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Understanding Neutral Game

Discussion in 'Melee Discussion' started by A_Reverie, May 14, 2016.

  1. A_Reverie

    A_Reverie
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    Smash Apprentice

    Joined:
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    After writing some notes the other day on neutral and then brainstorming them while at work, I've decided to go full-blown bigpost mode with it. Despite 99% of my activity being on the Marth boards, I've decided to post this here because these concepts apply to all characters. Hopefully anyone reading can learn from it.

    i. Foreword
    The "Melee Is Hard" Disclaimer
    I decided to lead with this because it's something that needs to be kept in mind throughout the entire post. As with anything, actively applying these concepts into your game is not something just any player will be able to do right after reading. Even I myself am only just getting started when it comes to honing my neutral game. This guide is intended for players who already have a grasp of Melee terminology and fundamentals.

    A little about me: I've been playing competitive Smash for about 2 years now, with Project M in 2014. Most of that time doing the basics and just getting the feel of the game. I didn't start dedicating myself to Melee until around February 2015. Being from Central Texas, my opportunity to train with other skilled players has always been limited, so as a result much of my time learning has been spent with study and solo practice.

    Much of the things that happen in neutral that I mention in this guide are things that happen in fractions of a second. It's this extreme speed that makes Melee incredibly difficult. Be honest with your expectations going forward, and use this guide as more of a resource to study with while you train. The human mind is not unlimited, and everyone has a finite amount of mental space. The mental space needed to bring everything together is something only those at the top level are really adept at utilizing. Many mid-level players like myself still have to use their mental space for execution based things, or have not trained or reactions to be fast enough to use the space to its full potential.

    Keep this in mind at all times, and always practice.


    Purpose
    Neutral game has always sort of been this sort of vague concept compared to other things like punish game. It's almost always mentioned as just that: "The Neutral." It is rarely expanded upon. This is mostly due to the fact that it's the one discipline that players begin to focus on last, and for good reasons that I mentioned in Section I. As a result, the vagueness surrounding neutral game has deprived a lot of people of good discussion and study regarding the subject.

    My goals are to bring forward and solidify concepts that can be used to discuss and study neutral. I want to break down and define it to greater detail so it can be examined more effectively. Helping people learn Melee has always been one of my favorite things to do, so I really hope my ideas here are helpful.


    I. Player Interaction and its Components
    1. Player Interaction - Concepts and Definitions
    Our first step in understanding neutral is to take a look at everything that is a piece of it. Some of these components are often already discussed, but I think it's important to include them and attempt to more accurately define them.

    Player Interaction
    Interaction is a word I've heard several times while listening to commentary. I'm really quite fond of it, so I've been brainstorming for a while about how players actually interact in the game. To me, an interaction is simply a series of actions performed by both players in a sequence. They can be movements, attacks, and many other different things. We'll look more closely at these actions later.

    Like dialogue in a book, both characters are interacting with a goal in mind, which we'll call the outcome. The outcome of an interaction can be thought of as the resulting advantage that occurs between the players afterward. I'll be breaking down advantage as a concept later on, but this is the overall goal each player has in mind when interacting.

    1a. The Properties of Player Interaction
    Advantage
    More detail will come later, but to be brief, advantage can be determined by a combination of various factors. Available options is the simplest way to think of it, in my opinion. Like card advantage in a game like MTG or Hearthstone, advantage in Melee means you have more effective options to choose from in a given situation, while being disadvantaged has the opposite effect. Many things contribute to this, mostly related to your position and what percent you're at.

    I believe advantage can be quantified. Matchups are already listed in percentage ratios representing likelihood of victory. Matchup can have its own effect on advantage. Again, more later on.

    Passive vs. Active Interaction
    Player interaction is very complex. In my opinion it's important to distinguish interactions with weaker outcomes from those with more drastic outcomes. Change in advantage is the key difference. An example of a passive interaction would be movement related ones that don't necessarily result in a big change in advantage. Active interaction is what most people think of, those that involve decisions, actions taken, and a more drastic change in advantage at the outcome.

    Tempo
    Most can agree that a Melee match has an inherent tempo to it. Tempo in the sense of neutral would be the rate at which players are actively interacting. Some matches are explosive, where both players interact very frequently. Others are less so, with the rate being slower. Different matchups can have their own tempo, but it's largely a result of playstyle. Mango is a good example of a high tempo player, whilst PPMD can be considered a lower tempo player. Tempo by its very nature dictates how much time the match is played within neutral.

    Influence
    Describes change in advantage. Also a property of specific actions, but just like how the sum of these individual actions make up the whole of each interaction, so too does their influence. An interaction with high influence will likely have a great effect on the outcome of a match. More of a descriptive term. In study, the question: "Why did that interaction have high influence?" is a good question. Can be combined with tempo to get a sense of a player's total effectiveness when interacting.

    Character choice can influence these properties. Fox is often considered played best at a high tempo. The Marth philosophy of "less is more" focuses on lower tempo, higher influence interactions.


    1b. Active Interaction
    We've gone over interactions, but how do you build one? Melee's metagame is centered around answering this question in game to maximum effect. All characters have their good and bad options. It's how you deliver these options that determines how your interaction will occur. These options form the building blocks, with each character offering their own flavor of brick.

    Initiation and Response

    Player interactions always have a giving and receiving end. Sometimes both players give and receive (commonly called a trade) but the fact remains that someone will make a move. Beginning the interaction, often called the "approach," I'll instead be referring to as the initiation. I chose this term because it can also describe movements and defensive options. Most commonly, initiation is done with an attack move, like Fox's running shine or Sheik's wavedash forward F-tilt.

