Sunday, July 18, 2010

Here, Fishy Fishy.

Let's talk for a moment about the only man to ever beat Chuck Norris in a race: Captain Falcon.

Now, *aside* from his overwhelming manliness, how does Captain Falcon ever manage to make it back to the stage?  Somebody saw fit to give the other characters some pretense of a chance at beating the Cap'n, so all he's really got is up+b.  And with up+b, he can pretty much aim for the stage, or aim for the edge.  He can also try and ledge-tech but once people found out you can edgehog that it became less handy.  So he can go onto the level, or onto the edge.  That's it.  Regardless, paragon of the XY that he is, Falcon finds a way back anyhow.

The reason that Falcon can make his way back despite overwhelming evidence that he should *not* (besides being goddamn Captain Falcon of course), comes down to two things.

First is the fact that we, as players, are fish.  We have a tendency to bite down on the juiciest piece of bait that lands in front of us.  When we see something that makes us think, "hey I can punish this," we rarely stop ourselves from leaping in mouth-first.  Impulse control is one of those useful skills that you don't talk about much.

The second is air control.  There's a lot of hidden effort involved in using that one move to make it back to the stage.  Let's say that you're Falcon and your opponent is a smart dude.  You up+b, and right now the other guy is thinking "ah, he's going to the edge, but he wants to trick me."  As you start moving forward the guy is watching you, looking for the trick, and then he sees it.  You start pulling back, and so he quickly steals the edge.  One stock down, three to go.

He's wrong though.  You hit back on the joystick for just a fraction of a second, and when he saw you slow down he thought you were completely changing direction.  Turns out you quickly hit forward again and moved into towards the middle of the level, out of range of a ledge-hop punishment.

One of the many differences between good players and great players is how they use air control.  Much like how Starcraft players can always find something productive to do in just one second of dead time, great players add more dimensions to their game in places that good players don't think to look.

Most Falco players, once they fire their laser don't realize that they can still control their horizontal momentum to adjust their spacing, nor do they consciously implement this to make their approaches and zoning games more precise and safe.  Watch a video of Mango's Falco and really watch his character model.  Look at the tiny adjustments he makes in the air.  Besides giving himself better spacing control, this has the effect of giving the other guy false information about his intentions.  The slightest bit of DI in can convince somebody you'll be in shield-grab range, even though you immediately begin to DI out and they whiff the grab.

Or consider Jigglypuff.  Most Puff players use a very predictable in and out rhythm of air movement.  While this helps them space their moves, it also gives the opponent a handy metronome for anticipating the Puff's move placement.  Once again, watch Mango if you want inspiration.  Sometimes he abruptly stops in mid-air for not even a quarter of a second, giving you the impression that he's about to retreat and it's save to jump out; of course, that's when he has a n-air waiting for you.  And then when you're busy watching for it, he'll spend some of the match moving in at full speed and being in range before you even realize it, clipping you before you have a chance to notice that he's up in your grill.  And then sometimes he really does just completely pull back and you whiff an attempted counter-attack, letting him punish as he pleases.  Once he's in your head like that, Mango can attack pretty much whenever he wants and you'll be too flustered to avoid it.

Back to the two main points: air control, and fish.  As players those subtle cues in air control tell us where the opponent plans to go and what he plans to do.  Why do you think that people still keep falling for Ganondorf's double-jump bait against shield?  He jumps in on you with your shield up, fast falls and then jumps.  The key?  The fast fall.

Experience works against us here.  Fast falling is a sign that you're using an aerial and you want to cancel lag on the ground as quickly as possible.  It's the cue that many players use to tell if somebody is about to land, and having seen it you assume the other guy is about to land.  Afterwards you think "of course Ganon was tricking me so he could double jump and stomp me in the face," but at the time throwing out that grab seemed completely reasonable, didn't it?  Yes.  If you're a fish.

As fish, we often react to the first piece of pertinent information we see, and use that as an excuse to go for the bait.  Somebody dashes towards you, that's the cue to roll towards them and get behind them because they are OBVIOUSLY tech-chasing you away.  And that open space behind them looks so damn inviting, doesn't it?  Wait, why is Fox wavedashing backwards?  I hope you remembered to DI his up-smash properly, little fish.

The bait can become a little more complicated.  I love dashing up to a prone target with ICs and bringing up my shield, then wavedashing out to follow their roll.  Because once I've shield-grabbed somebody's get-up attack eight times in five minutes, they start catching on.  In fact, they lie there prone just to encourage me to run up and shield again so they can roll away, safe.  Wait, why is Wobbles suddenly wavedashing backwards?  Fishy fishy fishy fishy.

These situations happen a lot and they're pretty easy to understand and learn from, because the options here are very concrete and defined.  Roll in, roll away, get-up attack, stand-up... not that complicated.  But few realize just how easily and how often subtle air-control will bait something like a jump into an "obvious" move.  HBox's air movement is full of alterations in timing and speed adjustments that make even really good and smart space-animals jump straight into his b-air.

So don't get lazy.  You aren't on a fixed trajectory once you've jumped where the only difference is in the timing of your stupidly telegraphed aerial.  Every character can do a little to screw with the other guy's sense of his location, and once you do, then you'll really be fishing.


  1. Don't forget about Falcon edge cancelling upB :)

    I think Isai and Hax are the best at demonstrating air control, particularly with bair

  2. i love reading this kind of stuff

  3. so you're going to commentate at apex or some tourney or something i heard like that

    i think that would be awesum

  4. i love your posts. they're so interesting.
    keep it up


  6. Wobbles is the shit. Fantastic preformance at Apex. You should have beat PP! But good job anyways. Keep playing, and keep writing. Also, hows the Smash book coming?

  7. yeah i check this like every day/every other day for an update LOL

  8. Yeah. You need to update more. haha