Thursday, September 24, 2015

Tech Chasing!

Alright, it's about time I actually made a post about tech chasing. I'm sure lots of people want one, especially because it's *not* just applicable to sheik. Most characters have an application for tech chasing. Without further ado, let's begin...

First, some frame data. Tech in place lasts 26 frames, and tech rolls last 40 frames. This does not change based on the character. Grab hits on frame 7, which means to hit tech in place you can grab at the latest by frame 19. The other limiting factor is human reaction time, and I don't think any player is realistically capable of reacting before frame 18 on a very consistent basis. So to grab tech in place you need to be positioned close enough to their landing, and input grab on frame 18 or 19. The tech rolls are easier to hit since they take longer, provided that your character has a way to close the gap; in sheik's case I can boost grab, with marth and fox I can just dash into a JC grab, with peach I can dash attack etc. As the 20gx guys have mentioned, as long as you react by the frame 18 I just mentioned, falcon can even knee/stomp the tech roll away and behind, respectively.

There are many ways to tech chase effectively, and my best guess is that the more of them you are aware of, the better. At the very least, it can't hurt. So let's start by looking at the animations:

All 3 of fox's tech animations in real time:

Fox's forward tech:

Fox's backwards tech:

Fox's tech in place:

Miss tech is such a different animation than the others that I don't think you need to study images to recognize it. The character has no tech animation and there is a big green flash. I won't go into detail about how to cover it, because it is fairly character specific (both in terms of the character tech chasing, and the character being tech chased). At a later time I might write about it, or I could answer individual questions about it if anyone has them.

Note that in these images there's two major things you can pay attention to: 1) the animation/physical contortion of fox's body 2) the white and yellow lines that signify the tech. Studying these can be useful, and I am fairly certain that I at the very least subconsciously am aware of both of them.

Outside of using the actual animations, the other important way to approach tech chasing is by learning the timing/rhythm of the tech chase. So the key here is that after they hit the ground, you make a decision on frame 18 of their tech. A huge factor is that when you are watching a character tech and you are reacting, you just check if their character model is still in the same place they landed. If their character model hasn't changed physical locations during your reaction window *and* you see a tech animation at all, you know they must have teched in place. If by the end of your reaction window you realize the character is no where near their initial landing spot, you know it must have been some sort of tech roll. If you keep this in mind, then the real trick to tech chasing is learning the timing for what frame you need to make a decision.

One way of testing this is to go into 20xx's develop mode, and press y+down on dpad to turn on the animation counter. When you grab a fox with sheik let's say, down throw him and let him tech. Press start on the frame you think you need to react and would normally input grab for tech in place; if you are pausing on the 18th or 19th frame of the tech, you've found the timing! (in 20xx, this will be displayed as 17 and 18 because the game starts counting from 0, not 1)

The goal is to be able to consistently react on the correct frame. In that sense, tech chasing is as much of a rhythmic challenge as it is a reactionary challenge. Something I've been considering lately after talking to Dizzkidboogie about wobbling is that music/a metronome could also be used to help with tech chasing! If you think of the frame they hit the ground as the first "beat" and frame 18 (the point in time you need to make a decision) as the second "beat" then that means there is a beat every 18 frames. 18/60 = 3/10, so a beat every 3/10 of a second, which is 10 beats every 3 seconds -->200 beats per minute (the same as wobbling, funnily enough).

For reference:

Alternatively, music at 200 bpm:

While tech chasing in 20xx, I experimented with having the metronome on during tech chasing. I discovered that the times I didn't grab the tech in place, I was clearly too slow with respect to the beat. When I focused harder on just matching the tempo no matter what, I found myself hitting the options more consistently. Of course there is some bias because I already know how to tech chase, but I can see this being a very useful tool for learning the rhythm of tech chasing. Of course, it is generally unlikely that the music/metronome's beat will match up perfectly with when the character hits the ground; ideally you have a good enough intrinsic sense of the beat that you can sort of mentally shift it appropriately.

