Friday, 26 September 2014

Let's Learn Guilty Gear! Part 3: Understanding Throws

Guilty Gear's design is an interesting melting pot of systems and ideas. Guilty Gear X was released in 2000. In other words, near the very end of the 2D fighting game boom. Its sequel and updates then carried on through the relative drought of 2D games, making it a bridging point between old and new design philosophies. On the older side of things you have situational combos based on your positioning and late-90s systems like Instant Blocking. On the newer side you have a variety of ways to use meter depending on the situation and a great deal of movement options. Xrd most definitely carries this mixture of old and new by allowing Roman Cancels to slow down time while also including a mechanic where if moves clash they will sometimes cause the situation to return completely to neutral but the first hit of any combo has like quadruple the hitstun for the next 8 or so seconds. The director, Daisuke Ishiwatari even remarked that he put that system in so new players can become accustomed to dealing with strange little situations that make you play differently due to chance. He likened it to Samurai Shodown's weapon clashes.

The most oldschool design decision in Guilty Gear is the throw. Do you remember that post about fighting game basics I wrote where I encouraged people to learn the genre with Fritz mirrors? Let's look at that core Rock/Paper/Scissors I said offense and defense starts with again:

Paper (Blocking) beats Rock (Attacking)
Rock (Attacking) beats Scissors (Throwing)
Scissors (Throwing)  beats Paper (Blocking)

Guilty Gear's scissors came from the same factory as Street Fighter 2's. This factory made damn good scissors. Scissors so fast that they can cut rocks in half. Silly metaphors aside, throws are 0f attacks. If you press forward/backward and Heavy Slash (6H or 4H) and are in throw range, your throw will be whatever the other guy's pushing. In offense this means that every character has an effective attack/throw guessing game they can put the opponent in. On defense it means that if the opponent is overextending themselves while pressuring, you can completely turn the tides by knocking them down and starting your own pressure. Guilty Gear throws are an incredible tool that will frustrate every single newcomer to the game until they learn how to use them, and how to fight them.

1. Using Throws Defensively
  As I said, throws come out instantly. If someone's on the ground hitting a button and you're not in blockstun, you can throw them. Here's a situation where people are often thrown by a defender.

Only jump Dusts have recovery frames upon landing (which means you can absolutely throw them if you block it). However, if a jumping normal comes out too early or too high in the jump arc, then you'll be out of blockstun before they can jab you to lay on the pressure. This is a good time to throw people. Likewise, if you ever see a jumping normal miss because of bad timing or poor positioning (such as it whiffing you as they try to cross you up), then that's a perfect time to throw them.

Working out when to throw is very much something you'll learn by playing the game more. You'll start to see when people are getting way too close to you and when you're coming out of blockstun in a prime time to throw. There is one very important rule to understand when doing this though: know what the range of your throw is. You should be absolutely sure they're close enough to be thrown because if they're not, a Heavy Slash is going to come out. It's going to be slow. It's going to get counterhit by their jab or correctly spaced Slash and it's going to hurt.

2. How to Stop Defensive Throws
"Well that's great" you're thinking as an attacker. "I can understand getting throw because I'm running right next to them like an idiot, but are you saying I can't even jump in on my opponent without being thrown? How am I supposed to open people up?" Fear not, brave attacker. There are things you can do to stop people mashing throw all the time. Especially after knockdowns!

 - Stand outside their throw range and toss a normal or fireball at them. You can't throw Ky's sword, and you sure as hell can't throw Stunedge. This isn't SF2 Hyper Fighting Zangief you're fighting.
 - If they're mashing throw all the time, run up and then jump! If a 5H or 6H comes out, you bet your life they were mashing throw. If not then hey, you've got ample time to come with a properly timed normal or double jump and see if they do something stupid to try and catch you.

There's an even niftier tool in some characters' arsenals though: throw-invincible normals. You can check out which moves have this in AC+R by looking up your character on the Dustloop wiki.. The application here should be pretty obvious: if a move's immune to throws, stick it out when you think someone's mashing throw. Here's an example of this in action using my buddy Baiken's forwards Kick (6K).

You hear that sweet, sweet counterhit message? If that's coming out when you toss a throw invul move on someone's wakeup, you bet your life they were mashing throw. If it just hits them raw, they were probably trying to jump away. Pretty much every throw-invincible move can either be chained into other normals or cancelled into a special move that's safe, so they're a good go-to way of continuing pressure when you're fighting an opponent whose habits you aren't familiar with yet. Here's some games I played last week with a mate.

PlatonicSolid is extremely fond of wakeup throw, so I spend a lot of time just using May's 5K on his wakeup. He's started to mash that throw less often now, so I can start going for the actual tricks like crossup Dolphin, overhead Restive Rolling or going for a throw myself. I most definitely do that last option at the end of the vid.