    While still in neutral, the other player on the receiving end of the initiation produces the response. Responding actions are commonly defensive, but not exclusively so. Crouch cancel is a powerful response that can lead to very effective counterattacks. Sometimes the response is a movement option that allows the player to juke and counterattack.

    Primary and Secondary Actions
    In the Melee Meta, certain tactics take precedence over others due to their effectiveness. These are primary actions that are often seen as the beginning of an interaction as initiation, however certain responsive situations have their own primary actions. When you hear of something being "optimal" it's usually considered a primary action. Beginner Marth players think F-smash is a primary action when it is not.

    Resulting actions are options that are revealed when a leading action creates the opportunity. They're commonly referred to as "follow-ups" in the context of offense, but can also be defensive. Many players select their secondary action based on certain cues. These cues will get their own section, but for the sake of example, On-Hit is probably the most common cue people respond to. Some primary actions can be used as secondary actions, mostly attacks.

    Transitioning from neutral into an interaction is done with primary actions (initiation/response). Then, the resulting exchange is done with secondary actions. The sum of this determines the various outcomes, change in advantage, and eventually the return of neutral state.

    Proactive vs. Reactive
    We can further define various actions by their use in decision-making. Proactive actions are executed dynamically and without reaction to any cue. They set pace and establish threat. In the context of advantage, they attempt to tip the balance in the acting player's favor before the interaction ever occurs with the intent of taking options away from the other player. This can result in them choosing a primary or secondary action that is unsuitable for the situation that the other proactively changed.


    Reactive options are the opposite. Action produces reaction, so these are done by reacting to a certain cue. An opponent entering your space, whiffing a laggy move, or choosing a risky movement option are all situations that can be reacted to. Actions that are done either proactively or reactively shouldn't be confused for the initiation/response distinction. There are ways to reactively initiate, as well as proactively respond.

    Offense and Defense
    Distinguishing actions even further gives way to the concept of offense and defense. This one's simple. Offensive actions are attacks: they produce damage, knockback, and threat. Defensive options seek to mitigate, either partially or entirely, the dangers of offensive actions.


    Further Distinction
    At this level, we get to the more well known stuff. Offensive options can be classified in various ways such as ground moves, air moves, pokes, zoning tools, etc. Knowing which moves interact with the ground or air is crucial in many matchups. One class of move I'd like to touch upon a bit are critical-hits. A critical is an attack that causes a huge change in advantage, sometimes ones that take stocks. I wanted to mention it because one matchup in particular involves scoring critical hits from neutral quite often: Fox/Jigglypuff. It's just a useful thing to know in that context.

    Defensive options can be classified as blocks and evades. Shield, spotdodge, roll, and even dashing can all be used to prevent taking damage. Using an attack defensively is also a thing, but that's a more complex interaction than it sounds. A good example is Marth's fadeaway rising F-air - In the context of this guide I would classify that as a reactive response using an offensive action. Doing this particular action proactively is seen as poor form by Marth players because swinging in that situation can cause you to be punished. Its more often done in response as an opponent enters their space.

    Primary Action Phase
    Action Classification Notes
    1 :marthmelee:WD Forward D-tilt Initiation: Proactive/Reactive, Offensive Marth's gold standard for ground threat. Hits Fox for 10 damage.
    2 :foxmelee:Crouch cancel Response: Proactive, Defensive Done before the attack to reduce knockback.

    Result: Fox's response nets him advantage. His frame advantage after crouch cancel enables him to act first in the next phase.

    Secondary Action Phase
    Action Classification Notes
    1 :foxmelee:Shield Secondary: Reactive(On-Hit), Defensive Fox shields in anticipation for a repeated D-tilt.
    2 :marthmelee:JC Grab Secondary: Reactive(On-Hit), Offensive Marth has conditioned Fox to shield, capitalizing with grab.

    Result: Marth earns high advantage with his grab.

    As you can probably tell, there's tons of different ways these things can go. The different move classifications offer insight into a player's decision making. This is only a surface level of detail. Much more can be gained by watching a live match in slow motion for added context, then examining each interaction this way. You can learn a lot doing this and it gives people things to look for and talk about regarding neutral.

    Full Table
    Action Classification Notes
    1 :marthmelee:WD Forward D-tilt Initiation: Proactive/Reactive, Offensive Marth's gold standard for ground threat. Hits Fox for 10 damage.
    2 :foxmelee:Crouch cancel Response: Proactive, Defensive Done before the attack to reduce knockback.
    3 :foxmelee:Shield Secondary: Reactive(On-Hit), Defensive Fox shields in anticipation for a repeated D-tilt.
    4 :marthmelee:JC Grab Secondary: Reactive(On-Hit), Offensive Marth has conditioned Fox to shield in a previous interaction, capitalizing with grab.

    1c. Passive Interaction
    Stage Advantage - Positioning and Zone Control
    Smash is technically one big battle for stage advantage. Sometimes you lose stage advantage so badly that you get sent flying off the screen and die. Passive interaction refers to the consistent and small shifts in total advantage due to each player's movement.

    Positioning refers to which piece of stage you occupy. Each stage has a number of zones that you can occupy, which are dictated by your character's movement. They include center stage, zones for each platform if there are any, the left and right sides, offstage zones (high/low, near/far) and several in between corners and center that are dependent on your character's movement. A character with a short dash and wavedash like Peach has smaller, more numerous zones and as a result it's harder to cover other zones from each individual position. Falcon has the fastest dash speed and can occupy much more space than others, so his zones are large and threatening.

