Thoughts on Olympus

Olympus took place over Halloween weekend. It was primarily a Project:M major, but also featured a great deal of Melee and Sm4sh talent. It was my first big tournament since SmashCon, and I had high expectations for myself. I couldn’t find a Melee teams partner, so I decided to take a leap and enter PM, Sm4sh, and Melee singles. Let’s take it day by day!

Friday

The tournament didn’t technically start until Saturday morning, but there were some exhibition tournaments planned for Friday. I was invited to compete in the PM 3.02 Top Player Crew Battle Exhibition, and also decided to enter Melee Low Tiers and the Melee Reverse Main Tournament. Everything was set to start at 5pm, so I made sure I rolled into Atlantic City at around 4pm to check in and get settled before heading to play. Unfortunately, everything got shifted back by about 1.5-2 hours so we ended up just playing friendlies for a while. Eventually, Melee Low Tiers started and it ran pretty smoothly. There weren’t many entrants, and it wasn’t being streamed, so it was easy. 1st place was Strong Bad, I got 2nd, and Drephen’s Roy got 3rd. I played mostly DK, but wasn’t ready for Strong Bad in the DK ditto… he definitely had a better grasp on the punish-game flow-chart than I did. My Zelda and Pichu put up good fights as well, but it wasn’t enough.

The PM 3.02 exhibition was then canceled because other players were coming late, so all that was left was the Reverse Main Tournament. I thought people would get hyped for the side events, and that there would be some good competition. I was wrong, unfortunately, so I decided to drop out. This was largely because of how late everything had been pushed back, and I didn’t want to be competing in a free tournament with no competition at 1am the night before bracket actually started.

Friday was a bit all over the place, but I at least got to sit down and play a good amount of friendlies with DruggedFox and Drephen. DruggedFox beat me for the most part, which was a good wake-up call. He called out all of my tricky recoveries and played an extremely solid neutral. I also learned that the rumors about Drephen’s spotdodging with Sheik are not unfounded in the slightest! He said he uses it mostly for conditioning and mixups, but if Marth spaces outside of Sheik’s tilt and grab range, the spotdodges aren’t very threatening. I’d just played Plank in the matchup at Xanadu in the couple weeks prior, and I think he had a better understanding of the intricacies in the matchup – notably how to utilize short-hop mixups. If Sheik spotdodges, then she isn’t doing enough to counteract Marth’s Dtilt.

I was back in my room and ready for bed before 1am, which was pretty decent timing. Unfortunately, pools were not finalized until 12:30am. This was a major problem, in my opinion. I believe that you shouldn’t worry too much about who you’re playing in bracket or you risk overthinking player matchups when you should just focus on playing your best… but when you’re at a tournament of this caliber, it is reasonable to expect that skill and regional seeding will be completed by a reasonable amount of time before the tournament starts. I don’t think that less-than-10-hours before the tournament starts falls into that category.

They actually had released pools earlier that week, which confused a great deal of people. They stated that pools weren’t final, but I had to wonder why pools weren’t final. They got MikeHaze and Redd to seed Melee, but that could have been done days in advance over Skype or Discord. I heard some criticisms from locals that they didn’t put enough effort into seeding NYC locals for skill and regional dispersion.

Saturday

(I’m going to deviate slightly from the chronology here so as not to break up my discussion of seeding issues.)

I kept hearing that the TOs would be reseeding the bracket after round 1 pools. That is to say that round 1 pools would be completed, and then the TOs would take each person that made it into top 32 and individually re-seed. To me, this was a ludicrous idea. If you have to re-seed people for skill and region in the top 32 bracket, that means your initial seeding was garbage. The bracket should be seeded in the very beginning, placed into bracket-running software like on smashgg, and then the TOs should be hands-off. Let the bracket play out with the seeding you agreed upon in the first place.

If there are major regional conflicts, that means there could have been an upset somewhere in bracket. But that’s how it works out sometimes. I’d rather maintain the integrity of the bracket – this integrity is, of course, reliant upon good initial seeding.

All of that being said, the TOs did not ultimately re-seed for top 32. But there was no confirmation that re-seeding would not occur until very soon before top 32 actually started, so nobody knew for certain who they would be playing against. This is kind of frustrating as a competitor. While I think it can be harmful to focus too much on who you’re up against next, and it is far more useful to focus on playing your best, it is reasonable to expect some amount of time and information to prepare to compete.

Someone mentioned that PM was re-seeded, but I wasn’t paying too close attention so I can’t really comment on that. If that was the case… I think that’s dumb. TOs: make your seeding good right off the bat, and finish it at least a week prior to the event.

