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Reaching the Pantheon: An Analysis of Ascending to the Next Level

Discussion in 'Melee Discussion' started by The King, Feb 13, 2007.

  1. The King

    The King
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    Smash Ace

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    Inspired by conversations with Burnt Toast, Bob$ and Sidefx

    I was wrapping up a Biweekly just last weekend, saying my goodbyes and all that, when I was asked a rather interesting question that most of us have asked ourselves at one point in time or another. It was something along the lines of:

    "You know, I was watching those matches between Lunin and Silentspectre, seeing how good their spacing is and how technical they are and everything, and I've gotta ask you, is there just a point you get to when this game becomes a ton easier, like you wake up and see everything in a different light, and can just say "I get it now!'?"

    I have to admit, this question struck my curiousity pretty hard. I was never the kind of person where I'd look back each day or each week or whatever and ask myself "how much have I improved recently?". Do we improve in some steady unbroken stream, or does our game evolve one infinitesimal step at a time? I don't remember what point in my game I fully implemented Lcanceling, or Wavedashing, or Shfflc'ing, or edgeguarding, or anything like that. For me, I always just played the game, and hated losing at it. In retrospect, the three things that drove me to improve were hating to lose, wanting to pull off huge combos on command, and Isai's advice of "Don't Get Hit".

    But wait, something isn't right here. There's something missing. For one thing, some people play for years and never improve; some people know everything about this game but have no talent for winning; some people are as close to technically sound as one can get, but still lose to less-than-decent players. And for another, I remember when I was complete trash at this game (I spent years being "champion of my neighborhood", being the best UpB-spamming link out of all my friends, until I got the chance to get 4 stocked in dittos by Germ for a couple hours), but what I don't remember is when I became "good".

    A long intro to arrive at my point, I know. What I'd like to analyze here is exactly what it takes to improve, pinpointing the hows and whys of what it takes to ascend to the next level in one's game. And because everyone improves at a different pace, and under different conditions, this makes giving a general walkthrough to improvement practically impossible. There's no checklist you can follow to improving. In the end, it all comes down to you. But what there ARE that we can highlight are the milestones that one must arrive at, and conquer, before moving on to the next phase of improvement. And keep in mind, improvement is possible at every level in one's game, with one's potential for improvement capped only by your determination. These steps are aimed towards the lower-level players, but are applicable to everybody looking to improve. With this said, let's begin.

    Humility Goes A Long Way​

    1.) The first step to improvement is one of the more difficult to overcome, because right off the bat, your ego will be tested before the path to improvement even begins. The first step is seeing that there are people better than you, accepting that you are not nearly as good as you think you are, and becoming determined to improve. Whether it's how much faster they play the game than you, the combos they're able to pull off you didn't think were possible, or the aura of intelligent play that radiates from them, anything. There's got to be something that catches your eye, and brings you to the reality that you aren't anywhere as good as you thought you were, but with work and perserverance, you too could be that skillful at the game. Too many times, people run into someone with a faculty for the game that they never expected could be possible, but then throw away any potential they may have had for improvement by getting hung up on the johns or the "moralities" of the game. Rather than accepting they are worse at the game than their competitors, they tell themselves "That's the cheap way to play, I'm above doing stuff like that." or "I could play like that but the game wouldn't be any fun anymore." or the coup de gras, banning such advanced techniques (or even the person using them) from playing in their circle. Rather than accepting that they have tons of room for improvement, they isolate and shield themselves from the realities of the game, and sheltered under the veils of "honor" and "fun" they develop a sour distaste for the advanced aspects of their game, forever limiting themselves from further progression.

    Well luckily for you, the gamer, there's never any obligation to move beyond this first step. Just as there's never any real obligation to get a job better than flipping burgers at McDonalds. But if you are willing to improve, you must show unto thyself humility, in that you are not as good as you can be with a little self-analysis and determination. With this self-epiphany under our belt, we can now move on to the next phase.