    Being grounded and at center stage is where you have the most advantage for many reasons:

    • You're less likely to be sent offstage when hit.
    • Your opponent is likely occupying a zone with less advantage.
    • You can reach more zones in less time.
    • Your opponent has to extend further to reach you and exit a cornered position (Reversals are less likely.)
    Every character has to be familiar with how they can interact with other zones as well as acting within their own. The simplest way to engage another zone is by simply moving into it with your dash dance, but things get more complicated when there is a threat involved. You also have to be able to respond on others initiating into your own zone. This is the reason mid-level players don't properly use dash dance. It's easy to see dash dancing as something you do while idle and are calculating your next move. Instead, dash dance itself should be a part of your next move.

    You can use concepts from the previous section on Active Interaction in combination with stage zones to further optimize how you handle stage zones. Knowing that your opponent has to act into your zone in order to interact with you can help you learn where to position yourself when responding to initiations. It can also be beneficial to knowing what to expect when you challenge your opponents zone. Every initiation tactic in the game has an effective range.

    Projectiles can be used as passive interaction. They extend far into another's zone without the user having to strictly commit to entering it. The best example is of course Falco's lasers. They can be fired from a distance and threaten your zone with slight damage and stun, which in turn changes the way you act. Falco can use this to his advantage and rapidly presssure a zone which prompts you to shield, reducing your ability to respond in turn. It is considered passive interaction until the Falco commits into your zone in close quarters, or until the space of his landing is challenged by his opponent's action.

    Using Movement as Passive Interaction
    Theoretically, a truly neutral position does not exist in the game as long as both players are in movement and passively interacting. Any time a player changes their position, they passively interact and the first layer of advantage (stage advantage) changes. Watch any high level tournament set and you'll see this advantage swinging back and forth like a pendulum.

    Dash dancing is very important in this regard. It allows players to weave in and out of zones by varying the lengths of their dashes. An aggressive dash dance involves moving into an opponents zone, threatening them and prompting them to act. This movement also cuts off their ability to take more stage without having to engage in an active interaction. Dash dance can also be used to feint or bait by relinquishing stage and encouraging the other player to act.

    Wavedash is often used incorrectly as just another way to move aside from dash dance. The key to understanding this movement option is to realize what it does mechanically. It's designed to convert your character from dashing or shielding animation into standing/idle, where you have the most options. This comes at a cost of frames (your jumpsquat + time spent airborne + 10). Using it to passively interact involves placing your character's standing animation within range of your opponent with intent to damage or threaten. It can also be used defensively as a way to respond to an opponent entering your space. Wavedashing is a way to prepare for active interaction, whether you are initiating, responding, or even feinting.

    Mixing up movement with different combinations of dash/wavedash is a concept of mental game to keep your opponent guessing, but it should never be done without proper consideration of your positioning and stage presence. Mid-level Melee involves a lot of errant movements executed without this consideration. This is why watching lower skill players seems more random. They're not always moving with a distinct purpose, despite their technical ability.


    II. Advantage
    Advantage Types
    Our first step into more deeply understanding the various concepts of advantage, we need to think about the different types of advantage involved in a Melee match. There are a lot of factors that determine how many options you have available to you at any given time.

    The first, most fundamental layer of advantage is stage advantage. This is changed and modified through passive interaction between both players and serves to set the stage for any active interactions that occur, and as a result of that, sets the tone for the potential advantage outcomes that follow. Beginning an interaction with greater stage advantage than your opponent inherently gives you an edge over them. You are more likely to come out of the interaction on top, as long as you utilize your advantage properly. Delving further into stage advantage allows us to be a bit more specfic. Aside from horizontal position, (center, corner, etc.) Melee's verticality can be considered. While grounded, you have more options than an airborne opponent and are at greater advantage. Being below your opponent is also considered more advantageous, as they are limited to a specific set of options to avoid any of yours. This can occur in the air or if someone is on a platform. Lastly we have offstage events. Being offstage is considered a huge disadvantage and can often be the event that leads you into losing a stock. Above the ledge is less disadvantageous, while being below the ledge causes a drastic change in your amount of options. Hanging from the ledge relieves this to an extent, but until you are grounded and hold a portion of the stage, you are still considered to be at a distinct disadvantage.

    Mew2King's weapon of choice is matchup advantage. All characters have to wrestle with matchups, good or bad. Lower tier characters have more matchups that are fundamentally bad for them, which puts them at a disadvantage at the very start of the match. Other times, it's a player's inexperience with the matchup that can effect the way they make choices in certain active interactions. Stage choice places a certain modifier on every matchup. In the Fox/Jigglypuff matchup, advantage changes drastically on Fox's counterpicks (Yoshi's Story and Pokemon Stadium) while Jigglypuff's counterpicks (Dreamland and Fountain of Dreams) don't effect it as much. Marth's advantage on Dreamland is lowered to a degree across the board while versus spacies it's believed he gains huge advantage on Final Destination. Battlefield is considered an extremely neutral stage because it doesn't effect matchups to the same degree that the others do.


    Character state has its own effect on advantage as well. Being at high percent makes certain interactions, like trades, more dangerous and also lowers your ability to crouch cancel, therefore cutting off options. Being in crouch is advantageous while in shield or jumping is the opposite. Tumble, knockdown, and hitstun are all considered to be disadvantageous.

    Quantifying Advantage
    Analyzing the various levels of advantage/disadvantage between two players is hard to do. While I'm certain at top level many decisions are made with advantage in mind, I've yet to see much analysis done regarding the specifics of those decisions.

    The simplest way to quantify a state of advantage is by simply using a score to keep track of the various ways a player holds advantage. Negative scores can be used for states of disadvantage.


