Universal Fighting Game Guide: Collecting Data On Your Opponent
As fighting game players, we spend a lot of time thinking about ourselves. We worry about memorizing our own combos and spend much of our time thinking about what we’ll do to control the flow of the match. However, it takes (at least) two to tango, and what they do is equally important to determining the outcome.
By paying attention to their behaviours and tendencies, you can put yourself in a much stronger position to win by using that knowledge against them. In this edition of the Universal Fighting Game Guide, we cover the concept of data collection, how to collect it and how to make it work for you.
What is data?
As defined by the dictionary, data is facts or statistics collected together for reference or analysis. In the world of fighting games, there’s all sorts of different useful data points, from memorizing your own combos to knowing which way to block a particular mix-up. However, within the scene, data is most often used to describe the collection of facts or stats regarding someone’s behaviour.
Why is data important?
Have you ever fought someone that seemed to have an answer for every single move you made? There’s a chance that this person got lucky, though odds are they legitimately have an answer for all of your actions because they’ve figured you out. By knowing how you’re going to act, they can respond with the appropriate counter every time unless you adjust your tactics.
How do I go about collecting data when matches are so short?
The average fighting game match lasts between 1 and 3 minutes. That isn’t much time to collect every morsel of relevant information on your opponent, especially in a one-off match. While you should try and collect as much as you can, you realistically can only grab a few key pieces of information per match. We’ll talk about what those key things you should be looking for in a second.
However, through experience, you will have a good starting point at the character select screen. The moment they comment, they’ve already narrowed down the amount of information you need to collect. Let’s use the above image as an example. I’m Dudley, and my opponent’s character is Ibuki. Through my experience with fighting against Ibuki, I know that her entire strategy will likely revolve around scoring a hard knockdown. Once she does, she’s going to try and vortex me to death with wake-up kunai mix-ups. I already know that as Ibuki’s opponent, I’m going to try and avoid that situation at all costs. Any other information you’ve gathered from previous encounters with Ibuki players will likely carry over, since most people usually follow the same general strategy for using that character.
What data should I collect?
There are two key buckets you can classify all data into. They are:
1. How they act when left to their own devices
2. How they react when you press the issue
From there, start to take mental notes to fill out those buckets. The easiest way to do this is by having a number of key scenarios already mapped out in your head and making notes on how they respond. Let’s use a number of practical examples.
Left to their own devices example
In this image, it’s Chun-Li vs. Ryu. Round 1 is on the screen, as the fight hasn’t started yet. As Chun-Li, make note of how Ryu reacts the moment the match starts. Let’s outline a few of his options at this point and what you can deduce from it.
– Ryu jumps forward and attempts to kick you
That’s a good sign that they’re an aggressive player. Jumping in the moment the match starts is an indication that they want to stay in our face at all times and beat you through brute force. Knowing that, you can then adjust your tactics to throw him off. Through a mix of smart pokes, projectiles and movement, you can keep him at bay and disrupt his game plan. If he doesn’t adjust, he’ll simply get out-poked to death.
It also may mean that they like to jump forward as a means of movement. If they continue to jump in, you’ve caught one of that player’s tendencies. By making this observation early, you can prepare yourself to knock Ryu out of the sky every time he tries to approach in this manner.
– Ryu jumps backwards and throws a fireball
That’s a good sign that they’re a defensive player. Ryu is immediately creating space between you so that he can unload fireballs on you from afar. This generally means that they don’t want you to get in close because they prefer to engage from this distance. Disrupt that by working your way through the projectiles to fight face-to-face. Sometimes, players who rely heavily on zoning in this manner fight especially poorly when pressured. If you notice this behaviour as well, lay the pressure on thick.
Pressing the issue example
As Ryu, you’ve just swept Ken off of his feet. While he is on the ground, you continue to move Ryu around while standing right beside Ken’s fallen body. How does Ken respond and what can we learn from it?
– Ken does an uppercut
The classic Ken response. Ken players want to use this move because it has invincibility frames on start-up. If you are not blocking or trying to hit him as soon as he gets up, he’ll knock your teeth in first with a Dragon Punch. This is a good sign of aggression or recklessness on his part. Uppercuts are high-risk maneuvers that are great when the work, but leave him vulnerable to attack when he misses. If Ken does a lot of these on wake-up, then you’ll know to simply block on his wake-up and hit him when he lands. Beyond that particular scenario, that’s a great sign that they’re reckless in general. Look for more moments where he commits to high risk moves and punish all of those as well.
– Ken dashes backwards
In Street Fighter IV, dashing backwards on wake-up is generally a great way of getting out of a high-pressure situation for almost every character, especially when the first few frames of the dash are invincible. This is a sign that he does not want to take you on while you have the positional advantage. However, dashing backwards isn’t a get out of jail free card. If they start to abuse it, you can simply initiate a long-range or forward-moving attack that will hit them as they’re trying to escape. If they know you’ll punish it, they’ll be less inclined to use it.
The concept of analyzing fighting games one moment at a time is one that I echo throughout the Universal Fighting Game Guide. It helps in a number of different ways, especially within the context of collecting data about your opponent. Realistically, you could turn the tides of a match or an extended set by gathering as few as one key insight on your opponent’s behaviour and exploiting it to the fullest. Next time you play, keep an eye out for your opponent’s habits and tendencies and see what you can do to take advantage of it. With enough practice, exploiting holes in your opponent’s approach will become second nature, and they’ll find you that much harder to beat.
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