3. Using Throws Offensively
The beauty of throws being so fast is that they're not only a good way to make attackers stay smart when approaching, but that attackers can also open up strong defenders with them. If you're pressuring someone and no matter how many times you jump cancel a slash into an airdash or use a fast standing low attack or try to wear at someone's patience by jabbing a few times, taking some steps forward and jabbing again they just won't budge, go a head and throw them. The sheer speed of throws doesn't just mean defenders can use them. Offense can still use them in that traditional scissors-beats-paper way! Here's some classic examples of using throws on offense.

Throwing someone just as they're ending blockstun's known as a tickthrow. Jumping in with something that has much less blockstun so you can throw them is a classic trick. Jumping or airdashing in and doing nothing on the way down then throwing is a great indicator that you're completely inside someone's head and have them scared witless of your pressure. Using roman cancels to work throws into places where you wouldn't expect is most certainly a way to play. This ridiculous play by Kusoru comes to mind when I think of crazy ways to work throws into your offense.

So basically, use throws when people are respecting your pressure too much to keep them on edge. Throwing a cautious player a few times can really rattle them and lead to them hitting buttons in a panic or doing something really stupid that'll let them fall on your sword that much more easily.

4. How to Escape Offensive Throws
In just about every fighting game made after Street Fighter 2 or Karnov's Revenge, both players inputting throw at the same time will cause the situation to return to neutral. This is known as teching a throw. In modern games the window in which this will happen is rather lenient (14 frames for green throws in Blazblue and UNIEL for example). However, do you remember that I said Guilty Gear has an odd mix of old and new ideas?

In GGX through to Slash, as well as Xrd, there are no throw techs. Even in Accent Core and Accent Core +R, the window to tech throws was so tiny that it was incredibly rare. "Well, that's stupid." You might think. "What am I supposed to do if someone's throwing me?" There's two answers to this.

1. Use a throw-invulnerable move. If timed right, it'll make a 5H or 6H come out and you'll get that sweet counterhit. Just like when you're trying to stop a defensive throw.
2. Get the hell out of there. Backdash. Jump. Don't be next to the guy if they're going to throw. If you jump and Faultless Defense then you'll block their H attack and can probably airdash/double jump away or just hit them if they don't do anything after since they expected the throw to connect.

In other words, treat regular throws in Guilty Gear like you would Zangief's pile driver. When any character is looking for a throw, let's keep it simple and just jump away from it at this point.

5. Pichy You Moron You Forgot About Airthrows
You're right, subconscious. I did. Obviously if you, say, block someone airdashing at you in the air and mashing Punch, they're probably looking for an aerial tickthrow. In that case, your best bet is probably to instant block then mash Punch back at them, but I'll save that for whenever I talk about advanced concepts like Instant Blocking. I'll talk about throwing bursts when I get onto bursts if you're someone eager to point out that I never mentioned it in this piece.

There are two main situations airthrows are used in that are distinct from throwing in the ground. These are to punish chicken blocking (airblocking as soon as there's a gap in a string so you don't have to guess high or low) and for combo resets.

The first of these is pretty simple to grasp. As you're pressuring someone, they're going to look for chances to jump away and either get out, or safely FD without having to worry about high or low blocking and push you away. Whenever you're pressuring someone, consider leaving intentional gaps for people to jump then simply following them into the air and throwing them back into that corner. It's a good way of forcing even more respect from an opponent.

The other is the practice of creating intentionally sloppy ends to combos so people will airtech into your face and get airthrown. I-no and Bridget are exceptionally good at this (Bridget almost has to do this since none of his air combos knock down) and in Accent Core their airthrows both start combos anew to boot! In Xrd I-no has an aerial command throw for this exact reason.

The other way to create resets is to hit people off the ground (OTG) after a knockdown. In Guilty Gear after you knock someone down you can keep hitting them with any move whose hitbox can reach the downed opponent. If you do so, you can continue to combo but every hit does one quarter of the usual damage and hitstun. This is used a lot by Sol in Xrd so he can make his fireballs hit the opponent on their wakeup with more advantage. It can also be used to catch people that always like to airtech forwards since they're going to be popping out  at a time they don't usually expect to. Here's a straightforward demonstration of this concept.

That's where I'll leave things for today. To summarise:

 - If someone's standing next to you and you're not in blockstun, throw that fool!
 - If you think a throw is coming, jump!
 - If you're pressuring and want to stop people mashing throw, use a throw-invul move!
 - Throw people on offense when they don't expect!
 - If people like to jump away, throw!
 - Make sure you know your throw's reach or you'll get hurt!
 - Watch out for gimmicks that'll lead to air throws!