    Understanding The Game​

    2.) Figuring out what it is in our game that needs improvement. There are two extremely distinct facets of one's game that always require focus and development, and while the two facets walk hand in hand, for the sake of this article I will break them into two phases, with this one (in my opinion) being the far easier to develop. Before your game can progress, self-analysis of the technical side of your game needs to be performed. Contrast to the next phase, this one requires nothing more than practice and muscle-memory. You need to learn the boundaries of your character(s) inside and out. Take your character to training mode and work on the advanced techniques of the game (such as Lcanceling, wavedashing and shorthopping for starters) until the movements feel natural, to the point where the effort of performing the techniques fades away from your consciousness.

    Once you trust the dynamics of your movement and have adopted them into the basic structure of your game, you will need to study the dynamics of character interation. You need to develop a FEEL for the game, absorbing every little bit of information you can. This involves understanding your character's weaknesses, and learning it's strengths. This includes options for getting back onto the stage, options for edgeguarding, getting a feel for how heavy each character is and which of your moves can physically combo into others, memorizing lag times for techrolls, fullhops, missed Lcancels, the works. This requires you to learn what moves your character is vunerable to, and what moves of yours are most punishing to a particular opponent. This is a daunting task, and for most cases, requires time and conscious effort to perfect. But remember that this is a game, and few people on earth in any game rarely develop a total understanding for it. It's just like memorizing a rulebook. It is a process, and one that comes slowly. But with time, your mind will adopt the technicalities of the game, and your fingers will calibrate themselves through muscle memory to performing whatever little trick you want.

    Understanding Yourself​

    3.) Once you've adopted some technical precision into your game, you will have arrived at the next phase of development in your game. Here you are no longer bound by your character's speed of movement; on the contrary, you are now physically capable of anything you will your character to perform. Herein lies phase 3. Now, the single-biggest factor holding back the development of your game is YOU. It is your mental awareness, stability, maturity, and confidence. Sadly, this is also the phase for many gamers where the road to improvement ends, or at least slows substantially. It's just that this phase of improvement requires more focus, determination and analysis than most people have the patience for. This is the phase where you stop analyzing the game in general, and begin analyzing YOUR game. Seeing as how this is probably the most extensive and diverse analysis you will be doing to improve, and since there are so many different ways to analyze your game for improvement, I'm going to break this phase down into subchapters.

    a.) Find out why you're losing--I'm going to discuss this portion as if one were watching a match video of themselves versus a skilled player. This is where your capacity for analysis will be tested, because when it comes to reviewing your gameplay, you need to overlook the "hows" of why you're losing, and instead focus on the why. When focusing on a match you've just played, you need to look beyond the moves you were hit by and the combos to which you were subjected. Look back and analyze what moves your opponent was using to take advantage of you (this can range anywhere from Marth spamming that Fsmash, to Fox just dashdancing waiting for a mistake from you to claim a grab). Now take a good look at your character's moveset, and try to find a move or tactic that's best-suited to handle the problem facing you. Fox hitting you with too many Nairs against peach? Learn when and how to crouch-cancel into downsmash. Marth tricking you into situations that get you grabbed? Analyze what setups he's pulling you into, bait him into a false sense of security that his next one will land, forsee the pattern, and punish him for his predictability.

    Just as analyzing the patterns of your opponent's chosen moveset is important, so is knowing where your character is vunerable or effective on the stage. Some characters flourish when played on platforms, some better near the ledges, some better underneath platforms or on flat portions of stage. Drawing from the experience you've been collecting about priority and stage properties, learn where to best place your character for maximum efficiency.

    b.)Abolish Anger, Frustration and Emotion from your game-- This part of your game requires you to train yourself to restrain from those primal urges for revenge that everyone feels from time to time in a match. It's the urge to get back at someone after you've made a big mistake, you've just been caught in a huge combo or rediculous setup, or even when you are just down stock in a match. The player just discards everything they know about spacing and priority, and just starts throwing out their power moves in some feeble attempt to kill the opponent.

