you. what a good read. i really like how if u dont play smash for a few days when u come back uve dropped bad habits. all of the sudden u come in and **** after some warm ups and u didint make those mistakes. im an intermediate and this whole read really described me and i went thru the same thing u did with ur tournament story. ive been feeling down that my main (DDD) got destoryed. and it cost me more matches. i played a friend of mine whos okay and i really beat him. that got me on a roll and i wont a lota matches after that.

    im going to really try now to progress as efficiaently as possible
     
  30. Ozz.

    Ozz.
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    Smash Champion

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    "Handling stress and moral" is one of the best passages of advice that i've ever read regarding Smash Bros. great read.
     
  31. ThatInsaneKid

    ThatInsaneKid
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    Best wall of text I've ever encountered. Ever. If only playing Brawl was cool around where I live... >>;;;;

    Also, you're missing an "e" at the end of each "moral". Because right now you're talking about one's personal beliefs, not their attitude, which would be "morale".

    *shot for being a grammar nazi*
     
  32. Star Ryan

    Star Ryan
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    Smash Cadet

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    This is excellent. Bookmarked.

    The placing section was quite accurate; I'd put myself on intermediate, trying to become a journeyman.
     
  33. Samochan

    Samochan
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    Smash Master

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    Mm, I have problems with being too reactive player around those that exert too much technical skill on melee (I know, brawl tactical discussion, but this applies to melee as well). My brain cannot handle such speed with high efficency, so I often find myself dsmashing too much for example or doing stuff on reaction. I don't have a fast mind either and I react like 3 times slower than most, so it's a problem. One reason why I seem to do better against those that play more on mindgames is that mine are not too shabby if I say so myself, but since they play slower I have more time to adjust and observe their style and I'm not pressured into going reactional. Thus I've managed to get even the better players like captain jack, masashi and armada all to 2 stocks when we've played casuals and not get thoroughly owned, getting a combo or 2 and mindgaming them in the process (captain jack cc dsmash get ^^).

    I also fare really well against a finnish player that's higher than me on power ranking and supposedly better than me, but everytime we've played he can hardly touch me. It might account that he mains ice climbers, but he has a good link as well and went even marth against me, but I still trashed him. Then I go and lose to those tech heavy players that don't even exert their minds so much (if I can keep up with their speed I usually win) and lose to this same player I win over. Finland is pretty full of these tech heavy players, so no wonder why I'm so low on pr when I feel I should be way higher. What do you suggest I do to this mookie? :/

    I also have a bit of moral problem, I lack in self-esteem. :/ So when I get a heavy blow (and peki's constant beatings on me don't help much) I don't find myself doing that well and I also have trouble being consistant. Mostly on tournaments my performance falters and I find myself either doing really bad or not as good as I wanted to. Usually later on casuals I've managed to fully express myself and showcase my skills, but everyone really puts too much weight onto tournament match, even if their opponent wasn't playing that well and they know it. But still they decide that 1 tourney match > 100 casuals. :/ I base my judgement on player skill when they actually play good and winning mindset. >_>

    On brawl since the game is slower and less tech heavy, I feel I can utilise my mindgames better since I don't get overwhelmed and nervous yet I feel restricted by the game mechanics since I play a pretty tech heavy peach on melee. Of course brawl is easier on my fingers, but still...
     
  34. tEhrXXz0r

    tEhrXXz0r
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    Smash Journeyman

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    I give this 5 stars. One of the best, intelligent posts/guides I have read in quite a while!

    Excellent. Truly excellent, MookieRah.
     
  35. -Linko-

    -Linko-
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    Smash Journeyman

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    Excellent read. This has to be not only added to Panda's thread, but also stickied.

    Cm'on, there's no thread deserving more of a sticky than this one. Especially not one about Master Chief.
     
  36. Annhialator Zero

    Annhialator Zero
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    Smash Apprentice

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    I'm probably classified as Novice as I've never been to a tourney, but I do reasonably well in Wi-Fi Friendlies so eh.

    Very good guide.
     
  37. Monshou_no_Nazo

    Monshou_no_Nazo
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    Smash Journeyman

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    This is very good advice. I'm going to attempt to be a more proactive player.
     
  38. habaker91

    habaker91
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    Smash Apprentice

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    this needs a sticky
     
  39. MookieRah

    MookieRah
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    Kinda Sorta OK at Smash

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    I just updated the essay with some ways to handle stress efficiently as well as fix the moral/morale errors.

    These are things you can do before the tournament, before your matches, and some even during your matches.

    For starters I can already tell you are going about this in the wrong way. Look at how you worded your statement: "My brain cannot." You are limiting yourself from the get go. That's a bad mentality to have, cause it doesn't allow for growth.

    With that said, you are overwhelmed because you are more than likely over-extending yourself. You are trying to look at everything and keep tabs of everything all at once. This can only work if you have learned to view things in "chunks."

    To explain: On average your brain can remember around seven things (like numbers) in your short term memory. Here is a wiki article on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chunking_(psychology)

    How does this apply to smash? Well, it's all the same. We can only keep tabs on so many things at once, but just like memory we can also chunk incoming data. This is why I said in this essay that that Playing to Learn is about taking things one at a time. Try learning to track only one thing in your matches for a while. Afterwards, you begin to see the thing you were looking for automatically and without effort. At that point your mind has pretty much "chunked" all of that information into one block.

    By taking things one at a time you can organize everything that you see in a way that makes things easier to interpret. I learned this from DDR actually. When I first started I couldn't make out the arrows. I could SEE them, obviously, but my brain couldn't keep track of them. Over time I eventually saw patterns instead of individual arrows. So then I could keep track of 7 patterns instead of 7 arrows. This same concept is true in smash.

    You are afraid of tech heavy players. Everyone has something they tend to fear. I used to be afraid of Sheiks. I would lose to sheiks that were below my level because I went into the match dreading it. You have to find some way to address the fear you have and overcome it.

    I posted some ways to handle stress. Hopefully these things can help.
     
  40. Spammit

    Spammit
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    Smash Rookie

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    Are you a phyciatrist?!?!?(some1 will corect my spelling I know it) Seriously though, this is going to help me alot, the whole mentality thing was realy interesting and helpful.
     
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