Tune in next time when I discuss... something. Most likely Bursts and Dead Angles. If there's questions about the game you want to ask, go ahead! There's a comments box underneath, after all.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Let's Learn Guilty Gear! Part 2: Not Getting Hit

Fighting games are often daunting with how much can be going on both on the field and in your heads. As a result, the best way to understand it all is to break things down into simple categories. After all, categorisation is something we humans do to form both an understanding of the world and communicate abstract concepts to each other through language. Here's the three broad categories I box all the components of a fighting game into:

1. Not getting hit.
2. Landing a hit.
3. Landing more hits.

I've written it out in that order because it's the order you should learn things in if you want to really get good at a game. Your life bar is the single most important resource in the game, so keeping it from depleting should be priority one. How do you not get hit? That in turn can be broken down into two more groups. In some games they are somewhat exclusive from each other, but in GG are connected. These are:

 - Movement (or being in a spot that the other guy can't reach)
 - Blocking (they can reach you but it's not taking away your health)

Guilty Gear has a lot of movement options. In addition to walking back and forth, most characters can also run (or dash in a short burst if you're Johnny or Slayer). You can dash backwards in a short burst (which is invincible if you're Potemkin, Slayer or Justice). You can dash forwards and backwards in a short burst in the air (twice if you're Milia or Dizzy). You can jump twice (or three times if you're Chipp). What does this all mean though?

Movement Part 1: Using your Movement Options

Let's watch a video one Pat Miller (long time game journo and fighting game fan) made for an Insert Credit article about Street Fighter.

Blogspot is a jerk when it comes to embedding videos by other people, so have a link.

Observe that first situation. Ryu throws a fireball. The opponent jumps forwards over the fireball and has wound up in a perfect situation to get smacked out of the air with an uppercut. It's a classic example of controlling space in Street Fighter. Let's do it in Guilty Gear.

When people first realise they can airdash in a game, their first response is usually to just go straight for the opponent's head. After all, you can reach them so quickly! What's far more important to this game is that you can airdash away from opponents. This creates a radically different environment for someone wanting to control space, as well as for how a defensive player can stay out of reach. This isn't to say that the game instantly makes any sort of zoning character weak. Let's look at what Axl does about all this airdash business.

So you need to understand what your opponent is going to do if you're advancing forwards then dashing away. Even when things might seem super fast and free form, there's consequences to actions.

The double or triple jump can change things up a lot as well. While airdashes adjust how people control horizontal space, jumping that second time can greatly change how you understand the vertical world. Here's a humorous situation that came up at a session last Friday.

The first time I opted to jump at Potemkin after a knockdown, I expected him to antiair me. If I airdashed backwards I'd lose all the ground and momentum I'd gained by putting him in the corner. Thus, I jumped a second time so I would be too high for the antiair to reach. The second and third times I figured he would be too scared to try antiairing since I'd jumped away the first time, so I just opted for a single jump. I could have stuck out a jumping normal those times to keep him scared and blocking, but was being silly since I had to go to dinner in a few minutes' time. Nevertheless, putting you way above an opponent who's looking to hit buttons to swat you out is a great example of what you can do with double jumps.

If you press down then up, you will jump much higher than normal. This is called a superjump. You can airdash after one of these, but not double jump. The uses vary depending on each character as the jumping arcs can vary wildly. The most famous superjump is Anji's. Let's take a quick look at it.

Fast and covers a wonky angle that not a lot of characters can immediately deal with. A pesky move on a character who can be somewhat irritating to fight if you've never seen him before. Don't worry, he's not in Xrd at this point.

Finally, let's talk about running. If you've played The King of Fighters or Under Night In-Birth, this is how you probably understanding this brand of movement:

The run takes some time to start moving. Once you've started running though, you can block immediately at any time.

 The idea is that you need to choose when to start running carefully, then reap the rewards for starting at the right time. This can be very important for a character like Daimon in KOF or Carmine in UNIEL as they have a lot of startup on their runs.

Let's see how running works in Guilty Gear.

Once I've reached the range of Ky's far Slash, I'm holding back. I'm still getting hit. In other words, running has a set amount of recovery when you want to stop. Well isn't that great? I get blown up for running. Is there anything I can do? Well, there is. Let's move onto the second half of this talk about not getting hit:

Movement Part 2: Using Faultless Defense
If you hold down two buttons that aren't Dust while blocking, a green ring will appear around you and steadily drain your tension gauge until you let go of the buttons or run out of tension. This is Faultless Defense, also known as "Green Block". This system has a wide range of uses that I'll talk about piece by piece.

As we established, running has a set amount of recovery time. If you Faultless Defense when holding back however, you stop running instantly! Let's get in on that Ky now!

This technique is known as FD Braking. You can do it in Blazblue as well. Sol's run speed is mighty fast, so you will often see smart Sol players start running, realise that a fireball or big normal or what have you is coming for them and FD brake shortly after their inputting the run. Airdashes, Johnny's dash and Slayer's dash cannot be stopped with FD.