    [​IMG]
    :foxmelee: :jigglypuffmelee:
    1 Center Stage (+1) Off center (-1)
    2 Entering standing animation (+1) In shield (-1)
    3 Grounded (+1) Side-platform (-2)
    4 +3 -4

    For this specific situation, one can determine Jigglypuff is at a disadvantage. It's not a severe difference between the two, but there is a bit of an effect it can have on decision-making. If you continue watching the set you can clearly see Armada attempting to compound his advantage by zoning Hungrybox outward with various aerials. This causes Hungrybox to choose from within a smaller group of options, of which evasive movement is the least risky but still nets him disadvantage. With enough advantage, Armada maintains more freedom over his choice of actions while Hungrybox is slowly restricted.

    There are other situations in which you can apply this logic. Later on in that very same stock, Hungrybox attempts to hit Armada with B-air, but in his superior position (grounded, controlling center) Armada makes it more difficult for him to land the move. Instead, it whiffs within close range and Armada punishes with shine, as Hungrybox had just whiffed a move (even more negative score being in close quarters) and then swiftly takes the stock with an up smash upon chasing the missed tech.

    It's important for me to retiterate that this is NOT objective, and above all it's important to realize that it's not necessary to assign a number to every micro-situation in the game. I only brought the concept forward as a way for people to visualize certain scenarios. We can study how top players make decisions while they're at different periods of advantage. Breaking down interactions in neutral, active or passive, using advantage gives us greater insight into what's really happening.

    Advantage as a Decision-Making Tool
    After learning how to analyze various situations and how they affect advantage, you can then use the insight gained in order to select better options in-game with the goal of gaining more advantage in mind. Let's put ourselves in Marth's shoes for a moment.

    With control of center stage, Marth is dash dancing to maintain the space while Falcon has just recovered, beginning movement of his own. Knowing that Falcon is in a cornered position, the Marth player wavedashes toward them and F-smashes. Is this the right choice? The answer is mostly no, but the reasoning requires more explanation than simply "it's unsafe" or "slow." Risk-reward is an important property of every decision a player can make. The reward in this context is advantage, in the form of damage, stage, a change in state like knockdown, or a combination. Choosing an option with a good risk-reward ratio that fits the situation is the goal. The F-smash in this case certainly carries high risk, and the reward for landing a tipper is pretty high, but aren't there better ways to gain more advantage here?

    Falcon has a smaller amount of options to choose from in his disadvantageous position. Marth can exploit this in several ways:

    • Favorable position gives him control. Falcon is forced to act through Marth's space in order to gain a position of advantage. Marth has more opportunity to respond to Falcon initiating into his space.
    • If Falcon does not initiate, Marth can and he can do so in a manner which maintains control of his space. Whether the initiation scores a hit or not, Falcon is forced to respond from the unfavorable position and is in turn effected more by bad outcomes.
    • Marth has more advantage to "spend" in the form of stage. If he chooses, Marth can fall back to a position that might make Falcon choose a predictable tactic for retaking the space he's given back.
    All of this can change in an instant, but with the right knowledge, Marth can act with advantage in mind and choose a more suitable action than wavedash inward+F-smash. Meeting Falcon in the air with N-air as he jumps, preying on a hesitant initiation with wavedash forward D-tilt, baiting Falcon inward for a grab, are all examples that carry better risk-reward ratios. All of these choices will earn Marth a decent amount of reward while having fewer points of failure.

    Observing the change in advantage that occurs when you yourself are pressured or attacked can help you respond in a manner that mitigates your losses and offers you more chances at a favorable outcome later on in a given interaction. In the same example, let's imagine Marth chooses to act on Falcon first, initiating with wavedash forward D-tilt. Noticing he's lost his opportunity to act, Falcon reactively responds to his back being threatened with shield. From then on, Falcon can take note that if he doesn't initiate in time, then Marth will do so. He can play with this knowledge an meet Marth's next wavedash forward with a well-placed knee.


    III. Mental Neutral
    Strategy and Tactics
    A lot of people wonder what exactly contributes to the mental game of Melee. This is the part that sets everyone apart. It makes all players different in their own ways. Everyone has their own way of making decisions, whether those are mindful or not. Meaningful decision-making and gameplay ultimately revolves around strategy, or a "gameplan" which is executed by carrying out certain tactics. Hopefully what you've read so far has given you plenty to work with when it comes to designing your own.

    Your gameplan changes to suit your needs. Different matchups call for different sets of tactics, so you should build your strategy with that in mind, but there's another layer to it that has to be considered, and that's the tactics your opponent chooses. Here are some examples of common tactics for :falcomelee: that people use in neutral:

    • Lasers! Simple, effective passive interaction for zone control. Must jump
    • Initiations: Short hop D-air and N-air. Very fast, high priority moves for entering an opponents space. Must jump
    • Responses: D-air for badly spaced ground attacks. Shield. Can use the almighty D-air or B-air OOS to break assaults. Must jump
    Do you see a pattern? You can align your own set of tactics against theirs to rule out bad choices. Marth wouldn't want to wavedash forward D-tilt against Falco if he hasn't discouraged him from jumping yet. To show him why he shouldn't jump, Marth has to choose an initiation tactic that meets Falco in the air, one that is quick enough to defeat another laser attempt. Marth's N-air does this amazingly well while also defeating Falco's D-air/N-air range if spaced well. It can also be done OOS. So what does Marth's gameplan look like?
    1. Control zones threatened by Falco's jump by meeting him in the air (N-air)
    2. Exploit Falco's inferior ground movemet with D-tilt
    3. Respond to missed opportunities to meet Falco in the air by punishing landing (D-tilt or Grab)
    4. Throw him up and kill him
    All of this is applicable to every member of the cast. High tier characters are considered better because their tactics are more effective and more numerous than the others. Sheik players like to initiate on the ground by sliding in with F-tilt or by blasting forward with dash attack/boost grab. Samus players can play responsively with their powerful crouch cancel, turning their opponent's momentum against them. Luigi weaves in and out with wavedash, using his great ground burst movement to initiate with jab->d-smash or grab. Select your primary actions based on those of your opponent's. Study how those actions interact with not just your moveset, but the way your moveset is used to interact with different zones. The simplest example is already mentioned in the fact that Marth's D-tilt doesn't work on Falco's controlled zone because he's usually jumping.

