Mashing: Rote Memory vs System Mastery

Many players of fighting games and beat em up games start out by mashing. When you have 2-6 attack buttons, it can be hard to tell the difference between moves, so you might as well press buttons and hope something good comes out. A better player will understand when to use each move, but a worse one will see a large movelist, say “nah, pass” and just mash it out.

Some games are designed to actually facilitate and reward this type of mashing, games with strings (a sequence of unique moves activated by pressing buttons in a specific order). By mashing the buttons, you’ll accidentally end up doing all sorts of moves, and since neither you nor your opponent has any idea what you’re about to do, that makes you unpredictable, and ironically more effective in a genre that is advanced rock paper scissors.

It’s easy for intermediate level players to shut down this sort of play by simply blocking and waiting for an unsafe move to punish, or by throwing out “knowledge check” moves that require a specific counter (you can also call this spamming). However among beginners, it can allow them to develop a surprising level of basic competency at the game. They might be throwing moves out randomly at first, but sometimes they see something cool happen, and remember the feeling in their hands when they got that, allowing them to iterate and repeat it. Also helpful is these games list the strings in the move list, so beginners can learn a string as easily as checking.

For many beginners, these strings are literally what combos are. They’ll call them “combos”, not knowing there’s a larger combo system in the game. In a way, this is really helpful for beginners, compared to other games, because strings don’t involve tight timing, and are listed right there.

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Critique of Super Smash Brothers Melee Review and Analysis

The slowness of the switch between Zelda and Sheik is not an engine limitation. Both characters have their files loaded when the game begins, so that they’re both in memory and switching happens as fast or slow as the actual animation. This is not true in Brawl however, where the other character is loaded on the spot.

The example of mewtwo’s up throw killing captain falcon sooner than fox is a bad one, because throws do not differ their level of knockback based on character weight. Weight only affects the length of the throw animation. For mewtwo’s up throw, the only character-specific factor that affects how far the character goes is their gravity, not their weight. A more accurate example would have been a move like fox’s up smash, where both weight and gravity can affect it. Continue reading

What’s different about Fox and Falco’s shines?

What do you think of Fox and Falco’s shines? How do they differ? Some say the ability is overpowered. Is it?

Fox’s is a lot bigger. Falco’s is much smaller. Fox’s hits at a horizontal angle. Falco’s hits straight up. Fox’s has fixed knockback. Falco’s has knockback growth.

Both come out frame one. Both are invincible frame 1. Both have the reflection hitbox come out frame 3. Both slow down the character’s fall speed in the air. Both can be jump canceled on frame 4. Both allow the character to turn around during them.

Basically, Fox’s is way better. It allows him to shinespike people, and its fixed knockback means it always combos regardless of percentage. Plus, he has a 3 frame jumpsquat, so his pressure with shine can be a lot tighter than falco’s 5 frame jumpsquat. And waveshine combos into up smash. Continue reading

Throws in Smash Bros

What do you think of the way throws work in the Smash Bros series?

There’s nothing else like it in any game I’ve seen, except Skullgirls with Beowolf, and I guess King in Tekken.

Lemme just describe how it works, basically, once you get a grab, the other player is held in front of you in a grapple, instead of instantly thrown like in most other fighting games. In this state, there is a timer that counts down until the other guy is released, the timer is longer relative to how high percentage is. (and if the guy is holding up or presses jump, then they’ll jump upwards when released) The player who is grabbed can reduce the duration of this timer by mashing buttons (I hear the best method is to spin the control stick, varies by game since Brawl and Smash 4 handle inputs differently). Once the timer runs out, you’re released as soon as it’s possible. So past a certain point, mashing out of icies wobble is pointless, you’ll escape automatically if they mess up. Continue reading

Smash Bros Move-Staling is Pointless

Any thoughts on move-staling in Smash?

I don’t think it serves a real design purpose. It weakens repeated attacks, which can make the effect of attacks subtly inconsistent, changing the amount of damage, knockback, and shieldstun. The thing is, there’s really no need to make repeated attacks weaker. Making repeated attacks weaker doesn’t prevent any type of degenerate play, it doesn’t encourage any specific tactical plays that are beneficial for the game overall, or add a significant situational factor that can be taken advantage of in the moment like stun.

It mildly discourages using the same move a lot, a tactic that many people would call spamming, but the thing is, there’s nothing wrong with spamming. If using the same move works versus your opponent, then you should keep doing it, not be forced by the system to use other moves to keep your useful moves powerful.

And stale moves can interfere with a lot of things, like it changes the knockback threshold on moves that will cause knockdown versus not, it can change shield stun, making safe on shield moves unsafe.

Thankfully the effect of stale moves in Melee is so small that it can largely be ignored, and PM had the good sense to remove the knockback component of stale moves completely. In Brawl however stale moves had a more extreme effect on knockback, enough that if you played a character like fox, it was recommended you only hit with the second hit of up air to kill, because the first hit would invoke scaling, reducing kill potential. Smash 4 has reduced the effect of stale moves, sitting it somewhere between Melee and Brawl, so it’s probably more tolerable in that game, but in general I don’t think it’s something that has a place in Smash Bros.

In a good fighting game, there doesn’t need to be a regulatory system preventing you from using duplicate moves, because in a good fighting game, using the same move repeatedly is a bad idea because it opens you up to be countered by your opponent.