Unless you're Faust or Chipp.

Input this by holding down-back and using Kick as one of your buttons for the FD. It works because they both have a down+kick (j.2K) attack in the air. The game decides to say that you're doing j.2K (thus you aren't airdashing) but thanks to input priorities winds up giving you FD. This is a mighty big boost to Faust's already impressive pokes.

There's another use for FD that ties into movement. You see, you can block in the air (unless you're dashing), but you can only block fireballs and aerial normals. If you try to block grounded normals or things like uppercuts you will get hit. However, FD lets you block everything in the air. This means if you've got meter you can hold up-back and block some tricks aiming to open you up, but not do it all the time forever like you can in something like Marvel vs Capcom or older Melty Blood versions.

This means you can use double jumping to bait uppercuts! Let's do it now!

You can incorporate this sort of thing into your offense game as well. If a move can be cancelled into jumping (for most characters they will be able to use close Slash at the very least), it can do so both on hit and if the opponent blocks the move. This is something most Arc System Works games have, but not other airdash games such as Marvel vs Capcom, Melty Blood or Chaos Code. I'll go into how to mount a solid offense in a later piece, but for now let's consider two things we can do off of a jump cancelled move based on what we know:
 - Airdash forwards for a speedy high attack.
 - Faultless Defense to block an attempt to swat you away because they think you'll airdash.

This in turn means that Faust can fake out an airdash in, FD to be safe and if you haven't hit a button, do a strong air-to-ground move such as jumping Kick (j.K). If you ever wonder why Faust seems to hit people with that move so much, this is part of the reason why.

Finally, here are the other functions of Faultless Defense that don't tie into movement.
 - You do not take chip damage or raise your guard bar. If you're really low on health and the opponent is trying to chip you to death, remember to FD if you've got the meter.
 - FD pushes the opponent back further than regular blocking. This means that if you can't find an opening in someone's offense, just make sure to block what they're doing and FD. It'll push them away far enough that you can gain some breathing room to swat them if they jump or airdash at you, or jump up and get out of pressure your own way.
 - FD keeps you blocking longer. Whenever you block a move in a fighter, you are put in blockstun, that state where you can't do anything but block for however long the move you blocked dictates. Faultless Defense increases the blockstun on moves. This means that you might not be able to catch moves that are only slightly unsafe, but it also means they can't throw you for as long. It has both strengths and weaknesses.

Faultless Defense is Great, but How do I Block?
As you likely already know, in 2D fighters you input blocking by holding backwards to block moves that hit mid or high, and down+backwards to block moves that hit mid or low. Low hits are far more common and a great deal faster than highs, so here's a simple rule to follow.
Whenever blocking on the ground, hold down+back to block low. React to moves that hit high when they appear and block them, then go back to blocking low. If you got hit and don't understand why, ask the other guy if it hits high, low or what have you. Learn your opponent's options!

So in conclusion, here is what we've talked about today:

 - Guilty Gear's mobility makes some things safer than other games, but still has pros and cons to each option.
 - You can either double jump or airdash once before you need to land.
 - You can jump after various normals on hit and on block.
 - Use Faultless Defense to recover from running instantly.
 - Use Faultless Defense to block in the air when you normally wouldn't be able to.
 - Use Faultless Defense to push people away if their pressure is relentless.

Next time, I'll talk about Throws.

Let's Learn Guilty Gear! Part 1: Combos and How to Use Meter in Them.

Guilty Gear XX's sequel, Guilty Gear Xrd -Sign- hits consoles (PS3 and PS4! They can play with each other online!) at the start of December this year. It is somewhat suspected in the fighting game community that it's going to blow up in popularity. Hard. GGXX is by far my favourite fighting game series of all time, so I'm going to write some pieces on learning the game. Why would I do this? Because in my time playing games with people locally, talking to others online and braving the horrors of game website comment boxes, stream chats etc. I've noticed there's certain areas of the game people really don't understand. I could start from the ground up of what I like to teach about the game when sitting a newbie down next to me; but I think I'll try something different and just write about specific subjects as I think about them.

So first up is combos. A lot of people, be it because they're used to Street Fighter 4, have never played a game with chains before or only played Marvel vs Capcom have trouble wrapping their heads around what the basic rules and situations for combos are. So I'm going to break this down for you.

Combos in Guilty Gear basically stem from two situations:
1. You hit someone who was in a standing/crouching state. I'll call these grounded combos.
2. You hit someone who was airborne. I'll call these juggle combos.