    Newsflash: Not only will your opponent see your frustration and react to your desperation accordingly, but you playing for revenge like an idiot is nothing short of expected. You have no idea how many times I've seen exceptional players throw away any chance they had at staging a comeback in a match, simply because they grew frustrated that they couldn't kill their opponent below 150% or just got edgeguarded at 40%. Spamming those Fsmashes to finish off your opponent, as rediculous as it sounds, will NOT work, and against skilled opponents you will only be digging your own grave by leaving yourself predictable and punishable. You need to learn to check your god complex at the door before starting a match, no matter who the opponent is, and enter the match with focus and grit. Your game plan should not be discarded due to one gimped edgeguard, fouled combo, or exceptional spot of play from your opponent. Remain true to your game plan, don't get angry or frustrated when something doesn't go your way, and never force revenge. Remember, revenge is a dish best served cold.


    c.)Play with confidence-- Here is where the greatest players tend to shine, and as far as player skill goes, this will always sift out the best of the best in matches that hold significant weight or pressure. I can watch a mediocre player pull the craziest **** I've ever seen against cpu's and in friendlies all day long. But you put that same player into a tournament match with money and standings on the line, where they're only a 4 stock away from a trip to the loser's bracket or elimination all together, and 99% of the time, it's a completely different story.

    At this point, you've gotten your tech game out of the way. You know the matchups. You know the combos. You know your spacing and your priorities and your mindgames and your patterns. You've even conquered the more volatile area of your mental game, i.e. keeping control of your emotions. All you have left to do, is just go out there and TRUST it. Hesitation is one of the game's biggest killers at the highest levels, and the more confidence you have in yourself and your abilities, the more of a cakewalk the match will feel. Every match you play, tell yourself you've been there a thousand times before. Whether you're in 2nd round of the loser's bracket or playing in the finals of the tournament, reassure yourself that you've been here before and this pressure is nothing new. If you're playing in the finals for the first time, dismiss the intimidation you're feeling; play like you Belong there, and that there is nowhere else you would rather be.

    Don't stand there like a wuss when your opponent misses that tech, have the foresight and confidence to punish him for it before he recovers and rolls to safety. Don't be afraid of getting in their face while they're recovering, get in their mother ****ing way and force their hand to choose the worst option for recovery. Don't be tentative to keep that big combo going; you know what combos into what at this point in your game, so don't hesitate in bridging one move to the next. I don't care what's on the line. Tap into your inner focus, and trust that what you've pulled off a million times already. Don't think, don't hesitate, just do it.

    King Out
     
  2. _myth_

    _myth_
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    very nice, playing with confidence comes with exerpience. you can't help but be nervous or scarred the first couple times playing a tournament with money on the line. I know this. I also know that after a few tournaments, it becomes "normal" and I am able to play just fine.
     
  3. dReAMCloUd - Assault K 40

    dReAMCloUd - Assault K 40
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    Confidence and Understanding, with foresight and restraint......keys to the game. It seems that's what you're referring to. Good stuff though, well articulated.
     
  4. petre

    petre
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    nice read! really nice. this is actually going to help, alot. i enjoyed it, too.
     
  5. hrairoo

    hrairoo
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    Yeah, that was really good. It's definitely going to help me out a lot. Thanks.
     
  6. Spoon Man

    Spoon Man
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    stellar post, and even though I already knew most of what you said just from common sense, seeing it typed out and reading it certainly helps to bring the whole thing into perspective a lot easier. This is truly what metagame is all about, and frankly this website is amazing at conveying just how much people can put into a game, and what they get out of it. Basically, thanks for the post King, and I hope to reach the point where I have to start analyzing myself rather then my character.
     
  7. Linguini

    Linguini
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    Wow, Thanks King, this actually taught me a ton, I appreciate it, it motivated me to get even better!
     
  8. _umbra_

    _umbra_
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    Wow... very nice post. I learned a lot from this... I seem to have a bit of a confidence problem which I'm going to work on. Hopefully I'll improve eventually...
     
  9. marthsword

    marthsword
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    Wow, this was great, very informative and intelligent. I almost feel like this should be merged with Delphiki's in depth look at the metagame topic.
     
  10. Zone

    Zone
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    I just had a problem with frustration recently. I already knew that i had to get rid of it. and most of the concepts u mentioned. It's Just good to be reminded. Thank you for serving as a Compass and repointing me in the right directions.
     
  11. blaargh198

    blaargh198
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    @marthsword,
    Actually, thinking back the last month or so, i think we've gotten a lot of smash related essays from intelligent posters. it would probably be very cool if they were all merged into one super-inspirational essay collection thread...