    The reason why watching VODs of your own gameplay is such a strong tool for learning is because you can examine the tactics you are least effective against and train your ability to deal with them until they are no longer a liability. Adaptation revolves around doing this very thing within the match itself, while also keeping in mind what your opponent is responding with and searching for ways to defeat that all at the same instant.

    Habits and Autopilot
    A player develops a habit whenever they commonly select the same action or series of actions. This can happen when they're not playing mindfully, or it can be a deeper tendency that takes longer to discover. Any time a player executes a certain interaction similarly without choosing a different action to suit the situation can be seen as habitual.

    As a Marth player, I myself have wrestled with several habits that come from having such a powerful grab. Choosing grab as a secondary action without being mindful of it can cause many stocks to be canceled and a less knowledgeable version of my brain to fill with many question marks. Grab after D-tilt was the worst offender. I would go for it regardless of whether it was going to work or not because of all the grinding I'd done on a specific player it happened to work on. After learning the concepts I've wrote on, I've managed to escape habits like this by specifically putting thought into secondary actions and why they succeed or fail.

    Any interaction you're in can be broken down into that series of primary/secondary actions. The player I developed the habit on would always shield after getting hit with D-tilt and try to wavedash back. Getting hit offered them no primary, so their secondary was always shield/wavedash. When I faced a player who mixed up their OOS options, I promptly got destroyed.

    I feel like autopilot happens when you play so absent-mindedly that you're not even choosing your primary actions with much thought. It isn't the end of the world; playing in autopilot actually has its own merits. Everyone has had times where they're just chilling out and playing friendlies with their buds, relaxing with their favorite game of all time, but it's important to realize you learn mostly nothing from autopilot.

    Conditioning
    Repeatedly offering a way for someone to respond to your actions is known as conditioning. It's a powerful tool for mind-gaming. Knowing that any interaction begins with primary actions and is then carried out with secondary actions, you can intentionally encourage a player to choose secondary actions that leave them susceptible to a choice of your own.

    My old D-tilt->Grab habit is actually a great example of something you can use as a Marth player after actively conditioning them to remain in shield by simply repeating D-tilt the first few times. If an opponent falls into a temporary habit and begins staying in shield every time they're hit, they're liable to getting grabbed. Fox's shield pressure is another great example of this, and is why shine-grab is so powerful. You can condition someone to roll out of shield pressure by landing shine-grab any time they neglect to, punishing the roll instead.

    I've been writing this for a few days now, and I'd like to go ahead and post it for you all to read. I do intend to revisit these concepts so I can refine and add onto them as I continue to learn, especially regarding Section III. I would really like to add more pictures/tables to some sections that will help explain certain concepts. I hope you all learned something useful. Feedback is very welcome. Thank you for reading!
     
    #1 A_Reverie, May 14, 2016
    Last edited: May 16, 2016
  2. AugsEU

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    Nice work man.
     
  3. Geenareeno

    Geenareeno
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    Really great write-up, much appreciated
     
  4. Dark Byte

    Dark Byte
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    Good job on this mate. I played on auto pilot for years and it took me forever to realize that there was even another way to play the game. Seeing this post back when I was a beginner would have been very helpful. Bad habits, or "finger patterns" as my friends and I call them, can be beaten by simply practicing more and making sure that all of your options are well rehearsed. If you know lots of different approaches and timing mix ups, you are less likely to resort to doing the same thing over and over. Instead, you can cycle through and figure out what order to do things in for the best chance of winning your exchanges. The more I improve, the better feel I have for where to mix in shine grabs, do a grab/tilt after a tomahawk jump, approach with a full hop, etc.
     
    #4 Dark Byte, May 14, 2016
    Last edited: May 14, 2016
  5. Prez08

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    Great read! I love reading on the different takes on Melee's neutral game. Your concepts (initiation, passive/active interactions) were palpable ways to define something as complicated as the neutral game. Thanks for posting!

    Now, time to watch some vids in slow motion with VLC :D
     
  6. Signia

    Signia
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    Advantage is not "having more options." What if all your options suck?

    Advantage is when your options are better, as in they have better risk/reward. More technically, you have the advantage when the theoretical Nash Equilibrium strategy, which is the optimal mix of options and their optimal frequency of usage without taking into account what your opponent's mixed strategy is, gives you a better expected payoff than your opponent's. Basically, you're in a probabilistically better scenario than your opponent assuming both players are playing optimally. That's if you're talking about a situation regardless of the players involved. Obviously, a player that is playing closer to optimal or in a way that counters the opponent's mixed strategy will have the advantage even if the situation itself is not advantageous theoretically.

    "Having more options" is just a single way that you might have the advantage, since what you really mean is "having more VIABLE options and the options are MORE VIABLE."

    Anyway, that's just one place this write-up is lacking. You've defined some useful distinctions well but others not so well and it's all without proper fundamental grounding, requiring a million examples. It's very 2008 Smashboards, actually. It's all been done before: http://smashboards.com/threads/zoning-spacing-and-other-fundamentals.302678/

    Sweet summer child... you are not ready to be making write-ups. You've only been playing Melee seriously for a little over a year! You need less writing, more reading:

    DOMINATION 101

    http://risingthunder.wikia.com/wiki/Domination_101_(article_series) <-convenient list

    The genesis of the fighting game thought.