Here's some examples of grounded combos using Sol, Ky and Slayer. Sol and Ky because they're Ken and Ryu respectively. Slayer because he's easy to pick up and works even more like a character from something without airdashing. I'll be mostly using footage from the second revision of XX, #Reload because these are the combos you're going to be building on in Xrd due to them having the most similar move properties.

In other words, a basic string into a sweep or a special move is what you get on a grounded opponent. You can hit jabs a couple of times to make sure you're actually hitting them before continuing on, or you can just opt to go through your normals and end with a special move or something that can be cancelled into a jump to stay safe. As you can see, you can use this to do things like throw a fireball that'll hit them on their wakeup to keep momentum going. You can also opt for special moves that'll give you things like frame advantage, better corner carry or a better knockdown. There's even characters who have links like good ol' Street Fighter.

So where do we go from here? In Street Fighter or older KOFs, the way to get more damage is to use meter. Traditionally by making sure you're hitting someone then comboing into some sort of EX move or super. You can do that in Guilty Gear. Let's see how it goes with our buddies Sol, Ky and Slayer again.

That's certainly more damage than before. Some supers even put the opponent airborne so you can keep hitting them after! There's even some that are designed to start combos and provide a boost to the damage for the whole thing. Jam has one of those, for example. In the early days of learning the game, there's no shame in comboing into super. You can't burst out of supers either, so they still have use even in high level play


When you hit someone who is in the air though, something magical happens. They will stay in an "oh crap I've been hit state" (or hitstun for those less familiar with fighting games) for however long the last move hit them dictates they will be. While you're in hitstun in the air in Guilty Gear, the other guy can hit you with whatever the they want. There's no rules about moves having specific juggle properties or limits. It's basically all dictated by "are they being hit in the air? Go nuts" and "has that orange bar below their health been depleted? Keep going if you can find a way." Here's some more examples with Sol, Ky and Slayer since they've got pretty obviously good normals for smacking people out of the air.

Look at the damage! Guilty Gear is a game with a lot of freedom of movement. As a result, they designed it so that jumping around like a fool all day will get you hurt. Juggle combos are where the big damage, best knockdowns and best corner carry come from. If you get juggled in the corner, even better damage can happen like with that Ky combo.

So as you can see, juggle combos are pretty much the superior way to get damage in Guilty Gear. Does this mean the game punishes understanding how to play a solid ground footsie game? Not at all! You see, here's the trick to Guilty Gear combos: finding ways to turn a grounded combo into a juggle.

How do we do that? There's several ways.

1. Use a move that launches, ground bounces, wallbounces or what have you.
Sol and Ky both have overheads that make you bounce off the ground. That means they've put you in the air when you weren't even jumping. Sol's forwards punch (6P if you use numberpad notation, which is the norm for Guilty Gear players) wall bounces, so if you simply chain into that in the corner you can get a juggle combo. Some characters even have normals that launch! For example, here's Milia's dreaded crouching heavy slash.(2H).

Airborne combos off of grounded hits? This character is cheap! Well, sure she can launch you, but she's not going to be getting in by running straight at you and doing something you can block both standing and crouching. She's got to land this after hitting you with her low-hitting crouching kick or off of jumping in with a normal. As a result, if she goes to mash punch or kick, she'll be pushed out too far to do it all the time. Thus, she has to chain to sweep quite often as well. How else can we turn grounded hits into airborne then?

Did I mention that Sol's command grab ground bounces? He gets juggle combos by throwing you. Goddamn.

2. Counterhits
When a move counterhits (hitting someone while they were in startup for a move or if you both hit each other), it'll have different properties to a regular hit. For a fair amount of moves this simply means there's more hitstun so you have more time to realise you landed a hit and go in. For a lot of other moves though, it means that they launch or ground bounce or what have you. And that means the big damage returns! Here's some examples with our buddies Sol, Ky and Slayer once again.

Once again we can see that this game rewards smart play and penalises doing predictable things. Counterhits can be absolutely lethal, especially if it's a move that brings you close to stun such as May's 6P.

Furthermore, there is a way to force counterhits to happen. You see that little orange bar below your health? That's called the guard bar. Whenever you block something, it increases. The higher it is, the more damage you can take and the longer a combo on you can go for. If it's flashing, then any hit you take in that time is automatically a counterhit. There's no guard breaks in Guilty Gear, but you need to be really damn careful once you've been blocking for a long time.

3. Use a super that puts them airborne.
Remember how Sol's punch super wallbounced? There's other supers that do that sort of thing too. If Ky is close enough, sweep will combo into Sacred Edge, his fireball super. That launches, so he can then do a juggle combo afterwards. Pretty neat!

There is, however, another way to use meter to get those precious juggle combos. It's a universal option as well. I'm of course talking about an iconic mechanic of the series. None other than the...

4. Roman Cancel
If you hit any three buttons that aren't Dust, then for the same price as a super you completely stop what you're doing. You ever notice how when you sweep someone the bounce up a bit before landing on the ground?

