(With The Games happening in London, now would be a good time to take a look at our own virtual athletes. Jay Snyder took home the gold at last year’s EVO 2011 for Marvel vs. Capcom 3 championship. He explains to us what drive him to be a champion and ways you can become a competitor with a couple of tips from the pros.)
Different fighting games require different skill sets and Marvel seems to fit best with mine. I excel at the creative part of gaming where coming up with new strategies is rewarded and that’s what Marvel is all about. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a little more than eight months old, and the game still has so much more to explore with half the characters still being unknown quantities in the tournament scene and some combinations with top tier characters still unexplored.
That’s what keeps me coming back as a player, the exploration and the drive to get better. All fighting games are about constant self-improvement because the goal is a moving target. Everyone else is improving every day also so in order to stay on top of the game you have to beat the competition even when you aren’t actually playing against them. If this sounds like work, then fighting games probably aren’t for you. To me, the process is as much fun as the end result.
Practice Makes Perfect (Wins)
Training mode is the easiest way to improve as a player. Some players take their training to an almost fanatical level. Yipes spends four hours a day in training mode refining his execution. Justin Wong once told me he wouldn’t stop working on a combo or a setup until he can hit it 100 times in a row without a single mistake.
I don’t take my training to this kind of level, but I still use training mode often and not just for combos but for setups, blockstrings, and defense as well. Combos are a small part of the game; too often beginner and intermediate level players overrate how important combos are. Being able to hit the flashiest combo is nice but there’s so much more you can use training mode for.
For example, I’ll set the computer to do a snapback then raikosen series mix-up with Zero and practice blocking the drop in mix-up over and over. Or I’ll set the computer to set up the sword storm with Vergil and practice defending teleport setups, sometimes looking to counter throw and sometimes just blocking.
Since I’m older than almost all of the competition, my reactions are slower so I need to make up for that with prior knowledge. My way of thinking is, you don’t need to react if you already know what’s coming.
Knowledge Is Your Main Weapon
I’m a little bit different from other high level players in that I also use online play to supplement my training. I can be found on Xbox Live often just running through ranked matches repeatedly and other players don’t use online the same way. It helps me learn more about matchups and how people think which is very important to me as a reset based player. When you depend as much on resets and reading your opponents as I do, it helps to build a large database on opponent tendencies and to know the most likely action your opponent will take in any given situation.
The first thing I do when I develop a new reset or a new wrinkle on an old reset in training mode is take it online and do it as much as possible, usually just using the same option repeatedly. If random players are escaping it easily, maybe it wasn’t such a hot idea to begin with. If it seems like there’s one option that leads to the other player escaping like teching forward or counter hitting me, then I have to go back into the lab and clean things up a bit. But if it works on other good players even when they suspect it’s coming, then I’ve got something and I have another tool ready for prime time play.
Taking It To The Big Leagues
To me, prime time play is the tournament. There are other ways to compete like one-on-one money matches or team exhibitions but our community has been based around tournament play for years and tournaments are more prestigious—and usually much more lucrative—than other forms of play.
The best part of fighting game tournaments is that the vast majority of events are open to everyone and low cost, usually $20 or less. This means that anyone can enter and with large fields, upsets can happen all the time. This year’s Evolution Tournament for Marvel featured a total unknown in Frutsy from Mexico making Top 5 with an uncommon team and taking out many big name players along the way. Not only does this make it exciting for people watching, but it also goes to show that anyone can win.
During the Top 8 at last year’s Evolution tournament, I was so nervous I brought an airsick bag up on stage with me…just in case! This pressure can break people who are otherwise excellent players. Some can be absolute monsters in casual play, but wilt on the big stage with 10,000 people watching them. Learning to deal with the pressure and overcome it even when the crowd is cheering against you is probably the most challenging thing about playing fighting games competitively.
Some players bring noise cancelling headphones to block out everything but the game; instead I’ve learned to deal with the noise and play back at the crowd and just have fun. It helps to relax me and remind me that even though tournament play is serious, in the end it’s all just a game.
Growing As A Sport
Moving forward, the big lesson we as a community learned after Evolution this year is that Marvel and all other fighting games are truly global now. Korea, Taiwan, China, Japan, the United States and Mexico all had strong showings with competitors coming from 30 other countries as well. In the upcoming year, there will be big tournaments all over the world and players from all over the world coming to American tournaments. There’s never been a better time to be a competitive fighting game player and I’m looking forward to the upcoming year’s competitions!