Oh! I should mention that one issue with this event was that at-the-door signups for Melee and Sm4sh were open until Friday night before the tournament starts. This was, of course, a major reason that the TOs procrastinated on seeding. I personally prefer the “death pool” clause for at-the-door signups, though. Or to not allow door signups at all. TOs should be firm with their expectations of competitors, and these days, signing up for a tournament ahead of and on time is the standard. Don’t diminish the ability of your signed-up competitors to prepare in order to gain 5 or 10 more entrants the night before bracket.

There could certainly be worse issues at a tournament than these I have described, there is no doubt. But in the age of professionalism in esports, some of these occurrences rubbed me and other competitors the wrong way.

And now let’s jump back to Saturday morning! I played Melee first, then had Sm4sh pools, then Project:M. I made it out in winners for Melee, with one close call against CIZ. My play was not looking clean at all games 1 and 2, but I took it with a 3-stock on game 3. My round 1 in sm4sh didn’t show up, so I had to play Biddy. Biddy and I played a long time ago, back when I played Rosalina. I believe I beat him in a clutch set, winning the game with a Rosa Uair kill at 45%. I got a lot of hate on YouTube for that, but I personally thought it was hilarious. This time, I thought about playing Rosa again for Gravitational Pull, but I haven’t practiced her in over a year so I stuck with my Kirby guns. I lost game 1 on Smashville, and ran it back. I tried to play it safe and get a read on his patterns, then make hard reads to get openings and win the up-close mix-ups. It worked for both games 2 and 3, and I made it into top 32 winning only one game.

I was set to play Larry Lurr in round 1 of sm4sh top 32, a match I was excited to play. I’ve always admired Larry’s skill, and wanted my shot at beating him. I should mention that, prior to this event, I was officially “retired” from sm4sh (as of March 2016). When I couldn’t find a Melee partner for teams, however, I decided to practice for the couple weeks leading up to the event. So I didn’t have any major expectations, but the tech barrier in the game is pretty low and I believe I have the mental game of a top player.

I played Kirby against Larry, naturally. Kirby versus Fox is a hilarious matchup in which Kirby crouches everything and then gets a 0-40% combo off one Utilt. I Utilt combo’d him, took his ability, shot lasers, crouched a bunch, played some footsies, and then Kirbycided him for the 2-stock. He switched off to DK for game 2, which I expected. I was outplaying him for a bit, getting DK to high %, but then got grabbed at 50% twice and died both times (Ding Dong). Game 3, I took him to Duck Hunt and he switched to Metaknight, a less polished character of his. I died early, unsure how to DI out of MK’s Uair UpB combo, but then played the rest of the game safe. I was winning most exchanges, I think, which resulted in an inch-by-inch comeback. It was, however, too little and too late. I was fishing for a grab under the tree (I was at 130%, he was at 65%), to get an Uthrow kill, but I forgot he had the same trick and let myself get killed by it. In losers I beat a Cloud with Sheik, then lost to a Mewtwo with Lucario.

Meanwhile, I played my first set in PM against Robfox. We Mewtwo ditto’d on Stadium 2 twice, and I beat him 2-0. Then I forfeited. I was focused on Sm4sh top 32 matches, and I was warming up Melee in-between games.

I played Slox first in Melee top 32. He beat me 2-0 at Pound in Marth vs. Sheik, and he did the same thing here. For some reason, and I can’t really say why, I was getting very tilted during our set. This doesn’t usually happen to me – I like to think one of my strengths is keeping my cool in tense situations. In this set, though, I was just getting frustrated and irritated. I remember getting a phantom tipper at one point, and that sealed the deal. After that set, I thought to myself “I don’t want to play Melee right now.” More specifically, I didn’t feel like playing Marth. This was very unusual, and hadn’t happened before.

I played G$ immediately afterward, and lost to his Falco on Battlefield and Marth on FD. I was very unhappy with how I played Melee all day, and I left the venue at this point. I was frustrated and needed to take a walk and lie down for a bit. I’ve gotten frustrated at losses before, but I never felt the way I did that day where I didn’t feel like playing my matches. It was very unusual.

And that led to an epiphany: having fun is pretty important. Seems like a given, right? Melee is the most fun game of all time. But I think, at some point in the last month, training and playing with Marth in matchups I didn’t like started to feel like a chore, and I couldn’t muster up the motivation and positivity to do the best I could. The rest of that day, I played whoever I felt like playing. Mostly Fox, Sheik, Peach, Falco and the like.

I actually ended up entering teams because Wenbo was out of a teammate. We did alright, beating Zealous5000 and CIZ round 1, then losing to DJ and The Moon. I forget what team we played, because we tried so many, but I think our default was double Fox. I may have tried Peach against DJ and Moon. Then we beat Silver and Darc in losers, with double Fox I think, and lost to Drephen and dizzkidboogie.