Are you starting to see the possibilities of this tool now? There are so many stray hits or wonky situations that can turn into big damage because of you being able to now smack them with some Heavy slashes into something. Here's another example with Sol.

You see? Bandit Revolver puts them at the right height that you can start Sol's iconic combo where he does nothing but jumping Dust a bunch of times then a shoryu. You see how a combo like that can come to exist in this system now?

Here's one final example with Slayer using both a counterhit to start a combo and Roman Cancel to extend the damage even further. Performed on Chipp so we can laugh at how he's made of wet paper.

A note on Roman Cancels in Xrd
In addition to what they do in XX, they also slow down time. This means there are even more options for creativity as you now have time to charge up moves, combo grounded normals into Dust or use aerial normals that greatly increase the hitstun on a juggled opponent to gain even better positioning, damage or knockdowns that you couldn't even get before!

So in conclusion:
1. If grounded and no meter, look for counterhits that give you juggles to do big damage.
2. Otherwise, chain to sweep and use that knock down to keep pressure on, do a crossup or what have you.
3. Make people suffer for jumping like an idiot.
4. Use roman cancels to turn grounded hits into juggles.
5. Be creative, but be smart!

Tune in next time when I will probably talk more in depth about Faultless Defense and Movement.

Monday, 8 September 2014

On Fighting Convention Plague

Convention Plague is a nickname given to nasty illnesses that float around big events in Winter. Lack of airflow, recycled air, humidity and large numbers of nerds bunched together can combine to make it very easy to get sick, as I have just demonstrated by contracting a case at Shadowloo Showdown. So what can we do to prevent it? Here's a bunch of handy tips that everyone should really start doing more often:

 - Wear a face mask. If you're sick, you're helping prevent the spread. If you're not, you're less vulnerable. These are the two main reasons you see japanese people wear 'em at events. The other is because game centers have ludicrous amounts of tobacco smoke inside them.

 - Drink more water. Lots more. Get that stuff passing through and out to the toilet, not your fellow attendees.

 - Get some tissues. Cough into tissues. Sneeze into tissues. Stop spreading those germs.

 - Bathe, damn it. Seriously guys. You're adults. You've got less germs and viruses on you if you're clean. Get some soap and bathe. Use a good deodorant while you're there. I swear by Mitchum.

 - Clean your controllers etc. Antiseptic wipes are cheap. If you're at an event where you're bringing a stick or pad or what have you, clean the thing periodically. No matter how much organisers say you should only use your own gear, the odds that someone will borrow your gear at some point in the event are mighty high. Cleaning that stick after you've touched it, and after others, will mean there's less stuff on your hands.

 - Maybe you shouldn't high-five, hug and make out with everyone all the time. People have all sorts of ways of showing affection. If you're not feeling well, please warn them.

 - Eat well. Nutritious food not only keeps you less sick, it keeps you fitter of mind and playing better.

 - Go to bed. I get that for some people, travelling to an event is all about the partying. Still, consider saving the crazy all-nighters for the Sunday. Getting the people still in tournament sick before their finals is the worst.

That's about it. Of course, feel free to ignore this since getting sick can often be a luck of the draw thing, like it was for me. I still didn't do enough to prevent it this time around.

Shadowloo Showdown 5 Post-Event Writeup

So on the Thursday before Shadowloo Showdown I felt fantastic. When we (we being Nerk, MiracleMilk and Giggles, with Wickd00d and Sieg from Queensland joining us on Friday) reached our hotel room, all was well. There was a little problem in the form of both MiracleMilk and Giggles having influenza, but it was definitely manageable. We had adjustable airflow (though couldn't open the windows), separate rooms and plenty of shops nearby. We played some games and got Nerk to play some Azrael in the event that we wound up having to fight that darn gorilla in our Blazblue pools. Also spent some time recording and trying to find solutions to certain Tager setups involving him punishing purple throws. I was playing pretty well and felt excited about how we'd do this tournament.

Friday was more of the same throughout the day. theundyingmage popped around and Persona 4: The Ultimax Ultra Suplex Hold was playable. Giggles and mage spent a good 7 hours or so just playing that. From us hitting buttons, several conclusions were reached:
 - Yes, the rumours were true. P4UUSH Yuu Narukami is in many ways dumber than his Vanilla incarnation.
 - Personaless Sho Minazuki has an invincible aerial move that's an instant overhead. He also has a grounded overhead that sometimes crosses up and has a million years of autoguard.
 - The game is well and truly in kusoge (bad game) territory now and mostly worth playing for laughs.

Oh, and I think we'd gotten the South American juice from Tropicana about three times by this point. That place is about half the reason trips to Melbourne are worthwhile.

