Sunday, July 24, 2011

Implementation Lag

First, this post is coming fresh from Genesis 2, which was pretty darn awesome.  I got lots of advice, played lots of people, and realized what my next step will be in Melee.

I have mainly two people to thank for this.  The first player is Lovage.

During our friendlies and tournament sets, I found myself making... mostly decent decisions.  The problem is that I always seemed to be a few frames too slow, while Lovage was ALSO making lots of good decisions, but without any hesitation.  So he had a tendency to get the shine or the aerial out just a little bit quicker than me, and I couldn't really figure out why.  Was it a Fox thing, or were my reflexes just too slow?

And of course, there was the usual specter of my little technical flubs and clumsiness hanging over our games.  But we'll get to that in a moment.

The second player I have to thank is Armada.  First off, watching his games was pretty much a great experience.  He is extremely sharp, makes intelligent decisions, rarely makes any technical errors despite playing at high speed, and he changes up his playstyle constantly.  So he's like, pretty good or something.

But the reason I bring him up is because at one point I asked him what he thinks about while he plays, and he said, "nothing."  He doesn't think about his tech skill and he doesn't think about winning or losing, he just plays in a blank mental state.

Which pretty much corresponds with what most people have said forever about... everything.  The best mental state for execution and decision making--according to a variety of sources, from old Chinese dudes to modern psychologists--is one of emptiness. After a long enough period of training and practice, any given task turns into instinct for you.  You do not stop to think, "I am going to swing my sword," but rather, thinking and doing become the same act!  Or as close to it as possible.

So the title of today's blog becomes clear.  Implementation lag is the distance between making a decision to do something and doing it.  With training and focus, implementation lag decreases.  I believe one of my problems has been a lack of focus during practice, where I will practice a variety of things sporadically.  None of them become ingrained enough into my brain, which is why I always feel like my reflexes are so slow.

Furthermore, this is--I believe--part of why I make so many technical errors!  Not only am I taking too long to think about it, but the conscious thought process interferes with the action and increases the likelihood of failure.

There are times, however, where I know EXACTLY what I will do given an opponent's action and my own speed surprises me.  Stuff that I rarely mess up.

So today's big point is that if you focus on practicing things enough, and you rehearse them and understand them enough, you will act automatically  when the appropriate situation arises.  And the odds of you screwing up are lower, because you are not consciously thinking about it, which means your body can get on with things without your brain getting in the way.

This is where I want to advocate a practice method that really needs to be used more often--by myself included--where instead of just playing 4 stock matches over and over again, you set the mode to Time but make it infinite.  This allows you and your practice partner to train certain scenarios without worrying about the outcome; you can play as Falco against a Fox that wants to camp the edge, or be a Marth that wants to stop Sheik from ledge-stalling, or just get someone to platform camp you for 30 minutes while you test out various solutions.

This method allows you to focus heavily on a particularly isolated aspect of the game and improve at it more quickly than if you only get the sporadic training that is characteristic of a regular match.

I hope these thoughts prove interesting and useful to you.  I intend to start training a lot harder and more focused than I have before.  It's kind of funny because it's actually all advice I've given in the past, but never really followed through on for myself.  But this really does feel like my next step, and I hope to surprise everybody at the next big tournament with improved focus and tech skill from my corner :)

Take care everybody.

PS I did not proofread this.  Sorry for all crummy writing errors.


  1. That's how I always feel about ledgedashes haha
    As soon as I think about them I die <_<
    Otherwise they come off so smooth it's like cheating

  2. good stuff. I definitely sense the same flavor of this blog from your previous ones but now it seems like you're really overcoming a barrier.

  3. Wobbles, you may enjoy this article.
    The average person has 75000 thoughts a day. Where as an elite athlete (Your Roger Federer's, Peyton Manning's, Steve Nash's) Have only an average of 15000 thoughts a day. Thanks for the post, it was a good read.

  4. I'm looking for you to fuck some people up!