So let's say you have the rhythm down, you recognize the animations, the whole there anything else? Absolutely! It might depend on your character, but let's take sheik's down throw as an example. One of the things that takes attention away from purely focusing on the tech animations is their DI on the actual throw. The faster you react to the DI they did on the throw, the more time you can spend focusing on the actual tech reaction. If they DI away you should walk towards their landing, if they land in front of you directly you should do nothing, and if they are going to land behind you then you should turn around. With various slight DIs this can be ambiguous, but enough practice will help you recognize which side they will land on better and better. Improving your reaction to the DI on down throw as sheik is almost as important as being good at recognizing the techs; as I said, it takes up valuable mental focus for the reaction.

The last thing I will say is that my experience with tech chasing leads me to believe that discipline is one of the most important parts of this. People ask me how I got so good at it (even though I drop like half my tech chases in tournament LOL) or whether or not I would tech chase in a last stock situation where if I drop it I will die...the answer is yes, I will. The reason I'm better at it than everyone else is because I'm more committed to it; I'm willing to lose trying my best to do it, in hopes that I will eventually not mess it up. I've probably been tech in place shined more times than anyone in the entire history of the game, and that's not an exaggeration.

Have fun everyone, and happy tech chasing!

Monday, September 21, 2015

HTC Throwdown and Smash Society

Sorry I haven't posted in forever... I keep meaning to, but I can't seem to find a topic I really want to talk about. With HTC just finishing I have a lot to say, even if it's not about the game itself. So I want to take some time to talk about that as honestly as I can. A lot of my thoughts might seem arrogant or might not make sense to a viewer, but they're my honest interpretation of the events. This will be a pretty long post, the first part focusing on various social aspects, and the second part focusing on the actual gameplay. I'll label them, so feel free to skip around.

EDIT: On second thought, I'm just going to make this into two posts. I'll make this the social one, and make a separate one just about how I felt about my gameplay later on.

Social Stuff

First of all, what a crazy event! Props to the staff for efficiently running a huge (500?) man tournament in a single day; definitely unheard of in the tournament scene and that's absolutely amazing. Even though what I am about to say is a lot of negative stuff, let me be clear that what the TOs/staff accomplished here was nothing short of a miracle. Honestly, I did have a few personal complaints though, some about the tournament but more about the smash scene in general. First of all, I didn't get a VIP wristband despite HTC flying me out to the tournament .____. I mean I would totally understand if at some other tournament I didn't get one...I mean, who the fuck is druggedfox, right guys??? But when the ones throwing the tournament specifically paid for me to come, I feel like that's an inherent recognition of player skill. You could say it was an accident, but based on how I'm generally treated in the smash community it's unsurprising to me that this happened.

There's a ridiculous bias towards "top players" as well as an unfortunate social dynamic related to it. I talked to Jon (eBay, pgood falcon from Washington) about this a bit while at the tournament and he was so glad I pointed it out, wholeheartedly agreeing. People have known about me for years, but they have never acknowledged me. I don't mean acknowledged any sort of skill I may or may not have, I mean as a person. Prior to my performance at evo, do you think Leffen ever said hi to me as I passed by him? Do you think Shroomed ever stopped to have a conversation with me? I am *not* trying to put those specific players on blast; I was just giving examples to illustrate the concept. Note that these are situations where it would be considered fairly normal/expected for there to be some sort of social interaction; I'm not suggesting that they should arbitrarily go out of their way to do these things. I wouldn't mind this so much, if it wasn't for the fact that immediately following my evo performance...suddenly top level players *did* stop to talk to me. Even players I had never met would wave, say hello, strike up a conversation with me, etc. Obviously this is only a generalization and not true in every case by any means. A great example is s2j, who met me at Apex 2012 and talked to me a lot before ever playing me and knowing how good or not I was; I didn't see him again until we played at CEO 2015, and he acknowledged me and noted that he hadn't seen me in years, etc. Alternatively take Mango, who didn't talk to me before evo OR after evo LOOOL. But when we're both on stage, he'll take initiative to ask me questions or talk to me in a personable fashion.