Notably, Skullgirls has a mildly similar system in its game, the IPS, preventing you from using the same move to start a combo more than once, but of course this doesn’t mean that any of the moves in that game are situationally weaker in the neutral game, it just prevents you from doing infinites and practically nothing else. Using systems like this makes a lot more sense for limiting the length/strength of combos in traditional fighters than anything in Smash Bros, which doesn’t have issues with combo length.

Stale moves just feels like a design loose end trying to fix a problem that didn’t need fixing.

PlayStation All-Stars & Building a Good Smash Clone

What are your thoughts on Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale?

I played it a long time ago, so I’m going off memory now.

It’s competently made, but it doesn’t copy enough from smash or do enough of its own thing to really work.

All the stages with moving parts only go through their transitions once. No looping. So if the match is longer than a certain duration, the stage will end its routine long before that. At least there’s an option to turn off hazards, I wish Smash Bros implemented that without completely shitting the bed like in Smash 4. Continue reading

How Come Melee’s Still Kicking?

How come Melee is still around in tournaments like EVO but not Street Fighter III? They’re both deep games, but only Melee is still being played today at EVO. Why? Is it a lack of interest in SF III?

That’s because fighting games and smash have different histories. In Fighting Games, everyone always plays the new one. Only the new one gets to be on stage at Evo and other majors. Sometimes the new one is worse than the old ones, but it’s usually not that much worse.

Smash Bros had a critical fracturing of the community when Brawl happened. Literally the entire community split in half. No other fighting game has been as big a disappointment as brawl, except maybe SFxT. People felt actively spited by the creator, and they still do to this day, because Sakurai spites us. Oh, he’s proud that his games are played competitively? Great, he also tells us to go play Virtua Fighter if we want a challenge. Continue reading

Marth Guide

How do I git gud with Marth on Project M? Annd how the fuck do I Ken Combo properly, the dair seems to have gigantic input lag and it never lets me recover until I’m halfway below the stage’s pit.

Follow Melee guides to Marth. Of all PM characters, Marth functions the most identically to his Melee incarnation and requires the least adjustment. The only big difference is dair has a really short landing lag time, so it’s more useful as a launcher. Continue reading

The Strategy in Edgehogging

Can you explain why edgehogging has more depth than ledge trumping?

Basically, edgehogging is a part of a complicated rock-paper-scissors loop, and edge trumping lacks most of that dynamic. Edgehogging basically means, you can only hold the ledge for a certain period of time maximum, the combination of your ledge invincibility time, and your roll animation. So your goal is to maximize this coverage by grabbing the ledge as late as possible, and rolling right as they try to get up onto the ledge.

This is complicated because many characters have stalling options that can wait out your ledge invincibility time, or your roll. So you might press the button too early, because you expect the opponent to go up right then, but in reality, they had another jump or alternative air stall option left, so they can wait out your roll. You essentially need to predict the timing they’ll return to the stage. Early, normal, or late. On the early side, frequently they’ll attempt to directly attack you as they’re coming up, so you can’t get down to the ledge in time at all. This whole thing is a timing mixup.

It gets more complicated when you factor in that most of the time, it’s possible to return to the stage, you’re not forced to grab the ledge low. So then the mixup is, can they make it back to the stage or not? Will they try to make it back to the stage or not? If there’s a possibility of them making it back to the stage, then if you roll on-stage, then you’ll sacrifice the advantage time you need to send them back off again. So there’s this element of valuation: How far can my opponent go in their recovery? Are they being forced to recover low at all?

Then there’s the fact that you have two other ledge guard options you could be doing. Onstage edgeguards, or offstage edgeguards. These can be more effective than ledgehogging depending on the situation. Offstage edgeguards can mean you don’t need to guess about their recovery at all.

On-stage edge guards are particularly good in melee because melee has the sweet spot, and smash 4 has magnet hands. In Melee, to actually recover, you have this tiny space where you can grab the ledge and none of your body pokes up over the edge of the stage, so someone on-stage can’t hit you. In smash 4, you have magnet hands that catch the ledge if you’re anywhere in the vicinity of it, so on-stage edgeguards are useless. Doing an on-stage edgeguard takes less time than trying to set up the right edgehog, but it’s usually more of a crapshoot, since you’re relying on your opponent to mess up. It’s possible to use a falling aerial that pokes down into the sweetspot zone to hit your opponent, but this is again a timing mixup.

Also worth noting is that PM reduced the ledge occupancy time of the roll, which I think is appropriate. It was just a little too good in melee, allowing you to cover both timing options frequently, where in PM it can only feasibly cover 1 usually.

Marth’s Side B is an air stall, so I use this all the time to sneak up onto ledge after someone rolls.

Marth’s Throw Followups

What’s the best way to use Marth’s throws in Melee/PM? As in, a couple of good examples for each throw? I often end up just using uthrow

Alright, I’ve mapped out Marth’s throw combos and setups rather thoroughly. Basically, Fthrow gets the most frame advantage, dthrow is like a reverse Fthrow with a worse angle and worse advantage time, bthrow is nearly useless, uthrow gets guaranteed combos on all applicable characters. Combos are not guaranteed with any other throw, except fthrow under specific circumstances. So Uthrow is your respect option. It gets the worst followups (on most characters), but it’s guaranteed regardless of their DI. All of Marth’s throws are so fast that they’re unreactable. It’s hard to react to how fast marth can grab and throw you, it’s impossible to react to which throw he decides to use. Uthrow is great on spacies. Fthrow and Dthrow are great on floaties. I recommend dthrow for super heavy characters. Bthrow is good for sending people onto platforms when you want to do platform setups at high percentages and almost nothing else. Continue reading