    King, a very good read, i can think of a lot of games i've barely lost because of overconfidence, being predictable, and other things.
     
  12. Prodigal One

    Prodigal One
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    King. you are a exemplary writer/smasher.
     
  13. Delphiki

    Delphiki
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    Rhetoric from big names > prose from small names.

    Way to trump, Dan, but a very helpful topic nonetheless.
     
  14. Pye

    Pye
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    Whoa! All I have to say is this: THANK YOU. King, I hope to one day play against you. You're one of the players I've always respected, and I have a feeling that I could learn a hell of a lot from you.

    That post was really helpful. It put things in perspective for me. There's stuff in there I never thought of before. I'm at that border right now, right in between having learned my technical skill, and now have to get into the mental game, and I have to say, it's harder then it sounds. Now things are more clear.

    I'd like to emphasise (spelling? sorry :( ) the fact that you cannot let emotions take over while playing Smash. Many people just get angry and fusterated after a gimp kill, and throw away the game (sometimes even the next few games too) because of it. It IS very difficult to stay calm while playing, even for the people who are normally the calmest, but it's a must.

    I do have a question, though. I'll use the same example as in the essay, the one on the dashdancing Fox. Now, I personally don't see a way to get around dashdancing. I just can't follow that much movement, no matter how hard I try (at least right now, I can't). My question is, is everyone capable of analizing patterns like that? I'm sure that some people are naturally better at it then others, but can everyone learn it eventually, or are there people who will never be able to do that?

    To be honest, I've always had a fear that I wouldn't ever be a good player simply because of some natural ineptitude at something critical in smash...
     
  15. The GERM

    The GERM
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    good **** dan, this should be stickied =D

    edit: didnt realise i was on germans screename.. this is sidefx by the way.
     
  16. Delphiki

    Delphiki
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    Here are my thoughts on your question. Keep in mind this has nothing to do with what King might think or say.

    It is not always necessary to follow every single movement. It's enough to know all the offensive possibilities the Fox has. I don't feel I'm skilled enough to give specific examples, but the exact pattern of dash dancing is not necessary, only general trends and habits. Remember to stay fluid and keep your game changing and your opponents guessing. Always be one step ahead, and the step to victory will be one step closer.
     
  17. Fefnir Cerveau

    Fefnir Cerveau
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    Tag for future finishing.
     
  18. Gimpyfish62

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    king thats awesome, really cool stuff.

    we've got a player in WA we want to improve, maybe we should have him read this.

    we still have a money match to do king XD ps i hear you picked up another char and dropped jigga or something?
     
  19. Red Exodus

    Red Exodus
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    I guess I skipped a step. I never knew about advanced techniques until recently, but I've almost mastered leaving emotions out of my game. The other day [I finally played melee after not playing it for a year] I found myself with 2 stocks while Ganondorf had 2 stocks and Luigi 1 with 93% damage, surely enough for an easy kill, but I let compassion into my game.

    I went after GD with 2 stocks and 0% damage instead of going after Liugi. Boy was that a mistake. GD knocked me into Luigi's direction and he proceeded to edgeguard. Unfortunately I was unable to get back to the stage after I slipped up on my recovery and fell to me death.

    Well Luigi got his just desserts when I came back and I killed GD but the damage was done, I still lost but I re-learned a valuable lesson. Spare no one.
     
  20. Lesheik

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    Best tutorial ever.
     
  21. metroid1117

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    This should be stickied; it's one of the most helpful and intellectual threads I've ever come across. If you don't mind, I'm going to use it in my Xanga entry; of course, I'll give full credit to you and cite the source by putting the link to this thread under the entry.
     
  22. halfDemon

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    This is perhaps the most valuable and thought-out thread on the boards. A job well done.
     
  23. Bob Money

    Bob Money
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    too good daniel H. Outback and trebs house teams all night!
     
  24. frotaz37

    frotaz37
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    Good stuff King.

    I think one thing that can greatly improve your game is to simply ASK your opponent what you're doing that's causing you to lose, because a lot of the time it's really hard to tell. Hopefully their ego won't take over and they will be willing to explain some things and help you improve.

