Sunday, May 2, 2010

Going back to school...

Super Street Fighter 4 was, among other things, released in Australia on my birthday. I have only just recently won my first ever Super Street Fighter 4 fight online. It was against an equally ranked Korean dude using the character Juri.

Here is the video:

I was both incredibly noob and unskillful, but nevertheless I am proud of it. For me it was the most intense and satisfying achievement in gaming in the past year or so. It took me an embarrassing number of tries to get there but I finally beat someone. I am now on the ranked global ladder.

It is really quite bizarre. Amongst my closest friends I would probably be considered reasonable at the game. Certainly able to beat most of them without a hitch. I go online and I get completely and utterly destroyed. The difference in skill between my friends, myself and the average online player is astounding. Despite the fact they are usually rated 1000+ (as opposed to my measly 56 or something), fighting against them feels like an uphill battle from the first move to the part when I am dying in a ball of fire or flying off the screen into oblivion. It is like an entirely new game, one in which I am at the bottom of the food chain.

I remember this feeling. The looking at losing screens again and again, while obviously irritating, does stir an enjoyable competitive fire in one's soul. The knowledge that you are playing an extremely skill based game and that you are not exactly that great at it. Indeed, the last time this happened was nearly a decade ago, back in the year 2000...

The game was Unreal Tournament.

I was what you would call an FPS noob in those days. I was foolish in thinking that control over mouse and keyboard was skill enough. Half-life singleplayer and UT against bots were no trouble, surely human players wouldn't be an issue? Wrong. First online deathmatch game? Bottom of the list. And again. And again. And again.

Oh eventually I got better. Generally speaking I would say I am decent at hardcore FPS games in general. But it was a long road taking many months. Even though I have had breaks I can still come back and cause some serious issues for veteran players of them (eg. Quake Live).

Although I do not plan on taking SSFIV too seriously, it is refreshing and astonishing to find that it is a game where the skill ceiling is far greater than I initially thought. Significantly greater, in fact. For example, the video below shows a typical method for landing Ryu's Ultra successfully on enemy players. This method is said to be pioneered by the professional Japanese fighting game world champion Daigo Umeharo, the Beast.

It may not look like much, but this player is pulling off a light shoryuken, focus attack, dash cancel into 2x quarter circle forward All punch. That is seven individual movements and approximately seventeen 'buttons' (both directional and attack based) being registered all in under a second. Beethoven much?

I will never be able to do that, at least on the default controller. It is just interesting to see quite visually how a professional gamer plays a fighting game as opposed to John 'fAtality' Wendel in a game like Quake 3. There is a big visual difference relating to both mental and physical precision and dexterity. Two elements I admittedly lack when playing any sort of game.

A friend of mine, one who I consider to be one of the best gamers I know, has again started training his mental agility in the form of playing Ut2k4 against progressively higher scaling bots. It is interesting to see as he posts his results as it is something I would like to try out with SSFIV on hardest difficulty. Although I am certain I will get trounced, it will definitely help towards both becoming a better player and (to a degree) a better person too. There is nothing more humbling than losing again and again only for it to pay off and for you to eventually succeed. Who ever said games never taught people the harsh rules of life were wrong. Or drunk.

Despite all this, there is some less pro-gamer oriented news. A large number of my friends and myself have bought the excellent tower defense game Sol Survivor off Steam (some earlier than others). At a mere $10, it has provided more hours of easily coop-able entertainment than some larger brand titles I have bought in the past. It is definitely worth picking up if you feel like some light casual/social gaming at a relaxed pace.

And last but not least, Starcraft 2 Beta. A good friend of mine encouraged me to pre-order the game from EB and providing 85% of the necessary files, I was able to install it without a problem. I am getting some strange frame-skipping every few seconds however, but you cannot not expect that in a Beta. So far I am stuck between two worlds. Part of me wants to argue that Blizzard took nearly 7 years to make a game that to me looks like the original game with a 3D facelift. The other part is saying to stick it out, learn a race (currently Zerg) and try it out competitively. Maybe I will grow to love it. Strategy games have never been my forte so I do not expect to do brilliantly ... but we will see. Oh yes, we will see.....

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