So that was the end of smash for the day. I didn’t like feeling so negative about the game and Marth, but playing whoever I wanted to the rest of the day really helped. Sometimes you’ve got to sit back and just enjoy the game. We had a dope dinner at a burger bar later, and then I turned in early to get some sleep.

Sunday

I was planning on leaving pretty early. I checked out, put my stuff in my car, then went back to the venue to chill for a bit and then head out. I just wanted to get back and not worry about smash anymore… but then dizzkidboogie asked if I’d give him Marth practice for his set against The Moon. So we started playing, and we kept playing, and I was having fun again (even though it was Marth versus Ice Climbers!!). I felt a twinge of guilt giving practice against my buddy The Moon, but Dizz is my friend also and I don’t usually turn people away when they ask for help. Plus it was super fun.

I consider myself to be pretty good at the Marth versus ICs matchup, having been exposed to it a great deal over the past year and a half with Nintendude. At least, until he moved away to NorCal. Dizz also showed me a few tricks I hadn’t been utilizing, like the fact that in a handoff scenario, you should always mash when Nana grabs because she pummels a random number of times! We broke down the neutral of the matchup into stages, and also looked at the intricacies. I taught him that Fthrow pivot Fsmash is never guaranteed as Marth if you DI it correctly, and showed him a couple things that Nintendude and ChuDat have done against me that worked.

If you have trouble fighting Ice Climbers, practice against Ice Climbers players and ask them to wobble you. I know a lot of players tend to get frustrated while they’re being wobbled, but if you are more used to it after playing in friendlies, it doesn’t feel as bad when you get down to it in tournament.

He went on to 3-0 The Moon and win the whole tournament. It was a major win for him, getting 1st over the likes of The Moon, Lucky, HugS, Professor Pro, and many more! So Kyle, if you’re reading this, congrats again. ;]

Before I finish, there was one other big criticism I had: the TOs were far too loud over the microphone. When you have a half-size ballroom packed with people and the microphone turned all the way up, you do not need to swallow the mic and scream. It was intrusively loud, and I had to put in earphones just to muffle the noise so I could focus on my matches. But again, there could have been far worse issues with a tournament like this, so I still give props to all the organizers and TOs.

That pretty much sums up the story of my weekend at Olympus in Atlantic City. It started off pretty rocky, then I felt pretty awful about how I played, had a realization that I needed to rediscover the fun I have with the game, then had a ton of fun playing, and then drove home on Sunday evening.

Since Olympus, I haven’t been sitting and grinding too much, but I’ve been having fun while competing. I’ve been playing mostly Fox, and got 1st at the last three tournaments I entered. I don’t know if I’ll switch to using more Fox than I have in the past, or if I’ll keep him in the pocket, but I do know that I’m having fun with him. I’m also using Marth when it makes sense, such as when a spacie takes me to FD, or I fight Ice Climbers or Puff.

Anyways, it’s very unusual for me to publish two posts so close together! But I’d like to be updating the bl0g more frequently, so if you like this sort of thing, you can follow my bl0g (in the bottom-right hand corner of the page) to get updates! I don’t expect people to read these things all the way through, because of how lengthy they are. But for those of you who do, I hope you enjoy reading about my experiences and maybe learn a thing or two about the game or about competing, or just about me as a person and competitor.

That’s all for now!

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Thoughts on Olympus

April Thoughts – The Games I’m Playing

I haven’t registered for EVO yet. I have my passes for Sunday finals, but I haven’t actually followed through on registration. And that’s because I’m not sure what events I’m entering quite yet.

I will be entering Melee for sure. Melee has and will continue to be my primary focus when it comes to improving myself as a competitor and a threat. I’ve been a bit lazy about practice this past month, only entering a couple of tournaments and trolling around on Netplay, but I know what I need to do moving forward. The last few weeks of school are hectic for me so I just haven’t had the time. But as EVO approaches, I will be working on Melee.

Sm4sh is still a big question mark. Prior to Pound, I had decided to take a break from really trying in sm4sh and I’m still of that mindset. It pretty much boils down to what I like to do in a competitive fighting game… which, I have realized, is doing cool and hype things. So when I play sm4sh, I’m playing to win, but I have less fun unless I do crazy stuff. The exception is often Kirby, because I pretty much play-to-troll with Kirby as long as there is a crowd to appreciate it. I do like Corrin a lot in sm4sh. But all things considered, I don’t have enough competitive drive to put serious effort into the game right now.

Speaking of doing cool things in competitive fighting games, Rivals of Aether! Rivals of Aether is super fun for me right now, and so I plan to keep playing it. I slowly worked my way back in this past month, sometimes playing randoms online, and, in the past week, played with Ralph extensively. I’m definitely looking to reassert myself as the best Wrastor, who is a character that I feel fits perfectly in my hands (thank you Dan Fornace). I get so many opportunities to do cool things with Wrastor, given his variety of movement options with multiple jumps and slipstreams, and plethora of combo tools. To land kills, you have to be vicious and creative. These are all things I love in fighting games. I can sit and do Wrastor combos until my hands give out.