    "A lot of the concepts–even the basics of how we understand fighting game strategy today–had never been analyzed or even written down before. Looking back, I’m surprised at how the concepts and even the terminology has stuck around to today. Of course it could have been done better, but at that time nobody was talking like that about fighting games or thinking about things systematically.

    It’s not like people were talking about controlling space or explaining the Ume-Shoryu at the time–it just wasn’t happening. Much like now, the discussion was centered around particular things like wake-up strategies for a certain character, or option selects, with nobody really talking about what it meant in general, or the way psychology (beyond simple yomi) factors into the match."

    -Seth Killian

    The neutral game but for japanese martial arts.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maai
    http://avirokahkarate.blogspot.com/2011/04/maai-effective-distance.html
    http://www.aikiweb.com/techniques/skoss1.html
    https://kendoinfo.wordpress.com/2010/07/08/thoughts-on-maai-prompted-by-chiba-sensei’s teaching/

    A decent analysis off the top of my head that relates to Melee:
    http://alexspuffstuff.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_24.html

    And of course there's more out there. "rarely expanded upon" my ***.
     
    Pauer and Melee Mewtwo like this.
  7. A_Reverie

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    Semantics. This goes without saying when I mentioned when someone has "more options." I'm not including options that are obviously unviable when I mention maintaining advantage, but I will amend my post to be more specific.

    I wasn't attempting to claim that the analysis of neutral has never been done before, just not to the same extent as other fields of the game such as punish. Even the concepts in the post you linked were ones I specifically intended to expand upon. Even that post you linked uses vague terminology to describe spacing concepts. I believe it can be narrowed down even further through examining the different thought processes that go into "closing the gap" or in being "forced to approach." The distinctions I've made here are only the beginning of what I've come up with and my intention was simply to share.

    While I appreciate feedback, there's really no reason to be so condescending. Normally I wouldn't respond to comments like this, but it simply serves no use but to attempt to belittle me for having played for a shorter time than you deem necessary to pen ideas down. There are many more resources for Melee players to use in their improvement these days, and the growth I've achieved in a year (that many others have achieved as well) is different than that of a year's experience in 2010.

    Writing is creative, and it is an awesome tool that allows someone's ideas to become more concrete. I wrote this guide for myself just as much as I wrote it to share with others.

    There is a time and place for the concepts featured in Domination 101. I've read it before and my post has nothing to do with mindset, so I question whether or not you actually read my post.

    This post was written specifically within the scope of Melee and its gameplay. Everything you linked is great stuff that everyone should read, but it doesn't help anyone who has trouble applying the concepts in those links to Melee itself.

    TL;DR - Melee neutral can be broken down even further than it has been in the links you provided. I'm just trying to get the ball rolling.
     
    #7 A_Reverie, May 16, 2016
    Last edited: May 16, 2016
  8. -ACE-

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    @Signia what did you expect really? He's trying to help explain the most under discussed and most important aspect of melee. It's a deep subject and there is no perfect approach or answer. I respect the users that contribute to the community.
     
  9. Signia

    Signia
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    It's not under-discussed at all. It's been done before in much better ways, that's why I linked some random blog that does it better. I don't think a "perfect" approach really makes sense but it sure as hell isn't subjective, either. Some guides are better than others. Not everyone deserves a pat on the back just for typing a whole lot (jesus, 4927 words).

    On it's own it's whatever but it's part a long ongoing pattern of misinformation, not-quite-accurate information, and useless and vague invention of terminology and abstractions. There's a quite a bloat of relatively new players putting out their 3-5k word theses.

    Be honest. Did you actually read all of that? Listen to this nonsense:

    "Repeatedly offering a way for someone to respond to your actions is known as conditioning. It's a powerful tool for mind-gaming."

    That is not the full scope of conditioning, why make up such a specific definition when most people should already know about https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operant_conditioning. It already has a definition, don't share your nooby understanding of it!

    "Choosing grab as a secondary action without being mindful of it can cause many stocks to be canceled and a less knowledgeable version of my brain to fill with many question marks. "

    WTF? Stock cancelling, I gotta learn that one.

    "A player develops a habit whenever they commonly select the same action or series of actions. This can happen when they're not playing mindfully, or it can be a deeper tendency that takes longer to discover. Any time a player executes a certain interaction similarly without choosing a different action to suit the situation can be seen as habitual."

    No ****! If English is your first language then you already know what a habit is.

    "Advantage as a Decision-Making Tool
    Blah blah blah"

    "Quantifying Advantage"

    Really think nobody has tried to do this before? There is an entire field of study that has already laid the groundwork for you (game theory).

    I could go on a lot longer.

    Yes, I realize I am ****ting on a teenager's 5k word manifesto, but it has to be done.
     
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  10. -ACE-

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    @Signia So you expected the world from melee discussion, I see now. Your smashboards experience must have been riddled with disappointment over the years, lol. Also, neutral game isn't discussed as much or to the same degree as edgeguarding, punish game, defense, spacing, etc etc... So I'm not sure how you can say it's not under-discussed considering its importance. But I'll let you get back to fighting the good fight, you seem to really need this one.