Come Friday evening, we headed on over to the CQ for the opening part of Shadowloo Showdown. The area available was half what the rest of the weekend would be as there was another event booked in half of the ground floor. This meant that things were very cramped, very moist and had awful air circulation. Given the time of year, this meant it was absolutely perfect conditions for people getting sick. I don't get sick very often (usually once a year at most), but when I do I go down hard. I got sick, and I think in retrospect this evening was a more likely culprit than our room where we frequently ran disinfectant on everything to be safe.

Anyway, there was a UNIEL setup going right from the start, so I jumped on quickly. The guys on at the start hadn't much experience with the game at that point, so I tried to give some pointers of general game flow while beating them up. About ten minutes in, current Marvel hero Abegen (Tron/Thor/She-Hulk) walked by and called next. We played about six games at the time. I won most of the them. He clearly enjoys the game, but also clearly hasn't played very much or really hit the strong arcades. He makes some weird decisions and has odd combo routes that definitely indicate he's been making the stuff up himself rather than hunting for optimised damage and advantage off hits. At some point in the evening Nerk mentioned to him that I was doing a side tourney on Saturday and he said he'd play.

Otherwise all I did that evening was play some Blazblue and drink endless amounts of water. The Smash Bros. crew were right behind where the UNIEL screen was. They were extremely excited during their exhibitions that night. They were extremely excited just about the entire weekend as well, with a notable exception being when Brawl was on their stage. If you want to watch anything from the event, the Smash was pretty darn fun times.

So Saturday came rolling in and I had a rather hefty sore throat already. This wasn't a good sign, but we headed on over. Blazblue was scheduled for 10am, but started nearly an hour late. That was pretty good time by the event's standards, honestly. Some games got far worse delays. I'd brought my setup and spent some time working out where I'd put it. In the end I opted for a coffee table near the two Blazblue setups we had going and just put Blazblue on there as well. We wound up using it to help the bracket go quicker.

While we're here, brackets were run on paper. Understandable given that the internet's wonky and there wasn't much room for laptops with Challonge or Tio. We had last minute signups on Friday as well. Nevertheless, if you can't find records of pools this is the reason.

Where was I? Blazblue. My first game was against a Ragna who wasn't very good. I stomped him. Second game was the nasty one though: Isorropia. Iso's Sydney's resident Iron Tager player and the guy who takes the game the most seriously by far. Most of the current Blazblue scene like to play for fun as much as winning. Iso plays purely to win. It might sound odd given how insistent he is on playing Tager, but the guy knows his setups. He has a gigantic bag of tricks he can whip out in tournament and run a train on everyone with.

Tager vs Bullet is in my opinion one of the worst matchups in the game to boot. Probably 8-2 Tager's favour. Bullet's game plan is all about using frametraps to make the opponent get impatient and blown up for hitting buttons. Tager, being a grappler and all, eats frametrap characters for breakfast. Bullet's gameplan is to basically run away and watch what Tager does. If he does something like whiffed 2D, punish with 3C. If he jumps, swat him with 6B. If he's got 50 meter, do not pressure him at all. If he's got spark volt, things get worse. I played it a bit worse than I would have liked, but still took a round off Iso before losing. It's not much, but from memory it was the only round Iso lost the entire tournament until Top 4.

After getting plonked into the loser's bracket I stomped some other bad people, and lost to Anta, Melbourne's Ragna. He's a pretty good player, but I played that terribly. The flu was starting to kick in at the time, but I still shouldn't have played that bad. Ugh.

The other official tournaments I'd entered were KOF13 as usual, and Divekick. I'd completely forgotten I'd entered Divekick. I perfected my first opponent in the first game, then lost the next two games when he switched to Dive. As silly as matchup talk my seeem for that game, Dive is a bad matchup for Kick. His jump speed and kick angle are just plain good at blowing up any movement Kick makes. I then won my first loser's game and lost my second. I didn't particularly care at that point. I just wanted to drink more water and play poverty.

I went 0 and 2 in KOF. That's the first time it's ever happened at a major tournament for me. By the time my games were actually up it was about 4:30 in the afternoon and the flu was kicking in hard. We'll see how I feel about the game the next time I go to a major, which will probably be mid-late next year judging by my current finances. My boy Nerk didn't make it out of his pool, which made me sad. At least Falco did.

I'd announced a few days before the event that I'd be running a UNIEL side tournament. I made a crappy sign and put it up next to my setup. I charged $2 to enter and said I'd start a bit after 6. I went about talking to people and asking if they'd like to enter, and ended up with 18 entrants including myself. I didn't get the whole thing recorded, but there's a chunk of it here.
Those games with the blue Vatista at the end of the video were Iso bitching about Vatista being ovepowered while we waited for Abegen to get back from some Street Fighter matches. Iso's an anime game player to the core, which means he has a rather poor understanding of how to open people up without canned mixups or setups you can grind out in a training mode. Things like goading someone into doing something you can whiff punish or empty jumping aren't things he's used to. The sort of player that winds up saying things like "Aquapazza has no mixup" while playing frickin Tamaki.