I am really hoping that there is a Rivals of Aether side event at EVO, and, honestly, this is going to play into my decision over what games to enter. In fact, I might make a thread on Reddit as soon as I publish this post asking about the plans for Rivals at EVO. In the meantime, if you play Rivals, hit me up on Steam, or find me on random online matches, and possibly look for me in online tournaments. Realistically, though, I won’t be entering any online tournaments for a few weeks due to the next few weeks being exceptionally busy.

Pokken! I talked so much about this game, got so hyped for it. And it’s really fun. I spent a good amount of time playing and streaming it, and I don’t plan on stopping that. But I haven’t played for a couple of weeks now and I don’t really miss it. Playing Pokken doesn’t give me quite the same rush as Melee or Rivals with their high-speed gameplay and freedom of combos. With Pokken, you play a great deal of Rock-Paper-Scissors and it feels like a lot of characters have set, optimal combos. Having looked into things such as reset counters and damage scaling, I know that the meta is going to evolve more deeply as people learn how to maximize a combo without resetting to field phase and time those combos with a counter reset (i.e. when one Pokemon goes into burst), and so on. But I’m not super motivated to figure that stuff out myself. But yeah, I do want to play more Pokken in the near future, because I do think the game is really cool overall.

I bought and started playing Street Fighter V yesterday, and I’m really bad. This is to be expected, given my limited gameplay experience with traditional fighters. That said, I am pretty excited to learn the game and get better at it. I love watching high-level traditional fighters and feeling the crowd get hyped when one player outsmarts the other in neutral/footsies and lands a sick combo. I want to be able to do that. It’s just going to require a LOT of work, and I have ambitions in games in which I already exceed like Melee and Rivals, so we’ll see how far I take this. I’ll probably play it casually, at least. Pretty much because I want to. I ordered a Hori Fighting Commander to use for it – yesterday I managed to get my Hori Pokken Pad working, but I don’t think that’s optimal because I have triggers set to heavies. It makes more sense for me to use the standard six-button layout, but I don’t really want to invest in a nice stick. In any case…

 

What should I enter at EVO?? I’m not sure. Last year my brother and I entered Melee and Sm4sh, as well as the P:M side event and Melee doubles side event. My brother got pulled back and forth between Sm4sh wave 2 pools and Melee wave 1 pools, and he got pulled between the P:M side event and the Melee doubles side event. That’s only 4 events, but the overlap and distance between events was highly stressful, and at times I had to run back and forth to talk with TOs to make sure he wasn’t DQ’d (that was kind of ridiculous, because Melee and Sm4sh were scheduled by EVO). I have a lot of games I’m interested in, but I don’t want to be stressed and spread thin all weekend.

My goal is to perform exceedingly well in Melee. I want to walk out on that top 8 stage and play for the fans. I want to show people things they’ve never seen or thought possible with Marth. If there is a Rivals of Aether side event, I want to win that event. I want to be known as the best Wrastor and the best Rivals player.

As for the other games, I don’t feel like I have concrete goals. I was motivated to become the best Gengar in Pokken, but that motivation has faded a bit. I enjoy playing the other games, there is no doubt about that, but for EVO, I think it comes down to competitive drive.

But then again, it could be fun, right?? If I enter Street Fighter V, chances are I’d get 0-2’d, but at least I could say I entered the main event at EVO 2016.

You can probably see I’m conflicted. My inclination as of now is to enter Melee and Pokken, and to not tempt myself with Sm4sh or SFV. I’m going to play more SFV in the next few weeks to see if I’m anything more than garbage, and then reconsider my decision. I probably won’t enter Sm4sh, because if I did, I think I would make it out of pools, and, frankly, I don’t want to. I can’t bring myself to not play at least decently in tournament, and if I made it to round 2 of Sm4sh,  I would be draining a lot of time. But who knows – maybe I’ll change my mind in the next month or so.

 

If you have any recommendations for me based on these ramblings and conflicted remarks, let me know! Oh, and since this post is titled “The Games I’m Playing,” and not “The Competitive Fighting Games I’m Playing,” I thought I should mention that I’ve been playing Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest. And I hate it. But I also love it. But it’s the hardest Fire Emblem game I’ve played and so nicely frustrating. The art is beautiful. Music is awesome. It has that weird Fire Emblem charm, and they have found very creative ways to make levels challenging.

But damn, is it difficult.

Next “April Thoughts” post will come out tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

April Thoughts – The Games I’m Playing