    :denzel:
     
    MartinWolfe686 likes this.
  11. Signia

    Signia
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    Ho oh yeah, I've been disappointed plenty of times. There's like, one useful active thread to me on this entire board. This recent era of people talking about optimizing strategy and making real tutorial and tech videos and not silly "combo videos" is way over due. Day 1 in Soul Calibur I was getting useful info on their forums, and surprise surprise, the meta healthily progressed and I got good at the game. I only check rarely, but there is maybe one thing worth reading every year on Smashboards, and I can tell because garbage like this gets praise. Y'all are a joke, and it's fun to **** on half-baked theory, the kind that used keep me a bad player. It's like reading the "I don't understand why Ganon is in the middle of the tiers" copy paste for the first time again and again. I need to win this fight? I'm just having fun.

    You still haven't answered my question though, did you read the whole thing before defending it? I doubt you did Mr. cool black smoker guy.

    Anyway, to anyone reading this, if you want to improve and learn cool things about yourself and the game, read ****in anything but smashboards! The stuff I linked, Inner Game of Tennis, Flow, blogs like DruggedFox's and Wobbles and even that rando Milwaukee puff player. Maybe read Magus post history and top player advice threads.
     
  12. -ACE-

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    Lol. Classic.

    :denzel:
     
  13. A_Reverie

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    Lol @Signia for what it's worth, I'm nearly 25 years old.
     
  14. TheMrL

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    WOAAAHHH PUPPY!!! I am VERY upset I didn't meet you a few months ago. You made EXCELLENT remarks in your posts I mean, they would have been STUPENDOUS for when I was studying for finals in my final year of a 7 year degree in *******-ology (at Yale no less) embarassingly, I passed with only a 77%, but had I met you prior I could expect a 95 or higher. There are, essentially, two types of ******** important to studies. The Ignoramus, and the Jerkus-diplococcus. This masters degree isn't for nothing, you are clearly an ignoramus. You are quite experianced as well, it would seem. Never once have I read of one of your kind who could so quickly miss the entire point of a post, and veer it off track to criticize irrelevant pieces. And the precision with how you executed these insults. You certainly aren't a mountain troll prepped with "your mom" or "*******". You've clearly come equipped with the best of your aresenal, discrete referances to vague places with "better" information on the "same" subject. And the name calling. You beautifully avoided points and executed a frame perfect insult counter attack. You used a perfect mix of rude, vulgar swears and childish "play fight" insults to keep your opponent guessing. Oh, Oh, and comparing two games with 0 similarities, and claiming the entirety of smashboards is "garbage" or "a joke". Beautiful. However, this is where I question your experiance in Ignoramustry. You have done a newfie, newfie mistake, in claiming a thing or place trash, yet you reside there and repeatedly reply. Tsk, TSK. If not for that, I may have given you the prize


    Also, @Signia you talked very highly of the soul calibur community. However, I can 100% call you out on your lies. Because, if you are so involved in it, it obviously has to have a bottom tier community.
     
    #14 TheMrL, May 17, 2016
    Last edited by a moderator: May 17, 2016
  15. Virusbleumage

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    Signia is a very valued and respected member of the community. His endless knowledge, superhuman wisdom, and unparalleled helpfulness to top players and newcomers alike have earned him a status that can only be matched by God himself. He's also really cool. Don't believe me? Look at this quote from him:

    "right now you look to be embarrassingly wrong."

    Some people like to discourage newcomers and point out their mistakes, but not Signia. He makes them feel welcomed and sets them on the path to enlightenment. If he was any nicer I know for a fact he would personally adopt some of the people that need help around here.

    Signia is also primarily a smash 4 player, which aids in his ability to give melee advice. But when he's not in the smash 4 boards, he's unleashing a flood of knowledge that could knock down the Great Wall:

    Even I learned something from him. All this time, I was under the impression that the Earth revolved around the Sun. Boy, was I stupid. Clearly, it rotates.

    Here are some more great posts by him for all you non-believers:

    And this is only from the melee boards. Imagine his contributions to smash 4. Better yet, don't imagine that. Spare yourself the mental strain. His knowledge and helpfulness cannot be fathomed by mortals.
     
    A_Reverie likes this.
  16. Hunybear

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    Evidence.zip


    In any which case amazing post by @A_Reverie
     
    #16 Hunybear, May 17, 2016
    Last edited: May 17, 2016
  17. xXadevs2000Xx

    xXadevs2000Xx
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    @Signia

    Oh thanks babe, here's my post on how Marth's can optimize their techchase game on missed tech by utilizing CC to open up potential for combos, grabs and kill options <3
    http://smashboards.com/threads/guide-marth-cc-to-techchase-missed-tech.435135/#post-21102218


    And how dare you all insult the great Signia, with at least 7 years of useful Melee experience that puts him above all of you!
    He is the definition of optimal, every action of his is purposeful and deliberate.

    I watched one set of his, and I saw the light.
    https://youtu.be/5XoiwYBefBk?t=17s
    You can see that he has mastered the "triangle jump" ability and is utilizing it to throw off his opponent!

    https://youtu.be/5XoiwYBefBk?t=22s
    Tournament winner, because Signia knows how to win a tournament.
    OPTIMAL GAMEPLAY

    https://youtu.be/5XoiwYBefBk?t=24s
    Let's not forget that amazing tool in Marth's arsenal, usmash. Truly, Signia has mastered the most useful of all of Marth's tools to the fullest.

    Now, this is only 25 seconds into the video, but we can already see how Signia's experience has lead him to optimize his gameplay far above anyone else's.
    All of this indeed gives him the profoundness and capability to be a complete ****.
     
    #17 xXadevs2000Xx, May 17, 2016
    Last edited: May 17, 2016
  18. -ACE-

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    Well I can certainly see why Signia needs a good neutral game guide.

    Also, @Virusbleumage killing me with that "earth ROTATES around the Sun" line... Lmao.