I played woefully bad against Abegen in tournament. At this point in the day I was running purely on adrenalin just to stay awake and run the tournament on time, so I could not block at all. The top 4 wound up being Nerk, Abegen, Giggles and Falco. Falco decided to forfeit halfway through loser's semis as he was being called for a Street Fighter match he really wanted to win, so Giggles finally beat the dreaded Adelaide Vatista. Here's his Loser's Final against Abegen.
Better luck next time mate. An unfortunate loss.

Finally we had the grand final. Shortly before it, Abegen had to play another South Australian in Street Fighter. Namely Reece204, our most dedicated SF4 player. Abegen mostly plays Cody, and Reece beat him the first game. Since Reece was playing Ken at the time, Abegen decided to try scoring a gimmicky win with T.Hawk. Alas, my boy Nerk plays T.Hawk and catches us out all the time. Thus, Reece stomped him pretty hard and won the set 2-0. I managed to explain this to Abegen as I brought him back for the UNIEL final and he had a good laugh. Here's the final.
Yeah, Abegen has no Byakuya experience. Nobody has good Byakuya experience. The trick with the character is, much like Bullet, there isn't much mixup. Just a lot of blocking and losing GRD to his webs. If I get a vorpal state but have lost all my GRD thanks to the webs, I'll usually just opt for a guard thrust instead of trying to chain shift my way out. Byakuya can die pretty hard once you start pressuring him, but his normals are super great in neutral and his own pressure goes for days. Annoying twerp, but he's got a pretty sweet Green Lupin colour.

Other things of note on Saturday would be Falco making Top 32 for SF4 and Top 8 for KOF. Nerk and Miraclemilk both made Top 4 for Blazblue (with Iso and RF rounding up the rest of that). I slept pretty bad as the flu was well and truly wrecking me by this time.

Sunday came in and we made it to the CQ 10 minutes after we were supposed to for Blazblue finals. The stream team hadn't finished setting up though, so we were fine. Please don't copy this behaviour, gang. Rock up to events when you're scheduled to. Event organisers will love you for it. Burnout asked for people willing to commentate Blazblue, so I jumped on the mic with Iso's training partner Runis. He's a pretty chill guy who I played nearly 2 hours of casuals with at Buttonsmash earlier this year. He plays Mu-12, the same as RF and of course knows how Iso plays. I knew how the SA boys play, so we had great combined knowledge for talking about the matches. You can watch the commentary here.

This was my first time commentating, so I was pretty happy with how it turned out. Audio levels definitely needed some adjusting, though we had no idea about that from our end. This also used up the last of my voice for the weekend.

A bit after Blazblue was done someone fired up Guilty Gear on my setup. I spent a good chunk of the Sunday playing Guilty Gear with people. First with Abegen, of which I have a few (poorly played) games recorded.

Ali then borrowed my recording equipment to get SF4 matches recorded. They were still running pools matches and then Top 32 at this point (about 2pm), so I was happy to help. I played some games with some American Faust player whose name I never found out. He was good. Then Nerk, Giggles and I played with one of Melbourne's old guard for GG. He said the old Melbourne gang wants to go in hard once Xrd is available, so it'll be good to play more GG with people. I was mostly playing May at this point, since the guy plays Dizzy and that's just miserable for Justice. I need to work on May for Xrd anyway.

So then I pretty much played casuals and watched some finals until we finally decided to leave once SF4 top 8 hard started. I was completely dead at this point and had a very fitful attempt at sleep all night.

We had wanted to run an Official Anime Suite with our room on either the Saturday or Sunday night, but we were all way too tired. As a result, Sunday night just turned into the gang drinking beer (well, mostly platonicsolid drinking beer) and playing a mix of Persona and Melty Blood. I had a bath at 3am I think.

We'd booked an evening flight for Monday so we could enjoy the company of others more. Alas, this turned out to mean that I had to spend an extra day in Melbourne wishing I was dead. I played some KOF 2002 with Colonov though! We also caught Arabian Adventures on TV. I need to find out the full story of that film some time.

So then I finally got off the plane after it spent 20 minutes circling Adelaide Airport and have spent a full week since bedridden. I think I'm in the final phase of this flu strain. I've just got a creek of mucus leaving my nose instead of an ocean and a horrible dry cough instead of a phlegm-filled one. I'd have written this sooner, but this is the first day my brain has felt like functioning to some capacity.

Oh, and this week's Doctor Who sucked pretty hard. Capaldi deserves better writing than that.