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July 14, 2014 / Jett

Ultra Street Fighter IV and the Thirst For Points

In the online world of Street Fighter IV, there are two primary metrics that define your skill level: Player Points and Battle Points. Player Points (also known as PP) is a numerical score that indicates your overall skill as a player, regardless of which character you choose. Battle Points (or BP for short) is a character-specific score that rates your ability with that character. At the end of each match, players earn or lose a varying amount of PP and BP based on whether they won or lost, as well as the point differential between opponents. For instance, if a player with a low PP beats a player with a high PP, then the winner in this case would get a lot of points. However, if the tables were turned and the player with a lot of PP beat a player with a low score, then their payout would be far less fruitful. From there, everyone’s PP and BP scores are compiled into regional and global leaderboards.

As if the combat in Street Fighter IV wasn’t addictive enough, this meta element of the experience has only made the game that much harder to shake. Within days of Ultra Street Fighter IV‘s release and the resetting of scores, I found myself hunkered down in front of the television in hopes of earning more points.

I wasn’t always like this. During my Super Street Fighter IV days, my Akuma peaked at about 5,000 BP. This was a decent score, as it put me within the top 300 Akuma players on Xbox Live, but it’s also the place where the algorithm for winning and losing is no longer in your favour. At this level, you have to win about 50% of your matches just to stay even. To progress anywhere beyond that, you really have to win at a high percentage against players who are around or above your skill level. Once I reached my peak with Akuma, I figured that there was no point in thinking much about the score, as I figured that this was as good as it was ever going to get for me.

jettFTW A-Rank RoseThings changed after a disappointing Street Fighter IV performance at T12. Determined to level up, I put myself through intensive training, which ultimately reflected in my scores. Over time and a countless number of hard battles, my Rose jumped in score from 5,000 to a staggering 15,000 BP. This was good enough to make me a top 50 Rose player in the world, top 20 in the Americas and #1 in my native land of Canada. No one was going to give me a cookie for hitting these milestones, but it meant a whole lot to me. To a certain extent, it quantified my growth as a player and validated all of the time and effort I put into getting better.

Reaching this level definitely didn’t go unnoticed by the online community. Oftentimes, players of a lower standing became intimidated by my score, which caused them to play worse. Conversely, I became a much bigger target for hate messages and trash talk, especially when I lost. Whenever I ended up on the losing end of a battle, I pretty much became Bigfoot in my opponent’s tale of conquest. I guess it comes with the territory.

My desire for points didn’t end there. I leveled up my Cammy to 11,000 BP. My Fei Long reached 6,000 BP. Then, I did it all over again on PSN. By the time I was double-dipping on the other console, it wasn’t even really about getting better or proving a point anymore. I did that on Xbox. Instead, this was simply a points grab for the sake of points. It did let me claim that I was the #1 Rose player on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network for a few years, but that never really got me anything other than personal satisfaction.

We’re about a month into Ultra Street Fighter IV and it’s only given me more reasons to continue the chase. For one, all the scores were reset, which means that if I want to regain my place at the top of the mountain, I’m going to have to start from the bottom. Also, it’s my first time getting to play as Rolento in the Street Fighter IV series. So far, things aren’t to shabby. I’m still a ways away from catching the #1 Rolento player in Canada, but I’ve arguably achieved something even better: top 10 in the world!

Am I a complete slave to the points? Yes and no. On one hand, getting points is definitely part of the fun and I go ballistic when I lose them. On the other hand, Street Fighter IV is an amazing fighting game that has delivered thousands of hours of excitement. If the game sucked, then I wouldn’t have gone down this bottomless pit in the first place.

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