    :denzel:
     
    #18 -ACE-, May 17, 2016
    Last edited: May 17, 2016
  19. the wizard howl

    the wizard howl
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    I think that a lot of the vocabulary you've put forth is too vague or too far from game mechanics. Because of this a lot of it is inefficient or incomplete. The goal for any writing about a game should be to achieve a vocabulary that is useful, comprehensive, and efficient. This vocabulary set isn't especially any of these.
    Signia is rude but he isn't wrong on many points.
    Your quantifying advantage section is the most interesting proposition but I don't think it's a well-built model because it doesn't stand up to nuance (e.g. being on side platform is not a meaningful disadvantage for puff much of the time) and in order to be strictly accurate you'd have to add too many more variables to easily calculate. That's a good illustration for the shortcomings of many of these assumptions.
     
    Regralht and Melee Mewtwo like this.
  20. A_Reverie

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    I agree with your criticisms. I do believe I could have been more specific on a lot of things, but again the goal of this post was not to be the be-all-end-all of anything. Writing it at all has already helped my game immensely. I sought to try to set certain actions apart from others because it's harder to determine why players at top level do a move by just simply looking at it. My goal here was to get the ball rolling on using different terms to explain the whys and hows. It's work I'll continue to refine but I believe I've made a good start.

    Regarding advantage, the numbers I listed are not objective. The negatives I assigned to Puff weren't meant to be considered as "meaningful disadvantage" but the fact remains that it does change the way Puff acts, even if it's just a slight degree. I was just showing how different factors contribute to this change. You are correct in the sense that in that matchup it's not a major change.
     
    #20 A_Reverie, May 18, 2016
    Last edited: May 18, 2016
  21. -ACE-

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    The criticisms may be true, but I could point out flaws in just about any guide to neutral game. It's such a deep subject that any guide's #1 goal shouldn't be to lay out all the "answers" but to get people thinking in the right direction. All the top players approach neutral differently and all of them see success. This is still a great contribution to the community and people who take the time to and effort to write up guides like this should be shown at least some degree of respect. Neutral game isn't learned overnight, you need to be constantly learning and applying principles and methods, experimenting, and continuing to learn. Anything you can learn from is good.
     
  22. Signia

    Signia
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    Lol, sure, the point isn't being right, he deserves credit for those 5k words!

    I'll admit I'm being a ****, but please. That attitude is not in the competitive gaming spirit.

    @Virusbleumage LOL I played Smash 4 for like 3 months. And none of what you quoted was wrong aside from mixing up "rotating" and "revolving." Really grasping at straws, aren't you?

    @xXadevs2000Xx The only thing I learned from that guide was crouch cancel percents against getup attacks, so thanks, I guess.

    About that match video, I was coming off of a bit of a hiatus, and you won't find any of my Melee play that's recorded that I would consider exemplary. Not that I'm very good... but my understanding comes from players far better than you or me and with the help of good old solid logic. And when you are talking about the neutral game, you are not just talking about Melee, you are talking about human perception, which is why similar versions of the neutral game have been conceived in martial arts and other fighting games. Anyway, Melee is not even my main game, try some other videos (where I am still usually recorded losing, but in top 8). At least I am decent at something...
     
  23. xXadevs2000Xx

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    https://gfycat.com/WiltedWellgroomedAfricanwildcat

    plz


    Irrelevant to me and I don't care.


    Understanding should lead to greater gameplay.


    Irrelevant to me and I don't care.


    Sure, go do your self gratification somewhere else, it's not relevant to the topic.
     
  24. -ACE-

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    I've seen some of your posts in the Marth boards, lol. You're rarely right, often a ****, and usually command respect for no apparent reason. It's pretty funny since your gameplay and game knowledge are sub par to say the least. And you get mad af when someone else gets a tiny bit of praise, acting like a little b**** lol. Congrats on thinking you're the only one that can point out flaws in a guide to neutral game. I'm sure you'd write your own guide if you were good or smart enough.

    :denzel:
     
  25. Signia

    Signia
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    Came back here to say: it's worth noting that my criticisms pulled nothing from my Melee knowledge. So my skill level at Melee is irrelevant.

    Not necessarily, you still have to be able to apply what you know and execute what you want to do. Classic theory fighter pitfall.

    You criticized me for my skill level, was THAT relevant to the topic? And now it's irrelevant when I defend myself? LOL

    @-ACE- Hah, resorting to name-calling. Nice job attacking everything BUT what points I'm making. Ayyy that's a tu quoque, even if I've said dumb stuff, that doesn't mean it's okay when he does it! And who's the "b****" here?? You're just whining about my tone and running from the argument by attacking my character.

    Someone saying something dumb isn't alarming to me, they can just be dumb. When people agree with them and nobody is going to correct them, then I feel the need to say something.

    And yeah, I'm a scrub at Melee, that's why I'm not writing Melee guides! That's the point!
     
    #25 Signia, May 20, 2016
    Last edited: May 20, 2016
  26. xXadevs2000Xx

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    So what was going through your mind when you made that usmash, tournament winner or triangle jump?


    Just found it funny that you were talking about optimizing gameplay and the first VOD I find from your was like that lmao


    Well you appear to claim superior neutral knowledge, so go enlighten someone.
     
  27. -ACE-

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    @Signia maybe you should re-read. You were the one whining about the OP, and I never called you a b****, I said you were acting like one.

    :denzel:

    Wonder why it says I got a warning for this post when really, I got a 2 point infraction. Interesting!
     
    #27 -ACE-, May 20, 2016
    Last edited: May 21, 2016
  28. Cyndane

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    Please stop the flaming/trolling. First and only warning. If the conversation can not move forward, I will lock it.
     

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