Ignoring how smasher's treat each other and the VIP nonsense, let's look at seeding. The actual seeding used for the tournament, in my estimation, looked roughly like this:

1. Mango
2. Mew2king
3. Hungrybox
4. Leffen
5. Plup
6. Axe
7. PewPewU
8. Shroomed
9. Silent Wolf
10. Lucky
11. SFAT
12. MacD
13. S2j
14. Hugs
15. Colbol/Zhu
16. Wizzrobe
17. Druggedfox
18. Zhu/Colbol

I was told that Wizzy and I were supposed to be 15/16 (which means we wouldn't have to play round 1), and regardless of whether or not this was an honest mistake it really sucked. I'm good friends with Wizzy and teach him a lot of smash stuff, not to mention we are from Florida and Georgia and already play at some florida locals and various regionals. I can say with high certainty that such a regional/seeding consideration would not have been overlooked for someone in the top 8 seeds, for example.

This isn't the first negative experience I've had related (at least, imo) to my player skill. When I went to I'm Not Yelling there were various expectations of me as a player by the TOs/stream, but without any of the communication on their end that should have come along with it. I don't like being treated like less of a person because I'm perceived to be less of a player, but it's a consistent experience I have had in general.

Alright now let's talk about the crowd. I was so disappointed by the crowd at HTC, since the audience at a tournament is a huge part of the experience (for both the players and the audience). Never before have I seen so much emphasis on favoritism and regional bias, and so little love for GOOD GAMEPLAY. The crowd didn't make me play worse at HTC, it just made me sad (and it's not the first time I've experienced this, but it was the biggest offender for sure). Okay, I get it, I'm not from norcal, or even california. But when me vs colin happens and literally NOBODY cares even though it was one of the most insane sets of the just makes me so sad. He almost 4 stocked me. One game I read his attempt to gimp me and killed him with a needle at 0%. We just absolutely fucked each other up. Crazy comebacks were made, there were ridiculous suicides/risky attempts off stage on both ends. In any other context, this would be the shit that gets people hype. People WANT to see the crazy stuff. Nobody cared and it was just so depressing. I could do the sickest sheik shit, never seen before, everyone's quiet. I got waveshine upsmashed by silent wolf/sfat? Crowd goes nuts. It's just so fucking lame, and it's not even a sheik problem. I saw colin do tons of hype shit and nobody cared. Nobody cares about good gameplay, they just want to see their guy win. It just disappoints me so much, because part of what makes me love this game so much is being able to share it with thousands of people who all experience the same thing I am. When I witness crowds like that, it just makes me question that experience entirely, and it's disgusting.

That pretty much wraps up everything I want to comment on. As far as my personal behavior, I sincerely regret not giving silent wolf a better handshake after losing to him to get 4th. I tried to remedy it at the time by giving him a real handshake, but that was still really bad of me and I hope he didn't take it badly. I didn't mean to be disrespectful with the first handshake...I just literally didn't have the heart/energy to give him a real handshake. I tried, and my hands just couldn't do it. Losing the way I did was a huge mix of emotions for me, ranging from disbelief to being upset that my tournament was over, combined with the all the pent up hype/adrenaline from playing 3 sets in a row that all went to game 5. I just couldn't handle it, and I hope that with more experience that doesn't happen to me anymore. Something I *don't* regret at all was popping off at the crowd after beating SFAT. It was 100% unrelated to SFAT and I think he knows that, but I sure was wondering where all the norcal chants went after I killed their hopes and dreams for the tourney. Seriously, I hated that crowd with a passion. Shoutouts to anyone in that crowd that cared more about good melee than they did about seeing me choke so their favorite player could win.

This article was honestly pretty negative, and I didn't start writing it with that intention. I wanted to make a couple side comments spawning from my conversation with Jon, and then focus on HTC from a gameplay perspective...but all the thoughts I didn't really realize I was having came out. Most smashers that I've met and hung out with are honestly awesome people, but there are a lot of social factors that create the issues I mentioned. I don't necessarily expect anything to change from anyone reading this, but if anyone cares about my thoughts then they'll find them here.

I'll hopefully bring you guys a much different post with my discussion of the gameplay at HTC! If not, then I'll at least make a post about something melee related ^__^