    EDIT: Try to avoid doing this during tournament matches ;)
     
  25. Sushiman

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    Good read. I learned a lot!
     
  26. Gimpyfish62

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    lol i've given people helpful advice in tourney matches before. it was a random tourney, the guy i was playing randomed bowser. he asked me what to do, i said "up b".

    i also recommended a couple of counter picks tages for him, either battlefield or yoshi's from the neutral stages.

    i randomed doc btw.

    i won, by a lot. XD bowser is no good
     
  27. Sadnap

    Sadnap
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    I hope one day, all the smash players I play against have that mindset. It'll not only enhance the experience, but will probably make everyone else a better player.
     
  28. Smooth Criminal

    Smooth Criminal
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    boop'd

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    Mad props to you, King.
     
  29. Jumpfreak

    Jumpfreak
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    Zomg King I <3 you.

    But seriously, great read. I admire your insightful contributions to the smashing community.
     
  30. Uck

    Uck
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    Awesome thread and very inspriring.

    These kinds of threads allow new comers to excell very quickly by taking what others found out thru experiance.Then capsuling that experiance to give the newcomer a conscious guide to direct there subconscious using experiance gained by others work.

    Im not sure what I just said but this is a very nice thread. =)
     
  31. Uck2

    Uck2
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    I agree I learned alot from this thread also.
     
  32. Eggm

    Eggm
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    Very nice read I enjoyed this a lot, and.. care to comment on that new char gimpyfish was talking about? ^^
     
  33. Eidolon

    Eidolon
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    Like Nike :p

    Excellent essay.
     
  34. Aiko

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    loved it. unfortunately, the first step applies to some of my friends. gets annoying sometimes.
     
  35. BladeWise

    BladeWise
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    smart people are cool.
     
  36. Caleb Wolfbrand

    Caleb Wolfbrand
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    that was the single greatest post I've ever seen on these boards. Excellent, amazing, stupendous, etc.

    I've been at a lot of these phases. Hesitation... that IS my problem now, the last part is exactly my problem... I hope this helps other people as well.
     
  37. Skye128

    Skye128
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    Wow that was quite an amazing read. Thanks!
     
  38. MaskedMarth

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    What a post. It is clear and smart and insightful but above all it is so right. I can fit my experience as a Smasher so perfectly into your model. I had the humility and the game knowledge, but I could never crystallize it into victory. Now I know why.
     
  39. The King

    The King
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    Good stuff, I'm glad people are enjoying the article. It was a blast to write, and reminded me of a lot of stuff I'd forgotten about or neglected. Sometimes you learn the most whilst teaching.

    And to address the question above about Fox's dashdancing, Delphiki pretty much hit the answer head on. Few people play the game on a solely-reactionary basis, and even fewer are successful in doing so. With knowing the matchups and character dynamics, you can eliminate some of the need for pure reaction speed. Because when you know the options and tricks a particular character has, you can get a general idea of which moves might be coming at any given time. Fox dashdancing is a great example and very effective due to the fact that fox is always on the move, can change direction any time it wishes, and is being neither offensive nor defensive, but merely strategic. It is the fear that fox can do anything out of it's dashdance (grab, upsmash, Nair, Dair, dash attack, shield, run away, etc.), as well as efficiently space themselves from an incoming attack, that make it a difficult tactic to counter.

    There was going to be another section, another phase so to speak, that I wanted to add to the end of this. But once I starting writing it, I found that it would have pretty much doubled the size of the article. It's the concept of reading someone's "Pace", the talent to quickly get a feel for your opponent's level of skill, technical aspects, mindgames, movements, and patterns. It's why the best players can sit down with someone they've never played and still destroy them, even if they imploy a tactic or style of play the pro had never seen before. I'll put this out eventually, I just don't know where.

    Again, thanks for the support thus far. =D

    King Out
     
  40. KevinM

    KevinM
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    Doin Me so Hard I Got Pregnant

    • Back Roomer
    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2007
    Messages:
    13,054
    Location:
    Sickboi in the 401

    Wow.... i think King just beat life... i didn't think it was possible but King seriously just beat life.... best essay ever
     

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